Thursday, April 30, 2009

Notre Dame's Tim Brown Elected to College Football Hall of Fame

It was announced in New York earlier today that Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown has been elected to the college football Hall of Fame. As reported by WNDU:

One of the greatest players to ever wear the gold helmet was named to the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday.

Tim Brown became the sixth Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame in 1987. He later went on to a stellar career in the NFL.

The announcment was made Thursday in New York City.

Brown was the first wide receiver to ever win the Heisman and is one of two Heisman winners named to this year's class, joining Miami QB Gino Torretta.

"Touchdown Timmy" set 19 school records at Notre Dame and was a 2-time All-American.

The 6th overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft by the Raiders, Brown was named to the Pro Bowl nine times.

Brown's class will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in December in NYC and enshrined in South Bend in July, 2010.

Congratulations Tim!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Coach Weis Working Hard for his Guys

First of all, congratulations to David Bruton! The OC Domer 2007 Player of the Year was drafted by the Denver Broncos on Sunday. He was the Broncos' 4th round pick, and taken number 114 overall. When I heard about Bruton going to the Broncos the first thought that jumped into my head was that maybe he could be the next Steve Atwater for them. Atwater was a hard-hitting, rangy safety that was noted for doing a great job coming up and defending against the run. Given David Bruton's penchant for being among Notre Dame's top tacklers the past few seasons, I think the Atwater comparison is apt. Steve Atwater was listed as 6' 3", 220 lbs with a 4.44 second 40-yard dash time. Bruton is listed at 6' 2" and 219, with 40 times from 4.40 to 4.46 seconds. Go Broncos!

It's disappointing that the Irish had only one player drafted in 2009, but not really surprising. This class was the recruiting class of 2005, which was the hybrid Willingham/Weis class. Weis gets the "credit" (blame) for the recruiting class, but it was Willingham and his staff who had done all the background and recruiting for this group and then handed it over to Charlie with a month left before signing day following the Super Bowl. To me, this weekend's NFL draft finally closes the book on the Ty Willingham era at Notre Dame.

The South Bend Tribune noted today:

Fifth-year seniors Lambert, Brown and Crum represent the final three pieces of the last full recruiting class of the Tyrone Willingham Era (2004), a class that now holds the distinction of not having one player selected in an NFL Draft.

That includes the 10 players from that class who transferred and finished their football careers at other schools, and running back Darius Walker, who jumped into the draft pool after his junior season.

Willingham's first, and as it turns out only, senior class at Washington also went draftless this weekend.

The 2009 Fighting Irish will be stocked with Charlie Weis recruits from top to bottom, from seniors down to freshman. Any personnel or roster deficiencies fall at the feet of CW. To coin a phrase, "No Excuses."

Although we had only one player drafted over the weekend, that does NOT mean that more Notre Dame men won't get a chance to play football on Sundays. Early this morning my cell phone started buzzing with Twitter messages from Coach Weis. Here they are, in order:
  • Good morning. I returned home late Saturday night from the ND Club of El Paso Texas. I spent Sunday watching Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
  • I was happy for David Bruton winding up with Denver & my buddy, Josh McDaniels. Denver loves him as a safety, but even more on special teams
  • After the draft, I worked on placing all our undrafted players. It looks like Mo Crum will go to Tampa, Grimes to Denver…
  • Lambert to the 49ers, Kuntz to Indy, Justin Brown to Washington, and both Schwapp & Turkovich to the Cowboys.
I was very glad to read (1) that Charlie thought he had a chance to get seven more players signed as free agents and into NFL camps, and (2) that Coach is working hard for his guys. Clearly Charlie's Twitter messages are intended, at least in part, to get the attention of potential recruits who want to know that CW will do everything he can to get them their shot at the NFL if they prove themselves NFL-caliber.

There have been more developments since my break-of-dawn messages from CW. The SBT is now reporting that
five Irish free agents agreed to terms Sunday night: Grimes (Denver), Kuntz (Indianapolis), Lambert (San Francisco), Schwapp (Dallas) and Turkovich (Dallas), and that Brown and Crum are expected to finalize agreements soon.

Although the odds of an undrafted free-agent making a roster are generally long, Notre Dame players have a way of sticking around in the NFL. Once these kids get into camp, the coaches see players that are of above-average intelligence, have been well-coached, have played big time football for four years, and who are high character guys. It's hard to let players like that go.

Good luck to all the NFL Irish as they chase their dreams.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blue & Gold Answers

In the run-up to the 2009 Blue & Gold game last week I posed the questions that I hoped to see answered by the scrimmage on Saturday. Below are the questions I had along with my highly qualified answers.

I don't mean that I am highly qualified to give any answers, I mean that the answers I am giving come with a lot of qualifiers. Such as: It was just a scrimmage, a lot of guys were held out, both the offense and defense showed very vanilla packages, it's very hard to judge a team playing against itself. But the biggest qualifier is that I had just one very quick pass at the full game video. The UND website posted two videos of the scrimmage on Saturday. One was a highlight package that is mildly entertaining but largely useless. It featured multiple slow-mo looks at just a handful of plays, along with a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. That video is still available on the website.

The other was a compilation of what appeared to be most (if not all) of the plays from the game. That video is very useful as you can watch the bad plays as well as the good on both sides of the ball. I watched that video all way through one time on Saturday. I also tried every trick I know to save that video to my hard drive because they posted a similar video after the 2008 B&G game and then took it down soon thereafter. I wasn't successful capturing the feed, and sure enough it's not on the UND site anymore. So I got one decent look at the whole scrimmage.

Disclaimers and qualifiers aside, here's what I saw:

Specifically, here are the questions I'm hoping to have answered (at least tentatively) on Saturday:

How does Clausen look? Is his arm strong? Accuracy good? Is he consistently making the proper reads and throwing to the correct receivers? In short, does JC look like the QB we saw in Hawaii or the QB we saw against Boston College? I'm betting that we'll see Aloha Jimmy, but I would really like some affirmation in that belief.

  • Clausen was a so-so 8 of 17 for 70 yards with no touchdowns and one pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown by B&G Defensive MVP Robert Blanton. Based upon the small sample of pass plays, I didn't think he looked quite like "Aloha Jimmy". But he looked confident and in control, and his arm strength and accuracy looked pretty good. Many of the incompletions were due to excellent coverage by the secondary, which is very encouraging. Compared to last year's B&G game, Clausen has clearly improved as last year his accuracy left a lot to be desired.
How close to being ready to play is Dayne Crist? Is he really all that? Rumors last season had Crist looking great in practice and ready to challenge Clausen for playing time. This spring we're hearing that Dayne's accuracy is off and he's struggling with running the offense and making the reads. I am hoping to get a good look at this young player and hopefully (there's that word again) get a good feeling about what will happen to the Irish QB situation when Clausen moves on to Sunday games.
  • Crist was 4 of 10 for 40 yards with no TDs and no INTs. As with Clausen, many of the incompletions were due to excellent secondary play, which figures to be a strength of this team. I don't recall any "wow" plays with respect to Crist's arm strength, but I was favorably impressed with his poise and apparent command of the (presumably simplified) offense. A couple of bobbled snaps aside, I liked his decision-making, his sense of timing, and the touch on his throws, often to backs in the backfield). The "wow" came from a couple of Nate Montana's throws. He hit on the longest completion of the day. He showed very good accuracy in his couple of chances, and seems to have his Dad's knack for delivering a very catchable ball right on stride. Altogether, I feel about as comfortable with our depth and our future at the quarterback position as I have felt for a very long time.
Has the offensive line learned how to block in the power running game? Can they push defenders back when they have to? (And if they are pushing guys around, is it because they've gotten better, or because our D-line isn't stout enough?)
  • Coach Weis is well known for saying "I can only go by what I see." Judging by that standard you'd have to say that the offensive line's blocking in the power running game is already significantly better than at any previous time in the Weis era. You may recall that Darius Walker put up some nice rushing yards under Charlie, but you must also recall that he usually did it on his own after eluding at least one defender in the backfield as he took the hand-off. Armando Allen had 70 yards on 12 carries for a gaudy 5.8 yards per rush. Robert Hughes and Jonas Gray each averaged about 4.4 yards per carry. There was clearly an emphasis on the straight-ahead power game versus the outside runs, and I am very hopeful our running game this year will force defenses to play us honest on first and second downs, and that 3rd-and-short will become automatic first downs with Robert Hughes running behind this unit. Keep up the great work Coach Verducci.
Will the re-built and very young defensive line be stout enough to defend the run while still pressuring the passer?
  • I think they'll be able to pressure the passer, and I don't think anyone is going to beat our guys to the edge on outside running plays. But the guys up front got pushed around a bit in the power run game. If there is any area of concern on defense, this is it. Part of what we saw on Saturday is no doubt a case of an experiences O-line getting better. But part of it is a group of young defensive linemen who have to develop in a hurry. One has to hope that we jump out to some early leads in 2009 to force teams out of time-consuming drives on the ground. If we can force teams into playing catch-up this defense will feast. But if we're down late and the opponent is trying to run out the clock we may be hard pressed to force a punt.
Have the new coaches settled into their roles and is the staff functioning well as a unit? Are the players responding to the new coaches, playing hard, and getting better?
  • Can't really judge the functioning of the staff other than by what we saw on the field. The team seemed excited to be out there, and they seemed to be playing hard and at a high level. From all that, I'd tentatively say that the new coaching hires and the reorganization of responsibilities seems to be working.
How well is Coach Weis getting around these days on his new wheel?
  • He's certainly walking much, much better. He did say at the beginning of the post-game press conference that he was pretty tired and sore from being on his new knee that long on Saturday. And maybe it's just me but I think Coach is losing a little weight.
And so we head into summer workouts. Before you know it we'll be straining to hear any word on how the incoming freshman are looking in fall workouts. Will Manti Te'o live up to the lofty expectations? And then on to a schedule that sets up very favorably for the Irish in 2009. Less than 10 wins would be a real disappointment. You're tempted to put USC in the "L" column out of habit, but even that assumption must be questioned. The Irish defense actually played very well against the Trojans in the Coliseum last year, but they just didn't get any help from the offense. This year USC is breaking in a new QB. The offense struggled ("struggled" is being kind) against an outstanding USC defense in 2008, but that defense will be playing on Sundays in 2009. The USC game at Notre Dame on October 17th figures to be very close. Get your tickets now!

Assuming Notre Dame is at least moderately improved in 2009, based upon returning experience and normal maturity growth, a second loss on the schedule is hard to pin down. Michigan? They're still a mess. I think we win again, although not as easily as in 2008. Probably the most likely candidates for loss #2 would be Michigan State or Boston College just based on recent results against those teams, but we get them both at our place. Pitt and Stanford lurk out there as November road games. But if we're playing at the level I expect, those games will become very important for a team looking to make their case as a BCS Bowl invitee. Motivation at that point shouldn't be a problem.

Let the summer speculation season begin!

The Education President

Apparently when Barack Obama says he wants to be the "education president" he doesn't mean that he actually wants to provide a quality education to children. What he means is that his administration is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Education Association (i.e., the teachers' unions).

Juan Williams has an excellent (and infuriating) column on how the Obama administration is dismantling a very popular and clearly successful school voucher program in the District of Columbia. This is a program that helps get poor kids out of failing D.C. schools and into private schools where they have a much better chance at a real education, all without taking a dime out of the D.C. public schools' budgets. Win-win, right? Wrong.

The teachers' unions and the N.E.A. don't like private schools, and they don't like voucher programs, because they are a threat to the growth of their membership rolls and to their members' pay raises. And because the N.E.A. doesn't like these programs, the Democrats and Obama don't like them either - poor black kids in D.C. be damned.

What makes this even more annoying in the current political climate is that Obama's decision isn't about money. I mean, it isn't about money in the usual sense of "we don't have the money to pay for this." Congress just passed a gazillion dollar stimulus package intended to fund things a lot less important than the education of poor kids. But no vouchers for you! However, this decision is about money in the modern political sense. The N.E.A. and their fellow union travelers give a lot of money every election cycle to elect and keep in power Democrat politicians who agree with their views of education policy. Obama and congressional Democrats are unwilling to risk losing any of that campaign money, and the direct result is more poor kids in D.C. needlessly trapped in bad schools.

Remember that the next time you hear Obama or any other Democrat preaching from their soap box about those greedy, selfish, mean, evil, racist Republicans. You know, those same Republicans who believe poor black kids in D.C. deserve a chance at the same quality education as the rich kids living in the White House.

Stay classy Obama.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring Blogkeeping - Some changes at OC Domer

It's been fairly quiet here at OC Domer over the past few weeks. In part it's because I find it difficult to contribute to the conversation in any meaningful way during spring football practice, which I have written about before. In part it's because other events at work and at home have nudged my blogging habit to the sideline for a bit. And it's also because I have been doing a lot of thinking about the future of the OC Domer blog and what it will look like going forward. I'll have more on that in a moment, but first I want to point out some of the minor tweaks I've made to the blog in the past few weeks.

  • I've discontinued the "OC Domer International" feature on the sidebar. When I first started the blog I was pretty fascinated with my traffic and where it was coming from. The novelty of seeing hits from exotic places around the globe led to creation of the list of other countries with OC Domer readers. It was a lot of fun, but the thrill is pretty much gone and I haven't been maintaining the list for a while now. Before discontinuing the feature I was up to about 80 different countries, which is pretty cool. One interesting tidbit about the OC Domer International feature: One of the most common recurring sources of traffic to the blog was Google searches for the phrase "twirlers" from Muslim countries. There are sects in Islam that practice twirling (basically spinning in a circle really fast until one gets really dizzy and enters an enhanced state). (I know that is a gross over-simplification but I'm not interested in a treatise on religious practices right now). The humorous part is that Googling the word "twirlers" (or variations thereon) for a while would hit on my Purdue preview post from the 2007 season, which was a sarcastic look at the Golden Girl and all the other baton twirlers and band auxiliary elements surrounding Purdue's football program. Somehow I doubt that the Golden Girl is what the searchers from these Muslim nations were looking for. Or at least I hope so.
  • I have dropped the sidebar ad for the website. Not because I don't believe in the products (it's a great place for your Irish merchandise), but because I wasn't seeing any return on investment. It's actually pretty darn funny. When FootballFanatics first approached me about advertising on my blog, I really agonized about whether I wanted to commercialize OC Domer, which I do because I enjoy it, not to make money. Part of me didn't want to "sell out." But I decided that I believed in the product and would really be doing my readers a service by offering them a trusted source for their Notre Dame gear. So I opened my account with them and put up the ad. I sold my soul. And that ad generated exactly ZERO sales for FootballFanatics and ZERO cash for the OC Domer. So it's gone. I may sell out for Google Ads instead. We'll see.
  • Fairly early in the history of OC Domer I was seeing traffic coming from, but I wasn't a member of Facebook and I couldn't see what was generating the hits. So I signed up for Facebook. My page isn't very fancy, but it gives me another way to keep up with my kids, and I even have a few Notre Dame football players as Facebook friends. I have added a badge that links to my Facebook page in the sidebar, and the badge even includes my Facebook status. If you're on Facebook, "Friend me!"
  • One of the biggest stories to come out of spring football this year is that Notre Dame Head Football Coach Charlie Weis is "Twittering." Twitter is an internet application which has been called "micro-blogging." Basically Twitter allows a user to use the text messaging feature on their cell phone to broadcast short messages to anyone in the Twitter world who has signed up to "follow" that user. The user's Twitters (I think they are actually called tweets or twits?) also are automatically posted to the user's Twitter web page. Coach Weis is Twittering under the handle NDHFC. As of this moment Charlie has 1,877 followers, including OC Domer. I have installed an application at the top of the OC Domer sidebar that shows my readers NDHFC's last five Tweets, as well as a link to NDHFC's Twitter page. So come back to OC Domer to follow Coach Weis' Twitter updates, or sign up to follow him yourself. Charlie tends to send a flurry of messages in the morning when there is going to be football activity that day, and a flurry at night recapping the day's football events. He's kind of fun to follow as he doesn't really have the hang of the very brief Twitter text message format yet. He tends to send long messages that take up several Tweets. This morning's flurry of updates was all about the upcoming Blue & Gold game.
  • In order to figure out the best way to install the NDHFC Twitter feed on the OC Domer sidebar, I had to sign up for Twitter myself and tweak one of their applications to get the NDHFC feed. At any rate, OC Domer is now Twittering too. I've added a Twitter badge to the sidebar that will take you my Twitter page. If you're completely insane you can follow my utterly ordinary existence. I have a way to go to catch up with Charlie's 1,877 followers. I tend to Tweet about current events from my own Right Wing Extremist perspective.
Which brings me to the biggest change at OC Domer, and the one that I have been thinking about a lot lately. In the history of the blog I have occasionally posted my thoughts on political topics. Ironically, the political posts tend to generate a lot more feedback and comments than my very thoroughly researched and cleverly written football posts. Many of the comments I get on those posts are positive and supportive, but a certain percentage come from folks who not only disagree with me, but who feel that such posts have no place on OC Domer. Given current events in America, I have been moved to write more about politics and other topics and I have been debating about whether I wanted to put those items on OC Domer or whether I wanted start another blog focusing on politics and current events. At the end of the day I decided that OC Domer is my baby and it is who I am. I don't owe it to anybody to partition my life according to their preferences. So right now I intend to start putting more politics/current events posts on OC Domer. I expect that the vast majority of my readers will be able to cope with that. Some will enjoy the posts, some will ignore those posts. The immature will attack me for daring to post my personal opinions on my personal blog, and they will call me names if they disagree with me rather than engage in civil debate. Some will stop reading me altogether. I'm a big boy, I can take it. OC Domer will still largely be about Notre Dame and Notre Dame football, especially during football season. But we're going to be branching out and growing the brand, so to speak. I just wanted to give my readers a heads-up and an explanation before we make this minor change in course.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Thoughts

Editor's note: The Dayne Crist image at the top of this post is copyrighted by Jose L. Marin of Marin Media, and is used with Mr. Marin's permission. Check out more terrific sports photography, including some great Notre Dame stuff at

Well, it's almost time for the 2009 Blue & Gold Game, which means spring football practice for 2009 is nearly over and I don't think I have written a single post on it. Shame on me. This blog started in the Spring of 2007, and one of my first posts here was about the futility of trying to assess the progress of the team during the Spring, and the Hope that all Irish fans embrace this time of year. Nothing about Spring football has changed since 2007. I'll admit I read every silly report I can find about the 20-minutes at the start of each practice when reporters are allowed to observe the team, although I must admit I'm almost ashamed of myself for doing so. I mean, really, how useful is it to read the following drivel:

The defensive linemen began with their usual 2-man and 4-man hitting drill. Next I saw them doing a new angle tackle drill. A bag was set up sideways inside a set of cones and two players were lined up across from each other. One was the ball carrier and the other was the tackler. The ball carrier gave a little stutter step and then chose which side of the bag he wanted to run to, and the tackler had to fit in for the angle tackle.

The defensive backs worked on their backpedaling and opening their hips before coming back for the interception. Next a cornerback and safety teamed together to communicate and fit in for a tackle, one inside and the other outside.

The linebacker drills always move at a quick pace with Tenuta, but he gets in his critiques when needed. First they sprinted twenty yards and slightly slowed down there steps every five yards as though they were going playing the misdirection. Next they made a forward pursuit to an orange dot and broke down in front of it.

“You better gather,” Tenuta told the group. “Get your eyes up!”
That's not a knock on the author of that piece, it's just that we fans don't get very much meaningful information about what the team is really doing until we see the Blue & Gold game, and even then what we are allowed to see is carefully staged.

Not that I'm not looking forward to Saturday, because I am.

This year's Spring scrimmage is much different than the 2007 version (4-horse QB derby), but will be similar to the 2008 edition. As with last Spring, most of the guys we'll see in starting roles have already played a lot of football for the Irish. Certainly there are a few new faces, but by and large the team we'll see Saturday (and in September) is the team we saw on Christmas Eve. The question is and will be: How are they developing? Specifically, here are the questions I'm hoping to have answered (at least tentatively) on Saturday:
  1. How does Clausen look? Is his arm strong? Accuracy good? Is he consistently making the proper reads and throwing to the correct receivers? In short, does JC look like the QB we saw in Hawaii or the QB we saw against Boston College? I'm betting that we'll see Aloha Jimmy, but I would really like some affirmation in that belief.
  2. How close to being ready to play is Dayne Crist? Is he really all that? Rumors last season had Crist looking great in practice and ready to challenge Clausen for playing time. This spring we're hearing that Dayne's accuracy is off and he's struggling with running the offense and making the reads. I am hoping to get a good look at this young player and hopefully (there's that word again) get a good feeling about what will happen to the Irish QB situation when Clausen moves on to Sunday games.
  3. Has the offensive line learned how to block in the power running game? Can they push defenders back when they have to? (And if they are pushing guys around, is it because they've gotten better, or because our D-line isn't stout enough?)
  4. Will the re-built and very young defensive line be stout enough to defend the run while still pressuring the passer?
  5. Have the new coaches settled into their roles and is the staff functioning well as a unit? Are the players responding to the new coaches, playing hard, and getting better?
  6. How well is Coach Weis getting around these days on his new wheel?
Those are the things I'm worried about, so those are what I'll be watching. (Will I be watching? Does anyone know if this will be on TV or on-line?). I feel pretty confident that the running backs & receivers will be good enough to get the job done (but battles for #3 WR and #2 TE will be interesting). Our linebacking corps and secondary will be very good to excellent. Kicking game will be of some interest, as always, but Coach Weis seems to have settled that down a bit finally.

Enjoy the game, and the weekend, especially those of you lucky enough to be "in the house" on Saturday.

Michigan Fans: Go ahead and hit that panic button

I'm trying to be objective about it, trying to put myself in Wolverine fan's position. How would I react if, say, in the spring of 2007 (after the graduation of Brady Quinn), after spring football practice has wrapped up, Coach Weis started making scholarship offers to Duke basketball players and promising them the opportunity to come in and compete for the starting quarterback job, even though (1) they only have one year of NCAA eligibility remaining, and (2) they haven't even touched a football since high school, four years ago?

I think I would probably panic. WTF!???!! We don't have anyone in the program, nor were we able to sign any recruits from anywhere in the nation, who we trust to play QB more than we do a Duke point guard? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??!!

So I'm guessing that's how Michigan fans are feeling today on the news that Coach Dick Rod has offered a football scholarship to Duke basketball player Greg Paulus and promised him a chance to compete for the starting quarterback job at Big Blue in the fall. These spread offenses that are in vogue today and preferred by Dick Rod have been described by some as "basketball on grass." In that light, recruiting a point guard to run your offense makes some sense. If you've been smoking grass.

By my calculations, Coach Weis and the Irish owe the Wolverines a couple more serious beat-downs before we can call the recent history between the two teams "even."

Now where the heck is that button?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Irish Lacrosse Making Some Noise

While the Notre Dame football team is almost ready to wrap up spring workouts, the Notre Dame mens lacrosse team is in the middle of its regular season and is making some noise nationally. Ranked at #4 in the nation heading into the weekend, the team went to Denver on Saturday and pushed their overall record to 10-0 on the year. That win over DU, coupled with a Virginia loss to Duke (10-15) left Notre Dame as the only undefeated team in Division I lacrosse and pushed them up to #3 in the polls.

LAX Fever. Catch it!

(Note: Reference to UD corrected to DU on 4/14/2009. Thanks Hank.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tragic Start to Angels Season

I went to the Angels game on Tuesday night, against the Oakland A's. The Angels played poorly and lost, but in retrospect I guess I'm just lucky to be alive. There have been two tragic Angels-related deaths in the past two days.

The first involved a fan who was injured in a fight with two other fans at the conclusion of the Angels' opening day win over the A's on Monday night, April 6th. Although it isn't clear who started the fight or what it was about, it seems that the man was knocked down during the fray and hit his head on a concrete step. The injuries suffered were severe enough that he died in the hospital just after midnight on Wednesday morning, April 8th. Inquiring fans want to know: Where the hell was security while this was going down?

Then, on the drive to work this morning, it was reported that the starting pitcher in last night's Angels game, Nick Adenhart, had died in the hospital as the result of injuries suffered in a car wreck in Fullerton just hours after he pitched six shutout innings for the Angels in his first Major league start of the year and only the fourth Major league start in his young career. Adenhart was apparently a passenger in a car that was broadsided in an intersection by a minivan than had run a red light at high speed. Two others in the car with Adenhart died at the secene. The driver of the minivan was eventually caught, and arrested on suspicion of felony drunken driving, felony hit and run and vehicular manslaughter.

Tonight's Angels game against the A's has been postponed.

All of which makes the Angels' bullpen problems look pretty darned unimportant.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Obama and the Fighting Irish

I recently received an e-mail asking me for my help in “taking Notre Dame back for Our Lady from the Forces of Darkness.” The writer was “scandalized by the disobedience by Fr. Jenkins, in the dishonoring of the sanctity of life on Commencement Day, with an honorary Doctor of Laws, of all things, to this pro-abortion leader.” She was referring of course to Notre Dame’s decision to invite President Obama to deliver the commencement address at the University this year.

I had been thinking about blogging the Obama controversy, but hadn't done so yet because I hadn't fully fleshed out my opinion on the matter. The e-mail gave me an excuse to focus on the issue, and this post is actually an expanded version of my thoughts as I expressed them to my passionate e-mailer.

While I strongly disagree with Obama's pro-abortion policies, along with just about every other policy he has, I'm not really able to translate that into being upset that Notre Dame has invited him to speak. The University has something of a tradition of inviting Presidents of both parties to speak at commencement. For example, I was very proud that Ronald Reagan chose to speak at Notre Dame. I'm sure if I looked for it I could find some area of disagreement between Church teaching and Reagan's policies.

I think my biggest reservation about condemning the invitation comes from the way conservatives are treated at liberal colleges and universities. I don't know how many articles I have read decrying the way Justice Scalia, or Justice Thomas, or other conservative thinkers are treated by academia. They get dis-invited, they get boycotted, they get protested, they get shouted down, and in the end they are often denied the opportunity to freely present their views and opinions. I have always found such behavior on the left to be deplorable. To me there would be a significant level of hypocrisy involved if Notre Dame and movement conservatives were to decide that liberal opinions and ideas would not be permitted to be heard at Our Lady's University. Not because the left doesn't deserve to be treated that way. But because if we go down that road we would be no better than those we criticize for being closed minded. We will have become that which we despise.

Maybe I am naive, but it is my hope that Notre Dame can be classier than those other schools by being a shining example of what real free speech, real diversity, and real honest debate and disagreement look like. I understand the passion of my e-mail correspondent and pro-lifers everywhere, and I agree with their views about abortion. So let President Obama come to Notre Dame and face those who disagree strongly with him. This President rarely faces a crowd that isn't hand-picked and filled with fawning supporters and his enablers in the press. I would be very proud of the Notre Dame student body if, as the President steps to the podium, the graduating class rises as one holding aloft large signs expressing their views of the President's pro-death policies. 2,000 students holding "Choose Life" signs under the President's nose as he speaks would be more powerful than dis-inviting him so that he could go speak instead to some adoring crowd at a lesser institution.

It also is not lost on me that, according to the The Observer, the graduating seniors are by a large majority very excited that the President of the United States will be speaking at their graduation. I'm not sure that all the "adults" who are so upset should be dictating to the Notre Dame Class of 2009 who their invited commencement speaker should be. At my graduation from Notre Dame in 1986 we had a Catholic Cardinal speak (I don't remember his name). No doubt his theology was right. But the speech itself was a boring and disappointing end to my four years at Notre Dame.

And finally, I think Notre Dame is being singled out here for some very selective outrage. The University has invited a non-Catholic President with non-Catholic views to visit the University and give a speech, and this is scandalous? Where is all the Catholic outrage over all the so-called Catholics in the Congress, in the state legislatures, and in the Governors' mansions across America who act daily as accomplices of the abortion industry? Where are the bishops’ condemnations of pro-choice “Catholics” Nancy Pelosi, Joseph Biden, John Kerry, Christopher Dodd, and Rudy Giuliani? These people call themselves Catholics, yet they have enthusiastically supported the public financing and easy availability of abortions across America for years. The Catholic Church is in a position to take substantive action to promote the sanctity life. They could deny “pro-choice” politicians the right to receive Holy Communion at mass or even ex-communicate them. But they don’t. When Pope Benedict visited the United States last year, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Christopher Dodd, Edward Kennedy, and Rudy Giuliani all very publicly received the sacrament of Holy Communion at Papal masses. The Pope even received Nancy Pelosi at the Vatican in February, giving her a much grander platform than a speech at Notre Dame could. Every election cycle bishops and other Church leaders have the opportunity speak out against pro-choice “Catholics” on the ballot and encourage the faithful to cast their votes for pro-life candidates. Yet they don’t. They remain silent or even support the pro-death Democrat candidates, usually because it is the Democrats that are more closely aligned with the Church’s views of “social justice.” Rather than taking a meaningful, concrete stance that would have a material impact in protecting the unborn they remain silent, eschewing substantive action that would save lives in favor of symbolic outrage against Notre Dame that accomplishes nothing.

So bring President Obama to Notre Dame. Let him face a fired-up crowd of educated, articulate, politically active young Americans who passionately disagree with him and his policies. Let him feel the heat. Engage him and challenge him. That is how you bring about change.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

We're No. 68!

Well, the Notre Dame men's basketball team finally called it a season last night with an inglorious 67-59 loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions in the NIT semi-finals at Madison Square Garden. By my count, that means Notre Dame finishes the year as the 68th best team in the country (maybe 69th). Woo-Hoo!

But more importantly, it means that I can end my self-imposed silence about Irish basketball. Not that I had a whole lot to say, but I did want to keep my word just in case the Irish needed a little extra luck as the season wound to a close. So much for that.

Am I the only one who is bitterly disappointed in how the team finished this season? I'm the first to admit that I don't follow Big East basketball very closely. It's a little bit of a challenge from the west coast. But wasn't Notre Dame supposed to be really good this year? Weren't we ranked in the Top 10 at one point?

I know the Big East was a Big Beast this season. Seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, including three #1 seeds. Five teams in the Sweet 16, four in the Elite Eight and two in the Final Four. Very, very impressive. A very tough schedule to play through. But no matter how tough your conference is, 9th place is pretty disappointing.

At one level, basketball is an absurdly simple game. The team that makes the most shots will win. Watching Notre Dame this year, I saw two different teams on the court. The team that was ranked in the Top 10 was the team led by Kyle McAlarney when he was "on" and hitting his long-range jump shot. That team, when it showed up, was tough to beat. The other team was the squad that wasn't hitting it's long-range shots and seemingly had no other way to generate points. That team was pretty mediocre and finished 9th in the Big East and 68th in the nation. I don't know the "why" of it, but it just seemed that better teams were able to take McAlarney and/or Luke Harangody completely out of their games, and Notre Dame had nobody else who could make up the difference.

Looking at the season statistics for the Big East conference (I'm not going to factor the cupcake non-conference games into evaluating Notre Dame's performance), I would hope that in the future the team could step up the intensity on defense and develop an offensive identity that isn't so dependent on the 3-ball. Notre Dame was 6th in overall scoring offense, but just 13th in scoring defense. We led the conference in 3-pt shots made (391) and 3-pt percentage made at .389. We were a middle of the pack team in rebounding margin (10th) but just 13th in shot blocking and 16th (dead last) in steals. The good news is that you don't necessarily need a bunch of new athletes to get better on defense. Defense is about 90% effort and attitude. The question I have is: Can Coach Brey instill in this team the toughness and the commitment to defense they need to be competitive in the Big East, both at home and on the road, and on nights when the threes aren't falling?