Sometimes I think of the many things I have to do that will make the next two months fly by – weddings, work, law school, etc. – you know, things that "normal" people spend their time thinking about each day. Those are the good days.
On the bad days, things really go awry: I get butterflies in my stomach and have nightmares about Calvin Johnson extending his Go-Go-Gadget arms over Mike Richardson's head in the end zone to bring down an errant Uncle Rico-style wounded duck from Reggie Ball. That dream is not supposed to happen until the week prior to the game. Also on the bad days, I have happy dreams about seeing Coach Weis on the beach in a Speedo. That's never supposed to happen, period.
Recently, after several months of vowing never to do this, I clicked on a link to a 17-year-old boy's website on MySpace.com. Then, to make matters worse, proceeded to contend on a message board that this Web site must have been created by the young man himself, since surely no one would care enough to make an imposter site about a high school offensive lineman. It's not, I figured, as if there were anyone out there crazy enough to spend his time looking at a high school kid's website, let alone create a si— only as I was transfixed by the strange mixture of a dizzying website background and unintelligible IM-speak did I realize the sick irony of that line of reasoning.
This resulted in a delicious little moment of self-realization: my obsession with ND football probably can't be considered healthy. It makes me do things that an otherwise balanced adult male – one who likes women, sports, politics, good comedies, beer, bourbon and hanging out with his buddies – simply wouldn't do.
But I still have hope that there are others sharing the same affliction, so perhaps it's best to admit my problem in full and see if I can find ways to help others who share my disease.
Reflecting upon my experiences from the last year has allowed me to formulate a simple list of dos and don'ts for rabid ND fans who want to maintain their own sanity not only until September 2, but also well into the season. (Disclaimer: I can make no guarantees that following this advice will maintain mental health if either of the following occur: if after the season's midway point ND remains ranked No.1 and/or in contention for the national championship; or if Notre Dame suffers two or more losses and/or is rendered ineligible for a BCS game.) With that out of the way, here it goes:
Do: Eat more Subway sandwiches. As I sat, inconsolable, in Notre Dame stadium immediately after the USC game, I contemplated several forms of bringing about certain self-destruction, including throwing myself off the top of the stadium, running into the USC locker room and trying to strangle Pete Carroll, committing seppuku by swallowing a Frisbee, and the more traditional ancient ritual suicide, Hiri Kiri. Luckily, better judgment and the lack of a proper sword briefly prevailed, and I left the stadium in one piece.
But as I reached my car and found the battery drained with no one around in a good enough mood to jump it, I felt it to be an obvious sign from God that I was indeed meant to end it all. Just as I reached for the Frisbee in my trunk, I was presented a foot-long Chicken and Bacon Ranch from Subway, which gave me a reason to carry on, albeit briefly. After eating the delicious sandwich, I felt remarkably better and sane, almost tranquil. I was puzzled by this calming effect until I wrote Subway and requested a full ingredient list. They candidly revealed to me that all of their subs contain trace doses of benzehydral getsomeperspectiveyounutcaseacide, a powerful tranquilizer and amnesiac being tested by the government for use in riot control in Morgantown, WVU. So if you start having the Calvin Johnson nightmares, just make sure to eat at least one of Jared's favorite sandwiches each day.
Do Not: Watch the 2005 USC game while running on a treadmill, unless you want to burn 10,000 calories and then find yourself lying in a pool of your own emotional wreckage. I popped in the VHS and figured the game tape could keep me interested enough to get in a good workout and experience a sort of catharsis whereby I could convert my sadness and anger into excitement for the upcoming season and the fact that ND gets another shot at the evil empire on the left coast. 16 miles, a broken TV screen, a couple pounds and 5five sessions with a therapist later, I realized that was a bad plan.
Do: Take vacations and travel. I once spent six days on a beach in the Bahamas without getting online once or even knowing if ND had gained any new commitments – and, remarkably, I didn't even think about recruiting once. You may not believe me, but it is possible – enough drinks and bikinis can distract a man from just about anything.
When I got back home and learned that we had another recruit, I found myself possessing the sort of perspective normal people have. I was happy, but not in the "holy crap, why am I giddily reading articles about and watching video of a high school kid and why is everyone else in the office looking at me like that" kind of way that a major recruit's commitment normally brings about.
Don't: Start planning a tailgate in July or early August, as it is too dangerous and prone to provoking severe excitement and even rash actions. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I would do some brainstorming, maybe some rough beer and meat supply-need calculations, just to pass the time during a slow day at work. The next thing I knew, I lost consciousness and woke up 500 miles from home, being questioned by an NDSP officer who asked me why I had set up my car, a grill, two full coolers and a widescreen TV in the Joyce South parking lot at 8:30 A.M on July 2.
Luckily, I was thinking on my feet and told him that I was just extremely excited for my daughter's first youth league soccer game, which would soon be taking place over on the intramural fields south of campus. I'm still searching for the real answer to his question, and the hypnosis sessions with my therapist haven't proven fruitful yet.
Do: View IrishEyes.com and NDNation.com frequently, but in small intervals. Just as dieticians advise people to eat small, frequent meals to keep their metabolism high and avoid binge eating, so too should you get your Notre Dame football news fix frequently but not for an extended period of time.
Doing this will allow you to maintain your mental health and avoid severe football news craving and five-hour marathon opponent message board-viewing and prospect video-watching sessions. If you've ever found yourself arguing with an Illinois fan or watching every single Arrelious Benn and Jimmy Clausen video clip available on the Internet in one sitting you understand why this "small, frequent" strategy is not only a good idea, but also necessary for you to function in society.
Don't: Compromise your Notre Dame football values. The off-season may require moderation in most things, but there are lines that cannot be crossed.
Recently I ran into a gentleman wearing an ND cap and t-shirt. I started polite Notre Dame football small talk, and he mentioned being on campus for the USC game last year. I responded by talking about how amazing the pre-game atmosphere was but how terribly painful the ending turned out. Planning to commiserate with a fellow Irish fan, I was shocked when he responded, "Actually, the ending wasn't bad for me, because I'm a big USC fan. I mean, I like ND too, but I was wearing a USC shirt and an ND hat up there. It was a great game."
After briefly confirming that this was not a sick joke, I immediately took appropriate action, and you may all rest easy knowing that this strange, confused apostate creature, who otherwise appeared to be a normal person, now sleeps with the fishes.
That's all I've got for now. Stay strong in the upcoming weeks until our next therapy session. And whatever you do, don't touch that USC game tape. Or show this column to the police.