Friday, March 31, 2006

75 Years

You may have noticed the world fall silent at 10:48 a.m., CST, today. That moment marked 75 years since the airplane carrying Knute Rockne crashed in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

I'll leave it to these pages to explain who Rockne was, but a couple of things seem striking to me.

First, there were a couple hundred people at the site of the crash paying their respects today. The site is in the middle of nowhere, so people traveled substantial distances to be there at the 75-year mark. That's a fascinating and moving tribute to the man who built Notre Dame football. When he died, over a hundred thousand people lined the streets for the funeral procession. The ceremony was broadcast to Europe, South America and Asia (so google tells me). It's hard to imagine a similar outpouring for another football coach.

Second, Rockne was 43 when he died. I hadn't realized how young he was. In contrast, Ty Willingham was 49 when he took over at Notre Dame. So was Lou Holtz. Rockne's age when he died makes him the Jim Croce of football coaching. What might have been?

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