By Lewis Burik
It’s no secret to anyone familiar with myself or this podcast that I have no particular tenderness for the University of Notre Dame. I’m not a fan of the school. Not a fan of the athletic department. And most especially not a fan of the football program. The reason I’ve never liked the ND football program has everything to do with the bullshit that happens OFF the field at ND. The history and pageantry of ND football more frequently comes across to me as arrogance and delusion.
The peak of this mountain of bullshit is that notorious sign that every sports fan has seen a million times. The sign the good Catholic boys of South Bend slap before every home game at Notre Dame Stadium. Play Like a Champion Today. The dumbest five words in sports. What could be more arrogant or misplaced? A program that hasn’t won a championship in 29 years imploring their players to be what they simply have not been.
The sign shouldn’t say “Play Like A Champion Today”. Slapping a sign pre-game doesn’t make you any more of a champion than watching Al Pacino’s halftime speech from Any Given Sunday does. The sign should say “Be Who You Are. Be Who You Trained To Be.” Teams prepare to be champions long before the pregame warm-up. A 4-8 football team that slaps a sign is still a 4-8 football team.
Now when I saw Jon Lester pitching this weekend with the acronym “PLACT” on the brim of his cap, I couldn’t help but smile. The “PLACT” acronym stood for “Play Like a Champion Today.” Lester was wearing it to honor his late uncle, a Notre Dame alum and Domer for life. And I absolutely loved it.
Lewis, what the hell?! I thought you just said the motto made you sick? I thought it reminded you of entitlement and arrogance?
So why did it not bother me when Lester shows off this motto I find so vile? Here’s why, punk. Jon Lester IS a champion. Jon Lester did what it took to become a champion. He trained like a champion. He prepared like a champion. He earned the confidence of a champion.
And guess, what? He’s not alone. Anthony Rizzo is a champion. Ben Zobrist is a champion. Jason Heyward is a champion. Willson Contreras is a champion. This team is full of guys who knows what it takes, who have done what it takes, to be great.
It’s Julaugust. The pennant race is here. Every game matters. We don’t have to do anything crazy. We don’t have to slap some stupid sign in the dugout. We have to Be Who We Are. We have to Be Who We Trained To Be. We have to Play Like Champions.