Wednesday, November 21, 2012

For the First Time in 19 Years...

... Notre Dame is ranked #1 going into its final regular-season game at Southern Cal.  Get by that fairly sizable roadblock and the Irish will play in the BCS title game.

The last time ND was at the top of the heap, in November 1993, was during what one might call "the Fall of my discontent."  I had washed out of Randolph-Macon College's math department the previous Spring and was trying to make ends meet while holding down two part-time teaching positions.  I was going through a serious crisis of self-doubt without a very strong support system and was very much uncertain as to what the future held.  ND's success on the football field was a welcome distraction.  It culminated with an epic 31-24 upset win over #1 Florida State that pushed the (relatively) lightly regarded Irish into the catbird seat.

I had already experienced a fan's high of sorts earlier in the Fall, as the surprising Phillies stunned the heavily favored Atlanta Braves in the NLCS and went on to face the defending World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays in the Fall Classic. You may remember this as a team of lovable slobs and oddballs, with the likes of John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams playing major roles.  No one gave the Phils a tobacco plug of a chance against the lordly Jays, but they overcame a painful 15-14 Game Four loss and staved off elimination with a Game Five victory that took the series back to Toronto.  There, manager Jim Fregosi's stubborn insistence on using an obviously shot Williams as his closer backfired in the worst possible way, with Joe Carter hitting his famous ninth-inning home run to win Game Six and the series.
As hard as the Phillies' loss was for me to take, I had to admit that the Blue Jays were the better team.  Notre Dame didn't appear to have that problem as it played its last regular-season game against Top-20 Boston College.  But, suffering the (non-blessed) mother of all letdowns, ND was completely outplayed and fell behind 38-17 before a desperation comeback...

... and, while I was able to get off the deck and secure a full-time job at Virginia State a few months after this, it's taken the ND football program almost two decades to recover.  Hopefully, a loss to USC this Saturday won't morph into another 20-year sojourn in the wilderness.

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