Monday, December 06, 2004

ESPN and the Doctrine of Preemptive War | by Dylan

One thing that is clear from the events of the past 10 or so days is that the relationship between the national media and Notre Dame has never been worse. Even at the height of Holtzian success and Dunbarian ignominy, the scorn being heaped on Notre Dame seemed less angry. Less frantic. What’s changed?

Here’s what. For the first time in almost 20 years, Notre Dame has shown that it has the institutional will to take decisive action with regard to the football program. The firing of Ty Willingham and the quick (if poorly finished) pursuit of Urban Meyer are harbingers of the re-establishment of an aggressive pro- (as opposed to anti-) football camp under the Dome. This, of course, is an intolerable situation for ESPN and their minor league of sports-talking heads around the country, because, as everyone knows, when Notre Dame wants to win, it does. What choice does the attention deficited contrarian sports media have but to go preemptively nuclear? It has been mind-blowing watching them twist and contort as they’ve tried to assert contradictory premises as lynchpins to larger arguments. Among them:

Notre Dame Is No Better Than Anybody Else

This is the key to understanding ND hatred. Kevin White made a Michael Kinsley gaffe. He told the truth. Willingham did have the team in fine academic standing. But when White made his “Sunday through Friday” remark, he gave the press a simple meme to run with, namely that Notre Dame is now giving up on the student-athlete ideal in pursuit of football glory. That is, in a word, crap. Ty Willingham did a great job in stressing academics, but ND’s graduation rates have been superior for decades, including in times of championship-level success. What chaps ESPN and the other promoters of 21st century college football is the essential truth that Notre Dame is better than almost everybody else, and demonstrably better than every single one of their current darlings (Meechigan, Miami, Texas, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, et al). Notre Dame still actually holds those quaint values of excellence in mind, body, and spirit, and it drives those who make their livings off the current corrupt paradigm crazy. In their minds, the way to address the hypocrisy is not to drain the swamp, but to flood the valley and spread the pestilence (that metaphor is teetering on two wheels, General Lee style). When everyone is dirty, it's less important to be clean.

Notre Dame Is Racist

Of course, you can’t fire an African-American coach until you hire him, but that’s beside the point. This dilemma can be resolved by a simple thought experiment. Imagine Ty Willingham as Lou Holtz’ replacement and Bob “Barzini” Davie as his successor. Imagine that each football game of the past eight years played out just as they did. Davie would have been fired within 5 minutes of when Willingham was.

Notre Dame Football Is Irrelevant

Which is why it’s been the lead story for a week, of course.

So all hope is lost, right? We will never be able to sign A-list recruits in the face of such a potent and negative media onslaught, right? We will never be able to land a premier coach because, after all, Notre Dame Football is dead, right? Wrong. The news that the coaching search did not fizzle with the loss of Meyer, but has rather expanded and gained momentum with high-profile coaches in the college and professional ranks making inquiries with Notre Dame is direct evidence to the contrary. They are calling ND. They are asking about the job. They know what Notre Dame was, what it is, and what it can be. There is a new commitment on campus, and you can expect a slew of commitments to campus in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

The screeching that is coming, and that will come, from ESPN is music to my ears.