Friday, November 16, 2007

The Five Families

I'm lucky I come from a large family. Not my immediate family, as my wife and I only have two kids, and I was the oldest of four growing up. But my extended family is quite large. My mother had over 25 cousins, with whom she was close growing up, and our annual reunion picnic typically draws over 125 people, all of whom I know well. This year, my great-uncle, at a spry 81 years of age, single-handedly bounced my sister and I out of the beanbag tournament. I think calling him "Rick Ankiel" for the rest of the day went over his head.

Looking at it closer, I guess you could say I'm a member of five families:

  • My nuclear family

  • My birth family

  • My wife's family

  • The Notre Dame family

  • The NDNation family

We don't always get along, of course. We fight as all families do. I sometimes have to raise my voice to my son to get him to put his clothes away. I argue with my cousins about Mike Brey's and Charlie Weis' coaching merits. A couple times a month, I'll get into it on the boards about ND's direction, both athletically and otherwise. But at the end of the day, even if we've pissed each other off, we're still a family.

There are also the synergistic benefits in all the families. My brother-in-law is a crackerjack estate lawyer, and my wife's and my wills and whatnot are solid for the first time in our lives. If I have a question about finance, I can call my brother or my dad, and writing issues can be brought to my mom or my cousin, both of whom have extensive experience. Cross and Oldtown have always been fonts of legal and procedural wisdom. Cash and NDMD have given me so much medical advice they should be billing Blue Cross on my behalf. And if there's a better source of general experience and knowledge than the Back Room, I haven't found it. On the flip side, I've provided IT advice as best I can to most, if not all, of that list.

It's not always easy to ask for help from your family. Some see it as exhibiting weakness. But that's what families are for. They lend you their experience when you're trying something new. They lend you their perspective when you're screwing something up. And they've always got your back, even at times when you haven't demonstrated you deserve it.

So what does all this have to do with ND? Right now, plenty.

A couple months ago, I talked about Charlie's conversation -- the one where he was going to look in the mirror and decide it was time to trust people more. I'm not sure he's done it yet, as things haven't appreciably changed in the weeks since I wrote it. Rumblings of discontent with Weis' interpersonal skills have been there since he arrived in 2005, and while winning in the first two seasons may have dampened any negative consequences, 1-9 may be having the opposite effect.

In the last couple of weeks, Irish alum and archetypical old fart Bob "Hug and Hobby" Kuechenberg has pimped himself out to any media outlet who'll have him, complaining that all his friends say Charlie is an "ogre" who doesn't treat people in the ND family well. I know Miami fans and any fans of NFL teams that have almost completed an undefeated season are familiar with Kuech, since he usually makes his opinions known on those subjects. This time of year, the most dangerous place in the world is between Bob Kuechenberg and a microphone. But although Kuech may be a nimrod for running his yapper, it's a variation on the same theme.

In a related story, my friends all now believe Bob Kuechenberg to be a grade-A toolbox. Based on the standards Kuech has set in this debate, I now feel safe referring to him as one.

Although Charlie is no doubt eccentric in his way, and can be megalomaniacal (and maybe even paranoid), he's shown a good side as well. For every story I've heard about him being a blowhard, there's been a corresponding story about his caring nature. Anecdotes of selfish behavior are offset by stories of him going out of his way to help people.

And then there's Hannah and Friends. As the parent of an autistic child, I know first-hand what you go through trying to get your child the help he or she needs. Weis is not only doing that, he's using available avenues to set up resources for other kids and parents. I have a hard time reconciling those efforts coming from a fundamentally selfish person.

Let's be clear -- Charlie ain't no saint. His single-minded pursuit of things leads to episodes where he doesn't treat people the way he should. He's so focused on what he's doing, he doesn't lift his head up and see what others in his world bring to the proverbial table.

In other words, he forgets he's a member of multiple families as well, the Notre Dame family among them.

My interaction with Charlie Weis is limited to about 30 seconds at a basketball game two years ago, so I won't claim to have any ability to influence the man. But if I were sitting in his office talking to him, I'd remind him of the people in his families that care about him, even when it doesn't seem he cares about them. Those people have resources that can help, and they want to use them for that purpose.

It isn't always easy to ask for help. It's even less to ask people you've wronged to forgive you. But people don't enter the ND family because it's an easy place to be, and failing on your own is not mitigated somehow by being a solo effort.

The patience of truly listening doesn't develop in a day. But it has to start somewhere.

Ara said it best: Anything really worth having, you have to pay the price for. If Charlie Weis wants a successful career at Notre Dame, his price is the love and humility required to truly embrace all his families -- nuclear, coaching, players, ND, all down the list -- and make them a full part of him.

Their strength and knowledge will see him through. But he has to start out showing a little strength of his own.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That article is as poignant and on target as any I have seen to try to explain the inexplicable and to proffer a method out of this madness. Thank you for the perspective and hopefully Charlie will appreciate its wisdom and move in its direction.

11/16/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are wise beyond your years.

11/16/2007 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave in Purgatory (aka Seattle) said...

Thanks Mike, that was like a brotherly "slap upside the head". Excuse me but I have to go now and tend to my family obligations of which you have so eloquently reminded me.

11/16/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous John Chaussee said...

Thank you Mike for a marvelous lesson as we enter the most wonderful time of the year.

11/16/2007 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"His single-minded pursuit of things leads to episodes where he doesn't treat people the way he should. He's so focused on what he's doing, he doesn't lift his head up and see what others in his world bring to the proverbial table."

You admit that the extent of your interactions with Weis is 30 seconds at a hoops game 2 years ago, yet you write this sentence as if you know this to be the case. Where do you get this from? Sounds like a plausible assumption, but you write it as if it's fact. My guess is that you have no idea if Charlie is this way or not, beyond your own guesses/assumptions. And we know what happens when you assume...

I applaud the basic point of the post, but you guys often blur this line and I wonder how much of your readership knows the difference between conjecture when it's written in this way. This is a similar style of online-journalism that I see from some of the SBT writers you/we/all trash for the way they write about Charlie and/or the program.

11/16/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

My interaction with Weis is the 30 seconds I mentioned. My interactions with people who directly interact with him is much more extensive. And when you hear the same stories from many different people over and over again, it becomes difficult to dismiss them.

11/16/2007 02:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Ted said...

I hope Charlie is made aware of the thoughts you have shared. Perhaps his wife could be the one who can reach him. He has the youth and talent on or coming to the team, but another losing season and I believe his tenure at Notre Dame may be much shorter than he wants it to be. That is not in the interests of Charlie Weis or Notre Dame.

11/16/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

...Kuechenberg said the same things you said..."only more to the point". I don't see how he is a "tool" because he said it ______ more times than you.

11/16/2007 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN to that!!! Only if Charlie would read it and have the humility to believe it and let someone with some true college football knowledge help him!

11/16/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous fivemax said...

I have read this blog for over two years, and this is my first response. Those of us who are new to the Notre Dame Family without being ND alums can truly feel the viceral difference between "family" and just being a member of "The Class of '76" of any other school. If Charlie keeps faith with us, we will keep it with him, and give him the chance to show what he can do with a full crew of his own. He showed that he can lead a talented group in his first two years. He has proven that he can recruit. Let's see what he can do with both parts of the equation. If he ties in with the strengths of his Family, we should all have a very bright future, indeed. Happy Thanksgiving!

11/16/2007 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

My understanding is that Charlie regularly, as in most every week, talks with Lou and Ara. Should Chuck Lennon also be on his speed dial?

Could you please be specific in describing your vision that CW rely more heavily on the ND family, in particular?

For me, I sincerely hope he has open lines of communication with the CSCs - and Fr. Jenkins specifically. But other than them, to whom should CW be (more)humble in deed?

As excellent as your sentiment around the multiple families is, I wonder if the real problem isn't one of affect. That what you are really getting at, as regards CW, is that he doesn't SHOW his feeling for ND.

Has he not expressed in words, with frequency and consistency, the deep meaning he takes from the students ' support post-game, and during the week? How about the manner in which he has swallowed his considerable pride and assisted the kids who transferred this year, DJ included? And it may have been brilliant PR, but the man I saw in the UM postgame who faced any and all comers was truly humble (and humbled).

So, please be specific in what you are asking. I couldn't agree more with your concept, but I wish to understand your understanding as to the implementation of such.

11/16/2007 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

Ed, your understanding is not necessarily so.

Charlie need to rely on folks more familiar with the college game if he's going to make this transition successfully. I don't care what he shows, his survival is going to depend on what he does.

11/16/2007 09:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BS Mike. Charlie does not need to approve all things with everybody who has been ND. Thant would be weak. He has proven he is not only an extremely good college coach but also very in tune with the ND spirit. Please resist writing crap like this in the future.

11/17/2007 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Mike - CW is on the record stating that Ara calls him after every loss. When did this stop? Who is your source that this has stopped?

Has he stopped talking to Parcells, and Patriot coaches, current and former? Your source, please?

You ask for him to turn to his nuclear family for more support. What does that look like? How is it lacking today?

You say my understanding isn't necessarily so. Fair enough. Yet I asked you to school me with specifics. I got none - save the concept of learning from those who know the college game.

Rocket? Aaron Taylor? Yes, let's rely on two guys who did not support ND when the TW dung hit the fan. I love them both, but I don't trust their wisdom for the overall game.

Bob Chmiel? Tom Pagna? More contemporary guys? Who?? You are really stretching things if you are asking CW to reach out to the active AFCA fraternity for assistance. But I'm all ears/eyes to learn who is willing to help out the most beloved NCAA football institution in the land.

Again - you make an excellent case describing the nature of family. Good on you. Now please go the next step, as you challenge CW to do. Show us all what that action looks like.

11/17/2007 03:28:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

If I could provide "sources and specifics", I would. Suffice it to say not everything story in the press is accurate. Let's remember there were stories early in TW's tenure about how he "snuck out of church early to listen to the ND rebroadcasts on Sunday", which were complete fabrications.

11/17/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop this non-sense Control your own ego's and let Charlie fix a mess he received in due time

Ray Dubriske ND " 41

11/17/2007 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There you go again with this Oprah Winfrey pap. Your definition of "family" sounds as though it's right out of a Sociology 101 "it takes a village" playbook.
You are a Notre Dame grad. Separate yourself from the lunacy of ranting media egos. Did you see the offensive line get blown away by Air Force on 4th down and short yardage? It stinks (i.e., the offensive linemen are aweful - ALL of them), and the defensive line (sans Laws) is the same. Until you get it through your collective ND Nation head that this team is just plain bad, and that coaching and the coaches have very little to do with it, you will continue to live in the land of OZ and Oprah. We are entering a joyous time of year. Do not despair - Keep the Faith!

11/17/2007 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the insight. Did I hear Coach Weis recently state he was looking to speak with his N.E. folks regarding the problems with the defense?

11/17/2007 08:50:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home