Non-Fiction / Sports

Talking Irish: The Oral History of Notre Dame Football

Written by: Steve Delsohn

Published By: It Books

Reviewed by Dorothy Doremus

            I am one big Notre Dame football fan.  I try to catch every televised game and if I am not home, I tape it to enjoy later.  It started with my grandfather, one of the biggest sports fans I have ever seen.  He would literally have two televisions and a radio going on any given day, tracking what teams were playing.  He loved the Fighting Irish and, since Saturday was my momís laundromat day, I was with grandpa.  We would sit for hours hoping that Notre Dame would win and be on their way to another national championship. 

            One of the first games I enjoyed with my grandfather came in the late 70ís, when Joe Montana was still at the school and playing quarterback for the Irish.  I always knew Mr. Montana was headed for great things down the road, he had poise and leadership that was remarkable for someone who was benched by Coach Devine for so long.   

            I think that every Notre Dame fan is missing out if they have not read this impeccable novel by Steve Delsohn.  He really sets the record straight on a number of issues and his interviews come right from the people who were involved.  It all beings with Rockneís untimely death in a plane crash and continues into the Holtz years.   

            I really liked the fact the author sets up the story in year slots.  It was a really nice touch.  That way, you are able to sort of chronicle the time frames along with what was happening on and off the field.  You can see in the years prior to the 1960ís the difference in the way the athletes behaved as opposed to the later protests of war and social policies.   

            Notre Dame is the team to beat each year and every year the team plays with one goal in mind, a national championship.  The school has the most national titles, along with the amount of Heisman trophy winners and drafts into the NFL

            The reader gets a nice in depth look at each coach since Rockne, starting with Leahy, who retired in 1953 and gave way to Terry Brennan. The author actually asks the questions to Leahy, Brennan, and Fathers Joyce and Hesburgh - it was straight talk right from the horse's mouth as to why changes were made to coaches, how players faired with change, and, most of all, to clear the air of controversy.  

            There was not always great blood between some of the players and coaches.  Let's take Joe Montana and Dan Devine for example.  Joe earned the right to play as a starter according to all the guys on the team, even coming into games to pull out a win against North Carolina, but he still rode the bench.  Rick Slager - I know what you are all thinking: who? - well, Rick was one of Dan Devine's draft picks and I guess he wanted his guys getting the snaps, instead of Ara Parseghian's (the prior coach).  Well, we all know what a class act Joe Montana is and he really doesnít speak of the matter publicly.   

            These are the kinds of insights that make Talking Irish: The Oral History of Notre Dame Football a real treat.  You have players like Joe Theismann, Bob Golic, Johnny Lujack, Ed Mieszkowski, Johnny Lattner, Paul Hornung and Wayne Edmonds.  Not to mention the coaches, and there were some real gems here, not just Rockne but Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian, Frank Leahy and Dan Devine, all with national championships under their respective terms. 

            I cannot say enough about this book, it is a must read for any die heard Notre Dame fan.  It is only 364 pages long and such a quick read you really want to make sure you donít miss something by getting too enthralled with it.  I found myself on the edge waiting for the next chapter to see what was going to happen.  So donít miss out - pick up a copy of Talking Irish: The Oral History of Notre Dame Football today.


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