“This is about restoring Notre Dame to glory,” receiver T.J. Jones said the other day, augustly, but accurately. “People expect greatness from Notre Dame.”
The Crimson Tide can also boast great tradition — embodied by legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant in that iconic houndstooth fedora — but Alabama also is about right now. It is the defending champion and a second consecutive national crown (it’s favored) would be its third in the past four seasons. You get to call that a dynasty.
“We’re going for a place in history,” as coach Nick Saban puts it.
I have gone this long not mentioning Saban because I try to not cause my readers any more indigestion than is necessary.
Which leads us to the reasons this game is so personal and inspires so much passion and interest within South Florida in a way no other matchup would unless it involved Hurricanes or maybe Gators.
Start with Notre Dame. Miami Hurricanes fans despise the Irish and have since the 1980s, when the rivalry flamed hottest back when Lou Holtz and Jimmy Johnson were running things. I covered UM fulltime then and have never felt more volatility between sets of fans. I’ll never forget walking the campus in South Bend before the 1988 game and seeing all the bed sheets painted with “Catholics Vs. Convicts” and dubbing Johnson “Pork-Faced Satan.”
The schools hadn’t played since 1990 before this past fall, when, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Notre Dame traipsed across Miami 41-3 en route to Monday night.
So, yeah, Canes fans have a visceral interest in this game, and it probably is in seeing the Fighting Irish beaten. Badly, if at all possible.
Back to Saban. He is why plenty of others in South Florida will be rooting not so much for Notre Dame as against Alabama. Saban lied before the left the Dolphins for Tuscaloosa around this time in 2007, and fans have not forgotten or forgiven. I know, because they told me. I asked in a poll in my blog this week, and 71 percent said they continue to despise him for the way he left.
So, yeah, Dolfans have a visceral stake in Monday night, too, and it’s in seeing the Tide (or more accurately, Saban) lose. By a lot, if possible.
Visitors rooting for Alabama or Notre Dame to win figure to be about evenly split Monday night, while the South Florida fans hosting them will be rooting for the miracle of both to lose — all the while mesmerized, no matter what.