The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are frustrated right now, and so are the fans. Notre Dame is off to a rough 3-2 start and just had its 10-game home winning streak snapped by the Oklahoma Sooners this past weekend.
After the game, a number of players, but not all of them, left the field without partaking in the postgame tradition of singing the alma mater with the student body. In response, the student body openly rained boos down upon its team. A Notre Dame spokesman said that a policy change occurred two years and that the team will not sing the alma mater following losses — this policy had apparently not been known because the Irish did not lose a home game in 2012.
Interestingly enough, the student body was never made aware of the apparent change, and very much took offense to the bending of tradition following losses. In fact, an anonymous player even acknowledged that he and most of his teammates want to partake in the alma mater after every game, even though it is against Kelly’s wishes:
But frustration isn’t limited to just the students right now. Head coach Brian Kelly was less than perfect in his postgame interview with NBC reporter Alex Flanagan. Many fans took to Twitter to rip quarterback Tommy Rees to shreds. One even went as far to start a petition to President Obama to have Rees removed as starting quarterback.
All of this anger has led to some serious back-and-forth. Fans are mad at the team. Students are mad at the players. Players hear the naysayers and think that fans don’t support them unconditionally. And ultimately, Notre Dame is not winning all of its football games like everybody wants.
What was particularly striking though was the epic Twitter rant of former Irish captain and defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore. ‘Kap’ was on the team as recently as last season (he is now with the Baltimore Ravens), so naturally he felt compelled to come to the aid of his former teammates. He took to his social media feed and absolutely blasted the Irish (un)faithful.
Lewis-Moore made several points:
- It isn’t right for the fans to boo the players for skipping the alma mater when they are willing to boo the team during poor performances
- Fans are willing to celebrate the wins and storm the field but immediately call for heads when the Irish lose
- He is furious about the amount of criticism and unfair character shots Rees has had to endure
- Players never give up even in down seasons, coaching changes, etc. so fans shouldn’t either
- He did then acknowledge that students tend to be more unwavering than the general fan base and that the players should always do the alma mater
As a Notre Dame alumnus, I naturally have an opinion on the issues that Lewis-Moore brings up. First, to get it out of the way, directly bashing a player as a person is not cool — ever. Fans may not always be thrilled with the performance of players, but ultimately football is a game and these young men give their heart and soul to the team and university day in and day out. Criticizing their play is one thing, but attacking the character of athletes is way out of bounds.
Lewis-Moore also seems to indicate that it’s okay for the team to turn its back on the fans and not sing the alma mater at times, because many fans have left the stadium in the past during losses (he references several losses from his earlier seasons that all Irish fans would prefer to forget). But this isn’t a fair statement, because the singing of the alma mater is designed specifically to be an interaction between the team and the student body — the student body that never leaves early, win or lose. Not once in my Notre Dame career did I see the students abandoning ship, and that included a number of mediocre years and the end of the Charlie Weis era. Bottom line, the students deserve the respect of the team that they steadfastly support.
Despite his own anger, even Kap acknowledges in one of his final tweets the importance of the alma mater — it is bigger than any of the players, any of the students, and any of the fans. It is meant to show the unity of all of those groups that make up the Notre Dame family — a family that represents class and a wonderful university, not just football wins. Students were shocked to see the team forgo that postgame ritual that represents so much, and rightfully so — it is far too important to be affected by any number of losses.
Ultimately, singing the alma mater after the game is not an option, but an obligation of the students and team after each and every game, regardless of any policy the administration chooses to suddenly create. What ‘Notre Dame, Our Mother’ stands for is a brighter side of Notre Dame than what we are currently seeing from everybody involved, and something that should exist independent of victory or defeat.
Two wrongs don’t make a right. Fans and students need to universally support the school that they have all elected to cheer for or attend, while at the same time the players need to uphold the values and traditions that make Notre Dame football special, regardless of whether or not the success that we all desire is present on the field that particular Saturday. After all, we’re all in this together — let’s act like the Notre Dame family.