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Mary Fell Off the Dome: Which Traditions are the Most Important?

If you haven’t done so already, please read Michael Collins’ post from Monday and leave a comment of thanks for him.


For quite a while now I’ve been mulling over writing about Notre Dame’s traditions, but I wasn’t sure how to approach such a daunting task. In fact, I’m still not sure.

A few months ago, when there was a lot of talk about Jack Swarbrick’s comments regarding a video board inside Notre Dame Stadium, this issue came back to the fore front for me. And it has happened again with the release of the retro jerseys for the Michigan game in 2011.

Even though I am going to continue talking about the new uniform, it’s not really the main issue at hand. But its appearance once again begs me to ask of the fans:

What are the most important traditions at Notre Dame?

That’s not something I will be able to gauge that precisely with a post like this, and perhaps in the future we will try to put together a detailed poll of some sort, all the same the question still stands.

Anyway, what I’ve noticed is that there is an incredibly passive aggressive attitude towards a lot of the changes we’ve seen over the past handful of years.

Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed it.

What’s more, the unveiling of the retro uniforms is a perfect example of how certain segments of the fan base act in incredibly passive aggressive ways.

This is in large part due to the fact that many guys (even in two-thousand and friggin’ eleven) are wary and afraid to talk about uniforms for fear of feeling emasculated.

Nevertheless, the typical argument I’ve seen over the past few days basically goes like this:

"I don’t really care about the uniforms (insert "let’s just win football games" statement here), but let me tell you why I REALLY CARE ABOUT THE UNIFORMS!!"

Sometimes it’s really hard for me to understand statements like that.

If you want to trot out the caveman-like argument that worrying about the uniforms is for girls, and this is football and blah, blah, blah….like I said, that’s fine.

But how come so many like to use parts of that argument, but then also try and convince others why such and such uniform should be worn, while others should not. Or even pervert the history of the uniforms and try to prove to the world what is the acceptable look for the Irish.

It’s hypocrisy.

I won’t claim that this is a break through thought (as I’m sure many other fans have realized this before), but I now understand why we have fans like this.

They are so scared.

They are terrified.

In reality it isn’t about the uniforms per se for them. Sure it serves as a platform to complain, but the real issue is how instances like this apparently spell doom for the future of the program.

Yes, a retro uniform worn once in a game between the two most winning teams in college football history is just another sign that things are falling into the gutter for Notre Dame, her image and traditions.

Most people, especially those who don’t follow college football or sports in general, would conclude a statement like that is utterly ridiculous. It’s pretty sad that we have to listen opinions like that, but probably even sadder that we’ve become accustomed to it.

Don’t like the design or look of the retro uniforms? You’re certainly entitled to that opinion, and I’d love to hear the reasons why you feel that way.

But trying to connect the unveiling with fist shaking disdain for the terrible future about to be concocted by the University is flat out insane.

Some people are in an uproar (while at the same time telling you they are most definitely not in an uproar) and I’m pretty sure nothing the school ever does (or does not do) will make them happy.

I also realize that many of these people simply want to preserve the traditions at Notre Dame, and deep down their heart is probably in a good place.

But when the unveiling of a retro uniform gives them the opportunity to sling mud at Adidas, curse the Administration, and all kinds of additional knee-jerk reactions, I think it’s rather pathetic.

I honestly think that the big problem here is that a lot of fans just don’t want Notre Dame to be considered cool.

We’d all agree that having a powerful football team is definitely cool, but even then they’d probably complain when fans jump on the bandwagon.

Heck, the main impetus for railing against the merchandise the school sells is probably derived from the fact that (even in rough times on the football field) Notre Dame remains immensely popular and cool to thousands of young people who know very little about Rocke, Leahy, and undefeated seasons.

How is it possible to get upset that the school is wearing throwbacks for one game and attempting to sell a bunch of merchandise for such an event?

I’ve seen others complain that tickets are no longer $15.

Do you live on planet Earth?

Everywhere you turn there is such hypocrisy.

Everyone wants things done their way: low ticket prices, no ads inside the stadium, shorter commercial breaks on television…but they actively fight the other ways in which Notre Dame can generate revenue to try and keep things that way.

There are actually Notre Dame football fans who actively cringe at the thought of walking into Hammes and buying Irish apparel, even though doing so actually helps the University in innumerable ways, including fielding a great football team.

Do they know that some people even donate money? They just give it right to Notre Dame!

I also sense there is a massive distrust of the Notre Dame Administration.

After the past decade and a half, I can understand that.

However, there’s a new sheriff in town in Jack Swarbrick and a new head coach as well.

Do we have to blindly follow them?

Of course not.

But what have either of these two men done to curry so much disfavor?

What is Swarbrick’s biggest mistake to date?

Singing a series with Northwestern?

If that’s you’re biggest complaint about your AD, you don’t have a lot of problems as an organization.

Ditto for complaining about uniforms.

So many people knew…THEY JUST KNEW that the retro uniforms were going to be horrible abominations that murdered baby kittens, because Swarbrick and Kelly did not respect tradition and were only doing this because they are pawns of Adidas and are looking to squeeze more dollars out of the poor, frail fan base who cheer for the Irish.

Of course when the uniforms came out and they were actually tasteful, sharp, and the jersey was an exact throwback, they didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Except they did.

They wouldn’t admit that the uniform looks good (of course not, that doesn’t serve their purpose), but its unveiling simply gave them the chance to pound their fists even more about the dark future ahead.

At what point does Swarbrick, a man who is a complete 180 from his predecessor and someone who has done his job about as flawless as you could expect, start receiving the benefit of the doubt?

At what point do fans accept that modernity demands some changes, and just sit back and try to enjoy the ride?

I firmly believe that the lack of success on the football field has allowed so many fans the ability to have sour feelings with everything else associated with the program, when in reality, we should feel damn lucky how great things are on campus today, despite the allure of national titles being ever further in the past.

We’re still incredibly popular, the school makes a lot of money, and the seeds are in place for the football team to once again rise up and become a force.

Everyone is so worried that this retro uniform is a sign that a jumbotron and stadium ads are right around the corner.

Just relax.

Stadium advertisements are not going inside Notre Dame Stadium either in my or your lifetime. Unless…you’d rather stop selling merchandise and break the chains of slavery bolted on to us helpless fans who do inane, childish, and obtuse things like proudly wear an Irish jersey or tee-shirt around town.

Look, if we want to argue about what this team and program should do or not do, let’s do it. But I don’t understand the fetish behind getting so much happiness out of trashing the leaders of this school, most especially when the new leadership has been doing so well and it appears like we might actually be on the cusp of turning the corner and entering a new golden age in South Bend.

Don’t let one retro uniform take the fun out of it. Don’t get sucked into the darkness complaining about every single thing like Mary is about to fall off the golden dome.

This isn’t me endorsing Oregon-type uniforms, or trying to drum up support for a video board. I know issues like this can be a slippery slope and are sometimes viewed that way by many fans across the country.

We're talking about fans being repulsed by a tradition that Notre Dame has done more or less for the last century. Only because they're afraid of what it might lead to.

Almost 90 years ago Notre Dame wore green uniforms for the very first time.

90 years.

Our fan base is positively obsessed with protecting the sanctity of Notre Dame Stadium and the way the atmosphere is kept, but even the green uniforms pre-date the House That Rock Built by nearly a decade.

30 years before anyone ever associated Fighting Irish football with shiny gold helmets, there was already an association with green jerseys.

Knute Rockne was a uniform (and general program changing) pioneer. Those are our roots as a powerful football program.

So again I ask you, what are the most important traditions at Notre Dame?

What are the essentials?

Which ones can you live without?

Which ones are deeply part of our identity, and which ones are simply people helplessly clinging to old ways?

Are green uniforms part of that tradition or should we stick to blue and gold?

Does unveiling uniforms months before a game and trying to sell merchandise associated with the retro look run counter to the school’s principles or past in any way, shape, or form?

These are the types of questions we should be seeking the answers to, because history has proven to us that we will not be keeping every single tradition for time immemorial.

We will keep many traditions, but we will also carve out new ones.

That is reality.

And so are high ticket prices.