Rick Reilly is Lazy and Wrong

Every time Rick Reilly puts out a new piece a friend of mine and I inevitably end up spending (far too much) time complaining to each other about how Reilly, who ESPN consistently reminds us won something like 72 Sportswriter of the Year awards, has either thrown in the towel on actually trying to put out a quality product or has completely lost his journalistic abilities as he’s aged. During his prime his column was the first page I flipped to every week when I received my Sports Illustrated issue in the mail, but that was a different era. Today, his typical modus operandi is: 1) Do no research; 2) Think up painfully awkward analogies and plays on words; 3) Repeatedly bash athletes that didn’t give him good interviews for their personality flaws (see: Tiger Woods, bad tipper).

Of course, ESPN gave him a 5 year contract worth $17 million so they will continue to put his work on the front page even though it is a weak shell of its former self. Okay, okay – let’s get all the Notre Dame/NBC to Reilly/ESPN comparisons out of the way here. Done? Great.

My bone to pick with Reilly is mainly that of an amateur writer who can’t stand people who make arguments that are built by wordsmithing while lacking material support, and I usually keep my frustration that he is so revered and prominently published to myself. When he made his attack on Notre Dame yesterday, though, I decided it was time to look a little more deeply into his most recent story.

I’ll start by giving him credit for the good points he made:

1)      He discusses Notre Dame not using any timeouts on USC’s last possession in 2011. I was also bothered by this. The people in front of me in Notre Dame Stadium with children that had to hear the language I was using were bothered even more.

2)      There is no #2.

And now with the rest. I’ll go through section by section:

I once loved Notre Dame football.

My dad went to Notre Dame and flunked out and I still loved Notre Dame football. I loved Lindsey Nelson telling me “neither team advanced the ball so we move to further action in the fourth quarter” while my mom was yelling, “Get ready for mass!”

But I grew up.

Ah yes, the perfect way to set up the straw man argument. “My viewpoint is completely unbiased because I used to be a fan, so if I don’t like them anymore there must be something really wrong.”

By the way, since the only real issues you bring up in the rest of the article are about the team’s performance, we can only assume that you are a fair-weathered fan…a frontrunner who has given up on the Irish for being 24 years removed from a national title. Fine. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Rick.

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.

I’m declaring an end to all that.

Actually, TCU (who he’ll go on to compare the Irish to in just a bit) would have been halfway down the Mountain West Conference most of the time since Notre Dame last won a national title if they had joined the conference before 2005. In fact, from 1988 through 2000 TCU was 69-77-1. From 1988 through 2011, TCU had a winning percentage of .626. Notre Dame had a winning percentage of .663 over the same period against much tougher competition.

I’m not trying to discredit the Horned Frogs (love watching them play), but to show that you, Rick, may actually want to do some real research instead of just cherry picking statistics.

On top of that, what if I told you about a team that only won 3 out of 9 bowl games, had dropped 11 in a row to Notre Dame, and typically didn’t come close to filling the stands for their its home games? Would you think I was talking about a Mountain West Conference team? Because I’d be talking about 1993 USC.

In Europe, if you play too much bad soccer for too many years, you get “relegated” to a lower division, moved down, demoted. It just happened to the Blackburn Rovers.

It needs to happen to Notre Dame football.

Actually, Rick, in the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A and German Bundisliga if you play too much bad soccer for ONE year you get relegated to a lower division (the bottom 3 teams are relegated). Thanks for the Blackburn Rovers reference, though – I’m sure you’re watching pleeeenty of European soccer while you’re not on the golf course. Although, if you had taken some time to do the slightest bit of research, you might have found that Leeds United – one of the top 10 most popular teams in England – could have been an extremely effective comparison as they went from a Champions League semifinal in 2001 all the way down to the third tier of English soccer and have yet to climb their way back to the top. Just sayin’.

If Notre Dame isn’t a factor this season — and it hasn’t been a factor in almost 20 years — it’s time to take it down a literal peg.

By its historical standards, Notre Dame has clearly not been its strongest over the past 20 years. No one is going to argue that. But not a factor? Do you remember when the Irish went into their final game against USC in 2006 with an outside shot at a national championship birth? Do you remember the 3 BCS bowls?

They have certainly not been as strong as Oklahoma or USC in the 2000’s or as strong as Florida State in the 1990’s, but saying the Irish haven’t been a factor in 20 years is a lazy, wrong, and sad attempt to throw out sweeping statements that will get uneducated fans (that you should be educating, Rick) to agree with you.

We can’t demote Notre Dame from its conference — since it is far too noble to belong to any piddling conference — but we can demote it in stature.

Please find me a cave to run and hide in when Rick Reilly is the new dictator of the sporting world.

In short, until Notre Dame football starts winning again, it’s Rice to me.

That hurts your feelings? Watch “Rudy” ’til you feel better.

At least you can recognize that “Rudy” is a good film. By the way, while ND’s winning percentage the last 20 years has been .630, the Rice Owls have put up a winning percentage of 0.421 playing in the Southwest Conference, the WAC, and Conference USA. Again, this is an incredibly half-assed attempt at diminishing how the Irish have performed by trying to equate them to a small team with a small fan base without any reasonable basis.

Can you explain to me how a team that hasn’t won a national championship since 1988, a Heisman since 1987, or more than eight games its last five seasons still gets treated like the 1967 Green Bay Packers?

I’m really curious how you settled on the 1967 Green Bay Packers as your comparison, Rick. Did you know the Packers lost to the lowly Vikings (3-8-3 record in ’67) and Steelers (4-9-1) that year? Ew! Tulsa!

See, Rick? I can cherry pick stats too.

Notre Dame has won 86 games since the turn of this century. Oregon has won 111 games since then. TCU has won 119. Boise State has won 136. Do they have their own TV deals?

Somebody needs to stick a pin in the still-inflated Golden Dome. Look, the ACC wants Notre Dame. Would die to have it. But word is, Notre Dame won’t go if it has to share TV and gate revenue with the rest of the conference, like everybody else. The Irish people love to share. The Irish athletic department? Not so much.

No, those teams don’t have their own TV deals. Notre Dame has its own TV deal because there are a LOT of Notre Dame fans, and a LOT of other people who will still turn on the game. I’m sorry that you have apparently given up on the Irish after 53 years of fandom because they haven’t won a championship in a while, but there are millions of people who haven’t that still like to turn on NBC on Saturdays.

By the way, since you probably didn’t actually research the economics of the NBC deal, Rick (lazy….again), you can check out what I wrote about them here: NBC Deal Money Not a Differentiator 

If college football won’t put its foot down and force Notre Dame to join a conference — as every other sport at Notre Dame has — then the least it can do is stop paying it a bowl bonus of $1.3 million when it DOESN’T go to a bowl game. That’s right: Notre Dame gets a $1.3 million bowl bonus simply for dressing up the stupid leprechaun.

Say it with me now, everyone: lazy. Rick, did you bother to research the fact that the BCS conferences other than the Big 12 split their BCS bowl money evenly among the conference members? In fact, in years where Notre Dame doesn’t go to a bowl game, the school would typically be better off financially if it was in a conference getting a bigger piece of the BCS pie.

I hear what the Domers are saying. They’re saying, “Notre Dame doesn’t have to be in a conference. Notre Dame is unlike any other football power. Notre Dame is a national brand.

Sure, and girls are still wearing leg warmers.

Straw man into leg warmers. Ah, leg warmers – a classic Reilly comparison. I’m sure you stayed up all night thinking of that one. Let’s throw in tie dye shirts and bell-bottoms too.

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)?

Stanford is a national brand? They kind of (actually finishing #2 in the AP poll before defeating Nebraska) won a national championship for the last time in 1940, and won their sole Heisman in 1970. Considering they weren’t even selling out their home games with Andrew Luck at the helm, I would hardly use them as an example of a national brand.

Also, Tulsa was 10-3 in 2010 – since you ignored strength of schedule entirely anyway, I’m going to blindly throw out that USC was only 8-5 in 2010. Boom.

Oh, and Alabama lost to Louisiana-Monroe in Nick Saban’s first year. What kind of national brand loses to freaking Louisiana-Monroe (2007), Rick?

Please, NCAA and BCS, stop leaping to attention every time caller ID says it’s Notre Dame. The Irish haven’t finished in the top 20 in any poll in five years. They can leave a message.

Hey – you might have done some research to figure that one out…yay.

When did I quit on Notre Dame? When it quit on itself.

You are not royalty anymore, Notre Dame. Turn in your tiara.

Yawn. He is really getting into these one-liners against ND. Don’t worry, he’ll have one more to finish off in style.

When your NBC contract expires in 2015, do the right thing and don’t renew. Lower some expectations until you can turn this thing around. And you’re a Mars Rover trip from turning it around.

Your ESPN contract expires in 2013. Please do the right thing and don’t renew. By the way, since I’m guessing you didn’t look it up, the recent Mars Curiosity trip from Earth to Mars took a little bit less than 8.5 months. If that’s how far Notre Dame is from turning it around, you should probably hop back on the bandwagon.

And with Kelly throwing the QB job up for grabs again, instead of just handing it to Tommy Rees once his one-game suspension is up, this season looks like 6-5 to me, with Ls to Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and you don’t even want to know what USC will do to the Irish in the Coliseum. Cue the DentDoctor.com Bowl.

Now things are just getting out of hand. My brain is starting to hurt. But now it’s clear: Rick hasn’t actually paid attention to college football since 2005, the year before the NCAA allowed a 12 game season. The season looks like 6-5? The Irish play 12 games!! Also, who at ESPN is letting this mistake slip through the cracks? [Update: ESPN edited the article to say 7-5 about 24 hours after it was published]

Somebody needs to make Notre Dame play by the same rules as everybody else. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the Penn State mess, it’s that nobody gets to live on a pedestal anymore.

You’re really taking it to a new level here, Rick. I couldn’t think of a classier way to finish off your pathetic argument than to compare Notre Dame’s on the field performance over the past 20 years to the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Bravo.

You flunked, Notre Dame. Go back a grade.

You are apparently desperate to get hits on your articles, Rick. Please go back to writing real stories with real substance and real research – the ones that made me such a big fan of yours before I grew up.

 

 

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