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The Proper Response

First of all, a note on the role of NDNation. We're simply a conduit for the voices that make up our community. When an issue such as "the tailgating-usher-police crackdown" is felt by so many different levels of our community, we raise the issue to heighten that awareness. None of us ever expected that the problem was this pervasive. NDNation is rarely the source, but an outlet for many voices who share a concern.

After watching the give and take over two days, there appear to be three parts to this embarrassing meltdown of leadership.
  • A local police force that treats alumni and students with disdain and uses them as a virtual ATM.

  • A leadership team including Fr. Mark Poorman, Bill Kirk and Cappy Gagnon (Coordinator of Stadium Personnel) who have let their personal views influence the way they carry out a very important and public professional responsibility.
  • An administration which is at the very least unresponsive if not an advocate of these policies.

Together they have created a situation that is ripe for abuse. There's no limiter here. No one's minding the store and thinking about victim's rights. In this type of environment, it's not surprising that abuse has happened as too many to count have claimed. Given human nature and the competing influences, abuse has to happen in this environment.

The cops don't like the "wealthy" kids and raise money off of them. Not a new story. How else could a town rife with real crime justify using its entire police force to bust a party?

Those immediately in charge are carrying a personal anti-drinking crusade way too far, beyond any boundary of normalcy or rational thinking. Cappy's exchanges on the topics are embarrassing and far too revealing. Did he really ban Go Irish pins on ushers? You've got to be kidding.

The administration seems to have plausible deniability, while individual reports are attributed to drunks or malconents or ignored.

It has to stop.

What you can do?

  • Bring your cameras to the tailgate this week and for every game and send us the pictures when abuse happens.
  • Use your cell phone cameras to capture confrontations in ND Stadium and email us the story.
  • Contact us with your story and we'll forward to a group of lawyers who have volunteered their time. There may be a group action pending. We'll let you know.
  • Send a letter threatening to cut off donations unless this is stopped.

This won't be a one week affair from our point of view, but a continuous effort to document and make public abuse when it happens. If it happens, it's going to be fed around the internet at light speed. The best we can do is turn the light on the roaches. After that, we really have no influence. But you do.

Here's a fantastic example of a proper response with regard to donations to the University:

Mr. Louis Nanni
Vice President, University Relations
University of Notre Dame
405 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC
University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Mr. John Affleck-Graves
Executive Vice President
University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Dear Sirs:

I am writing you this letter today in response to the recent solicitation from the University’s Annual Fund. I can say, without reservation, that my time spent at Notre Dame helped make me the happy and successful man I am today. I had the good fortune to attend Notre Dame as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, and my continuing role as part of the “Notre Dame Family” gives me immense pride. I am proud to say I have degrees from the University of Notre Dame du lac. I have contributed to Notre Dame since graduation, and as my situation has improved financially, I have increased my giving to Notre Dame. Perhaps modest by your standards, this year would be the first where I was able to contribute at the recognition level (the Sorin Society or John Cardinal O’Hara Society.)

Enclosed you will find a check for $1,500 for the University. Events over the last few years, and specifically this year, have given me pause about making this donation. I am not sure the Notre Dame of today still represents all that was good and right with the University I attended only a few years ago. Specifically, it appears that the Notre Dame Administration no longer views students and alumni as part of the “Notre Dame Family”. I will detail my concerns in the following paragraphs, but I have voided my check at this time due to these concerns. I will gladly replace the voided check with a valid check when I feel that the Notre Dame Administration has the best interests of its students and alumni at heart. Until then, I cannot in good conscience support the University I love so much. This deeply saddens me, and is not a decision I came to lightly.

I suspect that your offices have received many letters complaining about various University policies. I do not share the University’s views on all matters, but I understand the typically reasonable positions Notre Dame may take on matters. However it now appears to me that much of what made Notre Dame special for me, the sense of family and looking out for each other, has been discarded in favor of an antagonistic relationship with those who adore the ideal that is Notre Dame. I sincerely hope that my feelings are misplaced.

There are three main areas where I feel the University has abandoned what made Notre Dame such a special place – in effect abandoned the idea of the “Notre Dame Family”. The first is campus life; one of the reasons I chose Notre Dame was the camaraderie of the dorms. The second area is the excessively aggressive law enforcement in and around campus, which appears to be supported by the Administration. The last area of concern is the atmosphere in Notre Dame Stadium, which is being systematically destroyed by overzealous ushers and safety officers.

Notre Dame campus life was a tremendous asset to the University when I attended. I met many of my closest and dearest friends in the halls of Morrissey, and many other wonderful people, now spread across the globe, in various dorms. Sometimes we had some beers; sometimes we played video games; sometimes we talked about life, philosophy, and the world around us. We went to dances with women from Lyons and Howard. We did not have to sneak halfway across town to have a party in secret.

We kept an eye out for each other. Sometimes friends overdid it, and when they did there were friends and dorm mates around to make sure everything was alright. If someone was causing trouble, they were dealt with as needed, rather than branding everyone as troublemakers. I have visited the dorms since my graduation, and none of this is present anymore. Instead there is a feeling that enjoying oneself must be a clandestine enterprise. Gatherings that were purely for students to meet and have fun are now forbidden, such as the Dillon Pep Rally and Alumni and Fisher Hall events. The new policies regarding events, dances, dorm parties, and general dorm life have served not to reduce the risk faced by students, but merely relocate it to a less secure environment. This is not how we treat members of the Notre Dame Family.

The deliberate escalation by police of innocuous student and alumni behavior around campus, specifically in the surrounding neighborhood and tailgating lots, is totally unacceptable. Based on the presence on Notre Dame Security Police officers at many of these incidents, the Administration appears complicit in these activities. The police presence in the neighborhoods and around the tailgates should be a source of comfort for the students and fans in these areas. I do not want to be around people fighting, vomiting, or engaging in lewd behavior.

However, these are not the people the safety forces target, instead they seek to intimidate and extort otherwise harmless students and fans, who are causing no problems for those around them. I can recount several events I have witnessed directly, but I believe you will hear about these firsthand. These stories are all over the internet, as I am sure you are aware, and I have seen several examples of ridiculously aggressive police behavior both to underage students and legal age alumni. The bottom line is that safety officers are intentionally targeting those that are likely to pay whatever fees are necessary to clear their name, rather than address the rare legitimate problem fan or student. Notre Dame is letting those that should be protecting our students and fans instead abuse them both physically and legally, and the University remains complicit with these activities. This is not how we treat members of the Notre Dame Family.

My last concern is with the atmosphere of Notre Dame Stadium, specifically that created by the largely volunteer ushers. I have sat in various sections and seats over the last two years, and I will say that the majority of ushers I have interacted with have been both professional and courteous. However, on two separate occasions I have seen fans removed for no reason, other than appearing ‘drunk’ to the usher, but not to anyone around them. They were not causing any disturbance to those around them, and in one case the fan, who was a friend of mine, was not even aware the usher had an issue with them until they were physically yanked out of the row by the arm. I had tended to believe these were isolated incidents of an usher out of control, but I have since learned that the ushers are given directives to remove as many people from the stands as possible. Any head usher encouraging such tactics should be removed from such a position.

This should not be happening in Notre Dame Stadium. I fully support the removal of unruly fans, but unruly folks only comprise a small percentage of those accosted, in very aggressive manners, by the ushers and police. It seems the goal is to harass those targeted by the stadium personnel until they are willing to surrender their civil rights to remove themselves from the situation. Numerous alumni have been issued no trespassing notices by Notre Dame, with little or no reason other than being in the vision of an overzealous usher or police officer. This is not how we treat members of the Notre Dame Family.

I have never been ticketed, cited, or arrested by the police (other than a speeding ticket when I was 17 years old.) I am not some angry fan who was ejected from the stadium. I am a concerned alumnus who has seen others, just like me, penalized without any just cause. I have no doubt some people at college parties, at tailgates, and in the stadium behave poorly. But the vast majority does not, and I now believe the majority of incidents are not caused by students or fans, but rather by those in authority causing the situation and causing aggressive confrontation.

As I said in my opening paragraph, Notre Dame has always been a special place for me. It was a place where everyone worked together toward the common good. It was a family where everyone looked out for everyone else. Sometimes being a family means seeing faults in the members of our family, even when it pains us. When I look at the Administration, I see some significant faults with your complicity in the recent wave of aggressive targeting of students and alumni. A family does not persecute their own for the pecuniary benefit of others. I know Notre Dame is better than that. I sincerely hope this letter is shocking to you. What I have seen myself and heard from others does not represent the Notre Dame Family. I am open to discuss this letter with you if you wish. I would like to continue to support Notre Dame; it gives me no pleasure to have voided the check attached. Please let me know how my concerns are being seriously addressed, and I will happily continue my support of Notre Dame.

Yours in Notre Dame,

(My name and contact info)

A Developing Story

Purdue, as Vannie predicted, was a turning point for the Notre Dame offense. What we saw on the field Saturday was an offense with an identity. It's now pretty clear, despite many protestations about a lack of a running game (including here,) what that identity should and shouldn't be. We're not a screen, draw team. We're not a smash mouth team. We're a spread them out down field throwing team that can make you pay if you tighten control in the box and after we open you up, we're going to run on you. The reason we couldn't run this offense last year is that we couldn't protect the quarterback and couldn't make plays to keep defenses honest.

Clausen looks at home in the shotgun and our receivers are our best weapons.... it just makes sense. Kudos to Weis who stopped listening to everyone else and went with what he knows best.

"But I know one thing we weren't going to do is play on our heels the whole day. We were going to be aggressive in our play calling. I think that was a very critical factor that we wanted to make sure whether it was run, whether it was shots, regardless of what we were doing, we weren't going to sit back and let them dictate the tempo. I think that last week, okay, when we came out deciding we were going to smash mouth it early, I think that Michigan State dictated the tempo, and we weren't going to let that happen again."

We're better without a fullback and spreading the field (though Schwapp is blocking much better.) It simplifies the blocking assignments and gives us many opportunities to win one on one match-ups with our talented wide receivers. It also opens the field for Allen. As Kayo noted, it seemed we were able to use the snap count to our advantage. Weis thinks he's found what works.

"Well, it opened up running lanes. But still at the end of the day the line still has to go that way. Because whether you've got a tight end, three wide receivers, a tight end and five linemen in there, you still have those six guys helping to block at least six, and if the line of scrimmage doesn't move that way, then you're still not in for a good day. I think that it spreads out. It opens up -- once you get a crease and you get the line of scrimmage moving that way, it opens up some bigger creases. And that's what led to those multiple 13-plus runs."

"Offensive production comes down to making big plays. When you're just nickel and diming it all the time, you're getting three yards, four yards. I'll give you an example. Probably the biggest play of the second half was the first pass from Jimmy to Grimes on that corner route, because it changed field position. They kicked off. I think we got the ball on the 18-yard line. So that now the momentum could be in their way. We come out on first play. He had stayed on the corner route, and now we're past the 40-yard line, and now field position had changed in one play. So I think that's just the way that goes."
I'm not going overboard, because it's Purdue. But after reviewing the San Diego State game, I knew this was a much better offensive team (and stated by biggest worry was the defense going forward.) What's changed, besides the redirected scheme is that individual players are developing fast (we're still absurdly young) and Weis is now gearing the offense to take advantage of their abilities.

Cases in point:

Armando Allen: Allen finally ran with his eyes instead of his feet. It looks like Allen figured out that speed is only an asset if you use it wisely. What made Rocket great was his body control and vision. Same with Bush. Body control and vision are what make fast running backs, great running backs. Unlike the first three games, Allen read the hole before exploding through it on Saturday.

Jimmy Clausen: I've said all along he'll be better in this offense by mid-season this year than Quinn was and I'm sticking to it. Clausen has incredible accuracy and rarely throws a terrible pass. His confidence could get him in trouble, but he's making the right reads and as noted on Rock's House, it appears he's calling plays at the line of scrimmage. The really promising thing for the Irish is that Crist can learn behind Clausen before taking over, without having to go through the painful learning curve. A great QB is essential for Weis because he puts so much on the QB's shoulders. We've got two for the future.

Kyle Rudolph: It took just four games for Rudolph to correct his blocking weaknesses. Rudolph's blocking was integral in springing Allen. He's a freak of a of a talent.

It's heartening to see our young players developing rapidly because... well... we have no choice. They've scored all but two of our touchdowns this year. Think about that and what it's meant to this point (bad) and what it means for our future (very good.)

But it's not just the young players. Older players like McCarthy, Lambert, Bruton and Grimes were all three star recruits, but are now playing at a very high level. Imagine if we had double the amount of 4th and 5th year players like these players as most big-time schools do?

That's where we'll be in two years, except now they'll be four star players who'll have a full four years to develop and they'll be surrounded by five star players like Clausen, Rudolph, Floyd and Wood.

We've been watching this team grow up like an awkward adolescent, getting the crap beaten out of him and made fun of. It looks like we're finally turning the corner... it won't happen without a few more beatings, but we're going to be dishing it out very soon.

It's Worse Than We Thought

I'm not sure anyone thought the abuse and treatment of ND fans was this pervasive, but 50 stories later, it's obvious that it is. And I have to admit, I simply viewed this as ridiculous and over the top yesterday. But after reading so many stories detailing the same abhorrent treatment, it's obvious that the police are affecting people's lives. The worst part is that it appears to be about money. As one student reported, the police told them: "alright anyone with a credit card is free to go."

Want change? Call/write the development office (and cc Fr. Jenkins) and express your concern.

Want Inspiration? Read this story:

I never mentioned it, because I believed it was just a fluke instance of usher and police stupidity, but after reading here for the last day or so, it appears my experience is becoming the norm at Notre Dame.

For clarity, and those who don't know, I was wounded severely by a grenade blast in the invasion of Fallujah, Iraq. The right rear base of my skull ruptured internally, and I was left (after surgeries) with around 19 bone fragments in the lower parts of my brain, which are responsible for horrible vertigo and headaches most all of the time.

Anyway, twice since 2005 I've been able to get my doctors to clear me to go visit Notre Dame to see a football game. I got to see the green jersey ND / Army game in '06 and the Duke game last year. (On a completely irrelevant note, I've seen 12 ND games in person in my life. We're 12-0 in those games. You're welcome.)

I had one of my former soldiers from Iraq in town visiting, and managed to get tickets last minute to take him to the Duke game.

We got stuck in traffic, and missed tailgaiting completely, getting into the stadium with little time to spare. I'm not medically allowed to drink, and my buddy didn't have any time to do so, so we were stone sober. I did, however, have my prescribed vertigo pills in their official medical container from the VA in my coat pocket, and I had checked with the Usher at my gate to ensure it was ok as I was entering. I had explained my condition, and the need for the medication, and was thanked for my service, and told it was perfectly ok.

Fast forward to middle of the third quarter on a drizzly cold night, and probably getting a bit too excited about Robert Hughes' big game, and ND actually looking competant, and my vertigo issues flared up, and I was swooning a bit just as an Usher and a policeman were correcting some folks behind us about pushups in the stands. The policeman notices that I'm "intoxicated", and grabs me from behind by the neck (not real forcefully)and spins me around to face him. Couple things here. First, my neck is seriously screwy from the impact against the concrete wall in Iraq, so it hurt badly. Secondly, vertigo and being spun do not mix well, and I proceeded to vomit on his shoes.

He was not pleased, and hauled me physically into the concourse, where the pills took a dive out of my pocket, and the guy started accusing me of drug use. I was still busy throwing up, so I wasn't able to explain anything different.

My former soldier was furious about the way I was being treated, and lost his temper trying to explain my condition to the officer. The ND usher made a radio call sometime in this, and three more officers came and detained him.

I was finally able to speak as the officer moved to handcuff me, and told the initial officer to check the label of my medication, that I was a disabled veteran, and that my condition was flaring up, and I needed my medication to prevent it, and that he had made it worse by jostling me all over the stadium. He seemed to act as if I was full of shit, but the ND usher called it in over the radio, and apparently my gate usher spoke up that I had showed the pills at the gate, and my ID matched the label, ect.

The usher and the police walked off and had a huddle, and when they came back, the bad cop riff was replaced with falling all over themselves niceness and respect. My friend was released, and the ushers offered to take us down and find us a spot in the gold seats for the misunderstanding.

But by that time, I was horrendously sick, and my friend was no longer in the mood to be anywhere near Notre Dame, so we left the campus.

The story isn't probably any help to anybody, since I was too ill, and my friend was too hot-headed to even think about badge numbers or tunic numbers or anything to identify anyone or help the cause, but I wanted to share it now, since it's relevant to the discussion in some way.

This time of year, I'm usually pestering the doctors about allowing me to go back to ND to see the Irish play. Not this year, nor probably any year in the future if my wife has anything to say about it. She constantly reminds me that the officer could have dropped me on my head and killed me.

She's not much of an Irish fan anymore. She dimed ND out to my doctor as well, so I probably wouldn't ever get medically cleared to go again if I did try. I still thank God every time I think about it that she wasn't with me that day. She'd have probably clawed out an officer's eyes or something in defense of me, and done hard time for it.

Ah well, enough of that. I'm rooting for you guys to crush this bullshit from the bottom of my heart.

Tailgating Gestapo Gone Bonkers

Reports from the font lines on the wacky crackdowns on tailgating and seeming abuse of Notre Dame fans inside the stadium. Have the authorities lost their minds?

This picture was taken by one of our posters.
Could they look any more ridiculous?

I propose we video tape them back. All students and alumni should have their cell phone cameras and video cameras out next week on the Barney Fifes run amuck, send them to us and we'll edit them together and youtube it for all of NDNation to see and judge. It'll be popular around the country, we know that. To be clear, only the top story relates to this picture, but this is just nuts and out of hand. Someone has to bring reason and perspective back.

"They had the video cameras out yesterday for some reason, perhaps to try to affect retrospective disciplinary action? I'm not sure. When he asked why I was taking a picture of them as they were filming our tailgate's license plate, I replied that it was only because they were filming us. They left shortly thereafter, but they may have been done wasting taxpayer money in that particular area, anyway."

Read this story:

"I am going to speak with an attorney on monday, but right now the situation is the result of me mocking the fact we have mounted tailgating horses. That basically then resulted in a "what did you say to me?" type of situation, in which the mounted cop charged me with his horse, knocking me to the ground. I get up with a resounding "WTF?" and from that point on I was "in the system." Get on the ground, NDSP called in, st joe drunk tank, and well see what comes next."

And this one:

"My buddy's girlfriend tailgated with us before the game. Was drinking diet coke up until about 1PM. Had some beers after that - but nothing crazy. She tripped walking into the stadium and the ushers asked her and her boyfriend if they had been drinking. They replied that they had been, but were not intoxicated. The usher said they could stay if security could determine they were not intoxicated. My buddy kept asking what would determine sobriety and the ushers continually responded that they couldn't tell him that - i.e. no breathalizer result would guarantee they wouldn't get in trouble. My buddy and his girlfriend went to the security office and his girlfriend ended up spending the night in jail.

My buddy said they could have left the stadium and not went to the security office but wanted to stay and watch the game so they agreed to go. After failing whatever test security provided they weren't asked to leave, instead they threw the girl in jail. There are always two sides to every story but she was not publicly intoxicated. This is very scary because it appears that ND could selectively enforce this and probably arrest 40,000 every game if they wanted to.

Unbelieveable - the University needs to take a look in the mirror and stop acting like this."

And this one from in the game:

"early-ish in the game, a friend (a graduate student who doesn't drink anything beyond wine transubstantiated into the Blood of Christ) was standing in the student section and lost his balance on the impossibly-narrow benches. He had to step backwards onto the concrete in the row behind ... just as probably every student does several times every week. Unfortunately for him, he happened to be on the outside of a row just as an usher was walking down it.

The usher, seeing his uncoordinated step, approached him and demanded his ticket book. Confused, the guy complied, and was asked if he'd been drinking. When he answered (rather incredulously, and apparently without bowing first) "no, I just lost my balance" the response was "bullshit" and he was taken down to the security office.

He was run through several sobriety tests (just like you'd see when a cop pulls over a potentially drunk driver), and then was breathalyzed. Seeing as he was telling the truth that he hadn't been drinking, he blew a .000. Frustrated at having been harassed he asked the security people for the usher's name, and was told to mind his own business and "get your ass back to your seat before we throw you out anyway" (that's an exact quote of his words, I can't swear whether it's a direct quotation or a paraphrase).

He got back just in time for halftime ... having missed almost the entire first half."

Obviously, these are not isolated incidents, but part of an orchestrated campaign. The number of stories pouring in is disturbing, but this story is really sad.

Someone with power and guts needs to step up and do something and quick.

Spartan Memories

Anyone who suggests this isn't a storied rivalry needs to review recent history, because there were a lot of good stories after Notre Dame came back to beat Michigan State in 2006. The wheels came off Spartan land. Coach John L. "Slappy" Smith, smacked himself in the face in the post game press conference, we guess, as a jab at Weis who said he was slapped by Spartan player. He, rightly, was labeled a bit of a loon.

And of course, who can forget this magical meltdown by Mike Valenti after the same game -- click here to go nuclear.

All good fun, but the real legendary game between the two was fought in 1966.

"Notre Dame was 8–0 and beating the opposition by an average score of 38–4. Michigan State was 9–0 and winning games at a 31–10 clip. Going in, it was the “Game of the Decade.” Coming out, it was the day Notre Dame, according to Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated, “tied one for the Gipper.” Trailing 10–0 in a very hard-hitting and error-filled game, Notre Dame rallied to pull even early in the fourth quarter. Later, with the ball on his own 30-yard line and 1:10 left, ND Coach Ara Parseghian elected to run the clock out and settle for the tie."

And this from Rocky Bleier in Fighting Back:

"1966. We were No. 1, and life was lovely. The No. 2 team was Michigan State, and before long, the season became a pedantic countdown to our (fill in the blank with your favorite adjective... cosmic, cataclysmic, monolithic) meeting on November 19. The Spartans beat all their opponents by an average of 22 points per game. We beat ours by 34.

The week-long buildup for Michigan State... was at least equal to the game itself. Their students started things by dumping leaflets out of an airplane as it circled our campus. The leaflets were addressed to the "peace-loving villagers of Notre Dame." They asked, "Why do you struggle against us? Why do you persist in the mistaken belief that you can win, freely and openly, against us? Your leaders have lied to you. They have led you to believe you can win. They have given you false hopes."

The newspapers spent all week informing America that Bubba Smith, MSU's pick-your-adjective defensive end, was slimmed down to 283 pounds with a 14D shoe, a 19-1/2-inch collar, and a size 52-long MSU blazer. I didn't need to read it. I had seen the movies. Now here was Bubba in game films, jumping over linemen, splitting the double-team block.

The train ride to State was another experience. Their fans were standing on the platforms in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, some even stood along the tracks, in cornfields and on dairy farms-jeering and holding sheet signs: "Bubba for Pope," "Hail Mary, full of grace, Notre Dame's in second place." None of that, however, was as bad as our arrival in East Lansing. As I disembarked, I noticed the metal steps were slippery with ice. Behind me, I heard a yelp. It was my roommate on the road, Nick Eddy. He'd slipped, missed his grab for the handrail, and reinjured his bruised shoulder. He was doubled over, crying with pain and with the instant realization that he couldn't play in the biggest game of his career. People called it "The Game of the Century" that year... which was not especially important, because somebody makes that statement about one game in nearly every college football season. What is significant is that even today, some experts are still calling it "The Game of the Century."

In the pregame warm-up, I was entranced (almost dizzy, or high!) at the sight and sound of the 76,000+ fans in Spartan Stadium. Nothing I ever experienced on a football field, before or since, has equaled it. The chants rocked and swayed at a deafening level. Try to imagine quadraphonic speakers blasting the Rolling Stones at full volume. It was like that... clearly, the edge of insanity.

The game started disastrously for us. Our center separated his shoulder and exited on the first series. Next time we had the ball, a messenger lineman mistakenly brought in a quarterback draw play. (ND Coach Ara Parseghian would never have taken that risk intentionally!) ND Quarterback Terry Hanratty ran it for four yards before MSU's George Webster pinned him and Bubba Smith pounced on top, separating Hanratty's shoulder. State's offense, meanwhile, forged a 10-0 lead.

We came back just before the half on a 34-yard TD pass from Hanratty's substitute Coley O'Brien to Bob Gladieux, Nick Eddy's substitute. At the start of the fourth quarter, we got a field goal from Joe Azzaro, and that was all the scoring. 10-10. The numbers will live forever. There was plenty of postgame discussion about Ara's decision not to call time-out and not to pass when we had possession for the last six downs of the game. There was some discussion on the field, too. Bubba yelled, "Come on, sissies, throw the ball! I'll call time-out for you." Charlie Thornhill, their linebacker, who had an exceptional game, screamed, "You don't want it." I've always defended Ara's reasoning. We'd been stripped of our offensive weapons, we'd come back from a 10-point deficit, our defense had kept MSU outside our 45-yard line in the second half. Then, the critics wanted us to throw long, desperate passes into a prevent defense that was specifically designed to intercept them. And consider our quarterback. Coley O'Brien is diabetic. He drank orange juice and ate candy bars on the sideline to maintain his insulin at a safe level. In this game, he was so tense that he recalls little or nothing of the action. Ara knew he'd done a great job bringing us back. He was not about to throw it all away with frivolous play-calling in the last minute. I was our leading ball carrier, with 57 yards. I wondered if I'd fufilled the expectations of Larry Conjar, our senior fullback and one of the offensive leaders. Before the game, he'd said to me, "Nick (Eddy) isn't going to play. The responsibility is on your shoulders. You can't let us down." I also caught three passes for 16 yards, but I paid for those. On a catch over the middle in the third quarter, Charles Phillips, MSU's defensive back, speared me with his helmet in the kidney. After the game, I felt a rush of pain while standing at the urinal. I looked down and noticed I was passing pure blood. But at the moment, it didn't seem to matter. Conjar's arms were a mass of black and blue. Jim Lynch, our linebacker, had played with a monstrous "charley horse." Don Gmitter, the tight end, gutted it out on one good knee. And Gladieux joined the others who were done for the season.

Almost everybody was crying. The emotion of the game, the hitting and violent contact, was converted into the emotion of the locker room... the tears, the hugging, the trite phrases. Then Ara spoke to us, "Men, I'm proud of you. God knows I've never been more proud of any group of young men in my life. Get one thing straight, though. We did not lose. We were Number One when we came, we fell behind, had some tough things happen, but you overcame them. No one could have wanted to win this one more than I. We didn't win, but, by God, we did not lose. They're crying about a tie, trying to detract from your efforts. They're trying to make it come out a win. Well, don't you believe it. Their season is over. They can't go anywhere. It's all over and we're still Number One. Time will prove everything that has happened here today. And you'll see that after the rabble-rousers have had their say, cooler minds who understand the true odds will know that Notre Dame is a team of champions."

Mr. Payment's Last Game

This was shared on Rock's House this week:

"When I was a kid, before the days of the NBC contract, Notre Dame games were on cable more often than they are now. My parents didn't get cable, so I watched all of those games at my neighbor's house, Mr. Payment. He was an Irish-Canadian immigrant and loved Notre Dame football as much as anyone I know. Some of my best memories as a kid were watching those games with Mr. Payment. He would always "send me in" to the game. If there was a big offensive play, he would ask, "can you get in there and throw a block, Joe?" I'd say I could, and if the play worked, he'd congratulate me. Now, I send my kids in the game.

When I was a teenager, Mr. Payment's son was my confirmation sponsor. I don't remember why, exactly, but Matt couldn't be there on the day of my confirmation, and Mr. Payment stood in for him. We were in the parking lot of the church listening to the ND-Tennessee game on the radio, and the confirmation mass was starting, with ND driving at the end of the game. I asked Mr. Payment what we should do, and he said, "It's Notre Dame. God'll understand." ND missed the kick to win the game, and I missed part of my confirmation. I'm glad I did.

Mr. Payment has been dying of cancer, and I went over to his place this week to watch the Michigan game with him. I asked him if he could get in there and play, and he said he'd run the defense. He did a stellar job. I held his hand during the alma mater, and he cried during it. He new it'd be his last one. He was right. Thank you, team, for winning this game. It means more to me than every other ND game I've seen put together, because it was Mr. Payment's last one. You sent him out with win."

A Simple Choice: Boys or Men?

While many fans looked at the Michigan game as a 'must win" and in retrospect, given the recruits at the game and the way the team and fans reacted, it was, Michigan State has now become an equally important game to the maturity and psyche of this Notre Dame team.

Notre Dame didn't overwhelm anyone in weeks one or two, instead we looked like a team that had made significant improvement from the keystone cops performance of last year, but that improvement only gets us to good. Now we're a good team, which puts us in the same category of about 40 or 50 other teams around the country.

No one comes to Notre Dame to be good.

That's Davieham thinking.

Good is unacceptable.

Mediocrity is unacceptable.

It's time for this team to put the old paradigm and excuses behind and grow up. I don't mean that in a negative sense, but this is still a very, very young team... they simply can't play like it anymore. It's time to get on with gettin' on with being great and that's means moving your mental frame of what's acceptable.

It's not acceptable anymore to tackle poorly. It's not acceptable anymore for wide receivers to run lazy patterns or not block. It's not acceptable any more to not finish blocks or get to the next level to spring a longer run. It's not acceptable any more to miss holes.

The Irish are at a mental tipping point.

It's a simple choice.

They can either choose to shift their entire frame or perspective of what great, good and poor play look like or they can accept mediocrity. When you re frame your perspective on what's good.... what was good in the past becomes poor play. Your former good is now the bare minimum you should expect from yourself and your former great becomes the norm. In other words what "was" great play for you previously is simply how things should be. And then great, becomes truly exceptional play. Your good play in weeks one and two should be the worst cast scenario if all goes wrong.

It's time to grow up. Right now this team seems impressed with itself when it makes great plays. That's a fun and exciting place to be, but if this team truly wants to be exceptional this year and next, it has to power through this transition phase of self-discovery and become what it will be in the future, right now.

This team is at the doorstep. It can either knock the muthaf door down and proclaim itself a true contender or it can wait for someone to open it for them.

And wait. And wait. And wait.

And then one day talk about what could have been if...

"No one gives you anything in this world, you have to earn it."

This team haS to expect greatness, nothing else can be acceptable.

Greatness is livin'.

Mediocrity is slow, painful death.

"It comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'."

Get you mad you son of a bitches, get mad.

Go Irish!

Notre Dame Recruiting Class Officially #1 on Both Scout and Rivals

As I wrote at the beginning of last month, attrition moved Alabama down and Notre Dame up to Number One in the revised "enrolled" recruiting rankings. The Irish are now number one both in average star ranking (average quality of incoming recruit) and the overall (very arbitrary) point rankings on both Scout and Rivals. Scout recently moved Notre Dame up #1 as covered in Re-ranking the Class of 2008.

Here's an excerpt from Scott Kennedy:
"It's been stated before, but I don't think it can be said enough; the recruiting job that Charlie Weis and staff did last year to secure the #1 class in the country in the midst of Notre Dame's worst season in its history, is one of the best recruiting jobs I've ever seen."
And here's Scout's re-ranked top 10 and their key losses:
1 2 Notre Dame None
2 1 Alabama Devonta Bolton; Melvin Ray
3 3 Miami Antonio Harper
4 4 Ohio State Shawntel Rowell
5 5 Georgia Toby Jackson
6 6 Michigan Marcus Witherspoon; Taylor Hill
7 10 UCLA None
8 7 LSU DeAngelo Benton
9 11 Clemson None
10 8 FSU Debrale Smiley; Anthony Hill

Weis, Emotional Intelligence and The Bucket List

When Charlie arrived at ND he quickly turned a hapless Notre Dame squad around into a two-time BCS team, something Notre Dame hadn't done since Lou (major bowls=BCS Bowls.) A team that Willingham had told insiders wouldn't do better than .500 (one of the main reasons he was canned, btw.) But that early success didn't wear well on Weis who had never been in the main chair before. The anti-Notre Dame press quickly labeled Weis as arrogant and strangely Weis seemed to embrace the label. Now, I don't believe Weis thinks arrogance is a good thing, but it probably felt much like the same dynamic with Coach Parcells, one of his mentors, and thus felt right (BTW, no one was more arrogant or disdainful than Willingham.)

Of course the problem here is that Weis had never been in the main chair and seemed to lack any ability to self-identify problems, and worse, he had isolated himself internally and had no one who could give him counsel and course corrections. He certainly helped promote his 2006 team, which seemed to bask in the limelight, but just didn't play hard or cohesively on the field. That was the first sign that all was not right in the Bend. Most of those close to the program know that it was a good team, but had no business being in the top 5. Things started to go south mid-year in 2006 and, with a two year black hole in recruiting, all signs pointed to a cratering in 2007.

The team was fractured (which is normal, btw when a new coach takes over.) We've heard from many people that there was a division between the older players (who didn't have the talent) and the younger players (who clearly had the talent.) Weis was recklessly going for it on fourth down, clinging to a passing game that couldn't protect the passer (what's the point?) and out of touch with his players.

The aftermath of the nuclear bomb of a season that hit in 2007 was the burning platform Notre Dame and Weis needed to change. In the executive world, when an executive is under performing, you have to identify the causes of under performance. Sometimes they're just not smart enough (Davie/Willingham,) other times they haven't built the skills and then there are the executives that just don't care enough about their company or about reaching excellence (Davie/Willingham.) They're not willing to sacrifice to be great. You need all of these to be successful. Weis clearly has the intelligence. He has the commitment to Notre Dame and he wants to be excellent. What he seemed to lack was a specific skillset that applied to the college game and people skills needed to manage a top tier program (or he didn't value the people skills.)

So a few things happened aside from the calls for his head. Jenkins supposedly called him in and told him he was losing the support of those around him. Weis was really faced with a choice. He could either pull a Willingham and retrench or he could embrace need to change. Those that retrench are usually managed out, but for those that embrace it, this type of acute pain and challenge often leads to a transformational experience in executives. Through these experiences they gain an understanding of humility and through that the empathy to understand others and thus the tools to manage them. Think about it. If you can't understand someone else's point of view, you're going to almost useless when it comes to influence. The ability to understand other's points of view and sources of pain is power.

Weis embraced changed. He underwent leadership coaching. He met with over 20 people close to the program to get their feedback (sort of 360 degree feedback,) and he made his bucket list. Not that he's going to die mind you, but things he needed to do to change the team and himself. If you think about it, the number of things on this list are extraordinary for a man of his stature, but obviously much needed changing.
  • Seeking feedback
  • Leadership coaching
  • Coaching his team to play with emotion
  • Instituting harder hitting practices
  • Bringing in more experienced coaching on defense
  • Simplifying the blocking/working with Latina
  • Emphasizing protection
  • Instituting more power runs
  • Changing the day off after a game
  • Letting Haywood coach the offense
  • A renewed focus on special teams
  • Becoming more approachable to his players
  • Becoming more engaged with Alumni
  • Not going for it on 4th down in absurd situations
  • Not always receiving the kickoff
  • Changing the risk/reward trade-off on our passing game by lifting the lid on our controlled passing game and throwing down field to stretch the defense (more work needed - see 4th down)
  • Willing to fire his DC
I'm sure there are many more. Now all of this is in addition to the changes he made after Willingham such as embracing former players, outworking everybody on the recruiting trail, embracing tradition (the Navy salute,) ...

The bottom line is that Weis isn't lacking in innate ability. He's doesn't lack in the aspiration to be the best and he certainly isn't lacking in engagement to his job. These are the three killers of success. He was lacking in specific competencies that restricted his ability. Weis is showing true leadership by embracing change and to be honest, this seems to suit him better than the Parcell's model. Charlie's grown beyond his mentors... as he had to.

None of this means he'll succeed or that he won't backslide, but it does elevate him by a significant margin above his two predecessors who didn't have any of the three attributes necessary for success.

My hunch is that Charlie's ensured himself a decent level of success and his bucket list won't mean that he's going to kick the bucket as our coach for some time.

Of course he still needs to figure out that we can't sell play action on the cheap. Let's face it, anyone with eyeballs know that our tendency is to pass it on third and fourth down and short. We're not foolin' anybody. Charlie seems to think that running for a hundy means we can now fool people into thinking we're going to run. Two one hundred yard games aren't going to change three years of scouting. We're getting there, but that works best when you're running for two hundred a game. We're selling our running game like a cheap...

Sorry, the fan creeping back in.

Starting to Believe

Notre Dame started 2-0 for the third [edit] time in the Weis era with a decisive 35-17 win over Michigan. It was a mistake filled, intermittently rainy day in South Bend, but the Irish pounced on Wolverine turnovers early in the game and survived a suspect, but opportunistic defensive effort to keep the momentum going into next week's game against Michigan State. More to follow...

Ya Gotta Believe

More than anything else Notre Dame has to believe it’s going to beat Michigan and by beat them I’m not talking about three points. Notre Dame has to feel they should win this game by ten and not let up for one minute. This isn’t just Michigan, it’s a statement game for the Irish. Notre Dame is still young and inexperienced and very inexperienced in playing well. You can learn a lot from constant beatings, but you certainly don’t learn to play well with consistency.

Notre Dame has three straight games of learning which should be taking hold by now. While I was definitely disappointed by Saturday’s performance against an out manned San Diego State team, I don’t believe it was the harbinger of ills that many saw it to be.

The salient question to me is whether the last game looked like last year. And for the most part, the answer was no. Most of our problems were turnovers (I’ll get into the others later.) One happened when Hughes leg was bent back (and was an iffy call.) Another happened when Clausen’s rifle bounced off Kamara’s chest. The third happened when Clausen misread the coverage and threw the fade to Kamara when the play called for him to look right. The last when happened when Allen got jacked by a defender. For a fast back, he takes too many head on hits and could have broken that run to the outside (have I said this before?)


There were major differences between Saturday and last year, beginning with Jimmy Clausen. Clausen didn’t throw many bad passes on Saturday. He did miss some reads, but it’s hard to know what was where in the progression. Everyone opined about Clausen’s interception in the end zone and as Charlie mentioned, it was Clausen’s misread of the coverage, but also Kamara's failure to hustle. Hence the expletive after talking to Charlie. BTW, I like that he cusses and cares. Polite and ass-whooped is no way to go through life son.

The offensive line was better than at any time last year. We were blowing people off the hastily reconstructed line on some plays, but not without breakdowns. Still, not one sack on the day.

Sergio Brown was beat on one touchdown, but otherwise became a force for the Irish. Notre Dame needs players like Sergio to turn into game changers.

Our DBs played extremely well.

Our tackling was measurably improved.

Three of our four Special Teams played well, which should allow us to focus on the kicking game.

Golden Tate emerged as a play maker and Floyd is already showing why many think he should be starting now.


Our defense line showed little ability to pressure the quarterback without help. And this was against a suspect offensive line.

Our backs did not see running lanes and left yards on the table. If I were Haywood I’d make Allen break runs outside. I don’t think either is an elite back or even in the very good category yet though both have potential.

Not a good game for Duval Kamara and some lazy plays over all from the wide receiver corps.

Rudolph appears one dimensional at Tight End and is a blocking liability. I don't understand playing Rudolph yet unless Yeatman can't block.


In sum, those don't look at all like the same strengths and weaknesses that we had last year. This is a different team. They had their one game of preseason. It's cliche, but now Notre Dame has to raise the level of play to a different plane and become the team it will be for the next few years.

It's time for this team to believe it's a top 15 team and forget the last year. The Irish have made significant strides to this point, but they're not going to get anywhere on Saturday unless they start believing in themselves.

To get there, you gotta believe. Right Lou?

To Hell With Michigan (updated for Sept.)

Come on Michigan fans, know your own damn history. Wolverine fans across the country had a collective pantie bunch over Charlie Weis's stump speech that ended with a seeming low blow at "that team up north."

Here's what Charlie said according to the Detroit Free Press, "And then we'll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come running in and saying how they have a new coaching staff and there's changes. To hell with Michigan!"
As you would expect, Skunkbear nation reacted with little thought and much vitriol... using really imaginative slams such as fat jokes and calling him a "Blowhard." Michigan players have been using this as their rallying cry all summer.

It might even seem like a new low in the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry, except it's not new at all. In fact, the line is a reference to Bo Schembechler. Turns out that Charlie is a better student of Michigan history than the majority of Michigan fans.

As ndoldtown wrote back in 2006, Bo's (he of zero national championships) last public statement about ND was "To Hell with Notre Dame." In fact, he used this phrase often as some Michigan fans know well and used it publicly. In contrast, Charlie used it at a ND only event where such "rally the troops" talks are normal fare and aren't supposed to be made public.
Charlie turned Bo's phrase in an attempt to get the faithful fired up behind closed doors after a lousy season. Oh, the inhumanity.

Bo used the phrase to publicly attack Notre Dame.

There's a chasm of context between the two that puts this "new information" in perspective. Here's how Weis couched it:

"Anyone who is a Michigan fan should know and understand that that comment pays respect to Bo (Schembechler) and his mentality versus when playing an opponent... As a matter of fact, Schembechler's (son) and I had a big chuckle over this in summer during training camp. And we shared a moment that this question would probably be asked on this day. So take it for what it's worth. But I think that's a very respectful comment towards Coach Bo's "To hell with Notre Dame."

So, no, Charlie hasn't reached a new low --- this is Bo's work.

To Hell with Notre Dame, Bo?

No, To Hell with Michigan.

Game on.

Hoop Dreams

While the Irish football team is fighting to get back to the top, the basketball team is already projected there. Some have ranked the Irish as high as 4th in the country. And this weekend Mike Brey added a third commitment to join 6'8" Jack Cooley and 6'5" Joey Brooks, Mike Broghammer a 6'8" forward who's been a rising player on the AAU circuit.

A scrimmage report on The Pit describes the 6'8" Broghammer as "physically imposing, but didn't do much offensively. Claimed his space in the paint well." As most Brey recruits do, Broghammer has a good outside shot. He also has a cool ethnic name.

Here's the rest of the scrimmage update from The Pit (also note Kurt ONeill's update on Ryan Kelly:)

1. Vogrich shot the ball well, but was very undersized. Maybe it was just that he was standing beside TJ, Gody and the rest who look very put together physically, but he looked waifish. I've got to say...nothing about his presence said Big East guard to me. Probably hit 3 of 6 from behind the arc.

Broghammer is physically imposing, but didn't do much offensively. Claimed his space in the paint well, but didn't see much from him offensively. He played with Gody, who got the vast majority of his team's touches.

2. Tj, Ayers, Abro, Luke and Vogrich beat Mac, Gody, Broghammer, Peoples and some kid I don't know 3 straight. Ayers was the best offensive player in the building those first three games, drilling everything. Mac was pretty pissed off at his team for all of the clean looks Ayers got.

3. Gody was probably 8-12 from behind the 3-point line during the scrimmage. They ran mutliple plays to get him free from deep, and he responded. It was very impressive. He looks awesome physically. He had many big dunks and soft moves around the hoop. Looks ready to replicate last year's stats.

Gody is also sporting a new tatoo up his left side that says TBH (maybe TDH?)...not sure what this means.

4. Once Mac's team lost twice, he left the court and didn't come back. Looked good while he played. At no time while sitting out did he not have a ball in his hands...constantly dribbling between his legs, doing trick-speed stuff. An absolute gym rat.

5. Ayers, as I mentioned above, shot often and with a lot of confidence. TJ kept feeding him, and talking him up the whole game. Ayers seems like a player that needs confidence to perform, and Jackson knew it.

6. Scott has added a little bulk, but needs more. He's still freakishly athletic, but he never really made a decisive offensive move that I saw. Nash looks a little bigger, and is very comfortable with the ball in his hands.

7. Zeller provided the best moment off the whole scrimmage. TJ fed him the ball streaking baseline, prompting Zeller to dunk emphatically over Broghammer. The team cheered and laughed like it was something they had never seen before. Zeller also shot the ball very well.

8. Abro looks very even keel and is a solid shooter, but is defintely a step slow.

9. Hillesland looked to be nursing his right foot and didn't play. People only played the first game.

We Hath Been Delivered

Notre Dame returns tomorrow after an almost two year hiatus from excellence. Vannie previews The New Beginning in his blog. I suspect this will be a different team altogether. The kids have at least partially grown up, the talent level is burgeoning underneath and the Irish are set for a four year run at the title. In fact, this is the only year of the next four where Irish probably won't be in the title hunt. The talent wave doesn't crest until two years from now.

The perfect storm of last season has given way to sunshine. The Irish will open with San Diego State, which has lost so many players they're starting to look the de-limbed Black Knight from the Holy Grail.

"I see, running away then. You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!"

Unlike the Georgia Tech castration last year, tomorrow's game doesn't appear to be any match-up at all for the Irish. So the Irish catch a warm-up before meeting Michigan who will likely be vastly improved from their first game, but not exactly a powerhouse by the time the Irish get them. Michigan still has a formidable collection of talent on defense, so no one should put this in the win column. I can't really guess how the rest of our opponents will look after that, but only North Carolina, Michigan State and BC (other than USC) have the talent to play with Notre Dame on paper.

The perfect storm has dissipated and we can expect a completely different Irish team tomorrow and for the next four years. Here's the video intro from the pep rally.

Go Irish!

And here come the Irish!

Chowing Down On Offense

Woof, woof, mu...

In this whole debate over college vs. pro coaching I thought it would be interesting to compare Norm Chow and Charlie Weis and their approaches to the game.

Norm Chow has had incredible success on the college level, less so in his stint in the Pros. Bored, I wondered if the contrast between their two games might provide some insight into different coaching styles and schemes. Chow said he found the pro game a tough fit, "It was hard to do some things you wanted to do," he said. "There were too many restrictions in what you were trying to get done, in being able to be creative."

What struck me about Chow's quote is that his entire game plan is based on simplicity and passing. Charlie [edit] fit the pro game extremely well and had great success his first year as a coach and very good success in year two.

Here are Chow's rules for a passing offense: (via EDSBS)
First is pass protection. We are going to protect the QB, otherwise nothing works. This is the reason we spend hours and hours as coaches in meeting rooms talking about schemes. You may beat us because your players are better than ours. But as far as the scheme goes, we are going to protect the QB. Before we even begin to talk about pass routes we talk about pass protection.

The second rule as far as putting the passing game together is this: We are going to try to control the football with the forward pass.
This is of course a bit of a contradiction. Statistics are what you want to make of them. But there are two statistics we believe in. One is the time of possession. We feel we need to win this battle. The other statistic we want to win is the turnover battle. We do not want to turn the ball over. Those two points are very important to us. If you can accomplish those two things you will control the football. But we are trying to control the football with the forward pass. What does this mean in our terms? Check downs!

The third aspect of the passing game is this: We want to kiss it. We all know what that means. Keep It Simple Stupid. I think the biggest mistake that coaches make is that we try to be too smart. You come to a clinic like this and we get an idea from coach Herb Meyer. Then you try to incorporate it into what you are doing. You need to develop a philosophy. When you develop that philosophy you need to stay with it. There are lots of ways to move the football. You need to develop your own philosophy and you need to keep it simple. I can not overstate that point.

We want to be able to establish the run to some extent. Also we need the ability to sprint out at times.
The reason you need the ability to sprint out is this: If you can't handle the defense on the inside you can take the ball outside; if we get beat on the outside, we can step up in the pocket; if they come up the middle then get to the outside. The last thing in our passing game is that we will use a lot of screens to help control the blitz. There are so many things happening with fire zones, and zone blitzes today and there is so much suffocation with the various coverages, and disguises, that we feel the best way to mitigate the blitz is with the screen pass. We run a lot of screens where we just throw the ball outside to the receiver. When those screens get blown up or knocked down, I do not think you should be that upset about it. It is no big deal. It tells the defensive line they can not be in too big a hurry to get up the field because we may throw the screen pass. It is all done with out blitz control package.

For our basic passing game we have a strong side vertical, and we have a middle vertical, and a weak side vertical.
We have a couple of horizontal stretches and we have a couple of man routes. We have a few one-man routes. We have a route to attack Cover 2, and we have the four verticals game. That is our basic passing game. There I have told you everything we do and I did it in two minutes. Again...we have one strong side vertical route, one middle vertical route, one middle vertical and one weak side vertical. We have two horizontal stretch routes, a man route, four verticals and a Cover 2 beater. That is all we basically do. We attack everyone we play with these basic plays. Our kids know these plays the second day of practice.
The similarities? Both believe in using the screen to stem the rush. Both preach simplicity, but Charlie emphasizes multiplicity. Both seem inclined to control the game with passing. (Note, despite my running rants, I'm not at all opposed to this... but you have to protect the quarterback to make it work.) Both swear by check downs. Both believe in themselves. Both have had a very high level of success in college.

Now I haven't seen the inside of the ND playbook, but it would seem Weis and Chow diverge on a couple of points.

The first is the total emphasis on pass protection by Chow. [edit] I love the idea of sprint outs under pressure and thought ND could have taken better advantage of Quinn (Clausen's more mobile than most give him credit for.) The final point seems to go along with KISS in that Chow believes his offense should be simple presumably to focus on execution, something Notre Dame struggled with considerably last year.

A little food for thought as we armchair Monday morning quarterbacks wait for '08 to begin.