Not pleased with ESPN's handling of "The Night of the Living Dana" situation, Catholic blogger, Lance Mitchell, wrote to the network himself to express his displeasure, receiving the following response. Lance asked me, as both a Catholic writer and a Notre Dame alumnus, if I thought the reply was adequate.
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 18:32:23 -0800 (PST)
From: Lance Mitchell
Subject: Re: Dana Jacobson
To: ESPN Viewer Response
How long is she suspended for? She said f*** Notre Dame, f*** Touchdown Jesus, f*** Jesus. The last part of that sounds like an attack on Christianity to me. Your response sounds to me as if she is going to get a slap on the wrist ...
ESPN Viewer Response email@example.com wrote:
Thank you for taking the time to write.
Ms. Jacobson's inappropriate comments were delivered in the context of Notre Dame football and its Touchdown Jesus icon. They were wrong and inexcusable, and she was suspended from her duties. Her uncharacteristic behavior was not aimed at a particular religious faith. They took place at an adult-only roast that was not aired on any ESPN outlet.
We appreciate your giving us the opportunity to respond.
ESPN Viewer Response
Actually, Lance, not even close. Quite frankly, ESPN's "no-name" e-mail was so flawed (and phony!) that it wouldn't have received a passing grade as a middle-school SAT extended response test, let alone as a public relations statement of a major sports network. Forgetting for a moment the politically-correct-to-the-point-of-being-condescending opening and closing statements, perhaps the main problem with the letter is that it first takes one side of the argument and then the other, thus contradicting itself and leaving its closing "Sincerely" sounding very insincere indeed. Note how the opening apologetic tone, with words like "wrong," "inexcusable," and "inappropriate," is almost immediately undercut with defiant phrases like "not aimed at," "not aired," and "adult only." So what starts out as a "we're really sorry for Dana's embarrassing Vodka-induced blasphemy" apology turns into a "but it really wasn't meant for you, so lighten up and mind your own business" declarative statement.
But besides this major contradiction in tone and explanation, ESPN commits, in an attempt to mitigate both Jacobson's and corporate guilt, many more minor gaffes as well. For example, by referring to the "Word of Life" mural (it's original name), not as the "Touchdown Jesus" mural, but as the "Touchdown Jesus Icon," "Mr. (or Ms.) ESPN Viewer Response," unwittingly admits it is not a silly artwork to be satirized, but a sacred sacramental to be revered. And by saying "F*** Jesus" (note that ESPN, now deathly afraid to air the tape, is no longer denying Dana said this), "was not aimed at a particular religious faith," ESPN, by trying to rid themselves of the rath of 1.1 billion Catholics, are now opening themselves up to the rancor of 2.1 billion Christians instead. And finally, by implying the words "F*** Notre Dame" don't really matter beyond football, they are showing they are either ignorant of history or are, as the new "sports gods of the universe," actually above it—which is in fact the worst prejudice of all.
For if ESPN and Jacobson, in all their supposed game-day preparation, still do not know what "Notre Dame" translates into, I will once more explain it means "Our Lady." She is the Mother of God, (for Catholics) the most merciful woman who ever lived, of whom scripture says, "all nations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). And so, when your female anchor calls Our Lady not blessed, but something completely the opposite, it is a serious slander indeed, and it is akin to slamming Jesus Himself. Furthermore, Fr. Sorin, the founder of Our Lady's university, named it "Notre Dame" specifically so that everything the school did would reflect Mary and give glory to Her Son. In other words, if Dana had defamed, say, "Boston College," PERHAPS her lame excuse would be somewhat justified, for holiness is not specifically part of B.C.'s name. But not Notre Dame. Not at a football game, not at a roast, not ever. And until Jacobson and her network cohorts realize why (in addition to Dana's drunkenness, which was also too easily dismissed) her comments were so wrong, it remains virtually impossible for them to make it right.