Rudy: An iTunes love story

The following story is true. The names have not been changed. The guilty are still guilty. And named. The heroes are also named. As they should be.

This story begins in D.C. on a road trip with my wife about one week before arriving in South Bend Indiana for a conference I was attending on the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame. The plan was for us to spend one of our evenings in our hotel room eating popcorn and watching the classic Notre Dame football movie, Rudy. Since we were staying at the Morris Inn, just 200 yards west of the historic Notre Dame football stadium, and since my wife had never seen the movie, this seemed a fitting part of our stay beneath the golden dome.

On our flight from New York to Chicago, my wife asked me if we in fact owned the movie Rudy, and if so, whether I had thought to bring it. My response was that, No, we did not own the movie, and that I had, in fact, thought to bring it, but as I said previously, we don’t own it. However, no problemo, says I, because it should be blindingly obvious to the casual observer that all one should have to do to obtain a copy of Rudy is to step foot in the Notre Dame Bookstore. This was my plan.

On the second day of our stay at Notre Dame, I found a gap in the schedule and beelined to the Notre Dame Bookstore where I found multiple copies of Rudy on Blu-ray, but nothing on DVD. Another search by my wife turned up nothing. A third, more thorough search by me turned up a single straggling copy of Rudy on DVD, buried beneath some other Fighting Irish propaganda. For $26! You’ve got to be kidding me. Ha, bookstore prices. Of course. Not a problem. There’s a Walmart in this town, right?

That night we ate at a nice restaurant conveniently located near a Walmart in South Bend, and after dinner we made our way to the DVD section of the world’s most popular store. No luck. Ask the clerk. Ah, they only carry Rudy during the football season. Are you serious? This is South Bend, Indiana, for crying out loud! You’re telling me there isn’t a perpetual demand for Rudy at an arbitrary Walmart in South Bend Indiana on any arbitrary day in the off-season?! Alas, this was, inexplicably, the case.

Not to fear. I noticed a video rental joint not more than a few blocks from here. Surely they will have what we need. A quick stop, one question to the clerk, and the much sought after DVD was in my hands for the sum of 54 cents. We were in business.

Back to the hotel, pop some popcorn (in the break room of the kitchen staff downstairs at the end of the hall — don’t ask), and settle in to watch the DVD on my MacBook. Approximately 10 minutes into the movie, as Rudy races with great emotion through his fellow high school seniors to hit the pad carried by his coach, the movie freezes. We stare at the grimacing Rudy, wondering if he’s going to knock the stuffing out of his coach after he unfreezes. The DVD player on my Mac gives up the ghost and dies. We restart everything, but we’ve lost about 10 minutes of the movie and the bulk of the plot setup. Unacceptable. We instead decide to watch Invictus (inspirational rugby movie, almost the same thing), and commit to plunking down the cash at the Bookstore the following evening.

One day later I scan the DVD shelf in the Notre Dame Bookstore, but find that the random copy of Rudy that I had rustled up a day before has apparently been snagged at what now seems like a bargain basement price of $26. We roll back to the hotel, somewhat dejected, unwilling to romp around town further trying to find a local establishment with enough Fighting Irish school spirit to stock a functional copy of the best Notre Dame football movie of all time.

This is when the voice of Steve Jobs comes into my mind, and I realize that there may yet be a way. I jump on iTunes, and quickly locate the heretofore elusive movie. For just $9.99 (which now feels like an absolute bargain) I secure a downloadable QuickTime movie, consuming only 1.29 GB of hard disk space in the process. No physical disc to secure in some random building in a random town. No plastic to scratch and corrupt. Just a file. Just bytes flowing through the tubes to my laptop and the movie playing for me in my hotel room.

In about the time it took my wife to secure popped popcorn (downstairs, down the hall, etc.), we were watching the elusive movie on my Mac. The beautiful thing is that it may as well have been on my iPad, sitting with the squirrels under the trees near Touchdown Jesus. But it happened to be in the hotel room, on my Mac.

As always, the brilliance of Apple is not, strictly speaking, the engineering (although that’s clearly necessary). It’s figuring out what I want to do, plus when, where and how I want to do it, and then just making it ridiculously easy for me to do that. Most companies ignore that little part because it doesn’t feel like academic or engineering rigor. It’s not “the hard stuff.” But at the end of the day, it’s really just about the only thing that actually matters.

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

2 thoughts on “Rudy: An iTunes love story

  1. Just re-read this article after a long break since writing it. Something is nagging at me, and I don’t know how to resolve it.

    Near the end I state the following: “…consuming only 1.29 GB of hard disk space in the process.” Okay, so… I meant this to be ironic. 1.29 GB of disk space is a significant chunk. Even on a 1 TB disk, it’s, um… hang on… a fraction of a percent. Yeah, that’s not so much. But on a 300 GB MacBook Pro hard disk such as the one I wrote this post on, it’s like… um… a fraction of a percent. But a much, much larger fraction, like… 3ish times bigger. Ish. Still, if you pull down 300 movies from iTunes you’re pretty much cooked a few movies ago.

    I have a writing philosophy that one should trust the reader and not explain every cleverness or attempt at humor. But in this case, I think I missed. The average reader probably did something like this, “Only 1.29 GB?! Is this guy an idiot?!” Distinct possibility. But in any case I feel much better now. :)

  2. Not sure if other bloggers do this, but I compulsively re-edit my articles, even when it’s been a couple years since I originally posted it. I try to limit my ex post facto changes to heinous mistakes and/or embarrassingly poor word choices.

    I returned from the campus of Notre Dame this past weekend and decided to re-read my “Rudy” post from my last trip there. I was struck for the first time by my reference to “Notre Dame University,” which is wrong. The name of the university is “The University of Notre Dame du Lac” typically shortened to “The University of Notre Dame.” For most people (including me two years ago, apparently) the difference doesn’t mean anything. But it would be as goofy to refer to my schools as “Iowa University,” “The University of Brigham Young” and “The University of Oregon State.” It’s not a huge difference, but it’s just not right, and it shows ignorance, with a light sprinkling of disrespect.

    Dale Carnegie pointed out many years ago that the most important word in anyone’s language is their own name. It’s critical that you get a person’s name right because it shows you care, and the inverse is strongly implied. As important as someone’s own name is, the names of the institutions with which they affiliate is also critically important.

    So, to my friends and colleagues at the University of Notre Dame, and to Irish fans throughout the world, my apologies for the previous oversight. My ignorance (at least in this small domain) has been mitigated. The school name is now correct in this story.

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