Friday, August 12, 2005

Worth a reprint | by Jay

Here's a post from BeijingIrish over on NDN.

There is frequent discussion on this board concerning what is perceived to be anti-Notre Dame bias on the part of the sports media. Much of that dialogue centers on ESPN (with good reason). However, I thought I would share with you an e-mail exchange I had earlier this week with John Henderson, a reporter who covers college football for the Denver Post.

I don’t know Henderson, and I had not paid attention to him before. Occasionally, I read the Post’s internet edition. You all are aware that I was raised in Colorado, and I try to keep reasonably up-to-date on events back home. In this instance, a poster on this board called my attention to a recent article by Henderson entitled, "Willingham up to Husky task at hand" (August 5, 2005). Some of you will recall the article wherein Henderson takes a gratuitous shot at ND, in this instance, decrying ND’s "hypocrisy" for firing Willingham.

Several days later, I went to the Post’s site, re-read the article, and decided to reply. After all, his e-mail contact was right there. Why not?

I sent him a polite note. I mean, I thought it was polite. I did not suggest that he would never win a Pulitzer (he won’t). I won’t repeat my note here--you have all read, said, or thought the same words. I first challenged the hypocrisy charge, i.e., why outrage here, none with Zook or others? I pointed out that ND made TW a wealthy man and continues to send him checks every month when it is now established that he was in contact with UDub even before he was fired. I repeated the Willingham Litany of Futility by omaha, the most elegant case for sacking Ty I have seen.

I concluded my note with the following friendly admonition: "It seems to me that you'd want to do the same research I did (in my spare time) before you write a bullshit article like the one you wrote. After all, journalism is your profession. Have some pride, do your homework. Ty didn't get jobbed. ND gave him the chance of a lifetime, and he simply wasn't up to the job."

Henderson’s verbatim reply follows: "You're forgetting that winning at Notre Dame is no longer a given because of its national reputation. It has no national reputation because its independent status has made it inconsequential to everyone but NBC. Kids don't give a damn about its tradition and its schedule is ludicrously hard. But the reason for the hypocricy [sic] is Notre Dame always touts itself as being above the football factories with itchy trigger fingers. Every coach stayed the length of their coach [sic] but Willingham. I'm not saying he did a great job there or even a good job but if they're merely going to fire based on wins and losses then they shouldn't carry themselves as holier than others and they do. It's a vastly overrated university academically and more arrogant than any school in America."

Well, I was off and running. I would have let it go if he had said, "In my view, it’s a vastly overrated university..." But he reported it as fact, and he should know better. I set him straight by pointing him to various sources, including USN&WR. I also knew I had a hater on my hands, so I had to ask if all this hate--anti-ND, anti-Catholic, whatever--wasn’t a burden.

The Mile High City’s aspiring Grantland Rice comes back with this: "I have never hated Notre Dame. When I was growing up, I admired the way their coaches continued throwing the ball with great success while the national trend was that god-awful wishbone. I like the fact that they graduate their players. I don't hate them now. But their president and AD always talk about how it's not just about football, about how they are true student-athletes. Well, ND's off-field problems, from rapes under Davie to NCAA problems under Holtz, drag the Irish down to the same quagmire the football factories are in. I also think they have a totally unrealistic expectation of success. True, Willingham probably wasn't a great coach but they're bouncing coaches who can't succeed with an impossible independent schedule (You're right. They do consistently play great teams -- but maybe too great.) in an era when kids aren't dreaming of a recruiting letter from South Bend as they did in the '80s. As for academically, I never hear of a long list of great scholars coming out of Notre Dame, Nobel prize winners, astronauts, etc. Talk to Notre Dame's athletic department and you'd think they are Harvard. They're not even Stanford. Not even close. Thanks for your reply."

A little softer perhaps, but I think his problem is that he could not get in. In any case, I replied by refuting his "rapes under Davie" charge (again, do your homework, accuracy is important, etc.) and "great scholars" (cited the Tim Cordes example). The sense of my e-mail is conveyed by the following: "No, ND is not Harvard, nor is it Stanford. It should not want to be either. It is different, and its mission is different...Over the east portal of Sacred Heart Church on campus are inscribed the words, "God, Country, Notre Dame". Most alums and students identify with this sentiment."

It was followed by a second e-mail: "Almost forgot (and I'm so glad you asked): There are two ND grads among the current active duty astronauts: (1) COL Kevin A. Ford, USAF, BS (Aero Eng), 1982; (2) LTC Michael T. Good, USAF, BS (Aero Eng, 1984; MS (Aero Eng), 1986. Among the retired astronauts is CAPT James D. Wetherbee, USN (Ret), BS (Aero Eng), 1972. Wetherbee, who retired in January, is the first American to command five space flights. He was the shuttle commander on five flights, and was the most senior and experienced pilots among the astronauts. You are so poorly informed. That's why I'm helping you."

I don’t think Henderson is an aberration. I think he is typical of people in his profession: biased, cynical, not very bright, lacking journalistic integrity (ignoring facts whenever it is convenient). Basically, he is a hack. He is the Mountain West’s version of David Haugh. We must endure them because they are all over the place. It will be better when we start winning, but, for now, they occupy the tactical high ground.

By the way, I did not apologize for the fact that ND is arrogant. We should be arrogant. Notre Dame is a national treasure. I am rarely troubled by arrogance, but I am profoundly disappointed that the University has been so feckless and incompetent with regard to the management of the football program for a decade. We have given the Hendersons of this world an opening, and they have slimed through. It is my earnest wish that Charlie and his players close this opening, close it soon, and close it with a slam.