Sunday, October 14, 2007

Point of No Return

Yes, BC week is finally over, and I can finally concentrate on ND's true rivalry.

But recent posts on NDN made me think of one final R-word, and I want to throw a question out to the readership.

That word: redemption.

Obviously, the relations between ND and BC are at a pretty low ebb right now, particularly with the fans. But I have yet to hear any of the usual reports of disruptive behavior. The pep rally seems to have gone off unmolested. A lot of BC folks ended up in the tank at ND Stadium, but reports seem to indicate at least some of those folks ended up there as the result of draconian rule enforcement (I know, no-fun assholes dropping the hammer at ND Stadium, what a shock).

I don't believe any relationship should be beyond repair (ooh, another R-word). If their fans are willing to take steps towards congenial behavior and abandon previous immaturity, is that the first step towards better communication? A Catholic school with a high graduation rate is certainly worth good relations, all other things equal.

I'm not encumbered with the visceral dislike of the place some of my younger compatriots have, although I completely understand their position, so I'm definitely not Nixon in this trip to Beijing. So I'll ask those more suited: Is there any possibility of repairing this relationship, or has that ship sailed?

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Stormy Weather

In perhaps one of the biggest examples of putting the cart before the horse the site has ever seen, the topic du jour on NDN these days is field-storming after a victory by 1-5 Notre Dame over 6-0 Boston College. The debate has spread to an opening salvo in The Observer, which no doubt will lead to a couple days' worth of responses.

Let me kick my field-storming credentials up front so folks know from whence I come: I think field-storming, in general, is a bad idea, and I think premeditated field-storming is pretentious and queer. Although it's not an optimal activity in my eyes, field-storming is supposed to be borne of spontaneity and enthusiasm, not a meeting of the Spirit Committee. It smacks of high school student government antics.

I was in the marching band in 1988 when ND took down Miami, which was the first field-storm I remember. Obviously a huge win, and I can understand the enthusiastic response. But as someone carrying a 50-pound drum on his back, my concern was getting run into and/or knocked over, which could have been a rather injurious experience for both me and, perhaps more so, the unfortunate party of the second part.

Additionally, there are 50+ members of the team that, hypothetically, just got beaten on that field wandering about as well. They probably won't take kindly to the enthusiasm of the ND faithful. While my distaste for field-storming is not opponent-specific, let's also remember in this scenario, the opponents involved have a history at ND Stadium of not being the classiest of guests, even in victory. Defeat, most likely, will make even more manifest their trailer-trash aspects, increasing the probability of injury to the stormers at the hands of the stormees. That kind of melee doesn't do ND any good.

I'm loath to play the fuddy-duddy role here, and I don't want to go so far as to tell people not to do it. But the fact they're already talking about it means the action has become, like so many other things at ND home games these days, a contrived event with a lot more sizzle than steak. When you have to plan how you're going to react to a win, it becomes a lot less about what the win means and a lot more about what people think is the "proper" response to that win.

The path between that and spirit banners is depressingly short. Let's not walk it.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Bricks and Mortar

It's getting to the point where the Virgin Mary will have to start wearing a hard hat.

Announcements over the last week highlight ND's planned campus transformation, including four new dorms, a new Law School, a new Engineering building, and, yes, my favorite project, the improvements to the Joyce Center. There was also new information on Eddy St. Commons, including an update on the details that included the diagram below.

Let me be clear, I'm all for progress. Some of the projects listed, particularly the one about which I've ranted for years, are sorely overdue. While I'm not thrilled at the loss of the University Club, of which I have very fond memories from growing up, that's the kind of thing that can be relocated with minimal effect. And I haven't decided whether or not the missus and I are picking up niches in Cedar Grove -- I'd had my heart set on my ashes being scattered all over campus, but a central location is nice.

As usual, however, I have concerns. Those concerns center around the Eddy Street project, and I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that they have to do with ND's ability to follow through correctly on what they plan to do.

Eddy Street, like the Joyce Center project, is one of those "unique opportunity"-type efforts. What ND decides to do (or not do) here will affect the community for decades, if not longer. Although the current Eddy Street plans are part of a more grand plan to redevelop the area down to Five Corners, the retail footprint will be the anchor for everything else that is done, and if the anchor is shoddy, the project will drift with the winds. And one of the things that makes me fear potential half-assedness is ND's planned micro-managing of the tenants in that retail footprint.

ND has said they will not allow "toxic uses" of the area, which apparently has already ruled out bars. There are other rules affecting this, such as the area already being maxed out on liquor licenses, and I'm not in favor of dives like Bookmakers springing up there. But if ND goes too far in interpreting this "toxic use" rule (I know, ND going overboard on something? Perish the thought!), they could end up with a sterile environment that no one finds interesting. Nice restaurants with bars included and outdoor seating areas are a magnet for the kind of participation ND says it wants. They should be included, if not given priority.

Another red flag is the plan for the residential community. The vision, according to those in charge of planning, is a community of "yuppies and retirees". The retiree angle makes sense, as a lot of older ND alums/fans of means have purchased condos in South Bend in recent years. On the yuppie side, the group apparently wishes to pull some of the folks who currently view Granger as their target location.

The problem: Neither of those groups have children.

To be blunt, you can't build a strong community around childless yuppies because they're at that "fancy free" part of their life. If they feel like trying out a new place, they do it. They have no roots holding them to any particular community. If and when Eddy Street loses its charm, they'll move on.

The Eddy Street planners are shooting themselves in the foot by not making at least a token accommodation for children. As a parent, I can say with authority that nothing changes your life faster than having a child, and once that happens, that re-prioritizing leads you to settle down. It's hard to pack up and move to that cool new subdivision across town when you have to consider where little Johnny and Betty will go to school and who they will play with and how the move will affect them. If you want to build a strong community, that community has to include fully-fledged families moreso than vapid 20-somethings.

The yuppie focus also seems counterproductive. While prices haven't been released, those prices will have to be in the range of the current market in order to get the yuppies to buy in. Proximity to ND is of value to people who are currently far away from it, which might get your retirees in the door. But it'll have no value to Joe Schmoe who works in Mishawaka or Elkhart and can get a townhome a lot cheaper two or three miles away. So it's not like the yuppies (or anyone, for that matter) will be willing to pay premium prices. My guess is they'll end up with retirees and people buying units for the purpose of renting them out for home football weekends, and I'm not sure that's what they had in mind.

But the final concern hangs over both of those like a cloud -- neither of them talk about students.

If one of the purposes of the project is the improvement of town-gown relationships, you can't just bring professors or staff people in there and say, "There, problem fixed." The students must be involved. They're usually centrally involved in the alleged problems in the ND/SB tango, and they're the ones to whom both ND and South Bend should be reaching out because they're the ones who potentially can create long-lasting better feelings between the groups.

But that's not happening here. Undergrads will not be targeted for any of the currently planned residential areas, and it remains to be seen what kind of rental caveats will govern the condos and townhomes. The end result could be an island of "adults" on the edge of campus, which will not attract the students, push them farther off campus to "find their fun" (and all of the dangers that creates), and do nothing to help them get along better with the South Bend community.

As I said, ND only gets one swing at this pitch. If they hit a home run, they can make drastic improvements at the school that will affect generations of ND fans both now and to come in a very positive way. If they miss.......

Edit: My apprehension increases when I read reports like this. Note to the ND folks: $300k for a condo and $500k for a townhome ain't gonna fly in the South Bend market.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Return of the Native

You always like it when good things happen to good people. So naturally, I'm very happy Kyle McAlarney will be returning to ND in the summer.

This tells me one or more of a couple things happened in the past 48 hours:
  • KMac was able to look past the hurt and aggravation of the situation and make a mature, reasoned decision. He likes his coach, he likes his teammates. Why rush into a new situation requiring you to rebuild all those relationships?

  • Notre Dame managed to execute some original thinking in an extremely expeditious manner, and altered the punishment towards reasonableness enough to make things more palatable for this young man. Yes, people can take summer classes at ND as "unenrolled students", but remember that students under the kind of "suspension" that KMac is are banned from campus for its duration. So if he's going to be taking summer classes, something changed.

This was a bad situation on all sides. KMac did something stupid, and ND put its foot in it with an over-reactive punishment. That both sides could pull themselves back from the edge and not allow pride or intransigence to make the situation worse probably is the best possible outcome.

Having said that, both sides have some work to do.

This all started with KMac getting caught with marijuana. I'm among those who view marijuana use as a Not Good Thing, and my strong preference would be for him to look at this situation as a potential life lesson for him. This created a major inconvenience in his life, and could have been more costly for him. Assuming he was the one using the weed at some point that day, he needs to ask himself: was it worth all this?

That Notre Dame managed a partial recovery from their gaffe doesn't absolve them from the self-evaluation required to make sure it never happens again. I can understand a strong stance against controlled substances, but a policy of harsh punishments for good-citizen first-time offenders who are not even accused of use doesn't make a lot of sense to me, particularly when a student can drive while drunk and not be banished from campus. I also have a hard time with a system of justice where some offenders avoid ResLife review altogether while others cannot. Notre Dame needs to convene whatever kind of group it convenes for this sort of thing and review duLac from stem to stern to make sure these kinds of inconsistencies are ironed out.

This is a learning moment for both KMac and ND. If they take advantage of it, they'll be better for it.

And lest we forget, kudos to Mike Brey and KMac's teammates for stepping into the breach and helping to work towards a solution. This is just another example of the strong chemistry and camaraderie this squad has shown, which has gone a long way towards the unexpected positive results this season. Regardless of what you may think of coaching decisions, Mike Brey has shown once again he understands ND and what makes the ND family work, and is willing to put that into practice even in the face of the place's questionable decisions.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Make Your Voice Heard

There's nothing else to say about the KMac situation that hasn't already been said, other than if you feel the way I do about the draconian and ridiculous measures that have been used by ND's ResLife for far too long and want to make sure the PTB at Notre Dame know it, it's time to get out your pens.

Fr. John Jenkins
President, University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Mr. John Affleck-Graves
Executive Vice President, University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Mr. Patrick McCartan
Chairman, ND Board of Trustees
Senior Partner, Jones Day
North Point
910 Lakeside Ave
Cleveland, OH 44114

Let them know it's time for a change in thinking under the Dome.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Front-runners ain't worth it

I don't know what makes me want to vomit more -- the lack of student attendance at the game last night or the lame-ass excuses I'm hearing for that attendance today. If ND spends one dime in these renovations trying to move the students from their current position, I'll declare it a complete waste of funds.

"We still blame the team from two years ago for quitting". Apparently logic is no longer a required course in the Notre Dame curriculum. That's like me saying the student allocation should be cut because the students in the 1990s didn't support the team. Last year's team played their rear ends off every night. What kind of credit do they get? Apparently none.

"We don't like Brey and he should be fired, so we won't go." These same students thought Tyrone Willingham should be fired, too. It didn't stop them from going to football games. And spare me the "football is different" bleating -- it isn't. If your policy is to not attend games if you don't believe in the coach, it should apply even more to something you love as much as football. And yet it didn't. Student attendance isn't going to drive a decision to retain or fire a coach, so why not support your classmates?

And yet they complain that ND doesn't give them enough seats, and now want ND to spend millions of dollars so they can sit courtside??!? Yeah, right. They're going to drop seven figures on front-runners. That'll happen.

I'd rather see them cut the student allocation again. Then after this season, when either (a) the ship has been righted, or (b) there's a new coach with an exciting young team ready for next year, the front-runners will need split ticket packages or just go without.

Poetic justice. That's what it'll be.

I watched a 12-20 season my senior year. I bought season tickets and suffered through 9-18 seasons. I was at an exhibition game on a Wednesday night because this is going to be a young team that at the very least will be very interesting to watch.

ND should spend the money on the people like me. They should have gone through the crowd last night handing out applications to get the best seats post-renovation, because last night's crowd are the die-hards. They'e the people who truly support the program. They're the people who realize the program is bigger than the players in the uniforms and the coaches on the sidelines.

Why waste a dime on uneducated students who don't care?

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