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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Spring Game: Better Call Saul!

"A #6? That's where we go a-ridin' into town, a-whompin' and a-whoopin' every living thing that moves within an inch of its life...

Be careful... they think
they're the Three Wise Men...

There is a special group of people that walk the earth who have a certain affinity with society's forgotten and disenfranchised... often ignored, displaced, even ostracized. The ones whose eyes don't seem to quite track together. Whose shirts don't ever seem quite aligned with their buttons.  The Obsessed with names like Kona Schwenke.  
In other words, the odd.  People cursed with that special, and it should be pointed out, unsolicited, connection to The Lunatic Fringe - I call them Weird Magnets.

And I am one of them. 

My 'St. Paul at Damascus' Moment occurred on a day like any other, circa 1981, Brighton Mass.  There I was, standing at my bus stop near St. Elizabeth's Hospital.  On my way to a grad school class, both Spring and Optimism were in the air.  As the group of us waited - there was probably 8 or 10 of us, a bag lady shuffled by.  Muttering to herself, she looked like the classic old crone and indeed, she carried a shopping bad in each hand.  Kinda sad, I recall thinking.
"What are you still doing here?!"

She got perhaps five paces past the group when she stopped and wheeled around, placed her bags on the ground, cast the most intense of gazes at the group and launched into a blue streak that would've made a sailor blush. Beginning with - and I quote - "What the fuck are you looking at, ya fuckin' weirdo..."

Having now efficiently commanded everyone's attention, her critique proceeded precipitously downward as she proceeded to condemn the offending person in the most scatological of terms for what seemed like a solid 60 seconds.  Passionate.  Articulate.  Non-stop.  And Kinda Impressive.  Whomever she was talking about, he / she was apparently quite the scoundrel!  And when she finally stopped, picked up her bags and began to move on, the collective exhale from the bus stop contingent was palpable.

Except that she didn't stay in motion for very long.  Maybe another 5-10 feet when she turned around, dropped the bags again, and launched into - again I quote - "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE?!" and another solid 60 second diatribe.  By this time, mid-soliloquy, the crowd began to subtly separate itself in an attempt to divine who exactly she was looking at.

Of course it was me.   And there was much rejoicing among the other bystanders.

As we waited for the bus (where the hell is it anyway?) - she rocked back and forth on her feet in a predatory, semi-Lawrence Taylor crouch... and that's when it got real:  what if she attacks?!

All this took, I'm guessing, five minutes?  Felt like five hours.  The bus did finally come.  And she never did attack.  My fellow Brighton citizens sprinted for the bus door, ensuring that I had to be last one on.  Assholes. Luckily, my 'accusator' didn't have downtown Boston on her itinerary for the day but I've no doubt that had she, one of my bus-stand colleagues would've paid her fare if she wanted to get on.

I don't recall how that day ultimately ended but I'm pretty sure it involved going to my bedroom, locking the door, turning off the light and curling into the fetal position asking for my mommy. 

Why do I bring this up? Because recently I also saw the movie "Noah" (a film choice ironically made by probably the Least Religious Woman On The Planet, my wife).  But once the film began I saw many immediate parallels with my own life:  

  • a man on the outskirts of society, literally and figuratively. Check.
  • married to a hot brunette. Check. 
  • with children who do stuff occasionally inspiring complete bafflement. Check.

And of course, there is the whole 'hears voices' quirk.  Double Check.  But interestingly, here's the interesting bit: Noah (according to director Darren Aronofsky) almost got it horribly, disastrously wrong!  He almost wipes out the entire human race and only at the very last moment, calls a time out before running a different play - not unlike what we've seen ND QB's do countless times over the last five years... 

So what happened?  Was God not as clear as He could've been in His direction (doubtful - that'd be like suggesting Saban could make a mistake).  Did Noah misinterpret the play call?  He was executing it sooo well... except for the 'abandon the son's girl friend and make him hate you and undermine your plan' part.  

Then there's the simple likelihood that Noah was just flat out a bat shit crazy, genocidal lunatic -- a notion his family increasingly embraces. Reminding one that as talented as an athlete may be (see Lynch, Aaron), if he doesn't have the right psychological make up, you're probably not going to like the end result.  I think there's a leadership implication in there as well... 

So let's think about that this year when one is choosing to weep 'n wail 'n gnash your teeth at Golson or Kelly or Van Gorder. Coaches teach (hopefully). Players execute (hopefully).  But there's a lot of grey area in between.  Never truer than watching a ND Spring scrimmage where the team inherently looks both good and bad on every single play.

May I call you grandmama...
Back to Noah: Interesting movie, if only for a) allowing one to casually use the word antediluvian without sounding pretentious and b) inspiring the possibility that we could all be descendants of a Jennifer Connolly-like hottie matriarch.  I feel better about myself already.

Song of the Week
Back in 2003, Beck released a CD called "Sea Change'. A CD so musically strong while simultaneously so soul-crushingly depressing, pundits across the country almost spontaneously awarded him this century's Jackson Browne Yeah-It's-Gouge-Your-Eyes-Out-Sad-But-It's-Like-Cat-Nip-To-The-Ladies. However, unbeknownst to anyone, he was also recording it's optimistic flip side, "Morning Phase". 

Beck, you cheeky monkey.  Released earlier this Spring it represents the perfect attitudinal picker upper for a football program returning it's prodigal QB, introducing a new aggressive D-Coordinator (don't anyone dare mention T-E-N-U-T-O) and seemingly more across-the-board talent (albeit young) than they've had in over a decade.  Everyone, get happy!

"Can we start it all over again this morning?
I lost all my defenses this morning.
Won't you show me the way it used to be?

Spring Game observations
Don't know about any lambs but that field looked like sh...
Thank you, NBC Sports Network... fast reaction to a game with an unfathomable scoring system but who cares - it was nice to see the lads in the uni's once again.
  1. Field turf!  How's that make you feel, Clarice?  Can you still hear the lambs?  Here's how it makes me feel: it's grass.  There's a dozen more important things on my Tradition-o-mometer.
  2. QB's - we've got two of 'em!  Not one!  Two!  And if one didn't know anything about the two, watching the game you'd have thought #8 was the starter, not #5.  I'm pretty sure that's a good thing.
  3. Love their mobility - they could smoke any SBPD officer.
  4. Get used to seeing a lot of screens. And we've got the RB's to execute to run 'em. 
  5. Speaking of which, Greg Bryant looks pretty damn good.
  6. You're not getting older, you're getting better, Alex Flanagan.
  7. Much will be said about the WR's speed but my prediction is this: Corey Robinson will be The Man.
  8. Hard to get yet too excited about the O-line with three of the starters out.
  9. Especially with the DC bringing the house, like, every other down.
  10. Which was pretty awesome to see.  
  11. And that requires strong DB play and the CB's looked pretty good.  Russell's gonna be a star. 
  12. The Safety's... um, not too sure. 
  13. And when a walk-on LB is calling signals because he knows the D - apparently far and away better than anyone else - color me a little nervous. 
Net, really talented team. And really young.  Could be very good.  Could have a lot of 35-31 games.  

But who's going to lead?

Buddy's Buddy
Already hard at work on ways of making The Final Year of 'A' Lot particularly special.  One thought under consideration is the unveiling and display of the actual Golden Buddy award, with the annual winners' names engraved.  Privileges may include having a special customized-just-for-you Bloody Mary 'ingredient of the week' when you attend the tailgater.  (All ingredients are available except, in Albert's case, piccante sauce.)

But I digress. 

This time a year ago, Jason Duffner was awarded this recognition, as much for his impressive Masters win as The Butt Grab Seen Round The World.  (I have initiated a petition to have Mrs. Duffner become a permanent part of the Masters award ceremony.)
The Spring award again goes to this year's Masters winner, Bubba Watson.  While the two-time winner deserves spousal kudos for marrying an actual Amazon, this recognition is more for providing surely the single-most entertaining couple minutes of 2014 golf commentary. As the CBS team looked on, incredulously, Bubba goes for the 15th hole green in two despite being seemingly blocked by trees and up by three strokes with four to play.  

David Feherty:  "He's gotta lay up with a three shot lead, doesn't he?"
Nick Faldo:  "Um, I don't think he's laying up..."

"Freak Show", sayeth his caddy.  "Role Model", sayeth Lini. 

Recruiting Update - "you say Fertitta, I say fritatta..."
All you need to know about recruiting so far this year is this:
Coming soon to a tailgater near you...

  • One commit's dad is a billionaire CEO and co-founder of Ultimate Fighting Championship. (Get him on the 'A' Lot invitation list.)
  • We have ourselves a QB from California - that's almost never bad.
  • We're doing well in Texas - that's also almost never bad.
  • Home town (Valpo) boy turns his back on ND for the Penn State snake oil salesman.  If I didn't have a job that never would've happened... 
  • Our most highest profile undecided is a LB who represents the most important recruit from St. Xavier HS (Cincinnati, OH) since J. Castellini, class of '79. 

Word of the Month
SYNGENESOPHOBIA (sin-jen-us-o-foe-bee-a)

: an irrational fear of relatives

Happy (belated) Easter!

Used in a sentence:  Young Terry, no doubt due to his childhood memories of being assigned the role of 'the frisky calf' in his older brothers' game of Rodeo Roundup, displayed clear symptoms of syngenesophobia whenever talk of a family Easter gathering came up.

    Quote of the Month

    "The world is a hellish place
    and bad writing is destroying
    the quality of our suffering."
                                                                          Tom Waits

    This is why Spring games are so awesome:  there's always something for everyone... from the Beckian optimist ('we've got not one but two viable QB's!) to the Waitsian pessimist ('but our defense still can't get to the QB even when they send six guys...').

    An English Major Walks Into A Bar...
    Okay, with the winter we've had it's been awhile since I've seen anything green...

    Absinthe Shrugged
    by Ayn Rand (1957)
    If you suffer from debilitating back pains, odds are you either exercise incorrectly, play too much golf, or once tried to get through Atlas Shrugged.  Ayn Rand's heavier-than-a-toddler dystopian novel, in which much of the general public turns against mounting government regulations, remains a controversial slog today. (Doesn't it, Congressman Ryan?) 

    But why not match this big boy with a similarly shifty ingredient: absinthe.   Legendary for its rumored hallucinogenic effects, absinthe was banned in the USA in 1962 but recently re-emerged as a kind of lovingly lethal lighter fluid.  Enjoy this debatable beverage tucked into your bunker (okay, maybe only Indiana has bunkers) with that aching back - and hulking book... hiding from the rest of society.
    • 1 oz. absinthe
    • 1 sugar cube
    Pour the absinthe into a rocks glass, lay a butter knife across the rim, and balance the sugar cube on top.  Slowly run 3-4 oz. of ice cold water over the cube and into the glass, allowing the mixture to cloud.  Remove the knifer, retreat to the basement and sip to your conspiracy theorist's content. Which today's Final Thought will only reinforce.

    Schadenfreude Time
      Kentucky (basketball).   Cheer up, coach Cal - sure you lost the big game and most of your freshmen cough students cough will bail on you but you've got another five mercenaries student athletes teed up for next year.  Hey, you don't make the rules, right?

      Where's your Urban now, Bradley?!
      Cretin Of The Month Club

      1.  Bradley Roby.  Highly regarded Ohio State DB; allegedly pinched
      for DUI two weeks before the draft.  Bye bye 1st round.  So long a lot of guaranteed money.
      "I shall call you The Clippers..."

      2. Donald Sterling. Donald Donald Donald... does the phrase 'race is our country's 3rd rail' mean nothing to you? 

      King Harvest Has Surely Come
      Northwestern, class of '68
      I work for the union 'cause she's so good to me;
      And I'm bound to come out on top,
      That's where she said I should be
      I will hear every word the boss may say,
      For he's the one who hands me down my pay
      Looks like this time I'm gonna get to stay,
      I'm a union man, now, all the way...

      Your thoughts, coach Fitz?
      Hey, how about those kookie 
      Northwestern football players and their unionizing crazy talk?  A phenomenally funny website, Everyday Should Be Saturday (interestingly authored by SEC fans (proving like Mars, one should never dismiss the possibility - however improbably - of intelligent life elsewhere in the cosmos), recently theorized what the Big 10 coaches response would be to such an occurrence...

      "Coach ____________, what's your reaction to Northwestern football players winning their NLRB fight to unionize?"
      • Ferentz, Iowa:  "Will this in any way affect my contract?  No?  I'm okay with it."  
      • Beckman, Illinois:  "First, what's 'winning'?"
      • Hazell, Purdue:  "I think it's great.  Drew Brees is already in the player's union so that means he can come back and play for me, right?"
      • Meyer, Ohio State:  "Will this influence my plans to destroy the entire Midwest with my play calling, setting veritable fire to every state from the Ohio to the Mississippi and ruining the lives of millions of people who just want peace and security and happiness and garlic bread and maybe a Big Ten title?"
      • Hoke, Michigan:
           "Well I think it shows a real need for more toughness and physicality, really getting to the ball and making plays.  Also, do you know if there will be pizza at this event?  I mean its been a few hours since lunch and Mrs. Hoke says that I can't have pizza if it's not Thursday - that's our pizza night - but I heard a rumor that there might be pizza..."
      • Dantonio, MSU:  Stares.  Keeps staring. Stares a hole into your skull.  You are now dead.

      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:

      28      Rice

      6       Michigan  -- LINIPALOOZA!   This year a petting zoo on the terrace!  With llama's!

      4      Stanford
      11    North Carolina

      15    Northwestern
      22    Louisville

      Final Thought #1
      "Your job as Bag Man isn't to hide the benefit.  It's to hide the proof."

      When I begin to experience Senior Bar flashbacks, almost inevitably I do two things:  1.  reach for demon whisky (now including Red Breast in the portfolio) and 2. despair about how nearly impossible it is anymore for ANYONE to get caught cheating in college athletics.  Read THIS ARTICLE and watch these emotions collide in your head:
      Yeah, right.
      • Holy moly!
      • I knew it I knew it I KNEW IT!
      • We have no chance of consistently competing.
      • I always thought the Girl Scouts had the most sophisticated selling organization on the planet. Not any more.
      I can't recall when I've been more fascinated and depressed at the same time. 

      Final Thought #2
      Reunion - see most of you there.  Oughta be fun. 

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