November 23, 2009
Charlie Weis has never been a particularly popular figure at Notre Dame, even when the Irish were winning in his first two seasons, and John Walters' all-access, "Dead Coach Walking" tour for AOL FanHouse -- while never condescending to suggest Weis may not be fired after Saturday's trip to Stanford -- tugs openly on the heartstrings wherever possible. It's not hard to sympathize: Weis shows up for work hours before sun-up every day, staying well into the night; he's an obsessive recruiter; he totally eschews camera-friendly artifice; he actually lost a chunk of his knee in last year's ugly sideline collision against Michigan, an injury that resulted in multiple surgeries and follows him for days each week after spending hours on his feet on game days but brought mainly fan jokes from fans, etc. Walters, a Notre Dame guy, is convincing at least that Weis isn't being bounced for a lack of old-fashioned elbow grease.
About those fat jokes, though -- whether or not the hecklers, Photoshop artists and ruthless commenters ever considered the impact on their target, the endless digs haven't exactly been rolling gracefully through the years like water off a duck's back. From the sound of it, it's more like they penetrated Weis' heart and coalesced into a dense, black, malignant amulet of bitterness that he vows to carry with him forever:
"The damage to Maura and Charlie Jr. is irreparable," says Weis, referring to the personal nature of the attacks he has been subject to for years now. "It's watching me get hammered. I'll never forgive the people who character-assassinated me without even knowing me. Those people did irreparable damage to my wife and son, and I'll never forgive them."
"They have the right to criticize the coach for being 6-5," says Weis. "They have that right. It's all the other stuff. You think I don't know that I'm fat? Duh!"
Asked if he should be gone, where would Charlie Jr. would go to college, the coach responded: "I know where he won't be going to college."
I'd like a precise statistical estimate of Weis critics since 2005 who are actually asking for forgiveness for their juvenile cruelty. Because I know I can name a few who are proudly standing by it.
I'm no kind of "insider" like Walters, who does his best in the service of a positive spin. But when the still-technically employed head coach bitterly promises that his emotionally wounded son won't be following in his footsteps at the old alma mater, it's hard to pretend this split is going to go down amicably.