Category Archives: Notre Dame

A quick word on Notre Dame

Hate.

That’s about all I got right now. The Cal weekender took it out of me. This is going to be a blessing of a bye week – Rojo and Armstead back, a weekend to enjoy college football with no part of my soul at risk, Tebow returning from the Fortress of Solitude – but in no way should any of us lose our focus: hatred.

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Not to pile on or anything…

That’s Desmond Reed. He’s running past Notre Dame/Green Bay safety Tom Zbikowski, on the same field where he injured his leg in 2005. If this picture looks eerily similar to the (former) banner picture, think nothing of it except this: it holds almost exactly the same kind of emotional significance for me, which is to say a lot. I dunno how long I’ll keep this as the banner. Probably for just a few days/weeks/months/years, depending on my mood.

Thanks for the ticket, by the way. Sweet ass seats!

[Photo courtesy of Joe Andras of WeAreSC.com.]

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QB controversy

This is actually the first mid-season QB controversy I’ve ever been a part of. I didn’t know enough to actually care who started between John Fox and Mike Van Raaphorst in 19-whatever. When Carson Palmer was at USC it was pretty simple: Palmer over Van Raaphorst and Fox, even if #3 threw a bazillion interceptions. Even after the Cal loss Leinart seemed like the guy to stick with (the doubt lasted about 6 days, anyway). Booty’s tipped passes vs. Oregon State and UCLA didn’t really seem like big dents in his resume.

But now? Mark Sanchez looked so good against a woeful Notre Dame team that I just don’t know. He’s exciting. He gets me tingly. I don’t care what that says about me, or you, for that matter.

So this is all pretty new to me. It’s taken about a decade for me to witness a QB controversy. My pick? Sanchez.

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“If you cannot find shelter, lay face down in a ditch and cover your head with your hands…”

I was listening to 88.1, the South Bend/Michiana NPR station, when this warning came blaring through a story about former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s triumphant return being attacked by bombing. It was a tornado warning.

Let me emphasize: it was a TORNADO WARNING. Tornadoes are gigantic wind funnels that hurl cows and cars and Jons miles away from their respective starting points. They are terrific mechanisms to demonstrate our keen lack of understanding when it comes to nature and all the terrible, wonderful, ghastly things it can do to softly fleshed vertebrates. I am a softly fleshed vertebrate.

Yesterday, Thursday, started off beautifully. It was actually hot for a little bit. I meandered around. Checked out some books at Barnes and Noble, did some used book shopping, recovered from the previous night, etc. All the while I kept thinking, “If this isn’t nice, what is?” Then it got a bit windy, which was nice. The clouds – huge cumulus things that looked exactly the way clouds ought to look – started rolling in, and I thought, again, “If this isn’t nice, what is? Georgia O’Keefe would be loving this.”

As I left the bookstores, the tornado warning came through. By then I was already in Zen driving mode, and anything that is said to me in Zen driving mode might as well be a koan: philosophical, not meant to be dwelled upon, a stepping off point for the great nether that is Two and Ten O’Clock S.O.P., or at least Two O’Clock. Even through this state, the fantastic surreality of “If you cannot find shelter, lay face down in a ditch and cover your head with your hands…” managed to break through enough where I could write it down afterwards, when the winds were at 55 m.p.h. and I was wondering what I’d do if my car was flung into the Indiana night. (Answer: my thumb, and a sign.) At this point though, I’m dumb as shit.

When I got out of my car to head to Notre Dame’s library for a little series of tubes tubin’, my door was flung open. “Gee, that’s odd,” I thought. “Not only am I thinking in Jerry Mathers’ voice, but there seems to be a tremendous amount of wind. And the sky has gotten very, very dark. I wonder what I should eat tonight?”

After the library I decided to take a run, like I’d done the previous two nights, to the Grotto and past the Dome and the Basilica. It’s calming stuff, and one of the reasons I didn’t go to USF at Rutgers: time enough to soak in Notre Dame, and really question why it is I hate this place and these people so fervently, and so blindly, and so happily.

Anyway: running. I get back to the car depressed about my physical state of being. It starts raining. “Odd,” I thought. “The weather was gorgeous not two hours ago. And now there seems to be a Satanic mass of roiling blackness the shape and color and consistency and entropic dissonance of a cloud of ink dropped into a bowl of water, all of which is suspended on the lip of a black hole the size of the Crab Nebula, and it seems to be headed towards me, and there’s lightning, and HOLY SHIT TORNADO WARNING.”

This would repeat itself every thirty minutes for the next six hours or so. I’d be eating spaghetti at Rocco’s and then look at customers coming inside soaking wet and think, “HOLY SHIT TORNADO WARNING,”; or I’d be playing a game of cornhole at Corby’s and wonder why we were playing under an awning when all of a sudden, “HOLY SHIT TORNADO WARNING,”; or I’d be drinking a pint of bitter at Fiddler’s Hearth talking about tornado warnings with a local, who said the proximity to the lake would keep a tornado from manifesting near Notre Dame and that it’s not that big of a deal, sorta like an earthquake warning, when, of course: “HOLY SHIT, HE SAID IT WAS LIKE AN EARTHQUAKE WARNING. WE DON’T GET THOSE, BUT IF WE DID I’D BE OUTTA THERE.”

No one seemed overly concerned that every channel had a miniature map of Indiana with St. Joseph county an ugly, glaring red meant to indicate blood, viscera, etc. being catapulted who knows where by a living manifestation of God’s ill will. I mean, shit: TORNADO WARNING. I could hear the wind, I could see the lightning, I could see a gigantic black cloud where there was clear sky, and, in my mind, my car was a minute away from being sucked up one end of an enormous, natural Hoover. They all took it in stride, which is perhaps something in their favor. I, on the other hand, was freaked out like a bat shit crazy Californian stuck in Indiana during a TORNADO WARNING. But it was nice to know it was just another day in South Bend, where the wrath of God is as tangible as anywhere else in the form of tornadoes and 1-6 starts. One guy told me the last warning was in July, and then he starts talking about how he can’t remember the last time Notre Dame was 1-6. 1-6 is apparently much worse than a tornado.

So I spent that night huddled in my car listening to the winds. I parked, on purpose, between two other cars in Notre Dame Stadium’s parking lot. I figured the tornado would have to get the cars on either side of me first, which goes to show you what an idiot Californian thinks when confronted with a TORNADO WARNING. The next morning everything seemed fine until I start hearing about people being delayed in their flights, or even worse. My own family was stuck in Minneapolis overnight.

It was with no surprise that I read this article not an hour ago, then. This is a text Desmond Reed sent me: “yea man it was the craziest flight ive ever been on… we dropped so fast that everyone hit their head on the roof of the plane.”

It all makes sense. “If you canoot find shelter, lay face down in a ditch and cover your head with your hands” is the kind of advice I needed post-Stanford. USC football seems to be flying into an event horizon marked by a total eclipse of the sun and a funnel of wind half a mile high (not to mention things like Autzen, Strawberry Canyon, Tempe, etc.). Everyone else is focused on whether Boston College or Arizona State deserve to be number two, or maybe LSU? Meanwhile the Trojans flew through what could have been an utter and unspeakable disaster to play the Fighting Irish on the 30th anniversary of the 1977 Green Jersey Game. Perhaps these South Benders aren’t as crazy as I thought. Not only is 1-6 apparently much worse than a tornado, a tornado is just a natural harbinger of a game no one else but me, USC fans and Notre Dame fans care much for. So now I’m sitting here thinking, why is everyone talking about Mizzou/Texas Tech or Florida/Kentucky?, because all I’m thinking is “HOLY SHIT USC NOTRE DAME.”

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Filed under Notre Dame, One CFB Road Trip to rule them all, USC

Week two: Oklahoma 51, Miami (Fla.) 13, The U, bat wings, a cathedral

Norman, Oklahoma is, for lack of a better word, awesome. It is a word I do not use lightly. I am aware of the connotations.

Nonetheless I propose this descriptor in the hopes that those who come after me and my trailblazin’ ways do not ignore this part of Native America, as it’s put by the license plates, for fear of isolation or idolatry. Isolation? It weighs in at a respectable 102,827 residents as of July 2006. (Okay, perhaps that doesn’t shore up my argument.) Idolatry? You may have Norman there. I’ll spare you fatted calf analogies. Sooner football is The Alpha and The Omega here, and I specifically did not wear a pretty cool orange western shirt while in town simply out of respect for the local Levites. I’m not even sure if the orange could be categorized as “burnt”.

What was I expecting? I’m not sure. Provincialism, certainly. Cowboy hats. A distinct inferiority complex stemming from a rivalry with a state that is geographically four times larger, population-wise five times larger and, image wise, the size of the entirety of the United States of America – at least according to Europeans.

I found, instead, just another college town focused on the one thing college towns do best: channeling mom and dad’s hard earned cash into state revenue streams that emptied directly into a slush fund made entirely of Red Bull, triple sec and vodka. In this respect, at least, Norman is your average American (college) town.

I do not properly recall all of the roughly 120 hours I spent in Norman. Friday afternoon to Sunday morning is represented by that icon so endemic to Windows: the unknown file.

I can say with all certainty – after much deliberation, observation and concurrence from fellow observers, whose own conclusions matched mine to a degree nearing perfection once the minor aberrations common to such straw polling were eliminated, and indeed, ignored from the very start – that OU has attractive co-eds.

Moving on.

I had a number of interesting run-ins, conversations, moments of observation and points of confluence during my stay in Norman. A number of them occurred in Louie’s Too, a bar located on Campus Corner and the site of much of my haziness. I had to go to Oklahoma City, though, to land the big one.

On Friday, Sept. 30 I drove to a hotel near Oklahoma City’s airport to pick up a game ticket from a Miami fan. This fan was put into contact with me through the help of the indefatigable army of one that is a Georgia based USC fan who will go nameless. From here on in I will use fake names in order to shore up my guiltiness for writing about conversations the participants probably assumed were private. I will also, for no reason, switch to the present tense.

I pull into the hotel and the first person I spot once I get out of my hideously pinging Maxima is Williamson. Williamson is purposefully bald, short, squat, dressed in dark gray jean shorts, baggy white shirt, Euro trash shades and holding a frosted Miami Hurricanes beer glass. He is black and perhaps 35. He eyes me curiously, perhaps sifting, mentally, the odds of an Asian Sooner fan. Toby, the man I am here to meet, makes it clear that Sooner or not I am expected and temporarily welcome.

We exchange greetings, go down to the pool to drink beers and allow the two older men (Toby is in his early fifties, white, with a large bulbous nose the color and texture of an over ripe orange and the stoop and gait of a contented vulture, and I’m sorry to write this because he is a genuinely likable man and a Miami fan who travels with the team to every game) to stop sweating so profusely. It rains intermittently in anticipation of the next day’s weather, a collection of scudding clouds, pouring rain and roasting sunshine that can only be termed “extremely confused”.

Before I am even seated on a pool lounger with a frosty Shiner Bock in my hand (oh, to have the financial wherewithal to offer total strangers drinks! oh, to have the financial wherewithal to offer myself drinks in the plural!) Toby and Williamson are already discussing how the weather – hot, humid, incessant – will favor the ‘Canes. I listen politely, knowing as I do that homerism is no match for the kind of epic ineptitude represented by Miami’s offense of late. I have settled on prognosticating, amongst OU fans, a 14 point win and explaining to anyone from Coral Gables that Miami will lose by 6, but in the inner sanctum of my soul where the monkeys and their typewriters and the chains connecting one to another are located I have settled on a 9-10 point spread favoring the Sooners. The outcome (51-13 in favor of OU) does no one any good, except perhaps the 78,000 crimson clad in Gaylord Memorial.

Toby and Williamson are fascinating, engaging, well versed in team history and personally present for many of the infamous games in The U’s history. The two spend an easy forty minutes talking about both the 1987 Fiesta Bowl – known as the Camo Bowl to some because of the fatigues worn by Jerome Brown, Michael Irvin and the rest of that devastatingly self assured crew who churned out 445 yards to Penn State’s 162 yet still lost 14-10 – and the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, which needs no explanation except that these two consider it a win and refuse to see otherwise. It has been 20 and 4 years, respectively, since those bowl games and yet the ability to talk about the two most painful losses in Miami history is unflagging. I wonder how many times they’ve done it before. There is, suddenly, a stark vision of Williamson crouched, his face painted in the olive drab colors of army issued camouflage, a Bowie knife in his teeth and the endless furnaces of Hell’s rage shining, fluoroscopically, from eyes that focus on a dim window somewhere in the Heartland of America where Terry Porter sits in a recliner, completely unaware of what’s about to happen.

I also imagine that after the deed Williamson, covered in jugular blood, comes up making “The U” sign with his hands and doing a little dance.

This is in no way a reflection on Williamson. He is as likable as a fat kitten that claws everyone, which is to say “Oh my god, that kitten clawed the shit out of her. That’s pretty funny!” It is, instead, a glimpse into the arterial fury Miami fans bear Porter, the judge who threw the pass interference flag in Arizona, and, frankly, what self respecting ‘Cane hasn’t thought about creeping up to Porter’s house at least once in his life? If only to put up “The U” and run away?

It is a measure of these two’s obsession with college football that I jot down notes amounting to the above with no more than a shrug.

Toby and Williamson are also the first true recruitniks I have met on the road. (Williamson reveals his online handle at a Hurricane message board they both frequent, and Toby is delighted. It turns out Toby is a lurker. I am also a lurker there, and it saddens me – and makes me question my level of focus in my chosen field of obsession – that I recognize Williamson’s screen name.) The discussion turns easily to Miami’s latest recruiting class and the wonders new head coach Randy Shannon is working. As they range over who’s going where and what silent commitments are holding true or flaking, I am continuously and increasingly dismayed by the number of familiar names I hear. That I am aware of 17 and 18 year old high school football players in the Miami-Dade area is slightly disturbing, but that I can converse and, yes, argue about their fates with men twice my age is a fact that comes full circle later on in the conversation.

At one point Williamson interjects himself with a good deal of stuttering pomp (he does this a lot). It is vaguely like being silenced by a cheery howitzer that wants to know if you’ve got enough to drink, and, man, you really should try some of this cheesecake. It’s the bomb.

The meaty part:

Williamson: It honestly got to the point where I thought Larry Coker was genuinely retarded. And I got friends with retarded kids, you know? I don’t say that kinda shit lightly. But what he did with The U? The only explanation is mental retardation.

(Okay. The above is not the meaty part. But it’s so good I couldn’t leave it out. The meaty part, which occurs about five minutes later after a rambling discussion of a particular Miami-Dade recruit who will go unnamed:)

Williamson: Now I’m gonna say something and don’t take it outta context. I’m gonna say it and you two’ll think bad of me, but don’t take it out of context. It’s just gotta be said. You gotta understand where I am coming from. [Note: Williamson is originally from Tallahassee and is now living in Corpus Christi, Texas. Yes. A 'Cane fan from Tallahassee.] There are seriously some niggers runnin’ around out there.

(Heavy pause to emphasize the phonological properties of the end of the word “niggers”, specifically consonant choice.)

Williamson [cont'd]: You see some of these kids these days and they act like they already own the place. You see ‘em on TV announcing his commitment on national TV and he thinks he’s the shit, you know? And for all he know, he is the shit! He’s gettin’ out of the projects and going off to play D-I ball. Two years later he ain’t even on the team. He’s kicked off or he can’t make it because he can’t even read and then he’s somewhere else, some shit school where he transferred to and suddenly he ain’t anything but a washed up nigger. And he ain’t even 19 or 20. If his high school hada dropped football he would’ve stopped going to school in the first place, so maybe he’s lucky to’ve made it to 19 or 20 in school.

Toby: I’ll tell you what it is: these kids have been built up from childhood, everyone telling them how good they are. They are putting athletes up on a pedestal.

Williamson: Sure, sure. They’ve got moms and uncles and shit hangin’ all over ‘em from Pop Warner on. They can smell it. It’s the money. People go crazy over it. And these kids come in and they can’t hang anymore. You look at someone like Willie Williams, he thought he was king of the world.

(Miscellaneous hoo-hahing about lobsters, limos and the like. It is utter black comedy, because behind it all you can sense the disappointment represented by Williams, who was expected to be a new Jonathan Vilma or D.J. Williams for Miami.)

Williamson [cont'd]: Now he can’t even start at Louisville. Louisville. [Note: this is after the Cardinals gave up 42 points to visiting Sun-Belt champ Middle Tennessee State.] And the coaches use that shit against us all the time. They use it in recruiting. Urban Meyer.

(This last is said with a contempt that doesn’t so much oscillate as it does crescendo, but crescendo is wrong because it implies a denouement. It is the wail of the banshee in the highest registers of hatred and it knows no end, and though natural human respiratory inertia demanded a terminus to the word “Meyer” the spirit of the thing rattles on and duly upward and, probably, Downward, and I am impressed. Toby snorts at the mention of Florida’s coach, crosses his arms and shakes his head exactly the way a Brahmin would while watching a leper attempt calculus.)

Williamson [cont'd]: They use that shit against us, the [Florida International] brawl, Bryan Pata, they say…

[Uptight white voice:]

“Oh, Miami, you don’t wanna go there. South Florida’ll ruin your career. Stay away from Miami.”

But let me ask you this [note: it's unclear if he's really asking me, or if he's asking a Rhetorical Other, or perhaps the source of the uptight white voice, but it's crystalline that he is serious, so I, too, attempt to look serious and not fidget and, say, scribble furiously in my notepad, which I have explained away by invoking the hallowed precepts of gas mileage and the financial calculations that go with it], okay? Do these niggers become niggers the minute they put on a Miami uniform? When do they become thugs? Do they start committing crimes once they put that helmet on. No. Niggers is niggers.

(At this point it should be noted that Williamson seems like a self made man: studious cell phone in a holder at his hip [the kind of holder, I might add, that screams "Call me anytime, here's my card, I know a good window guy who'll get you a deal, just call me, it's always on, here's my fax, too, so you can send me the itinerary for next week's lunch and say hi to Brandy for me, willya?"], the finances to afford a hot ticket, a nice hotel room and the time to make it all work instead of, say, working. He’s also got that frosted “The U” glass which is infinitely annoying if I were wearing crimson and cream, but I’m not so it’s endearing and maybe even a little bit cool, because hey, now I want one with Traveler on it. He is, all in all, a very likable guy and a huge Miami fan. In another life Williamson would’ve made an excellent preacher, the kind that spat fire in church and delivered swooning women into, if not Heaven, then at least the earthly delights only a self believing minister with a burning hunk of love can bring to a mortal woman. His banter with the Hooter-ish girls at the sports bar we end up going to is priceless. They love him. I love him because he is the center of a floating orbit of cleavage.)

Williamson [cont'd]: But these same coaches always come back to South Florida because Miami-Dade is where the football is at. You can pick up the leftovers once Miami and Florida State and Florida are done and you still gonna have stars. They know it, the kids know it. These kids need to get out. They need to get outta there, and the coaches feel that. They’re just like those uncles and moms and everyone else. Instead of money these coaches smell desperation, and in the end what do they care if a couple a’ niggers don’t make the squad? They get to look tough by kickin’ ‘em off, but the odds say some of these kids are gonna make it long enough to get drafted, and that means wins. You think Urban Meyer cares? You think he can relate? Shit, he’s whiter than a napkin, sorry Toby. That’s no disrespect to you. It’s just the truth. That’s why Randy Shannon is building something special…

Williamson goes on to recite, almost word for word and certainly a few sentences verbatim, an article by Gary Smith in the Sept. 10 issue of Sports Illustrated. After reading the article myself it’s hard not to root for Shannon, and hard to not scoff at Williamson’s claims that “Shannon is building a family. He’s building something special.”

Williamson and Toby are both fans of Miami, which is located in a state as racially diverse as any out there. Is this what allows them to discuss race so openly? Somewhat after the above, Toby says:

Toby: You know what Notre Dame’s problem is? They have trouble recruiting the black athlete.

There isn’t a single moment where any of us – not me, not Williamson and obviously not Toby – show a single sign of outrage or even disagreement. There is much agreement, and glee at the expense of Notre Dame, but no one bats a lash at Toby’s pronouncement. Notre Dame fans might counter with arguments regarding academic standards, which one could counter is in fact racist, and the argument can go on and on and on, but it remains that the same comment that got Fisher DeBerry fired after an absolutely stellar career at Air Force (he led the Falcons to 12 wins in 1985 and, at one point, a No. 4 ranking) can be uttered so casually and be taken so casually by three men sitting around a table, drinking beer, discussing football and accounting, between them, three separate racial categories.

I will note, however, that not thirty minutes after the following was said:

Toby: I’ll tell you what it is: these kids have been built up from childhood, everyone telling them how good they are. They are putting athletes up on a pedestal.

… the discussion turned rapidly to five star high school prospects Miami was eying, five star prospects that were no longer prospects in that they had committed to Miami (chest thumping, knowing nods and winks) or else to someone else (teeth gnashing, speculation on lack of skill, size, honesty, moral fortitude, humidity survival training, testes, good parenting, etc.), five stars along Miami’s defense and offense, five stars along Oklahoma’s defense and offense, why the ratios balanced favorably to produce an obvious two touchdown win for the ‘Canes, why those five stars would lead Miami undefeated through the rest of their slate to Nawlins where they would defeat USC, whose classes of five stars were overrated anyway and besides, Forston is coming to Coral Gables. C-A-N-E-S! CANES!

The irony is clearly not lost on me.

It also becomes clear, as Miami fans arrive throughout the week, that Norman is getting less white as game day draws closer.

The game itself is a laugher. Miami’s vaunted defense is occasionally great, more often just good and sometimes appearing mutinous as they glance at the ‘Cane offense sipping water on the sideline, perhaps deciding what floral arrangement worked best with the centerpiece. (Hint, Kirby: don’t go with the Lavender Rose.) Oklahoma has the curious habit of playing visiting team’s fight songs at the beginning of the game. Sam Bradford is efficient and though it seems, especially in warm ups, he doesn’t have the velocity a top D-IA QB should, he nonetheless makes the relatively rocket armed Kyle Wright and especially Kirby Freeman look like JV lambs pulled up for playoff slaughter. The specter of Friday night, where Miami fans consistently out cheered OU in Louie’s Too, particularly with their chants of “Boi-se Sta-ate!” (“Pea-each Bow-owl!” just doesn’t have the same kind of viciousness), is fading quickly. In fact there doesn’t really seem to be animosity at all. The student section is entirely too young to remember the span of time when Oklahoma’s Barry Switzer went 33-0 against the world and 0-3 against Miami, and, frankly, the contrast of the garishness of orange and green with the almost somnambulant earth tones of Oklahoma does nothing to incite blood rage between two fan bases that are, above all else, merely confused by each other. The game is over by the middle of the third quarter and the exodus begins as Miami flip flops back to Freeman. Oklahoma looks deceptively dominating, but there is a stretch in the second quarter where the offense can’t do anything and the defense is giving up ground to, of all things to happen in this game, the Miami offense. I would’ve been less surprised if Oklahoma’s defense found itself giving up ground to North Texas, which had been called in to spell the Hurricane attack. What could’ve been a close game (21-13) ends up being a disgrace for Miami fans, one of whom notes that he hasn’t “felt this embarassed since Syracuse in ’98” when the ‘Canes lost 66-13 to the Donovan McNabb led Orangemen. It is exactly like watching the fall of empire condensed into sixty minutes. I wonder where Williamson is, and if he’s as high on Shannon now as he was back at the hotel. How much does “building a family” count for if you get embarrassed on national television? Probably as much as anything Larry Coker said in 2006.

The coolest thing about the whole game? That it’s played on Oklahoma’s field, which is actually sloped to allow the old wing teams to get to the edge and cut upfield. The gradation is noticeable and, for lack of a better word, astounding. It’s like a giant rabbit burrowed in a straight line from one endzone to another. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I was in Nam.*

A word about shame. Enough days spent sleeping in your car will eradicate any and all sense of it. I have no compunction about getting up whenever the hell a trucker wakes me up in the middle of a Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot (24 hour bathrooms), opening my door and hawking my lungs out the way your gramps used to do back when you were young and scared of things that sounded like Cobra Commander dying in a cage filled with pop rocks and Coca-Cola. I certainly have no objection to brushing my teeth and letting the by-product dribble onto the asphalt beneath the driver’s door. And, frankly, I never really cared very much about smelling vaguely French because I have lived in Paris and it eventually fades into olfactory white noise. There is one thing that bothers me, though: bat wings.

I am practically Bruce Wayne circa falling-down-that-hole-into-the-cave when it comes to my fear of bat wings. It is the bane of any long distance driver’s existence, and in a town as hot and humid as Norman was? I was at wit’s end. So, as much as you, the reader, might not want this advice I will offer it nonetheless: forget about scrubbing the armpits, the back of your ears, whatever… just eliminate the bat wings. Making that a part of the nightly pre-sleep routine is now tantamount to my survival.

So here I am in Lincoln. I will spare you the details of my getting here. It involved my trusty navigator, Henry, telling me to drive on freeways that were sometimes existant, sometimes closed down and, in one memorable instance, the shape, form and texture of Casper the Friendly Ghost, which is to say none because he’s ectoplasm and ectoplasm does nay have shape, form or texture.

Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium is a cathedral. There is no other way to describe it, though I do wish they’d stop naming stadiums “Memorial”. As I was walking around Oklahoma’s stadium the Tuesday before the game, I sat down and scribbled the following:

“This is a cathedral built for a religious people and a religious country.”

That sentence can be just as easily applied to the stadium here in Lincoln, but on Monday night? When I arrived at the stadium at two in morning? With the wind whipping around me and all sorts of priorities ahead of simply staring at a stadium, like perhaps finding a place to sleep? The way the southwest face of Memorial was lit up reminded me of Camelot, my favorite childhood story. The white stone edifice is etched with the following words: “NOT THE VICTORY BUT THE ACTION: NOT THE GOAL BUT THE GAME: IN THE DEED THE GLORY.”

If I thought Oklahoma football was religion, Nebraska football promises to be zealotry on a level unseen. There is literally nothing else in this state except Cornhusker football. They fired a coach who led them to 58 wins and 19 losses in six seasons. And their stadium?

It’s got another quote on it:

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice.” -William Jennings Bryan

This is going to be an amazing game.

States visited: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska.
Miles traveled: 2,300ish.
Times showered: Showered?
Games watched (at least partially): Oklahoma-Miami (Fla.), LSU/Va. Tech, Colorado/Arizona State, TCU/Texas, Texas A&M/Fresno State, Michigan/Oregon, NC State/Boston College, Notre Dame/Penn State.
Mosquitoes killed: Not enough.
USC Panic-Meter: High. But I’ll wait ’til after the game to panic/martyr myself/buy Nickleback albums.
*as in Namibia, my nickname for my high school football field, which had nothing to do with southern Africa and, as such, engendered a good deal of confusion amongst my teammates.

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Filed under ACC, Big XII, Notre Dame, One CFB Road Trip to rule them all, Pac-10, USC

Oh, yeah: scant posting for the next few weeks

I’m, like, going to Portugal. So get your college football fake news kicks somewhere else. I won’t be back in the next few weeks (I’ll still be in, like, Portugal) but I expect I’ll find time to hunker down and excrete some posts by then.

For those who remembered last year’s invasion of Fortress Europa, I don’t plan on getting robbed again but it wouldn’t surprise me. Enjoy summer football, suckers! See you in August, and a select few of you in August, September, October and December.

Notre Dame sucks.

Bye, Jimmy! (Pic courtesy of the MZone.)

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Notre Dame

Seasonal Haiku: Spring doldrums

Unseasoned, but strong
My armor knows but one kink:
Good hair gel’s pricey.

-Jimmy Clausen

Time returns, wounds heal…
Hah! Next year, your kick returns?
Filed in triplicate.

-Myles Brand

Even four three five
Won’t help you with chloroform
I shall come at night.

-Chan Gailey

QBs turn diamond
Underneath my pressured gaze
Know a good ice guy?

-Dennis Erickson

I bring discipline
Honor, pride and success, too
Plus, army fatigues.

-Randy Shannon

Hail, Persephone!
Thy feet herald our spring game
P.S., I may run.

-Pat White

Late frost burns the bloom
Would a fool not let Springdale
Go fuck its damn self?

-Houston Nutt*

*if you can recognize the haiku this is based on, Mitch Mustain will transfer to your school

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Filed under ACC, Big East, Notre Dame, Pac-10, Seasonal Haiku, SEC

College Football Voices: Anna Nicole Smith posthumous fiasco

This is a direct lifting of The Onion’s American Voices feature, of which I am a big fan.

Anna Nicole Smith posthumous fiasco

The former model, actress and all-around celebrity’s death has not stopped any of the controversy that plagued her in life: following her mysterious passing her will has been contested, a paternity suit involving Smith’s 5-month-old daughter has been brought forth and her burial site is being argued over. Even the judge presiding over her daughter’s case couldn’t hold back tears at the trial. What do they think?


Dennis Erickson
Arizona State University head coach
“Her marriage to that old millionaire was shameful. What kind of a person would attach themselves to another being simply for the prospect of a big payoff after the termination of their relationship?”

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Filed under College Football Voices, Notre Dame, Pac-10, SEC, USC

Barry Sanders switches commitment from NFL Hall of Fame to Meyer-led Florida

GAINESVILLE, FL – Florida head coach Urban Meyer notched another victory Saturday when legendary running back Barry Sanders decided to switch his commitment from the NFL Hall of Fame to the defending national champion Gators, marking the eighth time this season a recruit has chosen Florida after a previous agreement with another institution.

sanders

Sanders, center, accepting the MVP award at the Army All-American game in San Antonio, TX. At the time Sanders was firmly committed to the NFL Hall of Fame.

“Coach [Meyer] convinced me the University of Florida is the right place for me. I mean no disrespect to the Hall of Fame, the city of Canton, the state of Ohio or anyone else, but I had to do what was right for me. I couldn’t sleep for a week straight, but when I made my decision I felt completely at ease with myself. I talked to my family and they said that I needed to do what was best for me,” Sanders said in a press conference aired on CSTV. The 38 year old member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team couldn’t suppress a smile when he put on an orange and blue Florida hat.

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Filed under Fake news, Notre Dame, Recruiting, SEC, USC

SOS: Save Our Shitty-Home-Opener

That SOS can also stand for Strength of Schedule which, under Pete Carroll, has maintained a fairly steady balance between solid (2004) to BCS Death March (2002). SOS is no longer an official part of the BCS formula but it still figures into several of the computer components, and if you don’t have it in a close year it’ll force you to accept the world’s worst consolation prize. In Carroll’s six years the Trojans have played the following out of conference (OOC) games, with season end rankings listed:

2001
San Jose State, unranked
Kansas State, unranked
at Notre Dame, unranked
Utah (Las Vegas Bowl), unranked

2002
Auburn, 14th
at Colorado, 20th, Big XII North Division Champions
at Kansas State, 7th
Notre Dame, 17th
Iowa (Orange Bowl), 8th, Big Ten C0-Champions

2003
at Auburn, unranked
BYU, unranked
Hawai’i, unranked
at Notre Dame, unranked
Michigan (Rose Bowl), 6th, Big Ten Champions

2004
Virginia Tech (BCA Classic at FedEx Field, Maryland), 10th, ACC Champions
Colorado State, unranked
at BYU, unranked
Notre Dame, unranked
Oklahoma (Orange Bowl), 3rd, Big XII Champions

2005
at Hawai’i, unranked
Arkansas, unranked
at Notre Dame, 9th
Fresno State, unranked
Texas (Rose Bowl), 1st, BCS Champions

2006
at Arkansas, 15th, SEC West Division Champions
Nebraska, unranked, Big XII North Division Champions
Notre Dame, 17th
Michigan (Rose Bowl), 8th

If you’re counting, that’s a total of 7 non-BCS teams and 15 BCS teams scheduled in six years, with a 5-1 ratio of BCS-to-non-BCS in bowl games. That’s also 12 home games, 9 away games and one game at a neutral site (2004’s BCA Classic in Maryland). In 2006 the NCAA officially moved to a 12 game regular season; the Pac-10 went from an 8 game schedule to a true round robin with each team playing all nine conference opponents.

And now:

2007
Idaho
at Nebraska
at Notre Dame

Nebraska should be ranked in the twenties with the loss of Zach Taylor offset by former ASU quarterback Sam Keller. Notre Dame should be unranked. And Idaho? Idaho is a holdover from the period when Nick Holt, former linebackers coach and current defensive coordinator for USC, was the Vandals’ head coach. Idaho is filler material. Idaho is Idaho.

And now:

ESPN is brokering an arrangement in which the [Hawai'i] Warriors might open the season Sept. 1 at Southern California. In order for that to occur, USC would have to get out of its scheduled game against Idaho that day.

It’s from The Honolulu Advertiser, and it’s a blurb at the end of an article about a game between Washington and Hawai’i. As in the Hawai’i team featuring Brennan Colt. As in the guy who declared for the draft on the last day possible, then waited 72 hours to undeclare at the last possible minute. As in the guy who threw for 326 touchdowns in one season, 208 of those against Arizona State in the Hawai’i Bowl. As in the guy who’ll be an early season Heisman dark horse behind Darren McFadden, Steve Slaton, Henne/Hart, Brian Brohm, Desean Jackson and (YES) John David Booty.

I say early season Heisman candidate because I am confident that Hawai’i would lose at the Coliseum on Sept. 1 if the game should happen, derailing Colt’s no doubt cute campaign as the kid-who-could-(throw-for-a-bajillion-TDs-against-you). The Warriors return pretty much all of the wide receivers who helped Colt become Division I-A’s single season touchdown leader (58 TDs in 14 games), and the same applies to the offensive line. (Not really: they lose two starters, but as a program heavily stocked in Pacific-Islanders I think we can rightly assume the Warriors will find a few large men to replace the departed.) Offensively, the biggest loss in my opinion is 5’9″ 240 lbs. “wide receiver” Nate Ilaoa, who looked like a svelte bowling ball every time he had the rock. I was a big fan of Ilaoa and his amusing status as a WR.

I am confident USC would beat Hawai’i because the Warriors were 93rd in total defense last season, 105th in pass defense. I’m not trying to pull those numbers out of my ass just to support my homerism. Hawai’i’s schedule was a big meh: it featured such offensive heavyweights as Alabama (65th in total offense), UNLV (84th), Utah State (114th) and, of course, Idaho (94th). It also featured the curious (New Mexico St. at 2nd in the nation in passing with 399 yards/game), the surprising (San Jose St. with 175 rushing yards a game, good for 20th in the nation and a good toss up as to why the Spartans came closer than any other team to beating Boise State) and the miraculous (the aforementioned Broncos of the Smurf Turf).

Numbers are nice, but I’ve seen Hawai’i play twice. In person. They’re losing their best defensive player (safety Leonard Peters, he of Troy Polamalu-ish hair style) and they’re notoriously undisciplined on the defensive side of the ball. In 2005 they held the ball pretty much the entire first quarter against USC and the Trojans scored 63 anyway. Yes, that was with Bush and Leinart and White and Jarrett. But with 2007’s defense I’ll take my chances against any one-dimensional team.

I may be exaggerating my confidence in USC beating Hawai’i. When you can throw for five touchdowns in one half like Colt did to the Sun Devils you should believe you’ll win any game. And the Warriors would be a wee bit excited to play USC, whom they’ve never beaten in six tries, in the Coliseum in front of a national audience – and since ESPN is pushing for it, it’ll be a national audience. Throw in the fact that the Warriors really would have a legit shot of being the first team in six years to beat USC at home and you’ll have a formula for good football watching. For the love of all that is good in this world please don’t make me watch Southern California-Idaho. Please.

And for any (hypothetical) Vandal fans, I’m not mocking you. I’m just stating the truth. This would be mocking you.

However, despite my taking the time to write the above the chances of this deal happening appear to be somewhat slim. Hawai’i-USC has been in the works for a long time now. Both Idaho and USC have been trying to get out of their “game” ever since Holt left Moscow to coach in Los Angeles, but the Trojans have had a hard time convincing teams to give them a single home game. The schedule is full until at least the next decade with Syracuse being added to the 2008 and 2010 seasons, thanks to former Trojan and current Orangemen athletic director Daryl Gross. (Don’t go by the official schedules at the USC athletic website; they haven’t been updated because the deal is a handshake one so far. I’d still say it’s a 90% chancer.) The Trojans don’t have much room to negotiate a true home-and-home and are looking for a one year thing at the Coliseum to balance out six games on the road in 2007. Under NCAA rules Hawai’i can schedule up to five non-conference games a season. The only thing I’ve found is a brief blurb here:

Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier said they [remaining non-conference games] will be Division I, and is leaning toward home games after Brennan announced Wednesday he will return for his senior season rather than go pro.

C’mon! First rule of athletic directors at mid-majors hoping to push a Heisman candidate: clever is nice, schedule is nicer. Sure, you can try putting together a DVD and sending free copies to all the voters. You could even erect a 100-ft. billboard in downtown New York – but then you’d be Joey Harrington, and no one wants that. Not even Joey Harrington. Heisman voters are stupid, archaic beings who belong to a silly group that hands out an overrated trophy… but they also pay attention to the schedule a candidate plays. If Frazier is worried Colt’s campaign needs a boost by adding home games, he’d do better by the former Mater Dei High quarterback if he asked himself what kind of boost Colt would get by beating the pre-season top ranked Trojans in Los Angeles. In a race featuring at least three or four candidates with better chances than him, a good game against USC is Colt’s best hope for a ticket to New York. Will any of that change what appears to be a foregone slaughter of (yawn) Idaho in the Coliseum? Probably not. Am I gonna get anything out of a couple thousand words advocating USC putting a Heisman candidate on the schedule in a season in which the Trojans have a good shot at the national championship? Probably not.

Boo.

This doesn’t really belong at the end of the post, but 2004 Auburn Tigers? I liked you. I really did. Still: HA-ha.

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Filed under ACC, BCS, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, NCAA, Notre Dame, Pac-10, SEC, The Media, USC, WAC