Notre Dame: The fall of a dynsasty and a simple wish for its return

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Perhaps I’m an anomaly, but I lust for dynasties in sports.

That may be sac religious to say on the North side, where my neighbors are pining after their first world championship since Teddy Roosevelt was in office. But I’ll say it anyway.

Dynasties are good for sports.

They give a majority of the nation a common enemy. They give each game that team plays an added importance, an added element of intrigue and suspense. They give fans of that team a sense of invincibility that further stokes the competitive fire.

Sadly, I’m too young to have experienced a truly transcendent dynasty. I didn’t get to see the 1927 Yankees or the Celtics teams that ruled the NBA in the ’60s.

Hell, the closest thing in my lifetime may be the New England Patriots, who morphed from America’s darling to public enemy No. 1.

But I unabashedly pulled for the Yankees in the postseason when Derek Jeter was leading them to World Series titles in 1996-1998. Having a so-called “Evil Empire” gives the sporting world a steadying force, once constant in a world of parity.

In recent years, dynasties have become as rare as a player who remains with one team his whole career.

It wasn’t always this way. Especially in college football.

The Notre Dame teams of the late 80s and 90s loosely qualify as a dynasty. The first Sports Illustrated article I remembering reading was a preview of the Miami Hurricanes-Notre Dame matchup in 1988. It was billed as Catholics vs. Convicts, and it blew me away.

I realized it wasn’t just a college football game. It was one way of life against another. It’s those types of story lines that drew me to sports. The stark contrast of the Lou Holtz-led Irish and their nameless jerseys taking on the seemingly me-first Hurricanes captivated me.

And the 1992 matchup with unbeaten Florida State in South Bend is still burned in my memory. Beano Cook’s ill-advised declartions of Ron Paulus’ greatness are still there, too.

Notre Dame was the program everyone hated, but would love to be.

Despite attending school at Michigan State, where we were traditional rivals, I still wanted Notre Dame to succeed. It’s been depressing to watch the gold helmets rust. It’s been sad watching what was once the premier collegiate program self-destruct and become the butt of jokes.

And it continues.

Neil Hayes recently wrote that Charlie Weis is, for lack of a better term, on the hot seat. In fact, 66 percent of our readers think he should be given his walking papers.

The Texas Longhorns recently tied Notre Dame with 826 all-time victories, and there is little doubt that the burnt orange will open up a healthy lead in that category in the next couple of years.

So what can be done from keeping Touchdown Jesus from covering his face? Can the Irish ever return to being that beacon on college football’s hill.

Conventional wisdom says no.

Weis became the subject of much criticism last year when he suggested the rigid academic standards at Notre Dame put the football team at a disadvantage.

At the risk of offending the politically correct police — he has a valid point. But it’s not the only valid point. The other is that it can be done.

Vanderbilt, who has similarly high expectations for student athletes has enjoyed a nice run lately. Returning Notre Dame to its exalted status can be done, but not easily.

Greg Couch says the answer is taking the great recruiting classes and developing them, something that Weis has failed to do adequately.

There are some out there that love the BCS busters. The Boise States and the Ball States and the Utahs. But I know there are plenty out there who long for the stabilizing forces. The perennial powers.

So here’s wishing Notre Dame, despite myriad obstacles facing them, turn it around and return to glory.

Oh, yeah. If the Yankees want to start competing with teams like the Rays, that would be great too.

What do you guys think? Any sympathy for the Irish? Or are you happy to see the once-mighty fall — and fall hard? Are dynasties good for sports or do you like the parity?

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