Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Knute Rockne and Social Justice


Yesterday someone happened to remark that his son, currently in high school but slated by Dad to be the next president of the United States . . . in about twenty years when he turns 35, that is . . . wants instead to be a teacher and a coach.  No problem, because good teachers and good coaches have the same characteristics as good presidents, so a career change would be very easy.

University of Notre Dame, B.R. (Before Rockne)
Case in point: Knute Rockne, Notre Dame's legendary football coach . . . and assistant chemistry professor who helped Fr. Nieuwland in his research into the development of synthetic rubber.  Rockne seemed to have internalized the fundamental principles of Justice-Based Leadership and Justice-Based Management and applied them consistently in both teaching and coaching.



By the way, when we say "social justice," we don't mean a substitute for individual justice and charity, although that is a common misconception among a lot of people.  No, social justice is not directed to meeting individual goods, regardless how desperate the situation.  That remains individual justice and charity, as Father Ferree made clear in Introduction to Social Justice (1948).  Social justice is directed not to individual goods, but to the common good: that vast network of institutions that provides the social environment within which we can meet individual goods.  Social justice is intended to make individual justice and charity possible, not substitute for them.


Pius XI put it this way in Divini Redemptoris, § 53 to be exact.  When employers find it impossible to treat workers fairly under the wage system, social justice does NOT consist of paying a just wage and benefits, anyway.  That is, was, and always will be individual justice, commutative or strict justice as Pius XI made clear.  No, social justice consists of the employers organizing and restructuring the system so that payment of a just wage (which is individual justice) once again becomes possible.  Now, back to our story.


Football, B.R. (Before Rockne)
If we understand Harry Stuhldreher's analysis in Knute Rockne, All American, Rockne seemed to have an inherent understanding of the principles of social justice, at least as they applied to football: know the basic principles of the game cold, so that you can instantly adapt what you're doing to the immediate situation.  That's why Rockne insisted he wanted smaller players with speed and brains, not brainless giants who just batter their way through.  If every player on the team understood the fundamental principles, there could never be a "broken play."

Miyamoto Musashi B.R. (Before Rockne)
Rockne's book on coaching might go into this in-depth, but we haven’t read it, so we haven't tested this theory, but it makes sense.  The techniques of social justice can apply anywhere, from football (Rockne), to combat (Myamoto Musashi), to politics (students who want to be coaches and teachers but whose fathers say they're going to be president).

A president, even one with great popularity, could end up a failure as president if 1) he or she doesn't understand the fundamental principles of the system, and 2) has no real sense of teamwork, i.e., organization.  A president who thinks he or she is doing it all him- or herself borders on the delusional — as is a teacher or coach who neglects basic principles and still expects to educate a student or win a football game.

"Outlined against a sepia-toned movie poster. . ."
Rockne knew he wasn't the one scoring touchdowns.  That was George Gipp.  He also knew he wasn't the one defending the line.  That was the Four Horsemen (Crowley, Layden, Miller, and, of course, Stuhldreher) and the Seven Mules.  He was the coach, not the whole team.

Rockne had an inherent understanding of the principles of social justice.  We'd like to see everyone gain a working knowledge of them as a start to restructuring the social order and restoring the family as the basic unit of society.  That's why we started the "Five for the Family" campaign to bring these and other key ideas to leaders with vision.  Pay a visit to the campaign webpage, and give us a "like" or "share," possibly even a "tweet" or a small donation.  It's the easiest way we know to get a first down for justice (sorry, but we had to get the football imagery back in there, somewhere).

Grantland Rice, by the way, wasn't borrowing from the Bible when he came up with his opening for his column, but was inspired by the Rudolph Valentino film, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse based on the Ibañez novel about World War I.  That "blue gray October sky" was a movie screen tie-in.

#30#

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