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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Week 3 (2011): Veni, Vedi, Voopsi

“I Came, I Saw, I Turned It Over.”
                                             Julius Reesius
                                                        32 A.D.

"Coach Miles, NCAA Compliance is here to see you..."
There’s an opening sequence in Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 film, “Vampyr” where the protagonist is described as “… a dreamer, for whom the boundary between the Real and the Unreal has become dim…”   Thinking I had stumbled onto the earliest known documentary on Dillon Hall, I watched. The film had a crude, childlike quality to it, with clear spelling issues - like so many Dillonites one encounters. 

I was transfixed. Was this an insider’s exposé? There were just so many parallels.

But of course it wasn’t. Herr Dreyer’s film was your basic early era, low budget horror film with a languid dreamy pace, no bats or seductively caped counts.  All in all, not the most exciting cinematic effort one will see but a more than capable metaphor for the Notre Dame football season thus far – high viewer expectations followed by several minutes of “WTF, what exactly is going on here” finally with relatively happy ending. Closure. Still, one walks away with the knowledge that those are 75 minutes in your life you’re never getting back.

One last interesting historical footnote:  the film opened to an overwhelmingly negative reception (not unlike most Dillon endeavors) and I couldn’t help but wonder even now if there’s not a Dreyer or two in the annals of that hall...

And as old as that film is, I also noticed what must be the first of a long followed cinematic tradition – Evil always has a misshapen, dull witted henchman to do their bidding. (In the business world, we call them Human Resources, in the world of college athletics, they’re known as the SEC.)

But I digress.

One time is mere opportunity, two times the beginning of a trend.  And so even with the loss of out-of-town star power that the USC game seems to have sucked away, the 2nd Annual mid-September mini reunion represented a veritable cornucopia of social bonding events, anchored by bad golf, good alcohol and oldfashioned gibberish.  That Feifar chose to be in the UK was merely icing on the cake. (I jest – but you, sir, are open season for either being the world’s worst planner or having your priorities so askew.) 

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..."
  • Surviving Twin Anchors 
  • Conway Farms 
  • Linipalooza 
  • Harborside Int'l 
  • Lot A Tailgating
  • The Game.

Word of the Week
Ameliorate.    ame•lio•rate  \ə-ˈmēl-yə-ˌrāt, -ˈmē-lē-ə-\

•   to make better or more tolerable
•   to grow better

— ame•lio•ra•tion noun
— ame•lio•ra•tive adjective
— ame•lio•ra•tor noun
— ame•lio•ra•to•ry adjective

•   alteration of meliorate (see meliorate)
•   First Known Use: 1656

Synonyms: improve, amend, better, enhance, enrich, help, meliorate, perfect, refine, upgrade
Antonyms: worsen

Used in a sentence, “Notre Dame’s win, while dodgy in spots (see Turk, Ben) helped ameliorate the pain of the first two weeks."
Observations from The Game

"Not dead yet.  Getting better... I feel happy!"
In stream of conscious fashion
 ü  3rd and short for ND; bubble screen-like pass to Floyd. 1st down!  Where the hell was that LAST WEEK in Ann Arbor?!  Just once!  (“Let it go, Terry…”)
 ü  The Wheel route.  Maybe if Lou Holtz came in and sang his favorite song (“The wheels on the bus going round ‘n round…”), the defense might recognize this play coming.
 ü  Gary Gray. Still bad.
 ü  Ben Turk. See Gray, Gary.
 ü  Mark Dantonio. ‘Little giants’ again, really?!

                     Fat.                                                      Smug.

ü  Things I (continue to) hate:  the 15 yd. penalty for pass interference.  At least until Gary Gray learns to adapt it into his repertoire.
ü  John Goodman.  You literally have one thing, one motor skill, to perform:  catch the ball.  “Don’t you dare think about running afterwards, young man!”  And yet…
ü  Subsequent Mayock quote of the game:  “This is painful for me to watch.” 
ü  93 yard drive  -could that be a watershed moment for the team?
ü  “And a child shall lead them…”   Broadly speaking, our freshmen are better than our seniors.  After only three games.
ü  This HAD  to be good running back recruiting. It’s the one thing we do consistently well on offense.

If Saturday’s Game was a movie poster, it’d be… Arachnophobia.


And that’s just Aaron Lynch.

Calling Lou Nanni…

Out of desperation often comes innovation and I submit to you this cutting edge concept:  celebrity replacement.  It works like this:  for all of our embarrassingly inept performers, we substitute them with stars from the entertainment field and let them have a go.  They couldn’t possibly be worse and the inevitable “can’t take my eyes off the impending train wreck” will drive viewer ratings through the roof.  Here’s a working example:  Punt Returner.  Hello, seemingly nobody on the freaking campus can catch a punt so let’s… wait for it… celebrity substitute!

                        John Goodman to be replaced by… John Goodman

I’ve taken the liberty of gaming out the rest of the season at this position.  Consumers love themes (plus it’s easier for their simple minds to remain engaged).  So ND Football 2011 ties in with Polygram Entertainment and The Big Lebowski… think White Russians (and marmots) everywhere!  And at Punt Returner, you’d have, subject to availability:


Air Force


Wake Forest

Boston College

Lord of the punt...

For punting duties, I’m thinking Rockettes or maybe Michael Flatley…

Week III Buddy Award.
There can only be one choice this week.  Ben Turk. For his timely “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally” punt down inside the five yard line in the 2nd half.

I jest. 

Of course it’s Robert Blanton.  A person who is not only excellent at what he does (recall Terry suggesting his all-America candidacy in the summer) but is also a nice polite young man whom I’m pretty sure Buddy would’ve taken an immediate shine to.  Robert, of course, made The Play of The Game with that (near) goal line interception but to the discriminating viewer (those who weren’t already in the fetal position muttering ‘it’s happening again, mommy make it stop!”) that wasn’t even his best play.  He was a tackling machine as well as (apparently) the only DB paying attention during “this is how you play the ball in the air” lesson.  Bravo!

Mr. Blanton gets extra points for shutting up Alex Flanagan, who while being a total hottie with Pantene-endorsable hair, asked the most inane of questions…

AF:  “Was this your best game ever, Robert?”
RB:  “No, maam.”

Awkward pause when it becomes clear that nothing further is going to be forthcoming.

AF:  “Second best?”

If I were scripting it, the lad would’ve then launched into a three minute soliloquy, refusing to be cut off, about That One Game in Pop Warner ball where he was en fuego… 

At any rate, well played, Mr. Blanton!

Schadenfreude of the Week.
•   Penn State.  You beat Temple by 4, very late.  Eek.  Again I ask, “who’s got the courage to tell JoePa?”
•   Ohio State.  In the nationally televised NCAA Sanctions Bowl, your QB’s made ours look good.
•   Auburn.  This is what happens when you stop paying top dollar for your players... 

Terry’s Tool Time.
"A 'vette! a 'vette!
My kingdom for a 'vette..."
•   Terrelle Pryor.  You’re now playing for the Oakland Raiders (talk about Life imitating Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat) and you’re discovered to have been the bag man for the latest OSU pay-for-doing-nothing scandal. I do believe you might be a modern day Renaissance Man of athletic corruption.

Song of the Week
This could be in recognition of the brilliant mini-reunion organized (and contributed to) by many, starting Wednesday evening and ending… well, I don’t know when it ended… this song would be appropriate. But mostly because it reminds me of JP.

“We light our lamps for atmosphere,
And hang our hopes on chandeliers.
We're going wrong, we're gaining weight,
We're sleeping long and far too late.
And so it's time to change our ways …
But I've loved these days.”

Billy Joel’s “I’ve Loved These Days”

Non Sequitur of the Week
Jeff Samardzija, pride of Valparaiso IN. Having a pretty good year in late inning relief for the Cubs.  7-4 record, 3.01 ERA and most importantly, a panache that drives the French wild.

NW Indiana. We’re not stuck in merely the last century, we’re stuck in the 17th Century!

Final Observations
Let’s hope that’s the defense we get consistently for the rest of the year… the 8-9 win guys might have a chance.  As long as Tommy offers up 2 turnovers a game – on his own – I don’t see us running the table.


2011 Schedule.

3        South Florida                    L                                       
10       @  Michigan (NIGHT)          L                                
17       MSU - LINIPALOOZA!!      W     
24       @  Pitt
1           @ Purdue (NIGHT)
8           Air Force
15         OPEN
22         USC (NIGHT)
29         Navy
5           @ Wake Forest
12         @ Maryland (D.C.)
19         Boston College
26         @ Stanford (NIGHT)
2011 Wager status
Behrens, Volk, Wills*

The 10's:  Staying alive, staying alive, ah ah ah...

*Lindon, M. Corrigan not pictured.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Week 2 (2011): An Infinite Jest?

Everyone has heard the “Alas poor Yorick, I knew you well…” quote from Hamlet. Even the Accounting majors. Relatively few know the following line, “a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is…”

Fewer still probably know “Infinite Jest” also to be the title of a 1996 work of fiction by David Foster Wallace. Critically acclaimed – it’s a 1000+ page comic epic presenting a dystopian future world grounded primarily in New England rehab clinics, tennis academies, double agents and dysfunction all over the place.

But that’s not the point. Not yet, anyway.  As I was searching for anything to write about this week – such was the soul sucking nature of Saturday’s latest experiment in masochism – I came across a really interesting article written by the aforementioned Mr. Wallace - about Roger Federer after his 4th consecutive Wimbledon win.  Superbly written and with unusual insight – Mr. Wallace was a highly regarded tennis player as far as up to college – he describes “Federer Moments’ when watching Raja play… shots of such freakish skill and prescience that one’s jaw drops, eyes protrude and ‘sounds are made that bring spouses in from other rooms to see if you’re okay’.

With due respect and all proper attribution to Mr. Wallace, I’m taking those same reactions - for the entirely opposite reasons  - and renaming them ‘Notre Dame Moments’. 

And no, Lisa, I’m not okay.
But my imagination is similarly abhorred.

If Saturday’s Game was a movie poster, it’d be

Laugh. Cry. Hurl.  

Pretty much in that order.

Word of the Week

Desiccate.    des•ic•cate  verb \ˈde-si-ˌkāt\
                     des•ic•cat•ed des•ic•cat•ing

transitive verb 
1  : to dry up
2  : to preserve (a food) by drying : dehydrate
3  : to drain of emotional or intellectual vitality

— des•ic•ca•tion noun
— de•sic•ca•tive adjective
— des•ic•ca•tor noun

•           Latin desiccatus, past participle of desiccare to dry up, from de- + siccare to dry, from siccus dry 
•           First Known Use: 1575

Synonyms: castrate, damp, dampen, deaden, dehydrate, devitalize, enervate, geld, lobotomize, petrify
Antonyms: brace, energize, enliven, invigorate, quicken, stimulate, vitalize, vivify

Used in a sentence, “Notre Dame’s performance in the final 30 seconds desiccated young Terry to the point of rendering him catatonic.”

So what exactly is going on here? We know the team isn’t bad.  We can see talent.  And yet…

Here are a couple working theories:

I.   We’re Cursed!
"Mocked as Rudy, reincarnated as a blockbuster-driving hobbit.
Who's laughing now, ND Nation..."
                           a.   Sports-related theory

                           b.   Voodoo theory
"I call upon you, Amman Ra, to deliver me the ball recognition
skills of Clifford Jefferson into the body of Gary Gray!"

"I knew we should never have opened Flynn's trunk in Food Sales..."
                          c.  School-related theory

"Coach Kelly, I think Someone is screwing with us..." 

II.  Bad Karma  (aka 'ND as Cosmic Joke')

III.  Parallel Universe
The 801 St. Louis Home 
for High Potential Seminarians      

... We're Actually in Raymond Reverse World!

"Ready to go see Notre Dame play 
for the BCS Championship, Pam?"
IV.       Dallas

- It's All Just A Really Bad Dream

Take your pick.
Week II Buddy Award.
Believe it or not, if the game had ended 30 seconds earlier, I’d be giving this award to Tommy Rees, despite all his miscues.  Why?  Because that stadium was so freaking loud – TV didn’t remotely do it justice… 115,000 loons screaming their lungs out in a building that’s been architecturally redesigned to keep the sound in.  Yowzer.  ND will never again play in conditions that difficult for communication.  Which leads me to this insight:  Notre Dame Stadium scares no one.  We’re not loud. We don’t intimidate, threaten or even confuse anyone (except maybe ourselves when the public announcer takes over). In fact, our fandom revels in the ‘pleasurable game day experience’.  No shit. And no wonder our home record is so mediocre.

But I digress.  This week’s coveted Buddy goes to Michael Floyd. The guy is just a beast.  Just wish they looked at him once or twice on those 3rd and 1’s… you know, the simple bubble screens that USF repeatedly ran for 4-8 yds against us last week?

Schadenfreude of the Week.
•  The U.  You’re facing penalties of SMU-proportions and you lose to team that dressed like a jigsaw puzzle.
•  Penn State.  Spanked by a team with their own QB troubles… has anyone yet told JoePa they lost?
•  Ohio State. You beat Toldeo by 5 pts. And sit another 8 guys for taking impermissible benefits (in mob-like envelopes… hey OSU, one word for your bagmen – PayPal.) What part of ‘lack of institutional control’ don’t you understand?

Terry’s Tool Time.
•  Notre Dame.  How can we not point the finger at ourselves. Shame on you for making me turn to nihilism to get a little optimism in my life.

Song of the Week
Another song taken from the way, way, way back vault…  continuing the theme of curses (and the unfortunate consequences of underestimating someone with mystical powers).  One of Harry Nilsson’s very early efforts, “Rainmaker”.  Enjoy.

“The rainmaker smiled
As he hitched up his wagon
And without a word he rode away.
Then the people of the town
Heard the sound of his laughter
And they knew the rain had come to stay.”

Final observations

Tailgating.  The private port-a-loo would be nice but if we’re raising our game, also consider…

   A.        Blues Band                                                                                    B.        Guinness-based desserts

"This is Churchill Downs, right?"
1.  The uni’s.  Not as bad as Maryland but one game is enough.  Ours looked like high school, UM’s looked like an homage to munchkin land.
2.   Night game.  Loved it. It’s all about pacing oneself. But I don’t have to tell this group about the benefits of moderation.
3.   Denard.  A terrific college athlete.  Horrible passer. NASA would be jealous of some of his moon shot’s.  And yet…
"You're sure, uncle Tim, Ryan and I still get inheritance benefits?"
4.    Elizabethan Revenge.  Actually a class Shea is taking this semester.  That’s not the scary part – though one might arguably ask oneself, ‘to what good end can this knowledge possibly have?!’   No, the unnerving part is Shea reporting that "my prof totally reminds me of uncle Tim".  Yikes.

  “How many ND alums does it take to close a tent?”

2011 Schedule.

3        South Florida            L                             
10      @ Michigan (NIGHT)    L                            
17      MSU    LINIPALOOZA!!
24      @ Pitt
1      @ Purdue (NIGHT)
8      Air Force
15    OPEN
22    USC (NIGHT)
29    Navy
5       @ Wake Forest
12     @ Maryland (D.C.)
19     Boston College
26     @ Stanford (NIGHT)
2011 Wager status

Another five bite the dust... will Brian rue his last minute decision to trade up from 6 wins to 8?!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Week 1 (2011): Could Be Worse

Could be raining.
"Your dad used to coach my dad..."
Ouch.  Even with fancy pants Doppler radar, I don’t think any of us saw that performance coming… 

And as if unemployment wasn’t sufficiently sobering news for me, last week I was also diagnosed with early onset coulrophobia

"Who is muy scary?!"
Granted, coulrophobia is fear of clowns  and it was, admittedly, a self-diagnosis.   But that doesn’t make it any less real or traumatic.  And after seeing ND’s circus act,  complete with laser light show and soooo many creepy clowns masquerading as football players, who else amongst us wouldn’t lay claim to the same debilitating disease?  Plus it might just get me Cook County handicapped parking privileges – sweet!
Word of the Week

Shambolic.  [sham·bol·ic adj \sham-ˈbä-lik\]

·         chiefly British
: obviously disorganized or confused
·         Origin of SHAMBOLIC
probably from shambles
·         First Known Use: 1970

Used in a sentence, “Notre Dame’s performance from start to end could only be described as shambolic.”
So what happened?  Damned if I know. I am not that smart. But here’s a few things I saw:

1.       Senior leadershipOr lack thereof.  Here’s a list of senior ‘contributions’:
a.       David Ruffer – Mr. Automatic misses a chip shot that I could’ve made (-3 pts.)
b.      Jonas Grey – misreads the hole and allows the Strip That Changed The Season (-10 to 14 pt. swing)
c.       Harrison Smithback to back 15 yd. face mask penalties, leading to USF field goal (-3 pts.)
d.      Gary Gray – two 15 yd. penalties (one forgivable) which led to USF’s only 2nd half points (-7 pts.)
e.      Ethan Johnson – stupid unnecessary roughness penalty allows USF to burn crucial time in the 4th quarter. (-3 minutes)
"Who is muy tragic?"
       f.        Dane Crist -  I almost hate even bringing him up – his performance reminds me of my favorite Jay Leno joke (“Why do they call dead people ‘late’? They’re not late, they’re not coming.”)   I just don’t think he is ever gonna get to where we all thought he’d be.  At any rate, his really poor read inside the 10 yd. line - missing Floyd crossing and forcing an INT – was a killer. (-3 to 7pts.)

Playing a complete game.  Coaches love to say that – and ND did. Completely awful.  How complete?  Even the public address announcer contributed by delivering an emergency evacuation warning while the team is trying to get a playoff.  (Dude, two questions:  a) you couldn’t wait until the play was over – the storm was still 90 minutes away and b) you didn’t think the players might perk up their ears when you’re telling the crowd to get ready to get their asses the hell out of Dodge?)

      Chicken or The Egg?   Coach or the players? Where to lay the blame? There are many out there who are probably excoriating Kelly for his team’s unpreparedness  - and indeed Kelly made the choices to put those players on the field… but I sat there and couldn’t help but think that Kelly couldn’t
a.       Make Crist’s decisions for him
b.      Hold onto the ball for Jones
c.       Turn TJ Jones’ head for him
d.      Punt for Turk
e.      Catch for Riddick

Stonehenge v. Stonehands, both unfathomable in their own way...

But lest this be a total downer, I’d like to spend a little time accentuating the positive.  And actually there were more than a few positives… the defense played pretty tough, dominant even for stretches… the offense in the 2nd half actually went up and down the field almost at will…

Accordingly I am initiating the coveted Buddy Award, named in honor of the late, great Corrigan family dog, who made everyone’s life better - typically while in a blissfully unaware state.  The award will therefore recognize those who did the most good for ND each week and if they do it in an effortless fashion, well, all the more Buddy-like.  This week, one could argue several guys merit serious consideration:  Michael Floyd, Tommy Rees, Cierre Wood, the entire Offensive Line…  And the award goes to…

Cierre Wood Not only didn’t he have any gross negatives – no INT, no TD reversing holding penalty – but ran hard between the tackles, blocked well in pass coverage and would’ve had a monster rushing day if the offense didn’t have to pass the entire 2nd half.  Congratulations, Cierre, on winning the 1st Buddy.

"Who is muy magical?"
            Tommy Can You See Me, Can You
            Feel Me Near You?  Personally I         don’t see how Kelly can’t start Rees.  Michigan has become a must win if this
            team wants to see anything north of 8 
            wins. He’s always going to look like he should be quarterbacking Keenan Hall’s team, at best Northwestern.  And I suspect he’ll always have one bad forced pass a game. But (sadly) unlike  Dayne, the game never looks like it’s too big for him and one has to believe he’ll continue to improve on a freshman year performance, even if his athletic ceiling is lower than the other QB’s.

"Who is muy volatile?"
            III.     Mount Kelly.  Much was also made of Kelly going apoplectic on the sideline after TJ Jones’ drive-killing impression of Alfred E. Neumann.  “Ooh, he’s embarrassing himself and the school...”  No, the players were embarrassing the school and if they didn’t have enough pride to get their head in the game, they deserved a verbal boot up the asses.  I loved it.  (Check the tapes of St. Lou if one's concerned about the efficacy of such actions – his players needed rain coats after the amount of spit that Lou spewed during a typical vent.)

IV.                Mike Mayock“It doesn’t get any worse than this…”  I didn’t think anyone could make that game watchable but once again, his commentary was insightful, funny even, without piling on.  He’s really good, in my humble opinion.

"I'm from Albany and I spent 18 hrs. on a train..."
V.                  Gabby Johnson.  Hang with Peter and you’ll always meet interesting people. Including one fellow at the first suspension of play, who had no teeth - but an unbridled enthusiasm for Notre Dame (apparently) god knows what (I couldn’t tell what he was saying).

Schadenfreude of the Week.
·         The U.  Can we not just agree that without even playing a game, Miami has cemented it’s place on this list for the season?
·         Oregon.  It’s hard to find a ranked team who’s on the short end of the score during the season’s annual first game cupcake tradition.  And they should get some credit for playing LSU… but my dad would’ve called this game a ‘root for a tie with lots of injuries’ type game
·         USC. You didn’t lose but beating Minnesota by 2 pts. should give them fair warning that this year is likely to be a mediocre-at-best season for them.  Awesome.

Terry’s Tool Time.
·         Antwon Jones.  Former ND football player and current HS coach of South Bend Washington. This past week he allowed his star WR, Gehrig (‘mom was a Yankee fan’) Dieter to break a national high school record, 447 yards in a game – despite being up by 50 pts in the 4th quarter. One of his other players, David Perkins (a 2012 Notre Dame commit by the way), initiated a bench clearing brawl. Nice message you’re sending, coach Jones.

Song of the Week
Taken from a fairly obscure ‘unplugged’ recording by the seminal Los Angeles punk band, X.  “I See Red” works on many levels for this game:  literally – everyone was seeing red after that performance.  Then there is the figurative connection to ND’s red zone ineptitude (2-for-6 with two turnovers and more than enough points taken off the board to have won the game). Finally there are the lyrics themselves which speak to late hours, heavy drinking and visceral, irrational actions…  Yep, I think that pretty much sums up the USF debacle. Enjoy the song.

“I see red when I see you
Bells ring at 3am.
I get mad, drinks get spilled,
5 past 2 I don’t feel sad.
But then I see you… and I see red.”

Finally, back to clowns.  At the end of Leoncavallo’s opera, “Pagliacci” (whose music is used in practically every movie when a popular main character is getting whacked, typically while the amoral mob boss makes pasta in his simple but impressively fortified villa), Cano the clown steps forward – after stabbing Silvio, to tell the audience, “La commedia ѐ finite…”

Clown Time is indeed over for ND and my bold prediction is this:  This team will be okay.  Tommy will start and succeed… managing the game better with a year of experience, Cierre will be terrific,  Michael will be AWESOME (so will Eifert, actually) and the defense will be stout.

“In this week’s performance the role of Silvio will be played by Denard Robinson…”

Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Until next week!

2011 Schedule.

3             South Florida                  L                                 
10           @ Michigan (NIGHT)
17           MSU      LINIPALOOZA!!
24           @ Pitt
1           @ Purdue (NIGHT)
8           Air Force
15         OPEN
22         USC (NIGHT)
29         Navy
5           @ Wake Forest
12         @ Maryland (D.C.)
19         Boston College
26         @ Stanford (NIGHT)
2011 Wager

Brother Kevin, thanks for playing.  And a shout out to Team Rasmus for being the first to pay up.