Believing Through Failure

By Michael Matthews

The Fighting Irish have never needed to rely on luck to make a good name for themselves in the world of college football. Among their many titles and achievements, Notre Dame has the 2nd highest winning percentage in NCAA Football history. The historic campus at South Bend attracts elite talent every year as some of the nation’s best athletes suit up with the gold helmet each fall. Even with the loss of last year’s star players Will Fuller and Jaylon Smith to the NFL draft, Notre Dame still anticipated yet another successful season and many shamrock victories this fall. In the pre-season rankings, Notre Dame was listed in the Top 10. Many experts and scouts were, and still are saying that ‘Kizer is the hottest NFL prospect in college football.’ But, against these odds and despite a legacy of Fighting Irish success, the season has not gotten off to a good start. Starting 2-4, Notre Dame fans are left to either rely on the luck of the Irish, or reconsider their fandom.

Nobody likes a band-wagon fan, but we may all find ourselves becoming one at some time or another. Who doesn’t like to see the flashy, classy style of Steph Curry? Who doesn’t claim the San Francisco Giants as their team in the World Series on the even years? You may also find your enthusiasm for your own team stifled as they find themselves in a rut, which, I would suggest, can create a cycle of band-wagon fanning your own team. Sure, when your alma-mater isn’t doing well, don’t watch the games. But when they start picking up some wins again, you can share your Facebook post from three years ago showing that you were a die-hard fan. With so much variance in fandom, it’s hard to be a true, dedicated fan.

The measure of a true fan is loyalty to your team through thick and thin (Raiders fans – you know what I mean by ‘thin’). Emotionally, the more skin you get in the game, the harder it is to see your team lose. It’s during these times that our dedication is tested. But staying true to your team through both the W’s and L’s makes the progress more gripping, the come-backs more thrilling, and the victories more gratifying and rewarding.

I like how one author described failure: “Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days…What is belief – what is faith – if you don’t continue in it after failure?…Anyone can believe in someone, or something that always succeeds…But failure…ah, now, that is hard to believe in, certainly and truly.”1

So whether you were cheering for the Mets this October, or your favorite team is still LSU – hang in there. I’ll keep flying my shamrock flag, wearing my Notre Dame hoodie, and turning on NBC every Saturday to cheer on the Fighting Irish this fall. It is easy to be a fan during the good times. During failure? Not so much – but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

1Brandon Sanderson, The Final Empire