|Win one for the boosters, Nike & BCS|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
Seventy-five years ago this week, legend has it, Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne delivered the most famous pep talk in sports history when he told his team to go out and win one for the Gipper. As immortalized in "The Knute Rockne Story," Rockne fired up his team with these words:
"Well, boys, I haven't a thing to say to you. Played a great game ... all of you. Great game. I guess we can't expect to win 'em all.
"I'm going to tell you something I've kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew George Gipp. It was long before your time. But you know what a tradition he is at Notre Dame. And the last thing he said to me -- 'Rock,' he said, 'some time when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they've got and to win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock,' he said, 'but I'll know about it -- and I'll be happy.'
Guess you had to be there.
Obviously, times have changed in the past 75 years. The Gipper speech never would fire up a modern team. That's why Page 2 has updated it for today's 21st century coach ...
"Well, boys, I haven't a thing to say to you. You've pretty much sucked in every aspect of the game. And worse, GameDay was here for it, and you played so bad that Corso put the other mascot's head on during the second quarter. In fact, you played so bad and we're so far behind that even if we did come back in the second half, we won't be able to pile up enough points to impress the pollsters and keep us from sliding out of the BCS picture. You've pretty much ruined the season for us, and the alumni will be interviewing Neuheisel for my job by Tuesday morning, and Phil Knight won't even return my calls by Thursday, let alone approve my new $300,000 shoe deal.
"So, I'm going to tell you something that I've kept to myself for years. None of you knew George Gipp. He's just some kid I recruited back at my previous school. He was honorable mention Parade All-America, and I blew a lot of smoke up his butt -- promised him he would start his freshman year, swore I would build the offense around him -- you know, the usual recruiting bullcrap. Then we got him on campus and switched him to defensive back, and he got buried in the depth charts. Never played a down. It didn't matter much because I took the job here the next year, and he was stuck where he was because the NCAA said he couldn't transfer without losing his eligibility for a year. He dropped out and tried out for the XFL but never amounted to anything.
"Anyway, I ran into Gipp one day in the airport on the way to a $50,000 speaking gig. The guy's a freaking barista at a Starbucks, can you believe that? And when he takes my order, he says to me, 'Coach,' he says, 'sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys and you guys aren't going to cover the spread, tell them to get used to feeling miserable because they'll be lucky to get a Liberty Bowl bid -- and I don't think I need to tell you how much Memphis bites in late December. I don't know where I'll be then, Coach, but I'll be able to see the highlights on SportsCenter and I'll know about it ... and I'll be happy.'
"Obviously, I don't want to give that creep the satisfaction. That's why I'm authorizing the clerks at Lids and the Foot Locker to double your line of credit if you come back in the second half and beat these guys. And if you can tack on some meaningless points in the final minutes to make the score look good for the BCS geeks, we might be able to see about getting you those Escalades from the local Cadillac dealer. But I'm not making any promises.
"All right. Go get 'em. And, one more thing. I know it's muddy out there but make sure every swoosh is always visible on your uniform."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.