Did Notre Dame coach go too far during a recent f-bomb attack on national television?
Peter Finney, Jr., of the Clarion Herald newspaper in New Orleans, thinks so:
Just a pooch punt from the towering icon called “Touchdown Jesus” in athletic homage to Christ’s eternally upraised arms, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly, with bulging carotid arteries and a limited vocabulary heavily skewed to four-letter words beginning in “f” and “s,” is the poster child for Catholic coaches gone wild.
And for hypocrisy at the highest levels of Catholic academia.
Anyone with a DVR, a cable subscription to ESPN and even a rudimentary level of ESP could have predicted what might happen when Notre Dame hired Kelly in December 2009 from the hinterlands of Cincinnati to resurrect a moribund football program whose last national championship was in 1988, before the dawn of the cell phone.
It wasn’t a question of if Kelly would implode. It was a question of when.
At $3 million a year, Kelly’s fiduciary responsibility at Notre Dame is to win games and justify Notre Dame’s $15 million a year deal with NBC, which somehow has found the university still marketable despite its miserable on-field fortunes over the last quarter-century.
But in a 23-20 loss to South Florida to open the 2011 season, Kelly served notice that his irrational sideline demeanor in Cincinnati, which often flew below the radar because of the limited audience, apparently is hard-wired into his personality.
In a series of sideline rants that would have made even George Carlin blush, Kelly spewed four-letter words at his quarterback who threw a red-zone interception. NBC’s cameras caught everything, as ABC used to say, “up close and personal.” No lip reading was necessary.
OK, so what’s the big deal? Aren’t these 18- to 22-year-old athletes big enough and tough enough to accept abusive language from a coach – foul-mouthed tirades they’ve probably heard since high school – and simply move on?
That’s not the fundamental question and totally misses the point, says Edmund Rice Christian Brother John Casey, a former secondary schools executive with the National Catholic Educational Association who now lives in New Orleans after having spent many years as principal of Rice High School in Central Harlem.
“We are an incarnational faith,” Brother John said. “How we act counts.”