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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Vortex, Schmortex...

There once was a fellow named Jerry
Who's hairstyle rarely did vary.
And every five years
He led all his peers
In reveling incredibly merry.

What?  You thought haiku was my only poetic metier?   

Little known fact:  Shakespeare loved limericks. Especially those of the bawdy 'there once was a wench from Leeds, who oft did frequent the weeds...' variety. 

But I digress. 
Design by Willy Wonka.  On acid.

Reunion 2014,  May 29 - June 1.    

Be there.

Back to our previously scheduled program...

Oh Death...
Not long ago, Raz and I went and saw Ralph Stanley - 87 yrs. young and he of (relative) "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" bluegrass music fame .  

And besides being taken aback by his resemblance to Exeter, the mysterious alien from Metaluna intent on plundering Earth's uranium in the 1955 sci-fi classic, "This Island Earth", we were struck by both his stamina (he stood for almost the entire 90 minute performance) and his genuine love for what he was doing.

Why do I bring Ralph up? Because he clearly wanted to be where he was - on that stage... with his grandson and the other Foggy Bottom Boys (or whatever they were called)... plying his craft.

Hey, it beats the insipid hat selection ritual...
Which brings us to the off-season and the usual ch-ch-changes... coaches leaving, recruits flipping and flopping... the annual mating ritual that ultimately demands of the high school star, you've-had-a-year-so-make-a-choice... 

Just where do you want to be?  

Apparently it's not as easy as it looks.

Song of the Week
I've always been fascinated by the concept of the Butterfly Effect... the notion that a seemingly innocuous, random event somewhere in the world can result in a ripple effect of something profound later on.  Like Lini getting elected Grace Hall President on a "no hall tax!" platform - setting in motion a career that can only described as meteoric in its trajectory but also foretelling the whole Tea Party movement - so like Jerry... defiant, principled, unfathomable.

But I digress.  So follow this recent sequence:  daughter Shea goes off to Nashville last summer, interns for American Songwriter magazine, comes home with a few new awesome music references (Jason Isbell!), makes her father proud, inspires him to subscribe to AS, reads in the first issue about Uncle Tupelo's re-issue of their "No Depression" album (ironically a perfectly fitting theme for any ND fan's off-season) while at the same time receiving a cd from musical svengali JA Splendore - no doubt inspired by all the southern alt rock I was throwing out in the autumn - that had songs from Uncle Tupelo front man Jay Farrar's band's on it!  

Coincidence?  I think not.

And so, thematically, I offer you a Recruiting two-fer, courtesy of Mr. Farrar's bands...  

First from the football program's perspective, a terrific Bob Dylan song.  Replace "Moonshiner" with 'recruiter' and one could reinterpret the song as the forlorn wail of a guy who's spent his life chasing 18 yr. old pinheads who, due to their freakish athletic skill set, keep him employed.  It's no life to lead.  But it's a little too late for a career change...

"I've been a moonshiner recruiter for 17 long years
I've spent all my money on whiskey and beer.
I go to some hollow and set my still,
And if the whiskey don't kill me, then I don't know what will..."

Recruiting Summary
It is an irony of Sisyphus-ian proportions that for all of us who survived our children's Bataan Death March-like progression through the hormonal teens, we remain masochistic enough to care about a collection of teenagers we don't even know... will probably never know... and their college decision-making process.  Why do we expect them to be linear thinkers?  Because we were?  Yeah, sure.  One word for ya on that:  Ungie.

Still,  some of them make Mark look like the poster child for reliability.  And when the inevitable feeding frenzy of the final few weeks occur, one wonders why you put in all that time following the process.  In swoops Meyer / Saban / Mora / Sark and boom!  Not that ND is especially above the fray when it comes to 11th hour courtin' and sparkin' (though to be fair it's typically in a reactive "you took ours, we gotta go get us a replacement" context).

I hate it.  And I've got one easy solution:  Early Signing Period.  Make it September 1st. Or December 1st.  (It seems to work just fine for basketball.)   If you're truly with us, Mr. "I'm Committed But I'm Still Gonna Take My Visits Especially To The Schools With The Smokin' Hot Co-Eds And Boosters-With-Envelopes That's Okay, Isn't It?", prove it.  If you don't sign, we're on to Plan B with more than the 2-3 weeks to react that we get now.

Otherwise, an easy guide to understanding the dynamics involved in college recruiting... 

Song #2 is inspired by that particular breed of Fandom lunatic fringe that always perceive the sky to be falling.  And indeed one could argue that ND closed this year in a fairly ho hum fashion but Armageddon Time? No.

I don't have any idea what Son Volt's "Route" is about.  Jay Farrar seems to have been schooled at The Michael Stipe Institute of Lyric Opacity.  But Nihilists, Cub fans and 'ND Always Disappoints In Recruiting' advocates should love this song. There is nary a single optimistic thought in it.  (Well maybe one, about the weather.)  And yet, it's precisely the type of song that gets me a "you were going 80 in a construction zone, son, and I'm not in an especially lenient mood" experience. (I'll thank you not to share that w Lisa...)  

"Reality, it burns.
The way we're living is worse. 
The pillars of inspiration are all falling down.
And it's now or never,
Too close to the latter.
We're all living proof that nothing lasts..."

Or maybe it's about the Final Days of SEC Dominance.  That would be nice.

Nonetheless, recruiting is never entirely straightforward.  And for ND, there's much to like about the class and a few things to lament.  Just like Life.   To wit:
  • An O-line haul that's probably as good as any in the country.
  • A mobile QB that fits Kelly's preferred skill set. (No more excuses, coach.)
  • Two more stud TE's.  As Niklas' semi-surprising bolt to the NFL proved, one can never have too many. 
  • A few more above average WR's.  Maybe not one of the marquee names but this position is not looking like it should be a weakness anytime soon.
  • Every LB in the country named Nyle (or a derivation thereof) signed with us. 
  • We picked up, late, a couple large D-linemen.  Who knows if they can play.  Huzzah. 
  • Lost another high potential DL due to a family cancer scare.  As opposed to last year, this one is legitimate.  Reminding us that sometimes Life just supersedes athletics.
  • If consistency of commitment is any indication, we dodged a mammoth bullet by not having WR Isaiah McKenzie choose us.  He may have the skill set of The Rocket 2.0 but lab rats have more advanced decision making capacity.   He'll be a very interesting one to watch over the next few yrs.
  • We also lost Richard III.  So what. Who wants a LB, even if he's from Florida, who reminds you of a Shakespearean hunchback king?
  • Stealing a page from Mike Brey's handbook (and who'd a thunk one would ever be saying that?!), it looks like we may be picking up a graduate can-play-immediately CB who started for Florida last year... that can't be a bad thing, right?

Word of the Month

sang·froid   noun \ˈsäⁿ-ˈf(r)wä\

: the ability to stay calm in difficult or dangerous situations

:  self-possession or imperturbability especially under strain 

Used in a sentence:  Young Terry displayed remarkable sangfroid when everyone else panicked under the perception of a crumbling ND recruiting class - in no small measure due to brother Kevin's Christmas gift of the 18 yr. Bowmore single malt.

Quote of the Month

I don't care what your SAT was!
"Only two things are infinite, 
the universe and human stupidity.  
And I'm not sure about the former..."
                                                                      Albert Einstein

(As recruiting coordinator at the University of Zurich, Al was the first to use the "you're not just making a 4 yr. decision, sonny, but one that quantum physics proves stretches to... infinity." )

An English Major Walks Into A Bar...

Thank you, Mike Corrigan, for the gift that's gonna keep on giving.  In my on-going pursuit to turn each of you (some more than others) into Modern Day Renaissance Men, this season will find me plagiarizing referencing his birthday gift, "Tequila Mockingbird:  Cocktails With A Literary Twist" - a book that provides all of you with not only a tasty libation but a walk down freshman year Comp & Lit memory lane.  
The Holy Trinity

In the middle of February (and the country's seemingly endless polar vortex), a gin-based drink might seem a counter-intuitive selection.  

But having spent several days in Florida last week and by Saturday night, sipping my ~17th G&T on the Belknaps' Lanai (no that's not their Thai houseboy) I realized this:  I quite like gin.  It's a fun, light liquor that inspires sunny thoughts. Though the following epic poem about bad weather, angry oceans and pissed-off dead birds isn't one of 'em.

The Lime of The Ancient Mariner 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)
Hey, where did the bird come from?
So the next time you're marooned on an island, resist the temptation to shout out, "water water everywhere and not a drop to drink..."  

First off, no one likes a buzz kill.  And secondly, if you're gonna die of dehydration - and you probably are - at least make your final words accurate: it's  "water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink." 

Better yet, stay on land, turn on the Golf or History channel and make yourself one of these bad boys:

  • 1.5 oz. gin
  • 2 oz. lime juice
  • 2 oz. grapefruit juice
  • sea salt, for highball rim

Rim a chilled highball glass with the sea salt.  Fill the glass with ice, pour in the ingredients and give a good stir.  Drink heartily.  Fix yourself another one because dammit, you deserve it.  When you've sobered up, take a long walk outside - and watch out for low-flying birds.

Schadenfreude Time
Peyton.   I never cheer for you.  Never.  This game I did.  And you come up with THAT performance?! 

Gunner.  Remember our 5 (count 'em FIVE!) star QB who bailed last Spring in order to find a school where the competition was less daunting?  (That is to say, follow a graduating incumbent.)  Except the senior he chose ends up getting hurt, missing the season and successfully petitioning the NCAA for a 6th year!  Voila - he's back for Season 2014!  Bummer for Gunner.  

What do you mean, Matt, "what's your motivation?"

As an aside, the returning Cincinnati QB is the improbably named Munchie Legaux, which as it turns out, I'm pretty sure is also Lindon's adult film pseudonym.

I don't know how that charge got on my hotel bill, Lisa.  The TV synopsis said 'art film'...

Cretin Of The Month Club

Brendan Gibbons / U. of Michigan.  UM's placekicker whose heretofore claim to fame was having... how do I put this tactfully... the physique of a pig.  Apparently, he also acts like one as he's now got something akin to 'sex offender' on his cv.  That would be despicable enough, except it seems pretty clear the university ignored or buried it for four years.  That is, until after his eligibility expired, at which point they expelled him. And now they're coming under serious (and well deserved) criticism for it.  

Here's what I don't get, U of M administration:  You sacrificed your principles FOR A KICKER?!  Not Tom Brady.  A kicker.
Richard Sherman.  I'll give you this much, Rich, everyone now knows your name. 
Saban & Bielema. Lobbying to change the NCAA rule to essentially prevent hurry up offenses because a) their teams don't have 'em and b) their defenses can't stop 'em.  AND doing it under the ridiculous guise of making the game safer.  Wow, ethically challenged AND gutless.
We look smokin' - at the starting line.

Under Armour / US Speed Skating.  Who is muy stupido?  The Brainiacs that designed uni's which seem to make the team significantly slower...  or the team leadership who apparently didn't test them out before using them in Olympic competition?

Red McCombs.  Wealthy U. of Texas booster who continues to suggest a bi-modal correlation between big money and brains.  Apparently ole Red didn't think much of the Charlie Strong hire -  Louisville's smart, principled coach that many thought would've made an excellent post-Kelly successor.  Stating that coach Strong would've made a good position coach, Red's rationale was basically "We're UT. We can get anyone we want."  Um, no Red, you can't. 
    Still sleazy after all these yrs...

 Bobby Petrino.  Back at Louisville.  And in Notre Dame stadium next November.  

Leave your wives, daughters and nieces at home that weekend.

Looking to Next Season... 
And I mean the tailgate season, it's 'A' Lot's FINAL YEAR!   Plan your pilgrimage early.  Home games look like this:
'A' Lot hosts unveil commemorative Under Armour uni's...

28      Rice

6       Michigan  -- Linipalooza?! 

4      Stanford
11    North Carolina

15    Northwestern
22    Louisville

Who Doesn't Love A Cruise?

In the mood for an aquatic getaway and help out a fellow classmate (and proud Morrissey Man) at the same time?  

Check out Paul Urankar's Cruises Inc.  They're a full service travel agency that can handle personal and business needs, from reunions to sales meetings. If you know Paul, you know he's not one to play the sympathy card but he's drawn a tough hand, health-wise (almost 20 yrs. battling MS) and if any of us (or colleagues you might know) are in the market, please give him some consideration.

Final Thought #1

Why everyone MUST love Louis Nix III... his interpretation of last month's Richard Sherman - Erin Andrews post-game interview:

Final Thought #2

Your singular 2013-14 ND Basketball moment - hope you enjoyed it.  Hope you didn't miss it.

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