Maybe it’s a good thing Catholics vs. Convicts won’t be released this week, because the current versions of Miami and Notre Dame are far short of that standard.
Or maybe rousing recollections of rivals who combined for three national titles in a row might liven up Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. meeting between the Hurricanes (4-3, 1-3 ACC) and Fighting Irish (2-5).
The Post viewed an advance copy of the 30 for 30 documentary, which will be screened Friday night on Notre Dame’s campus and shown on ESPN after the Heisman Trophy ceremony Dec. 10.
Director and narrator Patrick Creadon, a Notre Dame alum, tells an Irish-centric tale of the leadup to the 1988 game, weaving in backstory about the bootleg t-shirt that changed the lives of his group of friends.
Longtime fans are well-versed in the main plot. It begins with Notre Dame wanting revenge for the 1985 game, when Jimmy Johnson told players to “pour it on” outgoing coach Gerry Faust in the Orange Bowl. Johnson explains his teams had too many close calls — “Hail Flutie,” for example — to let up. Miami fans predisposed to dislike the Irish will be irked by local TV anchor Jack Nolan, who compares Miami’s 58-7 rout to a car running over “a cute little baby deer,” and defensive tackle Chris Zorich, who blasts Miami for “ruining” college sports with taunting and celebrating.
Miami offensive tackle Leon Searcy, one of several UM people interviewed, throws shots at the “spoiled, briefcase-carrying prep boys,” while NBC host Chuck Todd, a Miami native, tosses a sarcastic barb: “How dare Miami throttle Notre Dame in the way Notre Dame used to throttle other people?”
But this isn’t The U. For the first time in a 30 for 30, Miami plays the foil. The main arc concerns the rebuilding of Notre Dame under Holtz, at first painting the Hurricanes as the unknown bully and then showing common ground between the programs. Miami had a Catholic priest on the sidelines, after all, and its starting quarterback, Steve Walsh, was an Irish Catholic from the upper Midwest.
The t-shirt itself, with its controversial characterization, is viewed negatively. Barry Alvarez, Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator at the time, declined to discuss it on camera.
“Wow,” said UM running back Cleveland Gary, who seems to have never viewed one before. “That’s harsh.”
Todd, as he is handed a t-shirt: “I still get angry about this. And the more I think about it, the angrier I get.”
“The whole thing is ridiculous,” said Dr. Richard Pierce, a Notre Dame professor of American Studies. “It’s not very Catholic.”
The film dips a toe into the social issues behind the slogan and the rivalry at large, but largely sticks to sports — and how college kids don’t always make the right decisions. Those decisions can, however, be quite lucrative.
The shirt was gas for a growing fire, which burned hottest in South Bend on Oct. 15, 1988. Of the 100-minute film, about a half-hour is spent on the game itself. Memories are sharpest about the pregame scuffle, Miami’s unsuccessful fake-punt and of course, Gary’s costly “phantom fumble” (“George Streeter is an immoral liar!” Dan Le Batard shouts in his trademark style about the Notre Dame defensive back’s recollection of the play).
“Had we had [official] replay, Lou Holtz would have never won a national championship, and I’d have had another one,” Johnson said. “Simple.”
Those coaches are two stars of the show, with former players recalling several memorable locker-room speeches. Before the 1988 game, Holtz told his players to “save Jimmy Johnson’s ass for me” if a street fight broke out afterward. He now laughs off that pugnacious request. “Jimmy Johnson would whip me,” he noted.
Many in those rougher days spoke words they would later regret, but it all added to the high-stakes fun. The memories make Saturday’s game, with Mark Richt and Brian Kelly coaching teams well out of the national title picture, seem a lot more tame.