Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Days of Our Lives

September 11.

December 7.

Cinco de Mayo.

January 25, 1998 -- I got drunk for the first time on seven screwdrivers, kissed Cindy Barton, John Elway did his helicopter spin, and the Broncos won the Super Bowl.

There are certain dates that stay with you, that transcend our standardly faulty and haphazard memory and burn themselves into our consciousness forever. While I can just barely tell you what I had for breakfast this morning (black coffee and Camel Lights, I believe), there are certain days that I remember in vivid detail due to the life-altering events that I witnessed.

November 30 might be the newest day in that litany for Notre Dame fanatics everywhere. Just a year ago today, I sat in my cubicle, bleary-eyed and downtrodden from the previous Saturday's thrashing at the hands of Southern Cal and from the last two and a half years of general dismay that the Irish had wrought upon me. Seeking commiseration from my fellow fans, I logged onto NDNation and loaded up Rock's House. Something seemed askew. It took an eternity for the pages to load, and sprawled all across the message boards were rumors, half-truths, and rumblings. Something big was happening, but nobody could quite pinpoint what it was. Top-secret meetings were convening in the administration building and people were overhearing important people say important things. Each agonizingly slow page load unearthed a slew of new speculations and rumors, but it wasn't until later that afternoon that the bombshell hit.

Willingham had been removed as head coach. NDNation collapsed and shut down. My inbox overflowed, my cell phone began ringing every two seconds. Through the haze, we found out the details of what had happened. Gatherings were scheduled in bars, jager bombs were distributed. The phrases "Urban Meyer" and "return to glory" catapulted off the walls. It felt like a dream.

In a way, it felt like a Reign of Terror had just ended, that the tyrant had been overthrown and strung up in town square. It wasn't so much Willingham. The tyrant we felt we had vanquished was Notre Dame's ceaseless acceptance of mediocracy. I, for one, had all but committed myself of two more years of drudgery before the administration decided to right the sinking ship. Above all, we were surprised how ND had suddenly decided to start getting serious about making things right. It was such an unexpected delight, we hardly knew how to react.

The maelstrom of media flak, coaching searches, and bipolar mood swings is really indescribable for anyone who was not there, although Touchdown Jesus provided, by far, the most faithful and accurate portrayal of these two weeks of darkness. If you don't have this book already, run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy it for yourself and everyone on your Christmas list. Or, you can read this thread, where NDNationers share their stories like a bunch of grizzled war vets.

I'll refrain from providing too much commentary on this, although rest assured there is a epic-poem length swirl of emotions I feel on this Anniversary. I would just advise all you ND fans out there to stop at some point today and think of this last year, reflecting on what we have been through and what seems to be shimmering on the horizon. Happy Anniversary.


Notre Dame.

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