Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Irish Round-Ballers Need a Parachute

OC Domer readers know that I'm pretty one dimensional as a blogger, generally sticking to football-related topics. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is that when I blog on other topics, like politics, I catch a bunch of grief from uninformed readers telling me that I should stick to football. Another reason is that when I branch out to post about other topics, like Irish basketball, bad things can happen. Let me explain.

On January 13th, at the tail end of a post about the importance of John Latina being afforded the chance to "pursue other opportunities," I gave a shout out to the Notre Dame basketball teams and wrote:

Irish Basketball rocks. If you haven't been following Irish hoops, you should. The Big East is dominating the rankings, and the Notre Dame men's team is hovering just outside the Top 10 right now. They already have several quality wins, and really for the first time in a long time there is no question of them making the NCAA tournament. Not to be outdone the women's team is ranked in the Top 10 with an overall record of 41-1 (3-0 Big East) heading into tonight's game against Marquette.
It is now time for me to personally apologize to the Notre Dame men's basketball team, the University, and Irish fans everywhere. Clearly my January 13th post jinxed the program and sent them into a free-fall that does not appear likely to end in a soft landing.

Prior to my post, the Irish were 12-4, just coming off a tough overtime loss to Louisville. Since my post, Notre Dame has lost six in a row (Syracuse, U-Conn, Marquette, Pitt, Cincy, UCLA). The worst loss was of course last Saturday on National T.V. against UCLA 89-63. Sadly, the game was not even as close as the final score indicated. There aren't many cupcakes on the remaining schedule, so Irish chances of making the NCAA tournament likely depend on either a very strong finish in league play or a deep run in the the Big East Tournament (at Madison Square Garden, a venue where the Irish have not had great success).

I hope the basketball team and the wider world of Notre Dame fandom will accept my apology. I promise, no more basketball posts. For now. Hopefully this will clear the air of any bad basketball karma or voo-doo or fate and allow the Irish to get back to business and snap this nasty 7-game losing streak.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled football blogging, free of any snarky blog comments about the stock market free-fall since President Obama took office, or the pork-filled-delayed-spending-stimulus bill that will nationalize America's health care system by stealth, or the multitudes of tax cheats and lobbyists in the "most ethical administration in history," or Obama's full-scale adoption of Bush-era security policies that were inhumane and unconscionable two months ago but which don't look so bad now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Aloha, Manti Te'o! Welcome to the Family

Obviously the biggest news for Irish fans on National Signing Day was that Notre Dame landed Hawaii's stud linebacking prospect Manti Te'o. This may be the biggest recruiting success story of Charlies Weis' tenure, excepting only the Jimmy Clausen signing. A head-to-head win against USC for an elite defensive player is big news - and Te'o seems like a young man of tremendous character as well. Congratulations to Manti as he joins the Notre Dame family (he'll be in the same entering class as the OC Domer Daughter), and congratulations to Coach Weis and his entire staff for a job well done.

The other big news on the day is that it appears all the verbal commits stuck with the Irish and faxed in their signed Letters of Intent. A job well done to hold the class together.

It will be interesting to see how the services rank this class with the addition of Te'0.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

D-Day Minus-1

Look, I'll admit that new Irish O-line coach Frank Verducci is sort of handsome in a New Jersey way (if not in a SoCal way), but I'm tired of seeing his mug at the top of my blog, so I have to throw something up here.

National Signing Day for high school football recruits is tomorrow, so the geekiest of all the Notre Dame football fans are working themselves up into a lather about which 18 year old kids will commit to Our Lady's University tomorrow and which will plunge a dagger into our little green hearts by choosing to play football (and possibly attend classes) at a lesser institution.

I, for one, have my fingers crossed. But other than that, I'm trying not to let all the hype and speculation get to me. Right now, Notre Dame's incoming class looks solid, although not currently rated as high as the last two classes. I think part of the reason for the lower ranking is that we have fewer players from the "flash" positions in this class (like QB and WR), and also have commitments from a 3-star kicker, a 3-star punter a 2-star long snapper, and a 3-star Golic. The stars of the class as of today are 5-star RB Cierre Wood, 5-star OG Chris Watt, and 4-star players coming in at DT, RB, WR, OG, OT and S. If those guys stick tomorrow and don't pull a spectacular signing day stunt, we'll have a very solid class, especially considering the uncertainty that surrounded Charlie Weis' future just a few short weeks ago.

The biggest suspense surrounds Hawaii LB Manti Te'o, who is expected to be a huge impact player in the middle of the defense wherever he goes. He has narrowed the field to ND, USC and UCLA after surprising everyone by telling BYU he was taking them off his final list. Te'o took an official recruiting visit to USC last weekend, and rumors are swirling that he wasn't overly impressed by the Trojans. If true, that would bode extremely well for Irish chances of landing him. Luring Te'o to South bend would be an enormous win for Charlie Weis and his staff. Not only do the Irish badly need a player of that caliber at linebacker (he's just like Mo Crum except he's bigger, faster, more athletic, more aggressive, has better football instincts and more talent), it would be a win in a head-to-head battle against Pete Carroll and USC. You have to win your share of those battles to remain credible with recruits in future years.

Because I'm hopelessly and unrealistically optimistic when it comes to Notre Dame football, I expect Coach Weis to have at least a couple of surprises (good surprises) in store for the Irish faithful tomorrow, ending up with a class rated in the Top 15, if not the Top 10.

Off-Topic. I really enjoyed the Super Bowl on Sunday, but as has become the norm for that annual spectacle, most of the buzz from the game revolves around the commercials and the half-time show. We're big Springsteen fans at OC Domer HQ, so we enjoyed watching the Boss perform for the whole world and I thought he did a terrific job. The commercials were, on the whole, a bit of a let down. To me, the best commercial of the day wasn't even shown during the game, but just before and after the game. It was an E*Trade ad that I thought was much better than the E*Trade commercial they chose to air during the game itself. So, to give folks a diversion from the stress of National Signing Day I offer the OC Domer choice for the best commercial from Super Sunday: