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George Bernard Shaw said there are two tragedies in life. One is not getting your heart's desire. The other is getting it.
Gerry Faust, an excitable man who was into wrinkled clothes before wrinkled was cool, got his heart's desire one day five years ago when he was plucked from a Catholic high school in Cincinnati and given, of all things, the job as football foreman at Notre Dame, a place he loved from his bent nose to his tingling toes. But, sadly, as hard as he has tried—and nobody has tried harder—he has not won often enough. So Jeer, Jeer for Old Notre Dame. The Faust Years are undoubtedly over, which proves that heart's desires don't always come out the way you dream.
Final rites to Faust's Irish-missed career were administered on Saturday in State College, Pa., where No. 1 Penn State rained fire on Notre Dame under a weepy sky, winning 36-6. If Faust isn't as good as gone now, the Golden Dome is made of RC Cola caps. Did you have to win today to keep your job?
Faust, smiling: "Nahhhh. But it would have made it easier."
Faust could find a gleam in the eye of a hurricane. Less than an hour after Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions had handed the Irish their worst defeat in a dozen seasons, Faust was back in from the rain, back up to his original height and brightness, slapping backs, toying with reporters, dancing in the dragon's jaw. Hold everything. Had Faust tuned in the wrong game? Hadn't this been Notre Dame's chance to save a season, maybe a career? Hadn't the Irish just been Pennsylvania rail tied and run squat over? Hadn't Penn State scored on seven straight possessions? Did you say retirement party? Hadn't this been another patented Irish-over-the-Irish loss: five turnovers, four of which turned into 16 Penn State points? Hadn't this just blown the Irish out of New Year's Day fun and sun? Hadn't Faust, like Huck Finn, just witnessed his own interment services?
Not to worry, dearly beloved. For Faust, every mushroom cloud has a silver lining. "Why am I like this?" he said, smiling. "Cuz with this job, I don't have much choice. You'd go crazy." If Faust is ever given a last meal, he'll order seconds to take home.
Maybe that's what will make Faust's a fond fare-thee-well. For Faust is everybody's favorite uncle, one blue sock and one brown, unraveling rapturous tales and pulling quarters out of your ear. Faust defuses sportswriters with banana splits, outhugs Tommy Lasorda, prays at the Grotto and looks both ways before crossing streets.
No Irish coach has lost more than Faust, but none has worked harder. Once, he went to a coaching clinic in Hawaii. But unlike any sane person, who would have made a vacation out of the trip, he flew home the same day he arrived. Last year, Faust worked until one in the afternoon the day he was to have knee surgery. He was back at his desk the next day, foot propped on a pillow.
But much as you love the Faustian uncle, you can't afford him. Neither can Notre Dame. The scenario will be something like this: Soon after season's end, Notre Dame will call a press conference. Palms will sweat. Collars will shrink. Tongues will tie. Who will be able to stand the expression on that face? "He is such a nice man," says tailback Allen Pinkett. "It's a shame his livelihood depends on whether a bunch of college kids win a football game."
What will be his new livelihood? Faust won't hang on as a fund-raiser for the university as had been rumored, school officials say. Fund-raising at Notre Dame isn't just handshakes and attending funerals. It's a slick science that raised $34 million in 1984. Nor will Faust likely become a recruiter for Notre Dame.