Last Saturday, as the clock began its inexorable march towards game time. A strange feeling came over the Stayer Lot tailgating participants—those that had not already decamped to Florida. No one could capture the mood with a single word. It was a strange feeling of euphoria and ennui. After all the tables, flags, ice chests (still needed despite the late November chill) and alcohol (what little was left) the peculiar feelings intensified.
At the conclusion, the bro hugs were more intense than usual and lingered longer. Everyone agreed that this had been an outstanding tailgate season.
The Few. The Proud. The Mildly Impaired.
Why then, this odd mix of emotions? Was it the prospect of not having one of Peter Berhen’s Bloody Marys until a Saturday in September of 2022? (My God, that is 294 days away!) But the slight tinge of sadness or loss was overwhelmed by happiness and joy.
Prior to the game, as the senior class was introduced, this blog editor and this writer (try not to picture Hunter Thompson and Oscar Zeta Acosta) tried to determine the source of their feelings. Although the discussion was fueled by an adult beverage or two, they came to one immediate conclusion: any feeling of sadness was overwhelmed by a sense of elation and happiness.
The sadness was really a feeling of regret that the 2021 tailgating had reached its conclusion. But what caused the near unanimous (Jerry Castellini being the notable exception - which may have explained his absence) opinion?
Was the 2021 team better than 2020? Definitely not.
Was it the optimism that the future for Notre Dame football is extremely bright? Definitely, especially when you consider the number of truly talented freshman and sophomores who played meaningful roles in crucial moments.
When combined with the returning junior talent , potential 5th year seniors and incoming freshman class, even Albert has to think the future requires wearing shades.
The conclusion arrived upon involved a number of factors. The 2021 Notre Dame football team was a joy to watch. Sure there were moments during games where you felt your head might explode. But this team showcased the best Notre Dame has to offer the world.
You want leadership? Each of the seven captains is not only deserving of the honor but exhibits the necessary “traits” in every instance.
You want the game to still be about student athletes? Listen to any of our football players being interviewed. From the fifth year seniors to the freshman, they exhibit a maturity, poise and eloquence which is a credit to their upbringing and makes us proud that they represent our alma mater. Graduating Champions is a mantra and a fact that no other FBS school can claim.
You want growth, grit, determination to never quit? Look at how this team has developed and grown throughout the season.
You want an antidote to the constant, “Hey look at me” antics of many college football players?
You want to see a real team, a real brotherhood? See Notre Dame football 2021. Look at the reaction when Chase Ketterer (a walk-on, who played the scout team option QB all season to help the team prepare for Navy) made a solo tackle on kickoff coverage against Navy. (He'd been inserted onto the special teams unit for that one play as a reward for his hard work.) The sense of jubilation was not something that could have been feigned.
That same attitude was expressed by the QB trio when any one of them made a great play.
Or when one of the many walk-ons was able to play last Saturday.
Was it a deep sense of appreciation that we were able to tailgate and watch the team in person as opposed to 2020? Definitely. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. While the 2020 football team was much better that this year’s , there was a certain sense of detachment watching the games. It isn’t just about the football team. It is about Notre Dame.
The football team is the tie that originally bound us together. During our conversation, we wondered how many of our friends and fellow alums would have attended ND without the football team. The football team is still the tie that binds us together.
As Father Ted said in the video below, “Let agree that we shall never forget one another and whatever happens, remember how good it felt when we were all here together united by a good and decent feeling which made us better people - better probably than we would otherwise have been.”
The Class of 79 is beginning to turn 65. We are almost 3x older than when we graduated. The friendships we formed, beginning 46 years ago, are still relevant and even more meaningful than our student days. They have withstood the test of time. As the sage George Behrens said at one of the first Dillon Hall Tools Reunions, “It is nice to know that the values and experiences that originally forged our bonds of friendship have withstood the test of time—and relative sobriety.”
As we age, we appreciate more and more what is important to us. We discard the peripheral, unimportant items , and cherish all the more, that which we hold dear. Not being able to tailgate and visit in person with some of our longest friends made this season all the more special. That experience, combined with the success and character of the football team us allowed us to savor the blessings of having attended Notre Dame and having made friendships that have stood the test of time.
Mr. Rasmus is a frequent, typically uncredited, contributor to Musings From 'A' Lot, who currently resides - depending on who is asking - in either Houston, TX or Winnetka, IL.
Quote of the Week
"Thank you, sir, may I have another..."
"I think Georgia Tech is really gonna drop in the polls..."
4th Quarter, 11/20/21
You're right, George, that 104th place ranking is looking extremely shaky.
It's observations like that which remind one how easy it is to forget the breathtaking mental acuity of the typical Dillon Hall Class of '79 alumnus is.
Not that there is anything typical about George. Actually, there's nothing typical about any of that dorm's survivors - George is just ahead of the curve.
Word of the Week
Used in a sentence paragraph: As Young Jerrence made his walk away from the stadium, the November gloaming fully setting in, he began to take account of the entire smorgasbord of emotions which the day had provoked:
- There'd been melancholy. This was the final Stayer Lot tailgater - and whether it was influenced by the gap felt from last year's hiatus, this year's offerings had been outstanding. As Mr. Flaherty had observed, 2021 was an example of 'quality over quantity.' How right he was.
- There'd been warmth. Even on November 20th. But that probably had a lot to do with the Sullivan Irish coffees and their 'Fragile Baby' (hot coffee, Frangelico and Baileys) concoctions. Yum.
Note to self: request those drinks get added to next year's tailgate menu, well before it gets cold.
- There'd been surprise. When a fellow tailgater, friend of the hosts, starts showing you her texts from both a former Chairman of The Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the US Special Ops Command, about your son-in-law, it gets your attention.
- There'd been humor. Always, when in the company
of Behrens - Flaherty - Sullivan - Rasmus - Feifar. Try to keep up, Jerrence.
. And finally, there'd been... well, not quite ecstacy. More like a rapturous wave of satisfaction watching a football team approach its full potential and, for many of them, doing it for their last time in Notre Dame Stadium and in front of their families.
Pretty freaking awesome.
Game 11 Thoughts
And I know you won't let me down...
Hard to improve or build upon Mr. Rasmus's comments about the day. But a few game-related thoughts do spring to mind:
1) " The Class of 79 is beginning to turn 65..." Thank you, Bob, for that reminder. So next year, every game will be Senior Day for us.
Better late than never...
2) Where were the parents? As best I can tell, there were genuinely pragmatic, if not overwhelmingly compelling, reasons for dispensing with the seniors 'run out and get a hug from mom and dad' pre-game ritual.
Truly my favorite part of the day.
Principally, time, or lack thereof seemed to be the issue: this year had a ton of graduates-to-be (probably made more confusing with everyone getting an extra COVID year of eligibility) and to have them all participate would've added almost another hour on the program. Which, I'm sure, both NBC and the coaching staff (creatures of very specific habits) took a dim view towards.
3) Leadership - a new twist. I found it interesting that this year, Kelly should call out the freshmen for basically being good listeners, taking direction well - essentially allowing themselves to be led. So this year's newbies - not just talented but grounded too. That bodes well for the future.
4) Adjustments - in game and in season. Over the years, a common critique about the ND coaching staff has had to do with the adjustments - or lack thereof - during the games. Very little, until this year, has been made of the adjustments made during the course of the year. Players stepping up, finding success at new positions. It's inarguable that the team is demonstrably different - better - now vs. Toledo.
For all the grief the coaching staff seems to get from the fanbase, it's impossible (or at least hypocritical) to not give them their due for their role in the on-field success.
5) Foskey. Random thought:
Could his potential return next year be the 2022 equivalent to the 'what might've been if Justin Tuck had come back for 2005 season' hypothesis?
The kid is a beast.
6) All gas, no breaks. I don't re-watch the games so much any more. This week I did, no doubt to savor that unfamiliar feeling of utter relaxation.
But what struck me - perhaps related to pt. 5, is that Freeman's defense never seemed to stop attacking.
Not even when up big. Hmmm.
7) Audric Estime. Whose name I believe, when translated literally, is French for "scary bowling ball."
Next year's RB room, with another apparent 4-star recruit joining the group, is going to look very promising.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa’s final appearance in Notre Dame Stadium had a fairytale ending with his 70-yard scoop-and-score against Georgia Tech.
MTA is one of the most beloved players on the 2021 team. His caring nature toward others has repeatedly shined through during his 5 years with the Irish. He’s battled through a move to DT when he arrived too heavy for DE as a freshman, a season-ending injury, waiting his turn to emerge as a starter, and the sudden death of his father, Tuli, at just 53-years old on August 8th.
MTA’s fumble return for a TD was impressive on a couple of levels. He’s 6'2½", 268 pounds. He was coming off the flu, which kept him out of the UVA game. He still hadn’t regained his voice on Tuesday of Ga. Tech week when he had to cancel his scheduled gathering with the media. And, oh, he had a few athletes on the Georgia Tech defense chasing him.
Out of my way, little man...
But with the assistance of DT Jayson Ademilola (who may or may not have blocked in the back) and Isaiah Foskey, who caused the fumble and then led the charge with MTA downfield... the Ewa Beach, Hawaii product would not be denied two seasons after falling short of a scoop-and-score opportunity in Notre Dame Stadium against Virginia.
In Kathryn Tappen’s in-the-stands interview with MTA’s mother, Sai Amosa, she said something about completing the journey (to the end zone) after coming up short against the Cavaliers. It sounded as if she was saying that the last time Tuli had been to Notre Dame Stadium was that Virginia game in ’19.
And then his mother said what everyone around the Notre Dame football program knows about her son. When asked how Myron would be remembered, she said: “His love for his school, his peers, coaches, teammates and especially his professors.”
The essence of MTA… karma isn't always a bitch, sometimes it's really sweet, poetic justice.
Don't stop me now..
'Cause I'm having a good time... ...
RE-PETE (A shameless, illegal lift of Pete Sampson's weekly mail-bag)
No Mailbag this week - not on my deadline anyway - but I was taken by one of Mr. Sampson's post-game observations, reflecting on the entirety of the year...
And as much as I continue to complain about those individuals who seem to find flaws in everything he does, the reality (I think) is that his achievements, especially post-2016, are recognized by the vast majority of the ND fandom.
There are precious few coaches that one would deem better for - or a better fit with - Notre Dame. And this year may ultimately be the one that finally drives it home. Not that he probably cares.
When we talk about the “this is his best coaching job” conversation for a coach who’s been doing this for five or 10 or 15 years, this is the kind of season we’re talking about for Brian Kelly. The new defensive coordinator goes without his best player for half the season and without his most athletic linebacker for the entire year. The offensive coordinator has to win with a grad transfer quarterback while also breaking in a freshman at the position, all in spite of a disastrous start on the offensive line. And somehow that team is on the verge of an 11-1 season that maybe ends in the College Football Playoff.
This was never a rebuilding year for Notre Dame, but it was never a reloading year either. It was somewhere in between. Call it a recalibration. But with how this roster has been waylaid by injury, this fall began to have more and more indicators of a true rebuild. Instead, the end result has been much more reload.
That’s what good coaching looks like. Because Notre Dame is more than the sum of its parts.
BTW, did you hear the College GameDay segment on the USC head coaching job and how Brian Kelly could/should be a candidate? There’s nothing really to hear, with a coach who said this job will be his last one and has backed it up by building a home a block from Notre Dame’s campus, where his daughter attends school. On top of that, he’s the all-time winningest head coach at a program where being the all-time winningest anything is virtually impossible.
Think about how long it took Kelly to build Notre Dame into serial winners with the right culture and the right facilities and the right roster. While restarting the clock is a smart move for most coaches, it would feel like a chore to Kelly after finishing that same tedious work here. Is USC an easier place to win a national championship than Notre Dame? Do the Trojans get to not play Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia in the College Football Playoff? OK, then.
Source: The Athletic
November 22, 2021
Cocktail of the Week
How many times, do you suppose, one gets the opportunity to reference Tim Sullivan and J.D. Salinger in the same, relatively cogent, thought?
"What is the 'empty set, Alex?'"
I'll take Erudite Engineering Majors for $200, please...
With the memory of those coffee-based libations still in my head, I found myself landing on this week's offering:
Frangelico & Zooey
Franny & Zooey (1961)
By J.D. Salinger
A cat named Bloomberg, a dude named Zooey and a girl who smokes in the tub: we spy hipsters! originally appearing in two New Yorker installments as part of a larger series about the Glass family, J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey concerns a college coed who is so at wits end with campus poseurs and politics, she faints while at a restaurant with her boyfriend.
He flees - hell, there's a football game so he's totally justified - and Franny's left chanting a prayer, all by her kooky lonesome.
With a religious wink to Frangelico, the nutty liqueur in the monk-shaped bottle, find your center by icing down those troubles over some decaf.
2 oz. decaf espresso, chilled
1 oz. hazelnut liqueur (e.g., Frangelico)
2 oz. light cream
Put on a cardigan, a jazz album and a frown. Then pour the espresso and liqueur over ice in a rocks glass, adding the cream on top. Not smiling yet? For the love of Brooklyn, be thankful you've got this much time - and this little responsibility - to feel so full of angst. It won't last forever.
Source: Tequila Mockingbird
Cocktails with a Literary Twist
by Tim Federle
5 @Florida St. W
11 Toledo W
18 Purdue W
24 Linipalooza X- W
25 @Wisconsin W
2 Cincinnati L
9 @Va. TechW
30 UNC W
20 Ga. Tech W
In the words of Sartre, "Au revoir, Team 9 Wins."
As Team 11 continues its inextricable march - like Sherman to Atlanta - toward, well, near victory, we must cross another band of wagerers off the list.
Having just finished watching 'Squid Game' be thankful, Team 9, we're not playing the Korean version of 'The Stayer Lot ND Wager' game.
When I reach those hills, boys, I'll never roam
'Cause one more dollar and I'm going home...
Miracle On Ice
To be clear, ND running the table wouldn't come remotely close to approximating the USA ice hockey victory over Russia in '80.
Nothing in my lifetime will beat this. Nor will anything exceed the guilt I still have for ruining this for Castellini.
Still ND going 12-0 seems similarly tough to envision with the little we know right now.
One final vault. Hit it, basically perfectly, and your country wins the gold medal.
No pressure. Oh and you just tore two ligaments in your ankle on your prior attempt - you can barely walk.
But apparently, you still have one more sprint in you. Boom! Done.
ND winning 11 games is not really analogous to this but right now, it's looking just as iffy.
Super Bowl III
In hindsight this probably wasn't nearly the shocker it was at the time - but it sure made the NFL sit up and take notice.
At this point in the Kelly regime, ND winning 10 games is no longer unexpected.
And yet, they have a similar imperative (as the AFL did) to do this in order
to get the football world to really buy in that ND is elite again.
Jerrence Sloane B. Raz Phillip S. Jerry P. Kevin M. Jim T. Tim S. The Dim One Ungie Lini Bob S. Blair R. Alex S. Ted C. Tom F. Randy R. Mike G.
NC St over Phi Slamma Jamma
The 'improbable' relevance to ND success gets shakier as the win total gets lower...
A great game but unless you had money on it (I didn't), it was a fleeting feel good.
Relevance to 9 wins? None. But on this continuum this is where this sits.
Villanova over Georgetown
In terms of improbability, you could probably flip this game w NC State's victory - they were both pretty awesome in a vicarious way.
These rankings all being relative vs. the others, it's feeling 8'ish even if it probably deserves better.
ND over Miami, 1988
Was this improbable at the time? Depends on who you ask - and if they're honest.
Miami owned ND in the '80s.
And yet, Holtz & Co. made everyone believe.
Impressive, definitely. But on a scale of 1-10 as unlikely, maybe a 7.
ND over Clemson, 2020
This victory - as necessary as it was for the program - gets somewhat devalued in terms of improbability:
1) ND was genuinely really good last year.
And playing at home.
2) Candidly, no Trevor Lawrence.
ND over Florida St., 1993
After the '88 Miami win, with Holtz still in charge... while never a 'lock', beating FSU was certainly no great surprise.
And ultimately tempered by spitting the bit the next week against BC.
If anyone wishes to play down here...
...be my guest.
Schadenfreude of the Week
There is that joke (not a joke) one is reminded of periodically:
"How do you make God laugh? Tell Him your plans."
And yet, last week - from a selfish Notre Dame perspective - went pretty much according to the script.
Now if we can just get the Thanksgiving weekend games / conference championships to fall correctly - assuming one wishes for an ND BCS Playoff berth. (I'm still fairly ambivalent on that question.)
Category 1) I've never liked you. I will never like you. Like Defcon 1, it's 'go time' and with every loss an angel earns its wings so I feel super justified in reveling in your failure.
Category 2) Defcon 2 - there are other issues I'm having trouble dealing with, my therapist isn't taking my calls and that nuclear football is sitting right in front me. Sorry all, I just want to see the world burn.
Category 3) It's not personal, just business. Defcon 3 - there's not a white hot intensity of emotion tied to this. I'm just being very pragmatic. I need you to go away.
1) Michigan State. Timing is everything, Mel Tucker.
2) Oregon. The perfect end to an otherwise perfect day.
3) USC. You didn't think we'd forget you, did you?
And I'm sorry, having discovered these, I now can't get enough of the SEC Shorts...
Such was the bliss and spirit of bon homie that I felt after Saturday's game that I toyed with the idea of giving everyone a break this week - I love you all, despite your many and obvious flaws...
Much like a modern day Van Helsing, hunting down trolls of the idiot kind, I shall remain tireless in my pursuit of miscreants and Darwin Award nominees.
1) Notre Dame message boarders.. Such is the state of the ND 'glass have empty' Nation that midway through the 2nd half, up by 45 points, Mr. Rasmus and I spent a few minutes ruminating on what, possibly, the program's basement dwellers would be bitching about this week...
We have a winner. DOMERZ11.
2) Antonio Brown. This is, as yet, unconfirmed, but what's the point of the internet if not to run with completely baseless accusations? At any rate, Mr. Brown's good name is being besmirched by his former chef (!) who claims he falsified his vaccination card.
Imagine that. Somewhere Aaron Rodgers is thinking, 'rookie mistake.'
On the downside, if Vegas were laying odds on the player most likely to go that route, AB would be at the top of the list.
On the plus side, if one is a Buccaneers fan, the NFL is investigating - which means they won't have arrived at anything conclusive until after the Super Bowl.
3) Cary Grove (IL) HS. The headline: "Cary Grove (IL) students chant 'Fire Nagy' during his sons' football game." Even as a lifelong Packers fan, that's really effed up. The Nagy sons' team made the state playoffs, which should be a really big event for any kid that age... and you gotta drag your displeasure of their dad into this?
I weep for humanity these days.
4) The True Believers. For those who gathered on the bridge at Dealey Plaza on the 22nd (and maybe are still there) - apparently waiting for JFK, or his brother, or his son, or any combo platter of the above) return...
I once again must quote Jay Leno, "they're not late, they're not coming."
5) This week's "I want to party with you" candidate. But honestly, what a brave woman - who among us hasn't had this experience but lacked the courage to tell our spouses... that we may or may not have broken our marriage vows - it's a little unclear - after being duped by an alien reptile and his gargoyle toadies?
DVD's?! I see some Xmas presents for the Stayer Lot gang...
Short of the BCS stars completely aligning, as of this week, here is your likely bowl options. Plan your holiday time accordingly:
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