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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bowl (2011), Off Season review: "La Strolla Continua..."

   Hello, Clarice.

Miss me?

I trust you all had a wildly therapeutic time, far away from thinking about the psychosis that is Notre Dame football.

Yes, I'm a bit slow on this final, Season 2011 ending recap.  I know.  I take solace (and defense) in something the über-excellent German novelist Thomas Mann once said…  that a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult that it is for other people.  Did you know that James Joyce took to write "Ulysses" - regarded by many as the greatest novel of the 20th century - at a rate of 100 words a day?  I know - the closest any of you ('cept Perez and Gruley) will ever get to Joyce is drinking next autumn in one of the Dublin pubs he frequently enjoyed. 

How about TS Eliot, one of the greatest poets our country has ever produced, only wrote about 150 pages of poetry over the course of his entire career?

At any rate, in the aftermath of ND's latest disappointment, I struggled to find words for adequately expressing my disconsolate state of mind. Motivation, gone.  Mojo, gone.  It was the holidays, after all.  And my birthday!  (More on that later.)  I must get my way - it's a rule in the Corrigan household, for godssakes.  But no.  The struggle continues…

So it feels appropriate to use a child-like expression to sum up all the angst and frustration I felt - and so I share:

Bring on 2012.

Song of the Week                             

I'm not sure I've nominated a Led Zeppelin song before but if ever one captured where the program sits, relative to 'returning to glory' it's this - "Over The Hills And Far Away".

Many have I loved - Many times been bitten.
Many times I've wondered how much there is to know.

Mellow is the man who knows what he's been missing
Many, many men can't see the open road.

Many is a word that only leaves you guessing
Guessing 'bout a thing you really ought to know…

The operative words, of course, are 'bitten', 'wondered', 'guessing' and inevitably, 'ought to know'.


It all started off so innocently… so benign.  Watching the game at Jerry's apartment w fellow birthday celebrant, Feif.  Giddy w excitement (Feif gave me a fine wine and Jerry provided a bottle of Hendricks bigger than my head), optimism was in the air. I should've known it wasn’t going to end well.

The Notre Dame Football Experience:  See Nothing Competent, Speak Nothing Competent, Hear Nothing Competent

Observations from The Game
Taking a walk down masochistic Memory Lane, I'll be brief.  Most of you have probably, happily, jettisoned these thoughts. If you're riding a pleasant dopamine rush, perhaps you'll want to skip to the next section.  In a relatively chronological fashion…

"Your special teams play frightens and confuses me..."
      ·         Michael Floyd returns a punt. As it turns out,  a long way. Wow. Is that even legal?

     ·         Tommy throws an INT from the 3 yd. line. That can't be easy to do.  The TV analyst reports that it's ND's 7th redzone turnover this year.  And who says consistency isn't a virtue?
     ·         In a year of stupid on-field decisions, Prince Shembo steps up.  He abuses the FSU QB unnecessarily - gets called for it, correctly - and keeps an FSU drive alive.  Knucklehead or poorly coached?  Can't hang that one on Diaco.
"Et tu, Michael?"
     ·         Great pressure defense - where's that been all year?
     ·         Jimbo Fisher coaches like someone named Jimbo.
     ·         Michael Floyd drops an almost certain TD pass.

     ·         Fast forward to late Q3:  another reason to dislike Tommy - his wonky throw led directly to Floyd getting hurt - absolutely crushed in the sternum.
     ·         Special teams immediately give up 77 yd. KO return.  As I said, consistency…
     ·         Where did the blitz go?
     ·         Amazing how dramatically our secondary regressed from last year.
     ·         FSU's top two CB's are now injured.  Normally, that would represent 'advantage, ND'. Today, not so much.
     ·         While Tommy continually throws into double coverage and ends scoring drives, Hendrix has the shortest hook of anyone on the planet not named Dayne.
     ·         Perfect year end symmetry, "Theo Riddick back to receive the punt…"

In fact, this game was a pretty pure capsule summary of the whole year:  periods of brilliance on D, followed by inexplicable breakdowns on special teams and soul crushing, self-inflicted gaffes on offense.

Thankfully, the evening deteriorated, happily, into other, more esoteric areas, like Jerry's zeal for the following night's REO Speedwagon concert and his commitment the next morning to his periodic CNBC talking head gig.  Two topics we discovered, ultimately not mutually exclusive as Jerry was cajoled into making an REO reference during his report.  He made three. No one likes an overachiever, Jer.

"I'm doing my next CNBC report as an interpretive dance. Here, the market is like an elegant pterodactyl!"

Thanks again Jerry, Tom and spouses, for the fun night.


"I was told there'd be cake…"

If The Champs Bowl was a movie poster, it’d be… “Saw II”


  "Oh Yes, There Will Be Blood"             

For those of you who familiar with this franchise (and I consider myself an, ahem, aficionado) the films are characterized by repeated pain and cringe inducing tortures - increasingly creative in a wholly twisted sort of way - that leave you thinking "no, no they're not going to do that… ohmygod they ARE going to do that… I can't watch any more… I can't turn away…"

Kind of like watching Notre Dame Football 2011 - 'torture porn' for the sports loving Domer.

So after concluding a season with disappointingly desultory performances in every big game that mattered, who ultimately was really surprised that the FSU game was so ugly?   So yes, there was blood.  The only question is whether Kelly can find a tourniquet this offseason.

Word of the Week

Snafu.   Not so much a real word as a bonafide military-based acronym that's been assimilated into the American vernacular and now used as a real word.

sna·fu noun \sna-ˈfü, ˈsna-ˌfü\

·         a situation marked by errors or confusion : muddle; also : an error causing such a situation <a scheduling snafu>
·         Situation  Normal  All  Fucked  Up (military)

First Known Use:  circa 1941

Used in a sentence:  "Notre Dame's disappointing performance in The Champs Bowl represented yet another snafu in their effort to return to respected status…"

Year End…  The GOLDEN BUDDY Award.
Defensively, there were actually a few pretty stellar performances in that game - ones that give one guarded optimism for next year… can Manti play at such a level every game like he flew to the ball that night?  If healthy, one could say reasonably believe so.  And Jamoris, a name we actually considered naming Shea until daddy's liquor and mommy's hospital meds wore off,  was a total revelation.   Let's hope he keeps that up next year…

But I'm giving the nod - not only for the game but for his consistency throughout the year - to Tyler Eifert  Game in, game out he was the model of consistency - I can remember only one drop (a bad one, granted, in the Stanford game on a Hendrix pass) and more often he was keeping drives alive and making Our Man Tommy look significantly less incompetent than he actually is.

Extra points  for a) being a Hoosier and b) staying another year, the latter symptomatic of a loyalty that Buddy would've really appreciated.

Schadenfreude of the Year.

      ·         LSU.  After being party to perhaps the most boring #1 vs. #2 Game of the Century during the regular season, you're forced to replay the game and you show up so small - unprepared, chaotic, uninspired, inept…  Bummer.  Welcome to our world, Baton Rouge.
      ·         Ohio State.  Ended the season 6-7  after losing the "We Used To Be Contenders" Bowl vs. Florida.  This would've been a lot sweeter had OSU not hired Urban and gotten off pretty lightly for Tat-gate.  Conspiracy theorists would say those two occurrences are not mutually exclusive.
      ·         Penn State.  Being happy that PSU got kicked by Houston - is that like kicking a man when they're already down?  I think not.  State College is a creepy, inbred place run for years by a despot who thought he was the moral compass for his cult.  Could it happen anywhere?  Probably.  But certainly not in this century.  Good school but I hope they cauterize the football program.
      ·         New England.  Truth be told I had no dog in the Super Bowl race, sadly.  But given that at the time of the game, daughter Ryan and I were benefitting from the largesse of Mr. Wills in Escondido, it was "Go G'ints!" all the way.  What I would say is this, New England:  the rest of the world gets tired of hearing about your Genius Coach and Robo-QB With The Super Model Wife even when neither of them call particular attention to themselves.  Yes, Eli looks like the dull witted lad who still mows your lawn even though he's 37 years old  - but golly, his mother is a really good friend of the family and it helps his self-esteem so what the hey, why not let him make a little money - but man, when it hits 4th Quarter, the guy can play.
Terry’s Tool Time.

The gift that keeps on giving...
People often approach me and ask, "You, who are so wise in these ways, what exactly makes a tool?  Is it Ignorance? Meanness?  Hubris?  Disingenuousness?" 

Yes. Yes. Yes.  And yes.  Being a tool takes effort* - you have to work at it.  And it's clear that these guys gave great thought to their

·         Todd Graham.  Pitt's head coach who quit after only one year, opting to let his team know via text.  You're the kind of coach I'd want my children playing for. Yeah, right.
·         Les Miles.  You cheat compete at the highest level year after year, almost always in the BCS hunt… was it really necessary to throw Gunnar Kiel under the bus for de-committing at the last moment?  As Lisa repeatedly says to me, "Who's the parent here?!"  I guess it really is true that character isn't made, it's revealed.
·         WR’s / DB’s.  Somewhat irrespective of the outcome of the games, watching football is supposed to be fun.  A pleasurable experience, reveling in the exploits of genetic freaks doing things one could only imagine.  And yet, increasingly, the diva-like behavior of the high profile skill positions just incenses me.  Who saw DeSean Jackson (on Monday Night Football) or Stevie Johnson… or for that matter, Golden Tate?  And the DB’s are no better.  One pass defensed and their arms start waving back and forth, their heads start bobbing up and down. Yap yap yap.  For just doing what they’re paid to do.  Well, in Terry World, they need to be corrected…  Feel The Wrath of Terry when my SWAT team kicks in, poised high atop the press box roof, little tripods set up…  losing a replay is going to be the least of their worries, Boy-o.
·         Brent Musburger.  I'm not a big fan of all the internet conspiracy theorists who believe every major media outlet - and their announcing minions - have it out for Notre Dame.  If we'd win, they'd jump on the bandwagon.  Until we do, deal with it.  But I simply just can't listen to this man's voice anymore.   Can't he just be… taken out?

*still trying to determine whether there is also a genetic element.

"Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye…"

Truth be told, one of my favorite parts of the Oscar telecast is when they scroll through This Year's Dead Guys…  they usually play an appropriately weepy Sarah McLaughlin song and this year, there were indeed some notable folks who left us.

But none more so than the father of one of own.  As perhaps all of you know by now, JP's dad,  Johnny "Vegas" McGuire left us a few weeks back.  It's not often that one can say they've met someone who is genuinely 'larger than life' but in my experience, Johnny was just that.  Irish as the day is long with a near pathological gift of gab, he wasn't just touched by the blarney stick, he was bludgeoned by damn thing.  (Probably could've filed a police report but no doubt he and his assailant would've only ended up in a bar, best friends, planning vacations together.) 

But to describe him only in social terms would be to ignore all the other incredible qualities of his life.  His home was your home, even when you arrive with walking pneumonia and end up sweating through every sheet in their house, (as I once did).

Great dad. Great husband. Great person.  Rare breed.  The world is far less enjoyable without you.


The Urban Strikes Back
To say that the Year in Recruiting had a roller coaster aspect to it would be a profound understatement.  Strong 2011 start - with stud commitments at positions of need (DB, WR), leveling off during the season as the elites took stock of the schools they're considering, followed by a disappointing 'crash and burn' with a few key defections on the final signing day, offset by late semi-surprising 4 and 5 star commitments at the QB / WR spots.

"If you win, they will come..."
What's abundantly clear, going forward, is this:  winning matters. A lot.   As much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that ND Nation directs at Urban Meyer (and oh boy, buckle up for a heavy dose of that guy!), the fact is he finishes strong because virtually every year his teams are in the BCS hunt.  As does LSU, Alabama, USC and this year, Michigan - 11 wins!  (Do you think they finished so well solely based on Brady Hoke's freakish Mike Golic likeness?) Teenagers have attention spans of gnats… come January, most are thinking "I wanna play early and I wanna play for a winner."   Right now, ND offers the former but is consistently shaky on the latter. It's a wonder how we've recruited as well as we have the past few years…

Final observations

As bizarre of a season as this past year was, it may largely be remembered as the beginning of the Early Referendum on Brian Kelly.  After 2010-11's promising close, expectations were high.  A ton of returning talent, an excellent recruiting class in key areas of need and the optimism that comes with the prospect of Year II continuity from a coaching staff entirely intact.  Instead, what we ultimately saw was the surprising bi-polar behavior of a coach who watched his senior players (Jonas Gray, Dayne Crist, Gary Gray, even Michael Floyd) self-destruct at the most inopportune times - and respond with, at best, unprofessional behavior… losing his cool on national TV, calling out (and possibly discriminating against) the prior regime's recruits and perhaps most egregiously, manifesting a dangerous, counterproductive double standard in evaluating the critical QB position.

The slate's now wiped clean. New year. 0-0 record.  What's it gonna be, coach?  How you going to be remembered?  Tough, savvy, in control… with 2011 being a one-time aberration? Or consistently unhinged and panicky on the largest media stage - clearly in over your head?

It's Never Too Early… the 2012 Schedule!

A couple observations:
·         I shudder to think if we don't start 2-0.
      ·         Michigan - the last year of seeing Denard. Great athlete but possibly the worst passing QB of any Top 25 team, T. Rees notwithstanding.  Will they come back to earth after a year where everything broke right?
      ·         Stanford - No more Luck and a depleted O-line, but it's hard to believe they're just going to collapse. Is catching 'em in October good or bad?
      ·         Oklahoma -  Landry Jones comes back. At Norman.  Eeek.
      ·         USC - Barkley returns and they're bowl eligible.  This season ending game is also typically when USC QB's win their Heisman's. But a lot can happen by that point so it's hard to predict the state of either team.  And they're still coached by Lane.

I speak for all of us all when I say that I look forward to Lini's statistical analysis of how we'll get to double digit wins.  Like any great writer, Jerry understands that facts are a writer's ultimate limiter and should be avoided at any cost.  I'm sure he'll live up to that guideline.


1     Navy (Dublin)
8     Purdue                                      
15   @MSU   
22   Michigan
29   OPEN                                     

6     Miami (Chgo)  LINIPALOOZA         
13   Stanford                                                
20   BYU
27   @Oklahoma           

3     Pittsburgh
10   @Boston College
17   Wake Forest
24   @USC

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