We are approaching the half-year anniversary of a group of fans and alumni publishing two memorable advertisements in The Observer, Notre Dame’s student-run newspaper.
When they were released we laughed, we cried, and we laughed some more. Today, we are going to look back at the wild times that provided the world with one of the most hilarious sports “protests” campaigns of this century.
Notre Dame’s season ended on Saturday, November 26th in the L.A. Coliseum and almost immediately the rumors of Brian Kelly’s imminent departure from South Bend ratcheted up in the media. Although these rumors were pretty weak as far as these things go (Notre Dame and Brian Kelly working together to find a soft landing among the most fantastical of them) the anticipation of major change rose quickly under the dome.
One could argue the anticipation was purposely heightened in order to manufacture more outrage for the future, a common tactic for disgruntled groups.
In the middle of the season Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick gave Kelly a vote of confidence but did not speak publicly about the disastrous season as the campaign winded down. On Friday, December 2nd the athletic director finally broke his silence during his radio show and it was the spark that ignited dreams of a revolution.
Among the many comments that drew ire were that Kelly would return as head coach, that Swarbrick didn’t evaluate based on one year, that Kelly wasn’t held responsible for the NCAA probation placed on the program, and for having the gall to pronounce that the 2015 season was one of the best coaching jobs he’d ever seen.
If it hadn’t happened already, Swarbrick’s mug was now atop the angry fan dart board. A mere 5 days later on December 7th a full page advertisement was placed in The Observer. The ad showed an unflattering picture of Brian Kelly but mentioned Jack Swarbrick’s name 3 times to just once for Kelly.
Denial of accountability, truly the last straw.
The ad makers wanted to send a stern message and instead had people rolling on the floor in tears as memes instantly sprung up organically. Yes, the revolution began with a whimper. They might as well have paid for an ad that said, “DON’T TAKE US SERIOUSLY, PLEASE.” To try and take advantage of the momentum (or was it establish some momentum?) another new ad was taken out in the same newspaper just 4 days later.
Now that 6 months have passed we’re here to review the 3 main reasons these ads failed miserably.
Medium and Origin
If you didn’t know where this ad came from or weren’t blessed to see its hurried formation happen in real time the source wouldn’t have been too difficult to guess. In the waning days of the year 2016 the preferred choice of protest was a pair of ads in a newspaper with the circulation the size of a small town. The selection of this specific medium in and of itself meant the revolution would sputter and be ridiculed from the start.
Choosing a newspaper ad would be like Notre Dame trying to improve the strength & conditioning program by setting up a rusty Nordictrack outside of the Gug.
Newspaper ads & Nordictracks = making ND better
The ads came from an insular community drenched in years of being an echo chamber that such tone deafness and childishness became the story instead of their purported cause. And I use cause extremely lightly.
Initially, this first round of advertisements were supposed to be just that, the beginning of a movement. Thousands of dollars were raised–tens of thousands of dollars even! Were billboards on the horizon? Perhaps airplane signs? There was room in the budget for protests during National Signing Day, the Blue-Gold Game, and beyond.
Then, everything fizzled.
They did try to branch outside of their comfort zone for further reach, bless their hearts. The day before the second advertisement was published a Twitter account was created to broaden the message. As if you couldn’t write the script more spectacularly the very first tweet features a plea for more info at a Frankenstein half website, half email address.
#fightforexcellence with us by supporting our call for change! Visit email@example.com for more information
— Fight For Excellence (@Fight4xce11ence) December 11, 2016
How long do you think they looked up on how to delete a tweet? Did they know it was possible?
Fight for Excellence has tweeted a total of 23 times and has not had an original tweet since December 13, 2016 with zero activity during 2017. Who knew the fight for excellence would only need 3 days?
If that wasn’t good enough a Fire Swarbrick Twitter account was created with accompanied informative website. Created on New Year’s Eve this one lasted 12 whole days before giving up.
People don’t respect things that are hastily put together, embarrassingly credulous, and most importantly lacking in passion. They want you to believe all of these amateurish things about the football program and yet operate in an even more incompetent manner.
You Can’t Argue the Facts!
Some people were bothered by the anonymity of the ads but they weren’t really anonymous. The first ad was completely anonymous in print while the second went under the name of a single poor schlub with an email address for “media inquiries.”
The ads were a message board temper tantrum vomited up onto a student newspaper with no path for future attention, except for more of the same uncontrolled, raging outbursts.
Some have tried to step in and say, “Well, set aside the way the info was disseminated you can’t argue with the facts presented.”
Of course, the facts were never the point. The ads were never meant to truly inform people. Anyone who is reading these words right now learned absolutely nothing from the ads. No one who works at Notre Dame woke up and finally learned Brian Kelly hadn’t won a major bowl game because of the ads.
One ad was not enough.
Did the ad makers believe the students would be called to action and just needed a nudge? Aren’t the students today smarter than ever, though? In this vein, the ads were the very definition of too clever by half.
The ads were meant to embarrass Notre Dame and be a lovely bit of chest pounding for some fans. These goals failed as the embarrassment turned toward the ad makers. It’s not about the facts because literally anyone with critical thinking skills could see this belly flop coming from miles away.
If it was really about facts there’d only be 2 sets of people:
1) Those who wanted mass firings and supported the ads
2) Those who didn’t want firings and didn’t support the ads.
When you’re coming from an echo chamber that is the worldview and when that worldview is exposed to something outside your bubble you end up with these out of touch and myopic ads. Right now if someone from the ad makers is reading this all they see is support for Kelly & Swarbrick.
Dealing in absolutes is the only move to make at this point and it’s another common tactic for the ad makers to keep their sanctimonious echo chamber impenetrable from reality.
The fundamental flaw in all of this is that you can’t stand on a high horse shaking your finger at something that you think is awful and turn around and promote something so ridiculous and amateurish, plus top it off with terrible follow up and a lack of passion.
It was bad enough Notre Dame went 4-8 but these ads took the hardest L this off-season.