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Monday, November 20, 2017

Week 11: Move On, Nothing To See Here

I know to you, it might sound strange
But I wish it would rain...

Young Jerrence awoke to the steady pounding of the rain on his Scotchlandia homestead, an occasional crackle in the distance, breaking up the monotony of the downpour.

Oh good.  Thunder and lightning.

 An hour later, his wife watched as he threw on his all-weather, holocaust cloak before making his way to the car. "You're really going to do this," she asked, her expression equal parts incredulous and condescending.  The slight smirk was an expression he knew all too well - it screamed, "even after 35 years, your questionable decision-making skills take my breath away..."

Jerrence returned that look with one of his own, a steely-eyed-with-furrowed-brow glance that suggested a "woman, I don't expect you to understand, this is something I gotta do" attitude - as if he was going off to war.

In point of fact, all he was doing was driving an hour to campus, to hang out in the pouring rain with his classmates at the final 2017 Stayer tailgater before the ND - Navy game.

Who's hungry?  Thirsty?
And besides, this has nothing to do with questionable decision making.  You wanna see poor decisions, how about:  

* Trying to climb the ND administration building at 4am, post-dorm party, two weeks into his freshman year and getting caught by campus police.  Goodbye, Notre Dame degree, that didn't take long.

*  Jerrence's driving back to ND's campus from the Stevensville A-Frames after 101 Club evening in '78, hammered, at the end of  junior year.  And requiring a similarly inebriated Lini talk our way out of a DUI.  (Those were different times back then.)

When in Rome Shanghai...
Editor's note #1:  What's that expression about nothing good ever happening after midnight?  They may be on to something.

*  Drinking snake blood in that 'all-things-serpent' Shanghai restaurant, circa '99.  And having it dawn on him only later that there surely was no blood purification equipment on-site.  

Editor's note #2:  the other option was snake bile.  And yes, I suppose there was option #3 - DON'T DRINK EITHER.  But this isn't really a Ted Talk on solid decision-making, now is it?

Editor's note #3:  the snake skin salad, BTW, was delicious.

At any rate, the point is... Saturday's choice to attend the rainy day tailgate wasn't 'questionable,' merely... quixotic.    And while the team's play would later reveal far more head scratching decisions by the team, it also wasn't the disaster many might like to paint it.  

Look at it this way - ND won a one possession game against a team that always plays them tough.  Best not to over-think it.  Stanford, here we come. 

Word of the Week

Used in a sentence:  Young Jerrence approached the last tailgate of the Notre Dame season as if it were the final reveal of some great mystery, some great performance art whose denouement would answer the months-long question, is this team any good?   

Later, back in his sylvan Scotchlandia homestead, in his Aaron Rodgers onesie with crackling fireplace  and his faithful manservant, Macallan, by his side, he ruminated over what he'd just experienced.  

While the tailgate was predictably enjoyable, the game was... weird.  That part of the day was indeed like past performance art he'd witnessed, insofar as he found it a largely pointless, if occasionally visceral, waste of a couple hours that left him alternatively uncomfortable and challenged.  

But he considered the positive:  unlike performance art, at least the players never got naked in front of him.

Cocktail of the Week

Like the movie below, this week's game might've made you cry.

Like the weather the game was played in, the event merited something hot to warm your innards if you were going to actually invest in attending the game.

Like the actors that played the leads in the film, you've seen ND's stars perform much, much better.

Sloppy In Seattle
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Directed by Nora Ephron

The rare romantic comedy in which the leads don't even meet until the final scene, Sleepless casts the 90's most dateable duo as its lonely, long-distance lovers.  

Tom Hanks is the recently widowered Washington-state architect whose son wants dad to find love again.  

Meg Ryan is the Maryland reporter who hears the father-son saga on a call-in radio show.

And the Empire State Building is the Affair To Remember-evoking meeting place that finally brings the two together - which, in turn, brought audiences in by the weeping busloads.

You'll be up all night after our Seattle-worthy coffee cocktail that's worth staying awake for.
  • shot of espresso
  • 1 oz. whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. amaro liqueur
  • ground cinnamon, for garnish
Brew the espresso and pour into a small mug.  Add the whiskey and amaro, and sprinkle the cinnamon on top.  Serve warm and get out the Kleenex.

Quote of the Week

"Look at the bright side, even though it's raining, at least it's a cold rain."

Bob Rasmus,
Bon Vivant
Incorrigible Pollyanna 

Against a Navy team that ND never seems to figure out (we could seemingly game plan all year and it still would not help) Bob would later need that all of that sunny, glass-half-full optimism. 

I'm always falling when you come calling
And now there's always a chance of rain...

Observations of the Game
  • The good news:  I did watch the entire game this week.
  • The better news:  I have relatively little incremental to add even if I hadn't.  (Good for you since this'll free up time - you have Thanksgiving prep to get to!)
  • The best news:  ND didn't play as bad as you (and the much of ND Nation) probably think they did.

How to get... 
1.  As a guy who's been a lifelong Packer fan (and benefitted from watching Hall-of-Fame QB's for the past 25 years), here's the ugly reality:  in football as the QB position goes, so goes the team.  It's not especially fair but so what, Sparky, Life's not fair.  

So until ND's defense becomes the Second Coming of the Steel Curtain (not this year), they won't win 10 - much less 11 - games unless Wimbush plays consistently a lot better.

2.  So bitch all you want about Long calling passing plays on the first series but they've almost always been simple throws, ones that should've allowed Wimbush to get in a rhythm and loosen up a defense that's clearly going to overplay the run.  And Brandon simply hasn't executed.
...your WR paralyzed.

That said, I still just don't understand why we struggle against that team.  Why we don't get tired, year after year, and come out with fire in the eyes and a "we're the merciless gods of your universe" attitude.  Is it that we play them late in the year and everyone's mentally worn down?

4.  And once again, how good is our offensive line, really?  Of all the teams they've played this year, shouldn't this have been the one team they could impose their will upon? 

5.  Amazing that once Navy gets to midfield, it's automatically 4 down territory.  I heard an opinion (granted, it was from the approaching-Corso-level-senility Don Criqui) that defenses are so geared to being 3-down stopping-focused that they relax after that. 

I can't believe I just quoted that hypothesis.

Think it's gonna rain?

6.  Regarding Navy's head coach, whom heretofore I've mentally categorized as "David Shaw Lite" - perpetually grumpy and begrudging with any post-game recognition of ND - I'm lightening up:

* he always has his team prepared.  And how do you not appreciate his 'go for it' (see pt. 5) game plan?

* he was extremely respectful yesterday, with a very cool anecdote about him approaching both Kelly and Greer Martini afterwards, essentially asking 'when is he (Martini) graduating' because he always plays the option so well.  
7.   The Kelly Haters have to be in agony.  And by the looks of the message boards, there's a lot of them in pain right now.

8.  The end-of-Navy game protocol, where each team respectfully observes the other's song, still is very, very cool.  

I still hate playing that team.

9.  Can we please return to normal, familiar uniforms?  And not just at du Lac. Every week you turn on the TV and you can't even tell whose playing.  

One man's opinion:  yesterday's uni's were... not an especially good look.

"But the kids like them, Jerrence."

The few, the proud, the damp.
10.  And one final shout out to the Stayer (it'll always be 'A' Lot to me) gang for committing to one last tailgate for the year.  

As Messr. Flaherty so astutely pointed out, we've got more of these events in our rearview mirror than in front of us - so enjoy 'em while they last.  

And having the Navy SEAL's there was a nice addition.  Neat guys.

So... until next year.

Or when we collectively get our acts (and schedules) together to do something like this for a 2017-18 ND hockey weekend.

Such a long, long time to be gone
And a short time to be there...

Buddy's Buddy

One of the consistently baffling dynamics about the ND 'final home game for the seniors' event - taking the incredibly pesky, irritating Navy offense out of the equation for the moment - is how small the Irish comes up for that game.

One would think that, for the handful of guys who run out there pre-game, and greet their parents... while the crowd cheers their appreciation... you'd think they'd be SKY HIGH. That they'd play the Game of Their Lives.  

And yet that rarely seems to be the case.  The game is usually - not always but usually - a very winnable game.  Still, the team plays down to whomever the opponent is.   Oh what the hell, let's blame Kelly for that too.  

But I digress. 

Yesterday seemed to witness the rare exception to that rule:  a player who, perhaps because of the particular offense he was facing, actually did play the game of his career.

Greer Martini, come on down

15 tackles, career high.  And it came at exactly the right time. 

Nicely done.

Have another, I believe I will...
(Couldn't resist the pun.)


2      Temple                      W        
9     Georgia                       L - inipalooza VII
16    @Boston College     W 
23    @Michigan State    W
30    Miami (OH)            W   

7      @UNC                       W
21    USC                            W        
28   NC State                   W            

4      Wake Forest             W             
11     @Miami                    L            
18     Navy                          W         
25    @Stanford

The Wager

And then there were 16... 

The good news:  someone is going to win The Arty this year!  Huzzah!  Which means a select few will get to play the BCS tie-breaker game (the guidelines of which, we'll re-visit after next week's game).

The bad news:  10 of you just went down in flames in a game you probably don't even feel represented a victory.  Bummer for you - as the saying goes, 'they don't ask how, they ask how many'.

Trumpian Rating

Greatest Achievement,
In The History of The World.

Bryan G, Brian M, Joe S
Dave MRaz The Elder

Losers and Nut Jobs,
All Of ‘Em.
Terry, Jay, Lini, JP, John P, Phillip, Ted, Peter B, Daryl
Matt L, Graham C, Mark UShea CDennis RBob JJerry C
Dave G, Kevin C, Jim S, Jerry P, Tim S, Alex SJim B, Brian W,  Spittler the Elder, Blair
Bill B, Jim T, Tim C, Mike CMike G, Jerry W, Kevin M, Tom F,  Ryan CGarrett R
Ray V, Alvin B, John L, Randy Ri, Ward H
Jim R, Randy Ra,

3 or less

Schadenfreude of the Week 
I didn't realize until mid-week that this particular game, in virtually everyone's schedule, is a Back To The Future September / Pay-Off-A-Patsy Week as one preps for presumably bigger games the following week(s):

Delta State, really FSU?

Mercer, honestly 'Bama?

So the sad news is there's really only one candidate this week - but it's a fan favorite:

I once caught a fish this big...
1.  Michigan.   Harbaugh's not looking so much like God's Gift to Coaching anymore, does he?  And for a guy who was, you know, a STAR QB, his recruiting of that position seems awfully pedestrian. 

And the Brits say we Yanks don't appreciate irony... 

2.  Oklahoma State.  Okay, more than just one candidate.  Truth be told, I'm not even sure who's in the Big 12 but I'm pretty sure this 'national power' is.  And they got beat by a team coached by a geriatric who once shared a sleeper car with Frank Leahy on magical cross country rail trip, post-Korean War.  The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name.  

Okay, that last bit may not be true.

Terry's Trolls

"1 - 2 - 3 - 4, cretins want to hop some more!
  4 - 5 - 6 - 7, all good cretins go to heaven.

There's no stopping the cretins from hoppin'..."

One has to wonder what I would've done this year without the consistent contributions of the Louisville basketball program and the Ball family?  I must remember to give thanks on Thursday.

1.  Florida State.  You should be ashamed of yourself, FSU AD. 
If Jim Thompson can't identify the team's nickname (and I'm doubtful he can), it can't be a real college program.

The Jeopardy judges would've also accepted The Statesmen.

2. LaVar Ball.  As many of you are probably aware, I'm not a big fan of POTUS.  Shocker!  

So it takes a lot to call someone else out as being an even emptier vessel.  And an even bigger anomaly to recognize Trump as being on the right side of a situation.

But you, LaVar Ball, have pulled off that feat.  Bravo!   By opining that The Mad King had nothing to do with your idiot son's swift release from Chinese incarceration, you win!  I mean, how do you think it happened - the clout of your Big Baller brand?  Give The Donald his due.

3. Baker Mayfield.   I must also confess to a certain bias against the athletes from the Plain States. I assume most are of a genetic strain barely above Forrest Gump hayseed level, unless, of course, they play for my teams, in which case their lack of IQ (intellectual or emotional) is considered endearing, folksy charm. 

I'm also extremely tired of athletes exhibiting repeatedly classless behavior and then playing the Get Out of Jail card of "oh that's just Manny being Manny" or "he can't help it, he's just an emotional, fiery competitor."  

No, you're just an entitled, psychologically stunted athlete who's rarely held accountable for your actions.

So, Baker...  you're the odds-on-Heisman winner.  You've beaten the truly awful Kansas Jayhawks 41-3 and have to repeatedly taunt them with sophomoric gestures?  

Final Thought

Stanford.  One game which may genuinely provide the ultimate referendum on 2017.  

  • Win and the 2017 Notre Dame turnaround story writes itself.  
  • Lose and you're leaving the door wide open for doubt and another disappointing recruiting close.

So let's not, okay? 

I want this last game badly.  Maybe not as badly as my brother Kevin, who lives in the Bay area, but badly.
But when the lights are turnin' round
The wheels are flowin' on the ground
The day I burned this whole place down...

Burn, baby, burn.

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