By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Oh, are they the worst. Take the love of Duke basketball, sprinkle in some extra condescension, strip away the championships seen in their lifetimes, and that’s them. Or take a New York Yankees fan, change up the accent from South Bronx to South Side, give them shamrock tattoos and a degree from a completely different school or none at all, strip away the championships seen in their lifetimes, and there you have them.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish football fans — of which I count myself a fellow — are some of the most loathed in the country. The alumni who let you know very quickly they are alumni from the University of Notre Dame. The geographically convenient non-grads who believe Rudy is a metaphor for life. Door-to-door Mormons don’t even taut the 1984 BYU national championship the way Notre Dame fans rest on laurels of tradition and mythology and no titles since the Reagan administration. They’ve made the football team into a love ‘em or hate ‘em, black-or-white program not so much because outsiders dislike the team, but instead because they want to see those annoying fans be miserable.
What an unfortunate college football Saturday then for those of you who are justified in normally enjoying Notre Dame schadenfreude. Seriously, I know their fans are insufferable. As a sort of self-aware awful Golden Domer, I sincerely apologize. See, this week’s matchup is against Florida State, which means this week’s matchup is against Jameis Winston.
It’s difficult to think of a college football player more hated than Winston. Back in the mid-1990s at Nebraska, Lawrence Phillips at least had the benefit of a Twitter-less college life of being a really bad guy. With Seminoles quarterback Winston, every eye and every keyboard is on him. Justifiably so, too. Winston has done little in his Florida State career to endear himself to those away from Tallahassee, and he compounds it all by seeming to not care that you know he’s a bad guy. And neither does his school, for that matter.
Even a usual subscriber like me to the notion that if you want your sports to be devoid of bad guys you’re going to have to pick a different hobby can’t help but want Winston and his phoniness and smugness to fail. The most ardent champion of the college athlete defying the sanctimonious garbage of the NCAA and getting paid what he’s really worth, even if that means in the form of writing his name on merchandise, looks at Winston and thinks, “Um, yeah, but…”
And now the Irish faithful sit back and slyly grin at you and say, “How do you like us now?” An asteroid hitting Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday is not an option. You are, for the temporary purposes of the lesser of two evils, a Notre Dame football fan this weekend. I can only image the pain this brings you.
Grab some mints to mask the stench of blue and gold bile in the back of your throat. Practice your breathing exercises for enduring a conversation with guys named Murph and Fitz who will try their best to convince you that Brian Kelly emasculating his players on the sidelines is the best approach to coaching. You will be hearing the command “Drink like a champion today” because nothing encapsulates Touchdown Jesus like mass quantities of alcohol. If it’s any consolation, maybe it will help you to forget this rock and hard place between which you’ve been involuntarily wedged.
Just keep telling yourself this is all to knock a coddled, probably criminal jerk off his high horse, along with the podunk, corrupt, protect-the-program-at-all-costs culture that the football program, the university and law enforcement all ooze down there. (Yeah, it probably ain’t much different in South Bend, as 2010-’11 showed, but we tend to operate in the moment.)
Grief counselors of my like are few and far between, but we are here for you. Here, let me help. Look at it this way: You root for Notre Dame to destroy Florida State’s title hopes along with diminishing a probable criminal as the face of college football. Then if the Fighting Irish win, they become legit national championship contenders, and that hate for them that in other weeks feels so therapeutic gets put on steroids. Subsequent football weeks become Hater Christmas for you.
See? Being a Notre Dame fan isn’t as bad as you thought. It’s going to be OK.
Wait, come back. Why are you crying?
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.