The gravelly narration played over a 22-second video, a slideshow of statues, stadiums and unmistakable campus landmarks. The camera arrived on a figure draped in a teasing shadow, the anonymous player refusing to spill his secret.
“Time marches on,” the voice read in Wednesday’s video, published on the Notre Dame football program’s official Twitter feed. “Fads fade away. One thing doesn’t change: God. Country. Notre Dame.”
The video, tweeted strategically to promote the unveiling of Notre Dame’s 2016 Shamrock Series uniforms on Thursday, addressed an uncomfortable theme:
At Notre Dame, some folks don’t want it. They don’t like it. If change is the enemy of tradition, then change can stay away. That was the case when Notre Dame Stadium adopted a turf field in 2014, simultaneously uprooting chunks of its past and absorbing the arrows of its critics. It’s why, for so many years, the prospect of a video board was vetoed with a fervent vigor.
But in a program so steeped in its past, the Shamrock Series duds represent the future. They are the gaudy blue, gold and green embodiment of the fads passively dismissed above. Sometimes, they are hard to look at, like the green-on-green-on-green avalanche at Fenway Park last season or the white leprechaun stamped on an unfamiliar blue helmet in 2012.
But when it comes to the Shamrock Series uniforms, here’s the thorny truth:
The folks making the decisions don’t care what you think.
You, the average fan. You, the anonymous critic. Sure, you’d probably prefer the unblemished original. So would I. Notre Dame’s traditional gold helmet and clean blue jerseys are recognizable everywhere from here to Hong Kong, a symbol of simplicity and elegance in a world where highlighter yellow eye sores have infected our uniform color schemes.
But these uniforms aren’t for you (or for me, for that matter).
They’re for the players. They’re for the recruits. They’re for the people who will win games this season and in the future, carrying that tradition forward.
And if they like olive green and gold gothic lettering, which was the unveiled combination for this season’s match up against Army in San Antonio on Nov. 12, then Under Armour has done its job.
Its job was to satisfy its target demographic, which is Notre Dame’s current and future rosters. Its job was to show kids who are considering the Irish that, yes, this program knows how to balance its hefty legacy with a little progressive flair.
Doing its job, of course, will produce some inevitable side effects. Some fans will not approve. Their tweets, emails and letters will reflect that. A break from tradition, however brief, is bound to start some fires.
Such is the price of maintaining the program’s image. Balancing tradition and innovation requires a little change.