Notre Dame football is forever stuck in no-man's land, and 2012 is no different. They have the name and sheen of a superpower and the roster of, say, a slightly overrated Boston College team. The distance between perception and reality is well-worn territory, but maybe the most amazing thing is that we've been having the same conversation about Notre Dame for a solid 20 years.
It's usually not this honest, though: This week a former NFL player and Notre Dame All-American said that Notre Dame could use a few criminals on the road back to glory.
Via CBS Chicago, current ND radio analyst Allen Pinkett speaks his mind when a radio show asks him about Notre Dame's offseason troubles:
“I’ve always felt like, to have a successful team, you gotta have a few bad citizens on the team,” Pinkett told The McNeil and Spiegel Show. “I mean, that’s how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can’t have a football team full of choir boys. You get your butt kicked if you have a team full of choir boys. You gotta have a little bit of edge, but the coach has to be the dictator and ultimate ruler.”
“I don’t want any mass murders or rapists,” Pinkett said. “I want guys that maybe get caught drinking that are underage, or guys that maybe got arrested because they got in a fight at a bar, or guys that are willing to cuss in public and don’t mind the repercussions of it. That’s the type of criminal I’m talking about.”
Yeah, Allen Pinkett will definitely get raked over the coals for these comments, and maybe even lose his job, if for no other reason than Notre Dame may not be a top-five program anymore, but they definitely lead the country in self-righteous indignation. But is Pinkett really that wrong?
On the one hand ... Georgia and Florida are two programs that have had all kinds of off-field issues the past few years, and both programs have been equally underwhelming on the field. The same can be said for 15 other big time programs with off-field issues.* If Notre Dame's looking for "Team Needs," marijuana and alcohol offenses are nowhere near the top of the list.
*(Including Notre Dame. Their best player (Michael Floyd) got a DUI last year and played anyway, and Notre Dame still clunked their way to the same ol' underwhelming season we've all come to expect from them. Especially given how strict the ND administration is, the Irish have had plenty of off-field issues over the years, and it hasn't exactly been the magic bullet they've been looking for since the mid-90s.)
On the other hand ... some of the greatest, most beloved football teams of all time have been shimmering examples of barely-controlled chaos, featuring plenty of radioactive elements. Go right down the list of the most famous teams in history. This requires a longer conversation, but what Pinkett's getting at isn't totally wrong -- it's just part of what makes football so completely insane, in general.
He was asked whether the small time offseason arrests concern him, and Pinkett answered honestly, drawing from his own experience and examples elsewhere. I kinda love him for it, even if it maybe costs him his job. Smart people can disagree about what he said, but don't over-simplify it if you want to have the discussion.
One thing we can all agree on: South Bend is a soul-crushing hellscape of barren land in the middle of nowhere, and the only things distinguishing it from the worst strip mall ever are the University and Catholicism and the puritanical stance on everything borne from both. If Notre Dame wants to have big time teams like it's 1960 again, they should probably start by relocating and not being Notre Dame.