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At last, the Fighting Irish again would make Knute Rockne proud

By RICK WOODSON
On Sports
Rochester Business Journal
November 30, 2012

Finally! Notre Dame's football team is on the verge of winning the national championship for the first time since 1988. Even though I'm not dreaming, it is a dream come true.
 
The Fighting Irish are the No. 1 team in the country and will play either No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Georgia in the title game Jan. 7. Alabama and Georgia play for the SEC championship this weekend.
 
And no, the date is not a misprint, which is why I've said for years that the only two significant letters in the BCS championship are the B and the S. Why wait five more weeks to play the title game? It makes zero sense.
 
Still, from everything I've seen and heard, the whole country is excited about Notre Dame football being restored-or soon to be restored-to the throne. How can anyone not be a fan of the Fighting Irish? Notre Dame has the highest graduation rate among football teams in the USA Today Sports Coaches Poll, 97 percent.
 
The school is legendary because of the famous Four Horsemen, the football team that won one for the Gipper, the movies "Knute Rockne, All-American" and "Rudy." And last week Notre Dame became the first top 25 college football team to be ranked No. 1 in the polls and No. 1 in graduation success.
 
So if an 18-year-old high school graduate is faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive but can't read or write, he should sign with ... well, how about an SEC team? I'm sure Alabama or Georgia would grab him in a minute, even if he had to have somebody read the playbook to him.
 
Remember Washington Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley? I'll never forget being there when he said at a Super Bowl years ago that he went to Oklahoma State for four years and couldn't read or write. But hey, if you can sack the quarterback, run 40 yards in 4.2 seconds or catch BBs in the dark, the football program will pass on the reading and writing and let you take classes in table tennis or checkers.
 
Exceptions? Notre Dame, Stanford and maybe a couple of other D-I football powers, but that's about it.
 
I was about to rave and rejoice even more over the Fighting Irish when my phone rang and it was you-know-who. Yep, Billy Bob, my cousin in Louisiana, the one I call "the Mouth of the South."
 
"We ain't talked in a while, so I thought I'd check out what you think," he said, already juiced up when I had barely gotten "hello" out of my mouth.
 
"Hi, BB," I said, sighing loudly in the hope that he'd notice and hang up. "What I think about what?"
 
"How 'bout the Heisman Trophy?" he said. "Who's gonna win it?"
 
"Hmmm," I said. "Well, wouldn't surprise me if a freshman wins the Heisman for the first time ever. You know, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel."
 
"You gotta be kiddin'," Billy Bob said, sarcasm pouring out of his mouth and into my ear. "If a freshman found a cure for cancer, the voters wouldn't give him that trophy!"
 
"There are a lot out there who think he oughta get it," I said. "Uh, cuz, just check out his numbers, OK? He passed for more than 3,400 yards, had 24 touchdown passes, almost 1,200 yards rushing and 19 TDs. Nobody else has numbers anywhere close to those. So, Mr. Football Genius, who's your pick?"
 
"Easy," he said. "Manti Tee-O, or however you spell it. He had ... what, 100 or so tackles and a bunch of interceptions. He's one big reason Notre Dame is 12-0."
 
"In case you haven't noticed, BB, there have been only two Heisman winners who weren't either wide receivers, quarterbacks or running backs since the award started in 1935-Leon Hart in 1949 and Charles Woodson in 1997. It's all about publicity and media exposure. Hey, wouldn't bother me if Te'o won it, but don't bet your next paycheck on it."
 
"All right, enough about that," he said. "I'm gonna go grab me some Natchitoches Meat Pies for lunch. And yes, snow top, we got 'em down here in Cajun country. So one other thing: Whattaya think about the USGA and the R&A about to ban those belly putters-if they haven't already done it?"
 
"It doesn't bother me," I said. "I don't use one, and given where this is going, I'm glad I don't. Personally, though, I don't care if players use them. Hey, why don't they just change that rule of golf and make it OK to anchor a club on your body?
 
"Look, you still have to read the green, make a good stroke and knock a 11/2-inch ball into a hole that is 4.25 inches in diameter. Anyway, I'm surprised you even asked. You don't even play golf."
 
"You're right," BB said calmly. "I'm too smart to take up that crazy game. But if I did, I'd get me one of those long putters-rule or no rule-'cause I definitely have the belly for it! That's all I got to say. See ya, cuz."
 
And as always, I was glad that was all he had to say!
 
Rick Woodson's column appears each Thursday on the Rochester Business Journal website at www.rbjdaily.com. His book, "Words of Woodson," is available at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore. Listen to his weekly program, "The Golf Tee," at 9 a.m. Sunday on WHTK-AM 1280 and FM 107.11/30/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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