God, Country, Notre Dame

It must surely embarrass John Miller and the other Francophobic neocons to realize that one of the quintessential American institutions was founded by an intrepid French missionary, who offered this vision for his action: “I have raised Our Lady aloft so that men will know, without asking, why we have succeeded here.”  And it is a reflection of Father Sorin’s adopted country that the University of Notre Dame du Lac first achieved great success in the eyes of Americans by its excellence in a game invented in America, under a metonymic nickname honoring America’s most representative Catholic immigrant group but embracing all of them.

The story of how Notre Dame first achieved that excellence under Knute Rockne was told well by Murray Sperber in his early 1990’s Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football.  And the story of how Notre Dame has retained an unparalleled national following among American college football fans, despite not winning a national championship since 1988 and being mired in football mediocrity for a decade, is well told by Scott Eden in Touchdown Jesus: Faith and Fandom at Notre Dame.

Eden’s book is organized around the 2004 season, which ended with Notre Dame firing its first black head football coach, Ty Willingham—a move that generated great controversy in the sports pages but little among Notre Dame fans.  But...

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