Joe Raymond / AP
So perhaps you've heard about a guy named Charlie Weis. If you haven't, here's a brief synopsis of why you should know who he is: Tired of humans existing without a religion that people like Pat Roberston could one day exploit and devalue, God got a woman pregnant roughly 2,005 years ago. This woman was named Mary. She was a virgin. God "knew" her, and nine months later, that knowing begot (note the biblical language) a guy named Charlie Weis. Charlie was a humble carpenter who was eventually crucified and resurrected. Needless to say, he was special.
But honestly, the whole resurrection thing--though unique at the time--seems trite these days since everyone and thing, from Jason Voorhees to cartoons like Transformers, gets resurrected.
Instead, you should really know who Charlie is because he: discovered electricity; delivered fire from the gods; started the internets; served as the executive producer for The Low End Theory; lofted a--get this--hail mary to Phelan in the end zone against Miami; ended slavery; decoded Nazi war signals; concocted Haribo fruit salad; cured polio; eradicated suffering; separated the atom; and, best of all, INVENTED FOOTBALL! Or in other words, Charlie Weis is God's gift to humanity.
What does such an important, distinguished, and hallowed individual do these days? Well, duh--the only thing that would suit a man of his considerable stature: he coaches Notre Dame football.
As any deluded Notre Dame fan will tell you (and really, that's anyone who follows the team), coaching Notre Dame football is a privilege reserved for the best and the brightest. And since it's Notre Dame's divine right to receive obnoxious special exemptions, stay on TV every week despite only occasionally being relevant in these modern times, and do all other sorts of cool stuff that you only wish your non-sanctimonious school could do, it's only right that God's son, man's savior, and The Best Person Ever serve as the coach at Notre Dame.
When you happen upon such a
man person man (who are we kidding? No woman, she who led us into sin and out of the garden, is fitting the description), you lock him up for a long while. And that's what Notre Dame did this week, signing Weis to a ten-year contract extension through 2015.
In the wake of the decision, Jason Whitlock declared the act tacitly racist, proof that Tyrone Willingham was the victime of racially biased treatment while sitting on the throne of the third temple. If Weis is the christ, then Whitlock believes that Ty was seen as antichrist because of his skin color. At least in part.
This column has provoked passionate responses on all sorts of internets, no commentary more definitive than that on MGoBlog (see HERE and HERE). And if anyone were in possession of the belief that race is no longer an issue in this country, I'd direct your attention HERE.
Notre Dame may or may not be a racist institution. And even if Notre Dame is not, its football culture may have purposeful or subliminal racist elements embedded in the fabric. Many of the indicators one might seek to find these answers would likely yield correlative, not causal, results. Resultantly, I don't know that a definitive conclusion can be found absent the deft statistical analysis for which I don't currently have time. And Whitlock may be an idiot, may himself be a racist, or may even be totally right. There is a panoply of opinions out there that can be found, and I bet that mine has already been recorded, shared by someone else.
What may be a valuable contribution to the debate--perhaps redundant, but certainly overlooked by seemingly many--is to point this out: Regardless of who's right and who's wrong, who's racist and who's not racist, Whitlock's earnest belief that racial bias is the true story within the Charlie Weis story is troubling. That an educated, prominent black man immediately sees race should tell us that we need to talk about problems of race far more frequently and far more honestly. That, to me, is the real story in all of this.
Do black players run faster than white players? Have black players changed football? Agree or disagree, it's a good thing that these coaches are saying this stuff because it needs to be out in the open. Observing differences should not be met by a castigating chorus of rebuke. Saying in public what you might think in private should not engender widespread anxiety. Oh no, he said "black"! You know that joke about white people whispering the word "black" when saying things like "a black guy"? Well, the knee-jerk idiocy that perpetuates fear of racial dialogue is that whispering writ large.
Is the Weis extension a manifestation of Notre Dame's institutional racism? I don't know. I honestly just think that Notre Dame is so elated to have a coach who is using an exciting system and has enjoyed some success that the contract is really a manifestation of relief and even pathetic desperation. But if some people see the extension as validation that Notre Dame is hostile toward blacks--that the whites in charge unfairly treat blacks--then LET'S TALK ABOUT IT.
That's the real story here. This is just one more reason why we need to engage in a national discussion about race.