Wednesday, April 16, 2014





My love/hate relationship


February 20. 2013 12:55AM
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The last time I rooted for Notre Dame was in 1988 when they played no. 1 Miami and some clever Notre Dame student nicknamed the game Convicts versus Catholics.


I've never rooted for Alabama. As I write this Notre Dame is pulling me in as a fan for tomorrow.


It's weird because as much as I rooted against Notre Dame this year, especially against Stanford and Pitt, I'm glad at a certain level that they are in the game tomorrow. When Notre Dame is relevant, it's good for college football.


Same deal with the Yankees. While I root against the Yankees, at the same time I want them to be relevant because that's good for baseball.


Let's face it, the Yankees made baseball, historically. Baseball wouldn't be what it is, if the Yankees weren't what they are.


The Yankees are the most recognizable sports franchise in the world. The Yankees is a brand.


Do you think the other MLB teams hate the Yankees? Think again. The players may hate to play them because more often than not they lose, but the franchises sure as heck don't hate them, because when the Yankees come to town they sell more tickets. Some teams even charge more for Yankees games.


I looked at attendance for the last 12 seasons from 2001 – 2012. The Yankees were the top road draw in 10 of those seasons, topped only by the Red Sox in 2007 by a little over 1,000 per game and by the Giants in 2001, when Bonds hit 73 home runs, by 500 per game.


I looked at Kansas City attendance for last season. The Yankees only played one series in KC. It was the best attended series of the season in KC. The Saturday game drew 29,121, almost 8,000 over average, and the fourth highest single game of the season. The only games that drew more were the home opener, the home closer and a game on a Friday in July when the Royals came home from a long road trip and there was a fireworks promotion.


The Yankees are also the highest rated TV team.


I don't hate the Yankees, I just like to root against them. It's a family tradition, except for my sister. But it was no fun rooting against them from 1990 to '92 when they were 67-95, 71-91 and 76-86.


I feel the same about Notre Dame. I don't hate Notre Dame. I just like to root against them. But it was no fun rooting against them when they were 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6 in the last three Weiss seasons.


Notre Dame is like the Yankees in that the Fightin' Irish is a brand known around the world and that most fans either love ‘em or hate ‘em.


Here in NEPA a lot of loyalties are devoted to Penn State or Notre Dame, rarely both. I get in discussions with Notre Dame fans over beers a lot. There are a lot of Notre Dame fans around here. Yeah, there are a lot of Irish-Americans and ND alumni around here and there are connections like Ron Powlus, Rocket Ismail, Tim Ruddy, Jim Crowley and even Joe Cosgrove.


But those connections are not why there are a lot of Notre Dame fans around here. There are a lot of Notre Dame fans around here because there are a lot of Notre Dame fans everywhere.


I tend to think locally when I get in discussions over beers with Notre Dame fans, when I should be thinking globally. Discussions like that happen everywhere college football fans gather.


In Northeast Ohio or Northeast Hawaii, just like in Northeast PA, there are fans in bars talking about Notre Dame. Penn State has a reach, Ohio State has a reach, but not like Notre Dame which is tiny by comparison.


Notre Dame is like the Yankees in that they are the greatest draw. In Oklahoma they have been playing football at Memorial Stadium since 1923. The biggest crowd ever? This year on October 27 when Notre Dame came to town.


In 2011 Pitt played eight home games at Heinz Field. Seven of the games drew 40,000 plus. One drew 65,000. A Steelers crowd. A sell out. Guess who was the opponent?


Here's a prediction. Tomorrow's game will be the highest rated college football TV game ever.


Yeah, Notre Dame, just like the Yankees. They sell more tickets, they sell more gear, they get more eyes on the TVs. Heck, they make movies about the Yankees and Notre Dame.


But here's where I get in trouble. Here's where the Yankees are different from Notre Dame: the Yankees aren't overrated.


I don't mean Notre Dame is overrated this year, I mean in general. No team has been in the preseason top 10 and wound up out of it than Notre Dame. And I cite Powlus. Remember Todd Light? He was vastly overrated as a defensive back.


Take their linebacker this year – Manti Te'o. Great player. Great kid. Great story. I love him. But a Heisman finalist?


He had 103 tackles in 12 games, 5.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Why is he any better than Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges, 109 and 8.5 for loss in 12 games and Michael Mauti 95 and 4.0 and 2.5 sacks in 10 1/2 games?


Granted seven picks by Te'o is impressive, but Mauti had three in 10 1/2 games.


Anyway, Go Irish, but not too far.




It's weird because as much as I rooted against Notre Dame this year, especially against Stanford and Pitt, I'm glad at a certain level that they are in the game tomorrow. When Notre Dame is relevant, it's good for college football.






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