Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's About Common Sense

If you'll excuse me one (hopefully) final post on the current rule enforcements at ND, I'd like to share some prose with you. As much as I'd like to take credit, it comes courtesy of NDN poster Irish Apache. Posts come and go, but blog entries are forever, and I felt this deserved a wider and more permanent audience.

In September of 2000, I sat in the auditorium of the New York City Police Academy with about 500 other fresh faced rookie cops. After seven and a half months of training, we were only about three weeks from graduating.

The class would be hitting the streets at which time, undoubtedly, the precinct commanders would utilize these fledgling officers to generate a large portion of their measurable activity. This has been the way of things for some time in the NYPD -- new officers are given high demands for summonses and arrests because it is both part of their training and their probationary status dictates increased compliance with the general directives of their supervisors. Precinct Commanders love rookie cops. By leaning on them to churn out summonses and arrests, a Commanding Officer can make himself look good in the eyes of the Department hierarchy.

It was this general policy that was the topic of a stirring lecture in that auditorium eight years ago. However, the presentation was not delivered by the Police Academy staff. All instructors and supervisors had quietly left the room knowing in advance the content of the lecture we were about to receive -- an action which was actually a silent affirmation of the upcoming message. The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association (the union) was there to address us and one particularly large and portly veteran delegate took the stage.

"I’m here today to talk to you, because at this point everybody in this room has made it through the academy and will be graduating," his voice boomed. "In three weeks, you will be out on the streets ... no more silly gray academy uniform, you will be wearing blue, and with this transition comes an increased responsibility.

"In your actions you will be representing the City of New York, the Department, and your fellow Officers. Particularly, as rookies, there will be a lot asked of you. You are going to be asked to write a lot of summonses and make a lot of arrests. Because of this demand, and because you will now be representing your fellow officers, I came here today to talk to you and teach you the Secret of Law Enforcement.

"It’s simple: It’s about common sense.

"Go out there and write your summonses and make your arrests, but dammit, be smart about it. For better or for worse, the public will associate your actions with not just yourself, but every other cop on this job. One of you screwing up makes the rest of us look bad!

"When you are out there generating your activity, realize that your most powerful tool for public relations is your discretion. You did not come here to be revenue generators or nannies; you came here to be cops. Remember this when targeting your enforcement.

"A good cop does not take the easy road and enforce every violation he sees. Rather, a good cop takes action when he thinks his action will make a positive impact on this city. I’m telling you that there are a lot of good people in this city and you're not there to make their lives more difficult. It’s about common sense.

"Don’t go and write easy parking tickets to the truck drivers, deliverymen, and the contractors who try to do business in the city. They are the working men who make this city move and they deserve better.

"Don’t go and pull a guy or woman over in their car and write them a moving violation when their kids are in the car with them. Parents are heroes in their kids’ eyes, and you are not there to tear them down with a lousy ticket.

"Don’t target the expensive car because you figure the owner can afford to pay a fine. There is a good chance that owner worked very hard for that nice car and he does not deserve to be punished because of it.

"Do find that group of drug dealers on the corner and be merciless with your enforcement. Hit them with every violation you can apply and take back that corner.”

The PBA delegate went on to discuss various “do's and don’ts” that seemed so plainly obvious to so many of us, yet are often forgotten by law enforcement agents that are overly focused on generating activity. It was (and still is) the concern of the PBA that police officers who do not utilize appropriate discretion in their enforcement duties can alienate a portion of the public whose support we could otherwise depend on. Correcting a condition and problem solving need not always be accomplished by the issuance of summonses.

The delegate concluded, “You are now Police Officers in the NYPD, and if your authority is challenged, no matter who it is, you better take charge of the situation and do what needs to be done. We don’t get pushed around. However, keep in mind, we are there to protect and serve the public, not preside over them. We need to respect the good people in this city and by doing so they will return that respect to us. You can do this by getting out there, working hard, generating good summons and arrest activity, and using your discretion. You can make this city a better place by being a good cop. A good cop enforces, but wisely. It’s really not hard. It’s about common sense.”

I have never forgotten the message that was delivered to us in the Academy auditorium that day. I have done my best to both abide by the “do’s and don’ts” and to encourage the young police officers I supervise to operate in a similar fashion. To be honest, I think I probably would have done the same had I never even heard the lecture the PBA delegate delivered eight years ago. It seems a basic fundamental that should be instinctive to anyone interested in being an effective cop: Successful policing requires that in all initiatives a common sense balance must be found between enforcement and the application of discretion. Too little of the former will lead to an increase in crime or unwanted conditions. A lack of the latter will create a resentful public. It is the goal of community policing to strive to achieve this equilibrium.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a current lack of common sense at Notre Dame. A flood of complaints expressed on the ND Nation forums concerning both policy and enforcement justifies this assessment. Although I am quite sure that certain testimonials are tainted with exaggeration, the sheer volume of chronicles detailing negative interactions with authorities and their relative increase should be cause for serious concern.

Dismissing these accounts as mere histrionics is inappropriate and irresponsible. There is a building resentment. The alumni, students, and subway alums have too often become the target of strict and costly enforcement championed by the Administration and various supporting law enforcement agencies. Finding a solution requires understanding the root cause of the problem.

How did we reach this tipping point? What is driving the creation of strict policy and the accompanying “zero tolerance” enforcement? It has been suggested by members of these forums that the underlying rationale was born out of the desire for revenue generation or fear that in today’s litigious society the University is at financial risk without such a draconian strategy. Although these may be ancillary motivations for the tactics employed, finding the root cause requires examining a series of events that occurred in 2002.

At that time, Father Malloy was still actively involved in the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He was appointed to this government committee by President George H.W. Bush and was co-chair of the subcommittee responsible for publishing an extensive report calling for a call to action to curb college drinking in April of 2002.

The timing of the NIAAA’s report was unfortunate, however. In late March of 2002, Harvard’s School of Public health released the findings of an eight-year study that identified a rise in binge drinking and particularly noted that institutions structured like Notre Dame were prone to increased alcohol abuse. The Harvard study received media attention prior to the release of the NIAAA’s call to action and resulted in a sense of embarrassment for certain Notre Dame officials. It seemed contradictory that the University’s figurehead was a key member of a committee espousing one course of action, while (according to Harvard) the institution actually operated in a quite different manner. With the release of the NIAAA report, the policy at Notre Dame was rewritten and the drastic and immediate measures taken were well documented.

It was at this point where a more puritanical approach to alcohol consumption was employed. Certain key members of the administration were tasked with implementing policy, and they used every available resource at their disposal to do so. This has been the trend in effect from April of 2002 to present day.

The results and the impact on student life are debatable. Although the University effectively and drastically reduced on-campus binge drinking, a consequence of such action was that students increasingly turned to off-campus venues for social interaction. This has resulted in students being placed in undesirable situations.

Most recently over 40 students were arrested for a variety of petty violations during a raid on a house party by the Indiana Excise Police. There have been numerous reports of students falling victim to robberies as they venture off campus- even a 2003 robbery in which students were held at gunpoint by perpetrators armed with automatic weapons. Also in early 2003 was the tragic incident in which a young freshman who had ventured off campus for a social function was found dead in a nearby river. One can only wonder how many of the cited examples could have been avoided if a more liberal alcohol policy encouraging on-campus socializing had still been in place.

If the impact and results of the revised alcohol policy on student life can be considered debatable, the results of these guidelines on the Notre Dame Football experience can be considered unacceptable. There is a substantial difference. Those students affected by this trend have chosen to attend the school and by doing so elected to abide by the principles outlined in DuLac. The current alcohol policy may be poorly contrived, but all prospective students are now well aware of the high expectations placed upon them and the relative social inadequacies of current day campus existence. Whether or not the vigorous enforcement of the alcohol policy is sound decision making by the administration, the University hierarchy has the absolute right to impose its restrictions on those that choose to dwell there for four years. This same absolute right does not translate into license for authorities to “preside” over those that flock to South Bend to see a football game. Fall football Saturdays are singular social events that draw in a diverse national fan base who are by and large upstanding and established community members (alumni, families, working people, professionals, etc).

The obscene amount of enforcement for minor alcohol related violations committed on game day in the stadium and parking lot facility is analogous to embarking on a course of action that the PBA delegate warned us rookies of years ago -- don’t make the lives of the good people more difficult. Those who attend Notre Dame football games are good people and they deserve to be treated with dignity. There are now numerous examples in these forums of a failure to do so by the various agencies tasked with enforcement, especially the Indiana Excise Police. What remains infuriating about the path the University has chosen to follow is not just that it is bad policy, it is the arrogance employed.

The administration has allowed the Excise Police to take the lead in these enforcement efforts. Representatives of this agency never seemed to have been privy to an appropriate tailoring of the “Do’s and Don’ts” lecture. They apparently need to hear it. Such samples to be included in this instruction might include:

  • Don’t ticket at 20 year old student and his father who are enjoying a beer and a burger together. The young adult is already supervised and the moment does not require police presence to make it special.

  • Don’t be demanding and aggressive if you need to see an ID. You’re at Notre Dame and courtesy is a mandate.

  • Do conduct enforcement at student tailgaters and on large groups of students drinking in the parking lot. People over 30 will appreciate this because we would prefer to enjoy a pleasant tailgate without the awkwardness of being next to groups of drunk and rowdy 17 and 18 year olds.

  • Don’t be so quick to handcuff people and remove them to jail. Good people need not be exposed to this (especially students). Utilize summonses instead.

  • Don’t continue with the videotaping of people and license plates. It’s creepy and unnecessary for such minor violations. Save that kind of tactic for mass protests and riots, not football tailgaters.

Sadly, it would be doubtful that such a speech would even be effective given the mission of the agency. A more appropriate moniker for such individuals would be the “Indiana State Excise Code Enforcement”, because as my Captain is fond of saying, “There are those who might be in law enforcement, but they ain’t the POLICE.” This designation should rightly be reserved for those who handle themselves in a more honorable fashion than is being reported. It is hard to rationalize why their very presence is being permitted given the bad publicity they are generating.

The Excise Police are obviously not alone in needing a “do’s and don’ts” speech. The NDSP and Stadium Ushers need to improve their relationship with the game day patrons. At their core, these are both honorable groups of people and are a valuable part of the Notre Dame family. However, the administration’s policies and drive for total enforcement are straining the relations between these groups and the community they serve. The examples recently posted of bad encounters have been difficult to swallow.

There must be an immediate cessation of sending people to jail for public intoxication without good cause. Public intoxication was removed from the law books as a violation in New York and many other states. It seems odd that there would be such fervent (yet seemingly random) enforcement of a violation whose status is so inconsistent nationwide. Violence and disorder can not be tolerated, but can not be confused with enthusiasm and exuberance. This seems to be happening all too often. Additionally, an individual who is incapacitated from intoxication should be removed to a hospital, not a holding pen. This is simple and sound law enforcement.

It is a shame that in recent years so many members of the Notre Dame family have become the targets of a questionable enforcement initiative. The alcohol policy as it pertains to Saturday needs examining and immediate revision. The ND game day experience is already an expensive one. Why make it more costly for the attendees with mounting fines, incarceration, and ill will? These are the good people of the world. They are the donors, the tuition payers, the graduates, the loyal fans, and the faithful. They deserve a safe and comfortable tailgating/stadium environment without the burden of total and excessive enforcement. There will always be summonses and arrests, but such action need only be taken when a positive result for the Notre Dame community seems a guarantee.

Employing discretion and better problem solving techniques is not a hard thing to implement. It’s about common sense.

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Them's The Rules

As a result of all the discussions yesterday and today, I was contacted by a current Usher to clarify some points. The person who shared this with me, obviously, does not want any names or positions used for fear of retribution or other hassles from both the public and the school. But he felt it important to get this info out there, so I volunteered to take the hit on this one.

I’m going to use the pronoun “he” for the purposes of description only, although I believe the vast majority of Ushers are men anyway. I’m also not going to copy the things he sent me verbatim so as to reduce the risk of identification.

This person has really enjoyed the people with whom he’s directly worked on the Usher team, and is concerned based on what he’s read here and elsewhere that the Ushers are getting grouped in with the problems going on outside the Stadium in the tailgating areas.

He, along with a lot of the Ushers with whom he works, believes his first job is to assist visitors, regardless of affiliation, in a way that helps them enjoy their Stadium experience, doing things ranging from helping them find seats to helping them find restrooms to taking pictures and so on. He has escorted fans out of the Stadium for alcohol-related issues, but does not believe that to be his primary mission, so he does not seek them out unless they’re causing trouble or otherwise overtly breaking rules. Nor does he believe people should be kicked out or hassled for standing during a football game unless they were also obviously intoxicated and/or using profanity.

While he believes the Usher Captains are under pressure to seek out and handle rule breakers, there is no direct quota he’s aware of or has been communicated to him by anyone in the hierarchy. He believes the more senior Ushers have noticed an increased desire for “pro-active rule enforcement” from the upper level, but don’t agree with or necessarily enforce that policy as it makes them feel more like police officers than ushers. This makes them uncomfortable, as it’s not in the spirit in which they volunteered for the job in the first place.

In closing, he copied the Alcohol Policy for the Stadium, which I’ll summarize:

ND’s policy of alcohol possession and abuse in the stadium is zero-tolerance.

Fans caught with alcohol in the stadium will have tickets confiscated and then be removed from the stadium through the closest gate, with the violation listed as reason for expulsion. Students will be taken to the Public Safety office, their booklets confiscated by NDSP, who will write a report and “finish the removal” (yes, that’s exactly how it’s termed).

Fans attempting to enter the stadium drunk will lose their ticket and be referred to one of the police officers at the gate in question. Fans in the stadium who appear drunk will lose their ticket and be taken to the Public Safety Office.

Students who appear intoxicated are sent to the Public Safety office. Again, booklets go to the NDSP officer, who writes the report and “finishes the removal”.

I wanted to summarize the final paragraph, but couldn’t find a way to do it justice, so here it is verbatim:

“Occasionally, violators of Stadium rules (e.g. smoking after warnings; profanity after warnings; etc.) will appear to have been drinking. As long as they are not intoxicated, if they are removed it shall be in the same manner as alcohol container removals. Students in this category shall not have their tickets confiscated. An alcohol sticker will describe the violation.”

We wondered what the policy was, now we know. And as GI Joe would say, knowing is half the battle. Some thoughts, all mine:

First, it really disturbs me there is nothing in that policy to indicate any kind of measuring standard for "intoxication". The exact wording is people who “appear to be intoxicated”, and if you violate that, your ticket is gone and you’re sent right to the tank. It may be defined elsewhere, but if it were, I would expect a reference to that definition somewhere in the regulation. It's not there, so either the regulation is poorly written or that standard doesn't exist. Neither possibility is comforting.

Second, given that lack of definition, why is the first and only move a hand-off to South Bend's or St. Joe County's finest? Those people weren't any less "intoxicated" standing by their cars 15 minutes before they walked into the Stadium, yet people aren't being arrested en masse during pregame. There's also the possibility people could be detained without true cause.

Finally, where does the infamous "campus ban" crap fit in to all this? The regs go so far as to describe the actions of the NDSP people in cases of student infractions. South Bend and St. Joe cops aren't authorized to ban anyone from campus. So where does that little cherry sit on this sundae? Or is that an improvisation on Bill Kirk's part, much like the police badge story reported on the board yesterday?

All of this strikes me as a very poorly put together policy borne of a lack of imagination in the upper echelons. My hope is with the arrival of the new General Counsel for ND this week, such things will be better handled.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Do's and Don'ts

Lots of discussion on the NDN boards today about our own little version of Troopergate. I'm sure those discussions will continue, especially with the Fall Board of Trustees meeting on campus later this week. But I believe now is a good time to go over some of my do's and don'ts.

Do I believe people who make dumbass statements to police or security officers are asking for trouble? Yes, I do.
Do I believe "what a waste of taxpayer dollars" qualifies someone to be arrested? No, I don't.

Do I have a problem with drunken or otherwise unruly people being escorted out of Notre Dame Stadium? No, I don't.
Do I have a problem with policemen and security officers hanging out in the student section bathrooms to ferret out "offenders"? Yes, I do.

Do I have a problem with officers of the law keeping the peace reasonably in the parking lots? No, I don't.
Do I have a problem with officers of the law skulking about waiting for an underage person to touch a beer? Yes, I do.

Do I think being an usher at Notre Dame Stadium is an easy job? No, I don't.
Do I think they make their own jobs more difficult at times? Yes, I do.

Do I believe it's a bad thing to keep Notre Dame Stadium orderly? No, I don't.
Do I believe it's a bad thing to have quotas for locating "unruly patrons"? Yes, I do.

Do I think people who get in trouble should see consequences for their actions? Yes, I do.
Do believe those consequences should include a ban from campus, especially via a document signed by someone as cosmically specious as Bill Kirk? No, I don't.

Do I believe sometimes ND students and fans need protection from themselves? Yes, I do.
Do I believe that protection has to come via unwarranted home invasions and physical assaults? No, I don't.

Do I believe that everyone who has shared a story with us in the last 24+ hours is lily-white innocent? No, I don't.
Do I believe the vast majority of those people were treated more harshly than their situation deserved, regardless of their fault in it? Yes, I do.

Do I have family members who have known Cappy Gagnon for a long time and have respect for him? Yes, I do.
Does that stop me from thinking his participation in conversations today with alums has been incredibly wrong-headed and inappropriate and made me question his suitability for the post he holds? No, it doesn't.

Do I respect law enforcement officers who hold a sometimes thankless job? Yes, I do.
Does that respect extend to those who act the way the Indiana State Excise Police have been acting lately? No, it doesn't.

Do I hope something positive is going to come out of this? Yes, I do.
Do I hold my breath over it? No, I don't, although I don't live a "No Surprises" life, so....

On my next few trips between Chicago and South Bend, do I plan to set the cruise control at the speed limit to avoid any unnecessary confrontations? Yes, I do.
Do I believe that as a result of all this, the first time I show up in my basketball season seats (Sec 101, Row 4, Seats 7 and 8, for the record), I'm going to find an ND security officer telling me I've been banned from campus? No, I ... hope not.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quid Pro Quo?

24 hours after the high-quality victory over the Boilermakers, the subject du jour on the NDN boards has gone from what happened on the field Saturday to what happened off of it ... specifically, the ever-escalating unreasonable behavior being exhibited by the State of Indiana's Excise Police force before, during, and after the game in the parking lots surrounding the Stadium.

My journalistic partner, SEE, did his usual bang-up job summarizing the issues. The anecdotes shared so far are sobering, pun partially intended. Even more alarming is the seeming acquiescence of Notre Dame's administration towards the practice, even going so far as having the ND po-po start singing from the same hymnal.

Reasons for the new jack-booted philosophy have been tossed around, including the possibility Notre Dame is over-reacting to allegedly having been sued over the actions of a drunken fan at a football game. But there's another possibility I'd like to explore, and it's a familiar theme: money.

ND's single-minded pursuit of the 7-4-1 model is a continuation of their goal on having as many home games as possible. The purpose of 7-4-1 is to give NBC a night game to go up against ABC's juggernaut, which the network desperately wants and the CSC desperately doesn't. But to give the Peacock it's pound of flesh in return for the filthy lucre, we're now playing Washington State deep in the heart of Texas.

It's depressing and senseless. But it also makes me wonder if the greenbacks are beind the ISEP invasion as well.

Last season, we started hearing complaints from the municipalities in South Bend about how much all these home games were costing, particularly for overtime paid to the police in areas such as pre- and post-game traffic control. Granted, the games provide a big financial shot in the arm for the local economy, but not a lot of that goes into South Bend's coffers (or the state of Indiana's, for that matter). That money goes to the businesses, and until they pay taxes or fees or whatever, the city, county and state see none of it. So the $116,000 they spend today they won't necessarily see back quickly.

During all the Excise discussions, a number of folks familiar with how the state (and Excise) works have contended the practice is a cash cow for Indiana. The pre-trial diversion programs bring in around $500 for each person, not to mention the fines paid for tickets issued to underage or overserved consumers.

And that makes me wonder: Is the sudden avalanche of ISEP on and off campus a method of payback?

Think about it. Notre Dame does not want to screw around with special ticket taxes or other fees, and it certainly doesn't want to set the precedent of paying South Bend directly for some of these services. But at the same time, they need the locals to make sure the gridlock doesn't leave people sleeping in their cars, and it's only a matter of time before the push-back from both the city and state government (and applicable police forces) upset that apple cart.

The solution? Give the Excise Police free rein to write their bullshit summonses and haul otherwise law-abiding Notre Dame students and alumni to jail. The state can milk some dollars from those poor schlubs, while Notre Dame keeps its money and still gets the services it wants.

Everyone wins. Except us, of course. But nothing's new under the sun.

Edit: Two viewpoints were shared with me since I posted this, both of which I share without edit or commentary:

1) Consider the possibility ND is trying to "clean up tailgating" so they can have the night games that the fans and NBC want and we won't have to play "depressing games deep in the heart of Texas".

2) If ND isn't complicit in this, why is it you never see Excise cops in the Stadium lot? It's only in Joyce and Tower. I guess they don't want to run the risk of bumping into anyone connected to a really big check at ND. But who told them that's where the big money parties?

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

How to Straddle a 50 Yard Line

I never thought my mortal coil would be subdivided by that magical point on the field in ACross-ian fashion. Yet there I was, lucky duck that I am, watching the Irish throttle (and yes, that's what they did) the Wolverines 35-17 with Cash and JVan and NDOldtown.

Some thoughts from section 110.

Youth is served

Someone pointed out at the end of the game that every touchdown Notre Dame scored yesterday, on both sides of the ball, were scored by sophomores. If that doesn't bode well for the future, I don't know what does.

The most interesting sophomore was Clausen. Not only did he show great touch on the ball, he looked, as NDOldtown was heard to say, in command the entire evening. Yes, he made some mistakes on throws (two of which were picked, one of which wasn't nullified by penalty), and I'm still not convinced he's seeing the entire field, but he's got the rest of this season and then two more to clean that up. The TD pass to Golden Tate was a thing of beauty.

Standardized test

Last week, Notre Dame played a team with a standard offense that didn't execute well. This week, Notre Dame played a team with a non-standard offense (lots of misdirection) that executed competently.

So I'm going to be interested to see our defensive performance next week against Michigan State, an opponent who executes a more standard offense well. Ringer ran for almost 300 yards in a monsoon yesterday, and while I don't expect him to duplicate that feat in East Lansing on Saturday, it does show that Mark Dantonio is going to bread-and-butter you, at least sometimes.

Down goes Frazier

Speaking of defense, my biggest defensive complaint is also my biggest offensive cheer: sacks. On the good news side, Jimmy Clausen has yet to be put down by any defense, and considering MI's front seven (or at least front four) is probably the best ND will see until Thanksgiving weekend, that's a good thing.

On the bad news side, though, none of Jon Tenuta's vaunted blitzes has resulted in an opposing quarterback ending up on his back with the ball in his hands. I'm hoping it's a matter of getting the timing down, but such a defense is high risk - high reward, as evidenced by the two or three times MI ran a big play right into the vacated spot of a blitzer yesterday. I'd hate to see us running the high risk if we're not getting the high reward.

Not offensive at all

As awful as the OL was last year (and even, to an extent, last week), I don't think any other unit on the team made as many strides between week 1 and week 2 than they. Not only has Clausen not been sacked yet, they opened holes for ND backs to the tune of 113 yards yesterday. The last two times ND faced Michigan, they were lucky to get positive net rushing yardage at all.

Now I'd like to see Mike Haywood take more advantage of the line's improvement and get away from the delayed handoff running plays. Slow-developing plays give the defense time to recover from any mistakes they may have made. When you have running backs who can hit the hole like ours can, they should be hitting them, not dancing up to them.

Speaking of Haywood....

...that popping sound you heard in the 3rd quarter was Andy having an aneurysm as Clausen's ill-advised pass on the -and-goal from the 2 was picked off. JC got a mulligan when the Wolverines were called for pass interference, but it indicates there's still a level of excessive cute in the playbook.

While I saw one or two examples yesterday, I'm still looking for an extended drive where the OL (and the offense in general) imposes its will on the defense. Down the stretch, it seemed tough for ND to run the clock out when MI expected it. Sure, as I said, this front seven is probably the best we'll see until SC. Still, the inability to truly pound the ball when needed remains a concern. With the passing game looking good, maybe it's time for the coaches to work on the team's aggression.

Crank it up

Or "crank eeet up", as it sounded like in the Stadium.

I know it's been said before, but I'll say it again: Home-grown chants or traditions are refreshing, especially in light of the Disneyfied crapfest pep rallies have become. When it comes from the students by the students, it's usually of very high quality.

Edit: I've been corrected -- the chant is "Crank me up". Sounds a lot more suggestive, which makes it even better.

Better than the symphony

A lot's been said about the whole "cowbell" thing the ND band did last week, and I'm not a big Bon Jovi fan, so this week (while played and marched well) wasn't spiritually uplifting for me.

But "A tribute to boy bands"?? Holy crap. If the Michigan marching whoevers weren't embarrassed for themselves, I was embarrassed enough for all of them. Those readers who were in the ND band with me during my time will remember "Lovely Ladies of Song", the only marching band show God ever hated. This, I think, was worse.

Down in front

It'd been a year or two since I watched a game in Notre Dame Stadium. I was gratified that, at no time during my game-watching experience, was I asked to sit down. In fact, just about everyone behind me spent as much time standing up as I did.

Maybe it's a function of sitting in (what I still call) the new section of the stadium. I enjoy sitting there much more than I do sitting in the lower bowl, since there's more vertical room and you're not putting your knees into someone's back. But perhaps it's a cooler brand of people sitting up there who aren't going to get bent out of shape because someone dares to cheer.

Scratch one off the bucket list

No, not sitting on the 50 (which was cool, of course). But I've now done three things associated with Notre Dame football that have only enhanced the experience.

First, I've watched a game with Mike Frank. Those of you who know Mike know him to be a gentle soul who remains one of the most popular media figures covering ND because he genuinely is loath to say a bad word about anyone. Then he sits in front of the television to watch Notre Dame football and becomes ... well, the Jeckyl/Hyde analogy is too easy, yet apt. It's gangs of fun to watch.

Second, I've eaten deer at bbdome's tailgater. Once or twice a year, our poster bbdome puts together a huge spread of BBQ and smoked offerings, such as venison, goose, and all kinds of other meats. It has certainly expanded the quality of my palate, let alone the amount of beer I've consumed in my life.

But yesterday, I achieved the trifecta: I watched a Michigan game with NDOldtown. If you thought the written prose (like this and this and this and this and this) was equal parts entertaining and visceral, you ain't seen nothing until you've seen the show live. Wow. The moist weather may have put him slightly off his game, as he had nothing to say to the very loud woman who kept chanting "Sam, Sam, he's my man" a couple rows behind us, but still well worth the price of admission. It was better than Cats. I'm going to see it again and again.

It's like I'm ND football's Bob: Living large and laughing easy.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Men's Hoops Schedule Released

Aptly called "the toughest schedule in school history", Mike Brey and company will make more national television appearances than ever before in 2008-09 as they look to extended the longest home court win streak in school history and match the longest one in Big East history.

Complete schedule here.

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Tricks and Treat

As promised, my write-up of Adrian Dantley's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame for the Scout network. The day was obviously a fantastic experience for AD, who had a strong contingent of high school, college, and pro supporters there to celebrate a long-overdue well-deserved award.

Article linked here

Friday, September 05, 2008

Highlights from A.D.'s Induction

Adrian Dantley was the first member of the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2008 inducted this evening.

The emcee for the event, Mike Breen, introduced AD by saying one of the most difficult assignments in the NBA was to guard Adrian Dantley. While he was considered undersized, he said, AD's opponents were often overmatched. This "unstoppable offensive force" was one of the most dominant players of his time.

Following the introduction was a video montage detailing Dantley's career, including a number of tributes. Morgan Wootten described AD's offensive moves as being "like an eye surgeon, cutting the opponent up", and credited Dantley for starting DeMatha's High School's weight training program with his prescient interest in the philosophy. Former Irish coach Digger Phelps also mentioned Dantley's physical regimen and how he used jumping rope and other programs to keep his stamina at the necessary level to "take the pounding" in the low post.

George "Iceman" Gervin talked about Dantley's tireless work ethic and his knack for getting his defender off the ground. Joe Dumars echoed Gervin's comments, calling AD "the most disciplined player he ever met in his life", and talked about how he helped instill that discipline into the Piston team that won the NBA Championship two seasons later. "Focus, professionalism, and discipline ... [Dantley] embodied all those things."

Video complete, Coach Wootten escorted AD to the stage for his remarks.

He started by thanking the committee and congratulating his fellow inductees, especially Cathy Rush, with whom, he said, he had something in common: "We both waited [for induction] ... and waited ... and waited." (Rush was inducted on this, her sixth nomination. This was AD's seventh attempt)

He credited Morgan Wootten for his career. Under Wootten, he learned fundamentals, respect for the game, and the right way to play the game. "He has been my teacher, mentor, and friend."

He then introduced and gave his love to his family: his wife of 27 years, Dinitri; his son, Cameron ("he plays football, I'm not sure why"); and his daughters, Kalani and Kayla.

He talked about his mother, Virginia, and her effect on his life. "She instilled honesty, loyalty, and respect for yourself so you can respect others. She always said, 'Do not embarrass yourself or me in public.'"

But it wasn't all serious with mom. "She used to ask me what a rebound was. Now she wants to know who she should be plugging on the pick and roll."

He talked about other family members: his Aunt Rosie, his "number-two mom and number-one fan"; his grandmother, who "always told [him] to read with [his] third eye and listen with [his] third ear"; and his grandfather.

Then came people he'd emulated. Elgin Baylor's first step. Chet Walker's head- and pump-fake, which everyone always went for.

Following that, coaches he'd met. He met Red Auerbach, who told him, "Adrian, John Havlicek weighs 205 pounds. You should weigh 210." His best playing years, AD said, were played at 210 pounds.

Bob Knight, the first college coach he met, had AD demonstrate taking a charge and diving for loose balls. Knight told him, "If you work hard, you'll be a great player," and sent him his first recruiting letter as the head coach at West Point.

On weekends, AD would play on the DC playgrounds, and afterwards listen to John Thompson tell stories about basketball and life. He got to play for Thompson on the 1976 Olympic Team under the head coach, Dean Smith. Smith taught him to value every possession, which Dantley believes "must be a North Carolina thing" given how often George Karl says it to him today.

He talked about remaining steady and focused through changes and trades, and expressed his joy at finally being a member of a team that couldn't trade him.

He was told so often he was "too short, too fat, and too slow", and was warned that "short players make short money" (by a player who was 5'2"). But those people discounted his "brain, heart, and work ethic", all of which served him well.

He thanked his friends and extended family, and said it would be a day he would always cherish, and left the stage.

I'll have a full writeup on Irish Eyes on Monday, once the hoopla on SDSU dies down and before Michigan gets fully rolling. But this was a wonderful experience for him, and all Irish fans should be proud of their newest Hall of Famer.

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Presser-ing Thoughts

The intro and discussion is complete.

The six inductees present were introduced in alphabetical order, meaning A.D. was the first one on the stage. The emcee, Eddie Doucette, read a quick bio on each member of the class, who then proceeded to the stage, was presented with his/her blazer, had some pictures taken, and then took a seat. Kudos to A.D. for being the only one who wore a tie, meaning he looked especially sharp with the blazer ensemble. Patrick Ewing was dressed like he'd just come in off the beach. Come on, Pat, it's the HOF.

Each inductee then got up to say a few words. Most of them went through what would be considered a typical statement, thanking their families, coaches, players, teammates, and God, not necessarily in that order. But there were a few chuckles.

A.D. and Pat Riley both reminisced about A.D.'s Laker days. At that time, Riley was a Costanza-like traveling secretary with the team, and was in charge of boarding passes for the planes. Invariably, A.D. would find himself seated next to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He complained to Riley because Kareem wasn't big on talking during flights. Riley replied, "I have to sit you there, Adrian, you're the only one who isn't afraid of him."

Hakeem Olajuwon reflected that growing up in Nigeria, he didn't have the knowledge or the appreciation for what the HOF really was. He focused on winning, and it was the winning that got him here.

Riley said he always believed in the philosophy Magic Johnson espouses: Keep your dreams big and your worries small. He said he feels some players were born to get to the Hall of Fame, but he was able to get there because of the help and support of those people.

Cathy Rush talked about how the HOF was never something she dreamed, but was certainly a dream come true. Back in her day, women's basketball was an afterthought, and she took the job at Immaculata "to have something to do while [her husband] was out refereeing". The job wasn't supposed to be anything. She grew up when girls didn't have dreams, but now have "an equality of dreams", for which she was very thankful.

Dick Vitale was, of course, his usual effusive self. He said his throat is doing much better, although he's headed to Boston after the induction to get another checkup just to be sure. He remembered back when he and Eddie Doucette were partners, when he warned him, "Eddie, I hope you're not getting paid by the word, because by the time I'm done, you won't make a dime." He warned the HOF CEO, John Doleva, he wasn't going to be able to work with a five-minute window in speeches tonight because "I can't say 'hello' in five minutes!" And he said the best thing that ever happened to him was meeting his wife. I know he gets a lot of flack on NDN and elsewhere, but if there's a more genuine person in college basketball than Dick Vitale, I haven't met him.

The biggest thing I noticed about the class was their camaraderie. All of them played for, with or against one another, and all have strong relationships off the court as well as on. They spent more time talking about each other than they did themselves, something Riley pointed out to me later as being "necessary for events like this, but easy when it's people like this".

The pep rally is going on as we speak, but I declined since I was trying to get this done. The media work area is a theater where the event will be shown tonight. I don't know if I'll be watching it in here or in there.

The pre-event reception starts about 5:30. Mike Brey and Morgan Wootten and Digger Phelps will be in attendance, and I'm going to try to get quotes from them for the Irish Eyes stories I'll eventually write about the event. I'll try to check in later this afternoon, but definitely tonight with a report on the induction itself. The IE story probably won't get posted until Monday, since I don't want it to get lost in all the SDSU post-game hoopla.

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Greetings from Springfield

After a bumpy flight through Gustav's remnants, I'm here in the media room at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, awaiting the start of the inductees' press conference.

While space availability won't allow me to report real-time on what the inductees say, I'll be checking in throughout the day as Adrian Dantley takes his well-deserved place among the greats of the game.

The presser gets underway at 10am ET, which will be followed by a pep rally in downtown Springfield. Mike Brey, Digger Phelps, and Morgan Wooten will be among those celebrating A.D.'s big day with him, but I imagine we won't see them until the pre-ceremony festivities begin late this afternoon.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Big East Schedule Released

The BE has released the composite men's basketball schedule, meaning we can probably expect ND to release theirs within days, if not hours.

The link is in the post title and here, but I'll summarize the Irish portions, all times ET.

Wed 12/31 @ DePaul, 8pm ESPN2
Sat 1/3 @ St. John's
Mon 1/5 Georgetown 7pm ESPN
Sat 1/10 Seton Hall
Mon 1/12 @ Louisville 7pm ESPN
Sat 1/17 @ Syracuse Noon ESPN
Sat 1/24 Connecticut 7pm ESPN
Mon 1/26 Marquette 7pm ESPN
Sat 1/31 @ Pittsburgh Noon ESPN
Wed 2/4 @ Cincinnati
Thu 2/12 Louisville 7pm ESPN/2
Sun 2/15 South Florida
Wed 2/18 @ West Virginia 7:30pm ESPN2
Sat 2/21 @ Providence
Wed 2/25 Rutgers
Sat 2/28 @ Connecticut 2pm CBS
Mon 3/2 Villanova 7pm ESPN
Fri 3/6 St. John's


Who do you Trust?

"And now, folks, it's time for, "Who do you trust!" Hubba, hubba, hubba! Money, money, money! Who do you trust? Me? I'm giving away free money. And where is the Batman? HE'S AT HOME WASHING HIS TIGHTS!"
Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Batman

I know, grammatically it's "Whom do you trust". Nicholson didn't help me out here.

But it's a question I've been wondering as we get down to the nitty gritty in this football season. Prognostications abound, and here at NDN we have our own Heatmiser and Snowmiser with differing views on how the season should/will go.

First kick is just over 48 hours away as I type, so it's time to get off the fence. And for me, it comes down to a question of trust.

Notre Dame wasn't as good as its record last year, which is a scary thought. But it also was better than its record last year, which is cause for optimism. But in the end, as Charlie Weis would say, they were what their record said they were: a 3-9 team.

Did they have the talent to finish 3-9? No. I believe they had the talent to finish 6-6. They had no business losing to Navy under any circumstances, and Air Force and BC should have been wins. I also believe the lopsided scores of some games were also not consistent with the talent ND had on the field, young and raw as it may have been.

ND finished 3-9 instead of 6-6 and got its doors blown off in a couple games because Charlie Weis and his staff did a crappy job last season. He took an inexperienced team and tried to go the cutesy route, playing with personnel and schemes instead of establishing bread-and-butter plays ND could use to its advantage.

So as we look to the next season, it comes down to trust: Do I trust Charlie Weis learned from his mistakes and is going to be a better coach this season?

My answer to that question is yes.

People say it's crazy to expect a 3-win team to win 10 games the next season. It's unprecedented. My reply is so was the drop ND experienced between 2006 and 2007. When unusual circumstances (poor and small senior class, bad coaching decisions) create an unusual down, resolving them can create an unusual up.

CW did a lot of things that surprised me in the offseason, but none more than his 25-person pilgrimage. According to reports on and off campus, Charlie went to 25 people whose opinions he values, including people like Fr. Ted Hesburgh and Ara Parseghian, and asked for a no-holds-barred candid critique of himself and his program. Coming from a "Jersey tough" guy who had a habit of telling you your opinion when he wanted to hear it, this was quite a departure from the norm and told me things weren't business as usual in the Gug these last couple of months.

He also did a number of things people have been clamoring for since he arrived. He adopted a more approachable attitude, with players and staff alike. He made himself more available to alumni. He even decided to trust his staff more, allocating play-calling duties to OC Mike Haywood.

This isn't your father's Charlie Weis. Does this mean he's still not prickly sometimes? No, but it's not all the time now either. And as a result, a couple of people who weren't high on the prospects for his career at Notre Dame have done a 180 on him and now believe, as one of the 25 said after meeting with him, "he's gonna be all right".

So my prediction for the season? We're gonna be all right. To wit:

SDSU -- BIG WIN. Please. If this one's wrong, we're doomed.

MICHIGAN -- NARROW WIN. Even when the Wolverines are down, they're dangerous to ND.

at MICHIGAN STATE -- NARROW WIN. The road-team streak in the series continues.

PURDUE -- COMFORTABLE WIN. Wilford goes out on a sour note.

STANFORD -- NARROW WIN. The Cardinal are better than you think under Jim Harbaugh, who Michigan should have hired instead of Rodriguez (and may yet after he flames out).

at NORTH CAROLINA -- NARROW LOSS. Butch Davis starts to make his presence felt in Chapel Hill.

at WASHINGTON -- BIG WIN. I've got $10 that says Tyrone Willingham won't be the head coach at WA when this game is played.

PITTSBURGH -- BIG WIN. Another $10 says Wannie won't be there either.

at BC -- COMFORTABLE WIN. The Eagles don't have the horses this year, and the Irish are pissed.

at NAVY -- BIG WIN. This isn't Paul Johnson's Midshipmen anymore.

SYRACUSE -- BIG WIN. $10 here too. It says something about ND's schedule this year that three of its opponents' head coaches might be fired by the time the Fighting Irish play them.

at SOUTHERN CAL -- NARROW LOSS. Can't quite get it done this year. Next year in South Bend ... look out, Snoopy.

10-2 will be enough for the Cotton Bowl, where the Irish will break their bowl losing streak and be among the favorites to win a national title in 2009.


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