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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Week 10 (2011): Taking Care of Business

Do You Know Me? 

I was the central figure in one of the most well known, low budget cult films of all time – a movie inspired by Wisconsin’s original bad boy.  If Notre Dame scores a commitment from one of its highest priority recruits, you can expect a near endless stream of references to me and my 1974 movie over the next 3-4 years.

Song of the Week                             

“From small things, mama
Big things one day come…”

The Bruce Springsteen-penned song, covered by Dave Edmunds, couldn’t have a more straightforward message, even if the story told is fairly off point. We’re improving – finally, it would seem – beating the bad / mediocre teams in the comfortable fashion we’ve been waiting years to see.  Perhaps the pace of improvement is more glacial than we’d like.  And who knows if it’ll last. And without making more of the victory than it was, the data points over the course of year suggest small steps forward, leading to possibly big things one day coming.

I hope.  Of course if we gag against BC I’ll be singing an entirely different tune next week.


Those respective uniforms / helmets… ouch.  Reminiscent of… what exactly?

"Coach Edsall, I think your uniforms hurt my head real bad...."
     ·          The Shining.

"The good news is that MOMA will buy
your uniforms after we're done with 'em..."
      ·         Jackson Pollack.

"With a nip and a tuck, we can totally make those
uni's work for next racing season..."
 ·         The Preakness.

Observations from The Game

     ·         Initial kick off and Maryland’s returner runs… sideways.  That certainly bodes well for the rest of the evening.
     ·         This game should be over by halftime.
     ·         Another wasted time out because we couldn’t get into the play. Typical.
     ·         I am vexed.  1st drive – a nice combination of runs and easy passes.  Then we get all pass happy and we stop dead in our tracks.
     ·         When did the beige/crème color become part of our team colors?  (Editor’s note: that’s supposed to be gold?!)
     ·         Good to know that TJ Jones is still pathetic at blocking on bubble screens.   
     ·        This is going to be the best game that Steve Filer’s jersey ever played!    
     ·         The last time I saw a ball with such a majestic draw on it as Ruffer’s FG, Peter was striping tee shots into the North Sea.
    ·         I hope you all enjoyed the 2011 Ben Turk highlight.
    ·         Uh oh. Why is Lo Wood playing this early?
    ·         I wonder if we even bother to practice punt returns during the week anymore?
    ·         Maryland bubble screen – TD.  And our LB’s fail us again on crossing patterns.
    ·         The way we can run against Maryland, why wouldn’t you put in Hendrix as part of a regular package?
    ·         Mayock quote of the night:  “Aaron Lynch flies!”  Yes, he does.
"It's halftime, Lisa, and I'm headed to the highlands!"
    ·         Halftime -  did you know Macallan whiskey comes from the northern Speyside district, an area known for producing the sweetest single malts, rich w floral overtones and honey notes?  Sure you did! But you probably didn’t know that when I pull out the Macallan at half time, quite often to pass the halftime downtime, I like to put on Mark Knopfler’s “Going Home”, throw on the jaunty tam o’ shanter and speak in complete indecipherable gibberish.  Usually to myself.  Hey, we all have our own rituals for success.

      ·         Much like last week’s proclamation of love for Robert Blanton, this week’s man crush is for Tyler Eifert.  Him leaving after his junior year might be a genuine possibility.
      ·         Anybody see Maryland’s back up QB, C.J. Brown, rocking the cowl-like, Eddie Munster hair cut?!
      ·         And Alex Flanagan’s Snow Princess look?!   (How cold was it there anyway?)
      ·         How is it we can find time for an entire platoon of defensive 2nd stringers but we can’t get Hendrix three snaps?

If Saturday’s Game was a movie poster, it’d be… “Dumb & Dumber.”

    "For Harry and Lloyd, Every Day Was A No-Brainer."

Let’s face it, this victory shouldn’t have been difficult and it wasn’t.  What was especially impressive is that Kelly didn’t try to think to overthink the game plan – Maryland was something like 110th in running defense.   No brainer?  Pretty close.     

Word of the Week

Pastiche.  pas·tiche
noun \pas-ˈtēsh, päs-\

1   a literary, artistic, musical, or architectural work that imitates the style of previous work; also: such stylistic imitation
2   a musical, literary, or artistic composition made up of selections from different works : potpourri b: hodgepodge

Origin of PASTICHE
·         French, from Italian pasticcio
·         First Known Use: 1878

Used in a sentence…  The pastiche that has become college football uniform designs has reached a stomach-turning level of excess.

Ø    Week X   Buddy Award.
Robbie's new nickname!
(Buddy loved this movie.)
   Last week I was extremely critical of the linebackers. Saturday my disappointment turned to our WR’s... Floyd is a beast but even he dropped a few passes, TJ Jones has never lived up to his recruiting hype…. and Theo Riddick – even when he’s there – is underwhelming.   But along comes lil’ Robbie Toma who looks fast’ elusive and seems to catch everything thrown his way.  The offense needed another receiving spark beyond Floyd / Eifert and Robbie provided it.  He’s deserving.  Plus he’s the size of a perfect playtoy for Buddy.

And a necessary word about Tommy’s BUDDY candidacy.  His statistics were impressive but as Sully pointed out, he just wasn’t that impressive.  When the game was still in doubt, we were consistently bailed out by Jones / Woods 3rd down running more than any clutch passing. We’ve beaten this horse to death, Tommy is seemingly the best we got, but his play wasn’t that uniquely critical to the win in my humble opinion.

Schadenfreude of the Week.

      ·         Penn State.  This may seem like kicking a school when they’re down – and I don’t take great pleasure in the strict definition of schadenfreude as it relates to the PSU situation – but there was rumor of the game ball being walked to the Paterno house if they had won. And I simply couldn’t handle that.
      ·         Ohio State.  Missed a game winning PAT with less than 1:00 to go. Then blow it in OT.  To Purdue!  Pardon my gaffaw.  Good thing your administration’s proactive hand slapping will keep the NCAA wolves from the door.  Oh, it won’t?  Oops.
      ·         Boise State.  Honestly, how does anyone take them seriously?  They play no one, they draw their stadium inspiration from The Smurfs and they complain about lack of respect?
      ·         Stanford.  I understand that it wasn’t in ND’s best interests having Stanford lose. But if they had to – and the Oregon game wasn’t even really that close – I’m going to celebrate it as I embrace my inner pettiness.  It irritates me greatly that they can be considered so good when they recruit the same caliber of kids that ND does. One can only hope this is the end of the honeymoon period resulting from having Andrew Luck hang around for an extra year.)
"I don't care how popular 'Friends' was,
we're not taking that brain..."
      ·         Rice.   Rice gets pasted by Northwestern 28-6 in the 1st annual Brainiac Bowl.  And in an interesting twist on the typical awards traded back and forth in such rivalries, the two schools have agreed that each year the loser will trade an actual alumnus for scientific study purposes.  Accordingly, Rice will be putting former Secretary of State James Baker on a plane to Evanston, IL later this week.  And in an amusing, if sad, sidebar, Northwestern tried to give away David Schwimmer but Rice politely refused.

Terry’s Tool Time.
"Burn 'em!"
      Gene Smith.  Truth be told, I always thought the distinction of being Notre Dame’s most queswtionable graduate fell to someone on this distribution list.  But that recognition has to go to Ohio State’s athletic director, ND class of  ‘77.  As things continue to implode for the Buckeyes on the compliance front, Gene is looking and sounding increasingly like he’s either clueless, incompetent or both.  Or maybe just arrogant beyond belief.  I CANNOT wait for the NCAA to drop the hammer on them.

Papal Succession (aka ‘What’s Next for Penn State coaching)

Mr. Feifar posed the question of ‘what now?’ for the Penn State coaching search.  Dismissing for the moment the not-entirely-out-of-the-realm-of-possibility scenario of the school shutting down the program*, Tom floated Urban Meyer’s name as The Next Man In – which got me to thinking of “If the Church were involved in this search – pause a minute for the grim irony of that thought in this context – who would they hire?”, it reminded me that All Urbans Are Not Created Equal.

We all know that coach Meyer was named after a pope – but there were eight Urbans!  Check out the mixed bag:

"Galileo, Figaro - magnifico..."
Urban I                 Life shrouded in mystery - a martyred death by beheading ended up being natural causes. But they made him a saint anyway. Probably an administrative mistake, like how I got into ND.
Urban II                Started the 1st Crusade. So he’s got that going for him.
Urban III              Absolutely nothing happened during his three years.  But the undefeated papal fencing teams were in perfect compliance with The Holy See.
Urban IV              Tried to stir up a Crusade but failed.  Moved to Verona. (Italy, not New Jersey.)
Urban V               Brought the papacy back to Italy, establishing risotto Milanese as the ‘holiest of holy’ papal entrees.
Urban VI              Original dark horse candidate (he was never actually a cardinal).  The French hated him. Symptomatic of his unremarkable reign, he ultimately died after falling off his mule.
Urban VII             The George O’Leary of Pope Urbans, lasted only 13 days.
Urban VIII           Basically bankrupted the papacy; even bigger claim to fame was his attack on Galileo, pushing him to recant his findings.

So despite great name appeal, the fact is you just never know what you’re going to get in your succession planning.

Pat Forde, on the other hand, writing for Yahoo Sports, has offered a more considered this list as a starting point:

    1.       Urban Meyer.
a.       Why it would work:  Big-time winner with two national titles and Midwestern roots, plus he’s available. In pure football terms, this might be a better re-entry than Ohio State, where NCAA and self-imposed sanctions are likely in the near future. And it would be a clean break from the Paterno Era, which is no longer a sacrilegious thing to say.
b.      Why it won’t:  Meyer can have whatever job he wants; does he want to take over at a place where the very name of the school currently produces outrage and anger across much of America? Would Penn State pay him enough?

    2.       Mark Dantonio.
a.       Why it would work:  He’s pushed Michigan State back into Big Ten prominence, which is not as easy as it sounds. He knows the Big Ten block thoroughly, from his time as an assistant at Ohio State and in East Lansing. Also has no ties to Paterno and current staff.
b.      Why it won’t:  Might not want the mess and might prefer OSU despite looming sanctions. And as a loyal former Tressel assistant, he might be reluctant to take the job after his mentor’s ignominious removal.

    3.       Al Golden.
a.       Why it would work:  Has ties to Paterno that warm the hearts of alums. Did the impossible by making Temple relevant. Might have a very easy out from his Miami contract after being trap-doored by the administration over the looming Nevin Shapiro scandal.
b.      Why it won’t:  Has ties to Paterno that might chill the blood of the next administration. Even the Miami scandal looks pedestrian to PSU, so he might not want to switch headaches.

    4.       Greg Schiano.
a.       Why it would work:  Many believe this is the job the Rutgers coach covets, which led to him turning down Michigan when RichRod was hired. He’s taken the historically horrible Scarlet Knights to five of their six all-time bowl appearances. Knows the recruiting territory intimately.
b.      Why it won’t:  Never won a Big East title despite the downturn in league fortunes in recent years. (That may change this season as Rutgers is a half-game out of first at the moment.)

    5.       Nick Saban.
a.       Why it would work:   Arguably the premier coach in college football. From nearby West Va., not a Southerner and not a guy who has stayed in any job for longer than five years. And this is Year Five at Alabama, a burnout job. (TC’s note: Hey, if ND could dream about Bob Stoops, why can’t Penn State fantasize about Saban?)
b.      Why it won’t:   A long shot to begin with; Saban is wired to win titles and that’s much easier done where he is now than anywhere in the Big Ten. PSU might not be able to afford him.

*With all of the key players starting to go public with their stories, does anyone not think this is going to get A LOT uglier before it’s gets any better?  High on the list of “what if’s”:  what if it’s demonstrated that since 1998, there has been an organized, systemic ‘sweep under the rug’ of The Sandusky Issue.  That makes “lack of institutional control’ look like misdemeanor non-payment of parking tickets.  With national outrage at a fever pitch, doesn’t the school have to consider shutting it down – in effect, a self-imposed death penalty?

"I can so run the spread..."
Here’s what I find ironic:  we may end up showing a 1 or 2 game improvement in our win-loss record over last year – by most standards a disappointment – but because Kelly wins in November, we have the look of a team that’s improving…  and 18 yr. olds (with the attention spans of gnats) take more notice! Sweet!  You could also make an argument that we are benefiting  from a mini-perfect storm of other relevant schools’ screw up’s:  USC on probation, Ohio State’s impending sanctions,  UNC impending sanctions, Penn State’s disaster.  At any rate, this week’s recruiting news largely involved the renewed interest in ND by the top rated QB in the U.S., Gunner Kiel.  Considered more of pro style guy, he apparently is so good you take him.  And can run. And Kelly is personally handling his recruitment.   Given the lad’s ND ties (uncle Blair was that QB under Gerry Faust that Albert couldn’t recall), the buzz is that ND’s got a really strong shot at landing him.  Which leads back to this missive’s original tease.  Meet Gunnar Hansen, the man who brought heretofore unseen pathos to the archetypal misunderstood* masked, chainsaw wielding miscreant…

* and by ‘misunderstood’ I mean literally misunderstood – with an odd mask and a primate’s vocabulary, who knows what he’s saying?  Maybe he just needed a hug.

A personal footnote:  back in the early 80’s, while dating my (now) wife, Lisa presented me with an article called “My Dinner With Leatherface” – an American Film Institute interview with Mr. Hansen.   And I thought:  finally, someone who gets me.

Final observations

The venue being Maryland, inspiration immediately went to my wife (Maryland alum) as well as one of my favorite books ever, John Barth’s “The Sot-Weed Factor”.  Both of which make me laugh my ass off (and I mean that in the nicest possible way).

"...loathe entirely."
Regarding the latter,  written in 1960 and satirizing the establishment of colonial Maryland, the novel parodies the 18th century genre of the ‘rogue’ novel and in particular Fielding's Tom Jones and Sterne's Tristram Shandy.  It’s a large, loosely structured work, with digressions, distractions, stories within stories, and lists.  (IS THERE ANY WONDER I LOVE IT?!)

Set in the 1860’s and 90’s, the book uses words like “besotted” a lot. And so besotted was I with this piece of literature that I immediately recommended it to my then girlfriend, now wife.  And after reading, her reaction was equally swift and visceral – she HATED it.  She could not have been more emphatic in expressing that POV 30 years ago… and still today.  Thank God we still have Leatherface.

But none of that is the point.  Which is this:  The Sot-Weed Factor’s fictional protagonist, Ebenezer Cooke begins as an ‘innocent’ setting out to write a heroic epic and ends up writing a biting satire based on his disillusioning experiences.  And at this point, what metaphor could possibly represent the 2011 ND program better?  Or me.  Or both.

Original dreams of grandeur. Humiliated and near broken.  But still capable of occasional excellence and always funny. 

(Read the book.)

2011 Schedule.

With over  ¾ of the year gone, this schedule looks a little different than it did two months ago, yes?   A couple ‘with the benefit of hindsight’ epiphanies:

      ·         Michigan, godless huns that they are, play solid defense and win when they use Denard properly.  Clearly not as lame as originally thought, even now.
      ·         MSU – tough to figure out but clearly a team that on any given week, can give you a game.
      ·         Purdue – I thought they were the worst team I ever saw when we played ‘em but they have some grit.
      ·         USC – what’s worse than being godless huns?  Being really, really talented godless huns. And that fact may have escaped us earlier in the season.
      ·         Wake – not a bad team.  Just ask Clemson.
3     South Florida                       L
10    @Michigan (NIGHT)               L
17    @MSU   LINIPALOOZA!!      W
24    @Pitt                                   W
1      @Purdue (NIGHT)    W
8      Air Force                W
15    OPEN
22    USC                         L   
29    Navy                       W
5      @Wake Forest         W
12    @Maryland (D.C.)      W
19    Boston College
26    @Stanford (NIGHT)

2011 Wager status

At this point, it looks like a two game wager. In reality, it’s all about Stanford ‘cause we’re not losing to BC.  That’s the good news for Team Glass Half Full. The bad news is that the only way the 9’s win this pool is if Tommy wins the BUDDY that final week. Rut roh.

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