Poetry in Motion: Sympathy for Notre Dame Football from Great Irish Writers

This week, Notre Dame woefully dongs its bell tower, with each member of the proud college’s football phalanx feeling like a true Quasimodo.   A crushing 42-14 defeat in Monday’s bowl-game-of-all-bowl-games to Forrest Gump’s alma mater inspired many an armchair Lombardi nationwide to – in ways both fair and callous – damn the Fighting Irish as faux-contenders.  “Unfit to the cleats of several squads arguably more deserving of BCS title game contention,” says some easily imagined surly grump.

So where then might South Bend, Indiana’s premier gladiators turn to for guidance and uplift in trying times?  Why, where else but the best of modernist Irish literature, “fighting” in its own right the post-potato famine blues and literal centuries of further grievance?  Herein, five passages from great Irish writers as applied to those who tanked a truly miserable game of football, in the hopes that these works might soothe the hearts of minds of ND staff and fans alike, in this most frigid, chapped, and weary of Januarys.

1)  “I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternity too.”

–          James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

BEST APPLIED TO: Lesser known but still fantastically named Fighting Irish linebacker Prince Shembo, who was pushed around by the Crimson Tide’s offensive line like one of those child-sized car beds with functioning wheels. He still went home with one tackle and two assists, which is still a demonstrably better outing than, say, zero assists and running into the stands screaming at halftime to two-fist hot dogs.

2) “Don’t wait to be hunted to hide, that was always my motto.”

–          Samuel Beckett, Molloy. 

BEST APPLIED TO: Notre Dame captain and fifth-year senior Kapron Lewis-Moore, who was hoisted out of the game in its second quarter following a nasty looking tear of his anterior cruciate ligament.  A lesson to the youth of today out there: it’s important to stay in school.  But if by “staying in school” we’re talking about a fifth year of college that entails violent severing of some pretty crucial knee juice, then perhaps we are not seeing the Kelly green forest for the trees.

3) “I think being a woman is like being Irish… Everyone says you’re important and nice, but you take second place all the time.”

– Iris Murdoch.

BEST APPLIED TO: Virtually any woman present at the game or watching it from afar, with the exception of Katherine Webb, the reigning Miss Alabama and now world famous ladyfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.  As if we, the collective world, did already know who Miss Alabama was.  Incidentally, it is entirely possible that the puddle of stagnant drool produced by game announcer Brent Musburger each time Webb appeared on camera may in its own way put either Webb or humanity itself into Murdoch’s proclaimed “second place”.

4) “If a man makes me keep my distance, the comfort is, he keeps his at the same time.”

–          Jonathan Swift.

BEST APPLIED TO: The Fighting Irish defense, led by star linebacker Manti T’eo, a proud youngster named after Honolulu’s only lumberjack.  Particularly in relation to Alabama’s Steve Lacy, the offensive juggernaut of Monday’s meeting who ran for 140 yards on 20 carries.  You may not have been able to tackle him, but on the bright side, he never tackled you?  Even though that’s totally not what he’s supposed to do, and absolutely not how football works?

5) “Anybody who has the courage to raise his eyes and look sanely at the awful human condition … must realize finally that tiny periods of temporary release from intolerable suffering are the most that any individual has the right to expect.”

–          Flann O’Brien, The Best of Myles.

BEST APPLIED TO: Thousands if not millions of Fighting Irish fans who Monday evening were reduced to drowning their sorrowsin a pint of porter, or a traditional pre-game stew comprised of cabbage, one’s own tears, over-boiled carrots, and lowered expectations.  Cheer up, Notre Damsels in Distress: it’s only a game!  And a fun one at that!  And on a genuine bright side proving tragically rare in pro and virtually-pro rounds of modern football: no (reported) traumatic brain injuries!

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