Your weekly blast from the past is here, with three more random anecdotes about the Notre Dame Fighting Irish upon which I have found it amusing to reflect in this time of no new football. This season is take-machine season, which gets straight to my first thing. People forget...
PTI Pretended This Was a Big Deal
The late 2000s were probably the peak of seething anti-Notre Dame bias within sports media, as the Irish were down and the familiar critiques - overrated, never play nobody, irrelevant - were never more true. The Irish were the nation’s piñata and the good folks at ESPN and elsewhere never hesitated to take a swing, even over the most trivial nonsense. Consider the pearl-clutching that ensued at the below mild comment by Charlie Weis, and Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon’s attempt to frame it as a national controversy:
For context, this was a remark uttered by Weis in a private setting that was then leaked via YouTube, but was treated by everyone involved as though he had snuck up to Ann Arbor overnight and plastered it all over campus. The PTI guys were far from alone here, as even today a Google search reveals dozens of articles on the subject, because it was 2008 and there truly was no better dead horse to beat.
P.S. For all his flaws, Charlie did beat the Michigan Wolverines that season in a game that I will link to here. I will probably want to bring up in another of these articles because it was utterly insane.
The Other Mr. Dependable
Fans who remember the 2009 season can probably recall Tom Hammond’s irritating habit of referring to safety Kyle McCarthy as “Mr. Dependable.” Less well remembered is that McCarthy had a counterpart on the offense who inspired the same description from Hammond and his partner in crime (those broadcasts were crimes), Pat Haden: Robby Parris. On a team that had Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph, Parris was nonetheless forced to come up big in several games for the Irish that year, most notably with 6 catches for 92 yards against the USC Trojans.
Parris was a great glue guy who fought hard in some tough circumstances, and part of the reason I’m highlighting this is to give him some love. But it is also an amusing reminder of how stale NBC’s broadcasts had become at this point, as we saw our dynamic duo recite the same tropes over and over. Then again, I did just spend a whole season listening to Jason Garrett talk about the importance of the blue shirts hitting the white shirts, so maybe this hasn’t changed much.
Tom Zbikoswki Could Ball from The Beginning
Few Irish players from the 2000s are more beloved than Tom Zbikoswki. The human Swiss Army knife with the athleticism of a safety and the physicality of a linebacker who somehow also returned punts made a name for himself in 2005 and became a team icon through the 2007 season, but the guy was already turning heads when Ty Willingham still roamed the sidelines. Beyond overall solid numbers (70 tackles), the redshirt frosh also was already serving up some game-breaking moments, absolutely taking over the 2004 tilt with the Michigan State Spartans.
Nine tackles, but more importantly an interception and fumble recovery returned 75 yards for a touchdown in classic Zibby style. Notre Dame has had better safeties (Harrison Smith, Kyle Hamilton) in the years since, but this was one of the more unique playmakers we’ve ever seen take the field for the Irish. Take a bow, Tommy Z.