I want...

What's wrong with this Notre Dame team? The opinions, assertions, accusations, arguments and counter-arguments have been flying since Saturday. The fact is there's plenty wrong with this team. But there is a lot right with it, too, starting with the head coach.

In a short time Charlie Weis, merely by succeeding, has elevated expectations to a remarkable degree. But the list of things he still has to fix is extensive and those heightened expectations are going to cause PLENTY of grumbling in the next year. They've already caused some this year. Prematurely.

In the Ron Howard film Apollo 13 (maybe the only movie I've ever seen in which the ending was an immutable, historical fact, yet I was STILL wondering if the damn parachutes were going to open) there was a tense scene in space during which Jack Sweigert, doing some scratch-pad calculations thinks the crew in Houston made a mistake and is keeping them in the dark as they potentially skip off the atmosphere and hurtle into space.

He voiced his concerns, setting off an argument among the tired, frustrated and scared astronauts. The bickering between Sweigert and Fred Haise was threatening to devolve into something worse when Jim Lovell, the ship's commander uncharacteristically snapped.

"All right! There's a thousand things that have to happen IN ORDER. We are on number eight. You're talking about number 692."

Regular readers of this column will have to forgive me for using a movie quote as a literary device for the second consecutive week. But it is clear some fans of this team have forgotten the state of this program just one year and 355 days ago.

Coming off back-to-back 5-7 and 6-6 seasons. Losing the Insight Bowl (The INSIGHT Bowl?). Two straight recruiting classes ranked worse than 30th. Pitiful offense. Pitiful defense. Shattered confidence. Shattered program.

But 19 wins in two seasons and a righted, if not completely bailed out, ship are forgotten after one trip to Los Angeles.

In the wake of a loss that, admittedly, was as disheartening as it was thorough, there is a faction of Notre Dame fans that chooses to look at what this team has not accomplished, rather than what it has. This faction was typified by a poster in an IE thread that suggested the 2006 Irish had underachieved. When the notion that a 10-2 team only two seasons removed from the lowest point in its history was quickly and appropriately countered, the poster in question (and representative of ingrates everywhere) replied, "yeah, but I think a lot of ND fans want to take it to the next level."

Really.

Well, I want a 50" plasma TV this Christmas. I want the home theater and all the HD bells and whistles that go with it. I want to turn in my five year old car and get a new one. I want to do my basement over so my son will have more room to play when his new sibling arrives in January. I want a new set of Notre Dame head covers to replace the ones I lost when Continental Airlines lost my golf clubs. Oh yeah, I want to replace the golf clubs, too. I want to go to the Virgin Islands for vacation. And someday, God willing, I want to get paid for writing about the Irish.

I want all these things. But I certainly can't have them all. I lack either the time or the resources to accomplish everything on my wish list. Because my wife and I chose to finish the basement, a new car and the plasma are out of the question for the time being. We'll go on vacation this year, but it might be Cape Cod in the summer rather than the Caribbean in February. Like everyone, we have things we want to do. But we have to make choices about when and how we accomplish those things.

ND fans want to take it to the next level? Tough. There's work to do before that can happen.

To paraphrase Commander Lovell, there were a thousand things that needed doing when Charlie Weis stepped on campus. And he's PAST number eight. He's gotten to a remarkable number of them in a very short period of time. Upgrade and actually work hard recruiting? Check. Fix an anemic offense? Check. Beat every team they should? Check. Get back to the BCS? Check? Convince team they can win again? Check.

I'm not blind to this team's faults. Special teams play alone gives me nightmares. But we've seen how far this team has come in a short time and we want the journey back to what we consider our rightful place to be done. It isn't, though. And it can't be. There was too much wrong when he got here. Some aren't willing to acknowledge that.

There are plenty of things on all of our wish lists for this team that Charlie hasn't gotten to. But does anyone believe he is not capable of granting those wishes? Being patient is exceedingly difficult when you wait all year for a game and then have to sit through what we all did last week. But difficult or not, a bit more patience than we've shown this year is going to be necessary. Charlie Weis is the currency, the resource that will allow those wishes to be fulfilled.

Eventually, I'm going to get the new car, the TV and the clubs. Just not immediately. And so are you. Charlie's going to make sure you do.

He just had to do the basement over first.


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