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NO. 3 USC VS. NO. 6 NOTRE DAME | Bill Dwyre

Fertilizer helps this grass story grow and grow

November 25, 2006|Bill Dwyre

It is the day of the USC-Notre Dame game, and we are still struggling with the shame and confusion of Grassgate.

The story ran in this paper Tuesday. It said that a Trojans football player had injured his knee in the USC-Notre Dame game last year at South Bend because the Irish had allowed the grass on the field to grow too long.

They had done so, it said, because that was the only way they could slow the Trojans' speedy running backs.

It said, in essence, that the Fighting Irish had fought dirty.

Having gone to the school back in the days of horse and buggy and leather helmets, we were stunned.

A fellow alum called to say the story sounded like USC whining. We defended the Trojans, saying they never did that after victories.

In our day, there was never any thought to getting an edge in the USC game. We were honored, just being included on the schedule of a big, fancy school full of the sons and daughters of the beautiful people of Los Angeles. Maybe if our boys were lucky, they would get to see a movie star.

Some of the boys never got the chance to make the trip here, of course, because they had to stay back in South Bend to study for final exams. Football was just a nice physical activity to get the cobwebs out after a hard day in the classroom. At least that's how Fathers Rockne, Leahy and Parseghian put it.

We were, after all, little more than a collection of midsized farm boys, slow and thick-legged, doing our best just to stay in the game against the better-looking, much faster, bred-to-win Trojans.

There sure wasn't any sign on any hill near South Bend that read, "Hollywood." Matter of fact, there aren't any hills near South Bend. Just cows and fields.

Golly, maybe one of our boys would even get to play against the next John Wayne. Now that's something to tell our nine kids and 35 grandkids some night after a pig roast on the farm in Dubuque.

This Grassgate was so disturbing, so confusing. It raised so many questions.

If the Trojans player got hurt because the grass was so long, why didn't more players get hurt? Didn't they all play on the same field? Maybe there were "Trojan Injury High-Grass Zones" that were labeled in tiny special Gaelic code.

If you are slow, dumpy and thick, as all Irish players are in comparison with the Trojans thoroughbreds, does that mean that you still can't take a bad step in the heavy grass, as the Trojans player did?

And if you can, doesn't that make this whole thing even more shameful? Doesn't that mean that our coach, Father Weis, was putting his own team at risk for bad steps in high grass too?

Then, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall when Father Weis goes to confess that and says to Father Parseghian, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I let the grass grow too long in Notre Dame Stadium..."

Another puzzler. If the grass was too long, how was that famous Trojans running back able to get enough footing, without suffering an injury, to push that famous Trojans quarterback into the end zone for the winning, albeit illegal, touchdown?

One fears the beginning of an escalating turf war.

What if the Trojans, in retaliation, grease the chalk lines today? Fill the Irish sideline with quicksand? What if the schools refuse to take the field until Tiger Woods uses a Stimp Meter at the 50-yard line.

We can only hope for an amicable solution, maybe some L.A.-style negotiation. USC's agronomist can call Notre Dame's agronomist and they can do lunch. Perhaps a picnic.

When they are done, and the results are leaked, we expect to find out that this has all been a lot of fertilizer.

*

Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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