Last summer we put together an issue to celebrate 125 years of Notre Dame football. It was mostly written in past tense. The subhead of the main feature asked: “Have the tidal shifts in college football finally doomed the independent Irish?”
We then put football in our rearview mirror and headed for our autumn issue. It had lots to do with Ireland but hardly mentioned the football game in Dublin. And a September win over Purdue had me saying to my father-in-law as we left Notre Dame Stadium: “That doesn’t look to me like a team that could beat Michigan or Michigan State.”
About that time the magazine staff turned its attention to the winter issue, plotting such stories as the insider’s account of the war on drugs and the profile of Skylar Diggins ’13, the Notre Dame basketball star whose game, character and appeal have made her a national celebrity.
Back on the gridiron, though, wins over those two rivals and a Soldier Field rout of Miami had the Irish trending upward. Still, anticipated dates with Stanford, Oklahoma and USC steered much of our early-autumn enthusiasm toward the Semion Lyandres saga, a riveting narrative that is more Indiana Jones than Russian novel — recommended reading, even for those who aren’t history buffs.
When the Irish stuffed Stanford in OT at home and then stunned Oklahoma on the road (a matchup that the Sooner highlight film indicated could be an embarrassing OU romp), we saw something special was happening.
Then, too, the 2012 presidential campaign was consuming the national conversation — not a conversation, exactly, but a divisive, venomous war of ideas, partisan posturing and personal attacks. Even before Sandy hit the East Coast, we sensed the country was in trouble, mired in rigid acrimony when real solutions were needed, not more anger and self-righteousness.
So — late in our cycle — we asked faculty members to talk issues, not politics. And we asked the executive editor of a major metropolitan daily to talk common sense about what America needs now. We were greatly pleased by the enthusiasm he and the faculty brought to the task.
More surprising, however, was the Pittsburgh field goal that flew a few feet east of its target, the late-season tumbles of Oregon and Kansas State, and the Notre Dame triumph over USC, closing out a perfect season and taking the Irish to the brink of a national championship — a turn of events and a team of inspiration that became the real story for the Notre Dame family in autumn 2012.
But it’s a story that has no ending as we go to press. And, given the unpredictability of bulk-rate mailings, you may or may not know when you read this if the beacon atop Grace Hall (shown on the back cover) is still lit beyond January 7. (Meanwhile, if you’d like up-to-date coverage from Miami, check out magazine.nd.edu.)
Whatever the outcome, the season showed once again what Notre Dame football can mean to us all, even with so much else going on in the world.