Friends, the moment is here. At the end of one short weekend, it will officially be a game week for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The normal game-week preview pieces will show up in your OFD feed. The abstract hopes we have placed on the upcoming season since January - for Marcus Freeman, for emerging stars, will be realized - or not - beginning next week.
Irish fans enter 2022 with a level of uncertainty they haven’t seen in many years. While Irish teams of the later Brian Kelly years seemed to have a frustrating ceiling, they also achieved good-to-great status with clockwork efficiency, and there was a high baseline level of achievement fans could expect. While Marcus Freeman’s tenure offers the promise of raising that ceiling, the floor is unknown as well, and there are plenty of potential growing pains that fans and commentators have identified. It is entirely possible that this year’s Irish team could take a step back even as it heads in a good long-term direction; it is also possible that it could rise to new heights. It’s okay to admit the presence of a somewhat uncomfortable feeling, as the warm blanket of predictable goodness is replaced with a risky pursuit of greatness.
The in-depth coverage will start soon enough, so for now I’ll just offer this piece of advice to my fellow Irish fans: embrace the unknown. Get psyched to learn what we have in this team and coaching staff. Prepare yourself to be frustrated, but also allow for hope, because both are rational in this moment. And have the confidence that this program and its fans have earned in the last few years: we know strong personnel are in place on the field and on the sidelines, and that there will be plenty of moments to celebrate this year even as there are moments of struggle as well. Whether this is a good-not-great transition year or a champion year may well depend on whether the former outnumber the latter, but either way - this is going to be a fun team and season to watch. Get ready, Irish fans - it’s Almost Gameday.