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The Joker Origin Story: Notre Dame Football’s Loss to Stanford

Why so serious?

Stanford v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Notre Dame’s (3-3) 16-14 home loss to Stanford (2-4, 0-4 Pac-12) is about to send me on a Joker-level insanity spiral. So the following scene played out inside my head conspicuously akin to the interrogation scene from the classic 2008 movie “The Dark Knight.” Enjoy.

Scene: Open on an interrogation room at a police station. COMMISSIONER ADAMS (“Commissioner”) takes a seat at a table opposite NOTRE DAME JOKER (“Joker”).

Commissioner: Notre Dame lost at home to Stanford last night.

Joker: (smugly) Of course they did.

Commissioner: Why did you get everyone’s hopes up that the Irish would be 6-2 going into the Clemson game?

Joker: Me? I didn’t say anything? Who were you listening to? Hmm? One of The Athletic’s pundits?

Commissioner is stoic and silent.

Joker: Does it depress you, Commissioner? To know just how unpredictable this Notre Dame team really is? Does it make you second guess whether you should pay for Peacock just to watch the UNLV game this week?

Commissioner: What bowl is Notre Dame going to?

Joker: Who will they beat in November?

Commissioner: Why does that matter?

Joker: Well depending on how the rest of the season plays out, it’s possible that Notre Dame could go to a bowl, or none.

Commissioner: If we’re gonna play games, I’m gonna need a cup of coffee.

Joker: Ah, the good-fan, bad-fan routine?

Commissioner: Not exactly.

Commissioner exits and behind Joker appears MARCUS FREEMAN (“Freeman”), who slams Joker’s head onto the table as he walks around to face Joker.

Joker: Ah! Never start with the head! That’s a targeting penalty, and J.D. Bertrand should know all abou–

Freeman slams his fist on Joker’s hand.

Joker: (processing the latest hit without pain) There you go.

Freeman: You wanted me. Here I am.

Joker: I wanted a breath of fresh air coaching Notre Dame football. And you haven’t disappointed. You’ve lost four of seven games as a head coach. Two of those were at home to Marshall and Stanford, who haven’t even beaten another FBS team this season. Even to a sicko like me, that’s bad.

Freeman: What were your expectations for me this season?

Joker: At the very least an offense that wasn’t so predictable. And boy have you changed things. We never know what we’re getting with this circus.

Freeman: So you want me to fire Tommy Rees?

Joker: (laughing) I don’t want you to fire Rees. What would I do without him, huh? Go back to blaming Brian Kelly for not developing quarterbacks? No. No, no! No, Rees is the scapegoat I need for this team always being unprepared.

Freeman: I’m telling you, it’s not preparation! It’s execution!

Joker: Don’t talk like Kelly, you’re not him! Even if you’d like to be. Unlike him, you actually believe it’s possible to win a national championship at Notre Dame. In their eyes, that makes you a freak. Like me.
Everyone loved it when you said all the right things and made the rounds on every ESPN morning show. But you knew that when the chips were down, the Notre Dame fanbase would crucify you.
You see, these “loyal sons and daughters” of Notre Dame — their loyalty is conditional. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. Their emotions are a rollercoaster that hinge on how well their team performs. Just watch. Once you lose the rest of the marquee games on your schedule, they’ll say they should’ve hired Matt Campbell instead.
See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.

Freeman grabs Joker and drags him over the table.

Freeman: What do you want from me?

Joker: You have this philosophy of being an offensive and defensive line driven program, and you think it’ll save you.

Freeman holds Joker up against the wall.

Freeman: It’s all I’ve ever known.

Joker: Oh, well that’s gonna have to change once you realize the truth.

Freeman: Which is?

Joker: The only way to compete for national championships in college football is to have 20 five-stars like Georgia or competent receivers, and you have neither.

Freeman: I’m addressing it.

Joker: Well there’s only six games left this season so you’ll have to figure something out quick if you want to save it.

Freeman: “It”?

Joker: You know, for a while there, I thought you really would finish with a top-5 recruiting class...

Joker begins laughing maniacally. Freeman flips him on the table before taking a chair and shoving it under the room’s door to keep others out.

Joker: Look at you go!

Freeman approaches Joker once again.

Joker: Do you really think C.J. Carr is going to reclassify to 2023?

Freeman slams Joker’s head into the glass.

Freeman: We can still finish in the top 5!

Joker: You already lost Keon Keeley. Is posting seven wins going to convince Peyton Bowen to stay committed.

Freeman punches Joker.

Freeman: We can still win nine games!

Joker: You have a choice to make. Keep practicing every week the same damn way and showing up on gameday flat as a day-old Mountain Dew, or actually do something to earn your multi-million-dollar paycheck.

Joker laughs as Freeman punches him again.

Joker: You have nothing. No resume of success to lean on...

Freeman grabs Joker and lifts him face-to-face.

Joker: But don’t worry! I’m gonna give you a couple of hints. And that’s the point. I’m on your side.

If you want your program to be appealing to good wide receiver recruits, then when your only freshman wide receiver records your only passing touchdown of the game, give him more than zero snaps the rest of the night. Lighten up your practices just enough that your captains don’t keep dropping like flies to injury. And start playing your young, athletic defenders since your veterans keep getting torched on the perimeter in third-and-long situations.

Freeman storms out of the interrogation room, past Commissioner.

Commissioner: What are you gonna do?

Freeman: Choose the first option and keep doing the same damn thing every week.

Commissioner: Copy that.