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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Idle Holiday Thoughts

Happy Holidays, one and all! With the end of the regular season and finding myself with even more free time on my hands, I felt the heady exhilaration of being free from you all, if only for a month. 

And yet here I am.

So let's start with a song. Not one of your familiar holiday ditties - although anything by Johnny Mathis or Der Bingle totally rules - but one I think you'll all enjoy nonetheless.  From their early age, I weaned my daughters on the musical stylings of The Band - and I'm certain they are better persons for it.  So, too, shall you be...

But back on point.  Why am I here?  Not in an existential, navel-gazing context but more pragmatically why bother engaging when I don't even have to?  Here's why:  I recently picked up Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49" and thinking it to be a treatise on the origins of "A" Lot Tailgating - it is not - I came to discover many things in common between the Glen Cove, NY-born Pynchon's writing and you all.  Starting with the notion that his prose both entertains and confuses... leaves me bemused and convinced his main point went totally over my head.  Which is pretty close to how I'd describe my interactions with most of you.

Then there's the fictional nature of Pynchon's characters. Which is to say, just like many of you. Not real. In the construct of a classic bell curve distribution, for example, I'm fairly confident the Dillon Hall guys actually exist - I simply don't believe my imagination can stretch that far... down

But I'm equally sure some of you are just the product of a series of poor recreational choices I made during college. Consistently interesting, fundamentally benign, not even remotely real.  

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

My favorite 2012 moment, real or imaginery
Which brings us to this football season.  With the benefit of a few weeks distance, and  a couple egg nogs, I wonder if it, too, all really happened. 

But who cares!  And the holiday down time has been fodder for a new screenplay I'm developing!  Some of you may recall my summertime efforts in this area ("The Snicker Games"  and "The Boy With The Gerbil Tattoo")... well, sadly, they ended up being non-starters. Viewed as 'legally problematic'.

Legally problematic.  Was does that even mean?!  The legal profession has no appreciation for homage.

I was born a poor black child...
Anyway, the new screenplay is about a ne'er do well, made-it-into-A Small Midwestern Catholic University-by-the-skin-of-his-teeth student who ultimately rises to success, inspires a football team to improbable success, captures the heart of a beautiful, classy woman miles beyond his depth and in doing so, wins the school's highest lay award, Le Grande Explosiv

The protagonist is a failed performance artist who combines his love of statistical regression analysis with a chance discovery of ambient pygmy music to realize his dream of bringing to Broadway a musical version of The Battle of Stalingrad ("Rooskies!"). His is a story of both personal 'against all odds' triumph and a paean to belief in oneself even as the rest of society treats him like a pariah.  

Think "Rudy" meets "Les Mis" meets "Apocalypse Now".  The working title of the first draft is "Lini". And I'm just spit-balling here but casting-wise, I see...

Lini (early years). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Sean Astin 
Lini (grown up). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Jim Carrey 
Lini's Love. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Natalie Portman 
Coach Kelly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   Daniel Day Lewis (he can play anyone) 
Coach Diaco. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Viggo Mortensen (casting by Lisa) 
Lane Kiffin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Owen Wilson
Hitler. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Bruno Ganz
Stalin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Christoph Waltz 
Tinky Winky. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Riley Sheahan
Gandalf. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ian McKellen
Dowager Countess of Grantham. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Maggie Smith
Lini's Pals 
Whirly Bird Lovin' Pre-Med Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Matthew McConnaughey 
Clever Hispanic English Major Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Robert Downey, Jr.
Ironic Irish English Major Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Simon Pegg 
Psychotic Engineering Major Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jeremy Piven
Bi-Polar Accounting Major Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Goodman
Chemically Imbalanced Dillon Hall Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Leonardo Dicaprio 
Kindly-But-Unstable Theatre Guru and Life Coach. . . . . . . .Willem Dafoe 

Director options

Who to choose?  Everyone's gonna want to helm this bad boy...

1.  Wes Anderson.  Suitably whimsical in tonality; will have to find a role for Bill Murray (The Ghost of Dan Devine?) 
2.  Steven Spielberg.  Emotionally manipulative, ensuring Big Box Office and instant award consideration. Perfect for Notre Dame!
3.  Lars Von Trier.  Bat shit crazy; film certain to be condemned by The Church but likely to get me invited to The Venice Film Festival. Will surely affect my future football ticket lottery chances.
4.  Christopher Nolan. Protagonist would inevitably be dimensionalized as a captain of industry, altruistic, heroic... with profound psychological issues dating back to childhood.  But that would mean turning this into a documentary.
5.  Peter Jackson. Pros: shooting in New Zealand (!) and better chance of getting Viggo on board.  Cons:  Lini likely to be re-cast as a hobbit on a quest.  Hmmm.
6.  Quentin Tarantino. Will insist Lini dies in the last 10 minutes of the film, in a hail of bullets while Stealers Wheel plays over the credits.  Worth considering.

Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me...
The film shot, fittingly, in the surrealist fashion of Jean Cocteau - scored to aforementioned pygmy music.  There will be, for sure, a dream sequence involving young Lini battling Nazi zombies - as a metaphor for the personal doubt he confronts re his bold theatrical vision).  

Thank you my little friends!

Granted, every film of this ilk takes some creative liberties... and when we come to our hero's successful leadership of Operation: Keg In Stadium, he will be assisted not by his miscreant college friends but by a band of fiercely loyal, cunning pygmies (!) whom a back story will reveal that he befriended on a summer community service mission to the Amazon to evangelize Cincinnati Red Fever - Catch It! 

The viewer will inevitably leave the theater having experienced the entire gamut of human emotion:

-  What did I just witness? Was it real or a dream?
-  What's with the nazi zombies?
-  Did I really just pay $10 for that?

They''ll laugh. They'll cry. They'll almost certainly hurl.

Inevitably, the movie will end with a Moby song playing over the credits, revealing SEQUEL!  Or prequel, technically speaking,  "Ungie: The Juvie Years".

Look for this Christmas Season 2013, dovetailing with ND's 2nd consecutive national championship and, of course, film-making award season.  I smell Oscars for Day Lewis and Dicaprio.

Tis The Season... Tools Make Great Gifts

And gifts that keep on giving...    

Looking for a cute little kitchen appliance for that special loved one this Christmas season?  

"I'm watching you, James..."
Look no further than James Franklin, head coach at Vanderbilt, who emphatically answered the question, "would you sell your soul to BECOME a small SEC tool?"  

That seems, charitably, to be a counter-intuitive action.  

But that's what it seems coach Franklin did... tithing to his SEC masters by ranking 3 SEC teams ahead of ND in the final regular season Coaches Poll.  So much for respecting Vandy for being different than the other SEC schools...

You're gonna be perfect at Arkansas

If you're in the market for more of a Power Tool, there's always Brett Bielema... who didn't have the stones to even tell his AD he was talking to another school.

And then there's Le Tool Classique, embodied by Pete Carroll, who two weeks ago, with his team up 51-0 against hapless Phoenix with under 3 minutes left, had his team passing.  And when given the chance a minute later to just take a knee inside the Card's 5 yd. line, instead rushes for the TD.  And just in case you weren't paying attention, this week he faked a punt while up 47-17.

"Could I have my steak to-go..."

Finally, if you're on a budget, looking for something... simpler... for that special white trash friend, may I interest you in the Tommy Tuberville small appliance tool, named thus after the coach who left a Texas Tech recruiting dinner, never came back and was named the coach of Cincinnati the next day?

Speaking of giving, there's also the matter of the post-season awards ritual.  And I've given it some thought. Here's my special recognition to the 2012 team.

(A couple of the awards might require being familiar with this article)...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
                You Made Us Feel Immediately Better About Lynch’s Bailing award           
    • Stephon Tuitt
Best Thing To Come Out of Jersey Since The Boss (or Snookie) award
Everyone now know what a Cover 2 is?

“You’re Surrounding Me With Who?” Kindergarten Cop award
    • Zeke Motta

Really Glad You Didn’t Follow Your Dad’s Purdue Basketball Path award
    Um, you can stop touching it now...
    • Tyler Eifert

Rex Ryan "I Love Fr. Sorin's Feet More Than Is Perhaps Healthy" award
    • Kevaire Russell
The Jim Kelly “LB or QB” You Made The Right Decision award 
    • Danny Spond
You Should Totally Get A Candy Bar Named After You* award
    •  Louis Nix III

“I Knew Tom Rees. You’re No Tom Rees” (and We Couldn’t Be Happier) award 
    • Everett Golson

Best Post-Civil War Reconstruction* Beard award
Mike Golic, Jr.

*or Cough Drop brand

Really Sorry For Thinking You Were Merely A Te’o Throw-In award
    • Robbie Toma

Brent Musberger Just Shut Up award (Taylor was clearly down, play over)**
    • David Shaw

Team Humorist In The Grand Swiftian Tradition award

    • Mathias Farley

Who Cares About The Heisman When Canonization Is On The Table award***
    • Manti Te’o

* If you only get distribution at the Bookstore, you’ll still make tons of money.
** Even if you don’t say it aloud, we all know you’re thinking it.
*** Besides, you’re this year’s recipient of…

The Bronze Buddy

The coveted Buddy...
Like all Corrigans, Buddy loved gifts!  The more, the merrier.  That alone makes Manti Teo Buddy-like (or vice versa).  I mean, 7 out of 8 awards he takes home?  If this were Pop Warner, all the parents would be screaming "hey give someone else a chance..." 

But of course The Bronze Buddy prioritizes all those things that statistics don't ever capture (especially stats padded against rubbish teams like SMU, La. Tech and Sam Houston St. but I'm not bitter...).

Where was I?  Oh yeah - leadership, inspiration and performance.  No one did it better, on this team or in the nation.  Merry Christmas, Manti.


Don't believe what you read about the pundits being split over the game's outcome. No one really thinks we're gonna win. But that's okay:  a) everyone's entitled to their own opinion and b) that's why they play the games.  We'll see.  Personally, I really like the heavy underdog position (see Oklahoma).  Humbly, I would submit these factors as our keys to the game:

1.  Tackling.  If we tackle like Georgia did, we have no shot.  Now the question is, were the 'Dawgs that bad or 'Bama's runners that strong? Probably a combination of both. In any event, tackling fundamentals have been a strength of ND all season long and it's definitely gonna have to be so on the 7th.

2.  Turnovers.  It'd be nice if our D got a few although if memory serves, I don't think the Tide turns it over very often. No, I'm thinking we have to play an entirely clean game on offense - no fumbles, no INT's, and minimal penalties.

3.  Special teams.  I'm frightened to death that this is going to be a game of steady field position attrition.  And we're gonna lose badly.  Mediocre punting, no return game whatsoever, most of the game taking place on our side of the field.  Holding Alabama to FG's for an entire game would seem nearly impossible.

"Release the Kraken!"
4.  Play Calling.  We all understand Kelly's strategy in getting ND to this point:  ride a strong and opportunistic defense, run the ball a lot while developing a young QB.  Minimize the downside while taking a few timely, measured risks. 12-0.  Easy. The thing is, you're now going against the country's 800-lb gorilla (or technically, elephant) and it doesn't seem reasonable to me that we can doggedly stay to that formula and win.  Not saying 'throw out the winning formula' but this is a one-game 'for all the marbles'. I hope the coaching staff is contemplating dialing up the creativity (and risk) on both sides of the ball.

About The SEC
Channeling my inner Brandon Marshall (Chicago area readers will understand that reference), I really don't like the SEC. They are arrogant, in-bred and almost certainly packin', making them impossible (and often dangerous) to argue with.  I recently came across the following, probably plagiarized from a Jeff Foxworthy routine but so what.

You Know You're From The SEC If...

"The SEC welcomes you, Notre Dame..."

  • The Halloween pumpkin on your front porch has more teeth than your spouse.
  • You've been married 3 times and still have the same in-laws.
  • Anyone in your family has ever died right after saying "Hey y'all, watch this..."
  • You think loading the dishwasher means getting your wife drunk.
  • You wonder how Service Stations keep their restrooms so clean.
  • Your wife's hairdo was once ruined by a ceiling fan.
  • One of your kids was born on a pool table.

A Christmas Word
If you're looking for a nice, out-of-the-ordinary holiday word, may I suggest 'anacreontic'?  It means convivial and it's origin ties to The Anacreontic Club of London - a 19th Century group of wealthy men who liked to celebrate music, food and drink.  The club took its name from Anacreon, a 6th Century B.C. poet who also celebrated, well, celebrating.  Let's hope we're channeling this group on 1/8.

If You Only See One Movie This Holiday Season, Make It...
"The Plight of Clownana""

Ishamel is The Clownana... a dancing half-clown, half-banana store mascot. Life is great until the nearby porn shop gets its own mascot and our protagonist is left wondering what his life is all about...

Only 16 minutes long, it's destined to be the ADD generation's "It's A Wonderful Life".

Final Thought #1
Lest anyone think there's no sense of perspective (or intelligence) in the SEC, you should check out the website Every Day Should Be Saturday.  The Onion has nothing on these guys, they take pot shots at everybody, including their own and ND*, but in my experience it's invariably deserved:

*they loved the Charlie Weis years.

Final Thought #2

You didn't think ambient pygmy music really existed, did you? It's actually pretty good...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Week 12 (2012): Why not?

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It's an area which we call the 'A' Lot... " 

Little Lini shopping on his 1st Black Friday...

Happy, happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  Hey guess what? In between meals on Thanksgiving I re-evaluated my life and came to realize change was in order... and have subsequently begun to embrace a more Eastern spiritual path.  Given my Chinese birth year, I've now assumed my true name 谈的猴子男孩 - unpronounceable by anyone other than kindred spirit, Prince, but loosely translated as "Reckless Monkey Boy".

For the record, most of you are Year of the Rooster born.  (Which, if our 801 housemate, CJ Lick, were around, would almost certainly lead to any number of cock jokes.)

But I digress.

Suffice to say, this new direction lead to a heightened level of pre-game enlightenment driven by a new regime:

-  daily Bikram yoga by practicing my hip turn in the steamer shower. I believe the masters call this move The Downward Facing Furyk.

-  strict Homeopathic Asian diet via Kung Pao Chicken, Moo Shu Pork, Pot Stickers and a steady stream of Tsing Tao.

-  Study of Ninja Tactics, including but not limited to infiltration, camouflage and the strategic use of black pajamas as anytime fashion statement.

-  optimizing my Feng Shui through the strategic manipulation of the pillows to afford easier remote control management.

- Kabuki theatre insight as realized thru the Tao of Hello Kitty

-  Lisa as geisha.  Alas, this proved to be something of a tactical overreach... met with an emphatic, blunt rejection. (I'm paraphrasing here but it was something to the effect of  "Are you high? Go away immediately...")  

Followed by a swift exile to the back bedroom to watch the game.

Nonetheless, the combined result of all this was a powerful pre-game calm, zen-like state. Whatever was to happen was ordained by Fate.

Song of the Week
This win was a long time in coming.  And with it came unbridled exultation and energy!  Not very zen-like.  To hell with the Gregorians - sissies!  Get that sushi rubbish out of here - fetch me a slab of meat with my victory mead!  Kabuki?!  I'm ready for some slam dancing...  

And who better to feed that beast than one of the great, never-got-the-credit-they-deserve LA punkers, Mike Ness (grandson of famous Al Capone nemesis Elliott Ness*) and his band, Social Distortion.  The angels indeed sang Saturday night... we've already spent our time in hell, now's our time. Time to vent!

At least for the next 45 days.

Sometimes I try so hard to understand the things you do
Who am I to question you when it all comes down
When the angels sing

Stand up strong, feel the pain
When the angels sing.
Love and death don't mean a thing
Til the angels sing

There's gotta be a heaven, ‘cause I've already done my time in hell
And a little baby's born, when it all comes down.
* Not even remotely true. I totally made this up.

Word of the Week

  de·noue·ment   noun \ˌ dā-ˌnü-ˈmäⁿ, dā-ˈnü-ˌ\ 

Hey guys - sound pretentious AND 
condescending all at the same time 
with this word… it’s French!

Perfect for use with 
your USC colleagues!

:   the final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work
:   the outcome of a complex sequence of events

  French dénouement, literally, untying, from Middle French desnouement, from desnouer to untie, from Old French desnoer, from des- de- + noer to tie, from Latin nodare, from nodus knot — more at node
  First Known Use: 1705

Used in a sentence…  Notre Dame’s defeat of USC proved to be a fitting, and dramatic, regular season denouement for a season that defied all expectations.

Random Observations Of The Game


*  Nice intro.  Especially liked the brief glimpse of the original green jersey game.  And when we rolled out that giant trojan rabbit.
*  USC Song girls looking... spectacular
*  Brent and Herbie on the call again.  And knowing what I know now, somewhere some poor guy is being designated 'pardner' and has already taken his first step toward an ER visit for alcohol poisoning...
*  Quick cut to Lane. Looking his typically affable self, he doesn't appear to be entirely aware of the circumstances he finds himself in. Hmmm.

1st Quarter
*  Riddick for 12.  Nice start.
*  75 yds later, most of it looking pretty easy.  ND 3-0. 
*  USC 1st drive and... running really well.  Until they stopped.  How odd.
*  Brent & Kirk don't seem to understand the 'lose your helmet, leave the game for a play' rule.  They're babbling about Kelly managing his QB's and my mind begins to wander... 
When you hear Brent say, "Kirk, my man"
you'll take out the Big Ten commissioner..."
How easy it would be, one supposes... turn the dulcet tones of Brent's voice
into a Manchurian Candidate-like trigger. 

    But I digress. Again. 

    *  Theo scores!  ND 10-0.  For pretty conservative play calling, not bad.
    *  Wittek has quite an arm.  And Lee is really fast. 
    *  I'd be very bummed if I were Lane that the NFL's spot-of-foul is not the pass interference rule of law in college.  

    2nd Quarter

    *  Wittek-to-Woods, TD.  Eek - kinda surgical.  ND 10-7.    
    *  Gotta say, GAIII does not look like the same KR this year.
    *  Screen pass!  By ND!  Wuh?!  
    *  Another steady drive, another red zone flame out.  ND, 13-7.
    *  Flash to Monte Kiffin.  He looks asleep.
    *  Silas Redd, barely even touched. ND defense looking pretty ordinary.
    *  Is anyone else concerned that we're getting no pressure with our normal rush?
    *  One of our best plays all year - the opponent's botched snap - occurs and its ND 13-10
    *  Lane just can't help himself - has gotta go deep again. INT, Russell.  Nice coverage
    *  Brindza, FG!  From 52 yds!  ND, 16-10.

    3rd Quarter
    Brindza?!  Son of beetch. Sheeet.

       *  Interception, Manti!  
       *  And... a Brindza pull.  Almost predictable.  Very disappointing.
       *  Offense seems to have lost it's mojo.
       *  USC, 3rd and 1.  Louis!
       *  And... Davonte Neal with another savvy decision that costs us almost 20 yds.  
       *  Much needed drive.  ND 19-10.  Leaving A LOT of points on the field. 
      *  Despite the obvious tension, Brent's voice - what is he talking about?! - has me wandering to my personal construct of Dante's Inferno and the Nine Circles of Hell.  Worlds, for me, of nothing but... 





    V.      REALITY TV*





    *except Survivor which is totally awesome
    4th Quarter

       *  15 minutes to the National Championship game. 
       *  Lane calls a confidence building TO, no TD regardless.  ND 19-13.
       *  We need a drive.   
       *  GAIII!  T-H-E-O! Inside the 10 - wow, that was fast...
       *  And... another Red Zone disappointment.  Still, critical FG. ND 22-13
       * Marqise Lee!  This is feeling like an awful 2005 deja vu...
       *  Brent finally gets one right:  goal-line stand for the ages.

    *  Despite some odd (to me) final clock management, game over.  Time now to watch all the ESPN post-game love*.

           *Of course they love us, we're not a cash cow for them, we're a cash whale. 

    Summary Thoughts

          Not really a lot to add after 12 games but here goes...

    *  Lane really is not very clever. 
          *  Kelly plays to win, and with a defense that affords it, achieving victory in the most risk averse fashion possible.

    *  I just don't think that level of 'play it safe' is going to cut it on January 7th.

    *  As worried as I was upfront, Special Teams played really tough - especially punt/kick return coverage.     

          *  It may be a small point but if we're not going to seriously attempt to return a punt, I'd put Goodman back there for the bowl game. Neal just scares me with his decision making. 

    *  Everett's final regular season stats.  Not 'Johnny Football' but then again, Texas A&M isn't 12-0.  

    Year I                            Passing            %       Yds.    TD       INT     QBR
    E. Golson                    166 – 282         58.9     2135    11          5        131.8
    J. Clausen                    138 - 245         56.3     1254     7           6        103.9
    B. Quinn                      157 - 332         47.3     1831     9         15          93.5
    R. Powlus                    119 – 222         53.6    1729    19          9        139.2

    *   It kinda bugs me that Te'o is highly unlikely to win the Heisman - no one seems to remember the mediocre games Manziel put up against LSU and Florida - but on balance, I'd take the 'natty' over the Heisman...

    *   Georgia or Alabama - who do we want?  Already I've heard it both ways: ya don't want to give Saban a month to prepare... Georgia's far more athletic on 'D', way better pass attack.  So what.  We'll play the hand that's dealt us, just like we have all year.  

    *  Another fun fact:  33 out of 51 ND athletes likely to play on the 7th had SEC scholarship offers.  Just sayin'...

          *  Are we a team of destiny?  Why not? 
          *  We're one of the last two standing... why not us?  

    If This Week's Game Were A Movie Poster, It'd Be... 'Days Of Heaven'

    "Your Eyes... Your Ears... Your Senses... Will Be Overwhelmed"

    Auteur Terrence Malick's pastoral 1978 art film has much in common with the ND football program circa 2012:  originally perceived as flawed, took a mind-numbingly long time to finish and ultimately celebrated as one of the most acclaimed films of its era.

    Overwhelming. Just like our Irish.  

    I hope.

    Buddy's buddy

    A more than valid argument could be made for Lane Kiffin receiving this award.  Talk about a triple threat - poor play calling, tragic use of time outs and horrific clock management...  wow.

    Celebrity west coast presenters,
    Murphy & Seamus Flaherty
    And I'll just put this out there - Louis Nix might be my favorite player. Many others get more publicity on the D but on all of those goal line stands, who's invariably at the bottom of those piles?  Irish Chocolate, that's who.  And what other guy his size seems to get better as the game goes on?  

    But this week's shout out was almost predictable in the 1st Quarter:

    Theo Riddick, you are The Man. Last year's enduring image was your flailing away on punt return duty (blissfully relieved of duty early in the year). Talk about not settling. Now you catch everything in your zip code, you're never denied when tough yards are needed most and you've basically come up huge in every important opportunity presented to you. If there's any poetic justice, you'll have a splendid 10 yr. career in the NFL as a dependable 3rd down back... 

    For as much (deserved) publicity as Te'o gets, if you ever want to see an example of The Brian Kelly underrated 'Right Kind of Guy', Theo could be the poster boy.

    Portrait Of The Artist
    As A Young Tool
    Tool Time

    You might've thought, "Ter, this is the happiest college football occasion you've experienced in decades... surely you're filled with love and forgiveness for all of God's creatures, no matter how bereft of Ethics, Morals or Character they might have..."

    And you would be wrong.  Let's start with... 

    1.  Ohio State.   Honoring Jim Tressel at half-time of your final game - a game that's your last one only because he got you put on BCS probation - that doesn't strike you as even a teensy weensy bit inconsistent?  I'd say 'ironic' but I'm not sure you understand that concept...

    2.  Urban Meyer.  Things you learn with watching rivalry games:  coach Meyer demonstrating a profound grasp of geography - he apparently refuses to say their name - referencing tOSU's arch-rivals only as 'that team up north'.  What are we, 6 yrs. old and reading Harry Potter, Urban? They Who Must Not Be Named! Or is the multi-syllabic nature of the name 'Michigan' too daunting for your team?

    3.  Charlie Weis.  Knowing of his prodigious ego, this season must've been terribly hard on Big Chuck.  Watching all his recruits finally play to their potential and restore glory to his alma mater. The same institution who kicked him to the curb and ignored his schematic advantage.  He could've taken the high road and just stayed away from the topic... but when the topic was teed up (by local Kansas reporters), he just couldn't resist taking the bait - saying, in effect, "I don't want to intrude on their big moment.." but by ensuring the press knew Manti & Co. were his recruits, kinda did.

    4.  Cam Newton.  This is what one picks up when one has time to listen to as much talk sports as I do:  Post-Monday night game, Mr. "It's All About Me" kept reporters and his team waiting an hour - guys on deadline, airplanes on tarmacs, families waiting at the other end - for no apparent reason other than... you could.  You're fast becoming the Neidermeyer of your team.

    Speaking of tools, past and present, it bears pointing out that both Colin Cowherd and Rick Reilly have been extraordinarily complimentary about the ND season of late.  One of the things that many of you know about me - I loathe the Notre Dame 'everyone's a hater' persecution complex.  And forever, I've been a big Reilly fan - he's a terrific writer.  The fact is, he wrote a fairly lazy article back in August and now he's owning up that he was wrong.  Have a listen - apparently he's even headed to campus tomorrow to fulfill his promise to polish Notre Dame helmets.  (I sure hope that isn't a euphemism.) 

    Another interesting insight: Cowherd made the point that ND is the one school that when ESPN plans to bring their athletes on the program they don't need to do any pre-interviewing or due diligence - they know the kids are going to be articulate, interesting, responsible.  Pretty neat. 

    Schadenfreude Winner.
    Week 12 - old faves:
    1.  USC.  It just never gets old. One can only hope you truly are stuck with Lane for two more years.
    "How ya like them apples, SEC?!"
          2.  Florida.  What, you thought you had to lose to receive this recognition?  How about having your nose pressed up against the BCS championship window... but no one will let you in.  Boo freakin' hoo.
          3.  FSU.   You're kinda like my personal, east coast USC, imbued with this Florida-based sense of football entitlement without actually having done anything of genuine substance in this century.  And like USC, you were considered a favorite preseason #1 prediction of the pundits.  Oops.

    Recruiting Carousel
    "Have fun storming the West Coast, boys..."
    On the road again. 

    As soon as you finish winning your school's biggest game in 20+ yrs., what's your reward?  You get to wake up the next day and start flying around the country, pandering to a bunch of self-absorbed 18 yr. olds who think they're the greatest thing since the forward pass. 

    The good news is that this time you don't have to answer a bunch of awkward questions about the status of the head coach...   (The bad news is that's one less betting opportunity I get to organize.)

    Even better, there's talk of USC's class imploding as even 18 yr. olds can recognize institutional idiocy if confronted with it on a grand enough stage.  

    Sadly, if ever there was a year to want to take 30 guys, this would be it - it looks like any number of elite athletes are gonna get turned away.  3-4 to watch, based on priority need and likelihood of committing, all (apparently) total studs:
    1. Max Redfield, S, California
    2. Al-Quadin Muhammed, DE, New Jersey
    3. Tarean Folston, RB, Florida
    4. Greg Bryant, RB, Florida
    For once, it should be a fun run up to Signing Day.

    2012 Schedule.
    1    @Navy (Dublin)            W
    8    PURDUE                       W
    15  @MSU                          W
    22  MICHIGAN                  W
    6    MIAMI (Soldier Field)*          W
    13  STANFORD                           W
    20  BYU                                       W
    27 @Oklahoma                            W
    3      PITT                        W
    10    @BC                         W
    17   WAKE FOREST        W
    24    @USC                       W
    *Linipalooza III

    Wager 2012.
    Thank you, team, for putting more distance between you and any prognostications from this group.

    Wouldn't want any 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' hand-ringing.  No predictor's remorse.  We were all wrong, happily so, by several standard deviations.

    A check for $800 went out this morning to The Breezy Point Disaster Fund.  Thanks again, JP, for the recommendation.


    ND-Scorsese connection 

    Contestant’s prediction



    Sweet, compelling mystery that shows the virtues of faith and resilience. Everyone walks away happy and pleasantly surprised.




    Awesome film about fulfilling one’s potential and realizing your dreams… even if it is becoming a gangster.  (Q.  Does ending in Witness Protection qualify as a happy ending?)
    Bryan, Ted, Ray, Tim S, Bob S

    Jay, John, Peter, Raz, Kevin M, Tim C, Mark

    Jerry C, Matt, Jerry W, Jim B, Tom, Mike C, Jim T, Mike G
    Garrett R

    The Departed

    A terrific story about two Boston Irishmen’s different destinies set from childhood. So very close to a happy ending. And yet, so far.
    Terry, Jim S, Jerry P, Brian, Blair 

    Kevin C, Alvin, Randy



    Taxi Driver

    Mentally unstable Viet Nam vet w. wildly unrealistic delusions of heroism.  He’s a total loser, albeit an incredibly   dangerous one. Sadly everybody knows it (incl. Rick Reilly) but him.




    Final Thought - USC Post-game
    I know most of you have seen one of these already but I came across an extended version.  Pretty cool.  A couple observations:  a) love Kelly's direction at the end 'to act with class', b) never heard an Our Father said so emphatically and c) could someone please tell Joe Theismann his ND ship has sailed?

    Final Thought - II 
    Again, I don't think he's gonna win.  But if ever there was a year to recognize athletic excellence and character...
    This would be the year. And this would be the guy.