Thursday, October 18, 2007

Digging Up the Past

I was as baffled as anyone when it was reported weeks ago that not only had George Gipp's body been exhumed but EsPN was filming the exhumation. Given that the Gipper died almost 90 years ago, I wasn't sure why a desiccated corpse would be of interest to anyone.

Then I started nosing around the 'Net, and I discovered the name Eva Bright. Apparently the granddaughter of Ms. Bright was attempting to establish some kind of paternity for her mother, and since her grandmother had been dating George Gipp at the time of his death and had borne this woman's mother out of wedlock, Gipper was the "prime suspect", so to speak.

Looking at the replies to that message board post, the name "Mike Bynum" jumped out at me. In the post, he claims to be "editing a book for the family of George Gipp", and in the article linked above he describes himself as "a close friend of Gipp's closest living relatives", both of which he may or may not be. But the name seemed familiar, and a little more 'Net digging told me why.

Bynum apparently has been a Gipper freak for long and long. Back in the 1980s when I was a student at ND, he had a screenplay for a movie on Gipp's life, which may or may not have been written by him, called "Golden Glory", and was all set to make it into a movie. Trouble was, ND, as was its policy at the time, wasn't about to allow a movie focusing on the seamier side of the Gipper to be filmed on campus. Without the ability to include campus scenes, the project fell apart.

Bynum, reportedly, wasn't received too well either before or after that, and apparently has harbored a grudge against Notre Dame ever since. The article I linked above from Irish Legends has plenty to say about him, but I found these quotes interesting:

I've known Mike Bynum for nearly ten years now. In that time, he has been trying to find a way to capitalize on Notre Dame's football fortunes and history. He tried very hard to get me to invest $15,000 in his plan to publish a set of three books on America's three greatest coaches-Knute Rockne, Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant. Mike spent a lot of time with Bryant while he was still alive. He had all the legal documents drawn up, etc., but something told me to back off and I did. He spends a lot of time when he is at Notre Dame with Col. Jack Stephens, former assistant athletic director to "Moose" Krause. Stephens told me a while back that Bynum was sued for plagiarism several years ago. I can't say if that is true. As for the "Rockne Returns" re-enactment of the world premiere, anybody who bought a ticket could attend, and it was the kind of affair a Mike Bynum would want to be in on.

"As for Bynum's advertising a book "Knute Rockne, All American," a book which to my knowledge does not exist, and asking people to send in $17.45, I do not know at this time how that was resolved. Roger Valdiserri, Notre Dame's Sports Information Director, who handles ads in the football programs, wrote to Bynum and said, "I hope we are not going to be embarrassed by a plethora of such letters since I don't think the University deserves to be put in such a position." The University was beginning to receive complaints, as was I from my members. Bynum was trading as Autumn Football, Ltd. The Bethlehem, PA, Globe Times ACTION LINE printed another complaint of identical nature. My monthly "Fighting Irish Sports Reports" has carried two stories on the situation with warnings to members.

"For your sake, I hope Bynum is on the level, but I can't imagine why any wealthy Notre Dame benefactor, particularly the Stepans, would need to go through Mike Bynum to finance a new Rockne movie. They would work through the University.

And then:

I appreciate your "warning" with regard to Mike Bynum. Indeed, he has contacted me. He has represented himself as your friend and as the front for some "very wealthy Notre Dame-Chicago alumnus." In fact, he has given me pretty much the same story he handed Tony DiMarco, apparently.

"Unfortunately by the time your letter arrived, having no particular reason to distrust him, I already had given Mr. Bynum a copy of my screenplay about George Gipp. What he has done with it, at this point, I don't know. He has lead me to believe he likes my version above all others he has read and is pursuing the financing of my screenplay for production.

"Fortunately I have made it very clear to him that Walter Mirisch of Universal City, CA, currently owns my screenplay, and he must deal with Walter if he wants to acquire it.

"I must admit, however, that if it's true he actually put his own name on Tony DiMarco's script at one time, I'm concerned that he now has possession of mine. I haven't spoken with Mr. Bynum since your letter arrived. He has been trying to call me from time to time, but I have been out of town. If and when he reaches me, you can be assured we're going to have a serious discussion."

Well, it looks like Bynum's tripe has found an audience in the new EsPN show "E:60". The purpose of the exhumation was to extract DNA to establish paternity for Ms. Eva Bright, and Bynum plans to unveil those results, along with the rest of his Gipper hatchet job, on EsPN's new "journalistic news show". No word on whether it'll be filmed in Al Capone's Vault.

Notre Dame fans are aware, of course, that the Gipper was no saint. Anyone who has watched "Wake Up The Echoes" knows the Ronald Reagan portrayal in KRAA was, to put it gently, artistic license.

But why people would suddenly care that a player dead for almost a century had fathered a child out of wedlock, I really don't know. And why they would want to hear the story courtesy of someone whose past with regard to Notre Dame is, shall we say, checkered, perplexes me even further.

But what doesn't surprise me is EsPN's interest. All the quotes about E:60 being the "next evolution of the brand" and the hopes it would actually focus on news as opposed to entertainment/sensationalism, in the end, are so much blather. In their haste to sensationalize, I hope they took the time to vet the hand that was feeding them the info. That'd be a refreshing change.

My suggestion to the ND faithful: No reason to watch. Just another example of EsPN trying to make hay off a bad football season by giving a questionable source 15 minutes of fame. Me, I'll be mowing my lawn.

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Anonymous Al88 said...

Just FYI: Harry Stuhldreher published a book on Rockne's life in 1931 entitled "Knute Rockne, Man-Builder". It was republished in the 1940's with a dust jacket reading "Knute Rockne, All American"; probably to capitalize on the movie publicity. Wonder if the $14.95 uses any of Stuhldreher's material?

10/19/2007 08:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Follow the link below:

It is the womens post asking about Gipp. Bynum replies.


10/19/2007 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister-in-law gave me a copy of Stuhldreher's book about Rockne that she picked up in a library used-book sale in Florida for 50 cents. It's a good book, but very sugary sweet. You do get the feel of how great a planner and motivator Rockne must have been, though.

10/19/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an old book from the 50s if not earlier entitled "Knute Rockne, All-American."

My older son wrote book reports on this book every year from 4th grade through 8th grade. For awhile I was afraid he'd never read anything else.

10/19/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real reason? Read on:

"Last week it was learned that the body of Irish legend, George Gipp, had been exhumed from a Michigan cemetery on October 4th. News of this action spread across the country and around the world, thanks to the internet, and more traditional news services. Given the sorry state of Notre Dame’s football program, I even read that, while he wouldn’t be ready for Boston College, the Gipper would suit-up for Southern Cal. After reading that comment, I thought to myself: “Wow! Charlie Weis really IS an offensive genius!”

But, seriously, something just didn’t seem right to me about this story, so I packed up my blue ’52 Studebaker Land Cruiser, and took a road trip up north to Laurium, Michigan, where George (semi) permanently rests at the Lake View Cemetery. After paying my respects, I drove to a pre-arranged meeting with Houghton County Medical Examiner, Dr. Dawn Nulf.

“So, Dr. Nulf,” I began, after exchanging a cordial greeting, “what’s the real story behind the Gipper dig? You can trust me. C’mon!”

“Well,” she replied, “you look like a nice guy. Tell you what: if you take me around the block a couple times in your Land Cruiser ~ that’s a ’52, right? ~ I’ll let you in on a little secret.”

It was a nice fall day, so we drove with the windows down. Not more than 5 minutes; a quick trip. Then, it was down to business. Back at her office, I took a seat in front of Dr. Nulf’s desk. She kicked-back in her worn, black leather swivel chair, glanced side-to-side, and gave me one of those polite, frozen smiles, before speaking: “It was a diversionary tactic. Something to take attention away from (she paused) - the real issue.”

“What ‘real issue?” I asked. “It’s the echoes,” she said, softly. “The echoes are missing.”

Our meeting was over, and the goodbyes were brief. I drove away with my answer: For almost 20 years now, Notre Dame has not been able to “wake up the echoes,” because they have been God-knows-where!

Now, I hear, an old, tattered journal was recently found beneath a loose brick in the basement of Washington Hall, Gipp’s old home on campus. It was recorded in this journal, by Anonymous, that Rockne had one last simple instruction for the Gipper, which he gave to him after Gipp’s famous “win one” request: “Sure, Gipper, I’ll keep that in mind,” Rockne told him, leaning in closely, and whispering in his ear. “You just take care of the echoes. Keep those Notre Dame echoes alive.” That was it. Gipp was forever given the responsibility to be Notre Dame’s Echo Caretaker, and now, the echoes appear to be gone.

Bob Davie tried to find them. Didn’t work. Tyrone Willingham had a shirt. A green one. It said: “Return to Glory.” Didn’t work. Now, there is an Offensive Genius. Not working.

I have a theory. Maybe the echoes got plowed under back in 1996, during the stadium renovation. Maybe, like those ugly, nasty cicada bugs, the echoes are down there now. Waiting. For a new cycle to begin. For cicadas, it’s every 17 years, before they make it back to the surface.

So, what’s the cycle for echoes? How long do we have to wait for another National Championship? We never had to wait this long before. Has George Gipp given up his caretaker job? Should we start an “echo dig” around the stadium?"

M.P. Slott, ND '72

10/19/2007 12:02:00 PM  

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