The Bandwagon – by Ronald Reagan

the poster, Ronald Reagan.

I’ve heard rumblings that some Notre Dame fans are beginning to question whether they should stick with the team for the rest of the season. I hope such sentiments are borne of disappointment and frustration, and are thus temporary, as opposed to being rooted in the notion that one can simply turn his or her back on the team – and on Notre Dame – when things aren’t going well.

One of the main points I made in “We Are A Nation” (which, I believe, is still around here in some form) was that while victory is our goal, our relationship with Notre Dame is far deeper than anything that might happen on the football field.

Does this mean we accept losing? No, never. Does this mean we take a Monkian approach and deemphasize excellence in sports? Not a chance. Does it mean that we should never get frustrated with the status quo or criticize a coach’s decisions? Nope.

But what it does mean is that no matter what happens, no matter the odds, no matter the final score, we are still Notre Dame, and we will always believe in our school and our team. It means that we can weather the storms, as we’ve done many times in the past, and that we will find a way to win again.

During my junior year, the ND basketball team traveled to Los Angeles, where they defeated the #1 ranked UCLA Bruins. After the game, during a frenzied mid-court interview, Digger Phelps looked into the camera and said that he wanted to see the entire student body turn out to greet the team when they arrived back on campus at 4:30 AM.

My roommate and I didn’t know how many others would show up, but we knew we’d be there.

Thousands of students began assembling at the main circle in the cold, predawn hours the next morning. The mass of humanity soon stretched halfway down Notre Dame Avenue, filling the street in growing anticipation of our victorious team’s arrival. A makeshift stage had been erected, and, if I remember correctly, at least a portion of the band had assembled and was playing the great marches of Notre Dame.

At about 4:45, the team bus turned from Angela Boulevard and began making its way up Notre Dame Avenue. A few students actually climbed atop the bus and held their arms aloft as the vehicle slowly navigated through the cheering crowd. The driver turned on the flashing lights and then opened the doors so that the players could lean out and wave.

All the while, the band played and the students danced in the street. A fine morning mist reflected the glow of the streetlamps, illuminating the scene and giving it the look and feel of an incredible movie set.

In all of my time at Notre Dame, this was one of the most amazing sights I ever witnessed, (and I was there for the “Green Jersey Game” of 1977 and a National Championship). It was, indeed, a classic Notre Dame moment. And like them all, it was made of pure magic.

For me, the moment wasn’t only about winning the game, which was fantastic. It was also about celebrating the fact that we were Notre Dame.

I almost got the sense that we would’ve turned out even if we hadn’t won, not simply as a sign of solidarity, but in celebration of the fact that even if another team can occasionally beat Notre Dame, they can never BE Notre Dame.

In 2003, I attended the final home football game of the season. A friend of mine, who was a longtime admirer of the Irish but who had never attended a game, was with me. We took in all the pre-game activities on campus, then headed over to the stadium, where we were fortunate enough to be seated in the gold seats right at the fifty yard line.

Caught up in the pageantry in the minutes immediately prior to the opening kickoff, my friend turned to me and said, “This is amazing! I’ve never witnessed anything like this before in my life!”

The stadium was full, the crowd was cheering, the band was playing.

“But what’s it like around here when Notre Dame is having a losing season?” she asked, noting that there are many stadiums around the country that become sparsely-populated when the home team isn’t winning.

“We ARE having a losing season,” I explained. “This is what it’s like.”

She looked around the stadium again. “But how can that be?” she asked. “Why is everybody still so excited?”

I smiled. “Because we’re Notre Dame,” I told her.

My message is simple: The Notre Dame football team has never given up on us, and we will never give up on them.

I think one good thing about this season is that it will show us who the true Notre Dame fans are. We’ll be the ones there through all the difficult times, and we’ll be the ones there when the victories start coming our way again. And those victories will be sweeter for us than for those who continuously jump on and off and on the bandwagon again.


17 Responses to “The Bandwagon – by Ronald Reagan”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your observations. It immediately brought back some less then found memories of the Bob Davie era. The team had just suffered through one of Mr. Davie’s (I just can’t bring myself to refer to him as Coach Davie because I don’t think that I ever saw him coach) self inflicted losses. I don’t recall the exact game but he totally flubbed up clock management at the end of the game and the team took it on the chin. I happened to be out on a hike the next day and happened to be wearing a Notre Dame hat. A group of people on a hay ride come by and some bloke sitting on his butt in the hay shouts out to me that it must take a lot of Ba!!s to be wearing that hat at a time like this. I didn’t hesitate. I told him that true Notre Dame fans stick by their team through thick and thin and that I was no fair weather fan. He didn’t have a response. It is more then wins and hopefully the real occasional loss.
    It is what sets Notre Dame apart.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I am a true life long fan but the truth is that so far, Charlie does not appear to be the genius he was supposed to be. He makes bad, Predictableplay calls and obviously does not do a good jobs of evaluating his players abilities in practice.

  3. robert t. gilleran Says:

    1. there are no rumblings from any of millions of real notre dame fans all over this world.

    2. every school has some fair weather only fans who will bash coaches and players when times are tough.

    3. however, the numbers and percentages of such fair weather fans among true notre dame fans are so small that they are insignificant, even though they may sound loud and panicked.

    4. we should all pray for their lack of faith and think no more about them.

    5. notre dame has a very special mission in this world that only true notre dame fans understand and that no other school will ever have.

    we thank you for your fine prose and your fine spirit,

    bob gilleran and many friends

  4. dbldomer7375 Says:

    Thank you Mr. President…

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I go by the name “Irishone” and this is something I posted on another website following the Michigan game. It’s titled “Keeping the Faith”
    I am, by human nature a patient person, and after watching the third installment of Notre Dame football 2007 on saturday, I would be a liar if I said that my patience were not paper thin at this point. I have always been an Irish supporter and I always will, no matter what happens on the field.
    There is no rhyme or reason for what has transpired over the last three weeks, and after week 2, I personally accepted the fact that this year would be somewhat of a transition year. The opportunity to get new players involved, the opportunity to test drive a new defensive scheme, the opportunity to build a solid foundation for years to come.
    I believe in Charlie Weis, I believe he can bring Notre Dame back from mediocrity. I believe that he is recruiting the right players for his system. I believe that he will find the problems and correct them. Notre Dame achieved great success the last two seasons, success that stands alone in the history of Irish football, no other coach has won more games in their first two years at the helm than Charlile Weis and he will win alot more. Notre Dame is young, Notre Dame is green, Notre Dame is talented yet inexperienced. Rome was not built in a day.
    I want to know who coined the phrase, “Charlie Weis is an offensive genius”, because whoever said that has put him in a precarious situation. Yes, he has an impressive resume, yes, he has a few superbowl rings, but, he didn’t have 18 and 19 year olds running those patriot offenses’. After watching and reading everything about Notre Dame and Charlie Weis the last 3 years I am confident that he installs the proper offensive scheme for each opponent. His first two seasons he had the luxury of having a veteren team that knew what it took to be successful, that knew what it took to execute and to be precise. We as fans have become accustomed to that, we have come to expect that from a Weis team. What we as fans have to learn is patience, because in the next few years we will see that execution, that precision that we have become accustomed to seeing.
    There is no sense in crying over spilt milk. There is no sense in arguing over shoulda, coulda, woulda. There is however a light at the end of the tunnell. There is hope that each and every week that these young men will somehow get better, that they will find their identity as a team and prevail. Granted, no one, I mean no one expected this season to start the way it did, but it did and the only thing that can be done is to move forward and hope for the best.
    To all of you that jumped ship, keep swimming, because Notre Dame doesn’t need you, we don’t need you. To all of you who heard everyone laughing, who heard all the analyst say that Notre Dame was inept, remember it, write it down. For those who laugh last, laugh the loudest and longest. Notre Dame may be eating alot of crow now, but they will be dishing alot of it out in years to come.
    “Keep the Faith”
    “GO IRISH”

  6. Tim Says:

    Amen. WE ARE ND. What tho’ the odds…I did not attend ND, but I have followed ND football for almost 30 years through the good, the bad & the ugly, never waivering from my loyalty. We stand by our teams and our school no matter what. You gotta love Digger! His enthusiasm for ND and for life are contagious. There’s no doubt his energy willed ND to more than one victory over the years. That type of excitement has been lacking since the ’05 USC game. We need to somehow capture that again and sustain it for an entire season. And I believe we will. Charlie has the program headed in the right direction as his recruiting efforts speak for itself. I’m sure Charlie doesn’t know a sand wedge from a pitching wedge, and I for one am glad. Our day is coming. Soon. GO IRISH!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I have found myself wearing the Blue & Gold it even more in these days. My comment to anyone who has the ba!!s to make a comment is “enjoy it now, because it will not last long.” So far they have shut their mouth knowing the truth. Through thick & thin support the players, team and school!!! Brighter days are coming

  8. Anonymous Says:

    You have opened my eyes! I have been a Notre Dame fan all of my life but my academics did not allow me to attend the school. I raised my children as Notre Dame fans. Taking them to spring games and an occasional season game. And now I’m on to the grand children. However, all four of my children had the academics and extra curricular activities to qualify them for Notre Dame and I could afford to send them there. Yet all four were rejected! Their letters were the same, ‘You qualify in every way but…Best of luck in your educational endeavors elsewhere’. And then a few tried ND for grad school. Same letter!
    You are so correct – I am not Notre Dame. I have been liberated!!! Thank you.

  9. Ted Eberle Says:

    To Anonymous who chose to respond to The Rock Report “The Bandwagon-by Ronald Reagan” by being critical of Coach Weis, I can only wonder how you can call yourself a life long fan of ND.

    You missed the point my friend. True fans stick by their school and that describes many who suppport Notre Dame.

    Thank you SME for the great post. The Nation needed that during times such as these. It will get better…soon.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    I have chills, lets get it up!!!!

  11. DRCUT17 Says:

    True fans understand the problems and challengesthat these courageous football players are faced with this year. There will be growing pains, heartache, frustration, and sorrow. These will be followed by that gradual return to glory in the years ahead. Notre Dame has never quit, will never quit, and will make all the commentators and Domer haters in the media put their heads back in the sand. GOD, COUNTRY, NOTRE DAME! WE WILL BE BACK…SOON!

  12. T2Irish Says:

    Simple rule: you’re not allowed to celebrate ND’s victories (and wear championship apparel!) if you’re not willing to stand beside them in the tough times.

  13. Anonymous Says:


  14. Michael Says:

    The Barfwagon.

  15. Michael Says:

    The Barfwagon

  16. gutsmo Says:

    ND people show up if the team is 0-12. What do you think our recruits think when we are looking bad and the stands are full, students screaming, band playing all the way to the end. They think we believe and we support the team because this is a very special community. One said, you would think they are playing for the championship. It’s easy to pack the stadium when you’re winning. It’s about character. If you don’t have it, don’t buy tickets.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    To the Poster Ronald Reagan. Was the UCLA game you are speaking of from the 1976-77 season? If so Rich Branning and Toby Knight were on that team.If I rememberthere was an article on Sports Illustrated thatthe B-Ball teams nick name was the S.W.A.T. team from the hit ABC TV Show of the day. I remember what you are talking about well. Toby Knight was hanging out of the Bus and was yelling and laughing and having a good time and I got a high five from him. That ND team ended up beating Indiana (Defending and Undefeated National Champion the year before and among others then unbeaten Number 1 ranked University of San Fransico Dons and James Hardy to snap their long winning streak in the last game of the season. North Carolina’s Dean Smith ran his slow Four Corner offense to knock off the first great UNLV team in the Final Four semi final only to get beat like a drum in the NCAA Final by out going Marquette Coach Al McGuire and his Warriors.

    Moose Krause was even there that night

    I will never forget that cold cold night at ND you are talking about.


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