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Saturday, November 9, 2019

Week 7/8: From A Whisper To A Scream

Pretty words don't mean much anymore.

All I see are snapshots, bigshots, tender spots...
You don't know what you've got.

If we're talking about ND football, we sure don't. 

Dateline:  Sparta, New Jersey, circa 1965.  Young Jerrence finds himself on the playground of The Rev. George A. Brown Memorial School For The Irretrievably Disturbed.  He is in the 3rd Grade.  It is winter.  The nuns have forced them outside for "recess" because they can. And while the climes be brutally frigid, it is a directive happily obeyed by the young students.  No one wants to be around a work force clearly schooled by the Nazis anymore than they have to be.

On an otherwise nondescript day, Jerrence's pal David Kemether has his sights set on Jack Giller for a bit of 'good sport.'  Having not yet become acquainted with the concept of sociopathy, Jerrence enjoyed David's company even when it veered toward the unnecessarily cruel.  

And this was one of those days.
Ya f***ed up, you trusted him...

"Hey Jack, bet you can't touch the basketball pole with your tongue...

Why would I want to?

...'cause it'd be cool."

Even Jerrence, never to be confused as the sharpest tool in the metaphorical shed, knew this was deeply flawed proposition.  But a crowd had gathered, the gauntlet thrown down and for a kid possibly desperate to raise his status in the 3rd grade social hierarchy, the risk/return equation was irresistible. 

The incident ended just as one might suppose, badly for Jack with an inevitable trip to the nurse's office.  But this was, ultimately, less about loss of skin (though that was not insignificant) and more about loss of trust.  It's fair to say that Jack wouldn't... couldn't believe David ever again.  

After Ann Arbor, and even last week, I'm feeling pretty much the same way about ND football.  Just when I think we've changed / turned a corner / 'returned to glory', they're gonna persuade me to lick that basketball pole - it'll be cool.

When are we ever gonna learn?

Word of the Week

Used in a sentence paragraph

Over the last two weeks, young Jerrence became increasingly aware of his sibylline musings to be nothing more than the incoherent, random utterings of a card carrying cretin. 

He definitely never saw the 'Agony in Ann Arbor' coming. And last week's sporadic display of competence against Va. Tech, feathered between longer periods of abject mediocrity only reinforced a powerful revelation that Notre Dame football had now joined an impressively long list of topics he knew almost next to nothing about.

Not that it would keep him from talking.  That was a non-starter.

Quote of The Day

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it..."

Warren Buffett

Perhaps more like 60 minutes to ruin it, if you're the ND football program.

Game Observations

"So I whisper and I scream..
But don't get me wrong
Please don't leave me waiting too long..."

The day started looking so  promising. The sun was out, the always cool Air Force flyover, six Va. Tech's 3-and-out's in their first seven possessions... 

At the risk of stating the obvious, that game should've been over by halftime. 

And yet...

1.  Is :29 left in the 4th quarter too long to wait, Elvis?  

I'm a reasonably patient man but still.

2.  AND... how often does one personally witness a 99 yard fumble return against your team ever?

A few of us have experienced it three times!

In the last decade.

3.  Book. Much has been hashed (and re-hashed) about his limitations.  Let's not go there.

What this game did surely show:  he ain't no a quitter.  

And let's face it: playing QB at ND is pretty much a thankless task.  (Something I bet even Joe Montana would agree.) The position gets way too much credit and blame - not that any of them who've ever played would have it any other way. Still, nice to see Ian get some vindication.

4. Chicken (Book) or the Egg (Long)?  We weep and wail and gnash our teeth over Book's plateauing as a QB but what about the offensive scheme he's given to run?  It's hard to turn on an Ohio State or Oklahoma game and think, "gee that was a clever play.  Where's ours?" The horrific sequence at the end of the 1st half springs to mind as an example: three straight runs into the middle of the defense - something that hadn't worked all game long anyway. Very innovative.

5. Officiating?  I like wacky unexpected "did that really happen" stuff as much as the next guy - though I could do without any more run-the-length-of-the-field fumble returns - but I am really tired of the completely random penalty calls (benefitting both sides).  There's so much downfield contact, I don't even know what constitutes pass interference any more.  Worse I don't think the refs do either.

6.  Opposing D-Coordinators.  At the risk of stating the obvious, if you cover Claypool / Kmet (and perhaps shadow Book for his inevitable scramble), it's basically 'game over' for ND's offense.  

How depressing.

7.  Game of Thrones Inches. Two plays come to mind:

      * Owasu's inability to cleaning snag the end-of-2nd Quarter sack/fumble.  He picks that up it's a TD, 21-7 and no momentum / soul crushing fumble ever happens.

      *  Claypool's foot drag on the winning drive. Even in slo-motion, he got at best his big toe down in bounds.  Fantastic play.  But if he hadn't... 

8.  Kyle Hamilton.  A whopping eight games into his college career and he's already got the best ball skills of anyone in ND's secondary.

A boy, do they need that.

Question of the Week

Continuing with the theme of trust (or lack thereof), perhaps many of you - like me - are pondering Kelly's faith in his Offensive Coordinator.  Herewith, from this week's Athletic Mailbag, the question seemingly on everyone's mind (with a fairly surprising final conclusion):

What are the chances that this year is the last year of Chip Long as offensive coordinator here? 
If he moves on, do you think Brian Kelly promotes from within (Tommy Rees or Jeff Quinn) or looks outside the program again?
No. 1 thing I’ll be looking to see is how big the drop off is on the OL due to injuries.
Deke B. — Hernando, Miss.
Honestly, I’m a little shocked how quickly a chunk of the fan base has soured on Chip Long after he was runner-up for the Broyles Award just last year. Yes, the offense is a long way from maximizing the talent on hand, but I think a lot of people (myself included) overrated just how good that talent was in the first place. Notre Dame has a bunch of good players on that side of the ball, but beyond Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet, who really scares you? You’d have a hard time picking out anybody. That said, putting up 21 points on a Virginia Tech defense that gave up 35 points to Miami and Boston College and 45 points to Duke isn’t some grand endorsement. As much as Brian Kelly pushed back on this notion when I asked about it last week, I see Notre Dame’s opponents as having figured out how to play Long’s offense with Ian Book at quarterback. Book does some things well, but he doesn’t do everything well. Teams seem to have figured out how to zone him underneath to create some hesitation. And Notre Dame doesn’t have an optimized run game that forces opponents to overload the box, which it did last year.
OK, but your question isn’t about all that. You’re asking if Notre Dame had a new offensive coordinator next season, would it be Tom Rees, Jeff Quinn or The Field? Rees would be an incredibly popular hire within the roster, which isn’t to say that college football players should get a vote for a decision that comes down to the head coach. But if Notre Dame didn’t elevate Rees to the coordinator post, Kelly would almost have to go outside the program to find his next offensive coordinator. And how many offensive coordinators aren’t already quarterbacks coaches, which would create a log jam with Rees? I was surprised with the Quinn promotion when it was made after Kelly’s string of inspired hires from outside his comfort zone. Two seasons into Quinn reuniting with Kelly, I think you’d have to say that it’s going OK from recruiting to coaching. Is he going to make anyone forget about Harry Hiestand? Of course not. Also, aren’t the Chicago Bears due for a staff reshuffling?
But the real question here is if Long will be back as offensive coordinator. My educated guess is that he will.

Buddy's Buddy

I would love if this section inspired vigorous debate over a handful of worthy Buddy candidates... 

Fun fact:  Buddy was a huge fan of documentaries, one of his favorites being Best of Enemies, about the televised debates between Gore Vidal - William F. Buckley during the 1968 presidential election season.

Oh he loved the intellectual sparring!  And the vitriol!  (Like all of us, Bud had a bit of a dark side.)

But this week, nay the last two weeks - no debate.  There's really been only one guy who's consistently shown up.

Chase Claypool, come on down

Last year, I thought he'd be making an NFL roster on his special teams skills alone.  This year, he's looking like a legit professional WR.  

If he had the Bama / LSU / USC (!) QB, we'd talking 1st round potential.  

Perhaps we still will.

Cocktail of the Week
So.  We've got a mystery going on with our football program:

>  Who are they, really?

>  What have you done with our Offense?

>  Why are you acting this way?

>  Can we ever trust you again?

Sounds like Agatha Christie territory.  Really more like Bryan Gruley territory but I don't recall much coffee drinking going on in his novels.

Perhaps there will be, however, in his latest novel, Purgatory Bay, coming out in time to make a brilliant holiday gift.  

Conveniently available on 

Murder On The Orient Espresso
Murder On The Orient Express (1934)
By Agatha Christie

Especially, it would appear, ND football
Agatha Christie's final public appearance - on the red carpet of the first Orient Express film adaptation in 1974 - occurred 40 years after the book debuted in siz installments of the Sunday Evening Post.  The author was said to have traveled aboard the real train over sixty times, beginning with a solo trip in the 1920's.

Her glamorous, compulsively readable account of a Belgian detective tracking down a murderer aboard a snowed-in train reads like Clue on a choo-choo train - with a last minute detour.  Spoiler alert: The all done-it.)   

Our tipsy, Belgian-inspired espresso will have wide-eyed and solving crimes before you get too far off track. 

* 1 oz. coffee liqueur (my wife would recommend KahlĂșa)
* 4 oz. hot coffee
* 2 shots espresso
* 1 oz. simple syrup
* 1 piece Belgian chocolate, for garnish

Pour all the liquid ingredients into a mug and float the Belgian chocolate on top.  Now go find a seat in the quiet car and enjoy.

Source:  Are You There God? It's Me, Margarita
by Tim Federle
Wager 2019 - Taking the Leap..

                                                                Sheep to the slaughter.
                                                               Oh, this must be love.    
                                                  ..she's got you playing Russian Roulette.

From "11 wins here we come" to a team that's looking more like 9-3 than 10-2...

Were it not for Bramlett, maybe 8-4...
And Kelly teams in November?  

An adventure, to say the least.  

Buckle up - this is gonna be a week-to-week referendum. 

TC’s Keanu Analogy
ND Connection

The Matrix
 Okay, so I didn't entirely get this film's concept - just like I probably won't understand if / how we get to 11+ wins.  

But in our 'ends justify the means' world, who cares?  We won't.  The film's financial backers certainly didn't... 

Brian M
John P
Pat B

Spit the       Elder
Jim S
Daryl M
Dave M
Peter B
Paul B


 If one viewed this film in greater esteem, I wouldn't disagree.  I mean, Keanu + Sandy Bullock + Dennis Hopper + Jeff Daniels?  Hello...

The point is, like this film, 10 wins would be considered very satisfying to if not all, a lot of folks,  including me.

Dave G.
Bryan G
Tim C
Kevin C
Joe S
Bob J
Spit the  Younger
Jim B
Ward H
Jerry W
Tom F
Tim S
Mike G
Brian W
Dennis R
Ryan C


John Wick
 All you need to know is they killed his dog. Even for the professional hit man, that's harsh. 

All bets are off after that. 

Like this movie, a 9 win season will leave you conflicted - it could've been so much better.

But damn there's some fun bits mixed in.

Bill B.
Jim T.
Jerry P
Mike C.
Joel G.
Kevin M
Alex S
Gary H


Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Will you be happy with a 'regression to the mean' type season?

Of course not.

Just like I had such high hopes for this film - utterly ridiculous in every way possible, where one walks out thinking "WTF was that?" -- similar to a 7-8 win season.

John L
Ray V



Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
No one would ever call this great cinema but it was a bit of launching point for Keanu - and that's what one would hope 5 wins would be for ND... something to build on.


4 or less
The Replacements
Not, in fact, a bio-pic of the influential Minneapolis band (which, Keanu as Paul Westerberg would be BRILLIANT) - but rather a really bad football flick, even Keanu couldn't save this disaster.  

Honestly, there's no defense for this movie - just like a 4 win season.

Schedule - 2019

2      @ Louisville                W                    
14     New Mexico                W          
21    @ Georgia                     L                 
28    Virginia                        W                            

5      Bowling Green            W                           
12    USC                               W                                          
19     OPEN                                   
26   @ Michigan                  L                             

2      Va. Tech                       W                                  
9      @ Duke                                      
16     Navy
23    Boston College                                          
30    @ Stanford                          

Schadenfreude of The Week

What, exactly, is the proper relationship - the proper balance - between one's schaden and one's freude?

Dunno.  Like an uncomfortable pas de deux, the concepts co-exist, grounded in tension.  But I'd bet that an enterprising engineer could come up with an algorithm for just such an optimal balance - suggesting, in fact, a near Utopian state where when the right teams won (and lost), ultimate bliss would be achieved.
Men like... Jerrence?

At this point in the season, however, I am not particularly interested in finding that sweet spot.  

That ship has sailed.  

Rather, maximum carnage is what I'm cruising the menu for.  Let's see what the past couple weeks have on offer: 

1.  FSU..  They lost, falling to 4-5, these days not a big deal.  But allow guest writer Kirk Herbstreit to express his feelings on my behalf:

"I am done with Florida State.  I don't want to talk about them anymore.  I hate the way they represent themselves.  Their current roster needs to go back and watch the Bobby Bowden Era.  Because it wasn't about talking trash and fighting.  That's' all they do.  They're the most undisciplined team you're gonna watch.  And they're a terrible team.  they need to focus more on execution and less on chirping.  All they do is chirp..."

Tell us how you really feel, Kirk.  And while I remember the Bowden Era a little differently (and yes, back then, Miami was the mouthy school), he's got the correct sentiment. 

2.  USC.  Pasted on national TV, charitably putting Clay Helton out of his misery, while at the same time news leaks (sort of) that the new AD will not be allowed to hire Urban Meyer*?  Win - win!

*I'll believe it when I see it, Bob. 

3.  Penn State.  In arguably what could be called the "USC Coaching Job" Bowl, flavor of the month James Franklin loses to Mr. Minnesota Row The Boat.  (The latter which, to be fair, shouldn't be mocked given the best ND football coach in the last 40 years was a "wheels on the bus go round 'n round" aficionado.

Terry's Trolls

Having two weeks to harvest trolls is almost unfair - one could practically OD on the choices.

So many douches, so little time.

We'll try to keep this reasonably focused on football.

1.  Urban Meyer.   Let me just say this:  you're pathetic.  Surely you thought you had the USC job in the bag (and I still have $20 saying you do).  But that apparently isn't good enough so you send feelers to ND (so I've heard from a credible source) that if offered, you'd accept.  Then of course there was your very public Dallas Cowboy musing (you and Jurry, a match made in heaven) even though THEY HAVE A COACH.  

Of course this was all before this week's Chase Young story which - shocker! - occurred on your watch! 

2.  Tom Brady.  Before Albert calls me to tell of his great disappointment in me, know this:  I like Tom Brady, Michigan background and all.  In fact, true story:  he appeared in a dream of mine last week and we were NOT in a sauna.   We were just bro's, hanging out, talking about our super-model wives. Weird but not entirely surprising.

But I digress.  Maybe you heard that he recently did a cameo in a Paul Rudd Netflix series, "Living With Yourself."  Nothing wrong with that.  Except said appearance involves visiting a strip mall massage parlor which, in light of your team's owner's incident last winter, seems a tad... insensitive.   Personally I love it - we're still buds, Tom, right?

3.  Michael YoungNot coming back.  As determined by his fellow teammates.   That pretty much says all you need to know about what others think of your character.

4. Henry Thomas.  "ET, phone home!"  

Especially since it's the proverbial 'your one call from jail after being arrested for DUI. 

Final Thought

Coming soon to the Stayer Lot Tailgate...   whose leadership is all about knowing their audience and embracing ahead-of-the-curve approaches to enhance the tailgating user experience

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