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Monday, June 4, 2012

Week 10 (2010): Catharsis

A couple years ago, when I originally started these musings, I had nominated several pieces of literature as potential themes for the state of the ND program. I returned to that list before Saturday’s game:

v  “Paradise Lost” by John Milton
v  “The Inferno” by Dante Alighieri
v  “Enemy at the Gates” by William Craig
v  “From Good to Great” by Jim Collins
v  “Atonement” by Ian McEwan
v  “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe
v  “Holidays In Hell” by P.J. O’Rourke
v  “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace

My money was on Mr. Milton’s classic, who as an aside, claimed to write PL in order to justify God’s ways to Man.  But in fact really was his way of one upping Dante and other literary dandies of the day… (“Dude, my articulation of Satan is way cooler than your Circle of Hell conceit… what is up with that, anyway, girlfriend?)

But I digress.

Suffice it to say, I (and the overwhelming majority of ND Fandom) were not in an optimistic frame of mind.  And Saturday morning, there were three questions of the existential variety preoccupying me on my drive to campus:

1.     Why the hell am I here?  Which is to say, why am I here in South Bend, in November, in rain and wind, watching a 4-5 team going absolutely nowhere, play an a ranked, angry opponent?
2.     Does a tailgater even exist if it’s not run by the Flaherty-Castellini-Behrens-Rasmus-Belknap armada?3.  
"Your honor, I'm Vinnie Gambini and I'm representing these two utes..."
3.   And what on God’s green earth is a Ute?!


Word of the Week.  
apotheosis  [uh-poth-ee-oh-sis, ap-uh-thee-uh-sis]  
n  , pl -ses
the elevation of a person to the rank of a god; deification
glorification of a person or thing
a glorified ideal
the best or greatest time or event: the apotheosis of De Niro's career
[C17: via Late Latin from Greek: deification, from theos  god]

Word Origin & History:  1600s, from L.L. apotheosis  "deification," from Gk. apotheosis , from apotheoun  "deify, make (someone) a god," from apo-  special use of this prefix, meaning, here, "change" + theos  "god" (see Thea). Verb apotheosize  is attested from 1760.

Actually, I just like this word. Clearly it has almost nothing in common with the events of Saturday. 

Utah, while probably better than some of the teams we’ve lost to, is certainly a little over-rated so calling this a high point, befitting the word ‘apotheosis’ is a stretch. That said, one felt one was witnessing an ND program on the abyss, overwhelmed by unrealistic fan expectations, a dearth of self-confidence and a steady stream of opponents who got more jacked up about playing in Notre Dame Stadium than they did.

In that respect, it did feel like an ‘against the odds Notre Dame moment’ that we all remember but no one else on that team could lay claim. So for this Senior Class, Saturday was indeed the apotheosis of their 4 or 5 year careers. (And yes, that’s pretty sad.)

Signature win?  Only if we’re talking about a remedial Palmer penmanship class.  But it’s a start. And that’s what this year has ended up being all about.

Game Commentary.

·         Mat & The Friendly Utes arrive. 
·         Bloody Mary’s are had.
·         10am and Ungie hasn’t been arrested. Terry feels a disturbance in the Force.
·         La Famiglia Spittler show up. Bob reiterates his respect in Lini for having the self-esteem to hit a driver on a par 3, something he admits he’d never have the courage to do.

Remaining true to my fairly sketchy ideals, I didn’t actually go to the game. Instead I discovered a rather spiffy Pee Wee’s Big Top-like arrangement behind The Morris Inn where tables, TV’s, food and drink were all in abundance. And did I mention it was dry and warm? And a clean port-a-loo a mere 25’ outside the tent?

So in a stream-of-conscious, more or less chronological way, here’s what I witnessed: 

v  We’re going for it on 4th down, at mid-field, on the first series?!

"Coach Diaco you could while the hours,
Recruiting like a power,
If you only had a rush..."
 v  No pass rush, no chance to win.

 v  Against a decent defense, Tommy Rees looks decidedly less like The Answer.
 v  Brian Smith drops a possible pick-6 INT… these guys just have to make plays.
 v  One play later, Robert Blanton apparently hears me.
 v  Kelly is smart – conservative play w a freshman QB in dodgy weather.  (This when you say, “where was that insight 2 weeks ago?”)
 v  Even if this isn’t a big statistical game for him, Michael Floyd is really good.  I have a hard time seeing him stay for another year. Maybe the NFL’s CBA problem will dissuade him.
 v  Out of bounds Kick Off’s, after big TD’s, are total buzzkills.
v  Utah’s QB might be the biggest nancy boy – at any position – we’ve played against all year.
v  Why is our Defensive Coordinator sitting behind a pole?  Maybe I’ve just stumbled onto the source of our problem!
v  Jamoris Slaughter – kapow!  When is the last time we had a truly intimidating safety?
v  Utah’s star returner, appropriately named Shaky, fumbles the 2nf half KO.  Son, you might want to think about going back to your Christian name, assuming you have one.
v  One play, TD pass to “Didn’t you used to be Duvall”?  Great touch by Rees.
v  TD pass #3 by young Tommy. Maybe he is The Answer.
"Well played, #15, whoever you are..."
v  Lisa is knitting like a banshee.  She professes not to care about ND football but her knitting needles say otherwise.
v  Utah’s offense doesn’t scream ‘quick strike’ – this game is over.
v  Obscure (and presumably senior) ND QB gets in the game and almost immediately gets a delay of game penalty.  Nice!  Milk those 15 minutes of fame.


Frankly speaking…

I'm not sure how many of you check out the Irish Sports Daily website, run by a fellow named Mike Frank.  A very informative site. At any rate, prior to this week’s game he wrote an editorial of sorts that suggested ND’s problems lay in two primary areas: 
1.     Schedule – specifically September.  We play half a Big Ten schedule before most of the country plays their first top 25 team… leading to a few problems:  a) early losses, b) early loss of confidence and c) exponentially heightened pressure to win – decreasing the flexibility to develop the depth (see below).
2.     Attitude – without citing specifics, Frank repeatedly made reference to Kelly’s inability to sit players down – and send a message to the team – because of the need to win so badly.  The implication being starter A is more talented but maybe not buying into The Kelly Way. He should be benched – for the long term greater good – but the back up is clearly less skilled.  Starter A gives us the best chance to win and pressure is building.

Net, the long term is never served because there’s so much short term pressure when you come out of the first month 2-2…

Well, I thought it was a credible theory…

Is It Cheating If…

Your daughter works at the hospital where the horses you're betting on get treated?  

Be it ever so humble, the new workplace.
That was a rhetorical question.  I'm happy to report that daughter Ryan accepted a job at one of those Lexington, KY equine hospitals I referenced a few weeks ago… and will be entering the ranks of the gainfully employed in mid-January – woo hoo!

Song of the Week.
Todd Rundgren is one of those singer / songwriters that when you hear their name, you tend to look down your nose, typically driven by a memory of that one hit song they had that was unlistenable after about one week on air.  But the more one reads, the more one hears how influential he was to many, many iconic bands – giving one pause to the notion that perhaps there’s more to him than just “Hello, It’s Me” or “Bang The Drum All Day”…

In this particular case, he is the source of this week’s nomination, aptly captured in the anthemic, “Just One Victory”:

We’ve been waiting so long…                                                                                                                                   
Waiting for the sun to rise and shine.
Shining still – to give us the will.

The time has come to take the bull by the horns
We’ve been so downhearted, we’ve been so forlorn.
We get weak and we want to give in.
But we still need each other if we want to win.

Some how, some day,
We need just one victory and we’re on our way.
Prayin’ for it all day, fightin’ for it all night
Give us just one victory, it will be all right.

I guarantee it – listening to this song will put you in a better, more optimistic mood.

 Terry’s Tool Time.
  • Brett Bielema.  Head coach, Wisconsin. You’ve hung 59 points on the opposition (Indiana)  after 3 quarters.  You’ve knocked out IU’s star QB.  And yet you feel compelled to keep throwing – witness a 74 TD pass – while pouring on another 24 pts en route to an 83-20 victory? Channeling your inner Jimmy Johnson are we, Brett?  Shame on you.
  • Terry Corrigan.  I'm in Ann Arbor last weekend for UM’s Family Weekend, checking out daughter Shea’s adjustment to college.  I was doing really well… playing the proud, happy father… watching a football game where literally no one EVER played defense (is this Arena football rules?!)… then I got to the family Sunday brunch where we happened to sit down at a table with some guy who’s regaling the table a story about looking at universities w. his daughter and his having visited ND when his wife blurts out, “I thought his feet were going to burn when they touched that campus…” 

The whole Corrigan side of the table immediately turns (to me) and Ryan says, “that’s where my dad went to school!”  The guy immediately launches into the lamest of condescending, back-tracking about how fine the academic institution is blah blah blah.  Meanwhile, I am considering my response carefully:
·         Option A:  “Eff off, slick.”
.         Option B:  “Your daughter didn’t get accepted, did she?”
·         Option C:  “Hey pal, your beloved team ran off the field yesterday like they won the Rose Bowl – and it was freakin’ ILLINOIS...”
·         Option D:   An equally condescending thank you for your kind remarks, to be even considered by such a clearly superior organism such as yourself, is high praise indeed for our backwater school.”
·         Option E:  Stony silence.

I ultimately went with a combination of D & E; a fairly terse, sarcastic ‘you’re too kind’ type of remark – and went back to chatting with Shea, saving everyone MUCH embarrassment and me a 3 ½ hr verbal ass kicking on the drive home.  But in hindsight, I probably could’ve handled the situation a little better.

Among The Thugs
Speaking of last week’s urban plunge to Ann Arbor, sitting in the stands of the football game, listening to Wolverine Nation lose their minds (with some justification) as they won a nail biter 67-65, I was reminded of a book I read when we lived in London in 1994:

The author Buford wished to divine the essence of the common British football (soccer) supporter so, for a year, he followed, Manchester U and their fans around Europe, literally:

“They have names like Barmy Bernie, Daft Donald, and Steamin' Sammy. They like lager (in huge quantities), the Queen, football clubs (especially Manchester United), and themselves. Their dislike encompasses the rest of the known universe, and England's soccer thugs express it in ways that range from mere vandalism to riots that terrorize entire cities…”

It is truly a fascinating book, part Hunter S. Thompson, part Margaret Mead.

"I say my good man, when I call you a
'lager lout' I mean it in the nicest possible way..."

Schadenfreude Winner of the Week.
There was so many near misses this weekend that at one point I feared a schadenfreude overdose – Terry lapsing in a coma of enmity-based delirium… but almost all of those teams came back and won, barely or handily, thus leaving me with only:

v  FloridaUngie and I got to watch Urban screw his face into a whole spectrum of funky expressions, suggesting Mr Petit Mal Seizure was soon to be a knock, knock, knockin’ at his door. While on the other sideline, coach “I'm a charter member in Terry’s Tool Hall of Fame” Spurrier had a look on his face that said “I could not be more please with myself”.  Me neither, Steve.
v  Texas.  Now I’m just being mean, kicking a program during a nightmare season.  And you’d be right. But I’ve long felt that Mack Brown was perhaps the most overrated coach in the country.  A fantastic recruiter but a mediocre coach.  And this year seems to be making that pretty evident.

Recruiting Buzz.  
The roller coaster continues.  In September we’ve got almost an embarrassment of riches – who will we have to turn away? Then comes October with Le Grande Floridian Defection and it looks like the class is collapsing. Now comes a big win with several important recruits watching and feeling the magic…  with a convincing Army win, a competitive effort vs. USC and hopefully a winning bowl effort, this might end up alright after all.

The Wager.
"I feel happy!"

Perhaps I was a little hasty in predicting the demise of the Albert-villians. Not dead yet.


So next week, it’s off to The Big Apple and never has the prospect of Win #6, Bowl eligibility and 15 more practices looked so attractive.

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