Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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4 SEPT. 19, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED T here is a made-for-TV movie from 1976 called "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble." The film is based on a true story and it casts a 22-year- old John Travolta in his ini- tial lead acting role as a teen- age boy, Tod, who spent the first 18-plus years of his life protectively quarantined 24 hours day in a plastic-lined space after being born with a severely compromised im- mune system. Inspirationally, at the mov- ie's conclusion, Tod survived his years of loneliness and quarantine, left his "bubble," and triumphantly rode into the sunset on a horse with Gina, the love of his life. Drawing loose comparisons between a 1976 drama-ro- mance movie and a 2020 foot- ball season may seem like a reach, because it probably is. But as the Notre Dame football players use their own "bub- ble" approach to try to stay isolated from coronavirus infection and out of quarantine, maybe some paral- lels from a 44-year-old film still ap- ply, especially for one Irish player in particular. Brian Kelly is so seriously taking an isolationist approach to guard against COVID-19 infection, the Irish head coach has placed quarterback Ian Book into kind of a "double bub- ble" quarantine to detach his third- year starter from many football and academic engagements that might bring Book into close contact with others, trying to keep him free of in- fection risk and on the field. "We have Ian in a very different situation, where he is by himself," Kelly explained of Book's protocols compared to other Irish players. The news of Book's intense isola- tion came during Duke week when Kelly was asked about the concern of losing all three of his scholarship quarterbacks to quarantine in one shot because this trio works and studies every day closely together within the same position group. As a cautionary tale, in the Football Championship Subdivision Kickoff Classic Aug. 30 — the opening night of college football in 2020 — Aus- tin Peay State University made the trip to Montgomery, Ala., without its three top long snappers, reportedly because of COVID-19 quarantines. Having no reliable long snapper is one thing — though Austin Peay's kicking game became a costly com- edy of errors in a 24-17 loss to Central Arkansas — but imagine making a game-day trip without any scholar- ship quarterbacks? That's the world Notre Dame is guarding against. Kelly insists that through masking and social distancing in the meeting rooms, along with a heightened at- tention to strict protocols and keep- ing a wide proximity during practice, there's a confidence that his quarter- backs are well shielded from being sidelined through infection and/or contract trace quarantine. "On the field, it's quite difficult for a quarterback to be caught in con- tact tracing. They're not that close relative to contact," Kelly explained. "They're not having contact with each other, [the] physical contact that would rule them out." To the credit of the Irish coaches and players, they've collectively done everything necessary so far to keep the roster intact and this season on track. "That requires maturity, it requires great leadership," Kelly said. "It requires guys that have a championship mindset and are building on that." Monitoring the well-being of all Irish players is obvi- ously paramount for Kelly and Co., but with quality depth within every position group, sans quarterback, the value of keeping Book healthy is magnified this sea- son to keep title hopes alive. The experience drop-off be- tween Book and his sopho- more backup Brendon Clark — who has one collegiate ca- reer passing attempt — can't be ignored. And Book, a graduate stu- dent, wholeheartedly supports a reg- imen of living in his own "bubble" — which brings all online classes and spending each day sun up to sun down in the safety and sanitized en- vironment of the football facility and his off-campus home with no room- mates. It's a sacrifice he considers a blessing after wondering if there would even be a football season. "When the other conferences were deciding to cancel, just have faith and stick with it," Book shared of his offseason feelings. "Because if you do play, you would hate to not be ready for it. … I would hate to miss a game because of testing positive or being in a contact tracing." Travolta parlayed his fictional "bubble" role from five decades ago into a legendary and award-winning career as a Walk-of-Fame actor. Perhaps Book can do the same and parlay his real-life "bubble" role into an award-winning 2020 season and a legendary football career up the line. ✦ Ian Book Is Embracing His 'Bubble' Existence UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at The Fighting Irish have taken steps to keep Book detached from many football and academic engagements that might bring him into close con- tact with others. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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