No, Rick Reilly, you should be demoted
Guest Columnist | Tuesday, August 21, 2012
I fondly remember reading Rick Reilly’s columns when I was in grade school. Reilly’s columns were a breath of fresh air in a stifling sporting culture that I felt placed too much emphasis on winning and profit. No one captured the innocent side of sports better than he did. NFL previews and baseball commentary were and still are a dime a dozen. But Reilly’s pieces on deaf basketball players and high school teams that hadn’t won in years seemed to contain more truth, more joy, more value than anything else Sports Illustrated had to offer.
And America knew it. Sure, each year, Reilly would add new awards to his trophy case. But more importantly, he taught more and more readers each year to listen to the little guy, appreciate moral victories and respect other peoples’ challenging journeys. The role he played transcended sports. In his own way, he was the sports world’s Ira Glass or Lewis Lapham, a tastemaker who used his hard-earned resources and reputation to keep our culture honest. His columns reminded us that athletes and fans are human beings, first and foremost.
So much for that. For those of you who hadn’t heard, Rick Reilly dedicated his column last week to arguing that Notre Dame’s football program should be “demoted” for its failure to win championships and bully opponents the way it did until the early 1990’s. He claims our football team’s performance on the field does not merit its cut in BCS earnings, its influence on the BCS decision-making committee or its preseason rankings.
“If I told you about a team that had lost 10 of its last 12 bowl games, had dropped nine of its last 10 to USC, had led the nation only in disappointment, you’d figure that team would be halfway down the Mountain West standings. But Notre Dame still gets perks and love from the NCAA and BCS as though the year is 1946,” he wrote in his column for ESPN.com.
His contention is that Notre Dame was once special enough to deserve these “perks,” but that the present arrangement is no longer fair.
“Notre Dame is not a national brand any more than USC, Alabama or Stanford. A national brand? What would its slogan be, ‘Dominating Navy just about every year’? What kind of national brand loses to freaking Tulsa (2010)?”
Well, what can I say? You got us, Rick Shame on us for asking our athletes to have integrity and academic ability. Shame on us for tightening our standards when we eclipsed USC, Alabama and Stanford in national relevance. Though, on second thought, shame on you for not asking, “Would those teams be nationally relevant if they lost four games a year? Would their fans pack the Sun Bowl? Would their opponents’ fans travel hundreds of miles to watch them play their team? Are you telling me enough people care about Stanford football to watch them on NBC?”
Actually, Rick’s article showed a shocking disregard for fans and their feelings (whether they love or hate Notre Dame). It measures the success of a program in wins and losses alone. It rolls its eyes at our academic standards for student athletes, somewhat unscientifically accuses our athletes’ desire to win and implicitly likening our program to Penn State’s football program (because apparently neither program plays by the same rules as everyone else). Classy. I guess that answers the question, “What have you done lately, Rick?” Maybe you should turn in your tiara. If ESPN offers you a contract extension, maybe you should consider taking some time off.
Contact Arnav Dutt at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.