“Catholics vs. Cousins?” Oh, now that’s just wrong.
“Golden Domers vs. Mobile Homers?” That’s not as wrong as the first one, but still wrong.
Alabama fans have responded with shirts reading, “I’d rather be good than lucky,” so sweet-homers aren’t beyond pettiness.
Oh, let’s not beat around it. Folks down here love a good hatred, but the Alabama slogan pretty much keeps it on the football field.
The Notre Dame shirts play on stereotypes that take Alabama fans back to a time when the Crimson Tide carried the flag for a region’s self-esteem. Awakening those echoes hardly comes off as Notre Dame T-shirt makers using their golden domes.
After all, Notre Dame’s top-ranked football team must play No. 2 Alabama for major college football’s national championship on Jan. 7 in Miami, so Touchdown Jesus must be throwing up his arms. He must wonder, “What are you people thinking?”
Try as Alabama coach Nick Saban does to steel his players against outside noise, they breathe the same air down here. Alabamians make up 41 percent of the roster, and nearly all Tide players come from the South.
Saban has made them pretty good at channeling emotions, and oddsmakers agree with most pundits that Alabama has the better team. So keep awakening those echoes, Notre Dame T-shirt makers.
OK, since I’ve clearly lost my increasingly gray-and-flesh-tone dome by stepping into this, allow me to introduce myself.
I was raised Catholic in predominantly Catholic Louisville, Ky. I went to Catholic schools from seventh grade through high school.
I haven’t lived in Louisville for 27 years, but I remember the hometown of Notre Dame legend Paul Hornung as being friendly territory for the Fighting Irish.
This Western Kentucky grad covered a Western-Notre Dame hoops game in South Bend as a college senior and thought it was cool when the public address announcer and crowd did “one and … THE BONUS!”
I never knew hatred of the Fighting Irish existed until I moved to Alabama 16 years ago, and sweet Jesus! It’s palpable down here, palpable and jarring.
As I’ve scratched my dome over it, I couldn’t help wondering how fans of one legendary college football program would so despise another one. They’re not in the same state, region or conference, so what gives?
Wouldn’t two titans that spent so many years vying for national supremacy at least develop a healthy (even if begrudging) mutual respect? It sure seemed that way between Alabama and Penn State fans.
Well, it did until the child sexual abuse scandal made it hard to say the name “Penn State” without lowering one’s gaze.
That brings us back to the whole “Catholics-vs.-Cousins” thing. Really, Notre Dame T-shirt makers, do you want to go there?
As for “Golden Domers” and “Mobile Homers,” one wonders if Notre Dame T-shirt makers have ever seen Denny Chimes. They well rival a golden dome in their solemn, majestic representation of academia.
I’ve found something cool at every campus I’ve visited in my sports-writing travels. I’ve also found that “cousins” and “mobile homers” alike no longer need a college football team to prop up their self-esteem.
Yes, college football passion remains strong in the South. Then again, one would be amazed at how life went on during Alabama’s near-decade of coaching turmoil and sanctions, the reaching effects of which greeted Saban in 2007.
Alabama won just one national championship between Bear Bryant’s last in 1979 and the first of Saban’s two at Alabama in 2009, but life went on.
Now, Alabama fans see the chance for a third national title in four years. They see Notre Dame as the opponent and can’t help feeling the nostalgia and excitement born from such a name-brand national final.
Then, they see T-shirts with slogans like “Catholics vs. Cousins” and “Golden Domers vs. Mobile Homers” and get the picture of a fan base that hasn’t been this close to the top since in nearly two decades. How disheartening that some have domed it down.
While we’re at it, awakening the echoes of a time when Alabama fans needed the Tide as much as loved it was a dome-free move.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.