Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Friday, December 21, 2007

Weiss was the white man for the job

The collegiate bowl games were recently announced. The once proud Fighting Irish of Notre Dame certainly won’t be participating. Unlike last season Weiss’s team will be home for the holidays. The Irish are no longer the “gold” standard they once were-the season was a disaster-they’ve sunk to an all-time low epitomized by losing to Navy, a team they’d beaten for 43 straight years. I guess there’s always next year.

Remember when Notre Dame football really meant something? Gone are the days of Knute Rockne winning one for the Gipper. Lost is the legacy of winning championships like the Frank Leahy, Ara Parsegian, and Lou Holtz did. I find this year’s Irish team to be similar to the 1956 squad that went 2-8 after going 8-2 the previous year. At least that team played hard produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Paul Hornung who would later lead the Green Bay Packers to prominence in 1960's. No Heisman hopefuls on this years’ 3-9 squad that’s for sure.

Three years ago Charlie Weiss, the offensive guru who helped the New England Patriots win three Super Bowls, was hired to right the ship Tyrone Willingham was abruptly thrown overboard from. Weiss was given a ton of money to work his magic he crafted in the NFL as offensive coordinator and show the kids how it’s done. This year he hasn’t shown much.

Plain and simple the Irish suck and so does Weiss. The Irish suck so bad NBC cancelled their last two televised games. Following a loss to Air Force NBC head Jeffery Zucker stated, “The Irish aren’t a good fit for lineup right now.” Pretty sad considering Notre Dame football has traditionally produced high ratings for the peacock network.

The bottom line is delivering victories. Neither Weiss nor his guys are got it done. First of all, Weiss wasn’t the right man for the job. He wasn’t the head coach of those Patriot teams that won Super Bowls-he was just a coordinator. Weiss didn’t have any head coaching experience on any level. Weiss can be viewed as the bridesmaid of coaches-he’s great as a side-kick but hasn’t handled being “the” guy very well up to this point. Yes, Weiss had some success last year but those were Willingham's players not his.

Speaking of Willingham I think he got a raw deal to begin with: he was the only coach in Notre Dame history to not finish out the remaining years on his contract. Even the likes of Jerry Faust and Bob Davie were not let go until their five-year contracts expired. Willingham compiled a 21-15 record during his three-year stint at Notre Dame. After three years Faust had an 18-15-1 record while Davie was 21-16 after three years.

As you can see Willingham, Faust, and Davie share similar records but Faust and Davie got to finish what they started and Willingham didn’t. Weiss is currently 22-16 and looking forward to next year while his predecessor was forced out. What’s the deal? I feel Willingham was held to a higher standard because of skin color. The expectations for him were high as the sky and the leash was certainly short. How else can one logically explain how the coaches share nearly identical records to date yet Willingham was not allowed to finish what he started?

Irish officials could have hired Willingham from the jump but they didn’t want to. Remember George O’Leary? He’s the guy the Irish really wanted and what they got was a fraud. Five days after the Irish hired him O’Leary resigned because he lied about his athletic and academic accomplishments. Many felt Willingham was a better fit for the job even if O’Leary hadn’t lied. Days later the desperate Irish hired the guy (Willingham) they really didn’t want.

Willingham was the first African American head coach in any sport at Notre Dame. In his inaugural season Willingham became the only head coach in Notre Dame history to win 10 games in his first year. Pretty good stuff considering icons like Rockne, Leahy, Parsegian, and Holtz never did better in their first year on the side lines.

After going 6-5 the in the third year of five-year deal the ride was over for Willingham. The athletic department informed Willingham they needed to go in a different direction because the team wasn’t performing well. If 6-5 isn’t going in the right direction what do you call Weiss’s 3-9? Willingham was held to a higher standard and let go for the same reason-skin color. Willingham motivated his players, had a great inaugural season, and he didn’t lie about his credentials like O’Leary. But I guess Willingham couldn’t make the connection because of his complexion.

Willingham didn't have a season like Weiss is completed yet I don't hear anyone clamoring for Weiss to be ousted. I’m not hearing the infamous “we need to move in another direction” speech from anyone at Notre Dame.

Gee, I wonder why.

In my opinion Weiss isn’t doing a better than job than the man he replaced (Willingham) nor is he facing the type of scrutiny his predecessor did. Time will tell whether Weiss will turn things around: looks like he’ll get the chance that Willingham wasn’t allowed to have.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

United States much recognize it's racist past

Heritage High School officials recently reported the student who found two letters littered with racial slurs allegedly lied. East Allen County Schools officials said there was only one letter found, not two, and it was in a classroom lab table rather than left in a student’s locker.

Citizens of Monroeville and others believe the student should be expelled. Their wishes have been granted as the student has been suspended for a week as the investigation continues.
Suspensions shouldn’t stop there. School officials need to produce the author of the racist letter and deal with that accordingly. Only time will tell how situation will end as new information continues to unfold.

Racial incidents occur more than we care to acknowledge. The media typically don’t care to shed lengthy attention to racism because it’s a touchy topic for most. Few care to adopt the open mind necessary to hammer away and make change. The only way to advance forward is to not deny the presence of racism and deal with it head on.

When the Heritage High School story first broke, it brought back unpleasant memories for me. I’ve had racial slurs hurled at me. I’ve been called a nigger by racists.

I particularly remember two incidents that occurred my freshman year at Indiana University, Bloomington. I walked my girlfriend to her dorm room in Wright Quad. I lived in a neighboring dorm (Wilkie), which was about a mile walk. As I walking solo that fall evening, I encountered a group of white male students who gave me dirty looks and proceeded to hit me with a litany of racial slurs. After being called more “niggers” than I cared to hear, I struck back verbally. I proceeded to my dorm room wondering what had I done besides be African American to induce such a racial tirade.

In the second incident, I was walking down the street after class near Read Hall. I noticed a car full of white males had slowed down to match the pace I was walking. The male in the passenger side rolled his window down and said, “hey you f------ nigger,” then proceeded to spit at me. His words solicited universal laughter from his cronies as I tried to make sense of what transpired. I stood on the sidewalk as the car sped away, extremely angry and confused.

Twenty years ago I couldn’t really understand why the color of my skin could arouse such hate. I wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with such occurrences because I simply didn’t know how. I didn’t fully understand the historical development of this country and how racism has played an integral part in shaping American history like I do now. Through a combination of life experiences and increased intelligence I now have the ability to articulate the complex feelings I experienced.

How do you deal with racism? First, the key to ridding a problem is to first acknowledge one exists. Secondly, the root cause must be clearly identified.

Centuries ago Americas “founding fathers” erected a perennial system of oppression that still reigns supreme. They planted the initial seeds of racism via legislation and allowed American slavery to thrive. Those initial seeds of hate have now fully blossomed as racism continues to meticulously divide this country socially, politically and economically.

The founding fathers created many of the racial slurs that exist; they coined the use of the word nigger and all of its derivatives. Yes, hearing the N-word hurts, but to me it’s not so much the word itself as it’s perceived meaning. When an African American is called a nigger it implies inferiority, it means your place is second class, it means you belong to a subordinate class of beings who lack rights and respect from white America. In essence it means you (African Americans) are nothing.

Racists utilize their lingo to oppress and break the collective souls of African Americans. Racists embrace the notion they are superior. They believe they have a sense power and entitlement that’s been handed down from Americas’ original brain trust. That’s why the late Marge Schott, who once owned the Cincinnati Reds, felt she could refer to two of her players as “million dollar niggers.” That’s why a shock Jock like Don Imus can call African American women “nappy headed ho’s” and simply get another gig.

Looking at the Heritage High School situation, the two incidents I encountered and beyond I believe neither the victims nor perpetrators are at fault. The American system that initially produced such hate and social division is at fault. There’s no way around it – America cannot progress until the initial seeds of racism planted are acknowledged and addressed with an open mind.