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  • (Secret) Sauce for the Goose

    by Mike Coffey

    Yesterday, I penned a missive to our buddy John Feinstein, which it appears a number of you liked (which, while not essential to the work, generally makes me happy). It also, however, sparked a conversation that got me thinking, and I believe it’s a thought process worth exploring.

    While talking about the article in an email thread, someone asked, “When did Feinstein turn into a f@#$ed-up curmudgeon?” I had a hard time pinpointing it. After all, he was not always thus. If you look at the bookshelves in my office, you’ll find six of his works, all well-thumbed and enjoyed. He even has good things to say about ND in a couple of them, so it couldn’t have been a from-birth condition.

    But just as I determined a re-reading to find a tipping point wasn’t a good use of my time, another participant chimed in with, “Probably a week or so before Coffey did.”

    That was surprising. Curmudgeonly? Cheery old moi? Couldn’t be.

    But rather than dismiss the findings, I figured I’d give the hypothesis a chance. I did an informal ask-around with some folks, and found to my surprise that I apparently have been, “a little grouchy lately.” While investigating a better contextual definition of “lately”, I figured out my own tipping point: October 22, 2011.

    I’d spent most of the spring, summer and early fall battling various health disorders, including a four-day hospital stay two weeks before, so a trip to the SC game and the planned NDN tailgater was out of the question. So I wouldn’t have to watch the game alone, my dad came over to watch it at our place.

    We all know how that game went, and rehashing the (head-)blow-by-(head-)blow won’t do anyone any favors. But the tipping point where I went off the rails was Starling’s fumble return for the touchdown. Six months of ER’s, medicines, pokes and prods let loose, and I spent the next two hours over my dad’s protestations declaring that this man (Brian Kelly) was an idiot who couldn’t prepare a Pop Warner team and I was done with him. Then the whole “my guys / other guys” thing blew up in the days following, and that just cemented the whole thing.

    Obviously that team wasn’t prepared, and obviously there were mistakes made. But was being done and getting crabby about ND football in general (and Brian Kelly in particular) the way to go? Was it fair to write him off after a season and a half and believe he wasn’t capable of correcting errors and making adjustments?

    Probably not. OK, definitely not.

    I’ve seen my Christmas Future, and it is John Feinstein. So it’s time to sponge away the writing on that stone and give Brian Kelly a clean slate. Some things will be more difficult to sponge than others, some never will be removed — a Jumbotron remains anathema — and there probably will remain some residue with the rest. But residue wears off with time, and it’s time I’m willing to spend.

    Mr. Kelly, I was unfair, and I apologize. Keep up the good work.

    And yes, I made a title change, as suggested by BI. Too good to pass up

    38 Responses to “(Secret) Sauce for the Goose”

    1. algoldendomer says:

      I, as one you banned for life on these pages, agree with the poster that thinks you’re a curmudgeon.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        You were banned by popular demand, pal

      • Let’s not get started on what people think about you.

      • Don’t feel bad, bud. I got banned just for having an opinion counter to the board ops, after some idiot declared that it should be so because clearly I was a moron for thinking we didn’t know enough one and a half seasons into Kelly’s tenure and thinking we had shown some clear signs of progress. Well, here we are at 8-0 after an insane schedule thus far, and yet, I haven’t seen my account come back.

        You can read all about it here: [link redacted]

        • Wow. Link redacted. You guys really are something else.

          • John Mackey says:

            You have a website somewhere that criticizes NDNation, but you also complain that you’re not allowed to post on NDNation and you complain that NDNation won’t allow you to put a link on their site to your site that criticizes them?

            What are you, 12 years old or something? Do you have any concept of how the world works?

    2. NeverForgetTulsa says:

      Tulsa. All is not yet forgiven.

      • canadianirish says:

        Wow. Change your diaper.

      • Wow a guy whose handle is named after an ND loss. Mr. Coffey sir, I am glad you are feeling better about Kelly et al. I am feeling better about NDNation.com

      • Kevin Byrnes says:

        Why must we never forget Tulsa, but can forget what has happened since? I hope your employer/clients don’t look at you the same way.

    3. Kudos to Mr Coffey for manning – up and being objective enough to pen this mea culpa, something godless, arrogant, and self-absorbed creatures like Rick Reilly, Colin Cowherd, and the aforementioned (in the spirit of the day) Franken Feinstein are totally incapable of even contemplating. And to think that the latter actually get paid for it. Only in America.

    4. Doing your job says:

      Relax Mike, you were just doing your job which includes giving your honest opinions on what you are seeing wihtin the program. Kelly did some really stupid things his first 2 years.

      This year he seems to have really changed, but who would have expected that from “Mr. Get Use to It”? You guys were calling it as you saw it instead of being an overly optimistic fanboy.

      Only time will tell if the new Kelly is for real or if it’s just a phase as well… Obviously we are all hoping this is the new and improved BK that’s going to be our coach for a long time.

      Keep up the good work. Don’t be afraid to point out things you don’t like as long as you continue to point out the things you DO like. I think you guys do that just fine.

      • If you truly understand See’s post…it’s clear that what Kelly was doing in “program-building” could not be easily ascertained by just watching games. So “calling it as you saw it” would only result in a less-informed opinion. Mike and other Ops have previously dismissed the thesis behind See’s articles that concentrate on Kelly’s MO. That unfortunately makes these less-informed opinions a forgone conclusion.

        As to your premise for why this year is different…while Kelly has made some changes…those changes didn’t include any of the fundamental precepts of building a program that he started in December of 2009. So it would be wrong to dismiss the first two years as “old” Kelly and now we suddenly have 2012 to thank completely to the “new” Kelly. That’s just an oversimplification and incorrect accounting of what happened over the past 3 season.

        Making calls based ENTIRELY on what you see on the field and post-game press statements is not only understandable, but 99% of the time what most fans do.

        If Mike and others on this site can be accused of anything, it’s impatience and believe it or not…a lack of faith for what Kelly was espousing. Yet, even that can be understood after what we have been through with the previous 3 coaches.

      • Far be it for me to tell another man how to operate their business, but what the hell.

        To paraphrase James Carville. “Its the culture, stupid.”

        Its not about individual personalities changing it about the more fundamental shit in the entire culture of the board that has changed. ND Nation once use to be an exciting place where strong posters, of all stripes, met to discuss their shared passion. Some were alum, some were not. But all shared a love of ND and a desire to see the values that she stands for be validated on the field. That’s the real “big picture”. There were always healthy disagreements, but there was always a level of respect among posters.

        Somewhere along the way, the culture of the board, like that of the football program, rotted away and changed. Gone was the comity that previously existed with people of general goodwill on issues that had legitimate sides. As frustrations mounted in its place stood a new culture of intentional divisiveness and small mindedness.

        It was no longer, I disagree with you but I think you are wrong. It was YOU’RE the problem. YOU’RE an enabler. YOU and people who think like you are the reason why the program has floundered for 10+ years. There was a personalization to the legitimate debate on issues that overtook the board. People who disagreed were no longer wrong. They were BAD people who needed to be shouted down by a mob of like thinkers.

        These are not the values that ND stands for but they’ve become the dominant values of the board.

        So no, its not about any individual person changing rather its about the larger cultural change that has taken place. Its about the larger change in that a board that purports to represent ND now does so with values that doesn’t represent anything that ND stands for.

        In the end nothing will change until those values that ND stands for respect, character, and ALWAYS doing what is right (as opposed to what pleases others) return.

        All that said, its the site Ops nest and they are free to feather it however they choose. My comments only reflect those of an observer.

      • Nobody has a problem with honest opinions. What people took exception to was the intolerance for opposing views. Dismissing as “overly optimistic fanboy” opinions that genuinely recognized some of the macro improvements that were being made (i.e. toughness at the line of scrimmage, downfield blocking and tackling) while so many others allowed themselves to be blinded by the same micro issues (i.e. turnovers, playcalling, soundbites) that made Weis and Willingham look so favorable in their first year. The micro problems will come and go as they do for every program and there will be a lot of fuss here when some of them inevitably return, but the macro improvements look like they are here to stay.

    5. I think it is worth noting that John Feinstein was also very quick to use the power of the pen in calling for the revocation of the Duke lacrosse team’s scholarships. What a guy.
      http://www.aolnews.com/2007/06/05/duke-lacrosse-will-john-feinstein-admit-he-was-wrong/

    6. Cool Breeze (PV1x) says:

      Before the internet, and message boards, you’d have done what the rest of us would have done, gone to some Irish lonely hearts bar and cried (or bitched) in our beer.

    7. Mike, you’ve been (constructively) distracted from your original quest by a reader’s comment . Will you finish your search to determine when Feinstein became Man O’ War and why?

    8. Glad to see you’re coming around and giving BK a chance,

      I, for one, have appreciated the progress we are making year to year. Let’s also not forget how well the recruiting class looks this year (Isaac Rochell -YES!). Turnovers killed us last year and I think that is a byproduct of inexperienced players and an incompletely mastered gameplan. This year the gears are clicking and I can’t wait to see this team continue to mature over the next two years especially as Golson gets more comfortable and confident!

      Go Irish, beat panthers!

    9. I’m a subscriber to the Washington Post & I sent this letter to them yesterday in response to John Feinstein’s screed:

      Dear Editor:

      Yesterday in his weekly review of college football in the sports pages, John Feinstein again beat Notre Dame up over the death of Declan Sullivan two years ago. Mr. Sullivan’s death was a tragedy but his own parents have resolved this issue with Notre Dame and do not hold the university responsible for their son’s death. Why did Feinstein choose to bring the tragedy up again on Monday as pertinent to this college football season? John Feinstein (like Mark May of ESPN) is a Notre Dame hater and becomes irrational at times about my university. This is particularly offensive following Notre Dame’s biggest victory in football since 1993. So instead of being able to have a moment of glory over a hard fought victory over an excellent Oklahoma team we suffer another vicious put down from Feinstein.

      Ironically, the graduation rates for student athletes in general and football in particular were released last week and of course Feinstein ignored Notre Dame finishing number 1 in both football (including black athletes) and in the overall graduation rate. Fair is fair, but Feinstein only wants to swell on the negative. I’m not asking that he root or support Notre Dame, only that he try to be somewhat objective where they are concerned. Notre Dame is a very fine university that strives to provide a quality education for all its students. They did not deserve Feinstein’s comments on Monday.

      Garr Isacco

      • You should have left May out of it. With May it’s a shtick with Lou Holtz and he doesn’t bring up Declan Sullivan.

        • SubwayAlum_2012 says:

          Agreed. Its a different spin on the Lee Corso headgear bit. I might have even read from a poster on NDNation that Mark May is a really nice guy. People enjoy watching the conflict between him and Lou. All that said, i still yell at the TV whenever Mark May sensationalizes ND.
          Go Irish, 9-0 this week!

    10. I live in the Washington area and have been subjected to Feinstein’s columns for years. It seems to me he became a hater while doing color for the Navy football games; he was often disparaging of ND. I must be fair and note that in his recent 20 questions column, he said several good things about ND before his inappropriate Declan Sullivan blast.

    11. Mike, I think Feinstein is just one of the latest examples that money can’t buy happiness. After years of being a good writer (I have a number of the books he has written about golf), he has become a bitter blowhard.

    12. Random thoughts. Enjoy the articles by Coffey and those of the posters. It has not been hard to be negative with what has happened to the football program over the years – even to the point of pointing out obvious typos of posters as a way of further denigrating their views.

      Kelly seems like he has grown into the job, this year especially. However, it is my view having seen him with Ara at a number of events (which I don’t recall happening with CW), Kelly is taking a page from Ara and following his blue print for a NC more than his own. He has embraced defense as the key and publicly said that his use of offense in the past was to put people in the seats at his prior coaching stops. His use of misdirection in the running game is fun to watch. Having said that, the course of the season, no matter how it plays out, is reflective of the Notre Dame we used to know. That Notre Dame is back and this season is not the fool’s gold that was the first year coaching stints of Ty and Charlie. It is that reality tha is making us all more reflective on our prior views and more intolerant of the views of people like Feinstein – who seem to take shots out of spite and nothing more.

      I would also like to comment on Mark May. He is a great supporter of ND when not reading from his anti-ND, let’s balance him off against Lou, script that ESPN feeds him. He continually helps with ND fundraisers and speaks with a great fondness for ND as part of the greatness of college football. He said at one event that any anger he has is a reflection of his disappointment of his Pitt team being unfairly passed over in favor of ND playing Georgia for the National Championship – and so long as we understand that, he is fine with ND. The crowd laughed and applauded him.

      Even Mike Lupica this past Sunday spoke well of ND, with a preface that as a BC guy, he dislikes ND. Maybe all of the anger all of us had was that ND wasn’t worth kicking around or caring about anymore. Now that we are truly back, there is an appreciation being expressed, if only for the moment. Not unlike when the Yankees finally got good again. It’s no fun ridiculing a mediocre program, even one you dislike. And now I like listening to the criticism of ND – because it is real and the way it is supposed to be. Much better than the sympathy we all have had to endure these many years.

    13. My compliments on having the fortitude to acknowledge your premature judgments on Kelly. I would like to add further to Hobb’s prescient comments. NDN has indeed undergone a cultural change over the years – moving from a site that was inclusive to all those loving Notre Dame to one that was exclusive and intolerant of anyone who spoke out in dissent of the popular opinion. It also became a site where personalized attacks became the norm. In my own case, I can remember posting a promise that Kelly would succeed at ND based on my first hand observations of what he was able to accomplish at GVSU in Grand Rapids. A certain demi-board op known for his attacks called me out personally to apologize and never speak again on the topic. His attack was supported by the hierarchy. Later, on a totally different topic, an ND student who ran into trouble with the local police was having his case pushed pushed on the board. I had the “nerve” to post that I was underwhelmed by the video supposedly showing police brutality. I suggested that it looked like there was likely more going on before the filming began and what was shown was not brutality. I was summarily banned by Cash immediately. This was after being on this board since it’s inception and the IRJ before that. I even once sent you guys money (to San Diego I believe) in the late 90′s when you were short on cash for the site & were asking for donations.
      But the story didn’t end there, for what Hobbs referred to regarding the personalization of the attacks did indeed happen. A troubled person who went to ND at the same time I did who I barely remember posted on the thread that he had inside dirt on me from my college days. I was of course banned and could not respond. A day or two went by when this same demi-op posted a new topic asking this person to please share his stories about me. After trying to allow suspense to build, he finally posted some feeble story about how he helped me with my sophomore differential equations class when he was a freshman which he thought was pathetic. He went on to disparage me personally. My actual name and identity and profession were discussed. His stories were one-sided and totally trivial. The board ops let this sit out for a few days before finally removing the thread in order to assure that I had paid my penance. Marinedomer and several other posters remarked that this was the lowest point to which the board had ever sunken. I was helpless to protect my name or counter the attacks while the bitter echochamber had it’s chuckles.
      Interestingly, a month later, the case of the ND student and police officer was settled and it did indeed turn out that there had been events going on before the start of the video that had resulted in his arrest. Of course, there was not a peep from the board ops nor the demi-op in this regard.
      Mike, you are hardly the worst offender. But you guys have become so negative, so intolerant of diversity of opinion, and frankly, so impressed with your own internet success that you have thrown away what initially made your site special. You have also become comfortable throwing your early supporters under the bus.
      I have held my tongue for 2 years now, and in the meantime came to discover that there are a whole host of quality ND sites out there that are not so negative. You still have the best article links which is how I saw this blog. Your mea culpa shows me that there is perhaps hope, but there are those in your camp who are far more in need of a trip to the football fan confessional than you. They became so negative that they actually made it even harder for Kelly to succeed. Now they are the ultimate bandwagon jumpers as success returns.

      • To be fair to the site operators, I’ve found that there is an intense dislike for them by many within the ND community which has led, in some cases, to people manufacturing stories to settle longstanding accounts.

        That said I remember TMurph as a poster of long reputable standing and I remember his early support for Kelly (there were few in that bunker).

        IF, if, If the particulars of his case are as he lays out then one can only condemn the site operators in the strongest terms.

        Either way, it would be proper and right for one of the site administrators to address Muph’s case so as to clear their name, honor, and reputation in the court of public opinion if false or at least give Murph the satisfaction of an well deserved apology if true.

    14. bocceman2 says:

      Wow Mike, I too had the same sentiments after the SC fiasco and was ready to plunge off the cliff after the second half collapse in the FSU bowl game. Why did Diaco call of the blitz? Why was BK rotating QB”s?
      I sulked the entire post season and just knew BK was in over his head and not ready to take ND to prime time. I predicted struggling to 7 wins in 2012.
      My epiphany occured when I drove 600 miles to South Bend for the Michigan game. On Friday night I finally asked a student what was up with the lei’s. He told me it was in support of Manti.
      As we filed into the stadium for the game and I saw all the students and fans with lei’s, there was magic in the air. After the first couple of defensive series, I knew this was a special night in spite of the Golson woes. I finally came around after the game and sensed that Manti was going to will this team to greatness.
      Coach Kelly, accept my apologies for discrediting your abilities and for all the swear words I tossed your way. I met you last year in person at our local ND club meeting and bit my tongue to remain cordial. You are welcome back to Memphis any time!

    15. Feinstein’s problem has nothing to do with the football team. He was permanently scarred when, as he described in “Season On The Brink”, he walked into a locker room to find Digger Phelps standing in a three piece suit and green carnation, talking with a completely naked Bob Knight. He was never the same.

    16. David from PTY says:

      Mike and co,
      To be honest I am glad that you acknowledge the need for a clean slate. We talk that Notre Dame is different from other programs, well that must include its fans that must be patient with changing the culture of the Program. I backed Kelly since day 1 of his hiring, perhaps not on the belief that he was THE Coach ala Nick Saban, Gruden or Meyer, but by virtue of the fact that this guy had a proven record of building programs. My motto was, he better be succesful, because if he can´t, then probably no one can and then Notre Dame would have had to take a very deep look into the mirro. After all a culture change does not start at playcalling and starters, but on the little everyday things of the program.
      I hope all of us ND fans from now on, show some patience in this ´win now´, ´you have to years to win a NC´ era. I for one have stopped reading sites like UHND. com because I found they are only bandwagon fans and critics. Please keep up with the impartial analysis of the program and be weary of overzealous judgement of coaches and work in progress.
      Keep on writing. GO IRISH!

    17. Great. You now think BK might be a good coach and are willing to wipe the slate clean on a 24-10 record over 2.66 years of football. You miss the point.

      There are always both positive and negative things going on with a program, with a game and with a fanbase. I don’t expect you (or any of the other, more pessimistic posters) to be totally positive, but you have to be willing to accept some negatives with your heapings of positives.

      8-5 was better than Weis’ last year and the level of play was up, even if there were mistakes along the way, but many here were far to angry about the fact that we didn’t get the guy they want to recognize that. The following year’s 8-5 was marked by better play but by stretches of catastrophic mistakes. The mistakes were bad, but on a play to play basis, the team was clearly playing better. But again, stats about yards per play, the consistency of turnover differential and how good our defense was playing were summarily dismissed because we “weren’t winning games”. I don’t and didn’t expect everyone to be giddy that the stats said we were better than the final record suggested, but the personal attacks and name calling were crazy.

      Being totally honest, it’s easy to be negative. While the accusation that many on the board want ND to fail is probably not true, it is far easier to predict doom and issue a mea culpa just like this one (and ones we’ve seen on the board for the last few weeks over and over) when your wrong because everyone is to busy smiling about being 8-0. When the bar of success is as high as it is at Notre Dame, you put yourself much further out there to predict it, and the mea culpa when you’re wrong is much more harshly received because everyone’s already pissed off about yet another 6-6 football season. Look, overall, I could care less what your personal opinion of BK or the program is, but your views drive the culture of the board and the board has been toxic up until the team delivered on the biggest of stages. Anybody who took a positive side of a debate was shunned and mocked, and once they respond in kind they get banned. I don’t mind the idea that the board isn’t open to just anyone–it certainly makes sense to try to keep out the extreme trolls, but banning someone who dislikes a board-ops viewpoint only adds to the evidence that this board is by curmudgeons, for curmudgeons. It doesn’t really matter now, since the board is generally beside themselves with glee over the 8-0 start and now being optimistic isn’t a punishable offense, but if you want to do something useful for those who would like a good place to discuss Notre Dame football, look into changing the culture of the board, both now and when things eventually go bad again. Not allowing the name calling and accepting that there are other relevant, acceptable viewpoints would go a long way. It will be better for the board, better for the site and better for the readers/posters.

      • I agree with you and many other posters above, he’s missing the point. Don’t hold your breath that any of these comments will be taken to heart.

    18. Wow…the emotions are running wild here. Maybe because of a drastic upswing to an undefeated season at this point. BK is in his third year here. My hope is that any and all opinions will not be squashed by the new success and the first two years of really bad football. BK is a work in progress..as is the team.

      While I have had sat through two years of a new coach I can not dismiss some very relevant errors on coaching and unbelievable losses…and in the same thinking I cant dismiss the production and leadership this year with a team so focused and learning how to win so many games.

      I am still not a BK backer and will not be until we win a decisive bowl game…but no one can deny there is a very measurable difference in this team and the way it plays and how it has learned to win in the games it plays. BK and staff have got to get the creds for that.

      I will be there for Pitt with the family this weekend. No trap games … with convincing victories until the USC final will go a long way to turn my thinking around about BK.

    19. I live in northern New England and until I read this piece I was completely unaware of the very existence of this ‘John Feinstein’ character.

      Lucky me

    20. george kaplan says:

      Every member of the media is a hack, some less disgraceful that others. They will get you when they choose, for their own benefit. I agree with kelly that he hasn’t proven anything yet. 5-6 needless losses in year 1 and 2. Let’s take a deep breath and wait. Having said that, he has head coached well this year with a Superman D coordinator and a solid commitment to the run . Let’s see.

    21. I don’t see curmudgeonly at all. The program was in a shambles. Rather, people who told the truth changed this program – BK changed because he had to have read and absorbed this info even if it was filtered through friends and family.

      Who in the world could have stuck with the lackluster play and crazy calls (Tulsa).

    22. Thank you for this post. Hope your health is back to 100%.

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