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Friday, January 18, 2013

The 1st Rule of Imaginary Girlfriend Club... do not talk about Imaginary Girlfriend Club. 

I feel compelled to offer some off the cuff reactions to the events of the last couple weeks:

  • Everyone knows I was kidding a few weeks back re my bell curve distribution of Reality, right? (Note to self: cc football team on all future radical theories.)
  • If this week was a movie, I think we all know what it'd be. 
  • The Chinese say, "May you live in interesting times.."  How's that working out for you, Manti?
  • A lot of terrific, well thought, balanced points of view on L'Affaire T'eo, starting with Pat Fordeand Pete Thamel... but one I ran across today, by Bonnie Bernstein, had the most plainspoken rationale that I, personally, can sign up for.  Try this on for size:
IF everything holds up: Manti Te'o was duped by a guy who had a prior history of “catfishing.” He was completely mortified. He lied to avoid further humiliation and any distractions for Notre Dame en route to the BCS Championship.

That still leaves some holes. Why did Te’o say he met Lennay Kukua at Stanford and tell his father they’d spent time together? Was he was embarrassed about meeting someone online? Quite possibly. I know people who have fudged cyber-setup stories. Didn't Te'o think it was bogus that Lennay canceled/no-showed every time they were supposed to meet? Yup. But I can personally attest to how love can distort the rational thought process. Make you think things are ok. That all the excuses are copacetic -  even though outsiders looking in would scratch their heads. Especially young love. And if Te’o is as devout a Mormon as he so proclaims, and he’s a virgin, the value of the emotional bond might supersede the physical. Who are we to judge?

But ultimately, here's what it comes down to for me. I don’t subscribe to the notion "a lie is a lie is a lie." I really do try to understand the psychology behind it. Manti Te'o had an inspirational story that was embraced by Golden Domers, and lots of non-Notre Dame folks, at a time when the Irish were finally emerging from obscurity. He appreciated the support, especially with the Heisman dangling. Probably even reveled in it a little bit. And you know what? What 21 year-old wouldn't? What 41 year-old wouldn't?

And then, Te’o found out he was flat-out Punk'd. Imagine getting that phone call. “Hi. It’s your dead girlfriend.” The confusion. The anger. The embarrassment of knowing that you, one of college football’s top defensemen, just got sacked. And you were too naïve to see the oncoming blitz. 

Te’o consciously chose to continue perpetuating the story line  Don’t get in the way of the team’s run to a national title. Figure out how to handle this mess publicly when we get back from Miami, he probably thought. Does that make him a liar? Yes it does. Does it make him a liar of Lance Armstrong proportions? Did he irreparably hurt anyone? Does it make him a bad kid? In the grand scheme of things, my gut tells me… no.

1.  Jack Swarbrick just fell on the sword for you, Manti.  Time to step up.  (Even your supporters are getting impatient.)

2.  Looking forward to next year, a couple 'A' Lot promotions to anticipate:
     a.  Wear a stylish green lei (and seen in the blog's cover pic) and win a prize!
     b.  Bring an imaginary friend and win a prize!  (Feifar has already claimed Danny 'n Tony from The Shining - but the Grady twins are still available...) As is Donnie Darko's Frank.       

c.   Shoot a beer with Ungie... win a prize!

In the meantime, a good man needs your vote... 

If you're receiving any solicitations from ND Alumni Association re voting on the next batch of Alumni Board representatives, don't blow it off - one of our classmates is running!  One we like. Check it out on-line here:

Don Wittgen ’79
Assistant Vice President, Finance
ACE Group, Combined Insurance
Hawthorn Woods, IL

Wittgen works in the insurance industry and has held numerous roles in the Notre Dame Club of Lake County, including treasurer of the scholarship committee and leader of professional networking activities with Chicago-area Notre Dame clubs and the Mendoza College of Business. He is a Eucharistic minister and lector at St. Mary of the Annunciation, Fremont Center, and is a member of the Illinois CPA Society.

Mission Statement
I want to continue and expand my Notre Dame service by serving on the Alumni Board. During my four years in the Notre Dame Club of Lake County, the last two as treasurer, we have held a wide variety of events that have earned us Program of Excellence and Special Citation awards and three Outstanding Club nominations. We have initiated networking events to assist new graduates and our members in transition. We have also partnered with the Chicago-area clubs and the Minority Alumni network for events and activities.

My experience working with other clubs in the region has shown me the power and value of shared ideas and programs. As the regional representative, I would encourage and facilitate increased collaboration among clubs. If I have the privilege of serving on the alumni board, I will use my experience to help clubs bring Notre Dame to their communities in new and innovative ways.

We Gotta Have A Song!
Anyone see Morrissey on Letterman last week?  Who knew his music would remain so timely...

For those of you might think this is in poor taste (even by our low standards), consider this:  Alvin pointed out I could've chosen The Smith's "Bigmouth Strikes Again".  

Recruiting Irony
  • Florida's Defensive Coordinator just quit to do the same w the Seahawks.  (I'm looking at you, Alex Anzelone...)
  • ND now has elite athletes falling over themselves to take official visits - far more than we have spaces - but that doesn't seem to be sitting well with all of our commitments:  newly pledged speed RB Taurean Folston is now taking a  visit this weekend to Auburn. (3-9 Auburn?! Seriously?)
And that level of rational behavior might just give one a glimpse into why coaches periodically think the professional ranks might be attractive. 

And a Word...
sub·ter·fuge noun \ˈsəb-tər-ˌfyüj\

1  deception by artifice or strategem in order to conceal, escape, or evade
2  a deceptive device or stratagem

  • Late Latin subterfugium, from Latin subterfugere to escape, evade, from subter- secretly (from subter underneath; akin to Latin sub under) + fugere to flee — more at up, fugitive
  • First Known Use: 1573
Synonyms: artifice, chicanery, hanky-panky, jiggery-pokery, legerdemain, skulduggery, trickery

Finally, for posterity, I must post this again.  Too funny. And, yes, the '13 Game Day signs will be murder...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jan 7th: Zero Dark 60 Minutes

"Oh blow it out your ass, Howard."

Y'know, Nietzsche says, "Out of chaos comes order..."

One has to hand it to the French. No one can make 18 years of unjust imprisonment, abject destitution, humiliating prostitution and a hopelessly un-winnable battle look quite so... desirable.  

So when the family went to see "Les Miserables" over the Christmas break I came out energized - with an entirely new, "glass-3/4 full and rising" worldview - especially toward ND football and the daunting task of beating not just the defending national champions but, apparently, the entire SEC. 

"Tow that massive ship into dry dock?  No problem - I'm in the best shape of my life!"  

"Sell my hair for a pittance? Absolutely - this haircut is gonna be all the talk at Cap Ferrat!"

"Our army against your wine-addled boys?!  Sweet!" (Talk about the benefits of over-signing 5-star recruits...)

In a broader, more real world context, perhaps not quite the message my family wanted me to take away from that particular medium. ("Debtor's prison?! Cool! Sign me up!") And in hindsight, one wonders whether this was the motivational in-flight offering for the team on their travels to The Big Game.  After all, failure has never looked so awesome.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Nonetheless, all the way down to Florida I sang my favorite show tune, "Red And Black" (bastardized to meet my true Notre Dame zealot's needs)...

We need a sign to rally the people...
To call them to arms, to bring them in line!

Lini-us, what's wrong with you today?
You look as if you've seen a ghost.
Some wine and say what's going on...

A ghost you say? More like a tool maybe
Saban is a total douche to me.
Everything about him is just... wrong. 

It is time for us all to decide who we are.
Do we fight for a right at the Tailgate now?

Have you asked of yourselves 
What's the price you might pay?

Is it simply a game for rich young boys to play?
The color of college football 
Is changing day by day...

Red!   Bama's fans are all inbred!
Blue!  ND's boys know how to spell.
Red!   SEC women are seriously hot...
Blue!  But you'll all burn in hell!

Red!   Opossum is a real food!
Blue!  A pig is not something you date!
Red!  Our liquor makes us blind.
Blue!  While you work at Steak & Shake! 

As I boarded my flight, I was ready. 

Song of the Year
A little secret to reveal:  all year long, I've had a great deal of this blog written in my head by about Thursday prior to the game.  Provided the game turned out the way I hoped, which is to say, a win.  Happily, for 12 weeks it totally worked out.  Not so much for this final game.

Still, upon reflection, I'm sticking with my first song of choice, "The Last Laugh", Mark Knopfler's duet with Van The Man.  For starters, it's a great song.  And while originally envisioned as a musical flipping of the bird to SEC Nation (that'll have to wait another year), in a very different way it still remains apropos.

Games you thought you'd learned
You neither lost nor won
Dreams have crashed and burned
You still keep on keeping on

They had you crying but you came up smiling
They had you crawling and you came up flying
They had you crying and you came up smiling
And the last laugh, baby is yours.

We had an awesome year.  Let me count the ways:  a win count that exceeded everyone's expectation, even the deeply delusional. #1 in football and graduation rates. (That'll never be done by anyone other than us.) Tailgaters that set new standards for excellence. Bloody Mary's that now come with a technicolor secret sauce.  A Linipalooza that, just when one thought it couldn't get any more surreal, did.  We helped some Breezy Point folks a little bit.  And the players were an actual source of pride and inspiration to millions.

Juxtapose that against having the ignominy of living in Alabama, being confined to a largely one syllable vocabulary or having the gastronomic sophistication of a feral dog - where one considers Squirrel Cog Au Vin the epitome of fine dining. 

Who's laughing now?

The Game
Who knew the game was actually going to replicate Les Miz as much as it did.  If anyone wishes to provide a greater analysis, have at it.  After sitting through three hours of 40,000 yahoos yelling, "Roll, Tide", I really had no interest in watching the game over again.  OK, maybe a little bit - to check out AJ McCarron's girlfriend.  But then I'd have to listen to Brent...  

"This Christmas
there will be... Misery."
Anyway, a couple visceral observations... none of which would've changed the ultimate outcome in any appreciable way:
  1. The layoff really hurt us.  Bama got healthy and we lost our edge.
  2. Blame coaching, if you must, for sub-optimal prep.  But I wouldn't hammer Kelly too much for play calling.  When you're down 14-0 before people are even in their seats, plans go out the window pretty quickly.
  3. The early officiating was mystifyingly bad.  Can anyone enlighten me as to the replay protocol in college?
  4. Many of you were reaming Zeke on-line. While nowhere to be found in coverage, he seemed to be the only one interested in tackling.
  5. I could be wrong on the prior point as I spent much of the game distracted by the large female Bama fan in front of us, trying to engage Cincotta in conversation.
  6. Why did we keep going long 3rd and short?  Planned calls or Golson just 'feeling it'?  I have no idea.
  7. It seemed - all year long, in fact - like we had ~ 3 pass patterns.  None of which involved crossing patterns like the ones Bama constantly smoked us on.
  8. That said, I'm standing by my mid-year semi-prediction:  I will not be surprised if Golson gets beat out next year. Specifically by Kiel. 
  9. EG is hugely talented but his decision making... not sure. Presumably that will improve a lot... 
  10. The one guy who looked great to me was Daniels. A pleasant surprise.
  11. One guy (certainly not the only one) who didn't was Tuitt. A bad surprise.
  12. So happy we didn't receive the OVER-RATED chant at game's end.  Then again, that's a lot of syllables for SEC Nation...
  13. The color crimson and the words, "Roll, Tide" have now entered my revised Nine Circles of Hell.  Level Six.

Red! The blood of angry hicks.
Blue!  The pride of titles past.
Red!  They're totally kicking our ass.
Blue!  Please end this game at last!

The Discover Tostito's Buddy award

"And a child shall lead them..."

Well, if not exactly a child, a teenager.  And if not 'lead', gain us handicapped parking access at Sun Life Stadium.  Thumbing our noses past limos and other luminaries, we cruised it. Who knew it'd end up being practically the highlight of the day?

So thanks, Jack Splendore, for taking one for the team.  I assume you were kidding about your dad consciously backing the car over your ankle for 'the greater good'...

A Little Schadenfreude In Your Egg Nog?
As full of Christmas cheer as I was, literally and figuratively, nothing quite made me as warm 'n tingly as these guys going down:

1.  USC.  Duh!  Of course their losing makes us happy.  But the true bow on the package is losing to a team so bad they had to petition to even get in the game. Lane, you are the gift that keeps on giving.

2.  LSU.  Les Miles, dumber than a box of rocks.  Makes one almost wish he did take the Michigan job.  Also makes one wonder how good they'd be if he just stayed in the locker room. 

Which reminds me, I'm reading Dostoevsky's "The Idiot".  Great book. Not about the SEC as I had pre-supposed  - although much of the descriptions of Russia do have an earthy, backwoods similarity to the Deep South.

Otherwise, insert your own Miles / Kiffin joke here.

Tool Time
1.  Lane Kiffin.  What's the baseball expression for a player who can literally do it all?  A 5 tool player. How appropriate for Kiffy:  your team embarrasses on the field in El Paso, off the field as well (disses the community, shows up 90 minutes late to the official dinner), then you start pulling scholarships on your Early Enrollees. Wow, you are a Renaissance Tool. 

2. Tommy Tuberville.  Back by popular demand:  after pulling his uber-classy "dine 'n dash" on his Texas Tech recruits, he follows up by pulling scholarship offers from committed Cincinnati recruits and not telling them.  The kids had to call the school to find out. Wow. Does university administration have no spine at all in dealing with these guys?

3.  Alex Anzelone.  Don't pin this one on Kelly; this kid was looking for an excuse to bolt.  "Um, Alex, when were you otherwise going to tell us?" Too bad since he seems to be really good.

4.  Lance Armstrong.  Finally fesses up!  On Oprah, no less.  Check out a London newspaper's suggestions on questions to ask Lance.  I especially like the "how badly did the death of your dog at age 7 affect you..."  Typical, dry, smart ass British humor.  Boy I miss the UK!

You may wonder why Brian Kelly isn't on this list.  That's because I'm among that group who think his 'process', while repugnant to most of us in more pedestrian professions, is basically just the way business is done now.  

Outwit. Outplay. Outlast.  

Survivor, of course, is perhaps the greatest social experiment since Pavlov and his dogs.  Or at least since Sigourney Weaver made that movie with the gorillas. It's also one of The Greatest TV Shows Ever*.  The amount of duplicity that goes on through the course of six weeks on some godforsaken South China Sea island is truly breath taking. Greed! Avarice! Situational Ethics!  Poor Hygiene!  Fantastic. And the people that win it never lose sight of one thing:  it's just a game.

And so it is in the perverse profession of coaching. It may not be our cup of tea for job negotiation but it's the way it's done in that space.

Now if we have this mating ritual on an annual basis with Kelly, I'll be happy to modify my opinion.  But right now, I'm taking it at face value.  He checked out an opportunity, a big one at that, worked the protocol with his boss (if not with the inquiring ND Nation) and walked away.  All in a matter of 3-4 days.  

And give the guy some credit - by all accounts, he could've had the job if he wanted.

*Not as good as The White Shadow ("Coolidge! Salami!"), The West Wing (hello, liberal Notre Dame president...) or St. Elsewhere (Howie Mandell AND Denzel Washington) but certainly better than post-Henry Blake M*A*S*H... 

Which leads us to the final Word of the Week:

dal·li·ance noun \ˈda-lē-ən(t)s\

1.       an act of dallying: as
a. play; especially : amorous play
b. frivolous action : trifling

First Known Use of DALLIANCE
  • 14th century
Synonyms: play, frolic, frolicking, fun, fun and games, recreation, relaxation, rollicking, sport
Near Antonyms: drudgery, labor, work; duty, obligation, responsibility

Used in a sentence:  Kelly's dalliance with the NFL may prove, ultimately to be nothing at all but for much of ND Nation, it was a worrisome sign of a serious "I'm not as vested in this program as I say I am" character flaw.

The only thing you need to concern yourself here is this: pray from unseasonably warm weather for the weekend of January 25th.  That's when we may have as many as four, count 'em four, USC decommits visiting:

  1. Eddie Vanderdoes, DL
  2. Torrodney Prevot, DL
  3. Sebastian Larue, WR
  4. Kylie Fitts, DL
  5. Deon Hollins, OLB (UCLA commit)

The name associations alone is too awesome to even contemplate them being about of Irish Mob'13... 

And apparently we stand a reasonable chance of flipping a couple of 'em, presuming distance and weather doesn't freak 'em out too much. If that happens - fingers crossed - it'll be the best recruitng class in ~20 yrs. (Sully?) 

"Wake Up And Smell The Bacon" (Or Why I Still Miss the UK, Part II) 

Final thought - looking toward Autumn '13

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond South Beach
Is there a world you long to see?

Do you hear the students sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that ND brings
When tomorrow comes!

227 days to Temple...
August / September
31    TEMPLE           
  7    @Michigan                       
14   @Purdue                          
21   MICHIGAN STATE              
  5   ARIZONA STATE (Dallas)         

19   USC                                       
26   @Air Force                            
 2     NAVY                     
 9    @Pitt                      

23    BYU   
30    @Stanford               

*Linipalooza IV... tbd (Sept 21 or 28)