Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Agony of Defeat

I joked a week ago to my water polo teammates that there was one reason I was kinda-sorta hoping for Notre Dame to lose to USC. If the Irish pulled the upset, I would be stuck in the WVFI broadcast booth and been unable to participate in the inevitable field rush. Oh, I would've gotten there eventually, trust me, but it wouldn't have been the same thrill as watching the final seconds and then running to the field with all my fellow Domers.

And in the aftermath of the 34-31 loss, I have another reason to be dissapointed in being chained to WVFI's booth during the game - I wasn't there to comiserate with my friends at the end. That is what makes Notre Dame far and away the greatest school football school in the country, win, lose, or draw. No other school in the universe is going to get 50,000 people to come to a PEP RALLY, even if it does feature incredibly stupid skits from Morrissey. (In their defense, it's Morrissey - the same dorm which STILL doesn't understand that their slogan and song, "Fight On", comes from USC. So what do you expect?) Here at ND, we are all in this together, cheering, clawing, living, dying, as one.

I heard the words of a thousand different emotions float through the air as I exited the WVFI booth and walked the stadium concourse, cutting through the student section, across the field and towards the interview room to tape Coach Weis' post-game comments. Some were crying. Many held their heads in their hands, like the Irish players, unwilling to believe -- unwilling to accept -- that it was in fact over. Many refused to go quietly, heckling USC as the Trojans gloated their way off the field. Maybe gloat was the wrong word, but the Trojans sure seemed to soak up a mid-field celebratory huddle and then held up "#1" and "V for Victory" signs as they exited through a human tunnel of ND students who had rushed the field just a little too early. They joked and smiled with each other, which was totally within their rights considering what they'd just done, but maybe they should've recognized the fact that the end of the stadium they were leaving was 95% Notre Dame fans. New chants of "Over-rated" and "Off our field" picked up; ND students who weren't joining in them were trying to shut them down. LenDale White didn't exactly claim the high ground either as he exited, stopping to verbally spar with one fan, though he didn't stray far from repeating, rather spitefully, "Y'all LOST! Y'all LOST!". One female ND student gave the finger to a Trojan who pointed at the scoreboard. So maybe I was fortunate to be in the booth for this game - I was a mad-man on the air as it was (though I did not curse), so I can't fathom what might have come over me had I been this close to the center of the emotional vortex for the whole game.

As Charlie Weis said, "You are what you are", and this loss is what it is. A 34-31 thriller of a game in which both teams played their guts out. Somebody had to win. It says a lot of how far Notre Dame's offense has come that Pete Carroll allowed Leinart to risk getting stopped on a QB sneak rather than kicking the field goal. He wanted no part of an Irish offense in overtime after his defense had already spent 40 minutes on the field. The days of 31-point blowouts in this series are over.

Like I said already, the best morphine for this would be a White Sox clincher tonight in Anaheim. But even that wouldn't dull the pain. It hurts like nothing else to come so close, to see it, to TASTE it practically, for a few moments before having it taken away.



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