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Saturday, August 18, 2012

August (2012): Prediction Time

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It's an area which we call the 'A' Lot... " 

Our parent's are cousins!
Hi all!  There was a moment a few weeks back - sometime during my daughter's description of the NW Indiana biker wedding that she worked at, as part of her summer catering job.  It came after the part where she told me how the wedding party wore their very best Sunday-Go-To-Meetin' leathers, with their names especially embroidered on the back, like "Road Kill" (the groom) and "Skid Mark" (the best man)... Before she could recall the rest of the wedding party ("Painful Rectal Itch" as the ring bearer, perhaps?), my mind began to race to things more... relatable, if not any less traumatic. Like the impending ND football season.

Song of the Off Season
It's difficult to even begin to talk college football without navigating through the toxic waters of L'Affaire Sandusky.  Tawdry on so many levels and yet, I keep thinking, this could've happened anywhere. (And before anyone says 'not Notre Dame', I'd remind you 'hello, Catholic church...').  For as long as all of us have been alive, there's been athletic program dictators, football and basketball, at countless colleges... some more benevolent than others... (though as someone pointed out to me recently, a benevolent despot is still despot).   At any rate, Don Henley's "End of The Innocence" seemed a perfect theme for this college off-season, and probably not only for the town of State College. Even if it hasn't seemed to quite sink in for them yet.

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin' by
But "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

Word of the Off Season - Opprobrium

noun \-brē-əm\
1.         something that brings disgrace
2a        public disgrace or ill fame that follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious
  b        contempt, reproach

  • Latin, from opprobrare to reproach, from ob in the way of + probrum reproach; akin to Latin pro forward and to Latin ferre to carry, bring — more at ob-, for, bear
  • First known use: 1656 
Synonyms: dishonor, disgrace, reflection, reproach, scandal
Antonyms: credit, honor

Used in a sentence:  Penn State’s Board of Directors came close to going ahead with the misguided plan to appeal the NCAA sanctions despite national opprobrium.

If The Off-Season Were A Film Poster, It'd Be...

                            "What's the worst you've ever done?"

Put this right next to Brokeback Mountain as films that none of you will likely ever see... Kevin Bacon as a convicted pedophile newly released from prison and his struggles with assimilating back into society.  An indie film fave, mass market - not so much.

It pains me to be this literal but if ever an off-season was colored by a single scandal, this is the one.

Early Thoughts On The Team
You all have probably kept up to date as well as I have but allow me to throw out a few key areas to ponder  as you make your forecast:

  • QB.  No Tommy for the 1st game and maybe (probably, hopefully) ever. The way Kelly threw out a recent stat that Golson's only thrown 1 INT in 160 passes so far suggests he's gonna be the man under center come Sept. 1st.  The good news: he's got two games to improve before the really serious competition kicks in...
  • WR.  Can we clone Eifert?!  Not a lot of sure things in this position; talk of several freshmen being pleasant surprises but they're still freshmen.  Could see the RB's (of which they look ridiculously deep) catching a bunch of passes of splitting out wide if no one steps up. 
  • CB's.  And we thought last year's bunch were bad.  These guys can't be worse (can they?!) but they will be unproven.  Better hope the front 7 comes through with a pass rush that takes some of the pressure off the secondary.
  • What You Should, Maybe, Feel Good About.  Presuming no devastating injuries, O-line looks really tough with the RB's going at least 3 deep.  D-line and LB's also look to be really solid, if not super deep.

Tool Time:
Neil Young once famously sang Rust Never Sleeps. Neither do, apparently, high profile, self-absorbed tools. Witness:

ü  State College. You clearly don't grasp the concept of moving on. Nor do you understand the more you talk, the more it just keeps getting worse.
ü  Ryan Dempster. Filibusters his way out of a trade to the Braves for a high potential pitching prospect the Cubs could've really used. Then doesn't want to be portrayed as the bad guy. "Had to do what's best for my family..." Huh? For a commitment that will last all of 3 MONTHS before you become a free agent!   I lived in Shanghai by myself for longer than that.
ü  Dwight Howard.  After a year of (unsuccessfully) dictating his own trade, he blows off his own youth basketball camp - while being apparently healthy enough to check out a couple Dodgers games. I didn't think anyone could make LeBron's exit strategy look good by comparison. Bravo!
ü  Hope Solo. Could you please get over yourself?  Brandi Chastain (she, of the 2 World Cup wins, 2 Olympic gold medals (and a silver) achievements) offers a professional opinion - which she was hired to do, by the way - about the relative laxness of the US Women's defense in the early part of the tournament.  And you go all Scorch The Twitter-verse on her.  Please go away.
"Sam, you cannot improve on perfection!"
ü  Sam Raimi / Bruce Campbell.  You're remaking your own genre masterpiece, "Evil Dead"?!  Seriously?! Why not remake "Gone With The Wind" why we're at it... 

Schadenfreude Winner of the Off-Season

One team you can guarantee won't be showing up on this list in the season is Penn State.  Too much 'schaden' and absolutely zero 'freude' for my taste.  But that doesn't mean there weren't screw up's to celebrate!  And let's start with those schools still under the NCAA microscope:

  1. North Carolina.  The academic scandal that will just not go away.  Rumor has the administration is going  to offer up more football crimes in the hope of having the NCAA not go a-looking at the basketball team.  Good luck with that...
  2. Miami. Why the NCAA is dragging their feet on this is anyone's guess, but the naughty (and majorly indiscreet) booster scandal has not gone away.  Tick tock.
  3. "Even by my stamdards, those uni's
    are really, really, ridiculously ugly..."
  4. Oregon.  Team Nike is supposed to be hammered soon for some serious violations, not the least of which has to be Fashion Crimes Against Humanity for the myriad of outrageous uniform combinations they roll out each year. Which, of course, leads to

We Need To Talk About Kevin ND's Miami Game Uni's

"Mom, those helmets just want to make me go nuts..."
Ugh.  If ever there will be a cause to drink at that game, that'll be it.  That said, I think there's a bit if an (understandable) overreaction.  It's one game a year, at most.  Consider it a throwback uniform in reverse.  And what do you think the 50+ yr.olds were saying when Devine broke out the green jerseys back in '77?  No doubt something, I'd imagine, along the lines of WTF?!  But I don't recall any of us being too bothered.

But then again we won that game, 49-19.  And maybe that's more the point.

Looking Toward Ireland

While its doubtful that any of you heading to the Emerald Isle will be seeing much in the way of culture beyond golf courses and pubs (as least you'll be getting fresh air and the mother's milk known as Guinness), may I suggest the following if you can find the time:

  • Watch "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" before you go.  Even if you don't.  Talk about 'Fighting Irish' - awesome movie that'll give you a real* sense of the complexity in the Irish Republic's fight for freedom. 
    • *not a Liam Neesom-as-Michael Collins, Alan Rickman as Eamon de Valera way
  • Check out The Dublin Gaol museum.
  • The Guinness plant tour is fascinating (and there's freebies at the end)
  • Stroll around Trinity College and pretend it was going to be your safety school if you didn't get into ND
  • Gaze upon The Great River Liffey (sobriety optional)
  • Drink in a pub that James Joyce frequented (that's easy - he hit them all!)
  • Embrace your "inner Irish"... which leads me to

You Know You're Irish If...

2012 Wager.
As previously alluded, this year's theme is All Things Scorsese:  awesome filmmaker, not well versed in stories with happy endings.  Who better to use as a template for this year's predictions?


ND-Scorsese connection 

Contestant’s prediction



Sweet, compelling mystery that shows the virtues of faith and resilience. Everyone walks away happy and pleasantly surprised.


JP, Lini, Dave



Awesome film about fulfilling one’s potential and realizing your dreams… even if it is becoming a gangster.  (Q.  Does ending in Witness Protection qualify as a happy ending?)
Bryan, Ted, Ray, Tim S, Bob S

Jay, John, Peter, Raz, Kevin M, Tim C, Mark

Jerry C, Matt, Jerry W, Jim B, 
Tom, Mike C, Jim T, Mike G, Garrett R


The Departed

A terrific story about two Boston Irishmen’s different destinies set from childhood. So very close to a happy ending. And yet, so far.
Terry, Jim S, Jerry P, Brian, Blair R

Kevin C, Alvin, Randy



Taxi Driver

Mentally unstable Viet Nam vet w. wildly unrealistic delusions of heroism.  He’s a total loser, albeit an incredibly dangerous one. Sadly everybody knows it (incl. Rick Reilly) but him.




Final Thought

As we enter a season with great uncertainty at key positions (including the coaching staff) and a killer schedule, Optimism appears in short supply.

Yet it bears remembering that just when you're told something can't done, some Notre Dame guy finds a way...

Send me your predictions and I'll update the grid.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blue-Gold game (2012): Recap

'Same as it ever was, same as it ever was…'

Six turnovers, virtually all of them unforced… including three INT's. 

So what, exactly, is different this year?  

As we all cycle through the offseason, doing this and planning that… whether it be children's weddings, trips to Dublin, getting a Mormon in the White House…  I hope this update finds you all happy, healthy and working on fitting into your summer speedo's.

Me, given all on my free time, I've taken a different direction - working hard on a couple screenplays… I mean if Nicholas Sparks can do it, how hard can it be?  Still in rough, outline form so indulge me… but I wanted to share:

Story #1 - The Snickers™ Game

They say 'write about what you know'…

In a  dystopian future world state, where the words 'Notre Dame' and 'elite' are found in the same sentence only in the context of women's basketball, soccer and lacrosse - okay it's set in 2013 - the NCAA outlaws football for its increasingly egregious violence but lead by a radical splinter group of Girl Scouts w. influential ties to Tel Aviv, The Vatican and Bentonville, the masses cannot be sated. President Caesar Christy introduces The Snickers™ Games - a series of sadistic games, underwritten by private sector money, which pit unwitting youth against each other for national sport, sustainable TV ratings and critical governmental cash flow. 

The primary cast of characters look like this:

      ·         Rees's Pieces.  Nicknamed thus because of his superficially attractive characteristics but ultimate lack of substance. While well intentioned, when he dies early in The Games, there is national guilt over how relieved the populace is that he didn't end up being The Chosen One. 
      ·         Catnip.  Rival to Rees's Pieces, his moniker is the result of his, ahem, popularity with the ladies.  He is the story's protagonist and dark horse to ever win anything.  Habitually a poor practice gamer, his popularity skyrockets when he leads his downtrodden NW Indiana district in a humiliating victory vs. District Wolverine.
      ·         Pita.   An ally to Catnip, in love with all things hummus.  An important sub-plot is his and Catnip's spiritual, agape-level bond, grounded in a shared obsession of "The Shawshank Redemption" and James Whitmore's sensitive portrayal of the aged prison librarian.  They're not gay but that doesn't stop people from speculating.
      ·         Hayseed.  A successful survivor of prior games, Hayseed acts as the primary mentor to Team Catnip.  Hailing from the mountains of Tennessee, he is not the sharpest tool in the shed but is an incredible athlete with a winning life strategy modeled off of watching Beverly Hillbillies repeats.
"Don't let hunger happen to you!"
   ·         Caesar Christy.  Bigger Than  Life. Literally.  He represents a corrupt, bloated government that likes to eat its own.  And watch TV.  He is immensely popular.

Suffice to say, I have a few story line gaps to fill in…

Story #2 - "The Lads With The Gerbil Tattoos"
"You've got to attend - Sean Astin will be there!"
Set in the preternaturally dismal lake district of St. Joseph, an odd, socially inept youth with mad computer hacking skills - we'll call him Üwe - is hired to investigate The Dillons, an off-putting, affluent family that guards their privacy with a zealousness bordering on pathological.  Üwe quickly discovers that when it comes to the Dillons, incestuous dysfunction runs rampant... with hints of neo-fascist role playing, secret 'bunga bunga' parties and homo erotic competitions involving large blocks of ice.

Spoiler Alert! The Dillon family's dark secret involves an obsession with the movie "Rudy", unnatural uses of red body paints and a perverse habit of calling each other "Big".

My legal counsel (a couple of local kids who watch a lot of TV shows involving lawyers) tell me I should have no problems, intellectual property-wise.  Plus, early feedback (the NW Indiana Philippine maid community) suggests this storyline will 'kill' in the lucrative Laotian and Myanmar markets. So I'm hopeful. Stay tuned.  It may be the career path I was always destined for.

But I digress.

Song of the Week                             
Digging deep into my Boston years - a treasure trove of music at times so obscure that Shazam doesn't recognize it and the mere Googling of its lyrics gets you placed on a government watch list... But this is not the case here:  I give you The Cars, the breakout '80s Boston band and their prescient homage to Aaron Lynch.

She tricks me into thinkin'
I can't believe my eyes.
I wait for her forever
But she never does arrive
It's all mixed up...
It's all mixed up,
It's all mixed up

In case you were wondering...
Okay, so that gets the Aaron Lynch reference out of the way - as well as my point of view on the matter.

Let's move on.

Observations from The Game

I didn't go to the game, just watched it on the NBC Sports channel feed…  here are some fast thoughts:

     ·         Addition through subtraction. No Tom Hammond.  Excellent start.
     ·         Mike Mayock tells us he's from West Philadelphia.  That explains while I've always looked upon him with both affection and fear.
"You Dropped the (F) Bomb on Me..."
     ·         Pretty In Pink.  Alex Flanagan's rockin' an über-pink outfit today. Clearly a Molly Ringwold homage.  Mr. Hughes, I'm ready for my close up.
     ·         Coach Kelly is miked for the game!  Outstanding!  Let's hope there's no seven second delay.
    ·         All punts will be fair caught, that is if they're not shanked to begin with. At least one aspect of the team will be in mid-season form.
    ·         The RB's are scary good.  And at least 4-deep.  Even before Amir Carlisle sees the field, one wonders how we're going to keep everyone happy, engaged.
o   Riddick finally living up to the lofty expectations of the legacy that comes with being a Theo.
    ·         TE's - clearly the other positional strength on offense.  Another position that legitimately goes 4-deep.  If Eifert figures out how to run the outside patterns like a WR, he may be unstoppable.
    ·         QB's - who really knows if Kelly believes what he publicly says. But for all the rhetoric about Golson still having trouble getting the team into formation etc., Mr. "I'm A Coach's Son" Tommy Rees copped yet another delay of game penalty because he couldn't get his unit into place.  And frankly, he's no better whatsoever than what we saw in the bowl game.
"Yes, it's true. I am a pre-med major."
o   Gunner Kiel is not this year's savior. Not necessarily a bad thing - we can all cool it on the wünderkind expectations. 
o   Golson looked, by far, the most natural, athletic (and dare I say, accurate) of the QB's.
  o   Hendrix looks like Robo-QB.  Much better on the run than any of 'em ('cept Everett) but really, really mechanical looking.
      ·         If the snapping difficulties are anything to judge by, Braxton Cave may end up being the 2nd most important guy on the offense.
      ·         Defense was really hard to judge - there seemed to be a lot of key guys who played very, very little. The front 7 is gonna have to come up BIG - cornerbacks still scare the bejesus out of me.
      ·         Was hoping to see Ishaq Williams be more… impactful.  Sure, he had an interception and a fumble recovery but for all of his 5-star hype, it would've been nice to see him be more… disruptive.
      ·         Really happy we're opening with Navy and Purdue. This team is going to need a couple games to find it's personality.

If The Blue-Gold game was a movie poster, it’d be… “Alien Vs. Predator”

                                "Whoever Wins… We Lose"             

The problem with intra-squad scrimmages, is that they're always zero sum games.  If someone does well (e.g. George Atkinson III and his 30 yd. dashes) is it because they're awesomely awesome?  Or because the other side is distressingly lame?  I suspect it's some combination of the two.  Sadly, lasting conclusions are hard to draw…

Word of the Week

CHIAROSCURO   chiar·oscu·ro noun \-ˈskyu̇r-(ˌ)ō, -ˈsku̇r-\   plural -ros

1              pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color
2              the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art
                the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)
3              16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also : a print made by this technique
4              the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface
5              the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow


Italian, from chiaro clear, light + oscuro obscure, dark

First Known Use: 1686

Used in a sentence:  "Notre Dame's Spring scrimmage represented a chiaroscuro of good and bad that makes absolute judgments impossible."

The Spring BUDDY Award.
Truth be told, Spring was never Buddy's favorite time of year.  In fact, for an animal that lived his life with a perpetual joie de vivre - it was a period typically met with significant trepidation and angst.  No doubt because Spring represented the annual Battle Royale between Terry and Lisa over getting a summer haircut for him. I never won those debates. Never.  And my attempts at well intentioned compromise resulted in only a more freakish look for the Budster.  I'm pretty sure there's not a shred of factual evidence that shaves for the long haired dog represent a tangible improvement in enhanced body temperature comfort when the hot weather comes.  But even the Village Idiot will tell you that with The Holocaust Survivor Cut he inevitably received, came disappointment, a massive sense of betrayal and a precipitous loss of self-esteem.  (I'd hide in a drainage culvert too, Buddy, if I were you.)  But basically, the perfect metaphor for Notre Dame Spring football in this century!

Anyway… I haven't seen any of the 14 prior practices - and just the game - but my vote for the Spring Buddy goes to Everett Golson.  Playing the most important position on the field, he made plays.  A lot of 'em.  Cannon for an arm, far more athletic than any of the guys… personally I'll take a couple modest negative yardage plays against some big time gains... he engendered a strange feeling of optimism

And I fail to understand why you wouldn't now play this guy a lot and simply get the kinks out.  (Two words for ya, coach Kelly, Tony Rice.)

Honorable mention to George Atkinson III and Theo Riddick. They rocked - and are clearly going to be integral to that offense's success.

Schadenfreude of the Spring

Tough to find a representative candidate this time of year but I'll throw out one seasonal candidate.

      ·         7 games behind the Texans and April isn't even over.
      ·         One $240MM free agent is hitting .246  with zippidity-doo-dah in HR's.
      ·         Their ≈$80MM free agent pitcher has 2 wins.
      ·         Your dysfunctional baseball competition in the city, the Dodgers, has the best record in the National League.

I suppose it could be worse, Angel fans.  You could have Bobby Valentine as your manager.
Terry’s Tool Time.

Neil Young famously sand 'Rust never sleeps' and neither, apparently, do tools. 

·         Ozzie Guillen - Admiring Castro, really?  In Cuban-heavy Miami?  Your self-absorption is only matched by your apparent sense of invincibility.  The whole 'Ozzie being Ozzie' excuse was so 2009.  What's Cuban for 'asshole'?
·         Bobby Petrino -  The country thought your amorality was confined to ethical blind spots involving contracts and your team.  Now we know it includes infidelity and sexual favor-based hiring practices. Good to know.
·         Les Miles - Couldn't let go the Gunner Kiel reference even after you cheap shotted him on Signing Day.  Shakespeare would say "me thinks you doth protest too much".  My wife would say "who's the parent here?!"  Either way, you proved just how strong of a fit you are to coach in the SEC.
·         John Calipari - Representing all that is loathsome in college coaching (and how screwed up the NCAA rules are), you've turned the UK program into a one team minor league system. At least you're not pretending to have your kids long term interests at heart (see Calhoun, Don).
·         Bo Ryan - Wisconsin's coach has a high potential freshman decide to transfer.  Not unusual in college basketball - there was only 341 kids who came to the same decision last year.  But very out of the norm at UW and coach Bo wasn't happy… so perfectly within his NCAA rights, he restricted the kid's transfer option…  by 26 schools!    Happily, national outrage ensues and he ends up confining the 'off limits' schools to just the Big Ten.  What a guy.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Building on Mr. Rasmus's thought of abandoning actual attendance of the game, should Tommy still be the QB choice… allow me a 'build' on the concept…

"Is it me or does it seem like Tommy still can't get the play snapped in time?"
Introducing "Teatro dell'Inferno" or Hell's Theater.   In development is a full autumn schedule of obscure-but-culturally-enriching films to be shown out of the back of Raz's car.  Soliciting the sharpest cinematic minds around (e.g. classicist Jerry Perez, subversive Brian Ward and Class of '16 enrollee Matt Castellini for edgier material), should in fact Tommy still be The Man, Purdue weekend will kick off with the 1967 Peter Brook film, 'Marat Sade'.  Or as it's known in its more exhaustive title, "The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade".

The movie is exactly what the name suggests - a play performed by loons in an 18th century French asylum.   Absurd?  You bet!  Confused?  Absolutely!  Mildly threatening?  Just wait.  But what could be more apropos starter material if indeed Tommy is once again manning the helm? 

"I say, Peter, while you're up...
would you mind topping up my Bloody?"
Plus I have it on good authority that if you turn off the sound and sync the film to the game's radio broadcast, the mystery of Brian Kelly's strategy - in all its genius - will be revealed. 

And there will be a quiz.

Recruiting - 'This I Believe'.

With L'Affaire Lynch still twisting in the wind, many strong opinions have been bandied about the risk-reward of recruiting Sunbelt kids and maybe it's the 5-star athletes in general… At any rate, it's provoked me to consider much of what I strongly believe.  It is, after all, an election year.  Allow me to offer some of my work-in-progress credo, including but not limited to these beliefs:

"The McRib here is to die for..."
      ·         The McDonalds at the corner of Chicago & State Streets is THE Epicenter of Weird in the universe.

"Jack, you get a pass on this one..."
      ·         Grown men should not wear cowboy hats unless they're actively engaged in a range war.

      ·         The slaying of Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials should be considered a victimless crime.


      ·         Recruiting anyone from the states of Florida and California is always going to be 50-50 proposition, at best.

Regarding that final point, I don't think one should draw any great conclusion to Aaron's flaking out. He was a head case before he arrived and he'll likely be one afterwards.  Some people mature at different speeds.  Or not all - hell, look at this distribution list. 

And oh by the way, Recruiting 2013 has started off really well for all those uninformed. Full class of highly regarded o-linemen to begin with…

Of course we've heard this tune before.  Before we actually play the real games.

Final observations
There's going to be a lot of pressure on Chuck Martin and Kelly to maximize the talents he's got on offense.  There's some seriously talented kids, starting with an offensive line that could be really, really good.  The problem is the talent seems to be overloaded at a couple positions.  It's the kind of problem that Holtz used to excel at.

Defensively, it's all going to come down to successfully bringing pressure.  If they do, they'll probably survive an inexperienced secondary (w the notable exception of the USC and Oklahoma games).

Finally, tough year, schedule-wise… can the coaches get these kids to rise to the occasion or fold like a card table?  Pretty critical year for the program and the coaching staff.

"Wait til I tell you what this year's Feifar wager involves..."

It's Never Too Early… the 2012 Schedule!

·        There's only one key date on this schedule - Friday night, October 5th at Villa Lini, for the 3rd annual Linipalooza.  Be there!


·         Hey wait a minute, that's my wedding anniversary.   Lisa will be thrilled. Out. Of. Her. Mind.


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

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

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