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A tribute to our tainted water supply

Bob Kessler | Thursday, February 14, 2008

Before I begin, I would like to thank my parents for reading during this JPW weekend. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

A couple of weeks ago (before I contracted the black plague and was quarantined to my side room) I was over at The Rock doing some lifting when I realized that I had forgotten to bring bottled water with me. My choice: Risk my life drinking from the possibly contaminated drinking fountains outside the second floor gymnasium, or simply go without water. While my mouth was desperate for some liquidy goodness, I attempted to persevere. I could not go without a swig, however, and I was forced to drink from the ancient spouts on floor two. Even though I can’t assume that the sickness I got soon after can’t be traced back to my unsafe workout hydration practices, I think my subjugation could have been prevented if we would simply follow the example of one Easter Heathman.

Late last month, Easter Heathman passed away. In the weeks that followed his death, I read several obituaries describing how he was one of the first people to arrive at the scene of Knute Rockne’s plane crash. In the years since this fateful event, Mr. Heathman maintained the site, and led people on unofficial tours of it. He even organized for a memorial to be built in our former coach’s honor.

Here on campus, while we refer to the football stadium as the House that Rockne Built, the building that was actually built to honor the coach is the Rockne Memorial, or, The Rock. For those of you who don’t know, (the approximately seven fat people on campus) The Rock is where many students go to work out. While I sometimes swim or lift weights (the smaller ones), other people play basketball, racquetball, or run on treadmills. The facility is also used for freshman physical education classes, as well as fitness and dance classes throughout the year. Since countless students have come through the building to meet for Coach O’Sullivan’s golf class, and so many have used The Rock over the years, it is almost shameful to our great coach that we honor him with such a downtrodden facility.

Knute Rockne was a coach who undoubtedly cared a lot about fitness. I’m certain his teams were a hard-working, intelligent, nasty groups of men that were feared by teams across the country (a far cry from our current situation). These athletes undoubtedly went through tough practices under the summer sun, and probably took many water breaks drinking from the best sources that north-central Indiana has to offer.

Are we really honoring him with this workout facility where students are afraid of contracting diseases from the water? I don’t know if my recent plight with a flu-like virus is a direct cause of drinking Rockne-water, but it certainly would not shock me if the water in the facility is brought through lead pipes to get to the students who are counting on it. I could be wrong, but I even think one of the campus presidential tickets ran on a clean water campaign. I sure hope they won because we all know the student body president has enough power to get this done.

Anyways, what we really ought to do to raise awareness about our water situation is bring in a celebrity who has experience cleaning up water. I’m thinking we bring in Erin Brockovich herself. She sure knows enough about cleaning tainted water, and I would think Notre Dame students are just the group of people that a justice seeking woman like Ms. Brokovich would be willing to help out.

Actually, on second thought, nobody really knows who she is. It might be better if we just get her cinematic counterpart Julia Roberts to come to campus and speak on our behalf. I’m sure that could be fun. We could have her screen some mediocre romantic comedies like Notting Hill and My Best Friend’s Wedding, and she could talk about that scene in Ocean’s 12 where she acted as a woman pretending to be Julia Roberts.

Seeing as that probably wouldn’t help, we should probably just fix the pipes. If we can spend the money to upgrade the house that Rockne built, we should at least be able to find some really rich alumnus to throw a couple million at us and fix up The Rock. I’m sure Fr. Jenkins would love to have another fence built across campus and spread the construction to South Quad. It’s the least we can do not only to stop the fear that is spreading across campus about the drinking water in the Rock, but also to honor the memory of our greatest football coach.

If Easter Heathman can single handedly honor Coach Rockne at the place of his death, our administration should certainly be able to find a way to rightfully honor him at the place where he made a name for himself, and it would not take too much effort to fix the Rock into a healthy facility.

Or, we could just get water bottles.

Bob Kessler is a junior majoring in political science and economics. He is a supporter of free speech and the fair tax, and you can read more of his work at saltystix.com. He can be contacted at rkessler@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.