Reality Bites

Reality Bites

Brian Kelly performed his duties at the highest level in 2012. He began 2013 by looking out for himself instead of his recently rented program, a clunky, ill-timed venture he'll likely not live down until his first meaningful victory next fall.

A healthy portion of Irish football fans learned something this week that a larger faction of the group already held as truth:

Camelot, in college football, does not exist.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly hasn't always lived, breathed, eaten, slept, and yearned for all things Notre Dame as have most Irish fans. He wasn't born into it. He's not alumni, subway or sheepskin, and he's not always been nor will be always be "one of us."

Nor does he have to be on par with all that is good and right and virtuous alongside his chief role as a leader of young men that toil for your favorite football program.

He's a coach. Maybe one day he'll be viewed as a great one, already certainly one of the most consistent winners and best program builders at the college level, and Notre Dame is lucky to have him. He'll continue to graduate his players as have all -- all -- Notre Dame coaches.

What sets him apart from the lot is that he's won, and he'll likely continue to win, as did Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine, and Holtz.

He'll also occasionally infuriate the masses as he did this week when he interviewed with the fourth-best team in the NFC East. He'll bounce back from that perceived transgression with his next win over USC or Michigan or -- dare to dream -- Alabama.

But he's not indebted to Irish fans for life. Lou Holtz wasn't either, though he adopted the role and is beloved because of it. He's now a lifer, as are you. As am I.

Kelly is a coach, and modern coaches move on to other challenges because that's what modern (and most past) coaches do. Lou did, though he was likely forced to, ending his career in South Carolina, not South Bend. Others still-revered became and retired Irish; Ara Parseghian the ideal -- an all-time great coach and teacher who still lives and breathes Notre Dame. It's part of him.

They probably don't make them like that anymore.

Kelly? He's a coach. One of the current best and the best of 2012 by any reasonable measure. A coach who could elevate his status in the coming years. One who might warrant a statue outside Gate E when his time in South Bend ends.

But it will end. Yours won't. His will. That shouldn't change your view of his commitment. He's committed to winning and, it seems, teaching his players on and off the field. But committed to you? To Notre Dame above all? Not necessarily, nor necessary.

He's committed to the moment and the near future. He's committed to countless hours of labor and sacrifice we can hardly fathom to allow you to enjoy your Saturdays in the fall.

He was committed to the BCS championship game, too. He was also out-coached and his team was out-played. They weren't scattered or distracted by any outside forces other than the Crimson Tide's prowess, a team, by point of comparison, that is much, much better than your Irish. And Kelly's Irish. It's still his job to fix that.

Notre Dame is back in college football's good graces in large part due to Brian Kelly. Someday, another team somewhere, might rise from the ashes under his guidance as well. They all seem to.

When that happens, Kelly might even check a box score Sunday morning to find out how his former team did.

You'll already know because you leave, breathe, eat, sleep, teach, and talk all things Fighting Irish.

He merely leads them today and for the time being, tomorrow.

And he's proven to be great at that daunting task.

That has to be enough.

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