Sunny and 80 degrees in January.
There really isn’t a better metaphor for Notre Dame’s football season so far than the weather in Miami, the site of the national championship game. After being out in the South Bend cold for so long, we finally get to bask in the sports sunshine.
And what a great time to savor it has been.
Notre Dame hasn’t played a football game since November, when the Fighting Irish defeated Southern Cal and secured their spot in the BCS Championship. The length of time between games essentially renders Monday’s contest as a new, one-game season, practically divorced from what occurred in 2012 — and there are plenty of wacky bowl games from the past that show what time can do to even out or flip two seemingly mismatched foes.
It can drive you crazy if you let it, the relentless wait. There are the endless debates between sports personalities, the continual prognostications of every writer who fashions himself as a football guru, and the litany of columns about the best reasons to hate Notre Dame. And with relatives and friends, on message boards and at coffee machines, there are round-robin discussions of individual and unit matchups, dissection of scheme, and comparisons of height and weight.
Some is very worthy of discussion, some is not, and all of it is the natural state of fandom. It’s easy to get lost in the trivia and fortune telling. But with the game still yet to played, we can all rest easy by remembering what this season has been really all about.
Stephon scooping up a Navy fumble, hitting the open field, and racing in for a touchdown in Dublin.
Robby catching the ball and turning upfield against Purdue to setup a game-winning field goal.
John coming down with the one-handed grab in East Lansing to set the tone for Michigan State.
Manti flying to intercept a tipped pass versus Michigan.
Tyler soaring over defenders to catch a touchdown in the rain against Stanford.
Chris grabbing the long bomb to spur the win over Oklahoma.
Everett leaping from seemingly endless yards away to soar into the end zone and tie the Pitt game.
Cierre bobbing and weaving with his afterburners on, racing yard after yard with Wake Forest players helpless to catch him.
Theo bulldozing the Southern Cal defenders in his path.
This journey started in a land of tin whistles and cobblestones and is coming to an end in a city of drums and neon. Driving into Miami, it is surreal to see the billboards — Notre Dame! In the championship game! — and it feels too good to be true.
The old questions can easily start to come up, especially since similar trips to high-profile bowl games ended in such disappointment. That’s to be expected, considering the long drought of championship contention and the whiplash of hopeful season followed by bad.
But I can’t think about that. Because if you are a Notre Dame fan right now, it doesn’t matter if you are in Miami or South Bend or Antarctica.
We’re still #1. We’re still playing for the national championship.
And that means it’s sunny and 80 degrees in January.
Liam Farrell is the alumni editor of this magazine.