Notre Dame Fans React to Mason
Does the D.C. area have more Mason fans or Notre Dame fans? I'm not really sure. But since Christopher Wilson from the Notre Dame Blog Rakes of Mallow is asking local bloggers (including, unfairly, me) to comment on George Mason, I figured I should ask the same of Notre Dame. I asked him for some insight into how the Notre Dame fan base is approaching this game against the most un-hateable team in America. His words below.
By Christopher Wilson, in some blue and gold place
Dan wanted me to address the state of Irish fans and their feelings about this team, but I'll have to warn you in advance that my view might be skewed because my friends and I are some of the more realistic - or you could say pessimistic - people on campus. While a lot of Notre Dame fans think that the George Mason game can be won, there's only a limited level of confidence going into this tournament, especially after the Winthrop debacle last year.
A lot of supporters feel that if Notre Dame can survive the first round, Washington State is
white slow enough that there won't be the massive athletic advantage that a lot of other teams at that seed level would hold over the Irish. I haven't heard of any blue and gold partisans seriously thinking of advancing the Irish past the Sweet Sixteen since the brackets came out, as late season losses to Louisville and Marquette, along with a potential date with the Tar Heels in Charlotte, have tempered a lot of the expectations that come with going 14-4 in a difficult Big East conference.
Of course, over the last few seasons, Notre Dame fans have been conditioned to accept heartbreak, no matter what their expectations were. While everyone is familiar with the football team's historically inept season, and the run of bowl game losses before that, they might not realize that the basketball team hasn't won a tournament game since advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in 2003.
Beyond the troubles the more popular sports have faced, the rest of the Irish athletic family has come tantalizing close to championships in the past year before falling short. The women's soccer team lost by a goal in the Final Four, while the men's team lost in overtime in the elite eight. The lacrosse team lost to eventual champion Johns Hopkins in overtime last season, while the hockey team, number one in the nation before the tournament started, fell to the eventual winner, Michigan State. Heck, our fencing team just got second at nationals, so you get the idea that Irish fans would just like to win something shiny.
The public's hatred of Notre Dame that stems from everyone's feelings towards the football program - which I totally understand - could be eased when it comes to the basketball team. This is a really fun team to watch, with a wrecking ball inside and plethora of outside shooters capable of knocking it down from deep. This Irish team loves to get out into transition, and can put on a mean press from time to time. Coach Mike Brey's defensive philosophy can be boiled down to "Outscore your opponent," which is a dicey, but entertaining to watch, strategy. I don't expect anybody to root against America'a Cinderella on Thursday night, but realize that even the administration doesn't really like the basketball team or its fans, so cheering for Luke Harangody and company is a lot like cheering against the same people who bring you Charlie Weis every weekend in the fall.
So while everyone loves an underdog - especially one with a Final Four pedigree and entertaining coach, like George Mason sports - try to check your Schadenfreude at the door when it comes to the Irish basketball team. They're an exciting, up-tempo team with a bunch of misfits roughly stitched together that manage to score a lot of points, which is at least worth a little bit of your respect, if not your support. And besides, a lot of those Irish football fans you find annoying don't even care about this team, so you can admire the flash of Tory Jackson or the floor burns of Harangody without worrying about being drawn to the dark side.
Irish fans are somewhat beaten down at this point, so please, when Will Thomas repeats his performance from the entirety of the 2006 tournament and all-name team first teamer Folarin Campbell is raining threes, try to restrain your pleasure. The Patriots have already had their One Shining Moment this decade; let the Irish have a chance at their own Gus Johnson-narrated montage moment.
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