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Football Commentary: An open letter to Charlie Jr.

Chris Hine | Monday, February 2, 2009

LOS ANGELES – Dear Charlie Weis Jr.,

We’ve never met so I don’t know what your personality is like, or how you handle criticism of your father, but I can probably guess that it hurts, probably more than when someone says something bad about you.

Every coach’s son grows up idolizing his father. You think he’s the smartest guy in the world. You think nobody is a better coach than he is. And you don’t believe it when anyone says otherwise.

At least that’s how I felt growing up. My father, Chet, was the head basketball coach at my high school, Bishop Hoban, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for 33 years. After my junior year, his job status was up in the air. A handful of angry parents were displeased with his performance – we finished just around .500 that year – and felt he should be doing better with the talent he had.

It was only a handful of parents, but it was the right parents – those with the deep pockets – that wanted him out. The boneheaded principal listened to them and took the matter under consideration and for weeks, we waited until he made the decision.

Waiting was truly the hardest part.

While we waited, people made accusations about my father and stabbed him in the back, just as I’m sure you’ve probably seen reports in various newspapers or Web sites, quoting sources – both named and anonymous – that take shots at your father.

And maybe you heard the USC fans Saturday – and even the Notre Dame fans last week after the loss to Syracuse – saying you’re dad stinks and should be fired as he was walking into the locker room. It’s cheap and it’s petty.

But at the same time, you probably realize the team that dejectedly walked off the field Saturday wasn’t the same team it was at the beginning of the year. It resembled the team that took the field week in and week out last season: The offensive line struggled mightily and as a result, the offense did nothing. The defense, while spirited in the beginning, wore down from being on the field too much. As happened all last season, and Notre Dame can’t have its team looking like it did in 2007.

You don’t want these critics to be right, but when you see the team play like this, you begin to worry if they’re right to say your dad can’t inspire his team and can’t develop the talent that he brings in because he can’t relate to college players.

As for my dad, his critics said he many of the same things – he couldn’t motivate the team to play, that he was wasting talent, and that he couldn’t relate to high school kids. Funny, because after all, I was a high school kid, and he always related to me pretty well. But I recognized that we had talent and things just weren’t clicking that season, and it frustrated a lot of people. I worried that people would think those critics were right.

The mistake was, I took it all personally. It was hard to get up and go to school every day, and have to face the same rumors and accusations from these small people all over again.

For weeks, we kept waiting. The parents who wanted my dad out even organized a meeting to rally support for their cause.

In my head, I imagined all the conversations they were having with each other, all the long phone calls they must’ve had to plot dad’s removal. I thought, “Don’t these people have anything better to do with their lives than worry about the basketball team? After all, it’s just sports, there are more important things to worry about.”

When you see these Web sites, read the newspaper or watch ESPN, you might have the same opinion.

I was distracted in every aspect of my life. There were some long, even sometimes tear-filled nights where I couldn’t stop worrying. I saw what they were doing to my dad. He, too, became sadder and angrier during this time, and that made me even angrier.

Finally, the school let him have one more year. An odd arrangement, but we made the most of it, winning our district title and advancing to the state quarterfinals. So much for the argument that he couldn’t coach anymore.

Charlie Jr., you’re going to hear a lot of rumors – many more at Notre Dame than we heard at my high school. Tune them out.

You’re going to hear a lot of talk on TV. Turn it off.

And you’ll probably see some things in the newspaper. Throw it in the trash.

People, young and old, have said and will always say nasty things about your father. Sadly, this sort of dialogue is a part of our American sports culture.

When my dad was done coaching, it was tough, but everything did work out in the end. The whole ordeal actually brought us closer together than ever. Nobody can take away all that he accomplished, just as nobody can take away all your dad has accomplished – remember, he’s the only guy on campus with four Super Bowl rings.

As you go through the next few weeks, don’t let the waiting get to you. It’s just not worth it.

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

Contact Chris Hine at