Duranko’s Digest: 42-14, The taste of ashes. What’s Next?

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Davonte’ Neal (left) and Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Landon Collins (26) dive after a muffed punt as it goes out of bounds during the first half of the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Notre Dame retained possession on the play. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

12 victories.  One defeat.  Wide world of Sports coined it decades ago: “The thrill of victory; the agony of defeat.”

Alabama, the better team, won. A numbing, total defeat after twelve wondrous victories. But it was the correct football result. The fantasies, the possibilities began in Dublin:  ” Your young men shall see visions and your old men will dream dreams.”  And so we did, as the magic carpet ride  began, survival against Purdue, ending the Michigan streak, a perfunctory romp over Miami in Soldier Field, rainy goal line glory against Stanford, vindication in Norman,  a sweet November culminating in the Coliseum.  We drank deeply of the goblets of kool-aid, believing we were all the way back.

And some day, years from now, when this all makes sense, we’ll realize that the “Luck of the Irish” really came AFTER our win over Wake, on November 17th.  The lucky axis began in Waco, where Baylor was handing it to Kansas State, the “Lucky” axis ending in Eugene, where Stanford was edging out Oregon.  For had those losses not occured, we would have played either Oregon or Kansas State.  We would have beaten either one, and “won” a National Championship.  But it would have been Pharasaic larceny, it would have been a cowardly illusion, it would not have been the Notre Dame way.  It was a moral imperative.  It HAD to be the SEC and it had to be Alabama.  If you do not see that, then I can not help you.  The Notre Dame way was to play the Tide.

So, who are we, the 12-0 team or the BCS bowl loser?  Well, we are each and both.  “The truth will set you free.”  In the BCS universe including all fiefdoms except the SEC, we are the best football team in the land. Challengers like SC, Oregon, Stanford,  Michigan, Oklahoma, Kansas State,  Florida State, Clemson are simply not as good as Notre Dame, at least in 2012. But Alabama and some of their SEC confreres are, by a margin, better than we are. That is the painful truth, the tincture of merthiolate which first sears the wound before the healing can begin.  Oh sure, the emotionally dwarved will descend into envy, animosity, what ifs,  attacks ad hominem, on region, academics, referees, layoffs,  overrecruiting, or the most dangerous of all: DENIAL.  But the better team, the better program won.  DEAL WITH IT.  Justice was served on January 7th.

And, with that merthiolate still burning, let us begin the salve, the ointment, the soothing  cocoa butter.
Justice was served when we won 12 in a row.  We are at the very top of the non-SEC BCS universe.
And we have come some long distance since that  nightmare:
11/22/2008-11/21-2009.  Within a calendar year, our Fighting Irish lost to Syracuse, Navy and Connecticut, AT HOME.  It has been three years since that nadir, under an incompetent, undisciplined, self-sbsorbed coach.

So we have made progress and 2012 is just a taste of what is to come.  But we have miles to go before we sleep and enjoy LEGITIMATE championship dreams.  I’d like to refer to a painting, a visual, which first stunned me when I saw it in the quaint little St Louis Art Museum nestled in Forest Park in St. Louis. It is “Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion.”  Our hero, with the muscles straining on his back, is just climbing atop one challenge, but is now seeing that there are more precipices and more arduous work before he reaches the top.  Our Irish, like Sadak, have struggled mightily, and nobly to reach their current plateau.  But more effort and courage are required.

The next plateaus are more difficult, more gut-wrenching.

Oh, Notre dame has done this before.  Rockne struggled with Nebraska.  After beating SC in ’65 and ’66 Ara had to wait the biblical seven years before his next victory, and the USC wins in ’72 and ’74 were as agoninzing and disemboweling as Monday night was.  From ’84-’87 Notre Dame scored 20 points against “Da U” while giving up 113 points.  That’s an average of Miami 38-Notre Dame 7. a wider margin of victory than the horror of January 7th. Ugh. How did Rock, Ara and Lou turn it around?  The Old Fashioned way, they earned it. Notre Dame style.

First, raise the bar. I mean RAISE THE BAR.   Increase expectations, goals and the level of excellence demanded.  We can no longer compete against our opponents, we must now play against that most dangerous and rewarding of opponents–our own POTENTIAL.  We must recruit better, practice better, coach better, Longo better, play better.  The easy part is behind us, finding a way to beat the Michigan States, Purdues, and yes, even Stanfords, Michigans, SC’s and Oklahomas.  We can no longer measure ourself against the yardstick of the Big X, the ACC ,  our schedule or that fool’s gold called polls.   We have a new yardstick, and it is CRIMSON.

There are areas of the team where we are just not at BCS championship  level.  The difference between Bama’s OL and ours was shocking.  The Tide’s secondary was taller, more muscular, quicker to the ball. (All Hail Zeke  Motta: his last game was his best game.)  We must recruit better. We were the toughest team on the field in every game we played this year (just edging Stanford).

We must become tougher.

Will we do it?  Well, you know, “Pressure makes diamonds,” “sweet are the uses of adversity.”  That nauseous, pained look on Kelly’s face when he politely congratulated Saban was priceless, and pitch perfect.  We have the head coach and the coaching staff to bite down on that bit and never spit it.  They will, like  our buddy Sadak, be realistic about where we are, realistic about the miles and mountains we have yet to climb. IT WILL BE MORE THAN A ONE YEAR CAMPAIGN.  We have  have great kids, NDRKGS, who love a challenge. They didn’t come here, and the new ones are not showing up in August to accept second tier status.

Okay, enough of words; actions speak louder than.

The future begins in three, two, one. Let’s do this! GO IRISH

View Comments

  • Hope Kelly has not hurt our recruiting, seems most have took to staying on their early enrollment plan. Any thoughts?

  • I have seen ND from Frank Leahy to present.I believe that I have a damn good right to comment.ND all season long was never a powerful message sending team.The Spirit was certainly lacking in some of the (I guess you would call them victories)even playing lackluster teams.Above it all we must remember that ND is a school with high educational esteem.I assume this is still the case.Oh yeah I almost overlooked that "never assume" thing.What is this I hear about professional athlete mills?In conclusion I must state this is not the Notre Dame I cheered for as a 12 year old kid sitting in my dad's old car on a Sat.afternoon running the battery down while ND FOUGHT ONWARD TO VICTORY.

  • We just lost one guy and unless the assistants are allowed to contact him, Florida gets him as early as next Monday as an early enrollie.

    You'd like to hear something, but frankly it does seem like a tactic to get more money. And if he uses some of that for bonuses for his assistants then I'll give him credit for the tactic. He does deserve at least per year what Weis got, just not yet for 10 years straight.

    Folks get on these guys, but let's not forget, Holtz was pushed out by a bad AD. So why shouldn't a coach play the game?

    I will say that if Kelly does go, I just can't watch these guys anymore. Reading and hearing the hate leveled on a team that got this far has felt personal, and if they need to start again it's just going to be unbearable. The hate takes the fun out of sports.

  • BK is likely staying put. The interviews with the Eagles are just leverage for him. He's forcing Swarbrick to act quickly and offer an extension and/or change the terms of the contract.

  • Anzalone was "wishy-washy" from day one. Guy wanted to go to Florida where his dad went and to play in SEC that is why he bailed on OSU to start with just used guy taking photos and Kelly's flirtation with Eagles to drive up his salary and possible extension. Hope Swarbrick has learned from all the Millions we are still paying Weis for coaching "elsewhere" not to give an extension based on ONE outstanding year. He did the same with Weis. What if next year is another 8-5 and no win in a bowl game? That would mean 3 mediocre yrs out of 4. Diaco will take a HC job somewhere else next year. All other coaches doing a GREAT job particularly Longo they would be the guys if I was Swarbrick that I would be giving more $ to, especially Alford as the King Recruiter. I still don't see Kelly as an Ara Parseighan or Lou Holtz much less a Frank Leahy. He has had 1 great yr and 2 very MEDIOCRE ones. He has a potential No 1 recruiting class coming in so decides to blow that opportunity by going on VACATION. Wouldn't you think if you needed it you would take a break the week AFTER signing day???? Don't see Nick Saban going on vacation. He said on national TV we enjoy 24 hrs of the win and then it is back to WORK. No wonder he has 4 NC's and 3 out of last 4 years. If Kelly wanted to see where the BAR is relative to winning a Natl' Champ. I can tell him HE WON'T FIND IT OR NICK SABAN ON VACATION. Get with the program Brian. One swallow doesn't make a summer.

  • Well, all valid points and possibilities, however, what about the other side of the coin? Why have we gone this far already? ND had a whole month prior to the NC game to avert this now episodic business negotiation! I definately would have so strongly favored a modus vivendi prior to the title game! Anytime we start losing recruits for obvious weak commitment, we look weak also for recruiting them. Fact of the matter is, this issue should have been settled before the National Championship Game! Win or lose incentives would have been inked.

    I suspect right now, serious trenched in negotiations are indeed going on. BK deserves a big raise, and I agree just not the whole bank like CW. Both sides at this point need to remember not to over play their hand for a poor outcome. Hopefully, it is all over ASAP with BK and ND cementing a favorable deal for both parties ensuring a bright future.

    The Eagles are not really an option for anyone! Sorry, Frank!

  • In Alabama we live for football. There is no basketball season. Are players are going to the weight room. We are now doing "optional" 7 on 7 drills. If you want to be 1 st string you better not let the 2nd or 3rd out work you. Notre Dame has now seen the the "process". Start work today or Alabama will be that much further ahead next season. Roll Tide

    • Yes, Congratulations.
      I have to say that Saban has done a very professional job at Alabama. And while I have often blasted Pete the Cheat for creating a facade that his players were true students, I cannot place any such blame on Saban. I'm guessing that according to the level of education afforded at Alabama in general and certainly among the football fans of the SEC in general, there is not any pretense that football players are full students. I can live with that because it is honest.

      My only concern is that Notre Dame believes that collegiate sports don't alleviate the responsibility of athletes to perform in the classroom. We don't allow classes to be taken from Western Oklahoma State ( an online university scam ). Therefore, our players need to follow the NCAA rules and furthermore balance academics with football.

      Someday, I hope the NCAA will split and let those who are willing to pay for outside club teams to carry the school brand versus actual collegiate teams. I'll keep cheering for all colleges who educate their athletes because it's the best way to keep America strong against China or other economic threats.

      Football may be a way of life in the south just like soccer or baseball are a way of life with our third world neighbors to the south of the US. I'll opt for a higher bar. One that balances athletics with achievement int he classroom and the boardroom.

    • Congratulations on your win. I agree with you that ND (and everyone else) has seen what it means to be #1.

      I've no doubt ND is getting back to work with no illusions as to what it takes to be the best in this day and age.

  • What a great article. The picture depicting overcoming some challenges, but facing many more...is true of life in general.
    Good luck to Notre Dame in the future.
    Both Bama and Notre Dame have had many great coaches over the decades...and that is the key to a successful football program.
    We, at Bama, are fortunate to have a great coach in place now...I believe ND also has a good one.
    Hope we meet up again soon!

    • Yeah, As I said above, Saban seems to demand that his players maintain a hig bar in all aspects of life. There are still some coaches out there who do this to develop young people.

    • Great comment GP. I think that the problem with any football power is that the pick the wrong guy. Saban is the reason Bama is back. They had almost the same talent level and Shula just didn't get it done. Plus the guy from WSU they fired right away. As a program it is important to get the right coach. Once you have the right coach talent will come to your University. If BK leaves ND needs to take their time and worry about getting the right coach. Will this recruiting class take a hit, probably, but BK has built up talent.

  • hello to our Tide guests. You had every right to Rammer Jammer after that
    performance! Well, at least we now know what excellence looks like and we'll
    get after it. Remember, it's a LONG TERM quest!

  • I have lost a bit of respect for Kelly and do not appreciate his arrogance that he even thinks he is NFL worthy. How dare he shops weather it is a money ploy or he really wants to move on. I DO appreciate what the program has evolved to this year, however, it could of easily went 7 and 5. The Irish did take care of business week after week and had some Irish luck in a few instances. I will take 12 and 0 any time. It was a good feeling until Bama kicked our ass. We were out coached and out played bottom line. The long lay off didn't help either unless your Saban and Bama who has the experience to deal with that.

    So who the hell does Kelly think he is? He has one good year at ND and he interviews for the NFL? The Eagles must be idiots as well. Kelly is irrespnosible for his actions cause of the recruiting damage that may ensue. Hell I wouldn't want to commit to ND with a coach on the fence. Go to a few more BCS champs then maybe he is worthy of something. It will be interesting in 2013 to fill the voids of seniors. Then we will see how good he really is or not. Hope to see Kiel lead the troops next year. I do like Golson but I think what we saw is as good as it is going to get with him. My only hope now is to keep some stability with the coaching staff moving forward.