With just about every article I read and almost every article I write, the opening paragraph contains a paraphrased version of, “the 2016 season sucks.” It’s inescapable and a part of the harsh reality that we are living in this year. It seems that a large portion of the fans cashed in early- whether it be after losing to Texas while giving up 50 points, or sometime between the Michigan State and Duke losses.
It should have been easy for a large part of the Notre Dame football team to quit early this season too. Besides the obvious (losing), this team has had a number of issues surrounding it that could have brought the whole thing down by now, but hasn’t.
- Arrests and suspensions in the preseason involving starters.
- Quarterback competition between 2 quarterbacks that represented two different factions.
- Losing early.
- Losing again.
- Defensive coordinator fired.
- Hurricane Matthew
- Losing to Navy.
- Constant questions surrounding the employment status of Brian Kelly.
It’s a long list, and it is only a general list. There have been many more issues that have been around this season but have lacked the headline power to give them more of a voice.
But that’s not the point right now.
The point is that this team has continued to fight and fight and fight this season, and has never gave up. They easily could have just said to hell with it and gone through the motions- but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
I’ve been as harsh about Brian Kelly as anyone since the loss to NC State, but even I have to marvel at just how robotic this team has been in 2016. Yes, they have shown frustration and have had emotional breakdowns throughout a difficult year, but they reboot and go back to work each week. For all of the mistakes and bad decisions made by Brian Kelly this year, we can’t say that he has “lost the team.”
Now, all of that resilience can finally pay off if they play to their full potential. The hardest two games of the season are up next and there is still a chance for a much better ending to this story than the first three quarters of the story would suggest.
In America, we are indoctrinated with the mantra that if we work hard and don’t give up, we will be rewarded. This is a fiction for sure, but the spirit is very much a real thing. Notre Dame has a chance to prove that spirit right, and in doing so, they hope to start a chain reaction that helps them next year.
This team just keeps fighting, and as patronizing as that sounds to a lot of fans, it is important to them, and in turn, it is important to the program and the future of the program. Brian Kelly has lost a lot of games this year, but he hasn’t lost the team. That has to count for something- what it counts for probably isn’t exactly clear, but it counts none-the-less.