It’s the ultimate sign of respect, I guess. Or just plain pathetic. You choose.
Losing to Navy two of the past three years has finally stuck in the craw of Notre Dame’s legion of fans. Gone are the days of looking at Navy football as a guaranteed “W” on the schedule. The Midshipmen apparently stopped being the cute, cuddly underdog after marching into South Bend and beating the Golden Domers on national television.
So why has this all happened? It must be because Navy is a dirty team, right? That has to be it. Notre Dame has a parade of four- and five-star recruits coming to South Bend every year while Navy coaches have to recruit football players who also must commit themselves to five years of military service during a time of war. So it must be because Navy plays a dirty brand of football.
Former associate head coach Corwin Brown said as much last year after Navy forced Brown and the rest of the Notre Dame coaching staff to dust off their resumes after Navy won 23-21. This is what he said on Veterans Day about this one play (which was called a 15-yard personal foul).
“They hit (Notre Dame player Brian Smith) illegally last year and put him out. They hit (Notre Dame player Robert Blanton) on one of the most malicious plays I’ve ever seen since I’ve been playing. And I called [Niumatalolo] about it. And I told him I thought it was very poor. He probably thought I called because we lost; I was going to say something to him before the game but I didn’t. Very malicious. And in this game, which we’re supposed to be playing for our kids, you don’t let your players do something like that.”
So you can’t blame Notre Dame’s fans for jumping on the “dirty ball” bandwagon, especially the week leading up to their annual showdown. Here is a post on a Notre Dame fan site called “Her Loyal Sons” entitled “Give Navy That Which They Deserve.” Click on the link and you can read the whole post, but here is the lead paragraph.
“Undeniably, what we ask of our military men and women is a sacrifice far beyond any I’ve ever been asked to make (though not for lack of trying on my color-blind part). But I find this edition of Navy, the one both coddled by Charlie Weis and encouraged to play dirty by Ken “Sweep the Leg!” Niumatalolo, to be a particularly infuriating version of Navy. Gone is the fighting spirit of a team of underdogs who have absolutely no quit in them. In their stead, a team of Scott Farkuses, practically laughing, HAHA, as they take late and early hits aimed directly at the knees and the livelihoods of so many ND players before customarily waiting for our head coach to bring both his players and his own pelt before them and their band for the singing of the Navy fight song.”
A thread on a popular Notre Dame message board called “Irish Illustrated” was posted Tuesday after dales5050 read the “Her Loyal Sons” post. It has been viewed by 639 fans with 28 posts thus far. There are some real gems here.
“Does anyone else want BK to tell Niumatalolo before the game that if his players continue to take cheap shots he will do everything in his power to embarrass Navy every opportunity he gets?”
crazyirish08 (who apparently lost the shift button on his computer) writes:
“navy’s ended their losing streak. theyve won another one since then. they will never have the chance to win a game against ND at their home stadium because ND always makes them play in a larger stadium so that more revenue can be made. i say that ND shows them that they arent even on the same continent at ND in terms of players and now coaching and blows them out. i’d even be okay with running up the score. navy always give ND their best shot so maybe it’s time for ND to return the favor. i’m sick of losing to navy. this is not a good navy team this year. i want to beat them by 50 and i want them to be worried about the safety of their players out there.”
Meanwhile, beachcardinal tries to provide some objectivity:
“You are using one personal foul to brand a team dirty? Pretty high standard.”
But is struck down by Irish Grandeur:
“Why do you come on here and throw a wet wool blanket on a conversation people are having about kicking Navy’s tail? They play dirty and everyone knows it. Most schools won’t schedule them because they target a player’s knees. You can argue all day long that it’s legal – fine – say your piece and be done. This is a Notre Dame board and it’s not your job to monitor ND’s history with a team that your team won’t play.”
It’s clearly unfair to generalize all Notre Dame fans with this group on Irish Illustrated, but I wonder if there was this type of discussion when Navy went four decades without beating the Fighting Irish. I doubt it.