Monday, November 01, 2010

A Big Thing Badly

This has been a rather strange week to be a Notre Dame alumni. It is not because our football team sucks to the point that we boo the coach off the field. As an Illini I am rather used to that. In fact “Booing the team after another heartbreaking defeat due to pure ineptness” is actually listed as one of the traditions of Illini football in Wikipedia. No, this is more of one of shame and outrage and cursing stupidity in the name of sports.

As most people know a Notre Dame student was killed at practice last week when the scissor lift that he was using to film practice was toppled by high winds. The weather in the Midwest was insane last week with the barometric pressure being the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane and numerous tornadoes being spawned across several states. My Facebook page was filled with status updates of people who couldn’t believe the storm. While Notre Dame has a perfectly find indoor practice facility that they used on Tuesday on Wednesday the coach decided to send the team outside to practice with the wind gusting to up to 50 mph. And one of those gusts is what killed a student.

People have called it a tragedy and while that is true it is really a poor use of the word tragic. Whenever any young person dies it is a tragic circumstance but we typically use that in reference to an unknown, unpreventable situation. This was completely preventable. They shouldn’t have been outside, they shouldn’t have used the lifts in that type of wind and the entire situation would have been avoided. Instead a 20 year old was buried today. It is the perfect definition of an avoidable tragedy.

It also bothers me how sportswriters use events like this to talk about how campus communities come together in times like this as a crutch to preview the game. More than a few people wrote about how Notre Dame rallies and bonds together at times of tragedy. That is entirely true and I have witnessed it myself on several occasions. However, none of that has to do with any game being played on Saturday. We comfort each other because that is in our nature. It is not meant to be a show of support so that our inside linebacker can better read a blocking scheme. Some of the articles read as though this would be a benefit to the team in terms of unity going into the game. I can’t even wrap my head around this one.

I’m not sure who should get the blame for this but someone certainly needs to. Whether it is the coach or the AD who has the ultimate responsibility I am not sure but this is certainly not emblematic of the school and the program that I have supported. They practiced outside due to some macho bullshit code of toughing it out under adverse conditions even though nothing useful could be accomplished. How do you practice pass plays with a 50 mph crosswind? No one bothered to look at the kid in the air on the sideline and go, “You know, I really don’t think we need footage of the pass rush today.” That bothers me greatly. Something so simple and so obvious was overlooked at a place where those are the things that should matter most.

I know that the students will cope with this and come out stronger. That is the Notre Dame way. I just hope that somewhere in this a lesson is learned by the people who are placed in the position of leadership to understand what is truly important. This is the darkest moment that I have seen since I’ve been associated with the school. I can only hope that they address this in the most straightforward and honest manner possible because it will be a long time before I can cheer the team on the field in quite the same way again.

The five random CDs for the week:
1) The Iguanas “If You Should Ever Fall On Hard Times”
2) Jack Ingram “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas”
3) Leonard Cohen “The Essential Leonard Cohen”
4) Cowboy Mouth “Easy”
5) Anders Osborne “Live at Tipitina’s”

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