Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Friday, September 25, 2009

So Why Do I Do I Do This To Myself?

As you can see below, my prognosticating skill leaves something to be desired (Michigan 38, Notre Dame 34).  Ugh.

A poster on, which has been in high dudgeon for two weeks, asked "Why do we do this to ourselves?"  Why do we care so much about a game between guys we don't and probably never will know, who do not care one way or another whether we watch and care or not, in a contest that, all shirt-wearing and game-viewing rituals to the contrary, we have no influence over whatsoever?

Here was my reply:

A Notre Dame win is a victory for all that is right and good in the universe.  Those who sought to vanquish the valiant warriors of Our Lady's school have been driven away to wail and gnash their teeth.  Peace, Love, Justice, and Mercy reign.

The sun shines brighter, food tastes better, I enjoy other games that day, I don't mind doing household chores on Sunday, and will revel in every word written about the game for hours, letting the glory and goodness of a Notre Dame victory inspire my heart and lift my soul.

At church, I know God is happy.  The statue of the Blessed Mother winks at me.  Knew the boys would come through, she seems to say.  The statue of Jesus (which looks like a crucified Matthew McConaughey) seems to proclaim

Irish win, man....Cool....Just keep livin'...


An ND loss is victory for the pagan and godless, or in the case of Boston College, a victory for a bunch of johnny-come-lately, self-delusional nitwits.  The harmony of the universe has been disturbed.  Gloom and depression reign.

The sky darkens, I am unable to enjoy life's pleasures, I shut off the TV for the rest of the day (who gives a crap about college football if Notre Dame is not at or near the top?), and household chores on Sunday will be done grudgingly, if at all.  In the yard, grass and weeds grow defiantly, as they know they will not be cut today.  I use up my week's allotment of profanity in a span of 1 hour, as I inquire (to everyone and to no one) as to why ND can't find a g#&d@$n coach who can teach these guys how to f%!k#&g block and tackle.  Sunday afternoon will be spent in my study - a veritable den of sadness and despair - as I will dissect every word written about the game for hours to discern why, for the love of God why, such a catastrophic event has occurred.

At church, I know God is irritated.  The statue of the Blessed Mother wears a disappointed frown.  Barbarians are at the gate, she seems to say.  The statue of Jesus (which looks like a crucified Matthew McConaughey) seems to shrug and mutter

What do you want from me, man?  There's not much I can do if they don't block or tackle....

It's been this way for 11 or 12 weekends a year, for going on 35 years now.  This is my lot in life.  It's not a lot, but it's my life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Guest Blogger S. Kunkbear Responds To My Earlier Post

As a response to my earlier post, I have offered to a Michigan fan a chance at a rebuttal.  I present to you S. Kunkbear and his response:


Man, Michigan is so much better this year, and you guys got sooooo lucky last year when we fumbled 6 times!  I mean, this freshman QB Tate Forcier is the REAL DEAL!  We can tell by a few plays he made in his one half of college football experience that ND will have a hard time containing him, let alone stopping him! This one play, he pointed to his wide receiver where to go and then threw the ball there.  Goddammit, man, you just can't teach that kind of field-generalship!  On the other hand, the jury's still out your QB, Jimmy Clausen.  Will he ever live up to the hype?  I mean, on a couple of the 7 incompletions he's thrown in his last 40 some-odd attempts over his last two full games, the ball was up to 8 inches away from the receiver's hands!

And, hey, former Syracuse coach Greg Robinson is coaching Michigan's know what that means: it'll be the 2008 Syracuse game (a 24-23 ND loss) all over again for Notre Dame this Saturday....I mean other than that your receiver Floyd is healthy and ND has an offensive line coach who seems to have gotten through to his charges on how to block and not commit stupid penalties and that Jon Tenuta is now ND's defensive coordinator and that ND's players seem to have a completely different mindset from last November....other than that, it's just like last year's Syracuse game!

And Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez OWNS Jon Tenuta!  I mean, you see what his experienced and durable West Virginia QB and running back combination did to Tenuta's Georgia Tech defense 3 years ago, right?  Good thing Tenuta doesn't have, like, you know, one of them fancy video-watching machines or anything to make some adjustments on how to attack RR's amazing scheme!  Nope, Rodriguez's QB will be just like West Virginia's was that day....except white....and a couple of years younger....and with only one half of college experience....and his main running back won't be completely healthy.....but other than that, deja vu for Tenuta, man!!

Oh, man, can't wait to see Forcier - and maybe that other freshman QB who moves faster than an unsubstantiated rumor does through the lips of an ESPN commentator - running Rodriguez's offense against that slow, unathletic Irish defense.  You know, that offense that relies on quick reads, decisions, and pitch-outs by the QB, and can result in him getting leveled on a regular won't be at all like it was for that Nevada QB you played against last week - that upperclassman who, when he finally got his team inside ND's 10 yard line, made his pitch-out too soon and too far behind his running back in a panic because he didn't want to have his head taken off and his spleen shooting out the back of his ribcage by a hit from some deceptively fast-closing white guy (#22 I believe it was), resulting in an Irish fumble recovery....not at all, man!  'Cause as I said, Forcier's the REAL DEAL!  He's got POISE, and I'm sure he took plenty of hits from guys with 21-22 year-old physiques in high school.

Yessiree, Michigan's primed for this one like a Bo Schembechler-coached Rose Bowl** team!  This one won't even be close!

S. Kunkbear


** - For those who don’t know, in his 21-year stint as Michigan head coach (1969-89), Schembechler took Michigan to ten Rose Bowls, and UM was favored to win seven of them.  They won two.

Getting Their Irish Up

During Charlie Weis' tenure as head football coach at Notre Dame (2005-present), many fans and alumni have been calling for the Irish to play with more passion and fire. We've cited Charlie's pro football-influenced, business-like approach as the likely culprit of Irish listlessness; I refered to it as "Charlie is not a coach who understands that college ball is about getting 85 guys to buy into a single vision." His mindset, cemented in his years in pro football, was that the players took care of that kind of thing.

This is where the Ty Willingham-imposed two year gap of talent (Mr. Willingham coached ND for three years (2002-04) but only bothered to recruit during one of them), experience, and leadership really hurt ND in '07 and '08. In 2007, the two "lost classes" were juniors and seniors, and the lack of leadership was apparent. There also seemed to be some disconnect between the upperclassmen and the freshmen and sophomores, an prime example of which was 5th-year senior center John Sullivan chewing out freshman QB Jimmy Clausen on the sidelines of the UCLA game after Sullivan had just snapped the ball 2 feet over Clausen's reach. What was he yelling at Clausen for? For not being 8 feet tall? Last year was better, but after the Irish imploded in the second halves against North Carolina (led 17-6; lost 29-24) and Pittsburgh (led 17-3; lost 36-33 in 4 overtimes), neither Weis nor any player provided the necessary leadership to pick the team back up for the remainder of the season.

The post-USC game (a 38-3 Irish loss) players-only meeting, where players (according to reports) adopted a "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!" attitude, seemed to help pick the team off the floor, and apparently Weis let the players have fun when they went to Hawaii for the Hawaii Bowl, as the Irish team that took the field on Christmas Eve was as loosey-goosey a bunch as any ND squad in recent memory. After the Irish pummeled Hawaii on their home field, many Irish fans and alums, including myself, thought "Great, but can they replicate such an emotional state and performance in something other than a 3rd-tier bowl game?"

From all that I've read since last spring, the bowl performance provided some wind in the Irish offseason sails for the time in a while. However, as I read it, it is not merely enthusiasm; the team, as teams are wont to do, has absorbed some of the personality of their coach.

Now, Charlie is not Ara Parseghian (Irish coach from 1964-74) or Lou Holtz (ND's coach from 1986-96) in the emotion department, but there has been a detectable fire burning in him since the end of last season. This fire is not a raging inferno, nor a flash fire that both ignites and is squelched quickly, but rather a slow burn. With each instance that Weis neglected to make proclamations about the upcoming season or to wax eloquent about the assemblage of talent - instead begging off with a "We'll let our play do the talking" (all very un-Charlie-like) - you could sense that underneath his reticence that he was seething. This seething has not served to consume him, but to focus his efforts in making three early 2009 moves: appointing the aggressive and innovative Jon Tenuta as defensive coordinator, with the talented but inexperienced former coordinator Corwin Brown getting to learn how to hunt at the feet of a wolf; hiring an offensive line coach that he seems to be on the same page with (something that could not be said of previous line coach John Latina); the full-court press in recruitment that lured Manti T'eo, a Hawaiian Mormon who could be the most talented linebacker to wear the blue and gold since a couple of guys named Ned Bolcar (1985-89) and Mike Stonebreaker (1988-90), away from USC and UCLA.

Likewise, the team's emotional level (again, from what I've read/seen/heard) seems to match that of their coach. This is a team on a slow burn, a seething at their status as the college football-covering media's whipping boys over the last 2 seasons. As with Weis, this slow burn is not consuming their energy (thus leaving them flat later) but providing focus. Since I had surgery a couple of weeks ago, aside from attending the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Dallas gamewatch, I spent most of last Thursay thru Monday on the couch with ice bags and pain killers, and watched most or all of 10 games aside from ND's (Lynda last Tuesday: "There had better not be any football on tonight."). A lot of teams turned in good performances, but ND's stood out in a telling way: of the 3 Irish penalties (2 for holding, 1 for grabbing the facemask), none were for illegal procedure, illegal formation, illegal motion, or taking too much time - all staples of a typical college football Game 1 performance. Every team in every other game I watched committed some combination of those infractions, with the added element of an instance here or there of multiple players running on and/or off the field at the last moment prior to the snap, while Notre Dame had none of these. Add in the fact the Irish did not commit a turnover and had only 1 sack (a coverage sack with Clausen outside the pocket), and that all this was done while having a rather lengthy list of players seeing action (more than 10 for the first time), and what you witnessed was a mentally and emotionally focused group - from top to bottom - of Irish.

As for tomorrow's game against our enemy, Michigan**, in addition to the talent advantage that ND enjoys over Michigan at present, I think ND is in a much better place mentally/emotionally than UM. It takes more than one offseason to recover mentally and emotionally from a debacle of a season (3W-9L, much like ND's 2007 season) like UM had last year (the shaky 2008 Irish demonstrated this rather convincingly), while ND is in the best shape roster-wise, mentally/emotionally, and coaching-wise (name a team with a better pair of coordinators than Weis-Tenuta) that they've been in more than 15 years. Michigan's evisceration of Western Michigan last Saturday does not change the fact that they are a team with depth, talent, and confidence issues, not to mention starting a freshman quarterback against one of the most aggressively blitz-and-pressure defensive coordinators in college football; they are ripe to be exposed, and this year's Irish squad is just the type of team to expose them.

Add all this up, and I think that Michigan will be walking into a buzz saw this Saturday.


** - USC is Notre Dame's rival, Michigan is ND's enemy. What's the difference? Michigan has a long and distinguished history of vile behavior towards ND, while USC does not. So while we Irish fans and alums hope USC wins every game they play when they are not playing Notre Dame - to better help our strength-of-schedule and add luster to the USC-Notre Dame game - we hope that Michigan loses every game they play each and every year by at least 50 points. We further hope that Michigan decisively loses every contest they play in every other sport besides football, each and every year, until they become so distraught that they abandon playing sports entirely, tear down all their athletic facilities (especially that toilet of a football stadium they call "The Big House"; "The Outhouse" would be more accurate), and build over them an effeminate-looking arts studio so that their "athletes" (no need to bother with the "student-" prefix at UM) can all take up modern interpretive dance.

We then hope that they suck at that, too.