Reinhardt, Not Irish, Stirs McCartney
as seen in The Denver Post
September 20, 1984
Written by Buddy Martin
Reinhardt, Not Irish, Stirs McCartney
BOULDER-When he was a boy growing up in Michigan, his family didn't own a radio.
Except the one is his dad's 1947 DeSoto.
On Saturdays in the fall, Bill McCartney Sr. took his young son out to the 1947 DeSoto and listened to the Notre Dame broadcasts. Like all good Irish Catholics, the McCartneys rooted for the boys in South Bend.
Turn the clock forward a few decades to 1979. Bill Sr. was 80. Bill Jr. was the defensive coordinator for Michigan.
Bill Sr. was in South Bend the day that the Wolverines beat the Irish, his first pilgrimage to the Golden Dome.
"Great day," beamed the elder McCartney.
"You enjoyed seeing us beat Notre Dame?" inquired Bill Jr., his chest swelling proudly.
"No," said Bill Sr. "I enjoyed my first trip to South Bend."
You can't escape those Notre Dame subway alumni, even when it's your own father.
It's always tough to play at South Bend, even when the Irish are mediocre, as they apparently are this season.
There'll never be a tougher one for Bill McCartney and his Colorado football team than this Saturday's visit to what McCartney calls "The Land of the Giants."
Bill McCartney has been through four days of living hell, ever since he got the news that sophomore tight end Ed Reinhardt was in a coma with a blood clot on his brain.
Saturday after the game, he went right to the hospital. Reinhardt already was unconscious. Somewhere, McCartney had heard that you should talk to coma victims.
Leaning over to whisper in his young player's ear, McCartney told him: "You're a champion. You're going to make it. Everyone wants you to know they're thinking of you and praying for you"
"You're in Eugene, Oregon. The team has gone home. You took a hit on the head and you're going to be OK. You need to get rid of your headache."
On Monday, McCartney returned to Boulder to address his team. He told them he might have trouble getting through what he was going to say to them. He did.
"Coach McCartney," said quarterback Steve Vogel, "spoke straight from the heart."
His players saw the hurt.
"If you didn't know anything was wrong," said tight end Jon Embree, "you could look at coach McCartney's face and know something was wrong. Bad wrong."
Each person associated with the CU team is dealing with the grief and the fear in his own way, Embree, one of Reinhardt's close friends and roommate on the road, came to grips with it in 24 hours.
If we would have had to suit up and practice Sunday," said Embree, "I couldn't have made it. I was sick."
Mostly, the players think of Reinhardt and his family, and Bill McCartney.
Not much of Notre Dame.
"We had a business-like attitude in practice," said Vogel, "but some of the enthusiasm for Notre Dame has been displaced by the grief for Ed."
The CU coach has a double load to carry. First and foremost, praying for Reinhardt's recovery. Secondly, trying to hold a football program together that might be dangling by that ever-so delicate thread.
Bill McCartney is trying to raise the Titanic and save a life all in the same week.
He was sitting in a chair, going over film, when I found him in the back room. We chatted briefly and then I asked McCartney if such a tragedy has changed his outlook about football.
After all, he has three sons playing football, including Mike, who suffered a cracked vertebra this season at Washburn.
It was then that McCartney said that this tragedy had only reaffirmed his belief that a person must get his or her priorities in order. And he delivered, spontaneously, one of the most eloquent assessments of sports and football that I'd ever heard. He said: "The rewards and returns of playing football-there is almost nothing our society offers today that can make a man out of a boy and teach wholesome values of hard work and discipline and being a member of a team."
"All the things that youngsters have to learn: Commitment, excellence...the very fiber of our society that's coming apart in marriages, etc."
"Football teaches those things. It teaches them better than anything else that we have. I'm convinced of that."
"There isn't anything easy about playing football. It's the most difficult thing we do. It's not fun to practice, it's hard to practice. Practices are demanding. Taxing and exacting. They require all of a guy."
"The end result is that a guy spends himself in a worthy cause. And he learns to get up off the ground, time and again. He lines up, like some of my guys will, against somebody bigger, stronger and faster than they are."
"And you learn to compete. And battle, Eddie Reinhardt is doing that right now. He's drawing on all of his experiences. And he's fighting. He's got a great fighting heart. Football helped develop that in him.
"When a guy finishes playing football, regardless of how much he's played in terms of being in the limelight, he's a better man."
I have a place in my office at home for special quotations. Today, that one goes there.