Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Charlie's Free Pass

Of all the things about living in northern Indiana for five years, one of the most difficult things I had to endure as a life-long fan of a Big Ten team was living smack-dab in the middle of Notre Dame country. Virtually all of Indiana is basketball crazy, but in one little corner of the state roundball dreams take a backseat to visions of football glory, and that corner was where we lived. I chalk that up to the fact that the big news every week, everywhere within an hour of South Bend, is what's going on with Notre Dame football. You can be sure that 365 days a year (366 on a leap year) there will be an article in the South Bend Tribune about the Fighting Irish's chances to win it all in football. Every recruit they get or don't get, every play in the Spring Game, and every word the coach says or doesn't say is front page news. Hence, I think that while most of the rest of the state dreamt of playing for (while being verbally berated) Bobby Knight at IU that everywhere the Irish are king, little boys grow up want to wear those green jerseys for a particularly important football game.

So, endlessly I had to read and listen and watch all the talking heads and talking head wanna-bes drone on about Irish football for five long years. It did help that in 2002 OSU won the National Championship (I enjoyed my time with Irish fans immensely that year), but for the most part I grew weary of dealing with what I believe to be the most unforgiving, demanding, and arrogant football fans in the world. I had to listen to everyone and their brother lambaste the Big Ten as being too inferior a conference for ND to join. I watched them run Bob Davie out of town. And I watched them short-change a true gentleman in Ty Willingham (all the while saying that race had nothing to do with the short clock he was apparently on) who deserved much better.

When they won, life was good... but when they lost, ND turned into Chicken Little Central, and man can those people worry about the sky falling better than any other people on the planet.

Which is why I'm curious that Charlie Weis apparently is getting a free pass this year, even as his team is 1-8? These guys are mostly Charlie's recruits. They've had ample time to learn his offensive and defensive(?) system. What in the world is going on South Bend that somehow Charlie Weis' job status isn't being scrutinized like Bill Callahan's or Dennis Franchione's? And really, outside of the hot shot freshman QB from California who lost his starting job, what is it about the program and the players in it that give Irish fans... a notoriously impatient lot... a willingness to let this season slide?

Well, beats me. Maybe someone could explain it to me, cause the ND nation I knew would be calling for the coach's head if they had a mediocre season, let alone the disaster that is this year.

All I can figure is that because Charlie was once a starry-eyed kid who took classes on the campus, that the faithful are more forgiving of one of their own. Cause if a guy's job status isn't gonna be questioned when he loses to Navy in triple OT (NAVY! They have rules about how big you can be to play football, and the rules state you can be TOO big. How in the world does ND lose to Navy?) he apparently isn't going anywhere... for now.

But you can only play like this for so long and believe that NBC is going to shell out $33 million to broadcast your ballgames. I get the sense that in the offseason, and if things don't start well next season, lots of candles will be lit in the Grotto... and not to many of them for the coach that's getting way more slack than I thought possible in a city where the sun rises and sets on the stadium next to Touchdown Jesus.

You're getting a free pass this year, Charlie. Better enjoy it while it lasts.

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