Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Operation Aloha is Underway

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Notre Dame's "official on-line store" is selling Hawaii Bowl gear. I wonder if it will sell.

I've been covering Notre Dame for two years. I have been impressed with the patience and loyalty of fans despite the team's 9-15 record during that time. Fans at Notre Dame Stadium rarely leave early and haven't booed as much as the team has deserved. With the exception of the snowball throwing against Syracuse ---- which probably had more to do with students horsing around than with any impromptu protest --- fans have been extremely loyal and well behaved during what will likely go down as the worst back-to-back seasons in the program's history.

I'm wondering if that loyalty will extend to Aloha Stadium on Christmas Eve in a weak economy.

Notre Dame is always an attractive alternative to bowl officials because fans and alums travel so well. The school's reputation is so sterling in this regard that a Sun Bowl official I spoke to said even the disheartening loss to Syracuse followed by the spanking at the hands of USC wouldn't impact his decision to invite the Irish if the opportunity arose.

My question to him was this: After losing five of their last seven games --- and especially after the way the team performed in the past two games --- will Irish fans be less likely to plop down the ducats necessary to accompany the team to a bowl game? 

The Sun Bowl official admitted that dejected fans that might normally make the trip may not this year because of the combination of the poor product on the field and the economy. However, he was confident that Irish fans and alums in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona would come to El Paso for a rare glimpse of the team in that part of the country.

But flying to Hawaii on Christmas Eve to watch the Irish in their current form may turn out to be a harder sell than normal. That's not to say the Aloha Bowl won't sell out. That's not to say that scores of Notre Dame fans won't flock to the sun and sand. It will be interesting, however, to see how the week unfolds.

After covering every Notre Dame game the past two seasons, I have been told that the Sun-Times will not be making the trip to Honolulu. Sports editor Stu Courtney, citing the late kickoff, early Christmas Eve deadlines and the fact that the Christmas Day edition of the paper is one of the least read of the year, has decided to save the expense. 

I'm torn. Christmas is a big deal at my house. Part of me is thrilled to remain home with my wife and two young children. On the other hand, I feel like I should be there.

Here's what I propose: We'll have to rely on correspondents to either e-mail me at nhayes@suntimes.com or send comments to this blog for updates from Honolulu. The first assignment should include how fans feel about traveling to the game given everything that is in play. I'd also be curious to know what the mood is like. Hopeful? Will people watch the game through splayed fingers, hoping it's not a repeat of the USC or Syracuse games?  

We'll call it Operation Aloha: It entails enjoying at least one adult beverage served in a coconut and sending at least semi-regular reports back to those of us stuck in the frigid Midwest or some other less desirable locale.

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1 Comment

I have been a life long, through thick and thin, ND fan. I shape my fall Saturdays around ND games, and I follow every aspect of recruiting in the offseason. That said, I will definitely be watching the Irish on Christmas eve, and even after the beating in LA, I am actually looking forward to it. I believe this game is an opportunity to see if Charlie Weis will change his attitude now that he has been to the edge of losing his job and back, and coach like we all know he can. Aside from the extra practice, which is always nice considering how young the Irish are, it is an opportunity to put a positive spin on the season, and gain some momentum going into next year.
I do believe that the following will be the same as usual, and if I didn't have a 4 week old son at home, I too would consider going.
This is a great opportunity for Charlie and the boys to put the past in the past and show again how bright the future can be.
And if all else fails, maybe Charlie can steal some of those Somian Linebacker recruits that keep showing up in the PAC-10!

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on December 9, 2008 8:16 AM.

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Hawaii Scouting Report: Offense is the next entry in this blog.

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