Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

January Offerings At The Movie Theater: Pick Your Poison (continued)

So what about the movies that have come out that have gotten great reviews? Here’s the lineup for this year:

Syriana – See, the War on Terror is just Bush’s war for oil, and the CIA is full of corrupt liars and murders, and Islamic terrorists who kill innocent people are just tragic, complex figures with good hearts and intentions, and the first Bush presidency and second Bush presidency are responsible for 9/11 (the intervening Clinton policy years had nothing to do with it), and the U.S. government would murder a reformist, moderate Arab leader at the bidding of American oil companies, and…..oh, never mind. Why spend $8.50 when I can read all of this on

Good Night And Good Luck – Yes, McCarthy’s zeal and recklessness were bad. Yes, people got hurt. Yes, as we know now from the Venona transcripts, there were Communist, Soviet spies working in the State Department…(whoops, how did that get in there?). Hollywood has treated the “Red Scare” topic numerous times before, and the makers of this film have said that the same thing is going on now, with “terrorist” replacing “Communist”. There’s a new black list, blah, blah, blah…OK, if there is such a black list against you, how did this film, and the numerous other left-of-center films, get made and distributed? To Hollywood, judging by the number of films made on the topic, the greatest crime of the 20th century (after Naziism) was McCarthyism. Not the 30-40 million people killed by Communist Russia, not the millions killed by China’s Communist Cultural Revolution, not the millions killed by Communist Pol Pot, not the millions killed after South Viet Nam fell. Hollywood has been strangely silent about this. In Hollywood math, the equation reads:

Glory Road – Takes the real motivation behind a real event (in pursuit of excellence, color-blindly play the best guys regardless of skin color) and rewrites it as something a left-of-center person wants to hear (to make a statement, color-consciously play five guys because of their skin color).

Real life: Coach Don Haskins builds a national championship college basketball team at Texas Western (now UTEP) in 1966, and defeat all-white, non-integrated Kentucky for the national championship. With his goal being excellence and winning, he starts the five best players on his team, regardless of the color of their skin. The five happen to be black, but the white players know that they’re the best five, so there is no team dissension….

Reel life: Coach Don Haskins builds a national championship college basketball team at Texas Western (now UTEP) in 1966, and defeat all-white, non-integrated Kentucky for the national championship. With his goal being affirmative action, he starts five black players to make a Statement. The white players, who are equally as good, are resentful (how dare they!) after the team’s only loss…

Call it "Shaping Reality To Meet An Agenda, Exhibit B".

The New World – Another John Smith and Pocahontas tale, again with the Native Americans as Noble Savages and the white settlers as loathsome creatures. At least there’s no stupid song this time…

Pocahontas’ life after her encounter with Smith is chronicled here, also. While we don’t know Pocahontas’ motivation for going to England nor for her conversion to Christianity, to the folks in Hollywood (wherever Christianity or Western culture is involved), it couldn’t have been a positive one: the movie depicts her as victim in her conversion, being swallowed up by this alien, hostile culture.


Munich – Eric Bana’s in it? Great! Steven Speilberg directs? Terrific? Written by Tony Kushner? Uh-oh. Having seen parts of Kushner’s execrable Angels in America, a play made into an HBO mini-series in which his AIDS-stricken characters offer long diatribes against Reagan and the conservatives and the religious leaders and the religious people responsible for their condition (though I doubt any of the aforementioned were in the room when they were having the unprotected sex during which they contracted the disease), and knowing that Kushner has repeatedly called the creation of Israel a "mistake" and blamed Israel for "the whole shameful history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people", I had reason to suspect that this would not be the most balanced and accurate retelling of the 1972 Munich Olympic murder of 11 Israeli athletes and the subsequent Israeli manhunt for their killers.

Here’s the thing: long conversations could be had about the moral implications of hunting down and killing terrorists. Roughly, is it a) morally wrong, providing a continuation of the escalation of violence or b) necessary, as terrorism is a crime against humanity, and to leave it unpunished would be national suicide, or c) any one of numerous other nuanced views. Whatever your position, I will offer generous odds that you won’t see b) in your movie theaters any time soon….

Paradise Now – Palestinian suicide bomber as sympathic character. I mean, why shouldn’t they be? Other than the “I want to kill every Jewish man, woman, and child in Israel” thing, I mean…

Brokeback Mountain – Hmmmm…a reviewer named Jeffrey Overstreet sums up the story best: "Two people in a lonely outpost of Wyoming form strong bonds of friendship, then fall in love/lust and one night consummate their passion. In the moment they plunge into sex together, their relationship changes: their deepening care and understanding stops. They become controlled by and obsessed with their sexual connection. Their days of rich and flourishing friendship are numbered. The sex is not accompanied by any kind of promise, commitment, or intention to make this a lasting bond. In any kind of relationship, this is a rash and foolish step, almost certain to end in heartache. And sure enough, their partnership devolves into an increasingly contentious and damaging relationship that saps all other areas of their lives. They part ways, both marry other people and have children. When they meet again and demonstrate that they still cannot control their sexual attraction to each other, they quickly and selfishly break their marital vows and betray the trust of their spouses and children. In doing so, they all but guarantee that their own children will grow up similarly hurt, distrustful, and needy. Of course, their families are torn apart by all this, and everyone in the story ends up damaged by this selfish and destructive relationship....the story hardly qualifies as tragic, as the fallout was not caused by misunderstanding or folly, but deliberate choices. If anyone in the film is a “tragic hero,” it’s Alma, one of the spouses, who believed the marriage vows and who endured betrayal and assault without returning evil for evil……" Thanks, Jeff. Sounds pretty dark and depressing....

Oh, wait, the two people in question are two men? Forget everything!!! Take the above story, wash it through the laundromat of homosexual identity politics, and “Viola!” you’ve got…A BEAUTIFUL LOVE STORY!!! The only possible fault on anyone’s part must be of one-dimensional, anti-homosexual bigots!!! So it’s a BEAUTIFUL, TRAGIC LOVE STORY !!! About homosexuals!! So it's a BEAUTIFUL, TRAGIC, COURAGEOUS (because it takes great courage to make a movie that every one of your peers will laud and shower you with awards for) LOVE STORY !!!

Hello, Oscar !!!!

Never mind. I think I’ll stay home and, I don’t know, maybe read a book or something.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Bounds of Academic Freedom

Previous posts have called attention to Notre Dame’s The Vagina Monologues debate. However, the underlying issues run much deeper and are at the core of what it means to be a Catholic university. Is it appropriate for a Catholic school to place limits on the events sponsored by one of its departments? Does academic freedom require absolute tolerance of any position sponsored by a member of the university? Do restrictions on the content of sponsored events violate academic freedom? These are some of the questions at the heart of this issue.

Father Jenkins argues there is a distinction between academic inquiry and sponsorship. He said in his address, “Let me be clear on what I see as the problem here. There would no objection to a faculty member assigning the [objectionable] script in a class, or to any student reading or writing a paper on the script of this play…My concern is not with censorship, but with sponsorship.”

I agree with him on this. Academic freedom gives students and teachers the right to inquire, to explore and to pursue ideas free from external coercion. They must have that freedom if they are to pursue the truth. As Catholics, we operate under the belief that certain truths have already been revealed. We should pursue the truth within that context. Does that mean a Catholic school should censor all opposing view points? Absolutely not! Notre Dame must always be up to the challenge of considering ideas contrary to its core Catholic beliefs. By doing so, the university can confront them and strengthen its beliefs in the process.

That being said, there are appropriate forums for academic inquiry. It belongs in forums commonly associated with intellectual pursuits: classrooms, conferences, symposiums and lecture halls. A history professor assigning Hilter’s Mein Kampf as required reading or having it read aloud in class is a legitimate exercise of academic freedom. Furthermore, holding a public reading of Mein Kampf, and doing so in the context of understanding the dangerous ideas that lead to the Nazism, would also be acceptable. Even inviting a pro-Nazi speaker to lecture in an academic forum, with time alotted for the audience to ask questions and offer opositing views, would be an example of academic inquiry. Some may want to place limits on this type of inquiry, and I am certainly not advocating such an invitation. But now, if a department were to sponsor an event in which students dressed in Nazi uniforms, sang Nazi songs and read Mein Kampf with a goal of promoting Hitler’s racist philosophy, then they have crossed the border of academic inquiry into proselytizing. I don’t think any well respected university would sponsor such an event.

Should events designed to promote values contrary to the Catholic character of Notre Dame be sponsored by the university? Professor Glenn Hendler, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in English, writes in The Observer, “[The public], like our students, can understand distinctions between sponsorship and endorsement, between toleration and affirmation, and recognize that when we allow a performance or other presentation on campus, we are almost never sending the message that we support everything that will be said or represented in it.” What would Professor Hendler think about performing a Mein Kampf festival in which students celebrate the "glory days" of Nazi Europe? Would the public be able to see the different between sponsorship and endorsement? I don’t think so. The public would see anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda being promoted by a first rate Catholic school. Furthermore, cancelling such an event would not cause real harm to the value of academic freedom. Professors and students would be as free as before to study Hitler’s ideas and discuss them in an academic setting. They do not need to be part of a large production to do so.

Let me be clear. I am not, in any way, comparing Mein Kampf to The Vagina Monologues or to The Queer Film Festival. I am simply using Mein Kampf as a way of illustrating these principles and demonstrating acceptable limits on what a University sponsors.

In a more general sense, academic inquiry in a Catholic school, should seek to challenge new ideas in the light of Divine Revelation. The ideas that emerge from such a challenge will be richer and closer to the Truth. The university should strive for near complete freedom in a classroom setting, and freedom to invite speakers and guests. Symposiums and discussions, as long as they include a catholic view point, should be a welcome means of inquiry. However, sponsoring an event into order to promote an agenda should meet the higher burden of being consistent with the Catholic character of the University.

How do the Queer Film Festival and The Vagina Monologues fare when applied to these principles? We will see in my next post.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jenkins' Leadership: Seeking the Truth

In a previous post, I chronicled Father Jenkins’ stepping up to the plate in the midst of The Vagina Monologues debate. During his address to the faculty he expressed his leadership style, “On matters of significance, I will always strive to make decisions, consonant with my authority, according to my most informed and considered judgment about what is best for this university and its mission. I will not lead by consensus, nor by majority vote, nor in response to the pressures that individuals or groups inside or outside the university may bring to bear. However, prior to making a decision on an important matter, I will, as appropriate and practicable, strive to solicit and listen to the views of relevant individuals and groups. Central to the obligations of my office are the twin responsibilities of listening to the views of members of this community prior to a decision, and then making that decision.” In other words, he will seek the truth as a basis for his decisions. A friend of mine, who holds a PhD in Theology from Notre Dame, called Jenkins “a genuine scholar.” The latter has demonstrated such in his approach to this controversy. Many on both sides of the debate think his decision is a no-brainer. But academic freedom and Catholic character are both core values of the University of Notre Dame. Insofar as they conflict, a delicate balance must be struck. Not doing so will lead to secularism on one side and to indoctrination on the other. Notre Dame will lose its soul if it becomes “Catholic” in name only. But, it would lose its credibility and effectiveness in engaging our culture if it sacrifices academic freedom. There is an answer, and Father Jenkins is leading the way toward finding it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Monologue Season

It’s that time of year again. With “V-day” approaching, the students and faculty of Notre Dame embroil themselves in an annual brouhaha over a theatrical performance. Progressive students and faculty promote the show with gusto, while more conservative Domers fervently protest. Letters to the editor pour into The Observer. Professors, students and alumni speak their minds, often with invective and venom. Emotions run high as opposing forces prepare for the battle of their lives. The war rages on over The Vagina Monologues.

Traditionally, the Office of the President, is a silent observer of the “V-wars.” Not so this year. Father Jenkins has confronted this issue head on. In an address to faculty, he called for honest intellectual dialogue about the controversy. He laid out his views and encouraged students, faculty and alumni to provide their opinions. He promised to read, during the next several weeks, every letter and to give all points of view their due consideration before making a decision about the future of the performance. He also, emphasized that this discussion is not just about The Vagina Monologues and the Queer Film Festival, “but also about the deeper issues they raise regarding academic freedom and our character as a Catholic university.” I fully agree. The conflict between academic freedom and Catholic character is a struggle for the core values of any Catholic university. It is time that struggle be brought into the light with intellectual and reasoned dialogue. In a future post I will give an analysis of the issue. In the meantime, the following is noteworthy.

Father Jenkins emphasized the need for rational thinking during this discourse, “Too often in our society discussions are characterized by polarizing and unyielding polemics, personal attacks, and manipulative appeals to the emotions or even the prejudices of an audience. Let us make this a discussion characterized by mutual respect, and guided by reasoned argument. I hope it will show this community at its best.” Unfortunately, James Parrot, in his letter to the editor, missed that point, “in its dishonesty and expectation of ignorance from the community, [Father Jenkins’] speech represents a new and devious transgression of Catholic doctrines of honesty and integrity.” But there is hope. Mary Elizabeth Walter (aka Sober Sophomore), agrees. She writes in The Observer, “I hope members of various factions, representing all sides, will take conscious measures to quell their potent emotions and come together.” That would be nice.

Friday, January 27, 2006

January Offerings At The Movie Theater: Pick Your Poison

It’s January again, which for film fanatics (and former-film-fanatics-who-still-hold-out-vague-hope-that-Hollywood-will-get-its-act-together) is usually a good time for catching up on the slew of films that were released right before New Year’s to make the Oscar deadline. It’s when, over the last few years, I’ve gotten to see some really enjoyable movies:

>> Dead Man Walking – Regardless of your opinion of the death penalty, this is one powerful film

>> The Big Night – Delightful. Not a wide release, so find a DVD of it if you haven’t seen it.

>> Titanic – The prosecution will present Exhibit B of its case shortly, but I liked it.

>> Shakespeare In Love – Though still a travesty that it won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan.

>> Galaxy Quest – A movie that actually gets better with multiple viewings.

>> A Beautiful Mind – I don’t know about Best Picture, but a terrific performance by Russell Crowe

>> Cold Mountain – I have my qualms about Jude Law, but really liked this film.

>> The Cooler – Remember Alec Baldwin’s performance in Glengarry Glen Ross? His one here is almost as good.

and some movies that got wonderful reviews but that I didn’t particularly care for:

>> Leaving Las Vegas – Watching Nicolas Cage drink himself to death for two hours is not my idea of a good time.

>> The English Patient – The central male character (who is single) first sleeps with his buddy’s wife (adultery), then makes a deal with the Nazis to get plane to go save her (treason), then ends the film by committing suicide. My hero. Nevertheless, critics, and especially women, hailed this as a tragic, grand love story. Why is it when a male character in a movie commits adultery, he’s a cad who deserves whatever terrible fate befalls him, but when a female character commits adultery, it’s a “Great Romantic Story”?

>> Boys Don’t Cry – Shaping Reality To Meet An Agenda, Exhibit A. As attested to by her arrest record and those who were close to the story, Teena Brandon was a small town Nebraskan, a small-time thief, swindler, and fraud artist. She also was a very sexually confused woman who would dress as a man – her alter ego, Brandon – and seduce vulnerable Nebraskan girls as a sensitive romeo. When his/her latest girlfriend found out that “he” was actually a “she”, the girlfriend was shocked and deeply hurt and embarrassed. Two of the girlfriends’ male friends reacted by raping Teena/Brandon, then murdering her to cover up the rape. All in all, a horrible situation punctuated by a horrible crime. Hollywood’s take on the story? Brandon’s girlfriend knew he/she was a woman and didn’t care; in fact, after finding out, they were going to run off together. The townspeople are all loathsome, drunk, intolerant, knuckle-draggin’, homosexual-hatin’, lowlife losers. Brandon/Teena’s multiple problems are waived away with her saying “I have gender issues” (Oh, well that makes lying and manipulating OK, then). Brandon/Teena’s rape and murder are not just due to the two men’s anger and hatred toward a “freak” (which would be abominable enough), but, of course, because they hate homosexuals. It comes as no surprise that the film makers did not interview Teena Brandon’s mother, nor the perpetrators of the crimes, nor any person related to the actual real-life events, nor anyone from the Nebraska town where all this occurred. Why let the real story get in the way of a “Don’t Be Afraid Of Our Love!!” martyr story?

The flip side of these offerings are January’s other Hollywood output: leftover movies that studios are dumping out, either because they didn’t know if they could find an audience or because, quite frankly, they suck. This year’s batch includes:

>> Underworld II : Evolution – There was a crying need for a sequel to 2003’s Underworld? In this go-round, Kate Beckinsale saves the world from vampires and werewolves without changing facial expressions.

>> Wolf Creek/Hostel – More of the movies’ view of the world: Outside cities, in lonely, isolated places where people do horrible things like go to church and vote Republican, there are inbred, hideous people who will snatch wandering motorists/backpackers/tourists and wisk them to dark hideaways for grisly torture and murder. I could list other movies in the last few years to run with this theme, but I don’t have the space….

>> Last Holiday – Actually might be worth a look, but I have never found Queen Latifah funny. Ever.

So what about the movies that have come out that have gotten great reviews? I talk about those next...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Titanic" as Celluloid Travesty, Exhibit A: “Jack”, and the androgynous waif who played him

A lot of the problems with Titanic stem from the leading “man”, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the role he inhabits, “Jack”. Jack is supposed to be the “scruffy, from-the-streets, on-his-own” adventurer; having Leonardo “I have no secondary male physical characteristics” DiCaprio in this role makes him the least-believable “scruffy, from-the-streets, on-his-own” adventurer in film history. In this regard, he would outdo himself with 2002’s Gangs of New York, when would play the least-believable “scruffy, from-the-streets, on-his-own” gang leader in film history.

Seriously, how does this guy get roles where he plays an adult male? He was very good in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can because his character is about 16 at the start of the movie. Though years pass over the course of the story of Catch Me…, his character doesn’t seem to age; you don’t really notice this because it is in keeping with the movie’s spirit of a teenager getting away with an elaborate hoax. He was adequate in some of his other roles (The Beach, Romeo & Juliet, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, etc) where he was playing a teen or near-teen. But as a world-wise adult, supposedly one who has traveled the globe on his own, surviving by his own wits and tenacity? Puh-leeze. DiCaprio is so laughable in this role that Leonardo DaVinci should rise from the dead and demand his first name back. Indeed, it’s a travesty that the name “Leonardo” has been tainted by DiCaprio. A comparison:

So DiCaprio as Jack doesn’t work. However, it is hard to imagine how any actor could have salvaged the “Jack” character. Jack, we learn, is a scruffy-vagabond-artist-adventurer-whatever…..but his character is comprised of so many layers of baloney that it’s hard to know where to cry “Bull---t!!!” first.

** Jack manages to win passage on the Titanic by virtue of winning a 3rd class ticket in a game of poker. Watch the poker game again. Would anyone over the age of 12 lose a poker hand to Jack?

** Many accomplished artists have difficulty drawing hands. The famous portrait of Napolean with his hand tucked inside his coat is drawn that way, so the theory goes, because the artist, though accomplished as he was, chose to avoid having to draw a hand. So hands are tough. But not to Jack, who has pages of skillfully drawn hands in his ledger….

** So, though he’s got major artistic skills, he’s a “starving artist” (because to actually make money for his art would be so….capitalist! Yuck!). Bouncing from location to location, he rhapsodizes that he once worked “on a shrimp boat down in Monterrey…” As what, bait? Long haul fisherman are some of the toughest, manliest, he-men around. One look at Leonardo/Jack, and they would have thrown him to the fish…

** So Jack has been all over the world, but he doesn’t know what a salad fork is?

** After the Titanic hits the iceberg, the ship’s captain is getting a report on the flooding from one of the crew in ship-speak. Jack and Rose pass by, and after hearing about half a sentence of their ship-speak, immediately surmises “This is bad...” Wow, a cute-scruffy-vagabond-artist-adventurer-whatever…..and with a thorough knowledge of naval architecture!! What a guy….

I could go on, but the point is that Jack is supposed to be the world-wise, experienced man to wisk the damsel-in-distress away to a life of romance and adventure. The problem is, neither the character of Jack nor DiCaprio playing him are credible even for an instant. So in the leading male role, you have a one-two punch of suckiness: a non-believable character played by a miscast actor.

Of course, some of the supporting performances were even worse…

(To be continued…)

"Titanic": The Debate

I really enjoyed the movie Titanic, and have since become somewhat of a Titanic buff:

Titanic buff -- (noun) Someone who knows waaaaayyyyyy too much about the Titanic and its sinking than a person with, say, a life would know

The movie is the highest grossing movie of all time, and it holds the record (with Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings : Return of the King) for the most Oscar-winning film, taking in 11 including the coveted Best Picture award.

It also seems to be a movie that there exists a broad range of opinion on. I had thought that most people would have moved by it, or at least liked it. However, I have run into a fair share of folks who not only did not particularly like the movie, but hate it. One of these folks is Lynda, my girlfriend of 11 months. I would have figured that she, of all people, would really have liked the film, seeing as she's a die-hard romantic and a bit of a cryer at the cinema (face it, honey, it's true). But she bristled the first time I mentioned the movie as one of my favorites of the last 10 years, and continues to chide me about it.

So, since we do cover the important issues here at Tom and Jerry, I will attempt to give a fair hearing to each side of the argument: Titanic: Great Movie or Cinematic Travesty?

The first salvo is coming up....

Friday, January 20, 2006

World of hurt...and elephants...

On Monday I will begin posting, in installments, a transcript of the great debate "Titanic: Great Movie Or Gaping Suckhole Of A Movie". I had planned starting today, but this week was my first with my new personal trainer, and I am so sore that it hurts to move.....or think....or breathe....

I had planned on waiting on commenting on the whole "Intelligent Design vs. Darwinism" question for a while, but in light of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano's announcement that the Church doesn't consider the "Intelligent Design" stuff to be scientific, I thought I'd make a comment. It didn't really suprise me, and I agree with their position (for reasons that I'll go into in later posts). Those (Christian, non-Christian, and/or atheist) who fear (or, in the case of atheists, hope) that Darwinian evolution eliminates the need or role of God in the creation, design, and continual involvement in the universe are, quite frankly, kidding themselves. I would be willing to concede every last scientific point of Darwinian evolution-by-natural-selection (though many of its points, Darwinians will concede, have not been proven and some probably never will be), and there would still be some very large and some unslayable elephants in the room.....

But more on that later....

The Air Force Cancels Take Your Child To Work Day

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Council in Continuity

In my first post, I resolved to read Lumen Gentium. So far I’ve made it through the first paragraph. I am reminded of Father Richard John Neuhaus’ philosophy on interpreting the Second Vatican Council (First Things April 2003). A summary follows.

Interpreters of the council may be divided into two camps: the party of continuity and the party of discontinuity. People in the latter camp hail from both the left and right wings of the ideological spectrum. The leftists see the council as liberation or revolution. The rightist see it as deviation or apostasy. They all see the Council as a decisive break in the history of the Church. They speak of a pre-Vatican II and a post-Vatican II church. And they are both critical of John Paul’s II pontificate, some because he corrected over-steps in the aftermath of the Council, and others because he did not rein them in enough.

The party of continuity sees the Vatican II as part of a continuous series of ecumenical councils beginning with Nicea in the 4th century. It did not address a specific heresy, but it sought a new way of communicating the nearly two millennium-old deposit of faith to the modern world. It was never intended to change church doctrine but to shed new light on ancient teachings. Pope John Paul II was a man of the Council. In fact, he was considered a progressive during the Council’s proceedings. His pontificate sought to interpret Vatican II in light of the 2000 tradition of the Catholic Church.

The fathers of the Second Vatican Council expected their teachings to be interpreted in this vein. They write in Lumen Gentium, “Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils.” (Emphasis added).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Here I Am

Here we are in the second week of Ordinary Time. The theme of the week seems to be God's calling of His servants. Sunday's reading told of Samuel and his famous answer, "Here I Am." The Gospel spoke of Jesus calling the Apostles. Today's reading chronicled the calling of King David. The responsorial psalm proclaimed, "I have found David, my servant." In light of all this, I could not help reflecting on my own vocation. At a friend’s suggestion I read Dan's discernment story. It is moving account of listening, struggling and surrendering. Dan writes, "It would not be easy, and certainly not free from worldly concerns, but by giving up a family for God I would also be gaining something far more beautiful in my eyes. My life would indeed be a joy...It was then that I knew that I had really been given the grace to love my vocation." To anyone still discerning, I recommend reading Dan's story.

Never let it be said that I don't cover the important issues....

I wrote this little treatise back in November and emailed it to my friends. I thought I would post it here.....

I was right about something…

So I’m watching TV last night after Lynda (my girlfriend) kicked me out so she could finish her laundry. (That has to be the single most pathetic sentence written by a man in…like, ever.) It was about 11ish, and I went flipping through the myriad of HBO and other assorted movie channels:

HBO: Some crappy documentary
HBO2: Some crappy movie that’s been on every other day for about a month
HBO Signature: A repeat of the season finale of “Rome”, which I saw Sunday night.
HBO Family: Some movie that really stretched the definition of “Family” programming. Not interested.
HBO Spanish: I don’t habla, so this was not an option.
HBO Comedy: Some raunchy, anonymous comedian, probably yammering on about how Bush sucks. Or he’s an idiot. Or he’s a sucky idiot. Or something.
HBO Zone: The zone of sucky programming.

Other Movie Channel 1: Crap
Other Movie Channel 2: Crap
Other Movie Channel 3: More Crap
Other Movie Channel 4: Still More Crap
Other Movie Channel 5: The Last Thing You Would Ever Want To Watch


After surfing for a while, my choices came down to:

ESPN SportsCenter:

Reasons To Watch:

It’s sports. I’m male.

Reasons Not To Watch:

a) The sports that are going on right now:

NBA – which I haven’t cared about since John Stockton retired in 2003
NHL – Is it ever NOT hockey season? They start in early October and their playoffs end a week before the Fourth of July. And no, I don’t care.
College Football – I knew there was no ND news, and the only thing they would have to talk about is speculation about who’s going to which bowl. I already know that if ND wins this Saturday, we’re probably going to the Fiesta against Penn State, Ohio State, or Oregon.
College Basketball – Unless ND is playing, I don’t care until March, no matter who’s playing. The games don’t mean anything. Last night, #2 Texas played #17 Iowa. In college football, that’s an interesting matchup, and regardless of when it’s played, it would have an impact on the national championship. In college basketball? Unless it’s an NCAA Tournament game, it matters little to not at all. While the 65-team March Madness is great, it really makes regular season games involving Top 25 teams little more than televised practices. Who won the game? Couldn’t tell you. I know both teams will make the NCAA’s. I’ll tune in then. This is why I don’t favor a 16-team playoff in college football, like many do.
NFL – I haven’t watched an NFL game this season, and with my Packers sucking wind at 2W-8L right now, I doubt I will until the Super Bowl, and even then, it will have to share my attention with the buffet at whichever party I’m at. And no, I don’t want to hear another syllable about Terrell Owens.

b) SportsCenter, unless you’re looking for a specific highlight or result, has become largely unwatchable. It was the greatest thing ever in the late ‘80s – an hour of sports highlights!! Chris Berman was anchoring, and he made even baseball highlights interesting with his nicknames for players, like Bert “Be Home” Blyleven and Cookie “Days of Wine and” Rojas. He seemed to provide the right balance between entertainment and serious sports journalism. In the 90’s, Berman gave way to Dan Patrick and Ken Olberman, who went a little more toward the entertainment side, but it was so darn entertaining that I didn’t mind. It was still about the sports, and their shtick only added to the enjoyment of the highlights.

Patrick and Olberman moved on to other things, and SportsCenter started to become a shrill imitation of its former self, with the new anchors’ shtick overshadowing and intruding on the sports part. There was Kenny Mayne, with his ultra-ironic narration of highlights:

(Highlight of pitcher delivering pitch to Mark McGuire)

Mayne: This is Mark McGuire…

(McGuire hits towering home run)

Mayne: …he’s tall.

(Highlight of Dante Bichette coming to the plate)

Mayne: Here’s Dante Bichette …

(Bichette strikes out)

Mayne: …he’s not.

Imagine an hour of that.

Even worse is Stuart Scott and his ultra-hip street lingo narration:

Scott: Boo-yah!!! Smith was all up in the house !!! Puttin’ his game on !!! He threw down and got all up in Martin’s grill !!! He gots to represent, winnin’ the APB Professional Bowling Championships…..


So SportsCenter was out. This left me with a repeat of…

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team

Reasons Not To Watch:

Already saw snippets of it last week. If I mentioned that I watched it to Lynda, she would possibly be offended at the idea of me having the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in my living room.

Reasons To Watch:

a) I did the cheerleading thing at Univ. of Central Florida (before I transferred to ND), so I find this kind of thing interesting.
b) The “Who’s Going To Make The Team?” drama.
c) The high Unintentional Comedy Factor – Last week I saw a bit of a clip of a girl who got cut and wept into the camera that she felt like she was called to be a cheerleader, that “God has put this on my heart”. I thought at time that this proves that either God, or this woman, is a major flake. I saw the whole clip this time, and it rated even higher on the UCS (Unintentional Comedy Scale, a term coined and employed frequently by Bill Simmons). Turns out that this is the 8th year in a row (!!!) that she has tried out and gotten cut, this time in the first round. Still, “God has put this on my heart”. God is either a heartlessly cruel SOB, or this chick is not getting the message (from God or the Cheerleaders) : move on.

Of course, the crying-after-getting-cut thing (save for “God has put this on my heart”) and the praying-in-a-circle-before-tryouts scenes didn’t really rate high on the UCS, because I understand how it feels to really want something and how it feels when I don’t get it, regardless of how inconsequential it may seem to others (“Dear God, please help/let/guide Notre Dame to beat the godless heathens of USC…”). But the part where they are put into a classroom to learn “Media Relations” was a UCS tipper. One by one, they stood up and answered the “What it means to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader”. Apparently, Condoleeza Rice doesn’t hold a job that is this important. Funny stuff. I especially was amused/perplexed by the number of times I heard “This is my life’s goal…”. Geez, I guess it’s all downhill from here, huh?

Okay, not much of a convincing justification, but I’m glad I watched because it provided me with affirmation that I was right about something. The cheerleaders are taken to a swanky, upscale restaurant to learn proper table etiquette. The Etiquette Coach walked them through a full course dinner, correcting and advising them as they went. “When toasting, don’t raise your glass above shoulder level.”, “Don’t put lipstick on at the table.” (that’s always a tough one for me to remember) , etc.

Then the perky-blonde-girl-whom-the-Cheerleader-Director-made-to-dye-her-hair-brunette (you don’t see blonde-to-brunette that often in Texas) picked up the little roll of bread and proceeded to use her knife to cut a piece off of it.

At this point, those of you who have eaten with Lynda and I will remember that this is a point of contention between us. When I wish to divide a roll of bread (at, say, Macaroni Grill) amongst my dinner companions, I pick the roll up and tear off a piece. At this point, I either pass the roll around or put the roll back on the table, or if I’m with people I’ve known for a long time, I will tear off a piece for them as well. Lynda, on the other hand, will pick up her knife and slice off equal-to-the-crumb pieces for everyone. Either of us performing their preferred bread-distribution method elicits an eye-roll from the other, and debate ensues. Her position is that it’s more sanitary and neat to cut the bread. I respond that you still have to hold the bread to cut it (thereby touching it and nullifying the “sanitary” argument) and that usually the bread is so soft that in the process of cutting it, the bread gets squished down. I also have the Almighty on my side as a role model in this aspect:

During the Last Supper, Scripture Says:

“And he took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body…’ ” Lk 22:19

“And as they were eating, He took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’”
Mark 14:22

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ ”
Mt 26:26


“Jesus took bread, then pulled out a knife and proceeded to cut identical slices from the bread, though Peter’s might have been a little bigger (which of course upset John, who always thought he was the favorite), Judas got the heel, and Our Lord completely forgot about Philip, which is no big deal because everyone else pretty much has too….”

So I’m simply following the example set by the King of Kings. Of course, Lynda, not persuaded by simple logic or the actions of the Son of God, sticks to her cutting-with-a-knife guns, thinking she has etiquette on her side.

Not so!!!

As the perky-blonde-girl-whom-the-Cheerleader-Director-made-to-dye-her-hair-brunette cut into her bread, the Etiquette Coach stopped her and asked the group “How do we get a piece of bread from a roll?” The perky-blonde-girl-whom-the-Cheerleader-Director-made-to-dye-her-hair-brunette looked confused, and no one else answered, either. The Etiquette Coach continued: “We pick up the roll and tear a piece off…” she intoned, picking up the roll and tearing a piece off for emphasis, then using the knife to butter the piece. Again, in case you missed it, the Etiquette Coach instructed:


So there.

(Me doing a little “Dance of Superiority” around my cube)

I await Lynda’s lavish apology.

(Editorial Comment on 01/17/06: I'm still waiting...)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Now for Something Not Really all that Different

My recent marathon blogging is a direct result of my unusually light workload of late. Don't worry, that will change soon. Over there my posts will be few and far between, and Jerry will have to pick up the slack. For those of you sick of the endless Notre Dame topics, I have good news and bad news. The bad news: this is another Notre Dame post. The good news: it will be the last one for a while. I couldn't resist calling attention to a piece in that finest of publications, The Onion. I fully agree with its author. The only football tradition that could top Notre Dame's legendary history is an improved Notre Dame history. Read the whole article. While you're at it, check out the new BCS ranking system. God Bless and Go Irish.!

I will be moving on to other topics in the coming posts...

....but thought I would include a blurb from and a link to an article about academic performance of Notre Dame athletes. Given the current state of intercollegiate athletics and their relation to an athlete actually receiving a college education, they're pretty remarkable.

I will be delving into other topics in soon, though. Tom has been busy with some very sound theology posts, so I will do my part by tackling other important, weighty, intellectually and spiritually stimulating topics such as:

** Titanic: Great Movie, OK Movie, or God-Awful Movie?

** My Hollywood Disconnect: Why a 10-Movie-A-Month Film Fanatic (And Former Reviewer) Became A 2-Movies-Since-Thanksgiving, "Why Bother?" Film Avoider

** The Failure (and Dangers) of Deconstructionism

** Bread At Dinner: To Cut Or Break (I wrote something about this around Thanksgiving and emailed to my friends. I'll post my take on this raging controversy here...)

** Intelligent Design vs. Darwinism: Questionable Science vs. Awful, Amatuerish Philosophy And The Double Standards Employed By Each Side
(This subject, given the rather heated rhetoric on both sides, is touchy; it might take a while for me to formulate my thoughts on the topic into a piece (or pieces) that I would post for public consumption)

** Why Most Detractors Of John Wayne And His Movies Are Full Of Crap (Alternately titled "Why I Would Never Trust A Man Who Didn't Like John Wayne")

** The Truth Of Beauty vs. The Beauty Of Truth: Two Approaches To Faith

And a topic near and dear to my heart:

** "Boo-Yah": The Disintegration Of Sportswriting And Its Slide Into Oblivion

For today, however, it's more Notre Dame accolades, proof that academic and athletic achievement are not mutually exclusive endeavors:

"Sixteen of 20 athletics programs at the University of Notre Dame compiled graduation rates of 100 percent, and none were below 90 percent, according to the new Graduation Success Rate measurement developed by the NCAA and announced in December. NCAA figures showed that, among Notre Dame's men's sports, baseball, cross country/track, fencing, ice hockey, soccer, swimming and tennis achieved 100 percent GSR scores. Football scored 96 percent, golf was 92 percent and basketball was 90 percent (lacrosse is not included because the program did not offer grants in aid during the years covered in the survey).

The Irish women's programs with a GSR of 100 percent were basketball, cross country/track, fencing, golf, lacrosse, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Soccer scored a 94 percent GSR."

"While the Irish football team has returned to the ranks of the nation's elite programs under first-year coach Charlie Weis (the Eddie Robinson national coach-of-the-year award winner), and led by Associated Press All-Americans Jeff Samardzija (a consensus All-America selection) at wide receiver, Brady Quinn at quarterback and Tom Zbikowski at safety, the Notre Dame football team achieved unprecedented results in the classroom during the 2005 fall semester. The Irish football players combined for a 3.04 team grade-point average during the '05 fall semester, marking the highest semester average ever achieved by the football squad. That figure includes 56 of 97 players achieving a 3.0 average or higher."

For the full article, go here...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

God's Creation

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Charlie Weis Gets Notre Dame

One reason so many Irish fans like Charlie Weis is because he "gets Notre Dame." What does that mean? Notre Dame expects a certain amount of class from their coaches. They expect them to be people of strong character who can faithfully represent the University and its values. Charlie Weis gets "it." These two anecdotes illustrate why:

Many in the sports media have told the following story. The AP put this on the wire. The Wednesday before the Washington game, Coach Weis visited 10-year old Montana Mazurkiewicz, a huge Irish fan. In fact, the boy was named after Joe Montana, Weis' college roommate. He was dying of cancer. The coach told stories about his student life at Notre Dame. They talked about his daughter Hannah, who has global developmental delay, and the coach gave him these words of encouragement: "'Live for today for tomorrow is always another day." Finally, Weis asked Montana if there was something he could do for him. The boy asked to call the first play of the Washington game. He called "pass right." Come Saturday, the Irish found themselves backed up on their own 1-yard-line. Any football coach would tell you passing is the worst option in that situation. But Weis said, "This game is for Montana, and the play still stands." There was no "win won for the Gipper" speech. This was not about motivating the team. It was about keeping a promise to tough young boy. Quarterback Brady Quinn completed the pass to Anthony Fasano who hurdled a Husky defender to gain 13 yards and the first down. The boy's mother was grateful and said about Weis, "He's a very neat man. Very compassionate." Montana died the Friday before the game. He saw his play from heaven.

Above the east door of Notre Dame's Sacred Heart Basilica reads the inscription "God, Country, Notre Dame." Charlie Weis understands these priorities. The Irish won their 42nd game in a row against Navy this season. Brady Quinn threw for 284 yards to lead ND to a 42-21 victory. But the most remarkable event happened after the final whistle blew. Normally, the last thing the winning team is concerned about is their opponent, but this time Coach Weis walked with his team in front of the Navy student section. They, along with the rest of the stadium, stood in respectful silence while Navy sang their alma mater. Peter Schroeder, a senior at ND, wrote in his column, "With no time left on the clock and the outcome decided, this respectful gesture wasn't about Navy's football team; it was about Navy. It was a sobering reminder that what we just poured all of our energy into was just a game. Many times that's easy to forget at Notre Dame, where football lies in the hierarchy of priorities somewhere between inhaling and exhaling. While we can spend countless hours worrying about Sagarin rankings, passing efficiency, and Mark May, Navy has bigger fish to fry. We may claim that we must protect this house, but Navy must protect something way bigger." Navy graduate Kevin Filan wrote in a letter to the editor, "Much thanks to you, Coach [Weis], not just for what you have done for Notre Dame Football, but the statement you sent to all Annapolis grads around the world and to the game of college football."

These are just two examples of how Charlie Weis gets Notre Dame.

Charlie Weis - Coach of the Year?

I enjoyed reading Skip Bayless' article in He argues Charlie Weis was the best coach in college football this year. To be fair, he wrote his piece before Norte Dame's loss to The Ohio State University. One wonders if he would have held the same opinion if he were writing after the Fiesta Bowl. In any event, Bayless' article is a good read. And there is no question Weis has proven to be an excellent football coach during his debut year with the Irish.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Opus Dei and The DaVinci Code - Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Whatever one thinks about the Catholic prelature Opus Dei, one ought to admire the way they are responding to the upcoming theatrical release of The DaVinci Code. Dan Brown’s novel, upon which the film is based, vilifies the prelature. The main Opus Dei characters are depicted as chauvinistic liars and murderers who seek power at all costs. The novel also undermines a fundamental belief of Christians, the divinity of Christ. During an interview yesterday with ZENIT, Opus Dei’s international spokesperson, Marc Carroggio, says his organization will turn the other cheek: “Some people are waiting for a ‘declaration of war’ from the Catholic Church and from Opus Dei. This might interest those who are marketing the movie--you know, a big fight in public. But I can assure you that Opus Dei's only response will be a declaration of peace. No one is going to make threats or organize boycotts or anything like that.” When asked how individuals might respond, he said, “The reaction of the members of Opus Dei, like that of many other Christians, will be to ‘use the lemon to make lemonade.’ Actually this event gives us a wonderful chance to talk about Jesus Christ. After all, it is the figure of Jesus Christ that explains, to a large degree, the popularity of the book…I think that the best response is simply to help people to know Jesus Christ. I suspect that in the coming year, many people will be moved to read the Gospels or a book about the life of Jesus Christ.” May all Christians follow this example. The popularity of The DaVinci Code provides a great opportunity to spread the Good News.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Notre Dame's Catholic Character

I do not intend to turn this into a blog exclusively devoted to defending my alma mater, but the following was too good to leave out. Some of my friends criticize Notre Dame for allegedly losing its Catholic character. I'll let Father Richard John Neuhaus, conservative editor-in-chief of First Things and writing in the December 2005 issue, answer the charge: "To students and parents inquiring about a solidly Catholic college, I would usually mention some of the obvious ones: Steubenville, Ave Maria, Thomas Aquinas. And then, not only because I was on the board there, I would suggest they not overlook the University of Dallas. People were sometimes taken aback, however, when I suggested they take a close look at Notre Dame where, if one chose carefully, one could get a thoroughly Catholic education. Many conservative Catholics had given up on Notre Dame assuming it had gone the way of Georgetown and Boston College. The impression was largely due to the prominence of Fr. Richard McBrien, long-time chairman of the theology department and a kind of Peck’s Bad Boy in adolescent rebellion against church authority. Things have been changing at Notre Dame, however, and people should take another look. The current head of theology is John Cavadini, who has a lively sense of the Christian, and specifically Catholic, intellectual tradition, and the new president of Notre Dame is Father John Jenkins, who said this in his inaugural address: ‘There are certainly other truly great universities in this country. Many of them began as religious, faith-inspired institutions, but nearly all have left that founding character behind. One finds among them a disconnect between the academic enterprise and an over-arching religious and moral framework that orients academics activity and defines a good human life.’ Speaking of what he hopes Notre Dame will be: ‘This is no easy mission. But its difficulty is not our concern; we did not create the mission, and we cannot change it. The word “mission” derives from the Latin root missus-which means “sent.” We have been sent-to seek God, study the world, and serve humanity.’ It may be premature to say for certain, but it does seem that Notre Dame is on the way back.” (hyperlinks added)

Last note on Skunkbears: If you look up the word “overrated” in the dictionary….

…you’ll find the definition for the word “overrated”, which is what Michigan, perennially, is.

To wit:

--· Michigan in bowl games against undefeated opponents:

1950: Rose vs. California – Win
1969: Rose vs. USC – Loss
1984: Holiday vs. BYU – Loss
1991: Rose vs. Washington – Loss

Record: 1-3

For comparison: Other traditional national powers' in bowl games against undefeated opponents:

Ohio State: 4-2
Alabama: 7-3-1
USC: 8-6
Notre Dame: 7-2
Texas: 2-1
Nebraska: 2-7 (Not good. But they have won 5 NCs since 1970)
Oklahoma: 5-3
Penn State: 2-0-1

Relative newcomer powers:

Florida State: 2-2
Florida: 2-2
Miami: 2-5 (not good, but Miami has also won 5 NCs in the last 23 years)

Not really even powers:

UCLA: 2-0
Texas A&M: 2-0
LSU: 3-4
Maryland: 1-1

So Michigan has the same number of bowl wins against unbeaten teams as Maryland. Congratulations.

-- Let's talk about recently. In the last 30 seasons, Michigan has finished the season ranked higher than where they began the season twice, in 1988 and 1997. In the last 8 years, Michigan has landed one of the top recruiting classes in the country and has almost unlimited recruiting resources,yet they’ve lost 3 or more games in 7 of those last 8 years (They did only lose 2 in 1999).

--·Michigan likes to tout their academics, and it is a good academic school with many good programs, but nobody seems to have let the football team in on it. Find a current UM roster and take a peek at their majors. You will find a rather large number of either ‘Kineseology’ (Phys. Ed.) or ‘Undecided’ as their major. Of the ‘Undecided’s, a good number of them are juniors (!) and seniors (!!!). How in the world are you undecided as a junior or senior in college?

--·“The Big House”. Michigan stadium is enormous, seating 106,000+. ESPN loves to tout it as a great stadium, but I have never seen it on any top 10 list of great stadium atmospheres or, more importantly, any top 10 lists of tough places to play. You’d think with all those people, it would at least crack the top 10, right?

--Their “legendary” coach, Bo Schembechler (1969-1989)? He won zero national championships, lost 8 of 10 Rose Bowls, and lost 12 of 17 bowl games overall.

--Their fight song? Consists of one stanza over and over and over and over…..

--Their helmets? Michigan fans think they are the most unique things in the world. And they are. Well, aside from the fact that they copied it from Princeton...

And yet, how much you wanna bet that despite going 7-5 this year that they will be ranked in the Top 10 to start next year?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

When wolverines attack...or "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics"

So I go to the "Campus" section of the (Sports Illustrated) site and see a link to "Scary Statistics For Notre Dame Fans". I followed the link to a blog entitled "Blah Blah Blah," which provided immediate insight into the intellectual content therein. I then read the blogger's revelation: (Re-printed here)

Things that make you go hmmmmm
Program A

Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#9 in final poll - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#19 in final poll - W
Unranked - W
#21 in final poll - W
Unranked - L
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#4 in final poll - L
#12 in final poll - L

This team finished 10-3 on the season, ranked #17 in the final poll, and had a 3-2 record against teams that finished in the top 25. All in all a pretty good season. Let's compare that resume to program B:

Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - L
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#2 in final poll - L
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
Unranked - W
#4 in final poll - L

Program B finished 9-3, ranked #9 in the final poll, and with an 0-2 record against teams that finished the season in the top 25. But were they really better then Program A? What if I told you that the opponents of Program A finished 94-73 on the season and opponents of Program B finished 71-67 on the season? Would you agree that Program A probably played a tougher schedule? Would you agree that Program A had better victories against better opponents?

Now who the hell am I actually talking about as I try to make this point? How's about 2002 Notre Dame under Ty Willingham and 2005 Notre Dame under Charlie Weis. Seems to me we are hearing a lot of the same smoke and mirrors about a return to glory by Notre Dame right now. Charlie Weis is being portrayed as an even bigger savior then Ty was. And Notre Dame fans will tell you that Ty just got celebrity treatment because the media loved him and he was a high profile minority coach at a big name job who everybody wanted to succeed, etc.Well, did anybody stop to realize that Ty Willingham had a better debut than Charlie Weis as Notre Dame coach?????????

After I encountered this steaming pile of feces, I noticed that the blogger is big U. of Michigan fan, and given his other sports allegiances (Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers) I figured he is probably a Michigan man. Figures.

Of course, I could not let such (lack of) insight go without a response. I posted a comment on the blog under the nom de plume of JerryBGoode:


So here we go least your post verified the "I don't know much about anything" part of the blog's "About me" statement.

Let's take a closer look at the 2002 Irish and the 2005 Irish:

In 2002, Willingham inherited a team that in 2001 had had an anemic offense and good (ranked fairly high statistically) defense. The offensive line and backfield was largely intact and senior-laden, as was the defense. The 2002 Irish under Ty had an anemic but slightly better (24 more yards per game, and 3 more points/game) offense and a defense that performed about the same (allowed 4 less yards per game, and the same number of points/game) as in 2001, though they were much better at creating turnovers and scores off those turnovers -- the Irish scored about half their points returning fumbles or interceptions, or from the great field position gained from those turnovers. What they seemed to have going for them was a renewed fighting spirit, a lot of perceived good "karma" (for lack of a better word) for having hired an African-American coach, and, it must be admitted, a little luck. However, no one was complimenting Ty's game planning or adjustment-making or anything specific, just that he was "doing a great job". Even at 8-0, ESPN analysts were calling ND "the worst 8-0 team in recent memory". Other than the record, the 2001 and 2002 statistics are extremely similar.... Even the Sporting News, which named Ty Sportsman of the Year in 2002 following ND's 10-3 season, didn't seem too taken by him as a coach. In their college football preview the following August, they ranked the top 5 college football coaches in a number of different categories: preparing a team, play calling, etc. Of the 8 categories, Ty ranked in the top 5 of only one category, "motivation".

Comparatively, Weis took over a team with an anemic offense (81st in country) and a defense that was returning only 2 starters from a unit that was terrific against the run in 2004, but 2nd-worst in the nation against the pass ("Great," ND nation thought, "we couldn't stop the pass in 2004, and in 2005, we're starting the guys who couldn't beat out the 2004 guys for playing time. Yikes.") Weis transformed the offense into one of the most hard-to-stop units in the country, finishing ranked in the Top 10 in the country in total offense, gaining almost 150 more yards/game and scoring 14 more points/game. The defense, with nine new starters, was statistically slightly worse than 2004, allowing only a couple more points per game, but giving up in the neighborhood of 65 more yards/game (in fairness, it must be noted that the Irish D gave up 64 points and a decent chunk of yardage after being up by 3+ touchdowns – against Pitt, Wash., Purdue, Navy, and Syracuse – a position the 2004 team never found itself in). Weis has been praised from all corners (even those with absolutely no love for ND) on his game-planning, in-game adjustments, and play-calling, things I never heard about Willingham at any time from any (pro-ND, anti-ND, or neutral) source during his tenure, even during his 8-0 start.

Now let's some comparisons of the games from the 2002 and 2005 seasons:

Common Opponents:

2002: #4 USC 44, ND 13 (ND manages just over 100 yards of offense. A truly pathetic performance)
2005: #2 USC 34, ND 31 (A terrific game decided on the final play)
Advantage: 2005, HUGE

2002: ND 25, #9 Michigan 23 (LLLoyd, as in 1998 and 2004, coughs up a hairball in South Bend)
2005: ND 17, UR Michigan 10 (Charlie beats UM in Ann Arbor, where Ty lost 38-0 in his only appearance)
Advantage: Michigan was better in 2002, but the Irish won in 2005 in Ann Arbor. I'll stack the deck in your favor and call this one a push.

2002: ND 24, UR Purdue 17 (Irish win at home despite not scoring an offensive TD)
2005: ND 49, UR Purdue 28 (Purdue was favored at home. Halftime score: ND 28, Purdue 0. Game over.)
Advantage: 2005

2002: ND 14, #19 Pitt 6 (Irish win at home despite horrific offensive showing. Scored late TD after recovering fumble at Pitt 15)
2005: ND 42, UR Pitt 21 (Irish dismantle favored Panthers at Pitt)
Advantage: Pitt was better in 2002, but ND destroyed Pitt at Pitt in 2005). This is a push.

2002: ND 30, UR Navy 23 (The Irish trail 23-15 with 4 minutes left. Navy won 2 games on the year. Game was in Balt., but ND fans outnumbered Navy's by about 8 to 1)
2005: ND 42, UR Navy 21 (Navy won a bowl game, but never seriously threatened ND)
Advantage: 2005

2002: ND 31, UR Stanford 7 (Stanford won only 2 games that year, but led ND 7-3 at half. Irish score 3 TDs off turnovers in 3rd to pull away)
2005: ND 38, UR Stanford 31 (Irish roll up over 600 yards of offense, but make 2 turnovers and miss 2 field goals. Stanford won 5 games on the season.)
Advantage: Push. Stanford was too awful in 2002 for that win to have any significance.

2002: ND 21, UR Air Force 14 (Bowl bound Mountain West team, overmatched but game, loses to Irish at AF)
2005: ND 49, UR BYU 23 (Bowl bound Mountain West team, overmatched but game, loses to Irish at ND)
Advantage: AF was a slightly better team, but the Irish won in 2005 by almost 4 TDs. Call it a push.

2002: ND 21, UR MSU 17 (Irish win on last-minute TD. MSU self-destructs in Oct-Nov)
2005: UR MSU 44, ND 41 (Irish lose in OT. MSU self-destructs in Oct-Nov)
Advantage: 2002

2002: ND 42, UR Rutgers 0 (Irish lead truly-awful Rutgers 14-0 at half)
2005: ND 34, UR Syracuse 10 (Irish lead truly-awful Syracuse 14-3 at half)
Advantage: Push

Other opponents:

2002: ND 34, #21 Florida State 24 (FSU lost 5 games on the year; This was Ty's 2002 signature win; Irish score 17 points in 3rd quarter without gaining a first down to break the game open)
2005: ND 41, UR Tennessee 21 (Vols lost 6 games on the year; Irish give the Vols their only lop-sided loss of season)
Advantage: 2002. Winning in Tallahassee was sweet.

2002: UR BC 14, ND 7 (Irish self-destruct at home; 4 turnovers, botched field goal, etc.)
2005: ND 36, UR Washington 17 (Irish lead 29-3 in 4th; lots of weird emotions surrounding this game)
Advantage: Push. The Irish played way too poorly in the 2002 BC game for advantage to go to 2002, even though the competition was way better.

Bowl Game:
2002: #12 NC State 28, ND 6 (Game over at halftime, 21-3; Irish offense again terrible - didn't score an offensive TD in either of last 2 games)
2005: #4 Ohio State 34, ND 20 (Despite being outplayed and looking woeful on D, the Irish come within one 3rd down stop of getting the ball back with 2 minutes left to tie the game)
Advantage: 2005

(Note: The 2002 Irish played an extra game, the Kickoff Classic, beating UR Maryland 22-0 despite not scoring an offensive TD.)

So what's the final tally?

2005 4 (1 HUGE), 2002 2, 6 pushes.

2005: Wins by 19 or more: 7
Losses by 19 or more: 0
2002: Wins by 19 or more: 3
Losses by 19 or more: 2

Next time, please a) do some research, and b) don't filter out facts ( i.e. statistics, margin of victory, game comparisons ) that conflict with your thesis. It makes you look, at best, careless and, at worst, like an idiot. Or like a U. of Michigan grad.

OK, so Tom posts on weighty theological topics and I post on a lengthy defense of Notre Dame and Charlie Weis. Either way, a defense of all that is right and good....


God of Desire

Take the test and get your dating license at I barely passed. Feel free to comment with your results.

The Abolition of Truth

Last weekend I had a rare opportunity to enter into a philosophical discussion with an adversary. While sitting around a wood fire on a chilly night, she questioned everyone in our group about this philosophical concept and that. Eventually the discussion turned to truth. She made the statement, "There is no such thing as objective truth." Oh really?
I gave her the classic response, "Is the statement you just made true?"
"So then objective truth does exist."
I felt like I was in a David Spade commercial. The conversation quickly turned to something else and ended. Perhaps my argument was a cheap rhetorical trick. From my perspective her statement "There is no such thing as truth" contradicts itself. But I am operating under the belief that truth exists. For her, there is no logical contradiction because that statement is neither true nor false. It just is (or is it)? This highlights the problem with deconstructionism. At its logical conclusion, statements, indeed words end up having no meaning (thank you Jerry for that insight). If we cannot agree that truth exists, then why were we even discussing it? Isn't the purpose of a philosophical debate to search for truth? Otherwise, the conversation was merely a way to pass time in a meaningless existence. Deconstructionism is depressing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Light to the World

In this month's issue of Crisis, Archbishop Chaput of Denver considers the roles of the faithful in the Catholic Church, "Religious and consecrated persons bear witness to the Beatitudes by living poverty, chastity, and obedience in a radical way. Laypeople, because they live in the daily secular world, have the missionary task of humanizing society and converting it to Jesus Christ. And the ordained have the vocation of service to the Church." About his vocation he writes,"Vatican II described the vocation of bishops as a call to serve rather than a call to power. When a bishop struggles to put on Jesus Christ over his own sins and weaknesses, he begins to understand why the council talks about the pastoral office of bishops in the Church, and not outside or above it. Bishops have the same need for redemption as the people to whom we belong. The only difference is that God will hold bishops even more accountable because of the leadership to which He ordained us, and because of the graces of the office we receive." I like Archbishop Chaput, but the personal experiences of a close friend have caused me to question some of his decisions. Out of ignorance more than charity, I reserve judgment. No one can expect perfection from any human being, even a successor to the apostles. And I am gratified to know that the Archbishop understands his call is one of service not power. Incidentally, he recommends reading Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. I plan to take that advice.