Notre Dame: The Simpsons Of College Football
I'm part of the '90s generation—the generation that remembers the world without the Internet, T.G.I.F, and watchable cartoons. And, if there were several constants in my life, there were some that were certain:
1. Chicken McNuggets were made of unknown chicken bits and pure magic.
2. Raphael was the best Ninja Turtle and no one could convince me otherwise.
3. The Simpsons was the greatest television show EVER.
At it's prime, The Simpsons, quite simply, rocked. They were television and pop culture royalty. They were criticized for pushing the envelope, and yet, embraced for blazing a trail that would lead the way for so many shows.
The characters became household names and their catchphrases became part of the English language.
Bart Simpson shirts were being banned from schools for embracing the slacker lifestyle. Celebrities jumped on The Simpsons bandwagon, guest starring in almost every episode. It says a lot to have Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Sting, Magic Johnson, Joe Frazier and Spinal Tap as guest stars, and I only mentioned the guests in Season 3 (not to mention the classic Homer at the Bat with the MLB players as ringers).
The Simpsons became a phenomenon, revolutionizing television as we know it. Without it, there is no Family Guy, King of the Hill, South Park or Adult Swim. It's impact transcends the FOX network. It became a part of our culture.
D'oh became a word. "Cheese eating surrender monkeys" became part of our history.
Sadly, today The Simpsons is a shell of itself; silly one-bit gags and a recycled plot have made it a show that is like the old athlete that should have retired a long time ago and ended its run as they were declining.
I always have said that if The Simpsons had ended in say, 2003, it would be regarded as the greatest piece of entertainment EVER. However, The Simpsons show an occasional flash of greatness and it shows in episodes like "The Debarted" and the so-so movie.
The greatest parts of The Simpsons (the writers and Phil Hartman) have been long gone and become bigger successes. The Simpsons set up the animated prime-time comedy, but it has fallen back and stagnated when the other shows have surpassed their forefather.
Which brings me to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame, like it or not, is college football. The Golden Dome, Touchdown Jesus, and so many other landmarks of college football have made Notre Dame hallowed ground in the eyes of the fans.
There are rules set exclusively for Notre Dame, who has "too many classic rivalries" for it to be in a conference. They have their own television rights with NBC, which is huge because no other school could amass the type of contract NBC offered Notre Dame. Without Notre Dame, college football would be nowhere near what it is today.
Notre Dame became known when they defeated the Black Knights of the Hudson 35-13. It was a game that put the forward pass into the national spotlight. Before this, football was a smash-mouth, slow-paced game (much like the Big Ten today). To pass downfield for a large gain was inconceivable. Yet, Notre Dame did it.
Their star receiver from the forward pass game, Knute Rockne, soon became coach of the Fighting Irish. Under Rockne, the Irish would post a record of 105 wins, 12 losses, and five ties. They would win six national titles, and would sport some of the most dominating players of their generation.
Rockne died in a plane crash, which set Notre Dame back for a while until Frank Leahy became coach. Leahy led the Irish to an equally impressive 87 wins, 11 losses, and nine ties. During his tenure the Fighting Irish had a 39 game unbeaten streak to accompany four national titles and six unbeaten seasons.
Coaches Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz also won national titles for the Fighting Irish.
Since Notre Dame has existed, they have amassed the following accolades:
- 13 National Titles (The Athletic Department only recognizes the top polls as national titles so the school claims 11)
- One of four schools with 800 wins
- The second highest winning percentage (.738) ever behind Michigan (.743)
- Tied for the most Heisman Trophy winners, with seven
- Most All-Americans (79 consensus, 96 selected)
- Most NFL Players Drafted (459)
- Second Most NFL Hall of Famers (10)
After Lou Holtz's retirement in 1996, a fall from grace occurred. In the twelve years following Holtz's retirement, Notre Dame has been 78-56, with a .583 winning percentage. They have been relevant in random seasons, but have fallen short often. They are the holders of the longest losing streak in NCAA Bowl History, currently at nine games.
They are projected to have a 7-5 season in the eyes of many top analysts. A 7-5 season is epic at Duke. It's great at Vanderbilt. At Notre Dame, this is cause for concern.
Charlie Weis, the current coach and offensive mastermind of two of the New England Patriots' Super Bowl Championships, could be on the hot seat if this doesn't improve soon.
Fans hate Notre Dame.
To the fans of the BCS conferences, Notre Dame is a "grandfather rule toting waste of space that should give it up and join a conference so they don't take my team's bowl spot again."
However, we owe Notre Dame a lot. Without them, there would be no Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, or USC. The Big Three in Florida would be Epcot, MGM and Magic Kingdom. College Football would be a novelty to many, like the majority of college sports in the nation. It would not demand multi-million dollar bowls and a system that, although flawed, has made college football a billion dollar industry.
Notre Dame and "The Simpsons" paved the way for their genres and created a culture within their respective realms.
Both have regressed from their old glory and have become weaker. If one were to pinpoint incidences in which both declined, it would be astonishing to see the similarities.
The first bump in the road for Notre Dame was the unfortunate passing of Knute Rockne. The first for The Simpsons was Conan O'Brien leaving to host Late Night. The Simpsons' form of Frank Leahy is the fifth and sixth season, run by David Mirkin. Even their rivals parallel each other.
Family Guy consistently rips off The Simpsons, and Urban Meyer consistently steals Notre Dame's recruits.
Notre Dame can lose an unprecedented tenth bowl game in a row this season if they become bowl eligible, and The Simpsons are in jeopardy of falling in the five million viewers bracket for the first time ever.
The difference is that Notre Dame is a football program and they will inevitably rebound.
The Simpsons probably will not. They will most likely last a season or two more and finally end their run.
I hate Notre Dame with a passion that can only be described as unhealthy, yet in a weird way, I respect them. Notre Dame is part of the college football pantheon, with OSU, Michigan, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and the Florida Big 3.
The Simpsons are what made prime-time TV in the '90s something other than a saturday morning cartoon. Television forever changed with The Simpsons, and football forever changed with Notre Dame. However, through all this, one question remains.
Does this make Poochie The Simpsons' version of Ty Willingham?
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