There are days in life when writers just don’t have anything to write. The term “writer’s block?” Yeah, it happens. Trust me.
But instead of taking a day off — or just writing less, which is our answer to writer’s block around here — some writers cobble something together just for the sake of cobbling something together. Rick Reilly’s piece on Notre Dame football for ESPN today seems to be just that kind of cobbled together something. It looks like the well-written work of a messageboard troll. And because half America hates Notre Dame, Reilly is just throwing red meat to a huge crowd. He’s chumming shark-filled waters. Today’s post will probably be his most-read perused column of the year and many, many will — appropriately enough — shout “amen” and “hallelujah” after reading it.
The gist of the piece is this: Reilly is tired of Notre Dame being treated like a special football program even though it hasn’t been recording special wins over the past couple of decades:
“From now on:
* Notre Dame no longer gets its own television deal with NBC.
* Notre Dame no longer gets to be the only school in the country with an inexplicable seat at the BCS decisions-making table.
* Notre Dame no longer gets its yearly undeserved hellahype in preseason rankings and preseason All-America teams.
In short, until Notre Dame football starts winning again, it’s Rice to me.”
Reilly just seems to grow angrier from there, ending with: “You flunked, Notre Dame. Go back a grade.”
Before you applaud too loudly — and trust me, I’m no Fighting Irish fan myself — just remember that the nanosecond after some team finally dethrones the SEC as national football champ, articles like Reilly’s will be churned out all across America. Only they’ll be telling Mike Slive and company to go to the back of the line.
In our country today, just as many people are sick of the SEC as are sick of Notre Dame. Maybe more.
Reilly is trolling on a national scale. Obviously that’s a system that works well. This site and many others have linked to and Tweeted about Reilly’s demand that Notre Dame be dethroned. And other writers do the same thing from time to time — pick a school or fanbase, crap all over it, wait for outraged messageboard posters to spread the word, and then sit back and let the pageviews and unique visitors roll in by the bazillion.
But in this case, Reilly might have been better off just simply stating, “I hate Notre Dame,” and leaving it at that. Because that seems to be the point. All the rest is poppycock with a side of balderdash.
No more deal with NBC? Uh, why? NBC partners with Notre Dame because Irish football — winning, losing, hated by millions or not — still draws big ratings. You want capitalism? Then hush about Notre Dame and NBC. Sure the Irish mystique may be greater than the team’s most recent BCS rating, but that mystique is still very much alive and well. NBC knows it. NBC makes money off of it.
No seat for Notre Dame at the BCS table? What about all the other crazy tie-ins involving the BCS? Ask Boise State and Kansas State fans if they enjoyed having the Sugar Bowl pass them by for Virginia Tech last year. And now that we’re finally getting rid of “AQ” and “non-AQ” status in our biggest bowl games, we’re going to kick off an era of “contract” and “access” bowls. Just to make sure that some teams from some leagues are in while some teams from some other leagues are out. It won’t have a thing to do with on-field production, mind you, just league affiliation. Taking that into consideration, is the means in which Notre Dame is given a spot at the table any more random than the way other schools are selected or cast aside?
No more hellahype? Well, that’s on Reilly and the rest of us in the media. If I’m not mistaken, Reilly’s own ESPN has the Irish ranked #25 in the nation right now and a big video preview of Notre Dame sits right atop his column. Anyone remember the old line: “Don’t hate the player, hate the game?” Well, don’t hate the hyped, hate the hypist.
There’s this idea that Notre Dame is no longer special because the Irish no longer win bowl games and national crowns. But as long as every conference in America would welcome Notre Dame with open arms — and they all would — the program is still special. As long as one of the Big Three networks wants to hand the school a personalized television deal worth millions — the program is still special. As long as the Orange Bowl wants to chat with Notre Dame about creating some form of partnership — the program is still special.
Yes, it’s just its history that makes it special, but I don’t hear anybody calling for Gettysburg National Military Park to be plowed under just because no one’s fought on it in a century and a half. Independence Hall hasn’t been torn down due to a lack of important meetings.
This is an SEC-centric site. And I write this piece about Notre Dame only to make you aware of what’s gonna come the SEC’s way when Southern Cal or Oklahoma or some other team boots a last-second field goal in a BCS title game someday.
“You flunked, SEC. Now you’re just like everybody else. Time to knock you down a notch.”
Blah, blah, and blah. But it’s coming. It’s coming ’cause haters gotta hate.
In truth, though, when the SEC does finally take one on the chin in a big game, it won’t make SEC football any less special for the millions of fans who follow the league’s teams each and every season. It likely won’t have much of an impact on the conference’s television ratings week-in and week-out either.
Which happens to be the case with Notre Dame, too.
So you might want to think about that fact before you join the chorus of people praising Reilly’s smackdown of Notre Dame today. The SEC will get the very same treatment at some point. And if you don’t think it will be fair when that day comes, then you shouldn’t think it’s fair to kick the Fighting Irish around today.