We all look very forward to 2020 being over. 2021 won’t be unique, in that it will start with Notre Dame having their asshole pulled through their nose once again on a national stage. Other years have had that jumpstart. But it’s hard to argue that it won’t be a nice fillip for everyone after the dark, damp, putrid tunnel that 2020 has been.
Every so often we do this dance. Notre Dame strings together a few wins when no one’s looking, because Notre Dame has only really been sporadically relevant for a couple of decades, if that. But occasionally their hand-picked schedule doesn’t throw up a roadblock, NBC goes out of its way to sound its Fighting Irish bullhorn in the hopes of getting everyone or anyone to look. Then your friends dig through the closet to pull out the ND jacket they swore they’d never wear again after the last time a real college team put their foot through Notre Dame’s skull, screaming “THIS TIME IT WILL BE DIFFERENT!” And then the Irish con their way into the playoff or some other noticeable game and faceplants so hard you can pick their teeth up in Row H. It’s never different.
So on New Year’s Day, the Crimson Tide, the program that the Irish have pretended they are but haven’t come close to being since it was just them, Michigan, Yale, and 18 guys taking a break from the sawmill playing football, will yawn, stretch their arms, scratch themselves, lazily mosey out to the field and while barely needing to stretch will turn the Irish into paste. Because that’s what happens every goddamn time.
Much like the Twins, or the A’s, or the Vikings, or the San Jose Sharks, the Irish need to be banned from the postseason. Like Rob Gordon says in any version of High Fidelity to his/her high school girlfriend, “It never goes anywhere.” The Irish are college football’s Mr. Bill. They are Kenny. They are Nordberg. They merely exist simply to be ruthlessly thwacked and punted back to where they came, only to do it again in a few years. The joke is you know exactly what’s coming, but you laugh because the joke never waivers, never changes. You laugh at yourself for ever thinking it could be different as they become windshield fodder for whatever team has bigger and better things to worry about.
So we’ll do this again, and your Fighting Irish-supporting friend (who assuredly never went to Notre Dame. Does anyone actually go there? Oh right, just the kids the football program has put in danger) will convince themselves of all the ways they could have a chance and whatever talentless QB they have now (his name doesn’t matter) really could be a first-round pick and so on. And it’ll be over by the second quarter.
But hey, if we’re going to get back to normality in 2021, it must be built on a foundation of what is familiar and comforting.
A true Notre Dame ass-whomping certainly qualifies.
While the NHL season that was announced on Sunday has every chance of being the same mess that the MLB, NFL seasons were, we can certainly hope this playoff system they will use will stick around.
The top four in each of the four divisions will make the playoffs and then the teams will re-seed in the semifinals when division champions emerge after Round 2. So conceivable, you could see Boston and Tampa play in the Stanley Cup Final. Or Colorado and Calgary. Basically, the two best teams.
More importantly, the playoff spots will be sorted amongst teams playing the same schedule, which it should always be. No competing for wild-card spots with teams in other divisions who played a different schedule and may have gotten a break. And then the four teams left are just champions of something. It’s actually perfect.
It’s the fairest system there could be, which is probably why the NHL will scrap it after this season, even though Seattle’s entrance will make for four perfectly aligned eight-team divisions, and a 16-team playoff would neatly cut all of them in half.
There’s a symmetry to it.
Long may it last.