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Minnesota Football: Defending P.J. Fleck’s “authenticity” is an unwinnable argument

The people who doubt Fleck’s altruistic motives are never going to be convinced otherwise

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that there are people who don’t like P.J. Fleck. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. People are entitled to their opinions. And Fleck will be the first to admit that his personality isn’t for everyone. To each of their own.

But some of those people seem to have found a spokesperson in Jerry Kill, seizing upon his recent comments that Fleck is “about himself,” among other criticisms.

And in reading their comments, I noticed a recurring theme: That Kill — he of the unimpeachable character, of course — saying these things validates their conviction that Fleck is a “phony.”

That’s something I’d like to talk about here.

We seem to be at this point in society where actions and intentions simply aren’t enough for some people. No, the motives must be pure, as well. The thing is, unless you have developed telepathy, we have no way of knowing for certain what’s in a person’s heart. It’s why no amount of evidence will ever convince these people that Fleck is a genuine good person.

Fleck and his players can visit patients at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. He can invite fall practice attendees to bring donations for the Diaper Bank of Minnesota and host his annual Turkey Drive in November. He can reward walk-ons with scholarships, staging elaborate presentations that the players will never forget. Fleck can do all of that and yet his staunchest critics will remain unmoved, certain in their unyielding belief that his culture of “serving and giving” is nothing more than a song and dance routine.

Consider this: Does it really matter?

I can promise you the argument of whether or not Fleck is “authentic” is moot to the hospital patients who light up at the sight of Gopher football players gathered by their bedside. The local families in need who benefit from the donated diapers and the free turkeys aren’t up at night wondering whether they’ve accepted goods from a fraud.

Fleck and his players are making positive contributions within the community, which both benefits the public perception of the program and also, you know, the people on the receiving end of those positive contributions. If it all is an act to serve the program, Fleck must be a method actor. But again, if his actions match his words, what’s the problem here?

As for whether Fleck is “about himself,” I’ll leave that up to the players to decide. If he didn’t care about his players, he’d have a tough time recruiting. And even if he somehow managed to coerce them into signing with Minnesota under the guise of a caring head coach, I don’t think it’d take them long to figure out they’d been duped and buy the first plane ticket out of Minneapolis.

And at the end of the day, isn’t Fleck here to run a clean program and win football games? He has accomplished the former for the most part and seems to be on the right track in terms of the latter. But if you can’t accept either of those outcomes because you have personal doubts about his personal motives, then you’re never going to be satisfied.

Long story short: Go ahead and make fun of “Row the Boat.” Feel free to roll your eyes when Fleck or his players get involved in the community.

But know that it says more about you than it does P.J. Fleck.