The second installment in the 12 Days of Notre Dame (Christmas) may be a little bit less lovable than the first. Because today’s “gifts” are:
…Two doubting pundits.
Namely, Mark May and Rick Reilly.
Hear me out.
At the beginning of the year,
no one everyone but those fans who think Notre Dame will go undefeated every season didn’t see it happening.
Like many of my colleagues, yours truly pegged another 8-win season on this Irish squad. Maybe even seven. I bear no ill will toward Notre Dame nor its football team, but with the storm the program was facing (Aaron Lynch’s departure, Tommy Rees’s arrest, a wounded secondary, a brand new quarterback, Michael Floyd’s graduation, the most difficult schedule in the nation, etc.), a 10-2 season – let alone a national championship – just didn’t seem possible with this group.
No one was more vocal – or vicious – about this doubt than May and Reilly, and both of whom use the biggest name in sports news (Read: ESPN) as a platform.
May has long been Lou Holtz’s antithesis on ESPN’S Final Verdict, continually antagonizing the former Irish head coach whenever Holtz (unfailingly) picks a Notre Dame win. Their on-air feud came to a tipping point in 2010, when May said:
“As long as (Notre Dame) continues to water down their schedule with teams from Conference USA, from the MAC Conference, from the Mountain West Conference, they will not be in a national championship because they can’t even beat those teams. They can’t stop the Navy. Their defense has been horrible, horrendous. Just when I thought I was out of the Notre Dame bashing business, they brought me back in.”
A verbal slap fight ensued.
Reilly drew the ire of Notre Dame fans in his famous column “demoting” Notre Dame from national relevance back in August. Reilly penned, “When did I quit on Notre Dame? When it quit on itself” and quoted USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s comments after last year’s win over the Irish, saying Notre Dame “gave up” in the waning moments of the game.
So why should Notre Dame be thankful for these guys?
Because they beat them.
Because May said he’d don a leprechaun suit and sing the Victory March if Notre Dame went to the national championship game. Because Reilly said he’d personally shine the golden helmets if the Irish beat USC.
Because, despite the players steadfastly maintaining throughout the season that they didn’t listen to the negativity or the media hype, the noise still found the them. Why else would Kapron Lewis-Moore have Tweeted Reilly minutes after beating USC, demanding to make his helmet “extra shiny” ?
Outside the locker room in August, precious few people believed this team would be title-bound this season. This team used the venom as motivation to band together and do the improbable. They loved proving the doubters wrong. And Reilly and May were the biggest of the bunch.
So May had his comeuppance.
And so did Reilly.
And Notre Dame is heading to the national championship.
Merry Christmas, indeed.
Previously on “12 Days of Notre Dame…”
…One Bob Diaco