Saturday, November 10, 2007

Unnecessarily Bitter Post About Notre Dame

I'm sorry, but Notre Dame is currently losing to the Air Force Academy by the score of 31-10. In case you were wondering, the Air Force Academy's team is made up of non-scholarship student, whereas Notre Dame has more than 100 scholarship players. Last week, they lost 46-44 to the Naval Academy, whose team is similarly made up of non-scholarship student athletes.

Notre Dame's current record is 1-8. Their only victory came against unranked UCLA, who, due to injuries, were forced to start their third-string walk-on quarterback. That game, Notre Dame managed fewer than 150 yards of offense, and won solely because UCLA turned the ball over seven times, five of which were the courtesy of the aforementioned walk-on quarterback. This season, Notre Dame has suffered blowout losses against Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and USC. Prior to their close loss to the Naval Academy, they last lost nine of their previous 10 games by an average of 24 points. Notre Dame's teams have sustained very few injuries over the past two seasons, while three of its opponents have been forced to play without their starting quarterbacks.

Prior to their high-scoring game against the Naval Academy, Notre Dame was ranked 118th out of the 119 Division I teams in total offense, 119th in rushing offense, and 112th in points scored.

Everything about Notre Dame's football program pisses me off. I hate the fact that they refuse to play ranked teams anywhere other than their native South Bend, Indiana. I hate the fact that, due to Notre Dame's lucrative exclusive contract with NBC, opposing teams have a financial stake in going along with it. I hate the fact that Notre Dame markets itself as a sort of 'home team' to Irish Americans, despite the fact that their mascot is a crass Irish stereotype. I hate the fact that Notre Dame is highly ranked in every pre-season poll, no matter how shitty they were the previous season. I hate the fact that Notre Dame fired coach Tyrone Willingham after just three seasons, one of which was enormously successful, then replaced him with Charlie Weis, who, after two moderately successful seasons, they offered a ten-year contract worth $40 million. I hate the fact that their games are broadcast in primetime on NBC every weekend, despite the fact that they are one of the very worst teams in all of college football. I hate the fact that Eastbay has an entire page of Notre Dame football apparel. And I hate the fact that fat, middle-aged, racist working class Catholics with no personal affiliation with Notre Dame actually wear it.

Willingham is black, Weis is white. Maybe this is a coincidence. Then again, Notre Dame fans loudly and frequently wax nostalgic for the good old days of the 1950's and 1960's, when Notre Dame's teams were almost entirely white, featured white players at the so-called skilled positions, and was the de facto first-choice for every talented Roman Catholic high school player in the country. Notre Dame officials and fans throw around code words ("tradition," "history," etc.) which, without too much effort, can be understood as nostalgia for a time before more athletic black kids from the SEC and Pac-10 started kicking their asses. Paul Hornung was once the handsome, square-jawed, blond-haired, all-America, Heisman trophy-winning tailback who led Notre Dame to consecutive national championships. Hornung graduated in 1957. In the hearts of Notre Dame fans everywhere, this was the high-water mark of human civilization - Notre Dame was the best college football team in the world, and its best player was a white, Irish, Roman Catholic boy from Kentucky.

I hate the fact that they sold their much-anticipated match-up with the University of Miami in 1988 as "the Catholics versus the Convicts," then went out of their way to provoke a brawl between with the well-behaved (at least on the field) Miami Hurricanes, then, in the press, used coded language to imply that the real problem was with the out-of-control black kids from Miami, instead of with Notre Dame's well behaved Christian school boys, and I hate that they did the exact same thing against USC the following year.

I have nothing - absolutely nothing - against the University, which is one of the best Universities in the midwest. Many of my best friends went to school there. I just hate everything associated with their football, and I want them off of my television.

UPDATE: In a press conference after saturday's loss to the Air Force Academy, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis blamed the loss on his players' failure to learn enough from him. I'm sure that's going to go over well, and foresee no potentially negative repercussions.


8yearoldsdude said...

are there other types of catholics besides roman catholics? why the need for the adjective?

and yes, notre dame sucks. but i was 8 in 1988 so i don't remember much fo what you are talking about.

Jake Taylor said...

There are subtle differences between "Roman Catholic" and "catholic," but it's not really worth getting into because they're mostly interchangable. Wikipedia has some stuff on it.


Wade and I were talking about this earlier today. Very few things in the sports world piss me off more than the cult of Notre Dame football. Weis' contract is actually even more of an outrage than Wade makes it out to be - he wasn't offered a huge extension after 2 moderately successful seasons, he was offered the extension after starting off 5-2 in his FIRST SEASON. He was basically given the extension based on a close loss to then-#1 ranked USC. ND will definitely live to regret this decision.

Simply put, Weis is a cocky prick - Belichick without the skills. He talks a big game and tries to cultivate this mad scientist image for himself, but he apparently hasn't come down from the lab long enough to teach his players how to block or tackle anyone. As a result, they are getting the shit kicked out of them by EVERYONE, including two service academies that don't offer athletic scholarships.

Many ND fans are starting to turn on Weis, but the more delusional ND fans are blaming this year's failures on Weis' successor, Tyrone Willingham. The claims are that Willingham's recruiting classes were weak, and have produced inferior players who now make up the junior and senior classes. However, while the classes weren't very highly ranked, nobody has ever really defined what these rankings actually mean. A disproportionate number of top high school recruits in football - much more than, say, basketball - fail to acheive stardom in college. And even if they had #35 ranked recruiting classes nationally (which is admittedly a step down), it wouldn't excuse a 1-9 record, let alone being ranked lower than 115th in the country in pretty much all relevant offensive categories.

In the meantime, Weis' only "success" as coach (i.e., beating teams they probably should beat and getting absolutely rocked by any team ranked above #20) has come largely because of players like Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Darius Walker, and Tom Zbikowski, all of whom were recruited by Tyrone Willingham.

Basic fairness would dictate that Weis, who is about to finish his third season as coach, should get at least one more year to prove he's worthy of not getting his ass kicked to the curb. But ND's treatment of Willingham - fired after finishing 21-15 over 3 seasons - has raised the bar bigtime. While Bob Davie (Willingham's successor) and Willingham both coached a couple medicore teams, neither coached teams that were embarassing or just plain awful, and both were much less surly and obnoxious than Weis. If Weis isn't canned after this season, it'll basically prove what most people already know - that even if Willingham's firing wasn't a direct result of him being black, there was certainly subtle "he's not one of us" racism involved in the decision.

I, for one, am really enjoying this. And I'm actually pissed at UCLA for managing to lose to them.

8yearoldsdude said...

does anyone remember why rocket ismael went to the CFL? I know they offered him a lot of money, but was there a general consensus that he woudl not be an NFL success? it just seems like such a ludicris move.

and yes, the weis/willingham thing certainly looks terrible from a racial perspective.

John said...

Not sure if you've seen this article by Slate, but i'm sure Wade and Jake would enjoy it. It's title is "Charlie Weis, the worst football coach in the universe"

ShakenNeighborSyndrome said...

Jake, I think you meant predecessor instead of successor. Otherwise, I more or less agree. I don't think that Weiss is a terrible coach. I think he may be another coach who ought to cap out at the coordinator level though (like Norv Turner).

Wade Garrett said...

Hmmm, I see now that I missed a year. I knew that Weis signed his extension in the second half of a season, instead of in the off-season, but I thought that he had one complete season under his belt before he signed the extension.

Yes, Notre Dame played well in that game against USC, but they had one of the best quarterback-receiver tandems in recent college football history and were playing at home before a pumped-up crowd . . . impressive performance, but I don't think that a mere close loss is enough to warrant a ten-year extension.

What's especially problematic and racist-seeming is that Tyrone Willingham did really well in his first year as the coach of the Irish, despite the fact that he lacked any players as famous or high-profile as Brady Quinn or Jeff Samardzija. He won his first 8 games, finished the season 10-2, and became the first coach in the history of Notre Dame to win ten games in his first season. He was named the ESPN/Home Depot coach of the year, the Scripps coach of the year and the Black Coaches Association male coach of the year, an award which can go to any coach in any division 1 sport. Admittedly, he had trouble sustaining that success, but then he was fired before his best players reached their prime.

Furthermore, every argument that explains away Willingham's first-year success - that it was beginner's luck, that he was using the players recruited by the previous coach, that an otherwise healthy program just needed a new coach to 'shake things up' - apply EQUALLY TO CHARLIE WEIS.

Ugh. I admit that I follow Duke basketball, and a lot of people hate that team, and some of that hadtred is not unjustified. However, the reason they're on t al the time is bcause they're REALLY GOOD. If Duke had two back-to-back seasons where they went 8-23, you can bet they wouldn't be on tv anymore, let alone having every game broadcast during primetime with NBC's top broadcasting crew.