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What is it about Notre Dame that brings out the worst in sports fans?
It's either love 'em or hate 'em.
This is a college football team that has few neutral, unbiased observers. It is very much like the New York Yankees in baseball.
Both teams have a long legacy of winning (although not so much lately.)And winning leads to swagger and bragging on one side and jealousy and contempt on the other.
This is the position the 12-0 Fighting Irish find themselves in as they prepare for their first BCS title game against the winner of Saturday's Alabama-Georgia matchup.
"The University of Notre Dame has no flaws," ESPN's resident Irish booster Lou Holtz said last weekend. A ridiculous statement. The best of teams have flaws and only a buffoon like Dr. Lou would think otherwise.
I am sure the ND haters noted that Holtz accented "University," not simply Notre Dame, as most of us would say. That's the kind of stuff that fuels the negative fire and leads to absurd retorts.
"Notre Dame would be lucky to be .500 in the Southeastern Conference," someone tweeted at Yahoo! college football writer Pat Forde on Monday. Another ridiculous statement, among many I've read and heard since the Irish moved to the top of the ratings.
The SEC is best conference in college football. However, Notre Dame certainly would be at or near the top of any conference this season.
Ask the unbiased Las Vegas oddsmakers. They have the Irish a 2 1/2-point favorite over Georgia and a 6 1/2-point underdog to 'Bama.
The Irish always play a coast-to-coast schedule that is contracted years in advance, and if there is an occasional "patsy" it is because some long-ago scheduled foe is having a down year.
However, ND vs. the SEC is a rare matchup. Tennessee was the most recent opponent in 2005 and the Irish won, 41-21. When Notre Dame takes on Alabama or Georgia on Jan. 7 in Miami, it will be just the 35th time the Irish and the SEC have clashed. ND has beaten 'Bama five out of six times and lost its only match with Georgia.
The fact the Irish have not faced an SEC team this season is one of the reasons critics question Notre Dame's current No. 1 rating in the BCS standings.
Then there is always "the luck of the Irish." This has come in to play in two games this season.
Against Stanford, running back Stepfan Taylor appeared to stretch the ball over the goal line to score a tying touchdown in overtime. Officials ruled Taylor had been stopped and did not reverse the call on review, preserving a 20-13 ND victory.
Three weeks later, Pittsburgh missed a 38-yard field goal in overtime that would have won the game. Later, film revealed that Notre Dame had two players wearing uniform No. 2 on the field. It should have been a penalty on the Irish to give the Pitt kicker another shot from 5 yards closer, but it wasn't called.
A defeat in either one of those games and the Irish would be one of six teams in the BCS standings with one loss rather than the only unbeaten one.
Luck? Maybe, but practically every team can point to good luck and bad luck in a game or two over the stretch of a season.
I asked my cousin, who is an alum and currently holds a top administrative position at Notre Dame, for his perspective on contrasting attitudes toward ND.
"Anyone who works at Notre Dame probably has a keen sense of the negative feelings out there toward the football team and, in some cases, the university itself," Matt Storin wrote.
"We realize that some of it we bring on ourselves. Challenges seem to encourage a strong community feeling that is hard to miss if you visit the campus.
"To outsiders, this must seem a little too precious and perhaps even put on. But it is what it is and Domers aren't going to change their behavior.
"Of course, there are some who just root against the team because it is perceived as being over-covered by the media."
Matt went on to point out that last Saturday night's ND game at Southern Cal drew the season's highest college football rating for ABC.
The ratings for Notre Dame vs. Alabama/Georgia are likely to set an all-time record for a BCS title game.
For ESPN, it doesn't get any better than this.