Skip to main content

'Go Irish' vs. 'Roll Tide'

By Kay Jones and Jason Kurtz, CNN
January 7, 2013 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Tradition-rich Notre Dame and Alabama play for college football's national championship tonight. Tradition-rich Notre Dame and Alabama play for college football's national championship tonight.
HIDE CAPTION
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
Notre Dame vs. Alabama 2013
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Both Notre Dame and Alabama football are the stuff of legend, but only one will win Monday
  • Jason Kurtz says gold helmets mean Fighting Irish football serves as the gold standard
  • Kay Jones gets teary hearing legendary 'Bama coach Bear Bryant's voice during pregames
  • Kurtz wants Manti Te'o to wrap his ND career "hoisting the Waterford Crystal football"

Editor's note: Kay Jones is a senior editorial producer at CNN, and an Alabama graduate. Jason Kurtz is the digital producer for CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight." and loves Notre Dame even though he went to Syracuse. Their jobs are merely a means of supporting their hopeless college football habits. They leave their rivalry on the field -- ACTUALLY no they don't.

(CNN) -- The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide face off tonight for the college football national championship. It's one of the most anticipated match ups in years not only because of the teams' play this season but also the rich tradition both teams represent. Two CNN staffers offer their completely biased views on the game, the passion, and even the fashion:

Headgear

Jason Kurtz:
Gold. The most precious of all metals. It signifies Olympic dominance, represents 50 years of marital bliss. As such, it's no surprise that such a color, such a symbol, has become synonymous with a football program so often regarded as the sport's gold standard.

As traditions go, the pregame painting of the Notre Dame helmet is as storied as any. Designed to mirror the university's legendary Administration Building (i.e. the Golden Dome), for decades student managers used actual 23.9 karat gold in the covering that coats the Fighting Irish protective headgear. And while recent updates to the technique have shifted the responsibility to that of professionals, yielding a helmet that shines brighter than ever, the essence of the look remains unchanged.

Kurtz bleeds gold and blue.
Kurtz bleeds gold and blue.

One solid color befitting the singular entity that sits atop the national rankings. You'll find no logos or letters, no stickers signifying big plays. The only references to wars fought on the battlefield appear in the form of dents and dings collected during bone-jarring tackles and spirit-crushing blocks. Still, those can be seen only after the game has been played.

But before kickoff, when Notre Dame sprints out of the tunnel, beneath the bright lights of Miami and the ever-intensified glare of the national spotlight, the team's signature helmets will shine proudly. A unified glow. A clean, crisp finish. Might such a description soon apply to the team's season and not simply its helmets?

Kay Jones:
While the gold helmet is definitely a good one, I will take the crimson helmet with the white stripe down the middle and the players' numbers on the side any day. Traditional always wins in my book, so I think we both win on this, but on to the more identifiable headgear at Alabama: the houndstooth fedora.

Jones is a 1997 graduate of the University of Alabama.
Jones is a 1997 graduate of the University of Alabama.

Legendary Alabama Head Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant was known for wearing plain fedoras when he came back to the school as coach in 1958. Multiple stories of how that plain fedora became a houndstooth circle around the former owner of the New York Jets, Sonny Werblin. The legend is that Werblin gave Bryant a houndstooth version of the fedora as he was wooing Alabama QB Joe Namath to the Jets before the 1965 AFL Draft.

Thanks to images of Bryant in various houndstooth fedora colors (black and white, blue and white and crimson and white) leaning against the goalpost in pregame warmups to the various Sports Illustrated covers that showed him in the hat, the man became an unofficial spokesperson for the headwear.

Fast forward to 2013 and you will find children and adults, boys and girls wearing some version of houndstooth as a way to show their Alabama pride. Many fedoras will be seen in Miami, along with other houndstooth clothing items.

Anywhere you go in the South, if you are wearing houndstooth, you will be marked as a 'Bama fan. There's no need for anything else but houndstooth to show your Alabama allegiance. The best part of the houndstooth fedora? You don't have to save it for a football game. It's a statement that can be worn anywhere and any time of year.

Which coach has more at stake?

Better QB Named Joe

Jones:
Joe Namath wins in my book for many reasons, but most importantly, he was a trailblazer. He guaranteed a win for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III and delivered. He is the first QB featured on "ABC's Monday Night Football" and the first to lead his team to an overtime win in the NFL regular season. He also is the first NFL player to really grasp the media spotlight, earning him the nickname "Broadway Joe."

While his lifetime stats aren't as great as Joe Montana's, the legacy he created is arguably the best. Any athlete with a great endorsement contract has Joe Willie Namath to thank! Plus, have you read his Twitter feed, @RealJoeNamath? Amazing! (With thanks to his daughter for typing up what he has to say!)

Kurtz:
In reality, this debate could be over in one word: Four. It's the number of Super Bowls started, and won, by Joe Montana. Only Pittsburgh Steelers great Terry Bradshaw has equaled such a feat, and since Terry is a proud alum of Louisiana Tech -- and not Alabama -- this fact alone should give the edge to Montana, and Notre Dame.

However, my colleague included several valuable intangibles in her argument for Namath, so I feel it's my duty to do the same here. While "Broadway Joe" was nearly incomparable when it comes to individuality and style points -- Who could forget his long fur coats and short white cleats? -- Montana went about his work with an effortless grace, the type of poise that earned him the nickname "Joe Cool."

The Golden Domer was at his best when it counted the most: See his infamous throw to Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC Championship game, a play now known simply as "The Catch," as well as his 92-yard drive vs. the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

Of course, before the Super Bowl, there was the Cotton Bowl, where, in 1979 a flu-stricken Montana led the Irish to a 23-point fourth quarter comeback over Houston, a performance that essentially laid the foundation for a pro career full of such heroics.

A product of football-rich Pennsylvania, Montana brought his East Coast toughness to the West Coast offense, in the process earning eight invites to the Pro Bowl, and a 2000 induction into football's Hall of Fame.

But if it's really a sexy endorsement you want, I'll see your Joe Namath "Beautymist" pantyhose and raise you a Joe Montana for Hanes.

Tradition

Kurtz:
In many ways traditions serve as the backbone of sports, the foundation on which loyalties are built. It is traditions that allow those outside the playing field to participate in the game, to feel a part of a given team. In no sport is this more true than college football, and in no game will this be more evident than Monday's national title tilt.

Distraction: Amazing Christmas surprise
Notre Dame vs. Alabama for BCS title
Notre Dame a way of life for Golics
Notre Dame, Alabama gear up for BCS

Two storied programs, with rich histories and long-lasting legacies. As detailed by my colleague, Alabama certainly has it's share of traditions, which is one part of what makes this affair so compelling. The other part? Have you heard anyone asked to "Win one for the Gipper?"

Can Notre Dame regain its storied glory?

If traditions are college football's currency, Notre Dame is amongst the richest. From the legendary tale of a bedridden George Gipp providing the inspiration for Knute Rockne's famous speech, to the undersized but undaunted Rudy rising from the practice squad to the shoulders of his teammates, Fighting Irish stories have quite literally become the subject of Hollywood lore.

But Gold and Blue tradition goes a whole lot further than the silver screen. It goes from the forward pass to cross-country rivalries, both popularized by Rockne. It's woven into the rhythm of the "1812 Overture" played between the third and fourth quarter of every game, and it pulses through every beat of the alma mater, as it's sung by the players, who stand linked arm and arm, after every game regardless of result.

However, Fighting Irish tradition can perhaps best be felt through a single slap, as each Notre Dame player smacks the famous "Play Like a Champion Today" sign as he leaves the locker room and descends the steps en route to representing his school on the field of play.

While Monday night's game will see the Irish nestled in a neutral setting, with no familiar sign to slap before taking the Orange Bowl field, the spirit of the sentiment has most certainly made it's way to Miami.

While the notion of playing "like a champion today," much the same as many of the teams other traditions, may have been born in South Bend, it lives everywhere, as the foundation that fuels a program, and the lifeblood of it's fan base.

Jones:
Before every home game in Tuscaloosa, a video showing some of the biggest Alabama plays from years past is shown. The title: Tradition.

Alabama wins berth in BCS title game

Fans walk past the numerous RVs set up midweek just off campus toward the footprints and handprints (etched in concrete at the bottom of Denny Chimes in the Quad made by the football captains dating back to the 1940s) to take pictures by the names of their favorite players. The Chimes ring "Yea Alabama" in the hours leading up to kickoff while fans stream down University Boulevard, Campus Drive and Bryant Drive toward the stadium, which was opened in 1929.

Before entering, they walk past the newest feature on campus: Statues of the coaches who won national championships at the university: Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban. The stadium is a sea of crimson and white with some black and white houndstooth thrown in for good measure.

The game begins not when the ball is kicked off the tee, but in pregame, when the voice of Bear Bryant echoes across the stadium, saying, "I ain't ever been nothing but a winner." You may see tears in the eyes of grown men (and maybe a grown producer from CNN).

You'll hear the cheers of "Roll Tide" growing louder by the second as the electricity running through the stadium reaches a crescendo while the music of AC/DC starts blaring through the stadium as live video of the current crop of 'Bama greats walking through the tunnel to take the field is broadcast on the four Jumbotrons. There's a saying that started a few years ago on one of the pregame videos: "At some places they play football, at Alabama, we live it."

Slogan

Jones:
Two words. That's all you need to know: Roll Tide. Those words are "hello," "goodbye," "nice to see ya" and "I don't know ya but we have Alabama in common so what's up" rolled into two words.

The rally cry dates back to the early 1900s when a sports editor for the Birmingham Age-Herald used the "Crimson Tide" nickname to describe the Tide during the 1907 Alabama-Auburn game. Roll Tide has been a part of Alabama and college football in general ever since.

The best part of Roll Tide? It's one of a kind. There is no doubt that when you say "Roll Tide," you are talking Alabama.

Kurtz:
Jones had this one partially right. It's true: all you really need are two words. Unfortunately, she got hers wrong. The answer we were looking for was "Go Irish." It's simple, it's clear. One verb, and one proper noun, propelling not just a team, but an entire community, "onward to victory."

Don't dismiss the Fighting Irish

What began as an old school rallying cry has morphed into a trendy (and trending) hashtag. In an age of digital and social media, "Go Irish" is now also #GoIrish. But no matter how you write it, type it, or say it, the meaning never changes. It's universally understood to signify one thing: a Notre Dame victory.

Notre Dame cheerleaders prompt game-day crowds with simple signs, alternating between placards displaying "Go" on the front, and "Irish" on the back, while fans chant in unison.

Supporters who may have never met, and share little else in common, can find a bond by simply stating the phrase. It's often paired with a slight nod of the head, as if to say "Yep. We got this." The strength of the phrase is its all-encompassing simplicity, the way saying so little can convey so much.

"Go Irish" means seven Heisman Trophy winners (more than any other program). It means an NCAA record 96 consensus All-Americans. It's Rudy. It's "Touchdown Jesus." It's the Grotto. Perhaps most importantly, though, "Go Irish" is 13 National Titles as recognized by the NCAA. Should that number grow by one on Monday, expect utterings of "Go Irish" to increase exponentially.

Key players in the championship game

Predictions

Kurtz: If you were to crack open my chest and cut into my heart, the blood that poured out would be gold and blue.

A devout sports fan, I love no team more than Notre Dame football. As such, I cannot and will not pick against them. Alabama is the favorite, and rightfully so, as champs of the nation's toughest conference, and with two BCS titles already in their trophy case. But I'm picking my beloved Irish, for a trio of reasons:

1. History: Notre Dame is 5-1 all-time against Alabama, and 4--0--1 when ranked No. 1, while playing No. 2 (as will be the case Monday.)

2. The Manti Teʻo factor: It's simply hard to imagine Notre Dame's star linebacker wrapping up his historic career without hoisting the Waterford Crystal football.

For the All-American from Hawaii, who spurned the beaches of California in favor of the frozen fields of Indiana, winning a championship was the reason he came back to South Bend. Not to sweep the post-season defensive awards (which he did, capturing the Lombardi, Butkus, Nagurski, and Bednarik trophies). Not to become the first-ever exclusively defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy (which he very nearly did, finishing second).

Instead, Te'o was driven by the desire to restore Notre Dame to past seasons of glory, to help guide, and carry, the program back to the top of the sport's mountain, to a peak it had once regularly inhabited, but had failed to visit in recent memory.

A projected late first-round pick, he could have jumped to the NFL after his junior year, embarking early upon what figures to be a very productive professional career. But the 6-foot 2-inch, 255-pounder wanted one more go-round with the Gold and Blue. One more season with his teammates, one more crack at college football's ultimate prize.

His plan, though, hit a tragic snag on September 11, when Te'o lost both his grandmother and his girlfriend, the latter to a long battle with leukemia.

(Editor's note: Since this story was first published, Notre Dame officials and Manti Te'o have called the story of the death of his girlfriend a hoax.)

Four days later, he made the journey to East Lansing, Michigan, registering 12 tackles in a win over Michigan State that helped get the Irish off to their best start in 10 years. On that evening, in front of a prime time audience that learned of his heart-wrenching story, Te'o also hauled in an ill-advised Spartan lateral that helped ice the game. He would finish the regular season with a team-high 103 tackles and seven interceptions, the most on the squad, and tops in the nation among linebackers. With one more game left in his collegiate career, don't expect the 21-year-old to allow this final opportunity to slip through his hands.

3. Destiny: Already playing with house money, this evening's contest caps an improbable season, which for the Gold and Blue began amidst the green of Ireland, as an unranked team. Four-plus months, 12 wins, a pair of overtime scares and a decade's worth of magical moments later, the Fighting Irish find themselves right back where they started: undefeated.

Certainly it wasn't easy, and didn't happen without a handful of improbable occurrences and some help along the way (thanks Baylor and Stanford.) As talented as Alabama is, Notre Dame has been at least as fortunate. As they saying goes, "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good." And who has more luck the the Irish?

Jones:
'Bama will win.

But I hate predicting games. I'm the most superstitious person when it comes to football and a prediction is against my "rules of the day".

Plus, so many mitigating factors play in that are completely unexpected. For instance, will wide receiver Kenny Bell be catching passes from AJ McCarron just weeks after breaking his leg in a game? Will Barrett Jones, who is part of one of the most successful recruiting classes in 'Bama history, be at 100% after spraining his foot during the SEC Championship Game while not missing a snap? And with the month to prepare, will Nick Saban have his team as prepared as they were during the 2012 and 2010 championship games? If the answer is yes to any, the Tide will roll.

I am nervous, anxious and just want to see a good football game with the Tide coming out on top. I think these two teams are matched up pretty well, but truly believe that the Tide's experience playing big games will be one of the factors that propels them to a third BCS Championship in four years.

The score on the field will be settled tonight but we've still got all day to fight this out in the comments. If our editor hadn't cut us at 2,000 words we'd still be going on about coaches, fight songs, stadiums, etc. So consider our thoughts the kick off , drop us a comment so we can talk our way to game time.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Kay Jones and Jason Kurtz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0221 GMT (1021 HKT)
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT