Zach says 'Yes': To me, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are synonymous with Chicago. Chicago is an Irish town. From the North Side to the South, and despite our dueling baseball allegiances, our Irishness and, on a broader extent, Catholicness bond this city. My whole life, Notre Dame has just been an extension of that idea. Irish. Catholic. Chicago. South Bend. It's the same. Our brothers to the east.
Historically, Chicago is a city of immigrants. Notre Dame is likewise an university of immigrants. Dating back to its inception and those literal fist fights with the KKK, Notre Dame has defended the weak and racially loathed while providing a safe haven for the neglected. Chicago was built on those principles.
But eff all that. Lets talk football! The Irish football team is also super cool and pretty much a college version of the Chicago Bears.
Manti Te'o is Brian Urlacher: Dependable, intelligent and the faces of their respected defenses and teams.
Stephon Tuitt is Julius Peppers: Cool -- Scorpion mask! -- and extremely athletic. (Tuitt has seven sacks in six games.)
Cierre Wood (or Theo Riddick, if you're into that kind of thing) is Matt Forte: Hole-finding, cut-backing, speed freaks.
Prince Shembo is Lance Briggs: Underappreciated but just as talented as, if not more so than, their more famous linebacking amigos.
Tyler Eifert is (the tight end version of) Brandon Marshall: Big, super athletic, a matchup nightmare.
George Atkinson III is Devin Hester: Always a threat to bring it to the hizzy. (Hizzy, Ricky? Hizzy?)
Both defenses are insanely talented, using their front fours to force poorly thrown balls into the hands of their greedy secondaries while shutting down the run with their talented group of linebackers. The ND defense hasn't given up a touchdown in their last four games and hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season, something Stanford is all too aware of. The Bears have a similar reputation.
Notre Dame also has a pair of polarizing quarterbacks! Jay Cutler, please stand up. Tommy Rees and Everett Golson have both shown their ability to be Cutler -- the good and the bad. Furthermore, both O-lines have been somewhat suspect throughout the season. It's actually weird how alike these teams are, right down to their talented kickers.
Now, I'm sure you're going to be like, "Notre Dame isn't relevant, durpppppppp", but seriously, they are 5th in the BCS and are a national brand*, like it or not. Like I mentioned above, their Irish-Catholic heritage -- and their national TV coverage -- bridges the country. They are a story everywhere. I'm sorry if that upsets you, really, I am, but it should not be something that stops you from appreciating the Bears of college.
Besides, what else are you going to do, root for Northwestern or Illinois**?
**Please note South Bend is an entire hour closer to Chicago than Champaign-Urbana.
Ricky says 'No': You make exactly one good point, Zach, and it's the final one: this state doesn't exactly offer a host of attractive college football teams for casual fans to latch onto. Consider that Illinois completed one -- 1 -- pass for positive yards in the second half against Michigan on Saturday on the way to a 45-0 beat-down, the first time the Illini had been held scoreless since 2009. You should not watch their games under any circumstances. Northwestern is nice and fun in the way all quaint, non-threatening entities are, but it's hard to commit yourself to something that provides a snowflake's chance in Hell of paying off at the end. Can you be talked into getting down with some MACtion? As a working rule: only if you're an alum, or not until bowl season. Do your thing, Huskies, but you do not belong to Chicago.
And neither does Notre Dame, I say. Zach's boasts of *Catholicism* and *ethnicity* tying Chicago together are completely nonsensical. I should know: my last name is enough of a hint at my family's heritage, and I attended Catholic school in the south suburbs until college. If anyone was to be subject to falling for Notre Dame, it would be myself and the people I grew up with. But here's the problem: despite threats of Notre Dame's "national brand", I can't say I know too many actual Notre Dame fans. If the Fighting Irish really were this populist behemoth they're made out to be, one would think the suburban Chicago Catholic school system would be breeding ground for obnoxious little leprechauns. That was the hardly the case. I don't entirely dismiss ND's popularity and appeal -- it's very much the reason they are a shoe-in to go to the BCS even with two losses. I think it says more about the commitment of their most hardcore fans than their casual appeal, though.
Have you ever met an ND alum? They really, really love Fighting Irish football. It's like a disease.
But enough with disproving Zach's propaganda, let's get to the real, tangible reasons you should not give a shit about Notre Dame:
1. Where's the joy in the amateur Bears?
Zach's right: the Irish and the Bears have plenty in common, I just disagree that the similarities should be viewed as a turn-on. Quite the opposite, actually. I live and die with the Bears, Bulls and White Sox just like every other fan who operates with blinders in regards to their own unique fandom, but I also get down with liberated fandom, and have the Free Darko t-shirt to prove it. But when you're adopting a team, you don't want to choose one with the same M.O. -- same strengths, same flaws -- as the teams you're genetically cursed to cheer for.
If I'm adopting a college football team in 2012, it's West Virginia or Oregon. Yeah, the BCS rankings weren't kind to either, and the Moutaineers undid a lot of goodwill by getting shellacked against Texas Tech this weekend. But the appeal is still in place: offense, offense, offense; spread and shred until there's nothing left to tear apart. The Bears will never give you that, and neither will Notre Dame. Why subject yourself to more boring-ass defensive wars? There are big plays out there, you just need to know where to look.
2. Notre Dame hasn't been that impressive
Now: 6-0 is 6-0, and no matter my take on the question at hand, this section isn't meant for blind hate. If you root for the Fighting Irish like Zach does, congrats: your football has given you something to cheer for this season, and that's long overdue. ND hasn't been this good since Brady Quinn was chucking the rock to Jeff Samardzija, and they haven't been 6-0 since 2002. My only point is that if you aren't already in the bag for ND, now is not the time to start. Part of that is because I'm not sure how good this team really is.
Each year, pundits make a big deal about ND's strength of schedule, and for good reason: the Irish seem immune to cupcakes, which is perhaps the most commendable thing the football program has going for it. But during this 6-0 start? They really haven't beaten anyone that good. Navy sucks. Michigan State? Mega-sucks. Miami hasn't proven to be worth a damn in years, and that hasn't changed this season. Notre Dame beat Michigan and Stanford by one possession at home, and Saturday's victory was plagued by a controversial ending.
What I'm saying: the luck of the Irish has been full effect this year. Again, no hate: you need to be lucky to succeed in sports, and ND has caught some breaks. I just think it will catch up with them....
3. They aren't a threat to win the National Championship
A dominating defense -- which Notre Dame certainly possesses -- can only get you so far. The symbiotic starter-closer relationship between freshman Everett Golson and junior drunk Tommy Rees has been adorable -- effective, even -- but it feels bound to collapse eventually. Can Notre Dame's offense win them a game? What happens when the Irish's defense finally yields a touchdown? Heaven forbid Notre Dame's defense gives up TWO touchdowns in a game. Would the Irish even have a chance?
The early season schedule for Notre Dame hasn't proven to be terribly difficult, but it's getting harder: a formidable BYU team looms next, as do matchups with Oklahoma and USC. I think it's possible ND can escape with only one loss, but it's more likely they finish with three. That may still be enough to garner a BCS bid, though it's hard for me to find a point in getting excited about it: they'll probably just get thrashed by an SEC school like everyone else.
* * *
I get it, Chicago: baseball shamed you into the winter, and the Bulls would seem to offer little salvation until Derrick Rose returns. The Bears are rolling, but a college team to cheer for would be nice, too. Notre Dame is just no place to find it. This program and its culture is insular. I'm not even sure they want you.
If Notre Dame belongs to you, enjoy it. If not, view with caution from afar.
Ricky O'Donnell is the editor of SB Nation Chicago. Follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Zach Martin on Twitter at @ZWMartin.