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Friday at 4: I have made mistakes, but not watching Notre Dame in the Playoff will not be one of them

Notre Dame v USC

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Notre Dame Fighting Irish players celebrate after defeating USC Trojans 24-17 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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More than 15 years ago, my oldest brother broke my nose. It wasn’t his fault; I am the one who made the mistake of missing the 3-pointer. It was not a mistake to pursue the rebound, that was instinct. If I had just made the shot, though, then his forearm would not have deviated my septum as we chased the board, and this all could have been avoided. That was not my first mistake in life, but it is where this chain of poor decisions begins, a chain that will keep me in Chicago next Saturday while Notre Dame plays Clemson in the College Football Playoff in Dallas.

More than 10 years ago, it was a mistake to take my Spanish placement exam while feeling many of the effects from prescribed painkillers shortly following surgery to correct that deviated septum. That induced fog led to testing out of only one semester of Spanish in college, one still needing to be taken.

It was not a mistake to forgo focusing on that Spanish homework and instead spend hours writing women’s tennis and men’s track articles. It was a mistake to ask the Honduran two doors down the hall to proofread my very poor Spanish papers, in turn offering to read over any papers if he ever needed it, an offer that implicitly extends to wedding vows, though I have not explicitly voiced that until now, eight days before he recites them.

Nine years ago, it was not a mistake to take on an increased workload at the school paper, peaking that fall with features on Notre Dame seniors Dan Wenger, Morrice Richardson, Paddy Mullen and Mike Anello. It was a mistake to put off finishing those articles until the night before all four were due, leading to an all-nighter writing in the dorm’s basement, a certain roommate working a table away. We found some form of productive creativity sharing that misery. Those proofreading moments thus became 4 a.m. staples.

Four years ago, it was not a mistake to invite this friend to a Christmas party the week before Notre Dame beat an SEC opponent for the first time in nine seasons. It was a mistake to rely on that all-nighter training to stay up well past bar close as he continued conversations with a girl he met that night through another friend of mine, a woman he will not call his fiancée for much longer.

Nearly a year ago, it was not a mistake to go to Chicago for an engagement party and skimp on further recruiting preparations the weekend before February’s Signing Day, as no amount of foresight would have expected the Signing Day flip from cornerback Noah Boykin. It was a mistake to be told the subsequent wedding would be after football season and not clarify football season can extend into January. Then again, that would have been nothing but selfish. This timing works best for the many family members needing to use passports to attend.

In August, it was a mistake to attend a Notre Dame preseason practice and interpret Dexter Williams shouting praise for Avery Davis as Williams trying to dig his way out of trouble when it was really a senior self-assured in his ability soon to be unleashed. It was a mistake a few days later to hear reports of Brandon Wimbush’s accuracy reaching new lows and think the combination of Williams’ step backward and Wimbush’s consistent inconsistency would doom the Irish season long before a wedding the day of the Playoff, not even pondering the possibility of Ian Book.

Following Notre Dame’s 272 rushing yards against Stanford, it was a mistake to think, “Let me see that against a real rush defense.” The Irish faced worthwhile defensive fronts against both Northwestern and Florida State and combined for 959 total yards against them.

It was a mistake to see the 14-6 deficit against Pittsburgh and think I may not have to spend the idle week mentally readying myself to tell my boss I have plans Dec. 29, plans that cannot be moved, cannot be delegated, will not be minimized. Notre Dame beat the Panthers, and NBC could not have been more understanding. “Hey, life happens sometimes.”

It was not a mistake to set up his bachelor party for Notre Dame’s week off, even if that led to a bout of food poisoning ruling out any personal travel to San Diego. It was a mistake to assume three days of living in New Orleans would not yield such a result.

It was a mistake to think Drue Tranquill might miss a game or even two with a high ankle sprain and thus endanger the reliability of the Irish defense, the unit that set the elevated floor for the season. And it was a mistake to ever think the fifth-year linebacker would let USC’s 10-0 first-half lead end Notre Dame’s unbeaten run.

Mostly, it was a mistake not to keep my elbow tucked on that 3-pointer in 2002.

It will not be a mistake to stand next to my best friend next Saturday. My parents have four sons, but this is my closest brother. I am self-aware enough to know I am hard to tolerate. That would read impossible to tolerate if not for one exception. For 10 years, no one has stood up for me, next to me, along with me every day like the man who first introduced me to rum. This is where abstract words like “caring” and “loyal” and “good-humored” get thrown around, but let that one clear example take their place. The least I can do is spend next Saturday at his side with a flask of his whiskey in my tuxedo pocket.

Worry not, few readers, one of the talented “College Football Talk” writers will fill this space next weekend. Let’s hope my boss does not read that excellent work and compare it to this space’s usual drivel.

That is a risk I will take to attend the most important wedding of my life. I will almost certainly make mistakes at its reception, but being there instead of Dallas will not be among them.

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