The Good, The Bad, and The ESPN

I have received a number of inquiries from ND fans asking for my opinion/prognostication on many things Irish football. First and foremost, I am certainly no expert. I have zero psychic ability. When I stick pins in a voo doo doll nothing happens. And, I certainly don’t pretend to know more than any other fan. The fact is we have no idea what will transpire until the games are played. Still, would we be fans if we didn’t speculate? If we didn’t talk about what might happen? What should happen?

Say it with me. Speculation. Is. Good.

Still, there are always those who want to try and relieve themselves on your parade and bring you back down to earth, saying needlessly sobering things like, “Weis hasn’t won any rings at the college level yet,” or, “I don’t know why you guys talk about all this crap, because it doesn’t matter until the game is played,” or, “the starting twenty-two could come down with a serious case of bird or rat flu and be out for the season.”

Well, thanks Captain Annoying Obvious Man. You think we’ll actually know outcomes after the game is played on the field? There might be injuries, you say? Wow, what a revelation. Gee, at the end of the game, we might also know the score, the stats, and how many turnovers there were. I also don’t know how much I’m getting back on my taxes until I do them, either. It’s still nice to hope it’ll be enough to take a trip to Cabo. If it isn’t, that’s what Hooters and tanning beds are for: affordability (of course I’ll tell my wife I’m going to Fuddruckers…).

Until the games are played, speculation is all we have. And, if we didn’t have that, what would we have? I’ll tell you exactly what we would have. Guys spending more time with their wives and children instead of sitting at a computer “discussing” football with a bunch of anonymous people. There would be no talking about how Lane Kiffin is Damien, intent on casting USC’s offense into the tenth circle of hell, or what kind of body oil (hopefully scented) Ed Orgeron likes to apply after he removes his shirt during team meetings (suggestion: anything with lilac).

In other words, sports fan anarchy.

So, on the eve of the start of the college football season (thank God), I thought I would take some time to talk about some things I expect and hope for from the Irish this season. I will also discuss some realistic possibilities. I will also discuss some misguided predictions that certain analysts have made (one of these analysts might sometimes wear mascot heads on early pre-game programming and act as though they are heavily medicated, even though that would be a great excuse, but they aren’t. Said analyst might have coached at Indiana University. He also might be in his late fifties, early sixties, and use phrases like, “not so fast,” or, “Herbstreit is always crashing sorority parties late night after downing a bottle of Stoli. But, not naming names…).

I call it, “The Good, The Bad, and the ESPN.

The Season

The Good: It’s starting on Saturday.

The Bad: It only lasts four months.

The ESPN: I have to watch games on ESPN after the network drug the University through their manure for months after the Willingham firing (for this, also see: The Bad).

Charlie Weis

The Good: Charlie will win. A lot. Like Attila the Hun, a lot. How lucky were we to get this guy? A Notre Dame grad who brings the Patriots philosophy to Irish football? Four Super Bowl rings. Rocket scientist offensive skills. Old school hair cut. Drives a sweet Escalade. And, he has succeeded at the highest level of the sport. Any higher and Weis would have had to take the Space Shuttle to get there. And, he has placed a firm emphasis on special teams (unlike a certain previous coach who might be leading vicious animals into battle this Fall). Oh, and all those concerns about recruiting? Seems Weis has picked the whole thing pretty well so far. You know, I always had the feeling Weis knew how to find high schools on a map, dial phone numbers, and show kids around campus, but now I’m pretty sure of it. If he can load paper into the tray so he can receive faxes on signing day, I’ll be 100% convinced.

The Bad: Old school hair cut. Repetitive speeches. Sopranos wardrobe. Bought Snot Rocket’s house in Granger. Frequent use of the word, “okay,” (a staple in Willingham’s vocabulary). Suggest use of, “got that,” or, “are you following me media hacks,” to avoid conjuring any/all bad Tyrone memories. Is it possible for a guy to be overconfident in his own abilities? Announcing to the college football world that you are the X’s and O’s maestro is quite an entrance. There’s a good chance Pete Carroll is up for the challenge and could be Weis’s banana peel.

The ESPN: Lee Corso predicts that the Irish could start the season 0-6. If the Irish are going to be so bad, Lee, why aren’t you and the crew in Hawaii for the USC game kicking off the Three-Pete? Prediction: Corso reverses himself on Saturday morning and picks the Irish. Bob Davie stops by the Game Day set, blames Notre Dame admissions for his failure, and suggests the University fire Weis and hire an innovative ribbon dancing coach to replace him. Fowler refers to Davie no less than one hundred and fifty times as the, “architect of the Texas A&M wrecking crew defenses.” Davie is so tan he looks like he has been sun bathing near Three Mile Island.

Brady Quinn

The Good: Quinn has always had NFL first round size, intelligence, arm, potential, blah, blah, blah. Now he has the coaching to go along with it. No more, “never had a bad day, it’s okay, get ‘em next time, our play book has 20,000 plays and takes three decades to install.” And, no more constipated looks when Quinn is coming off the field. Weis will hand Brady a very simple plan to attack defenses every week and take advantage of his opponents’ weaknesses. He will also call plays that three year olds in the stands won’t see coming a mile away. With the kind of offensive talent Quinn has around him, he might have the kind of year that has people talking about leaving early. Not that Weis will let him. Did anyone ever tell Al Capone, “I quit?” And, the best thing: no more metronome.

The Bad: Quinn still must mentally undo two years (and the drone) of the Willingham regime. Like a bad divorce, it could have a hangover effect on Quinn. You know, deep in the recesses of your psyche, even though you have moved on you can still hear your ex bitching at you to pick up your underwear. And, get a job. And, get off the ‘Cheeto and Mountain Dew’ diet. It might take a few bitter losses or bad games to completely banish the “my only goal is mediocrity (and playing 27 holes of golf per day),” Ty mentality. Supposedly. Okay?

The ESPN: Beano Cook has not yet predicted even one Heisman for Quinn. However, if the Irish start out 5-0, and then beat USC at home, Beano might start suggesting the statue be reshaped in the likeness of Quinn. Please, Beano, stick to your obsessive talk about “dotting the i.”

The Irish Offense

The Good: See: Weis, Quinn. Also, the wide receivers should abuse opposing DBs like a bully torments third graders. Darius Walker and Travis Thomas seem ready to take advantage of a veteran offensive line that should open Peterbilt sized holes for them to dart through. Add to that a potent TE corps, and you have a serious nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators,

The Bad: Lack of offensive line depth, especially at tackle, and
if a certain quarterback would happen to… well… let’s not even talk about it.

The ESPN: Sure the Irish have ten starters back on offense (eleven if you count Darius Walker who should have been the starter), but will they be able to grasp Weis’s complicated scheme? Uh, actually, haters, many speculate that Weis’s system is less complicated than Bill Diedrick’s West Coast dud and focuses more on personnel groupings than complicated plays with disparate passing routes. And, it didn’t take Weis three years to install a smidge of his offense. Still, the ESPN “experts” would rather hope Weis’s offensive package is as impossible to grasp as cold fusion. Bob Davie does, too. And, possibly Urban Meyer. Lou’s still rooting for us, though. And, Regis.

The Irish Defense

The Good: Rick Minter and Bill Lewis should be able to work enough wonders so that this defense at least looks like a better one. Are we talking Gomer Pyle to Fabio extreme makeover? We probably won’t know until the Purdue game (when we are likely to face a Keystone Cops aerial assault) to know if this D is going to be posing for any romance novel book covers. We simply match up with Pitt and Michigan too well to know until then, in my opinion. Also, the addition of the Apache linebacker (or, as I call it, the CJ’s Burger position) to the defense should help us in coverage, but will it hurt us against the run? My intuition tells me Maurice Crum has the toughness to get the job done. And, are there two better ‘lead by example’ guys than Mays and Hoyte? These two will be the heart of the D, and their attitude should permeate throughout.

The Bad: Depth. The D line is woefully thin, as is the secondary. Do we have talent? Certainly. But, how many of these guys are ready to contribute, let alone play meaningful minutes? Who the hell is our nickel DB, anyway? Preston Jackson might not have had first round skills at CB (what CB on the roster does/did?), but at least I didn’t hold my breath when he was covering a slot receiver. He had experience, and typically did a very good job of keeping his man in front of him. The fact that a clear nickel (and dime back) has not emerged is troubling. This is kind of like going to the gym and forgetting to put on deodorant. You might stink. You might not. But, the fact is, you could. Because you’re not wearing any deodorant.

The ESPN: Frankly, anyone who shreds our defense (especially the secondary) has every right to. At this point it is “show me.” However, instead of taking the easy road, why not talk about the differences Minter and Lewis (read: coaching) might make? Then again, the last thing a guy like Corso wants to talk about is coaching. Because he sucked.

Uniforms

The Good: As far as I know, we have no idea what the unis are going to look like. Hopefully they will be the same as last year (only, can we have the numbers be in 12 font, instead of 36?). Still, this is like opening a present on Christmas Day. It might be what you were expecting. Like a train set. Then again, it might be something you weren’t expecting. Like a Tyco race track.

The Bad: We have no idea what they are going to look like. We could be getting tube socks (the gold flank returns). Or, worse: dress socks (Faust era Madonna blue).

The ESPN: If the Irish come out wearing different uniforms than last season, network producers will immediately cut to BC green jersey footage, and mention the seven fumbles. This will lead to them pre-empting the contest to show 1993 end of BC game footage for several hours hoping Irish fans destroy their television sets.

The Gug

The Good: It’s fully operational (like the Death Star!).

The Bad: I am not allowed to live there (I will sleep on a cot in a janitor’s closet. I will. I don’t even need a hot plate or an internet connection).

The ESPN: Actually, in Keith Jackson’s case, it’s ‘The ABC’. Jackson interview denied, but Dan Fouts is invited to come to Gug, grill out, do beer slides, call Tibet, and drag his rear end on the carpet if he likes. Great that Weis essentially told Jackson (no Irish fan in my book) to pound it. Also, for this, see: Charlie Weis, The Good.

Jumbotron

The Good: We don’t have one, and hopefully never will.

The Bad: Will probably still have to listen to 500 Halls Fruit Breezers commercials on NBC when watching the game on TV.

The ESPN: Unlike ESPN, the Disney-fication of Notre Dame seems to be over.

Please send questions or comments for Todd Carr to [email protected]

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