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And Another Thing


History lesson

Hey, I get where Brian Kelly is coming from. It ain't history unless it's a bunch of dudes in powdered wigs signing the Declaration of Independence, right?

Michigan-Notre Dame playing football happened yesterday, going up against that. So you can give Kelly a pass for saying in his Sunday presser he thinks of the Irish and the Wolverines fighting over a pig's bladder as just a "big regional game," not the stuff of archives.

Well. Unless you consider that the first time Notre Dame and Michigan met on 100 yards of turf, they probably were fighting over a pig's bladder.

And unless you consider that the day it happened -- Nov. 23, 1887 -- Ulysses S. Grant had been dead just two years; William Tecumseh Sherman, Sitting Bull, Mark Twain and Fair Catch Corby were still alive; and Knute Rockne had not yet been born.

Grover Cleveland was President of the United States. John L. Sullivan was the heavyweight champion of the world. Orville and Wilbur Wright were 16 and 20 years old, respectively, and were still 16 years away from Kitty Hawk.

So, yeah. Move along, history nerds. Nothing to see here.

Nothing to dwell on, such as Michigan's 8-0 victory in that first meeting. Or Notre Dame's 11-3 victory in 1909. Or the bitter rivalry between Rockne and Fielding Yost of Michigan -- the college game's first Bear Bryant, who was born just six years after the end of the Civil War, during the administration of, yes, Ulysses S. Grant.

Nah. No history in that.

And, listen, this is not necessarily to mock Kelly, who was only downplaying things because Saturday is the last time Notre Dame and Michigan play for the foreseeable future. So of course Kelly played the good company man. Of course he said, you know, guys, this is a big game and all, but there's nothing about it particularly that echoes down the ages.

And yet the echoes all but drowned him out, even as he was saying that. Yost. Rockne. Leahy. Holtz. Schembechler. Angelo Bertelli and Desmond Howard and Tim Brown; Rocket Ismail and Charles Woodson and, yes, Reggie Ho.

Who was just a 5-foot-5, 135-pound slip of a thing from Hawaii until the night in 1988 when he kicked four field goals to beat Michigan 19-17, and thereby passed into all of that crowded Notre Dame lore forever.

There's no statue today of Ho outside Notre Dame Stadium, though there is one of his coach, Holtz. And Rockne, of course. And Leahy. And even Fair Catch Corby.

Still, that night, and Reggie Ho's eternal place in it, are in the history books, alongside Ronald Reagan, who was president then, and LeBron James, who was 3 years old, and Brian Kelly, who was a 27-year-old assistant at Grand Valley State at the time.

That's in the history books, too, by the way.

Not that any of this has a thing to do with history, of course.

Ben Smith's blog.