What They're Saying: Notre Dame 20, Card 13

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Stanford's last four contests have come down to the wire. The Cardinal are now 2-2 in those games after dropping a 20-13 decision in South Bend.

No, it's not a nightmare, Notre Dame did in fact beat Stanford, 20-13 in overtime. A few quick thoughts after the debacle in South Bend:

1. Running it up the middle four straight times is perfectly defensible. Imagine the uproar if another plan of attack had gone awry.

2. There's a conflict of interest when a corporation with a huge investment in one of the teams is showing officials the replays.

3. People are biased toward what they understand. Coaches understand execution, not probability theory. So a coach will generally prefer a conservative line of attack in which fewer things can go wrong than maximizing the odds of winning the game.

4. Another cruel irony: coaches always implore players to put their team first, and bypass individual glory for the play that will help their team win. For coaches, the equivalent is calling riskier plays -- you subject yourself to more criticism when any given play blows up, but in the long run, your team will probably win more.

5. Is quarterback the only position on the starting 22 where a backup hasn't taken a snap? The odds you could have gotten on that preseason...

6. This team would be 6-0 and a near-unanimous No. 1 in the computer polls with average quarterback play. It's fun to close your eyes and imagine. Heck, imagine how much bigger the hoopla surrounding last week could have been if we had won last week. The teams at the top of the polls receive exponentially more attention, so we are missing a huge opportunity in terms of recruiting.

7. I don't know if we would be better with a different quarterback, so this is not an implicit slam of anyone, but the situation got me thinking: It's cruelly funny to juxtapose how much human effort goes into a football game (the paying customers, the players, the support staff, the coaches' 80-hour weeks, the sports bars and a whole local micro-economy) and how a decision by one person can undo all that work and upset so many. Of course the same is true in foreign policy, the corporate world, etc. but it's still weird to thinking about how much influence one person can have over hundreds of thousands of others.

8. In a weird sort of way, losing in a controversial fashion has a silver lining. The worst thing that could happen to this team would be for the players and coaches to begin to quit on each other, or start second-guessing decisions. (That's our job as fans and media. Back off, players.) To the extent that the ending to the Notre Dame game can engender an "us against the world" mentality, that would be a positive moving forward.

Okay, here are takes from around the country after a disappointing afternoon in South Bend for the Stanford faithful.


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