While I don’t want to do it, I’m going back to the Freekbass situation. There’s been plenty of thoughtful work on the video, and a few columns that are definitely worth reading.
Over at AOL FanHouse, John Walters -- also a Notre Dame grad -- penned a pretty spot-on column about the entire debacle.
Here’s a sampling of his open letter to Father Jenkins:
Dear Fr. Jenkins,
Hasn’t the Class of 2010 suffered enough? Four straight losses to USC. Two home losses to Navy. The 3-9 season. A first-round NCAA tournament loss to Old Dominion (which, okay, if it were women’s hoops, would not be so awful) before half the student body had even woken up that day. And now, just a week or so before graduation, this video, which we’ve also embedded later in this letter along with some other reviews of the thing.
Honestly, Padre, whither the self-inflicted wound? This is like a fragging incident without the live ammo. If I’m Lane Kiffin I open every press conference next season with this tune.
Fr. Jenkins, you’re an alum. Please tell me this is a joke. Please tell me this is an hilarious outtake from The Keenan Revue and you thought it would be fun to release as a social media experiment. Please tell me you’re deaf.
Even better, friend of the blog and ESPN senior writer Bruce Feldman caught up with the man behind the infamous video, Notre Dame FTT professor Ted Mandel, and got his thoughts on the reaction and feedback.
Here’s what Ted had to say:
“The video was intended to be played at the student awards banquet,” Mandell said. “Most of the video is light-hearted, fun, parody commercials. We’d done the song. Coach Kelly and Mike Golic were kind enough to do a little cameo in it. It was just part of this fun, light-hearted music video that has taken on a life of its own, I suppose...
“People are mocking it and having fun with it, and actually I think that’s great,” said Mandell, who played French horn in the Notre Dame marching band in the mid ‘80s. “I love reading the John Walters column [quoted above] who satirically blasted it. It’s supposed to be fun. Obviously, it has angered some people. I definitely can see in college football where people have things so close to their heart and they’re very passionate, it can upset them. I’m sorry they’re upset.”
Having been thousands of miles away from home over the weekend and stuck on runways and in airports thanks to rainstorms and Delta’s incompetence, I wasn’t fully immersed in the immediate aftermath, but the song has already burned itself into my head. Each time I logged onto the net this weekend, I found myself starting up the YouTube video, only to stop playing it after about 45 seconds, cringing every time I see that dopey bass player bend his knees and point to the camera.
I’m not sure if it was to see if the video disappeared yet, or the incredible remixes that have already been created, but sure enough I found myself humming, “Woah-ah-woah-ah-woah... We are ND,” a lot this weekend, which I’m hoping I can blame on the all-inclusive open bar.
Feldman also points out some very serious ramifications from the video, specifically how the video could be used against Notre Dame in recruiting.
A lot of the sentiment is rooted in concern about how recruits may see the video. I can already hear some rival recruiter showing a prospect the video and asking the player to “count how many non-white faces you see in this thing.” I remember interviewing Louis Nix, the blue-chip defensive line recruit from Jacksonville the Irish landed last winter. Something he said about his perception of the school came back to me. Here’s the interview:
“I thought it would be a way different atmosphere. I thought the guys would be like “high-class” guys who wouldn’t want to hang around with a guy like me. Or I thought everyone was like a nun or a priest. I saw a couple of priests. They were really nice guys. But I really thought it was a place I could fit in. Let’s put it like that. After I met the players, this was a place I could adjust to and really appreciate it and have fun at the same time.”
The key for Nix was to get him on campus and learn more about the school -- and that it could provide an environment where he might thrive. Still, the perception is one that obviously existed long before anyone had heard of Freekbass.
Mandell made the video to pay homage to the antics of the Digger Phelps crazed fans of the late 70s and 80s, and I don’t doubt that the video drew plenty of smiles and laughs from the students at their awards banquets. That said, when you tout the video as featuring the award-winning musician Freekbass, and post it on the university’s official YouTube page, between videos of a Notre Dame expert speaking on the seriousness of Iran weapons sanctions and the university’s commitment to helping Haitians recover from the earthquake, you make it hard for us to believe that people under the Golden Dome were in on the joke.
Today marks the near midpoint for the dredges of the college football offseason, which helps explain why the video has created such an uproar. But after five years of seeing the head coach of the Irish take one of the nastiest internet beating in college football, you’d think that people inside the university would get the picture.
As Freekbass proved, there’s still some learning to do.