It's rare that I agree with Rick Reilly, but his article a few weeks ago talking again about how Notre Dame is irrelevant but somehow still getting attention really hit the ball out of the park for me.
Just like Rick Reilly, I used to love Notre Dame too. My family moved to the South Bend area in the summer of 1999 from Oxford, Ohio, where my sister went to the original Miami University. Since my family really didn't follow sports, and almost everyone is South Bend cheers for Notre Dame, it wasn't hard to start cheering for them. I remember the "Return to Glory" in 2002 under Ty Willingham that collapsed against Boston College, USC, and NC State in another Bowl Game loss. I remember how quickly it fell from there in 2003, but I thought surely Notre Dame was back after beating top ten ranked Michigan and Tennessee teams in 2004. There were the other losses that proved Notre Dame was mediocre at best. Yes, I remember Purdue thumping Notre Dame 41-16 in South Bend, yes I remember Stubblefield's touchdown against Notre Dame, and I remember I HATED Purdue for that. Just like most Notre Dame fans, I thought ND was majestic and that it would ride unicorns into every game, causing every team would just collapse before the game even started.
I was happy to see Willingham go and see Weis come in. I thought Notre Dame truly was back in 2005 and 2006, but the big losses those years stung. I was a typical Notre Dame Fan thinking 2007 would also be a good year, as it was mostly Weis' top recruiting classes. But alas, Notre Dame finished 3-9 and I was joining some of the Notre Dame fans to kick out Weis. That year, I also made my first visit to Purdue. I started liking Purdue and could see myself spending four years in West Lafayette. That same day, Notre Dame lost to Navy at home in Triple Overtime, the first time Notre Dame lost to Navy since 1963. Little did I know at the time that it was probably a sign from God that I was meant to be a Boilermaker and not a Notre Dame fan.
2008 was much like the 2004 season under Willingham, it had some bright points, but those close losses were killers. I was at the Syracuse game at the end of the season in the south end zone. My feet were freezing since the snow wasn't cleared from the Lake Effect Snow Storm the day before; I remember the snow balls being thrown on the field. But most importantly, I remember Notre Dame choking against a horrible Syracuse team whose coach was being fired as Notre Dame couldn't hit a damn field goal to win the game. I was mad at Notre Dame and Charlie Weis, but when Notre Dame kept him, I basically said "no mas" and started my retreat. I didn't even pay attention to the USC and Hawaii Bowl game; I almost didn't care anymore (even though I was happy to see ND win a bowl game finally).
In 2009, I started attending Purdue as one of "those students" who cheered for both Purdue and Notre Dame. When it came to the Purdue/Notre Dame game that year, I actually had to work during the game at the Cary Knight Spot Grill, and I stayed neutral the whole game. When Notre Dame scored at the end, it felt bittersweet and I was officially torn. But it was after that game when I started to lean more towards Purdue. I saw the attitudes of the Notre Dame fans in West Lafayette and I was disgusted. I couldn't believe that I considered myself one of them. It wasn't until I left South Bend that I realized that being a Notre Dame fan made me look like an idiot at times.
The final tipping point was on October 17th, 2009. That day, Purdue pulled off the upset against #7 Ohio State and rushed the field. I was 3rd row for that game and it is still the best college football game I've ever attended. I had never seen a fan base so united, especially when the entire stadium (except OSU fans) was united in a "Boiler Up" chant. When we rushed the field, I was shocked to see the older fans with their children on the field with the students. Then I realized that most of these fans are Purdue graduates themselves, and they share that bond with Purdue that is unique throughout college football. That same day, Notre Dame lost to USC, again. I remember thinking, why in the world am I still cheering for Notre Dame? I have no connection with them, and they win just as many games as Purdue in recent seasons.
On October 17th, 2009, I completely converted to Purdue-ism and officially left my past life as a Notre Dame fan.
Dear Notre Dame fans, God, the Pope, and Jesus could care less about your football team.
This angered some of my Notre Dame friends who called me a "traitor" and said I betrayed something that I loved. But I told them that I may have loved Notre Dame, but it never loved me back. The only connections that I had to Notre Dame were a 10 minute drive down State Road 23 to their campus from Granger and that I am Catholic; however, those two things weren't going to keep me a Notre Dame fan as they really didn't connect me with ND like the connection I have with Purdue. At Purdue, I live and breathe black and gold every day and everywhere I go. I know what it is like to not only know the traditions, but to live them as well. Waking up early every game day just to arrive to the game early, singing and clapping along to every song in the band's pregame, doing Shout, Hail Fire, help starting the "Kill!" chant on 3rd down, even bringing homework to do before the game and during halftime so I wouldn't fall behind in thermo, diff eq., and other classes. Most Purdue fans share these same connections as Purdue graduates, and it's what keeps us cheering for Purdue.
Like most of you, I hate Notre Dame because of their fans (mostly the Subway Alums) and how they think they are the best thing in the world. First, I respect those who actually go to, graduated from, and work for Notre Dame. Academically, Notre Dame is a fine school and you should be proud of the fact that you go there. Just like us Purdue fans, you actually live the tradition too and actually share a connection with the university named after Our Mother. But what I can't stand from most Notre Dame fans are their attitudes towards Notre Dame and other schools. In recent seasons, Notre Dame players and fans in general have looked down upon Purdue since Purdue has gone 1-6 against Notre Dame since 2005. They think of Notre Dame as the best in the world, when in reality, they have been mediocre at best.
Numbers don't lie, and when Notre Dame fans like to treat Purdue as "Just Purdue", then we should point out that they are "Just Notre Dame." From 1997-2011, Notre Dame has a record of 107-78, whereas Purdue has gone 103-83. Congrats, Notre Dame, you have won 4 more games than Purdue over the last 15 seasons. For those who are Notre Dame fans and actually reading this, I know what you are thinking: Juan, you're only looking at seasons where Notre Dame has played poorly! This is true, as 1997 was the first season without Lou Holtz at Notre Dame and Joe Tiller's first season. But you want to know another thing about 1997? I was only 6 years old and in the 1st grade, T-Mill was beginning his senior year in high school, Atlanta just hosted the Summer Olympics the year before, and this year's incoming college freshman class was just turning 3 years old. Since 2002, Notre Dame has won 8 more games than Purdue. Look at you, Notre Dame, returning to glory!
If we considered data before 1997, then yes Notre Dame has a much better record than Purdue, there's no doubt about that, but how is that data then even relevant in 2012? Yes, Notre Dame won 11 National Titles, but your last title was in 1988 and your last Heisman winner was in 1987, I wasn't even alive back then, and neither were the football players and students at Notre Dame. Notre Dame bragging about its National Titles is like a British Citizen bragging how the sun used to never set on the British Empire and uses it to defend that it is superior over all other nations (nothing against any of my British readers). Yes, it is quite an accomplishment and no one can take that away from you, but how does it make you superior in the present? It doesn't, as only your actions in the present and recent history are going to determine your superiority.
At the end of the day, Notre Dame is the most overrated program in the nation, and that is actually a fact, not just a feeling of those who hate Notre Dame. Based on pre-season polls since 1989, Notre Dame is officially the most overrated team in the nation. So Notre Dame fans, next time we tell you that Notre Dame is overrated and mediocre, stop trying to defend yourselves, you can't argue with facts, and some of you (namely, students and graduates of Notre Dame) are smart enough to realize that.
Those are numbers that almost any college football fan can defend and talk about, but I want to end this focusing on those Notre Dame fans that don't even go to Notre Dame. Living in South Bend, I see these fans every day. No one knows exact numbers on how many Notre Dame fans are Subway Alums, but since Notre Dame only graduates about 2,000-3,000 students a year, I doubt most people in Notre Dame Stadium actually went to Notre Dame. Now of course, every school has its annoying Subway Alums, even Purdue, but it's hard to deny that Notre Dame has more Subway Alums than most schools in the NCAA.
Most of my friends from South Bend are Notre Dame fans, but of those couple hundred friends/acquaintances, about 10-20 of them actually go to Notre Dame. You don't have to be smart in math to realize that's a quite a small percentage. It just goes to show that most fans just cheer for Notre Dame just because it's Notre Dame. There's nothing special about that school if you don't go there or have some direct connection to it (having uncles/aunts/grandparents/distance relatives doesn't count as direct connections), but in South Bend, people are just pulled in by the Shadow of the Golden Dome and the Air of Delusion that surrounds the sorry place.
Before Notre Dame played Navy last weekend, one of my friends had this as her status: "First Notre Dame game day of the season tomorrow! Go IRISH beat Navy! Let's get a W in Ireland!! We are ND!"
Let's focus on that last sentence: "We are ND!" My friend who posted this is from South Bend, but goes to Marian University in Indianapolis. I almost wanted to comment "How are you ‘ND'? How does living in South Bend make you part of ‘ND'? Last time I checked, you go to Marian. You are Marian, not ND." How can one claim to be part of a university they never attended? Does paying them money to sit on their wooden bleachers make you Notre Dame? What about buying their gear and singing their fight song, does that make you Notre Dame?
No, that does not make you Notre Dame. What makes you Notre Dame is actually going to school at Notre Dame, getting a degree from Notre Dame, working for Notre Dame, having a parent or child go to Notre Dame. Living by Notre Dame makes you part of the university just as living in The Region makes you a Chicago resident. You may close by, but you have no real connection to the place (apologies to any readers in the Region. But seriously, stop saying you're from Chicago).
You are Indiana University, Ball State, Valpo, Ivy Tech, IUSB, Marian, IPFW, Brown Mackie, a Michiana resident, a mobile park home, etc., but you are not Notre Dame.
This Saturday in South Bend, Notre Dame could beat Purdue by 50 points after Terbush throws another interception on the first play of the game, and though I won't be happy, I'll still be glad I picked Purdue over Notre Dame. I bleed black and gold, and I, along with other Purdue students and alum, live the Purdue traditions. At the end of the day, no matter the result, I am Purdue and I am a Boilermaker.
And finally, I only have one thing to say to those Purdue students who will choose to cheer for Notre Dame this weekend: BTFU or GTFO.