After an up-and-down season, Notre Dame players, coaches, and fans finally had reason to celebrate in defeating the 14th-ranked Utah Utes on Saturday. A lot has been said—a lot of it being negative—about the production of this year's football team. And in the minutes following Notre Dame's dominating performance over Utah on Saturday, senior defensive end Emeka Nwankwo on his Twitter page had this to say, "How u like them apples ND nation."
While debate exists about whether he was referring to ND fans in general (the negative ones surely), NDNation (arguably the most visible Notre Dame fan site and the likely target of his tweet), or he just got Minnie Driver's phone number, it became apparent that at least some of the players know what is being said about them and their coach.
This larger point became even more apparent: Be careful what you write, even on the internet, because recruits and current players are probably reading it. But should you care?
Does this mean you cannot be critical of your coach or of the play on the field? Absolutely not. I have been right there with you. Some of the calls should be questioned. You can argue more growth should have been seen this season. But it means you should be able to do so like an adult.
Take for instance what was said following the Tulsa loss. Among the variety of posts on the site, you had one member asking for Kelly supporters to step forward and apologize, going so far as to name them personally (they may have had to stand in the corner with soap in their mouths too).
If you supported the decision to pass at the end, this was directed at you: "If you believe Kelly's call at the end was reasonable please respond to this post indicating as much. We'd like to complete this purge in an efficient manner" referring to the fact that if you thought it was a reasonable call to pass the ball instead of go for the field goal, you would be banned from the board.
Others, including one of the operators of the board, went so far as to use an Irish slur peppered with a few choice curse words in reference to the head coach.
Further, it's "too stupid for this board" to have an opposing opinion, but it is okay to tell someone to "go f*** [them]selves" so long as you support firing Brian Kelly.
I would have this to say to players and recruits: That is not Notre Dame. True, that's what I thought Notre Dame was before I visited the campus. That's what I thought 90% of the students and alumni acted like before I went there.
But it's simply not true. And just know this Emeka and company: You have our support. We're not all crazy, I promise. Sure we may seem heavily medicated at times (I swear that's related to the beer at the tailgate) but we're mostly reasonable people who want to see the Irish return to glory.
Now I will also say this. I don't think sites like NDNation and others who Queen of Hearts ("off with your head!") those who disagree with them are ill-intentioned. They certainly do want Notre Dame to return to prominence and I believe that. But are they helping or hurting the cause? (Yes, that was rhetorical.)
You might say that such sites don't owe nothin' to nobody but themselves. But while they may not seek to represent the University, the truth is that they do represent the University. It's what outsiders see and envision the rest of us die-hard fans as being: closed-minded, selfish, arrogant, superficial.
It's become big enough that reporters from the South Bend Tribune and NBC are using posts from the site as a reference. You can pretend it's bogus journalism and turn your head, but the articles will still exist. Their influence will still exist. And the recruits and players will still read them.
But again, that is not Notre Dame. On my first visit to the school I quickly found it was anything but closed-minded, selfish, arrogant, and superficial. Notre Dame can be more identified by the South Quad campus-wide impromptu mass on September 11, 2001. Notre Dame can be more identified by the outpouring of support at the Basilica following Declan Sullivan's death. Notre Dame can be more identified by all the lit candles in the Basilica representing prayers for family and friends (and the Irish). That is Notre Dame.
But any negatives will far outweigh the positives. And most people know that.
Would you want to play for a team whose fans act like this? Would you want to play for a team whose most vocal fans think they can just drop $10 million in Nick Saban's backyard and buy a championship (Dear Yankees...)? You certainly would be less likely to play for a coach who nobody supports (or who the perception is that nobody supports him).
So the next time you think about hitting the send button, take a little moment to reflect on what you're saying. You never know who might be reading it.