3:47 AM EST, February 20, 2012
The Notre Dame men’s basketball team has exceeded all expectations so far this season. How long that lasts is up for discussion on local sport radio, but going into the season I did not hear or read anything but pessimism. Their leading scorer and Big East player of the year last season was gone; their best returning player went down early and is out for the season. Even I will admit at the start of the season I thought a finish somewhere in the middle of the Big East would be about the best they could do and even that prediction might have been a bit wishful.
But here we are late in the regular season and as of this writing (2/18) the Irish are in third place in the conference, have the only win of the season against mighty Syracuse, and a couple of other signature victories. The team itself seems to be made up of really good guys, who bring little ego to the hardwood, adjust to the circumstances of every game and even have their own version of Rudy on the roster: walk-on Patrick Crowley.
So I was excited to go to the game last week against conference foe Rutgers and what I assumed would be close to a sellout crowd. It wasn’t even close to a sellout. I don’t know what the official attendance count was that night, but there had to be close to three thousand empty seats and most of those were the more affordable tickets. Even worse. the ND student turnout was abysmal. If you eliminate the band there might have been 400 to 500 students on hand. The majority of those who did show up appeared to be from the local community, the same people who are the backbone of Notre Dame loyalists.
Nowhere do you see the “local” outpouring for Notre Dame than you do at a women’s basketball game. It is the South Bend/Mishawaka community that makes so many of those games sellouts. And almost completely missing in action for the women’s games is the Notre Dame student body. In fact when I went earlier this month I could find NO noticeable student support. What is the deal with that?
I took an informal survey on campus in the following days and found that students, men and women, just don’t seem to give a hoot about women’s basketball, and when I asked those same students if they were going to the men’s game that night it was clear that many of them had no idea there was a game scheduled that night.
I have often thought that one of the greatest myths in sports is that Notre Dame has some kind of die-hard following. That is just not true. Many students and some others are simply front-runners. Sure they want to see Notre Dame and Michigan or Notre Dame and USC in football and they will manage to sell out a basketball game as long as it’s a Syracuse or UConn making the visit.So when it comes to Notre Dame fans, except for that Michiana backbone, I only have one conclusion: Overrated.
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