Saturday, December 03, 2005

the Banquet | by Jay

The ND football banquet was last night, with Brady and Jeff winning co-MVP awards for their outstanding seasons this year. Plenty of other awards as well; check out the entire rundown of the evening from

Great stuff from Lou last night too, as the featured speaker. Here's some of what he had to say (I think it works best if you try and read it in Lou's voice):

Charlie, that introduction means a lot to me, especially coming from the outstanding college football coach of year, 2005. He talked about some of the confidence that I shared with him, but I want you to understand this, Charlie: I was not smart enough to get into Notre Dame. They rejected my application. And I never could understand why they thought I was smart enough to coach here, if I wasn’t good enough to go to school here. I’m probably the only person in the world who’s written more books than he’s read.

I want to congratulate the administration, I want to congratulate the coaches, the players, the fans, the band, the cheerleaders. Certainly I want to thank Father Riehle for all you did for me when I was here. Congratulations to everyone here; it was just an incredible year. You captivated the country not just by your accomplishments but by the way you played and the way you did things. It’s more than what’s in the stat book; you’re as good as any in the country. Somebody here might win the Biletnikoff award, but I don’t want to start singling out people, because where would you stop? Let me just say this: it was a pleasure to watch you play. The love and the feeling you had for one another was very inspirational. I saw every single game you played from the studio, and I just can’t begin to tell you how impressed I was, and how proud I was.

See, it’s really important that Notre Dame be on top in college football. I say this fairly and I say it honestly. This is why it’s such a great football season: because of the interest you all generated. You’re probably the lead story of this entire season.

And it’s not just the atmosphere you generated: you set an example for other schools to emulate. You can be well-educated, you can be unselfish, and you CAN win.

I think a football team has a personality just like any individual does, and the unselfishness with which this team played was impressive. The attitude of so many players and so many teams today is one of selfishness, their attitude is “hey, here I am.” The minute they do something they turn to the camera and say, “look at me”. What was really great in watching this football team was that anytime you accomplished something, the attitude was “there you are.” Whether it be bumping chests with one another, congratulating one another, celebrating with one another – that’s the way college football should be.

I know that everybody you played gave you their best effort – you’ve figured that out by now. You’re Notre Dame. You’re going to get the very best effort that anybody can give you. I used to hear other players say, “boy what an honor it is to play against Notre Dame. I came to this school so I could play against Notre Dame.” I can’t think of much that would motivate an individual more than playing against Notre Dame, other than one thing: it’s much, much better to be able to play FOR Notre Dame than it is to play against them.

Notre Dame is very special. When I came here it was under Father Hesburgh and Father Joyce, under Gene Corrigan and Dick Rosenthal, and now it’s Father Jenkins. But Notre Dame stays the same. It’s a very special place. Father Hesburgh said to me one time, “You don’t come to Notre Dame to learn to do something. You come to Notre Dame to learn to be somebody.”

People ask me why Notre Dame is so special, Mark May asked me – now Mark May is a beautiful individual and I love him dearly, and if he didn’t get a good education at Pittsburgh it’s not his fault. Mark asked me, and I said, Mark, if you’ve been to Notre Dame you don’t need an explanation. And if you’re not part of the Notre Dame family, no explanation will do. There’s no way you can possibly explain it.

I think of the tradition that you have built upon. And at Notre Dame, tradition is always under construction. You can talk about all the All-Americans over the years, but I can tell you no team represented Our Lady’s University better than you did this past year.

There’s four things you need in your life. Number one, you need something to do. Number two, you need someone to love. (My lovely wife is here. We’ve been married eighty-eight years. Forty-four apiece.) Number three, you certainly need something to hope for. And four, you need something to believe in. Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for, and something to believe in.

And you’ve had tremendous success. But I see a lot of people that reach success and then say, that’s pretty good, let’s keep it here, let’s maintain it. That’s not what greatness is all about, and that’s not what life is all about. You have to keep dreaming.

Let me just tell you a couple stories. With our football team here in 1989, we were going up to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They had a good football team coached by Bo Schembechler, and we were getting ready for them. But during the week, and Charlie and I’m sure you’re familiar with this, after a few days you’re tired, you’re worn out, you’re sore, and you don’t care about Michigan anymore. So I gathered everyone one day and said, “Men, I called Bo Schembechler” – now, I didn’t call Bo, but I said I called Bo. I asked Bo, Bo, are your guys tired? And he said, yes, and I said, we’re tired too, Bo. I’ll tell you what, Bo: you give your Michigan players a day off and I’ll give Notre Dame a day off. And the team starts high-fiving with each other and cheering until I said, “Bo said no.” If they’re practicing two hours, we’re gonna practice two hours, and if we want to beat them, we better practice two-and-a-half. Of course it took three hours before we had two-and-a-half good hours.

I gathered everyone the next day and said, “Men, I called Bo again.” And they looked at me suspiciously: “What’d Bo say?” I said I made him a deal that we’d practice in shorts today if Michigan would too. And I said, men, you’re not going to believe this, but Bo said no. Bo said he wasn’t going to practice in shorts, in fact, he was going to scrimmage. Now I don’t want to scrimmage either, but if we want to beat Michigan, we have to scrimmage. Don’t get mad at me. Just remember this when you see Bo on that sideline on Saturday.

I did that four straight days, true story. Every day I came in and said, “I called Bo today.” On that fifth day one of our players cut me off: “Hey coach, I called Bo today.” And I said, “Oh, what’d Bo say?” “Bo said his players eat steak and lobster.”

The great teams are the ones that truly care about each other. Just a true feeling and a genuine caring. I had one of the great experiences in my life here in Notre Dame stadium and it wasn’t a football game. 1987, August. I worked the Special Olympics. I was a ‘hugger’. I had lane number 3, and it didn’t matter if my runner finished first, last, or in between, my only job was to run up and hug ‘em. All anybody wants is to be loved. People have every reason to be bitter, and every reason to be down – I see people with ability and talent and all kinds of opportunities complaining about some little thing that’s irrelevant in the whole picture of life.

People say, well what do great teams have? In 1988 we were fortunate enough to be successful. We went to the White House to meet with the president on January 19th, Father Riehle, you were there, and I was asked to stay over to meet some more with the president the next day. I got a phone call at one o’clock in the morning saying one of our players, Bobby Satterfield, had died. I flew home immediately and we had a team meeting at eight o’clock in the morning. When I told them Bobby Satterfield had died, you couldn’t tell if Bobby Satterfield was white or black, you couldn’t tell if he was Catholic or Protestant, freshman or senior, first team or third team. But the one thing you could tell is that the players mourned the loss of Bobby Satterfield. Bobby happened to be a defensive back, a senior, a walk-on, a third teamer.

It’s just a love and a feeling that you have about Notre Dame. Gentlemen, when you come back years from now, you’ll have that same feeling too. The friends that you have in this world are those you eat with, you sleep with, played with, laughed with, and cried with. Above all, a team is a family.

I congratulate you once again, and I leave you with this last question: if you didn’t show up, who would miss you, and why? I ask myself if I didn’t show up at home would my wife miss me, and would my children miss me. We’re blessed to have four children, three of them graduated from Notre Dame. And my wife and I have our cemetary plots – we will be buried here at Notre Dame. The alumni buried me every weekend, so I thought I’d make it permanent. The plot has a nice view of the dome, but it is a better view when you’re sitting up than when you’re lying down.

But if you didn’t show up, who would miss you, and why? If you don’t show up to a game, would your teammates miss you? If Notre Dame ceased to exist – why would you miss Notre Dame? Because there’s no place like it. It cannot be duplicated. It’s special. It’s unique.

After dinner tonight I will fly back to Hartford and I will be on the air tomorrow. And I will be on the air on Sunday congratulating you on a bowl selection and sharing in your enjoyment. When I went to work up there, they said, “we don’t want you to be partial.” There is no way I cannot be partial about Notre Dame or this football team.

If I have any advice for your opponent in the bowl game, it would be this: bring your lunch, because it’s gonna be a full day’s work. Thank you.