James Michael Curley was a crook. There's no way around it. But not everyone sees it that way.
There is a small park in Boston – halfway between Faneuil Hall and the much newer Holocaust Memorial – that has two statues of the former Massachusetts politician who spent two separate terms in prison for fraud. One of the bronze likenesses is seated at one end of a park bench. When I was a boy, my family was walking through the park and I was directed to sit on the bench next to Curley for a photo.
Over his shoulder as he passed by, a man said, "it doesn't look right unless you're sticking money in his hand."
It was a good line.
At least, I know NOW that it was a good line. I had no idea what the guy was talking about. But my Dad was clearly upset. Over the next 15 minutes, my brother and I were treated to an ethnically-charged rant about Irish immigration, signs in shops reading "No Irish Need Apply," and assimilation through the acquisition of political power (the actual diatribe wasn't nearly as highbrow-sounding as that – we were too young to be subjected to any cursing, but I'm pretty sure the spittle was flying).
Curley, between 1911 and 1949, served four terms as Boston's Mayor, two in the Massachusetts delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives and one as the Commonwealth's Governor, in addition to his time in prison. A busy guy.
According to Boston's Yankee ruling class, a class being largely replaced by men exactly like Curley, he raised patronage and government-sanctioned theft to art forms. But to Boston's poor and working class (mostly Irish and Italian immigrants) he was a hero, taking care of the people who needed it most. Same man, two completely different views, each true.
Which brings me to Gary Gray and a quick word on perspective: we usually don't have any.
By "perspective" I mean the ability to see things from a point of view different from your own. And by "we" I mean fans. Especially those of us who spend inordinate amounts of time (and sometimes pay for the privilege of) posting our thoughts on message boards.
The last few days have seen quite a bit of buzzing on both Notre Dame and South Carolina boards in response to the news that the highly-touted cornerback prospect, and Gamecocks verbal commitment, was on ND's campus this weekend and has re-opened his recruiting.
For the most part, members of the Irish Eyes board seem to be taking the news with some caution and (barely) contained glee. Murmurs of disappointment regarding the state of cornerback recruiting have been gaining volume in recent weeks so it would not be surprising if a little of the normal chest thumping seeped through the veneer of circumspection surrounding Gray's surprising appearance on campus. A few odd posts HAVE delved into loutish territory but, for the most part, Notre Dame fans – on this site at least – have been reserved and respectful of Gray and South Carolina.
It's easy to be magnanimous when you are the beneficiary of a change of heart like this. Part of our response, though, was shaped by a situation we found ourselves in last year that was very similar to what South Carolina is going through now.
An ugly side of Notre Dame fandom emerges every time a recruit chooses another university or, in the case of Raeshon McNeil, even VISITS another school after having committed somewhere else. The language is usually harsher, but the gist of the comments in these situations, after denial that the rumor could possibly be true, is generally, "This kid is making a HUGE mistake! What kind of moron would give up the chance to play HERE and graduate with a degree that means something to go THERE and end up hauling trash after he uses up his eligibility? Have you seen the graduation rates? That place churns out illiterates at an embarrassing clip!"
I always wince at these comments, because the only place that's true is Auburn (sorry, gratuitous cheap shot – New York Times here I come).
The coup de grace of posts like this is usually, "this guy wouldn't fit at Notre Dame anyway. We don't need guys like that."
I'm always embarrassed by these sour grapes posts, especially when they appear on other teams' or national boards. There are usually a few posters gamely trying to remind everyone that 17-year-olds don't always act in their own best interests or what's important to us might not be important to them. I sympathize with this sentiment and have even BEEN one of those posters before. It's usually fruitless. Like I said, perspective is not usually our forte`.
Regardless of what happens in the reanimated recruiting saga of Gary Gray, I hope we take a lesson from this weekend. The South Carolina board that I have read sounds eerily like this one after McNeil's jaunt to the University of Florida last winter. Blustery denials, rumors and venomous rants about a kid who might have made a decision he wasn't prepared to make.
Take a trip over there and read some of the foolishness. Then remember it the next time you're about to hit send on a post that blasts the latest recruit whose grave crime was he thought he might be happier playing football somewhere else. Perspective.
I was proud to be part of this community over the last few days. It would be heartening to see the same level of discourse when the shoe was on the other foot.
A Word on Perspective
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