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The Virgin Mary is a Protestant

How else to explain that debacle of a loss to Alabama -- the team from about the most Protestant state in the nation whipping the team that is the repository of all that is good and right and holy about Catholicism in America.More bad news: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is reportedly interviewing for the Philadelphia Eagles vacant head coaching job. That would be a good fit: a coach who can't win the big games in college going to a franchise that can't win the big ones in the NFL.There is one bit of good news, though: one of six computers used in the BCS "matrix" still ranks Notre Dame No. 1 over Alabama. A Catholic computer?So what strikes me most, however, is that since Monday night's whupping, all those ND fans have been almost entirely silent. Nary a peep on the interwebs, where for weeks there had been nothing but triumphalism and woofing about how Notre Dame's imminent championship season showed the superiority of a Catholic school (crowing from many folks who just a couple years earlier were blasting ND as having sold its Catholic soul -- hmmmm) and how the divine hand of a Catholic God was clearly at work in this miraculous season (brought to you by Mormon players and perhaps one sex assault suspect, but whatever). Heck, this season even taught me that the inimitable G.K. Chesterton once lent his bloviations to the cause of Our Lady's football team.How could they lose with such backing? But lose they did. Crushed, actually. Not that there seems to be any humility coming from ND fans -- the Golden Domers who bragged of beating the Mobile Homers. Well, maybe those poor kids from the South can teach rich white suburbanite Catholics something.But seriously, folks. After all the chest-thumping and scapular-waving, don't Catholics have anything to say about the theodicy of football? How it is that Notre Dame could lose and thereby undermine the Catholic faith? How it is that the brilliant RGIII may have been chewed up and spit out in his rookie season with the Redskins? Why it is that we continue to to cheer for our teams (mea maxima culpa) even thought the sport can cause traumatic brain injury that leads terrific athletes and fathers and husbands like former N.F.L. linebacker Junior Seau to blow their brains out at a young age?Actual religious faith seems to be a more nuanced discipline than the all-or-nothing world of football fundamentalism.Then again, in the case of Notre Dame's lost championship, maybe the answer is obvious: Notre Dame used its free 30-second spot during the highly-rated telecast to promote the fact that it is No. 1 in graduating student-athletes. That was a "cowardly decision," suggested George Weigel, who said the university should have instead used the spot to promote the pro-life cause or the bishops' religious freedom campaign.Because of course carrying water for the Republican party is really what a Catholic university is all about. And it's what wins football championships.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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David Gibson: The reason that you don't hear much from "Domers" is that by the end of the first quarter of Monday night's game it was pretty embarrassing that ND football world even thinks that it belongs on the same field with these Alabama guys. They're in a whole different league.I'm not so sure that ND should even "want" to compete on this level anymore because of how much ND will have to give up in its institutional integrity to even play this game on this level anymore.Face it, ND is more about RAH-RAH football. Alabama (and the rest of the SEC) is playing professional sports. That's great for Alabama if that is what it is about - go for it! ND should focus on keeping the luster sparkling on that golden dome.It's a smart move for ND to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for football. That is about the level of football where they can be competitive. Maybe, playing in the ACC will raise the level of ND's basketball program?

Mr. Weigel is mistaken. Students want to go to a good academic university. Their parents want, especially for student-athletes, for their son or daughter to go to a school with a good athletic program that will give their kids a great education. Then they find out that the great university is built on Catholic faith by their witness of faith and how well they are taught.You aren't recruit Catholics by advertising Catholic faith to an audience that is looking for a good academic program. We attract followers of Jesus by example, not just with good ads.

Jim Jenkins, I think Notre Dame does want to be Alabama, or at least beat Alabama (or whoever it will be next year), and I am not sure how much different ND is from all the other big time semi-pro programs. Here's an interesting experiment in the making: The Big East is now all Catholic in basketball with the Catholic Seven schools comprising its members: St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova. Should they play up this identity? Could it be a light unto the sports nations? There is some debate:

What about the brouhaha in these blogs about football in general as being a blood-sport that ought to be banned at Catholic colleges for the grave injuries it can cause? And much more institutionally indictingy, the accounts of the way ND handled the tragic suicide of the coed who said she's been raped bya team member? Are these discussions now over?

It is proof once more that God's way is the way of suffering, sorrow, humiliation, and defeat. But we knew that. Why else would he have made a football in the shape of a vesica piscis?

Lizzy Seeberg was not a "coed". She was a student at St. Mary's, a women's college.

Two decades (or so) ago, Boston Globe op-ed columnist Derrick Jackson was a then-lonely "voice crying in the wilderness" about the shame of low graduation rates for athletes playing Division 1 money-making (for the institution) sports for American colleges and universities. Jackson was also one of, if not the, first to zero in on what he named the "graduation gap"---the gap in graduation rates for black and white teammates. Jackson has no particular reason to cheer for Notre Dame (other than his persistent efforts to shine a light on the issue), but here's the opening of his column last week:" Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, where graduates come with gridiron fame. The Fighting Irish are in the national collegiate championship football game Monday with a 100 percent Graduation Success Rate for their African-American players, tied for first with Rice University. Among the 70 teams in this seasons bowl games, Notre Dame also tied with Northwestern for a 97 percent overall graduation rate.But cheer not just for Notre Dame. Fifty-six teams, a record 80 percent, scored either a Touchdown or a First Down in my 17th annual Graduation Gap Bowl. Touchdowns are scored by teams with graduation rates of at least 50 percent for black and white players, and with racial gaps of less than 15 percentage points."'s nice to see some progress being made.

Here is Melinda Henneberger over at Deadspin right before the game on why she would not be rooting for her alma mater: the way, if you Google "Alabama football asexual assault" you will get "about" 6,930,000 results.

Brian Kelly reportedly interviewed with the Eagles on Tuesday, one day after Monday night's debacle. I'm sure he had to prepare for the interview, and that preparation may have detracted from the prep time for the BCS game, though I doubt extra preparation would have changed the outcome of the BCS game. I also hope that Kelly isn't serious about jumping to the Eagles and that he is using the interview as leverage for an extension of his ND contract. If he is serious about moving on to the pros at this time, then the timing of the interview hearkens back to his timing in accepting the ND job, i.e., when he got Cincinnati into the Sugar Bowl but then accepted the ND job before the bowl game was actually played. That left a bad memory of him at Cincinnati if I recall correctly.

The speculation is that Kelly is using the negotiations to get a longer and more lucrative contract, but that's pretty much par for the course in this business.

How can $$$$ compare to the Skip-Purgatory-Go-Directly-to-Heaven card that every ND head football coach is issued? :)

What a bitter piece.

The Henneberger piece is devastating. Cowardice is a strong word, but it seems to me that there may be cowardice at work here, in the administration's refusal to confront rape forthrightly.

Thorin: What a useless comment.

I taught in ND in 1981-2, a very bad year for football there despite all the grotto novenas and tricolor tossing. After one defeat the captain told the Chicago paper "I guess God didn't want us to win" and the reported commented, "When he gets older he may realize that God doesn't care who wins, even when ND is playing." I recounted this to a priest and two seminarians and the priest said, "I don't know about that. When we has that last-minute score last semester, don't you thing the Blessed Virgin was smiling down on us?" Was he pulling my leg? Can't be sure.

I am an ND fan and alum, and I was disappointed but not surprised by Monday night's result. I think a lot of people, ND fans included, were aware beforehand that the game could be a blowout for Alabama. I am also an Ohioan and Ohio State fan and remember well the championship game in 2007 when Ohio State was blown out by the Florida Gators (coached by Urban Meyer). In general, it seems that the top teams from the SEC are just too strong for the top teams from the Midwest!I think David Gibson raises some good questions about big-time football's place in higher education today. It will be interesting to see what ND does if Brian Kelly departs. ND has long been committed to the idea that it is possible to both (1) compete with the big teams in college football every year and (2) do so in an ethical way. But it seems it really hasn't been able to find the right balance since Ara Parseghian or perhaps Devine was coach (before I was born). In hindsight, Holtz looks good, but when he was coach there was a lot of talk that he had sullied the ideals of the program ... and then in his later years, there were even complaints that he wasn't winning enough (which seem silly now). Anyhow, whatever happens with Kelly, I have confidence in Fr. Jenkins and Jack Swarbrick, and I think ND will do the right thing with respect to football ... tho I am not quite sure what the right thing is!

Listen up, you guys. Slavery was horrible. But if Darwin is right (and there is every reason to think he was ) there was a survival of only the fittest among those forced to America from Africa. The survival rate of the people on the slave ships was horrendously low. This implies that those who survived as slaves were physically (and, having taught in a predominantly blac college, I suspect mentally as well) superior on average to the rest of the American population. I mean that you have every reason to expect that those poor boys from the Sough (largely African Americans) will be superior athletes.My brother, a physical anthropologist, tells me my theory is all wet. but the scores regularly validate it. Sorry, Notre Dame, but if you can't recruit enough of the right kids, you ain't gonna win. And if the SEC recruits its own, you ain't gonna get those kids.

Where does Texas A&M rank in all of this? Wouldn't they be considered better than Alabama?

I find this post by David Gibson (the poor man's John Allen) redolent of what the old moral theologians call delectatio morosa. I was sorry to see Notre Dame lose to Alabama but hardly thought it had cosmic significance. In fact, I was amused by a message sent to me by a contemplative nun originally from Mobile who told me that her kin had tee shirts inscribed with these words: Hail Mary full of grace/Notre Dame in second place. In a spirit of faux humility I answered that ND ended up in fourth place.

I love it when local sports teams fail--it's a very particular sort of schadenfreude that I experience in a very intense way. Even after I've moved away from a place, I still love it when the once local, now distant team bites the dust, and will feel blue for a few days if they pull off a championship. I've never been to South Bend (praise God), and so I think it is a testament to the sort of translocality Notre Dame has that I was deeply, deeply pleased by their being trounced so badly.

David Gibson (the poor mans John Allen) - a textbook example of an ad hominem.

I dont think Ive ever seen a more unadulterated presentation of the far left pathology. We despise our own, we fantasize the other.

David Gibson: I agree that ND would like to compete with the Alabama's. But let's hope that my namesake [but no relation] President John Jenkins, CSC understands that that would be a bridge TOO far!Brian Kelley to the Eagles??? I have to say, it wouldn't surprise me. The Eagles are SOOOOOO desperate for a winner that they would willingly make Brian Kelley a very wealth man. The Eagles are going to need a lot more than Brian Kelly to beat RG3.

In the minds of grads and fans, is UND an academic institution or a vehicle on which to hang high testosterone fantasies of wannabes and also-rans?

Speaking of Notre Dame football and, we may safely assume, virginity (inasmuch as corporeal existence would seem to be a prerequisite for sexual activity), this story is burning up the sports-media airwaves this morning.Headline: "Manti Te'o: a linebacker, a made-up girlfriend and a national hoax"

Jim P. --I saw a couple of TV reports on that. No one seems to be wondering whether the kid has all his marbles. Brain damage? Sad any way you look at it.

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