— My head is filled with reflexive reactions. Or knee-jerk reactions, if you prefer. Most of us are like that when it comes to familiar subjects.
When we hear the name Terrell Owens, we can automatically groan and wonder what he’s up to now. Or if someone says New York Yankees, we can either look to trade fist-bumps with or somewhere to wretch.
Which brings me to Charlie Weis.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear his name attached to a quote, I automatically think, “Just shut up, Charlie.” I don’t even have to listen to what he says. No matter what it is, it’s going to annoy me.
But not this week. I have no idea why, but when the Notre Dame coach started going on about how his team is ready for USC, I said a silent, “It’s about time.”
He should have climbed up in the dome of the administration building and shouted it to the world. Notre Dame, college football’s most fabled program, finally feels it can win big games again. Knute Rockne would be so proud.
OK, I shouldn’t be feeling all warm and fuzzy just because the Notre Dame coach expressed confidence for the first time in five years. But things have been bad for us loyal sons and daughters. We’ll take any scrap of hope thrown our way.
I’m a Domer. Like most Notre Dame alumni, I’ve been suffering every fall for quite a lot of years. As a sports writer, I don’t suffer as much as most fans, since I tend to watch the games objectively. And, when a team is bad — even my favorite team — I don’t bother watching it. Life’s too short to spend watching losers.
Even this year, with a halfway decent team led by a really terrific quarterback, I’ve watched fairly clinically, even when I joined a fellow alum and several other friends to watch the Michigan game. They were screaming imprecations at the screen. I was analyzing plays and admiring good plays by both sides.
But this Saturday, I’m thinking about trying to stow my objectivity and get into cheering mode. If Charlie Weis’ team thinks it can beat USC — and it can — I want to see it and enjoy it.
And if it happens, I’ll be the first to congratulate Weis on the first decent job of coaching he’s done since he’s arrived, and that includes his first year when he almost beat USC. And then I’ll invite him to talk all he wants.
That will be a change. I’ve not been Weis’ biggest fan during his tumultuous tenure. That’s on the record. During the past three years, anytime he’s opened his mouth to make some cosmic pronouncement, I cringed. First win some games, I kept thinking, then maybe we’ll want to listen to you bloviate.
But there was something about what he said this week that struck a chord. For the first time since he’s been there, he said, his guys think they can beat USC.
Well hurray for the blue and gold. (No green jerseys, please, Charlie. You don’t need green jerseys; you need to block and tackle and not take stupid penalties.) Finally, they believe.
I admit to mixed feelings on his. The admission that Notre Dame did not believe it could beat USC is hard to listen to. They’re the Fighting Irish, not the Pusillanimous Pacifists. For decades, if Notre Dame had nothing else, it always believed deep down it could win a big game.
Lou Holtz used to talk about his team as if it couldn’t beat the Little Sister of the Poor. Every opponent, no matter how humble, was the reincarnation of the ’66 Green Bay Packers. But that was just his annoying way of lulling the other team into a false sense of security. Holtz never for a minute thought he couldn’t find a way to get his team a win.
Now it turns out Weis has spent several years knowing that his team didn’t think it could win, not, at least, against USC. That’s even more annoying than Holtz used to be. A coach’s first job is to build a winning attitude. Mike Singletary could tell anyone that. No wonder Notre Dame got beaten up so badly by the Trojans.
I have no idea of USC’s run of domination is going to end Saturday. But at least I’m encouraged by what I hear from Weis. At least the team thinks it can win.
Notre Dame fans haven’t had that much to hang onto since that oh-so-close loss to USC in 2005. You may not think it’s much, but for us, it’s a lot. We’ll take it.