There is an old joke that goes something like this:
Q: “How do you know if someone graduated from Notre Dame?”
A: “Don’t worry...they’ll tell you. Also, they’re a virgin.”
I may have told it wrong, but the implication of the joke is clear: Notre Dame grads love their school, and, like a mom with a toddler and a Facebook account, they love to let you know it. And in that there’s a more subtle and sinister suggestion nesting like a Russian Doll: People who have graduated from Notre Dame think they’re better. Truth be told, this small fact doesn’t bother me that much. It’s annoying, but not detestable, and no different than the beliefs of someone who went to an elite Ivy. So, why have I - and millions of other Americans - learned to hate Notre Dame more than any other school? The simple answer is football; the yearly hype, the NBC contract, the unfair amount of time devoted to them on Sportscenter, etc. But that’s too simple, and as Mike Golic pointed out in one of his weird rants, none of that is Notre Dame’s fault. That surface-level damnation rings hollow. We have to go deeper.
Let’s start early: in the early 1900’s, when the scars of nation building and war were still fresh and different ethnicities meant different classes, Notre Dame embraced the pejorative name given to them by the press. To call yourselves 'The Fighting Irish' was bold, vaguely racist, and, admittedly, awesome. To draw a line in the sand like that, to limit your audience to the Irish Catholics of the time was niche marketing before niche marketing existed. Probably by accident, they learned that appealing to everyone appeals to no one. Target an audience and earn not fans, but worshippers. “There is a team that represents ME,” was the thought of every drunken, red-nosed, small-penised Irish railroad builder. Didn't hurt that they happened to win like crazy, too. And so, a legend is born.
But what's so infuriating about all that now is that the casual fans of Notre Dame seem to think this is still the case. Handed down from their fathers and grandfathers is a notion that Notre Dame is something greater than football. They got sold by a name (“Go Irish!”), followed by a lot of wins, followed by a consistent television contract. Notre Dame peddles in mythologies, and like all self-promoting entities, the reality has been distorted, exaggerated, changed. The University is a kind of snake-oil salesman; Notre Dame represents Ireland in the same way that a Beer Garden in Epcot represents Germany. And, let’s not forget the university was founded by the French. To root for ND because you’re Irish and/or Catholic shows a disturbing lack of healthy marketing skepticism. Do you also believe, like Will Ferrell’s Elf, that the corner bodega has the best coffee in the world because their sign said so? Did you also buy a ShamWow?
And all of this invented lore feeds into itself - and it creates the aforementioned Notre Dame alumnus. Why else would anyone attend Notre Dame? Its undergraduate rules are famously strict. Its student body famously unattractive. Its facilities represent the kind of capital investments you would expect from Catholic priests sworn to a life of poverty. And have you been to South Bend? It’s appropriate that Touchdown Jesus looks over the town, because at first blush it looks to be a leper colony. Academically, it’s a good school but there are others; and so I’m led to believe that the type of person that would attend ND is one that wants desperately to believe the mythology to a point of denial. They picked a college that’s “special,” because they want to believe themselves to be that way. Maybe the hardships of life delivered them that need, but I can’t support an institution that cocoons their insecurities rather than faces them. They become unsocialized children, not raised by wolves but by the pandering lies of “Rudy” and “win one for the Gipper.” And so, after graduation, when they face the cold hard world, they batten down the hatches and protect their own self-importance by trying to convince everyone else of it.
“Don’t worry...they’ll tell you.” And so that old joke takes on an even deeper significance. Another Russian Doll: Not only do Notre Dame grads feel their alma mater indicates a different class of people, they also believe that the rest of the country sees it that way, too. They believe they’re not just kings, but also populist heroes. But like a Mom who throws high school parties for her kids then demands respect, this is ridiculous. At least the sweater vests and elbow patches of Harvard have the common decency to know that no one likes them - and they live in courageous defiance of it. No, the Domers aren’t that self-aware. How could they be when they bought the lie themselves? And that’s the kind of delusion I can’t support - that I MUST root against (how ironic indeed to root for a Catholic institution yet live in flagrant defiance of the religion’s most important tenet: free will). For this great country was founded on the noble notion of dissidence, in defiance of unaware monarchies and specious dictators. That a man has the right - nay, the RESPONSIBILITY - to call bullshit. To root for Notre Dame is to root for Orwellian propagandist lies (“Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery”). To root for Notre Dame is to root against America.
And so, on January 7th, flag draped on my shoulders and a cold Budweiser at my lips, I’ll utter two words in solemn solidarity with the rest of the freethinking nation: Roll Tide.
Jared Freid is a New York City-based comedian. Follow him on Twitter @jtrain56 for videos, columns, and more Notre Dame fun facts that prove their alumni are living a lie. You can also subscribe to his Facebook page here.