Picking who I wanted to win the national championship game tonight wasn't hard.
It's Alabama. I know they're insufferable - Roll Tide, Rammer Jammer, PAWWWWWWWWWWWL, etc. - and I would've preferred a world where they didn't make the title game, but I didn't have to even contemplate for a millisecond whether I'd prefer the Crimson Tide to beat Notre Dame. Typically, I root against teams who have had a lot of success recently, and pull for ones who haven't. Well, Notre Dame hasn't won in a few decades, and Alabama won, well, last year. But still, 'Bama.
You see, I don't like Notre Dame. Which leads the question: why don't I like Notre Dame?
It's a tough one. I don't know that many Notre Dame fans personally. My school hasn't played Notre Dame since I stopped playing with blocks - but we'll get to that. (The not playing, not the blocks.) Despite that seeming lack of contact, I just can't stand the Fighting Irish.
It's not just some weird sense of jealousy: I tried to put together some reasons, from smallest to biggest.
Fitz snubbin: Pat Fitzgerald was a Irish kid from suburban Chicago. When he started playing football, you're damn right he wanted to play for Notre Dame.
That's when the Pat Fitzgerald origin story gets a little bit shaky. He tells of Gary Barnett asking him "do you want to play for Notre Dame, or do you want to beat Notre Dame?", which sort of implies the Domers recruited him, which apparently they did, but not enough to offer him a scholarship. Regardless, hate set in.
Pat Fitzgerald does not like Notre Dame. We don't like things Pat Fitzgerald doesn't like. Therefore, here we are. He still calls them some variation of "that team in South Bend", and most famously let his hate out in a win in 1995. But again, we'll talk about that later.
The smart thing: Notre Dame is the only school that surpasses Northwestern in "our players go to class!" insufferability. Yes, all their players graduate. So do Northwestern's! In fact, Northwestern does this better than Notre Dame does! That's insufferable - on both ends - but it doesn't really hurt NU on its face. That said, Northwestern has staked its claim on recruiting the best players in the country who want good educations, a recruiting strategy that's worked out well for Northwestern. But even then, Northwestern will never win that battle with Notre Dame: they use that as a pitch and land five star recruits, where Northwestern gets four stars. As long as Notre Dame's our-football-players-graduate-rah-rah-rah thing is a thing, it's hard to imagine Northwestern winning a lot of head-to-head recruiting battles against them, which is annoying, because the two teams should be running in the same circles.
If you scared, say you scared: Notre Dame used to play Northwestern a lot. Between 1965 and 1994, the two teams played 14 times - basically, once every two years. There were a few big gaps, including one of over a decade, but Northwestern was a consistent feature on Notre Dame's schedules. Coincidentally, Notre Dame won every last one of those games. Northwestern was a local rollover win. They played four games against Northwestern in the 1990's - two in South Bend, two in Chicago where they could draw huge crowds. Sorry, Ryan Field.
Then came 1995, when Northwestern won 17-15 in South Bend, the game that sparked the renaissance of Northwestern football. NU would win the Big Ten title three times in six years and be a pretty okay team at other times.
Weird - all of a sudden, Notre Dame wasn't interested in playing Northwestern. When the game against their local opponent wasn't just a tune-up, it wasn't worth it, so they moved onto greener pastures, like Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh.
They're back on the schedule for 2014 and 2018. Nobody can predict how either team will look in two years, much less six years. But Jim Phillips and co. wanted a home-and-home with Notre Dame - not least of all because of the guaranteed sellout at Ryan Field - and it took them a long time to get it, and even then it's a way-in-the-future, two-games-in-five-years deal. Generous, you guys!
Chicago's Big Ten team: Those words are very carefully chosen. The argument that Northwestern is Chicago's Big Ten team is a tenuous one, but at least it's plausible. But it would be tough to argue Northwestern is Chicago's college football team. For whatever reason, Chicagoland associates with Notre Dame.
You know, the school that's in a different state and a two-hour drive on a good day.
I don't get it. Maybe it's because I'm not from around here, but I absolutely disliked the fact that Charlie Weis' teams that went 6-6 with loads of talent and iffy schedules teams would get more publicity in Chicago than Pat Fitzgerald's 9-3 teams. It's very much merited when they go 12-0, but that was weird and bad.
So there you go, friends. My best effort at saying why Northwestern fans don't like the school in South Bend. I know there's a million other reasons - plus non-NU specific ones - so tell me, y'all, and Roll Tide.
(Oh, and Bo Cisek did a better job of saying all this now that he doesn't have to watch what he says since he doesn't play football for Northwestern anymore:
No, ND is not "America's College Team". If you say that to me I'll slap you. That doesnt even make sense. What America are you referring to?— Bo Cisek (@DaDoze55) January 7, 2013