Friday, August 15, 2008

Classroom Contest

There's nothing more useless than a lock with a voiceprint, with the possible exception of sport website online "contests". "Whose quarterback is better?" "Who has better tailgating?" And, of course, the piece de resistance of the genre recently undertaken by the Kiddie Paper, "Whose female fans are hotter?" Yeesh.

Usually the domain of EsPN and its ilk, sites frequently use these ridiculous constructs to pit manic fans against one another, usually for the sole purpose of gathering eyeballs and/or attention. But this attempt, brought to my attention by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Mike Rothstein, has an associated good cause, so I'm eschewing my usual disdain of the things and encouraging you to participate.

SI's Stewart Mandel is a pretty solid writer who at least tries to stay out of the hyperbolic hair-pulling so prevalent in op-ed these days. In his latest weekly mailbag, he challenges college sports fans to put their money where their fandom is and donate money to classroom-related charitable causes through

The user selects his "team" (in our case, FBS independents), and then donates money to an associated effort. The group whose constituents contribute the most will "win", although one would argue the kids in those classrooms win no matter what.

As I said, these kinds of contests are usually worthless. But this is a chance to put some dollars somewhere they can do some good. So dip into your tailgating fund a little bit. You'll be glad you did.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Dish Best Served Cold

Almost nine years ago, a frustrated Fighting Irish football fan wallowing in the midst of a 5-7 effort by Bob Davie and crew, vented those frustrations by writing a fake news article for a Usenet newsgroup. In that newsgroup, creating such faux factograms was de rigeur, with participants trying to hook as many fish as possible.

Ironically, the furor that article created helped set me on the path of "legitimate" reporting that brought me to NDNation (via NDHoops) and book authorship and the wonderful community The Pit has become. But at the time, the hassles ended up outnumbering the laughs, and I swore off fake news, seemingly forever.

But that's the problem with lessons learned long ago ... they tend to fade in your head. And you end up in the shower on one April Fool's Day morning with an idea bouncing around in your noggin, and you forget (as many folks do) that a lot more people read posts on the board than the people who respond. Then you read blog entries about your little joke, and realize you got some 'splainin' to do.

Let's be clear: As far as I'm aware, no one from Indiana University has talked or plans to talk to Mike Brey about anything. My impression has always been Mike is happy as a clam at ND and has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon. Just so no one remains confused.

It's hard to determine how to react here.

On the one hand, as I constantly remind people (and should have reminded myself), plenty of people read the Internet and plenty of messages have unintended consequences. Two seasons or so ago, the father of a signed recruit sent an email to some friends where he shared some Ancient Chinese Secrets about how the coaching staff was doing business. The recipients forwarded to two friends and they told two friends and so on and so on, and next thing the poor guy knew, the email was being posted on every ND site and was traveling all over the world. He ended up very embarrassed, as did (I'm sure) his son.

Now I find myself in a similar situation. We here at NDN are certainly blessed with a large and active readership, but that readership comes at a cost. I usually pride myself on verifying info I'm going to share, and when I do things like this, I jeopardize that relationship with the readers.

On the other hand, though, it's freaking April Fool's Day. Part of me thinks the only thing I should be embarrassed about is the joke is so hackneyed a twit like Brendan Loy apparently thought of it too. And if we can read stuff like this about Juli Boeheim, perhaps I should tell people to lighten the !@#$ up about my relatively tame stuff.

But then again, I'm not and don't want to be either of those guys.

I see the points of those who wonder if what I did was a good idea. At various points during the day, I've wondered myself. But it's done, and I gave up second guessing myself for Lent, so onward and upward. Besides, IU seems to have their coach, and I get to watch the Marquette folks get all squirrelly to boot.

Maybe it's a better day than I thought....

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Disconnect? More Like Chasm

Yes, it's been a couple days since the Mike Gundy contretemps, and plenty has been said on both sides. One might wonder why it's worth chiming in now.

But this article by Gene Wojciechowski piqued my interest, because not only was was it the first example I've seen of a media creature attempting to address the galactic disconnect that currently exists between sportswriters and the teams they cover and the fans of those teams (although other excellent examples exist like this one from the Fort Dodge Messenger), but it also addresses a pet Internet peeve of mine.

Here's the thrust of GW's jib:

The real work is to fix what's broken. There is a growing disconnect between the sports media and the coaches and players we cover, and the people who read that coverage. There have always been disagreements -- that's a given -- but there also was a common ground and a mutual respect. Now it's something much more polarizing. Mutual distrust.

I agree with him 100 percent. But I'd like to take it a step further and suggest a source for that growing disconnect.

It's been my belief that journalism in general, and sports journalism in particular, has changed its focus drastically in the last few years. It's no longer about the information you're sharing, but rather about how many people are the recipients of that sharing. I talked about this a little here in my comments about people like Pat Forde. The more hair they pull, the more people are talking about them, and the more eyeballs their advertisers get. No such thing as bad publicity, as the old saying goes.

Jenni Carlson's original article fed that beast as much as any other. Setting aside whether or not some of the things in the article actually happened, since when is the alleged mental fortitude or lack thereof of a backup quarterback news? Can you imagine Grantland Rice spending that many inches writing about a quarterback's psyche? Jason Whitlock, in a response in the KC Star, called it a "message-board attack", and he's absolutely right. As a message-board operator, I know this kind of crap when I see it, and if it had appeared on Rock's House written about a Notre Dame player, it would have been deleted as fast as I could move my mouse. That Carlson's editors not only didn't squelch it but featured it prominently betrays their motivations better than anything I could write here.

This is the bed that "real journalists" have made for themselves. When allegedly responsible entities like AOL are affiliating with and giving an imprimatur to people like Brian Cook of MGoBlog, who turned his entire site into pictures of kittens when Michigan lost to AppyState, it tells the reading public the paragons of journalism care a lot more about the entertainment value of the way the news is presented than the news itself. When writers replace research and insight with the daily trolling of message boards for stories, the inherent laziness trickles down and is reflected in their writing, which turns off the fans.

I appreciate GW's willingness to address this problem, but I find it incredibly ironic that this warning comes in an article on a website that is one of the biggest contributors to that problem. Let's face it, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network elevated Entertainment above Sports a long time ago, to the point they should just change the logo to EsPN. People take positions to get ratings rather than to further a viewpoint. Their idea of giving the audience what they need is a ranting failed football coach putting on mascot heads. I love Lou Holtz to death, but that dog-and-pony-show he and Mark May put on during the week is on the level of Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd. I pity the people there who actually try to provide decent acumen like Jay Bilas and Andy Katz, because their efforts are being drowned under Chris Berman's parade of stupid nicknames.

If GW wants coaches and fans to start trusting sports journalists again, he can start by getting his employer to clean their own house.

Now, having said all that, the fans have a job to do as well. I talked about how I feel Carlson's effort was substandard even for a message board. Unfortunately, we see way too much of that on message boards all over the place, and that includes NDN. Carlson may have been wrong to call Reid a wuss, but at least she signed her name to it and has not shied away from the resulting criticism. Some message board patrons hiding behind anonymous handles should think about that next time they rant about how this player sucks or that player isn't trying hard and is a waste of a scholarship.

I sometimes wonder if NDN would be different if we abandoned handles and all made our names public, just as my fellow Ops and I do. It's a lot different when you can be directly taken to task for what you say, because it tends to make you think a lot more before you say it.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Saving Our Electronic Souls

Back in the day, you'd watch a game at a sports bar with your friends or in your living room with family. Joe Montana would overthrow a guy, maybe Alan Pinkett would hit the wrong hole, Tim Brown would down a kickoff inside the five yard line, Lou Holtz would have Kent Graham try and run an option play, and you'd scream at the television, berating the player or coach in question for being a knucklehead. Others in the bar or the room may have agreed or disagreed with you. Within five or six plays, the gaffe may or may not have been forgotten, but you'd moved on to the action at hand. After the game, you might have still been irritated at the blunder, especially if it contributed to a loss, but within a game or so, that play had melded into the other plays that constituted the story of the season.

Now the Internet has come along, and has turned into the world's biggest sports bar. Plays get analyzed long after their previous shelf life would have expired, and the opinions expressed, no matter how ephemeral, gain an air of permanency as the page on which they were written floats in the electronic ether. Philosophies both positive and negative tend to coalesce, as people gravitate towards others who share their viewpoint which may or may not be logical or correct. And as with all things, there is an element of supremacy and accuracy, as perceived value is placed on the person or site that was "first" to point something out.

These are the times that try men's souls. Unfortunately, our souls are being recorded on a magnetic disk these days.

It's hard to say whether these things are good or bad in and of themselves. In the end, we're discussing actual things that have happened, so it's not like people are inventing thing to be happy or to complain about. Opinions are still as much like assholes as they've ever been, and the Internet won't ever change that. Some folks feel you should be able to complain about things when they're bad, other folks feel fans shouldn't be going out of their way to create an atmosphere of negativity, and both sides can put together intelligent, reasonable arguments as to why they're correct.

But there's one thing I would hope both sides agree on -- anyone who tries to use those contributions fraudulently to further their own ends is a piece of garbage with no ethics.

I don't follow recruiting much because I'm a bear of very little brain and I don't have the spare horsepower to agonize over the decisions of 19-year-olds. As I've said many times, I long for the days of yesteryear when I got my Blue and Gold in March with the list of football players who had signed letters of intent and how they fit in the current puzzle. I didn't (and don't) need to know how good the players were who turned us down or who we decided we didn't want. There's only so much grass-is-greener syndrome I can fit in my life.

But a number of good friends of mine not only follow it, they report on it. And some of them are reporting coaches of other programs, particularly two from one school (whose names I won't mention but they rhyme with Suburban Liar and Peg's Mad At Her Son), are cultivating message board comments from ND sites and attempting to paint their own picture with them for already-committed ND recruits. They're inventing racial preferences on Charlie Weis' part because he went with a white quarterback over a black one. They're claiming that all the ND fans want Charlie and his whole staff fired. They believe, even though neither was an assistant coach at ND in the last three years, they can describe exactly how ND does things in all aspects, even though what they describe wasn't done even during their tenures.

All of this is, of course, crap. Charlie Weis went with the player he believed could win games for him, that's the long and short of it. ND fans of intelligence remember 19 wins in 23 games and two BCS bids very well, and none are pushing for Weis to be fired, nor is there any danger he will be. They want him to improve, certainly, and the quality of recruit he and Corwin Brown are bringing into the fold will help make that happen, but saying that Charlie will be "bought out" or the fans want him gone is fabrication of the worst kind.

One can only wonder what Kathi Lemire would think of that behavior if she were here to see it. I doubt she'd smile.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Burning Down the Strawmen

Some folks have expressed frustration at the repetitive nature of Rock's House these days. Way too much Kevin White bashing, they say. You've made your point, isn't it time to move on to something more interesting?

All other things equal, I'd be inclined to agree. There's only so much talking one can do on any topic, and it's certainly possible the discussions regarding our Athletic Director have reached critical mass, meaning it's time to either talk about something else or stop talking and take some action. And that's certainly being mulled over.

But last night, I got a lesson in why we need to keep these topics on the front burner when I attended the annual NDNation White Sox outing. Along with the camaraderie and good time had by all, I had a very sobering conversation with one of our regular posters.

He informed me at his place of business is an ND alum who spends a lot of time trying to convince him and the rest of the Subway Alumni there that "those guys are just Internet crazies. They don't know what they're talking about. Things at ND are going just fine; they're just looking for a reason to bitch."

This is the kind of thing we're fighting against. This is the complacency or downright state of denial in which some of these folks live, and they're spreading that condition to people who consider them to be experts merely because they're in possession of a South Bend sheepskin. This is why we have to keep up the fight and keep these topics out there and keep people talking about them.

So in the interest of eliminating some of the hurdles in our path, allow me to burn down a couple of strawmen that this guy (and others) tend to erect when talking about our ilk and our position:

Everything Kevin White / the ND administration does is wrong. Untrue. Notre Dame is like any organization of its size. In the sheer volume of decisions and policies made or set in any given day, some of them will be good and some of them will be poor.

But just as not every decision will be a poor one, not every decision will be a good one either. And when a number of poor decisions seem to be emanating from the same source, logic dictates the suitability of that source be examined. Past targets of this scrutiny have shown themselves to be worthy of it, so don't be quick to dismiss criticisms as being some sort of smear campaign. We have lives, and lack the time to waste on such things. When we analyze problems (such as ND's business dealings with Adidas and the procedures used to hire and fire coaches), we analyze the actual data.

A lot of people love Notre Dame, and the natural feeling for most people is not to criticize things they love to avoid a sense of somehow "devaluing" that thing. People of intelligence should be able to do both and know that it's not to be done frivolously. Those with children have (hopefully) done it all their adult lives.

They won't be satisfied unless ND is playing five top-ten teams every year. Again, patently false. Last week, I did a scheduling analysis that I believe represents, overall, the wishes of the Ilk. That schedule follows a 4-4-4 model: four games against top-tier teams to challenge what should be a talented, well-coached Notre Dame football team (e.g. SC, Michigan, Alabama); four games against what should be token opposition given the schools' comparative abilities to attract coaches and talent (e.g. Duke, Stanford), and four games against traditional "mid-range" schools that, while they should be capable of giving ND a decent game, more often than not will come out on the losing end (e.g. Purdue, Michigan State, Pitt).

A Notre Dame football program operating at its top efficiency should have no problems with a schedule like that. It ensures at least one or two enticing football matchups in South Bend every year, and also ensures any ND team that participates in quality postseason play is not only tempered and ready for that ultimate challenge but has also truly earned the right to be there.

No one is saying the schedule has to be littered with the Top 10 and no other game will do. They're saying limiting ND's quality opponents to two a year, which is what the current plan calls for, is both ill-conceived from a preparation perspective and unbecoming to what Notre Dame has done on the field for more than a century.

To say that ND has to schedule more patsys so they can be assured of winning more games and getting to the BCS championship is unacceptable to me. I don't care if other schools are allegedly doing it, because I believe those schools are going to be looking at a backlash in the near future. Ask Ohio State season ticket holders how they feel about spending top dollar to watch this year's non-conference slate of Youngstown State, Akron, and Kent State. Some of them are quite displeased. I'm also not convinced other schools are doing it, as ShermanOaksND's analysis shows.

There's more to Notre Dame athletics than football, you know. Earth to Farmer Bob, come in Bob. This is the ND Basketball Guy talking. I'm quite well aware there's more to ND athletics than football. That's why Cross and I get into it all the time about his "AD of football" idea (which I still don't advocate).

But let's also remember that football is the straw that stirs the drink. That means it requires special attention to ensure it continues to produce the golden eggs that keep a lot of the other sports going. That doesn't mean trying to wring every dollar out of every orifice, but it does mean accommodating football where it reasonably requires it.

Besides, I have yet to see evidence that any of the recent non-football athletic successes at ND are in any way attributable to the current administration. Women's soccer and women's basketball have won titles, but their coaches' tenures predates Kevin White's arrival on campus. The policy of full scholarship funding was originally Dick Rosenthal's idea, and the implementation of that policy began with him and continued with Mike Wadsworth.

What's wrong with a Jumbotron that will show replays and honor special guests?

(yes, I used the dreaded J-word)

Nothing. Except that kind of 'tron doesn't exist.

Screens of that nature cost tens of millions of dollars to build and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to maintain. Is that money going to fall from the sky? Of course not, which means any screen in Notre Dame Stadium will require advertising or other sponsorship money to run.

It's also not going to show any replays of the things the crowd would really want to see. Controversial plays or anything else that might make the referees look bad will not be shown. They're not shown at any other venue, so it's not likely they'll be shown at ND. Think you would have seen the Bush Push in 2005? Think again.

ND football is a unique experience, with the band, cheerleaders, student section, and crowd all contributing to an atmosphere unmatched in college sports. Why distract and detract from that atmosphere with cheesy graphics, TV spots, and Loud Continuous Noise?

There's no evidence that [insert topic here] is in any danger of happening. Not always publicly, no. You can sometimes get a warning bell or two from public comments folks in South Bend make.

But we're fortunate to have people on campus who are on our side. Those people work in myriad departments, including Athletics. They're appalled at some of the things being discussed, and irritated at the ineptitude they observe. Fr. Jenkins and John Affleck-Graves have a lot of hot potatoes in their laps, with four Dean positions to fill and having just finished a search for a new assistant Provost. They can't always be watching this sort of stuff, so we're happy to watch it for them. Does that make us arrogant? Maybe, but it's a fault we'll all cop to gladly.

That's the usual suspects all lined up in a row. I may revisit the topic if I think of more, and I've no doubt our loyal comment-makers will remind me of any I missed.

Edit: And sure enough, I missed the biggest one, which I've discussed here.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Obviously, you don't have any experience...

(to avoid the inevitable confusion, if you don't get the joke behind the entry title, realize you're missing something and don't bother complaining about it)

Aside of giving me a chance to write (which I usually find theraputic), one of the biggest benefits of blogging for me is the opportunity to organize my thoughts better than message board posting usually allows. Blog entries have a little more permanence, and I can use that permanence to address issues I think are important.

Over the past few months, those issues have ranged from philosophical topics like VM performances on campus and The DaVinci Codes to athletic situations like the Joyce Center and former ND football coaches.

This time, though, I'm going to talk about me, which I usually try to avoid because of the risk of it being an uninteresting topic. Specifically, I want to address my philosophies of website operation with special attention towards The Pit.

If you've read a couple of the other boards lately, some folks aren't too fond of those philosophies. Let's review my favorite accusations via quotes from various emails over the past year or two.

You censor your site. Anyone who is critical of Mike Brey gets their posts deleted or gets banned. You hate free speech.

Coffey has to suck up to Brey to get access to the program. Brey wrote the foreword for his book and Coffey doesn't want him to leave.

Brey can't do anything wrong. You blame all the problems on the facilities.

Anyone who doesn't toe the line and talk nice about Mike Brey gets beaten up by the mob on the Pit and then kicked out.

So fine, as Dave Kovic would say, let's talk about it.

Do I think Mike Brey is a good man? Absolutely. In a profession featuring more than its fair share of assholes, it's refreshing in a way to see a good person try to succeed. I make no apologies for liking him or wanting him to have success.

Do I think Mike Brey can and has made mistakes? Also absolutely. No philosophies are bulletproof, and I think in some cases poor decisions were made. And as I've said in just about every entry and post I've made on the topic, the questions about facilities are not tied to the questions about coaching. Facilities don't help on defense or run a good play out of a timeout or give us any point bonuses in games. The day-to-day execution of the team is the responsibility of the coaches and always has been.

Do I kick people out for complaining about the program? Not as much now as I used to.

I'll happily cop to having had a quick trigger finger in MB's first couple of years. After being tortured for a decade watching ND basketball teams try but not get to where they needed (or I wanted them) to be, I considered people who were bitching during seasons that featured NCAA tournament runs to be way way too premature and knee-jerk. I didn't feel like reading stuff like that after suffering through the 1990s, and the quickest route was to just launch the perpetrators because I don't have all day to read the boards.

(Slight tangent: In other words, the same philosophy I use today regarding people who bitch about Charlie Weis. We just finished 10 years of excruciating football, and now we have a guy who understands the program and is having early success on the field. Yet we still have people who complain we're not getting the five-star recruits fast enough or the defense is giving up 20 points a game when it should be 10 or whatever. It's incredibly annoying to have to read, and as a moderator of the site, I don't have the option of ignoring it. Yes, it might turn out to be a problem, but for crying out loud, can we be happy for a season or two? As far as I can tell, that doesn't mean I'm in Charlie Weis' pocket. It would be rather interesting if it meant I were, seeing as I've only spoken to the man once for about 30 seconds.)

Additionally, there was a small but vociferous group who, for whatever reason, decided right after MB was hired that they didn't like him. Maybe he should have had the team wear bandanas to practice. We weren't even halfway through the first season and they were quickly pointing out every shortcoming, no matter how minor. I have no time for anyone who is going to make a judgement that quickly, and again, I lack the time and patience to tolerate it long-term. So they got bounced.

That may have set a bad precedent for me as the seasons progressed. Given the benefit of hindsight, I identified cases where I may have allowed that experience to color some of my decisions. In those cases, the people got reinstated. Some are still with us, some are not.

In some other cases, I allowed people who had been launched that I didn't feel deserved reinstatement the chance to prove their own cases on the merits, giving them new handles and then staying out of the way. In a couple of cases, it worked out. In a couple others, it didn't.

Some who may have been prematurely launched validated the decision after the fact by acting like tools via email and other message boards. Those people won't be missed.

So where are we now? Three years of improving results have been followed by three years where the team has fallen short, seemingly by a larger margin every season. Complaints I didn't consider logical three years ago after a Sweet 16 appearance are much more logical now. Shortcomings with a couple of seasons of data to back them up make for more logical and calm discussions. If some people consider that "relaxing censorship", that's on them.

As I said, I like Mike Brey and I want him to succeed at ND because I'm naturally drawn to wanting good things for good people. But if this season doesn't work out and/or the ND administration decides they want change, I'm not going to shut the site down. I'll keep doing what I've always done -- try to provide a place where people enjoy talking about ND basketball and pass along whatever info and news happens to come my way. I'm not going to grease up the frisbee because I thought we'd go farther these past few seasons than we did. If I knew everything, I sure as hell wouldn't waste my time here.

The program is bigger than me or MB or Kevin White or JAG or Phil Purcell or any other individual person associated with it (remotely or otherwise). And it'll continue after this season no matter what happens. So I will as well.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

See Dick and Jane Write

In the immediate aftermath of the controversy over Jeff Carroll and Bob Wieneke's series on ND recruiting, someone linked a sports journalist message forum on Rock's House. Wading through the critical comments about NDN in particular and "fanboys" in general, there seemed to be a thread of complaint that Notre Dame fans were afraid of what was described as "objective journalism" in coverage of the Fighting Irish football team.

Now, I know that hypothesis to be untrue. As I've said before, no one wants homerism in ND-related media because homerism is neither interesting nor informative. And most of the Notre Dame writers held in the highest esteem by a lot of fans (e.g. Avani Patel, Malcolm Moran, Vaughn McClure, Eric Hansen, Jason Kelly) are anything but homers (Kelly's status as an alumnus notwithstanding).

So what is it ND fans seek in their media? It's simple: Objective material that presents the facts and allows the reader to draw the conclusions rather than having those conclusions forced down their throat. That's what the five people I listed above do very well in most of their literary efforts.

So here is my primer on the things media folks can do or remember in order to give ND folks the coverage they'll read without sacrificing their objectivity. None of these things are difficult, and they represent the things the highly-regarded ND writers do that results in the readership taking them seriously. Perhaps instead of whining about the alleged intransigence of Notre Dame fans, some media folks could decide to meet them halfway.

Put some effort into your research

I hesitate to use a word like "lazy", given its pejorative underpinnings. So suffice it to say utilizing tired cliches and half-presented facts in an article is not going to win you friends anywhere, and the Notre Dame fanbase is no exception.

In the age of the Internet, fact-checking is made available to even the most novice web surfer, and you can bet on those folks verifying any and all allegations and information against all data available. You're going to be graded by a lot of motivated folks, so you're best served doing the legwork and getting it right before the lack of such legwork is exposed.

Under the Tarnished Dome remains the archetypal failure in this field and will probably not be challenged any time soon. But a new and similarly egregious example has emerged recently: comparing the first seasons of Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis as a cautionary tale for Irish fans.

Yes, they both lost only three games and got a lot of attention. Yes, after five years of Bob Davie's ineptitude, part of the ND fanbase was excited by a 10-win season. But Tyrone Willingham's first team didn't score an offensive touchdown until the third game of the season, looked terrible in four of their last five games, and suffered the first of three consecutive blowout losses to Southern Cal, so most knowledgeable ND fans went into season two with plenty of questions that needed (and, as it turned out, didn't have) answers. Charlie Weis' first team, on the other hand, scored less than 34 points in a game only twice over the course of the season while being competitive in all three games lost. As a result, there is a lot less uncertainty in the alumni and fans going into Weis' second chapter.

Past performance never guarantees future results. But given the unlikelihood Weis will hit his head and suddenly forget how to be the coach he's been so far, logic dictates (a) ND fans can reasonably be more confident now than they were in 2003, and (b) warnings about alleged "parallels" will be viewed as simplistic and overcautious, presenting a negative picture to the reader.

Subway alumni are people, too

Judge Smails once reminded us all the world needs ditch-diggers, too. Unfortunately for Notre Dame's subway alumni, this seems to be the prevailing attitude by which the media views them.

Not everyone in the world goes to college, and not everyone in the world goes to a college that has a Division 1 (or Bowl Division or Eagle Reading Class or whatever the NCAA is calling it now) football program. So logic dictates the masses of humanity filling up these football stadia every Saturday (or Thursday or Tuesday or whatever day ESPN, in its never-ending battle to do for sports what MTV has done for music, has bribed some schools to play its games) aren't entirely made up of the graduates of the two institutes of higher learning in question. So the non-alumnus fan is not a phenomenon unique to Notre Dame.

What is unique to Notre Dame, however, is the use of a specific term to describe such a fan. "Subway alumni" was coined in the 1920s and 30s to describe the many Notre Dame fans in New York City who, while they didn't attend Notre Dame (or any college, for that matter), would ride the subway to Yankee Stadium to watch the Fighting Irish take on the Black Knights of the Hudson from up Army way, and the term eventually grew to encompass the entire non-alumni fan contingent. Subway alumni take great pride in their status as such, and Notre Dame alumni recognize how they've contributed to the history and tradition of the program.

Also unique to Notre Dame, apparently, is the condescending, if not downright hostile, tone in which non-Notre Dame folks, including a lot of media creatures, use that term. No one has any problems with the auto worker from Detroit who makes seven pilgrimages to Ann Arbor every fall, nor the distillery worker who considers a September Saturday not spent in Knoxville to be a waste of time and life, nor the UCSB grad who has spent the last three years going to games in the LA Coliseum and who will no doubt disappear the next time the Trojans go 7-5.

But brand yourself a Notre Dame subway alumnus, and John Mark Karr has a better chance of getting positive comments from the media than you do. The subway alums, the media says, are somehow defective in their fandom. They only care about the team and not the school.

This, as I said, is a shortcut to a tune-out. At the risk of painting with a broad brush, most of the subway alumni active in their Notre Dame fandom care as much about the school in general as they do about football in particular. Attempting to create a "crazed booster" contingent in the fanbase is a strawman of the worst kind.

I suspect the root of the problem with opposing fans is a belief if the subway alumni weren't rooting for Notre Dame, the school would get less attention nationwide and would not enjoy the influence in college football it has. I would certainly hope media folks who are supposed to be objective about their topic wouldn't fall into such a simple-minded trap, because such things are supposed to be above those with journalistic integrity. Besides, all those schools have subway alumni contributing to their own influence that I'd guess they'd hate to lose.

Don't assume a willingness to embrace a lawbreaking culture

In short, selling ND's soul for football glory. Again, Under the Tarnished Dome sets the low-water mark, but this is the mistake Carroll and Weineke recently made in their four-part recruiting article in the SBT I talked about here.

In over 100 years of playing football, the only thing Notre Dame has done at a higher percentage of success than playing football is following its rules. All areas of the Notre Dame family, from the coaches and players on down through administrators, alumni, and yes, even Subway Alumni, put a priority on compliance just as much as winning. To them, a win out of bounds is not a win.

Therefore, if you're going to attempt to prove the existence of a mindset that runs counter to that 100 years of history, you need to bring very strong evidence to back up your assertion. Otherwise, your ND-related readership is going to turn the page. You might earn cheap points with those on the ND-hating side of the ledger, but if that's your goal, you're unlikely to take any of this to heart anyway.

No one believes Notre Dame is perfect

Not everything Notre Dame does is right. Mistakes get made there just as they're made everywhere. Sometimes they're benign, sometimes not so benign, but they're there, and any Notre Dame alumnus or fan with a basic level of intelligence knows it.

If you go into your story believing ND fans need to be convinced of this, most likely you'll end up with a heavy-handed piece that won't be viewed well because the readers will interpret it as an agenda on your part. You may think you need to make hyperbolic statements and arguments to drill through the perceived shell of resistance, but when the shell isn't there, the drill just goes too deep and weakens your piece.

If the details of a mistake are presented with a factual emphasis, most of the Notre Dame readership will listen. If it comes across as gratuitous, with aspects blown out of proportion or buttressed with questionable material, they will not, and that lack of interest shouldn't surprise you.

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