Wednesday, November 26, 2008
OK, Notre Dame lost at home, on Senior Day, to one of worst teams in Division I. Let's talk about something else.
How about that dominating win by Iowa? Check out this collection of highlights. Two warnings: The music sucks. And: this may give you one of those four-hour erections the commercials warn about...even if you are female.
How about the worst season in Michigan history? Lloyd Carr's retirement opened the door for the Wolverines to bring in a home run hire of Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia. Twelve games later?
The most losses in school history. The end of a bowl streak that had been active as long as I've been alive (and remember, I'm gettin' old). This is noteworthy because Michigan had a lot further to fall than ND. Since Lou Holtz left, the Irish have muddled through a decade-plus of mediocrity, while Michigan continued to make bowl games year after year. The total collapse of the program, that smug Meech fans a year ago said could never happen to their vaunted school, has happened.
Pick Six: Another quiet week. Only losers were Illinois (Quig) and Wake (TMMPF). No impact on the rankings there. Overall a little movement, but emphasis on the little. Is this game over yet?
Just to end on a positive jam, here's one good thing about the Syracuse game. After the win, fired coach Greg "Gerg" Robinson was being interviewed by NBC's sideline reporter. The Alma Mater started and Gerg said, 'hey, that's their alma mater, I don't wanna talk over that,' and then turned to his players behind him to shush them. NBC cameras cut to the dazed, catatonic Irish players barely swaying to one of the many traditions that make Notre Dame football special. When the song ended, the cameras went back to Gerg on the field, and the interview continued.
He was a historically awful head football coach, but that was a historically class act.
Week 14 Preview: The Afterglow
Not much happening this week, other than following the Charlie Weis soap opera. (Today's installment is here.)
Oh yes, and our annual beatdown by these guys.
Elsewhere in that conference: Hawkeye fans have a reason to care about Oregon vs. Oregon State. If the Beavers win, they win the Pac 10 and the BCS slot. Then Southern Cal would get an at-large spot. If the Beavers lose, then USC wins the conference, and Ohio State would likely get an at-large berth. Then everyone in the Big Ten moves up a notch in the bowl pecking order, increasing the odds that the Hawks go to a January bowl in Florida. So, Go Ducks!
Pick Six: Nothing much this week, as many teams have finished their season. Florida has a chance to lose, playing at Florida State, but I ain't holding my breath. They have their eyes on the prize, and likely won't get tripped up. Auburn could deliver a big "Eff You" to Alabama by winning the Iron Bowl, but it wouldn't earn me any poll points. Frankly the most interesting game on the slate might be Ball State vs. Western Michigan. [ed: which Ball St. won in between this being written and posted.] I guess Georgia/Georgia Tech has the potential to be interesting? ... Kansas/Mizzou? ... Sigh. I guess that means Army/Navy, the annual sign of the end of the season, can't be far away.
Other than that, the season is pretty much over. This week, just enjoy the final burst of games, spread over the Thurs-Fri-Sat stretch. Me? I'll be in Ohio, eating turkey and working on my six-pack in the offseason.
Happy Thanksgiving, and happy last full(ish) week of college football.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
After all, this was the year that Jay Mariotti quit the Sun-Times. And late last week, the Tribune announced it had fired hack Mike Downey. Mariotti was known for having a big mouth but never going into the locker rooms to face the athletes he ripped on. Downey was brought in from corporate sibling the LA Times when Michael Holley quit a mere two months into his job as a Trib columnist.
All this on top of Mike North leaving WSCR? I mean, I don't listen to sports talk radio because of blowhards like North. But if I did listen to sports talk radio, I STILL wouldn't listen to North.
Chicago, home to the new president and no longer home to three awful sports journalists. Our "most livable city" score surely has shot up.
* -- The AP Stylebook says you can start a sentence with a number only if it is a year, although it's not recommended. Not that I care. But it's good to know which rules you're breaking.
Allright, this is America, we live in a democracy, now you can have your say using the poll on the left.
Please vote for your favorite Muppet! Write-in votes for "none of the above" can go in the comments of this post. (I will be a little disappointed if Josh doesn't have a write-in vote of "ANY AND ALL OF THE MUPPETS ARE INFERIOR TO U2")
Thursday, November 20, 2008
(10 points for the first person to get that reference)
Notre Dame and Iowa won on the same day for the first time since Sept. 13 (satisfying wins over rivals Meech and Iowa State). But both had supremely unsatisfying wins in Week 12.
I was at the official Notre Dame Alumni Association Gamewatch ... and it was pathetic. At kickoff there were maybe a dozen fans there. Yes I know it was early, it was Navy, ND had lost two in a row, etc. As my buddy Steve pointed out, you could've watched it from the comfort of your couch. But still. I remember being at McFadden's in New York, and there were so many people you could barely breathe. Maybe that's the difference between 2005 optimism in Manhattan vs. 2008 pessimism 100 miles from campus, but I expected more of the fanbase.
The game itself was sickening. So much crap happened in the last three minutes (the onside kicks, the "illegal batting," shoddy defense, Navy's fourth timeout) that it's best we just record the "W" and move on. Pat of Blue Gray Sky had the best wrap up and perspective on this game, which you can read if you're so inclined.
Meanwhile, I didn't see Iowa beat Purdue, but Shonn Greene ran for 211 yards and we only scored 22 points? That's not good enough against an awful Purdue team. I expect more this Saturday.
Pick Six: Yawn. Plenty of losses (Auburn, Kansas, South Florida, Illinois, Wake, Cal) but only one change in the rankings: Cincy ticks up a couple spots.
Week 13 Preview: Hate and Sympathy
The HATE is for Minnesota, obviously. This week they are dead to me, all those cool bands the state has produced. Here's my favorite (didn't say best) Minnesota joke:
Q: What does it say at the top of Minnesota ladders?
A win over Minnesota improves our bowl seeding and confirmed that their 8-1 start was a joke, build on a house of cards like a four-point home win over Northern Illinois and scoring a combined 33 points against the dreadful Indiana/Purdue combo (for context, we had triple that, literally). Once again, the fine fellows at BHGP host the HQ of hate.
The sympathy is for Syracuse, where another once-proud program is in shambles.
That man is Greg "Gerg" Robinson, the soon-to-be-former coach of Syracuse. What is it about ND coming to town that makes a program fire their shitty coach? As Feinstein and many others know, I used to be a big 'Cuse fan. There was no rationale other than hating Bobby Knight and hoping 'Cuse would beat Indiana in the 1987 NCAA basketball championships. Plus, they have a cool mascot:
I remember this version of Syracuse:
I was sitting in my apartment in Omaha, watching that game, and was laughing so hard in amazement. McNabb had vomited on the sideline a little before that play. You can watch a longer version, showing how they got into the long third and goal, right here. (I just now watched the whole thing, and oh man, it's cool.)
But lately they've been this version:
Let's just get a solid win, go get killed by Southern Cal, and be happy with 7-5.
Pick Six: Ohio State (MPF/Cat) vs. The Flaming Heap of Dung That Used to Be Michigan. Penn State (Cat) vs. Michigan State should be cool, and Cincy (Cat again) faces Pitt. Everyone else either isn't ranked or won't break a sweat (bye or functional bye).
Nationally, we've got Oklahoma vs. Mike Leach's merry band of pirates. We've got the sorriest excuse for a Division I-A game, the 2008 Apple Cup. I made a totally irrational pick of Pitt over Cincy this week. This might as well be an ACC game--the Wannstache beat both my favorite teams, he might as well mess up my picks too.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
There are a lot of characters in the movie. Some I liked, some I didn’t, some I ignored. Here are my rankings of all the Muppets worth mentioning.
- Sam the American Eagle
Sam is the greatest of all Muppets, just like America is the greatest of all countries. He upholds decency and American values. He is the Constitution of Muppets, the White Album of Muppets, the Cal Ripken of Muppets.
- Statler and
- Waldorf Statler gets the edge for being more of an instigator of cynical humor, whereas Waldorf picks up the loose ends and the lines already set up for him by Statler. But don’t get me wrong, it’s a thin line: they are both completely awesome Muppets.
- Fozzie BearHe tells jokes. He drives a Studebaker. He helps Kermit not get killed early in the movie at the El Sleezo Cafe. He pulls out a guitar at one point. And, as this photo proves, he sometimes wears a backwards “PRESS” badge in his fedora.
- RowlfI know, I know, I wasn’t expecting a dog to rank this high either. But Rowlf is cool. He plays piano, has a not-too-optimistic worldview, and has good lines in the movie. Example: describing the end of an okay night out, he says, “I’ll just have a couple beers, take myself for a walk, and go to bed.” And like Fozzie, he also has some journalistic experience, as the photo shows.
- Kermit the FrogThe hero, the symbol of all Muppets. Kermit plays banjo and gets high marks for leading the gang on a journey to follow their dreams, but loses points for taking that trip to Hollywood (land of phonies) and thinking it would be better than the small town he came from. He also dates Miss Piggy (keep reading for more on that) and has a nasally singing voice that can be grating on a solo like “Rainbow Connection.”
- SweetumsI thought this guy’s name was Jack. No wonder I couldn’t find him on Google. Turns out that was the job he had at Milton Berle’s car lot, not his name. Anyway, look at him. He’s fricking enormous and could probably snap any of us in half. And yet he does not use his size for violence. Due to a misunderstanding he spends the whole movie trying to catch up to the gang, and you gotta feel for him.
Bonus picture of Sweetums delivering a speech on the underlying themes of man's struggles with technology evidenced in the writings of Michel Foucault.
- Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem Band (Dr. Teeth – keyboards; Sgt. Floyd Pepper – guitar; Zoot – saxophone; Janice - guitar, vocals; Animal – drums)
These guys are all pretty much the same to me. I didn’t really discern any personality amongst any of them except Animal, who is a total nutcase.
- BeakerBeaker mumbles and blows shit up. That’s cool.
- AnimalThe only member of the band to get his own entry, cause he’s grade-A nuts. They gotta keep a chain around his neck like the Gimp so he doesn’t go berserk. I don’t particularly like or dislike Animal, but I respect that he is a barely coherent lunatic.
- Swedish ChefBORK BORK BORK. I always thought he said “boorsha boorsha” or something like that. It’s highly unlikely thousands of fanatical Muppet fans on the Intergoogles are wrong and I’m right. Much like the above two entries, if you can't speak in understandable complete sentences, you are not going to break the Top Five.
- The Great Gonzo
I can hear TM saying, "No, not that one!!"
OK, this Gonzo was nothing special. I don’t remember particularly liking him as a kid, and no one knows if he’s a bird or what. At least most of the characters at the top of the list have the courtesy to have their species in their name.
- Dr. Bunson Honeydew
Bunson invents cool stuff like the instant growth pills that make Animal enormous (a plot device I saw coming a mile away, by the way. I knew the nutjob would eat all the pills). Anyway, science is boring, so he scores low.
- Camilla the ChickenWhat a waste of a character. I don’t understand what she was doing in the movie. Even Sam the Eagle, who was almost invisible, had more lines than the chicken. Added nothing to the film.
- ScooterCan't imagine what this guy did to get arrested. The band manager, or roadie, or hanger-on, or whatever. Looks like a nerd, had no impact on the movie.
- Everybody else (the boomerang fish guy, the explosions guy, anyone who wasn’t in the movie, etc)
Ehhhh .... if I can't remember your name .... you ain't worth it.
- RobinWhy does Kermit need a nephew? I couldn’t even find a decent picture of him alone, so I’m including this one of Bernadette Peters, who is twice as lovely and funny as Robin.
- Miss PiggySelfish, self-centered and vaguely French. Her arrogance and shoddy treatment of the Frog earn major negative points with me, landing her squarely in last place.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Last Saturday, I didn't leave the house all day long. Good thing too, cause I saw this:
The Irish played flat and lethargic in a game BC always gets up for. The defense gave up only 10 points. That should be good enough for a win, if your offense and special teams hold up their end. But that didn't happen, and now we sit at 5-4.
By the way, ignore all the noise in the press about Charlie ... it's a slow week and they need something to talk about. Wins against Navy and Syracuse (doable) and a loss to Southern California (count on it) means 7-5. And 7-5 with a bowl game, after 3-9 last year, is improvement I can live with.
Pick Six: Quigley followed up his great week with a crappy one, with losses by Clemson, Kansas, Illinois and Penn State (WOOO!). But his one win (Cincy) bumped the Bearcats back into the Top 25. I had four wins but the loss was Cal, who drops out of the rankings. TM was undefeated blah blah blah. The bottom line is that the cat has edged into second place. Let's go to the numbers:
Moving on ....
Hey, Michigan won. Congratulations, Meech, you have three wins, the same as Notre Dame last year.
Also last week, the Big Ten came through on this promise:
Week 12 Preview: Who to Root Against on Saturday
As for this Saturday, Matt Hinton, the original Sunday Morning Quarterback (now blogging for money at Yahoo) pegged it accurately:
The only matchup of ranked teams is Florida against barely ranked South Carolina. So let's focus on the Big Ten, and how the Hawkeyes can improve themselves after that big win.
With only two games left, it is acceptable to look at the bowl picture and root for conference rivals to lose based on positioning reasons. This week's schedule clarifies good and evil pretty clearly:
- Indiana at No. 8 Penn State: don't care. It will be a big PSU win and it doesn't affect us.
- No. 11 Ohio State at Illinois: Illinois beat us (who knows how) and they're struggling. An OSU win boosts their chance of getting a BCS at-large bid. That would mean everyone in the Big Ten moves up a slot in the pecking order. Go Bucks!
Technically my support this week comes from my Iowa half, not Notre Dame half. However, this is way too funny not to post.
- Northwestern at Michigan: As much as dislike I Meechigan, the hate will subside for three hours or so on Saturday. A Northwestern loss hurts their conference/bowl standing, whereas Michigan will continue to suck and be bowl-less win or lose.
- Minnesota at Wisconsin: Minny is way too high in the standings. A beatdown from Bucky will bring them back down to earth, and fill them with existential doubt heading into the finale with Iowa in the Humpty Dome.
- Michigan State: idle. Fine, don't play, see if I care.
Jay at Blue Gray Sky has already said his goodbyes for Joe Tiller. Good stuff. Purdue is sleepwalking through the year, they can't decide between Siller and Painter, and they haven't beaten anybody good this year. If Iowa plays like they did against Wisconsin and Penn State, we'll be fine. If they play like they did against Northwestern and Illinois, the fingernails will be nubs.
Notre Dame plays Navy in Baltimore.
Last year was a perfect storm of bad coaching (Weis), great coaching (Paul Johnson, now at Georgia Tech), a team that had quit (ND), a team that had everything to play for (the Navy seniors who recognized they had the chance of a lifetime), and other factors. And STILL it came down to a boneheaded decision by Weis to not kick a field goal for the win at the end of game. Instead, this happened: (not for the weak of heart, Irish fans)
And the game STILL went to three overtimes. This year, the normal order is restored. (There is a reason ND won 43 years in a row, and it's not luck or coincidence.) As of right now, I'm planning to watch this at the official ND Gamewatch here in Chicago. If you're around, stop on by!
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Let me say this: these two teams should not play at the same time. Too difficult to try to follow both. And even though ND/Pitt had a one hour head start, the NBC commercial-fest and four overtimes put the two games in nailbiter mode at pretty much the same time. Aaargh.
Sadly, the results were the same on both sides: inability to make the big play when it counted. Both quarterbacks showed their youth and inexperience. Iowa's offense line was particularly porous in the second half; the Irish couldn't score a TD from the 25-yard line four frickin' times.
So now both remain at five wins, a victory away from bowl eligibility (a guaranteed trip somewhere for the Irish, a Detroit punishment or shutout for the Hawks) and facing foes from the East on Saturday.
I'm just sitting back, waiting for Cat Lassie to rescue the season.
In addition to being an Iowa/Irish fan, it also sucked in Week 10 to be a fat, crappy coach. The school can call it "resigning" ... I'll call it what it really is: being fired.
Leading the charge was Fat Phil Fulmer of Tennessee and his amazing sweaty/lactating nipples.
Phil had a great run at UT, but he was getting run over by the new breed of SEC coaches (Meyer, Saban, Miles, even Richt).
We all know about the MAC's inferiority complex, and to stay competitive with the big conferences, Toledo fired Tom Amstutz.
Toledo has only two wins this season, one over Michigan. Bowl-ineligible MEECHIGAN! Since when is beating Michigan not enough to save your job? What kind of a world are we living in? What's next, a black guy for president?
And though he's not technically fat, Ron Prince is bad.
I think many people saw his firing coming a mile away, like "introductory press conference" away. As the offensive coordinator at Virginia, his offenses were never particularly good. And in the last three games, K-State has given up something like 500 points.*
Anyway, he should have been fired on the spot the day he let this happen:
Good grief, is this now the pre-eminent fat coach in football?
Even Charlie can't break through walls and shout "YEEEAAHHHH!!!" like Mangino.
Pick Six: ah geez, do I have to still do this? OK, fine:
- Auburn lost.
- Texas lost.
- South Florida lost. (I think I've lost faith in Leavitt as a coach. Perhaps more on this in a future post.)
- Ball State continues to climb up the rankings.
The obligatory scores:
And a quick national recap: WF? WTF?!? Wake Forest went to overtime--OVERTIME--to beat Duke. Granted Duke is a little better this year, but we're talking about a team that was nationally ranked to begin the season couldn't put away the smart kids in regulation. Sigh. And check out Southern Cal's scoring defense the past few weeks. Holy crap I am not looking forward to Nov. 29.
And, briefly, The Huskers: Ouch. Maybe we'll see Herbie next week. But not today.
Week 11 Preview: Put Up or Shut Up
Iowa will face 11 guys in white uniforms on Saturday. But they'll also be facing this:
Goddamn, I've seen that video three times since it first aired, and I get chills every time.
The Hawks have been sporadic this year and need a signature win if they want to go anywhere in December. I wonder who's going to show up: the fierce, determined team that crushed Wisconsin and Indiana, or the fuzzy, unfocused guys who sleepwalked through the Illinois game. Stanzi doesn't have to be the Manzi, but he has to be mistake free-zi at the very least. If the defense can shut down the "Spread HD" like Ohio State did (at home like Iowa will be) and keep it close, maybe we can keep it close enough to have a break go our way.
But there are two sides to every story (you like how I worked in "The Story" there?), and the flip side is Penn State on a mission to win every single game of 2008. Living in Nebraska, I saw how the Huskers put every fiber of their being into winning a national championship when their legendary coach announced his retirement in 1997. I can't root against Iowa of course, but watch that video again. How do you root against that?
Notre Dame needs to shake out of the lethargy that has gripped the middle third of the season. Throwing away the lead at Chapel Hill, a bye week, a scrimmage against Washington and the third-quarter hibernation/overtime impotency against Pitt: all point to a hump to get over. And we're gonna do it against these classless clowns:
Boston College is, in many ways, the opposite of Notre Dame. They have won 12 or so bowl games in a row, whereas ND has lost 10 or so in a row. That is proof that ND is a far, far better program.
(If you don't care about bowls, skip this:) Here's the reason. Bowls are not about matching up equal teams. Bowls are not about conference supremacy or bragging rights. They are about two things: travelling fan base and television revenue. Because ND is a national draw, they get promoted up into higher-tier bowls than their on-field performance would merit. Bowl organizers know this makes the actual game a potential mismatch with a talent disparity. But the fans who will attend the game and the thousands watching at home more than make up for that risk. BC, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. No one gives a crap about BC, fans or TV executives, so they get "demoted" to lower-tier bowls, where they face less-talented teams.
BC has won 5 in a row (I think) against ND. It's time for that "little brother rising up" crap to stop. Much like Iowa, it would be the first notable victory of the year, against a once-ranked team.
Both games should be fun to watch. Go Hawks! Go Irish!
* -- Estimate.
** -- If you ever wonder where writers get their gift for descriptive language ... sometimes it comes straight from real life experiences.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Bruce. It all started with this article about Bruce endorsing Barack Obama. The Boss stayed true to his word, introducing Obama at a rally in Ohio in the campaign's final weekend.
The Hold Steady: I didn't see or hear anything from the Steady this election season. I did get an email saying that the Koob (Tad Kubler) fell ill with pancreatitis, so maybe they were preoccupied. However, they are from blue-collar Catholic south Minneapolis, and they live in Brooklyn, probably the bluest borough in Gotham. No way they vote McCain.
Wilco: Umm, yeah, this was a no-brainer. They gave away a free song for those who pledge to vote. Republicans don't give anything away for free, except tax breaks to big corporations.
Patty Griffin: PG stayed under the radar this season too. No idea what she's thinking. Hopefully good thoughts.
Dylan: Back when I wrote this, I predicted Dylan wouldn't vote, cause at the end of the day, "Dylan will still be Dylan."
While I would like to think that everyone who is cool (not in the hipster Wicker Park sense, but the overall attitude towards life) would get behind Obama, I figured the famously aloof Dylan would remain aloof.
However! Lookee here! Dylan tells some newspaper in a foreign country that he likes Obama. Hopefully he's not just playing pranks on the European media ... he's done that before. AND he has a new two-disc record out. Double cool.
Old 97's: I passed on this one, but it turns out that they are ready for the end of the Bush years just like the rest of us.
Kelly Willis: No idea. Lives in Texas. Not a good sign.
A. Scott Miller: He has a song on his recent demo collection warning about "People Who Rule." Sounds like he's in the "Eight Is Enough" camp. On the other hand, in "I Been Drunk All Around the Town," he did acknowledge that even Republicans get the blues.
Zep: Still British. Still can't vote. (And apparently not touring, either. Damn.)
Josh Rouse: Unknown.
Dolly Varden: As if there was any doubt, I got this email from Steve Dawson the other day: "And for those of us on the radical fringe left, here's [a video clip of] Dolly Varden with Edward Burch at our 13th anniversary concert singing my ode to the Bush years: "Sold Down The River" ... now get out there and vote!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Poor John Maverick! Oh, but he did get one rocker endorsement: the guitarist for criminally underappreciated and underplayed on FM radio Aerosmith*. The self-described "hardcore Republican" waited until five days before the election, or about ten months after the Iowa caucuses, to make his endorsement. Massachusetts, long considered a blue state, may now be on the verge of tipping red*. McCain also got Brady Quinn. Let's hope Ohio is able to overlook that.