Just once, Judge Ryan Keefer would like us all to win one for the zipper.
Rally sons of Notre Dame:
If there was any college in the nation that could be described as the "University of America," Notre Dame would fit that bill. In a sense, they are the Dallas Cowboys of college athletics. Every self-proclaimed alumnus seems to come out of the woodwork, particularly over their recent success over the last two seasons. But when a recent head coach was dismissed for discrepancies on his work history, no one wanted to admit Irish genes. Regardless of any backhanded compliments that I may throw towards Notre Dame (I'm not their biggest fan and I'm not a Big Ten fan), the school's pedigree for football success is admittedly above reproach. The school holds more National Championships than any other Division 1-A University with 11, the school has produced seven Heisman trophy winners, 95 All-American players and 46 members of the College Football Hall of Fame.
The program started in South Bend, Indiana in 1887, and games against Michigan, Michigan State and Army began to develop intercollegiate rivalries. It wasn't until coach Jessie Harper vacated the coaching position in 1917 and turned the reins over to a friendly coach of Norwegian descent that things began to pick up. Under Knute Rockne, the team became more visible with Rockne's presence and Rockne welcomed cameras and film reel crews to campus where he can show the rest of the world how he shaped and molded his kids, including the legendary "Four Horsemen." Rockne would continue to coach the team until his untimely death by a plane crash in 1930. Following a succession of coaches, Frank Leahy took control in 1941 and helped ring in an era of success unlike any other, including a 39 game undefeated streak (back when seasons were only eight or nine games a years) and four National Championships all on his watch before leaving in 1953. The next recognizable name to the Irish coaching ranks was Ara Parseghian, and during his 10 years, the team captured two more titles. Following Dan Devine and Gerry Faust was a cantankerous coach who had led the Minnesota Golden Gophers, a guy named Lou Holtz. It was under Holtz that the team returned to prominence with another title win and two others that were controversially awarded to other teams. After a surprise announcement of African American Ty Willingham to coach and back to back disappointing seasons, the school hired Charlie Weis to coach, which brings us up to modern days.
So there you have it, I've saved you two hours of your life from watching the highlights and lowlights of Notre Dame football. Echoes of Glory (which is the lesser advertised title of this release) recounts the trials and tribulations, but it certainly does more than that. Scores of players, coaches and writers help to illustrate the Notre Dame mystique to the average layman, and there are interesting theories about how many Catholics related to and cheered on the Irish because of the social spurning they received in the rest of America in the early times, and how it translates to today.
But mostly the feature is about football, and lots of it. Narrated by Roy Scheider (late of Jaws but perhaps a ND supporter?), covers the lure of the school to the aspiring student, but it also shows some of the traditions and provides some answers to long-standing questions that the Irish skeptics continually pose. Notre Dame has long been without an athletic conference affiliation (though they play a bulk of their games against Midwestern teams like Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Penn State), which helps them keep ahead of being a "sports-first" university (never mind that it can negotiate lucrative national television contracts on its own and make more money than any conference it joins). The early founders of the Irish success are recalled like Rockne (whose first name is pronounced "kah-noot" by Scheider) and Leahy are discussed in quite a bit of detail, before Parseghian recalls his time at the university.
At two hours, the feature itself covers a lot, but it certainly could have done it in less time than it gave itself. Who am I kidding? This thing is a love letter to Notre Dame football, which has been around since before my grandparents arrived at the docks, so one has to assume since they were the prominent school growing up in the depression era, that lots of cameras would be trained on their every move. There's a lot of film to cull through, and most of it is pretty nice to watch. The way that the feature is laid out though almost makes me think that things could have been formatted a lot easier for the Notre Dame enthusiast. The feature itself could have probably run for an hour, the second hour is basically a look at the great players, great games, and rivalries through the years. My EA Sports gaming experience reminds me that Notre Dame and USC (a.k.a. the University of Southern California, for those of you outside of the OC) play each year in a battle for the jeweled shillelagh, which is one of several rivalry games the Irish play each season.
All in all, will you be the favorite relative if you buy this for your uncle who loves the Irish come this holiday season? Without a doubt, but once he watches this, he'll throw it back at you for the orgy of legacy that's involved here that lacks a thorough structure to speak of. But just to see those green jerseys again will fill him full of nostalgia and emotion, so he'll hug you and remember it for a long time. This is a definite recommendation for a blossoming fan of tradition too, but I've got one question for the makers of this DVD…
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