Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly addresses the media during a news conference in Tuesday March 22, 2011, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
©2007 The E.W. Scripps Co. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
CINCINNATI - I doubt there were a lot of Cincinnatians cheering for Brian Kelly Saturday night. There will be a lot less cheering for Carson Palmer on Sunday.
It's part of what we love and we hate about sports today. Players and coaches come and go, and individuals we once admired and perhaps even revered are now reviled. If it makes you a little squeamish, don't become a sports fan. You'll have to make some difficult choices.
There was Brian Kelly on national television celebrating an undefeated season as the coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, three years after he left UC. He hasn't changed. He's part politician, part salesman and part football coach. The first two talents overshadow the third. He can recruit, he can devise, and he can put together a staff that gets the maximum from its talent. He did it at UC, and he's done it again in South Bend.
Does anyone really believe that Notre Dame belongs in the championship game? Probably not. But the Irish have taken on all challengers,including road victories at Oklahoma and USC. Kelly and his staff make their players believe and the close unlikely victories of his 2012 unbeaten Notre Dame squad are very reminiscent of the close unlikely victories of his 2009 unbeaten team at UC.
I know many Cincinnati fans can't stand the sight of Kelly because he left Cincinnati, and the way in which he left. C'mon, he had to go, we all know that. His dream job came calling and a practice facility, an expanded Nippert and and an unlimited Skyline gift card wasn't going to change that.
Kelly made UC legitimate in football for the first time in three decades and he should always be applauded for that. Now he's made Notre Dame relevant for the first time in a quarter of a century. He'll probably be canonized.
Sunday's return of Carson Palmer to Paul Brown stadium presents a trickier dilemma. While Kelly left Cincinnati because of a great job, Palmer left Cincinnati for no job at all. He had no promise and no prospects. He simply wanted out. He didn't want to be a Bengal anymore.
For the record, Palmer was a good guy to cover, and from my observations, a good guy in the locker room. He took a lot of shots on bad teams and didn't complain. Maybe he should have.
Here's my problem with Palmer. He was showered with riches by Bengals management in the form of salary and bonuses. He never hesitated to take the dough. There were opportunities to break the ties in a cleaner fashion. Other players have reached the end of their contracts and said they wanted to play elsewhere. It happens every year.
But Palmer took the money and ran. Ran out on the organization that had gambled on his future and left it in a very tough spot. Many fans will tell you that he simply quit. I can't argue with them.
If I were sitting in the stands at PBS Sunday, would I boo Carson? I don't think so. I've never been much of a booer. It usually takes a few bad calls, stiff drinks, or the sight of the late Art Modell to rile me up. I don't think booing is a very constructive gesture, and I've heard it constantly in 33 years of covering the Bengals. More than half the time, the fans here were booing the home team or the owner. And that didn't do any good, did it?
I am anxious to see the see the reception Palmer gets on Sunday. Not from the fans, but from his former team. They need a win, far more than Palmer needs to win a popularity contest.
In my estimation,the best possible day would for Palmer be to be greeted cordially by the fans and then rudely by the Bengals pass rush. Put Palmer on his back and get the home team in the playoff race.
Let Carson know that we appreciated what he did for the Bengals. And then send him back, bloodied and bowed to the land of the also-rans. Booing won't have much effect. Losing will leave a lasting impression.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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