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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Week 5 (2010): Moving Day

With this being Ryder Cup Weekend and all, it seems more than fitting to use a familiar golf expression for the events of this past weekend.  Saturday, the day upon which after making the cut, the pros look to aggressively make a run up the leader board and put themselves in position for serious things on Sunday.  Moving day.  And judging by the 5 ½ out of 6 points taken in Wales that day, it would seem the Europeans understood this tactic better than the Americans.  I blame demon jet-lag. Who forgot to pack the melatonin?!

             “Who’s the nancy-boy now, Mr. “I want to play the final match’?!”

But the same might ultimately be said about the 2010 ND football program… that this was the weekend when things began to change. 

Let’s review the not-so-insignificant context here: since the Holtz era and that fateful upset (Pete Bercich, how could you drop that interception?), BC seemingly owned us – and it was especially true when playing in that Chestnut Hill hellhole.  Always at night, always with the entire stadium liquored up… a rude, awful group that made the basic British soccer supporters look like librarians. (Prison librarians, but librarians nonetheless.) 

Moreover, the ND team had just come off their most disappointing effort of the season, facing a must win situation.  What happens?  They come out smokin’, race to a 21-0 lead before letting BC back in the game. The defense remain resolute and they walk off with a solid if aesthetically unsatisfying 18 point win.  All things considered, not so bad.

 But let’s back up for a minute.

As Fate would have it, I spent the long weekend in Santa Fe, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary and chasing the perfect margarita.  Now that part of the world is famous for many things, including but not limited to, burritos the size of your head and Carlos Castaneda, the author who was the basis of a freshman year theology class I took. (Taught by Maury Amen who clearly hadn’t met a chemical he didn’t embrace, I couldn’t believe I actually got credit for the class but that’s a story for another time.)  Castaneda was a anthropologist who communed with the Indians and in order to divine the ways of the shaman, took massive amounts of peyote.  Apparently much of his tales of mysterious medicine men and spectral life forces has been largely discredited but in 1975, he was The Man, anthropologically speaking, and is no doubt enjoying the last laugh on some small tropical island bought through all the books he sold.

I, too, learned much of the Indian ways although as previously alluded, mostly through an aggressive tequila and red/green chile regimen. A spiritual people – much like Notre Dame Nation – the Indians were a peaceful group, in tune with the Earth and the Cosmos. Until, of course, around 1600 when the Europeans came in, started telling them how to do things, what crops to grow, who to pray to etc.  The Indians were taken aback, went through some tough times… forced to adjust.  (Sensing a parallel yet?)

"Where'd the hell all these Indians come from?!"
The geography in that part of the country is truly astonishing and one can't help but think of those Indians looking down, on horseback, from those mesas… much like in circa 1876 and the Battle of Little Big Horn (okay that was Montana but close enough for someone who group up in the east). Nathanial Philbrick’s wrote a fascinating book recently about that battle and the events both preceding and afterwards.  In as much as the only survivor of the slaughter was a horse named Comanche, one must assume that the juicy battle bits are intelligent speculation… but this much we know for sure: General George Armstrong Custer thought he had scheduled a cupcake. A MAC opponent. He was the absolute very best the Army had to offer in terms of military leadership. Vain, egotistical but with the resume to back it up – the Urban Meyer or Nick Saban of his time.

And yet… things don’t always turn out, do they?

So what’s the moral of the story?

         Perspective I:                    Everybody has a bad day. (Some worse than others.)
         Perspective II:                   Never underestimate your opponent.*  (The Lou Holtz axiom.)
         Perspective III:                  Payback’s a bitch. (And revenge is best served cold.)

* little known fact: in that particular battle, the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians actually had significantly more sophisticated weaponry than the US Military.

Which leads me to…

Word of the Week.  
Drawing on the lyrical Italian language for our word this week, let’s go with

Freddo -  cold.  As in “fa freddo!” (It’s cold!)

What makes this word even more appropriate is its proximity to Fredo Corleone, the brother in The Godfather, who betrays the family and ultimately, pathetically, pays for it with his life. And as many of you know, the name has been attached to Boston College ever since they betrayed The Big East conference years ago in order to bolt to the ACC.  And you thought the nickname was just because BC is a sad, pathetic, emasculated wannabe institution – like the cinematic character.  Well, that works too.

Observations from The Game.
Drawing on the world of theatre and film for inspiration, a few pithy insights occurred to me while watching the BC game. Again, not a masterpiece but slowly, we’re getting there…

The Hills Have Eyes. One is about cretinous mutants who terrorize an otherwise normal, law abiding bunch of folk.  The other is a 1977 movie by horror film auteur, Wes Craven. I believe I first saw this with Jerry Perez. Breathtaking in its gritty realism and almost prescient view of the future devolution of the Boston College fanbase.

Jersey Boys.  Documentary-style musical based on the forming, rise and eventual breakup of The Four Seasons – one of the biggest musical acts of the ‘60s.  Are we’re seeing the rise of ND’s version, Carlo Calabrese (could you possibly look any more Jersey Shore-ish?) and Bennett Jackson?  The latter had a really promising start as a kick returner and the former is progressing toward becoming the perfect ILB complement to Teo.

A Star Is Born.  A has been rock star falls in love with an up and coming songstress.  After a strong freshman year and a hugely disappointing sophomore campaign, Robert Blanton could play both roles!  And though it’s basically only one (really strong) game, maybe he’s back on the beam. Hell, he’s always been a star in his own mind. If so, it’d give the defense three pretty good CB’s.  And when’s the last time we said that?

Forrest Gump.  Kelly finally admits that a) his spread offense won't work without at least the semblance of a running QB threat and b) he can no longer treat his QB like a china doll to do so…    Soooo,  “Run, Dayne, Run!” 

Sybil.  Story about a young woman whose childhood was so harrowing that she developed 13 (at least) different personalities.  And then there’s Dayne and his passing inconsistencies – through five games I've counted about 15 variations…

Mommie, Dearest.   Faye Dunaway tour de force which depicts the abusive and traumatic upbringing of film legend Joan Crawford’s adopted daughter.  Oh and coach Kelly yells at his players.  Both events inspire considerable news coverage although in the latter’s case, I have no idea why.
Song of the Week.
As you all know, I’m a Hoosier.  And I wear it proudly, like a nerd wears his pocket protector. One of the many things our great state doesn’t credit for is its rich musical history. Cole Porter was a Hoosier.  Michael Jackson (and family) grew up in nearby Gary. John Mellencamp is a Bloomington kid. Elvis had his first Percodan in Indianapolis. The über-cool Lyle Lovett even has roots here. But for my money, the state’s #1 man is John Hiatt… one of those guys that everyone covers his songs (to great commercial success) but he himself remains largely obscure to the masses.  No matter. 

The offering this week is his “Slow Turning” – the title track of a terrific 1988 album – the chorus just seem to sum where ND football is at, this year.  Making progress, maybe not as quickly as we’d all hope, but the improvement seems undeniable:

It's been a slow turning, from the inside out
A slow turning but you come about.

A slow learning but you learn to sway
A slow turning, baby 
Not fade away, not fade away, not fade away.

Terry’s Tool Time.
Lane Kiffin.  For the life of me, I can’t think of what he’s done that should merit this recognition, other than breathe, but I'm into Week 5 without having him even sniff this award. Losing to Washington has to count for something.

Schadenfreude Winner of the Week.   
Finally got my Penn State fix – if you saw any of their game vs. Iowa, you’d know the only time they were competitive was at the coin toss – and Florida being manhandled by the other SEC Prince of Darkness  is always a cheap, if infrequent, thrill – but this week USC has to be to the winner. Getting beat by the country’s most under-performing team and having to play a Stanford team next week that just got spanked by Team Nike, that’s just… delicious.

Recruiting Buzz
As most of you know, there ain’t too many seats on the Class of ’11 bus left  - but a couple still to watch, given how badly Rutgers and Georgia have imploded, are RB Savon Huggins, a (say-it-with-me-altogether) ‘Jersey Boy’ who is supposed to be on the shortlist of best backs in the US this year. If one saw any of the Stanford-Oregon game, you’d see how speed at the RB position changes everything. Then there’s Ray Drew (yet another stud Georgia kid who plays the über-valuable 3-4 OLB position).  Having both hometown schools struggle is not bad. Now if we can just get to the 7 or 8 win mark, it might actually make a difference.

Didn’t’ You Use To Be… Gary Hallberg?

Proving that perseverance is indeed a virtue, it bears pointing out that the PGA’s almost boy wonder circa 1982 (?) and close chum of Biv Wadden’s, Gary Hallberg won a Seniors tournament this past weekend, besting Freddy Couples and Bernhard Langer among others.  Shot a course record or some such.  Yowzer. I didn’t even know he was still alive, professionally speaking. Well done – F Scott Fitzgerald once said there are no 2nd Acts in American life. But there certainly is in American sports.

The Wager.
Staying alive, staying alive, ah ah ah… Corrigan-Rasmus-Feifar-Thompson-Behrens live to fight another day.   Sure we can run the table and win 9 games… and pigs will fly.

Actually I did I see pigs flying this past weekend  – at the International Balloon Festival in Albuquerque last weekend… and a cow too. So don’t count us out – not dead yet.

But I digress.

So about the 2nd wager… 

The specific proposition on the table is this:   up until the Pitt game kickoff (and if you tell me at the tailgater you're making an even bigger wager that I’ll remember), one can purchase an additional option to flip your win-loss prediction.  For example, an original 8-4 prediction become a second 4-8 bet.

It expands the pool and gives most, maybe not all , the chance at a realistic recalibration.  Except for Lini and Marcel who are totally SOL (but honestly, who is really conflicted by that?).

Regardless, after week 6, we’re getting a little late to re-configure the wager and perhaps we just live with what we’ve got.
Literary final thought.
"Does this new haircut... change me?"
This past week, I read this terrific NY Times magazine article on Franz Kafka, the noted author of the early 20th century.  Now Franz is notable here for a couple reasons:
1. As he began to die of tuberculosis, he asked his best friend to destroy all of his works – leading one to query, “Hey Franz, couldn’t you have also requested all evidence of the Davie-Wiilingham-Weis years to be included in that purge?”

Of course I jest. Actually he could have only predicted the Terry Brennan / Joe Kuharich era to be expunged.  Lucky for us, Franz’s buddy thought better of the idea and held onto Kafka’s writings… and we are a better world for it. 

2.  He did, after all, give us “The Metamorphosis” and if one looks beyond the literal story line (traveling salesman wakes to find himself inexplicably turned into an impressively threatening bug, leading to ostracism and ultimately, a sad lonely death) one sees another transformative metaphor relating to ND football.  You don’t always know when change is coming but when it does, look out!  That’s optimism, Kafka-style.

See you at Pitt!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week 4 (2010): A Riot Is An Ugly Thing...

               "Und, I sink, it is just about time dat ve had vone!!! 

Okay so that may be a bit of an overreaction – but with every passing week it becomes crystal clear that the Notre Dame football program, 2010 Edition, is a) not real good and b) not terribly close to being real good. The Stanford effort (or lack thereof) was disappointing on so many, many levels. But it’s always risky to draw any long term proclamations so soon into a new regime - no matter how distressing the early returns are.  My strong recommendation: re-set your expectations for this year on ‘minimal’ with a hope for showing some consistent improvement over the course of the year. 

And while you're doing that, ask yourself how good wasStanford  in Harbaugh’s Year One?  Pete Carroll’s Year One.  Joe Paterno’s Year One (okay we don’t actually know this since the original papyrus on which it was recorded got unwittingly sealed in the tomb of Ramses II at Abu Simbel).  Fun fact: the assistant coach responsible for that oversight was immediately sacked and it was the last time Joe ever replaced anyone on his staff. (Thank God for formaldehyde.) 

Word of the Week.  
noun \ˌän-ˈwē\   a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction: BOREDOM

Example:  …the kind of ennui that comes from having too much time on one's hands and too little will to find something productive to do (see Corrigan, Terry).

Origin.  French, from Old French enui annoyance, from enuier to vex, from Late Latin inodiare to make loathsome — more at annoy. 
Synonyms: blahs, doldrums, boredom, listlessness, restlessness, tedium, weariness.

(Special recognition must go out to Mr. Rasmus for suggesting this word – bullseye!  Thank you, Bob. Could there be a better word to capture the feelings of watching one of the worse – and dullest – games in recent memory?) 

What has also become clear is that this year has been spectacular for pre (and post) game entertainment. 

This week’s highlight took the form of a latter day version of The Big Chill. (I think I was the Jeff Goldblum character.)  You all remember that slice of ‘80s culture:  a group of close university friends gather together when one of their mates, the charismatic Alex, suddenly offs himself, leaving the close knit group to essentially wonder, What The Hell?!  Spoiler alert if you're one of the six people over 50 who never saw the movie: the gang never do figure out the enigma that was their pal.  But they do eat, drink, dance, smoke dope, play Motown music and reminisce enough to make the otherwise macabre occasion a fantastic re-bonding opportunity. Woo hoo!! Tragic Alex, he shan’t have died in vain!!

Fast forward to Friday night in SW Michigan with the Ward-Gordon-Lohn-Langhenry-Maher-Richmond-Borkowski gang where pretty much the same script played out.  (Only this time, unbeknownst to us, The Role of Alex-The-Corpse Was To Be Played By The Notre Dame Football Team.)  It too was a rocking great time – fantastic pasta and so much wine (including the small warehouse that Gordo brought and the 2nd bottle of Marcel’s “Tom Feifar” super Tuscan) that by evening’s end, I think I actually joined a local militia. 

"Please don't make me watch any more  Notre Dame  3rd and long's"
No doubt an unfortunate coincidence that the aforementioned stiff was named Alex because when I began to watch a tape of the NBC telecast, I couldn’t help but think of another Alex, the protagonist in Stanley Kubrick’s (and author Anthony Burgess’s) iconic “A Clockwork Orange”.  A sociopathic reprobate who enjoys raping and maiming in a dystopian world – while listening to Ludwig van’s 9th Symphony no less – Alex ultimately has his behavior modified through a government program that forces him to watch violent visuals which make him physically ill.  Only now do I fully understand the power of that final sequence.

But I digress. 

Observations from The Tailgater(s).
•           Pictures really do say a 1000 words. 
 "This bottle?  It's, um, medicine..."
 "Typically people stand when they're in my presence..."
Observations from The Game.
 After watching Jeff Samardzija walk like a dozen guys in an 8-7 loss on Sunday, I realized that many of the axioms of sport are thus because they're actually true!  Imagine that.  Like if you walk a bunch of guys in baseball, you're usually going to pay for it, Jeff.  And in football, especially ND football, it’s:

         It’s all about the play of the two lines. And both of ours were dominated. To be somewhat fair, the Stanford O-line, which had its way with us, is very experienced and the strength of their unit.

         QB is the most important guy on offense.  We go as Dayne goes, unfortunately.  And right now, that is not good news.  And while there is much justifiable trepidation about whether he is, in fact, The Answer, try and remember what you thought about Quinn or Clausen in Years I & II.  It definitely wasn’t that they were the 2nd Coming of Joe Montana.

"But coach, that trick never works..."
         Coaching matters. Play calling, especially on the crucial 3rd (or as the case may be, 4th) downs was, at best, curious. At worst, critical plays look like they’re being called by Bullwinkle J. Moose who used to famously attempt scatterbrain tricks and say, “Nothing up my sleeve – presto!”  Sadly, there really wasn’t anything up ole Bullwinkle’s sleeve..

Theory: maybe Kelly hasn’t yet figured out that this team’s ability to execute isn’t yet as proficient as he’s had in his recent past. In any event, Kelly’s aggressiveness has cost us some important points.

"I predict Teo will make 1 million tackles..."
Talent matters too. One man’s opinion: we have three good-to-very-good players on Defense (Ian Williams, Teo and Gary Gray) – everyone else are just… guys.
•           As an aside, did Manti make every play – or did it just seem that way?

"Cierre, it's time for football practice..."
         Special teams matter. 
•           Good news:  our kicker rocks! So we’ve got that going for us.
•           Bad news:  But our kick-off returner is a bit of a prima ballerina.

Song of the Week.
Roger Waters played several shows this week at The United Stadium, focused totally on the “The Wall”.  Apparently it was killer but at $250 / pop, my jones for a Pink Floyd experience waned, metaphorically speaking.  But with a nod to one of rock’s great icons as well as the game, this week’s offering must be “Comfortably Numb”.  Ostensibly about the thrill of a heroin rush, one could say that being a Notre Dame football fan these days is equally coma inducing and self destructive.

When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown the dream is gone 
I have become comfortably numb

Tool of the Week.
1.  Braylon Edwards.  Your team pays for a car service that’ll pick you up anytime anywhere, anonymously… you blow a .17 on the breathalyzer (2x the limit for those counting) and you still decide to drive home?  Later, you tell the media that you don’t understand what’s BFD…  Knucklehead, Thy Name Is Braylon.
"Jimmy H - tool or no tool?!"
2.  Jim Harbaugh.  Going for 2pts when you're up 26-6 with 8  minutes left against an opponent who didn’t look like they could score against a strong wind?  Hmmm. No one has made any kind of issue about it but it certainly got my attention.  Hopefully, Jim, you were just practicing for rubbing it in vs. USC.  Again.

Schadenfreude Winner of the Week.   
 >  Lusted for ‘Bama, really hoped for Penn State, settled for Texas.

Recruiting Buzz
Interesting blurb on NBC Sports / Notre Dame web page about the recruiting battles going on between the two smarty pants schools (Stanford and ND) who compete over those rarest of birds, great athletes that seem to actually be reasonably good students.  Check it out: 

The Wager.
Matt, Jerry and Ted, thanks for playing. Now take a seat.  Like lambs to the slaughter, next up for extinction are Corrigan-Rasmus-Feifar-Thompson-Behrens.   And it’s looking like nobody winning could be a distinct possibility.

So we need to discuss a 2nd wager – someone’s gotta win this thing! 

Here’s a proposition:   what if, up to the Pitt game kickoff, one were given the option to buy (for another $25) the chance to flip your wager?  That is to say, an original 8-4 prediction can become a 4-8 bet. The 10-2 guys can stand pat or if they’re genuinely despondent, could flip to a 2-10 guess.

It expands the pool and gives most, maybe not all , the chance at a realistic recalibration.  And the Albertville folk who predicted well, aren’t necessarily penalized…

What say ye?

If not, other ideas certainly welcome…

 Literary final thought.

The 18th century French satirist Voltaire once said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." Misinterpreted at the time as a frighteningly cynical thought of the highest order – he was actually railing against atheists – the witty Frenchman was widely castigated.  But in my convoluted logic, I find this thought to be an optimistic one.  And relevant. Putting aside the basis of the thought, the fact is everyone needs something to be hopeful about and for some (many?) it could be the concept of a benevolent Higher Being.  For the Notre Dame football fan, it’s…  I actually don’t know what it is… but just maybe it’s the idea of something Bigger & Better being only a little further down the road.  One can’t give up, can’t stop thinking they won’t ultimately turn it around.

Then again, I could be totally full of hooey.

I do seem to recall that in ‘The Usual Suspects” a mirror opposite statement (‘the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist’) was also uttered. So maybe we’re just screwed. Maybe the cards are stacked against the program… a tough schedule w the patsies not coming until the season’s already in the toilet, academic restrictions that keep us from getting a sufficient number of the really bound-for-the-NFL studs, coaches that are overhyped...

"Hellllooo women's soccer!"

But if that were the case, what would we tailgate for? 

"It's getting pretty cold out here..."

A lone, dull-witted, vigilant sentry waits for the Return of The Program… but when?!


Week 3 (2010): The Knife's Edge

The following was written by someone who waited 29 years for the Green Bay Packers to return to prominence after initially undying fealty to Vince, Bart, Paul et al an impressionable 10 year old… so everything below needs to be taken with that in mind…

Word of the Week
per•se•vere (vi \ˌpər-sə-ˈvir\) per•se•veredper•se•ver•ing

Definition of PERSEVERE
  • : to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter influences, opposition, or discouragement

Used in a sentence:  “Terry’s mom told him that he needed to persevere as ND’s football program worked their way through the inevitable growing pains of a new system.”

First off, we welcome Dr. Spittler to the distribution list, he of enormous Hudson OH celebrity and modest golfing acumen. Actually it’s only because of his too-cool-for-school wife that anyone pays him any mind,  but as the same could said for everyone on this list.

Secondly, this week we introduce a potentially reoccurring character, my friend, Kenny From Helsinki.  

Real or imaginary? Yes.

And while it’s true that I do enjoy a richly, nuanced fantasy life, I’ve largely* sworn off the invisible companions. That’s so 90’s anyway.  

But I digress.

Kenny From Helsinki (KFH to this group) is real, a close family friend from our days in Milan... in town on business this past week and watched the game with me. Knowing absolutely jack about the sport, he brought a unique perspective, not unlike an extraordinarily articulate infant. Or Kenny from South Park.

*I am not giving up my imaginary Thai masseuse.

                                 KFH (real)                                                  KFSP (not real) 

Game Observations.
Herewith are my impressions w KFH. And switching things up a bit, the following provides a stream of conscious chronological recap of Terry & KFH watching last evening’s competition…

1st Quarter
•           Stewart penalty, otherwise nice pace of offense – they seem to be faster to the line and getting the play off.
•           MSU goes 3 and out.
•           ND going for it on 4th and 5 from midfield already – huh? Penalty aborts the mission. Whew.
•           MSU goes 4 and out.
•           Big TD catch by Floyd – it’s about fucking time.
          Dayne throws a pinpoint laser and follows it up w a brick.  Is this him just being rusty or is he always going to be a 55-58% completion passer?
•           Man, the run defense looks pretty stout.

2nd Quarter
•           Ian Williams is looking more and more like a player. Tough kid.
•           Kelly turns down a 10 yd. holding penalty, putting MSU in an achievable 3rd and 8.  They don’t convert but Terry wonders for the 2nd time about Kelly and his decision making. There’s gambling… and there’s reckless.
•           Another 5 yd penalty for not getting the play off in time; should be begin to call our QB ‘Delay-ne’?
•           Theo Riddick starts to get involved in the game.  Alert the media.
•           Michael, Michael, Michael…  Floyd fumbles in the red zone.
•           Manti! Manti! Manti!  Teo blows up a running play.
•           Knife Edge, part I: Dayne gets greedy, ignores a wide open TJ Jones short and throws into triple coverage, wiping out at least 3 points, more likely 7. Son of beeetch.  Sheeeet! 
o          Do the MSU players ever shut their mouths?
•           Dr. Pepper commercial with a midget Kiss band.  Terry gets a much needed infusion of levity.
•           Knife Edge, part II: MSU immediately marches the length of the field like a hot knife through butter. Terry wonders about the Nature of Momentum for the 3rd straight week.
o          Perhaps more analytically, he wonders whether fatigue is the underlining issue with this group – they hold it on the road for reasonably solid stretches then bam! Our fast twitch offense probably doesn’t help them much in this regard.
o          Do we just not have all the horses to keep fresh and rotate?

•           Lisa announces the purchase of a grocery store innovation, “Margarita In A Bag” where one fills said bag, pouch actually, with ingredients to the specified level, shake and freeze for three hours.  And voila! the concoction is ready, making a 1 liter worth of happiness!  Terry & KFH rejoice.

•           After his 2nd one, Terry proclaims it the New Product of The Year and begins to quiz KFH on what’s he’s learned after watching American football for two hours. He’s a surprisingly quick study – who knew the Finns had such aptitude for any sport not involving ice?

3rd Quarter
•           2 TD’s in 2 ½ minutes. Is this the same game?
•           Knife Edge, part III: If Teo wraps on a 3rd down play, it’s probably 17-14. He doesn’t. One play later, it’s 21-14.
•           Haven’t heard Darius Fleming’s name all night.
•           MSU has always seemed to have fundamentally sound tacklers. I’m envious.
•           Dayne to Riddick, 21-21.
•           :33 left in the quarter, Margarita Tre, KFH hears Terry’s cutting-edge-ahead-of-its-time theory on The Power of Positive Hating.  KFH asks for another margarita.

4th Quarter
•           Floyd hangs on to the end zone catch. Shocker!  Touchdown, Irish. More impressive was the previous play’s shuttle pass – a terrific play call and execution, great run by AA.
o          The offense is 3-for-3, all TD’s in the 2nd half and looking like what everyone expected from the get go.
•           We can't stand success; the offense goes 3 and out. Incredibly, momentum swings again – TD MSU. Mother_____!
•           Darius Fleming sack. So you are actually playing.
•           It occurs to Terry that ND has played a Big Ten schedule a month before the league’s teams even talk to each other. Hmmm.
•           MSU WR steps out of bounds – not forced – comes back and catches TD.  Didn’t know that was legal in College.
•           Our kick return is underwhelming.
•           6:00 left and we’re going for it on 4th down?!  WTF?! I thought we exorcised the ghost of Weis 4th down go-for-it addiction.
•           Terry & KFH go back to the Barolo.
•           Teo to the rescue!
•           Armando!
•           3rd and 6. Dayne has tons of time but no one runs past the 1st down sticks?

•           On 3rd downs, can someone please run past the freakin’ 1st down marker?
•           9 yard sack!  Sorry, Darius for disparaging you earlier, you're showing up now.
•           46 yard FG to win.  Or not. Wow, big cojones on that fake field goal.
•           Now on the matter of the snap not actually occurring before the play clock runs out.  Gee, Mr. Official, you seemed pretty anal when you were calling it repeatedly on Dayne.  But in OT, not so much. Sooo… it’s more of a guideline than an actual rule?!

                       “Ah but the time clock was only mostly at :00, not totally at :00…” 

Summary note:  Vincent Canby, the noted New York Times film critic once wrote about a Norman Mailer-based movie,  “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” that the actors didn't have an easy time of it but “they all seemed to be having a ball, playing out the author's violent fantasies and saying lines that teeter on the knife-edge between literature and lunacy.”

A knife’s edge between literature and lunacy – that pretty much sums up the thin line that this football team walks on.  Rarely ‘average’, they’re either hugely efficient or distressingly incompetent. Coolly productive for significant stretches at a time, moving the ball and stopping the opponent’s. Then along comes a communication breakdown, a loss of concentration, a poor decision… and bam!  Disaster. And with it goes confidence and momentum.  Call it bad coaching. I choose to believe it’s the learning curve.

Accordingly, I was more than a little taken aback by the suicidal sentiment of the ND message boards so far this week. Disappointing loss? Absolutely. But Armageddon Time?!  Please. This team is a very solid work-in-progress, genuinely getting better each week… undermined by insufficient depth on the defensive side of the ball.  But if that isn’t sufficiently solid rationale for you, try this:  if they don’t turn the ball over the last two weeks, they’re 3-0. Simple as that. And other than the inexplicable Floyd gaffes, it’s pretty much the result of guys who simply haven’t played on this big of a stage. They’ll get better.

Further food for thought: check out the performances of the new QB’s at Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, the replacements for Tebow, McCoy and Bradford – none of them are consistently lightening it up. They’re just surrounded by 21 other guys who’ve been a) doing it before and b) doing it in the same system for the last several years.

Song of the Week.
The seminal west coast punk band, circa ‘70s and ‘80s, was ‘X’. Led by lead singer John Doe, co-singer Exene Cervenka and prototypical lead guitarist Billy Zoom, these guys defined rock. Head to head, they’d make Ted Nugent cry for his mommy.   But “See How We Are” was something of an exception to the rule. A good ole fashioned social protest song – a ballad actually – Doe rails against the failings of society… the song lays out an America as it really is, not as we wished to believe it. It’s a great song – give it a listen. The parallels with ND football are obvious.  See how we are, indeed, warts and all.

Book of The Week
"I've had more fun last week than you'll have in your lives..."
Keith Richard has released his autobiography, ironically titled “Life”.  Ironic (at least to me) because if anything, shouldn’t the book be entitled “Lives” – as in ‘this guy has more lives than a freaking cat’?  Apparently – and this is ironic – the book also contains tips on healthy living. Like avoid cheese.  So now I'm frightened, given my diary product dependency. Because knowing what that guy has ingested over the years, if he finds cheese terrifying, what can it mean for me, a card-carrying Cheese Head?

About Character.
 A few of us shared an audio clip of ex-Raider great George Atkinson talking about his sons’ commitment to Brian Kelly and ND.  He repeatedly stressed the importance of the degree and how proud he was of their ability to both play football at a high level and academically qualify at a school of Notre Dame’s pedigree. 

The interview lead me to ponder the nature of character – and ultimately, the ‘character actor’.  Someone once described character actors has the guys whose parts don’t get names and never get to kiss The Girl - but you always remember their faces and their performances.  In the case of Harold Gould, who died last week, he was Martin Morgenstern, Rhoda’s father in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda.” He was the crime lord Honore Vachon on the original “Hawaii Five-O.” He was on “The Rockford Files,” “The Love Boat,” “Gunsmoke,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Get Smart,” “The Golden Girls” and dozens of other shows better and worse. My favorite was his role as a grifter in “The Sting (below, 2nd from the left).  

 Every cast – or team – needs members that know their roles and contribute even when they know the crowd isn’t necessarily going to know their names. Like Ian Williams. Or Braxton Cave.  Or Harold Gould.

Tool of the Week
1.         Pete Carroll – who upon hearing about Reggie Bush’s forfeiture of the Heisman Trophy talks about it as a ‘teachable moment’.  Huh?  Teachable how? How to skip town ahead of the sanctions?
2.         Reggie Bush – I’m still not admitting nuthin’…

Schadenfruede Winner of the Week  
I had to go the NFL ranks – no one of genuine importance lost in the NCAA and I just couldn’t bear to pick on my Iowa Hawkeyes – so this award goes out to the Minnesota Vikings (going 0-2) and my man Favre (throwing 3 INTs). How’s that no training-make-the-team-beg-me-to-return thing working out for you, Brett?  A close 2nd would be the Cowboys… don’t print those Super Bowl tix just yet, Jerry Jones.

In defense of Cupcakes.
Have we ever explored moving a couple of these games a little later into the autumn and starting with the Western Michigans?!

Recruiting Buzz.    Another week, another monster commitment at a position we are historically inept at attracting top talent.  Georgia DE Stephon Tuitt gave Kelly his commitment, stressing how blown away her was. Suck on that SEC!  Now if we can just get a couple hotshot safeties to complete the class…

“Is That a Bat In Your Chest or Are You Just Happy to See Me?!”
"Brave, brave Patsy..."
Chicago Cub Tyler Colvin is impaled by a broken bat (of the maple variety for those keeping score) in Sunday’s game – check out the link below.  Why is this relevant to anything?  Well ex-ND footballer Jeff Samardjiza was pitching and in the on-deck circle at the time.  And the winning pitcher, I might add.  Talk about taking one for the team… yikes.,0,1449259.htmlstory 

The Wager.
“Au revoir, gopher.”  As well as Mssrs. Castellini and Marcel from The Winner’s Circle. 

Matt, Jerry and Ted, you're on the clock.

Jerry, Dennis and Gordo – your predictions are looking very strong right about now. And it should be pointed out that the moniker ‘Albertville’ was never meant to be a disparaging term – after all, a winter Olympics was held there.  And the French analogy is appropriate one in this case too as most of us would probably agree it’s a town we’d rather watch on TV than actually visit.

Also, we’re starting to collect funds for this… I’ve begun to bold names below that I know have paid. Ted and others, let me know whom I've missed as I certainly wasn’t paying attention to these efforts at the past tailgates. (Theo, I've got Ungie’s money.)

We’ll see many of you this week at the Stanford game.  I don’t know if we’ll win… maybe not… probably not… but these guys look to me like they’ll hang tougher than perhaps many think they will.