Sunday, October 31, 2010

I can't tell you what it really is, I can only tell you what it feels like

Steel knife in my windpipe

You know that feeling like your ribcage has cracked open and your breastbone's slowly being ground into a pebble? Like your knees have swollen up with the venom of a thousand wasp stingers and your eyes have been doused with acid and your brain is fizzing over like an out-of-control science fair project, and the only thing you can do is lie there and pray for it to be over?

Except, you know, if your body becomes reduced to a twitching, oozing, vomitous mess, they usually let you check yourself into a hospital and forget about the world for a couple of days.

And sometimes it seems like, for the players, there is just no rest, and no relief. Especially not with everything that's happened this past week.

And it's not like it's even just the players, you know? It's a whole family, a whole community. If we weren't all bruised and weary before, surely we've got the shit slapped out of us now.

Thank God it's a bye week.

To be honest, I'm not even worried about the fate of the football season right now. I'm just worried about everyone getting some sleep. Real rest is probably too much to ask for...but sleep, at the very least.

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn

Everything I think to say seems to come up empty. I could voice the thoughts that we all have rolling around in our heads, but what's the point? It's all just a bunch of WHY and OH GOD and YOU'RE KILLING ME, PETEY, and NOT AGAIN. Possibly followed by some impotent sobbing.

Nor does it seem wise to fall prey to the voice of the campus jackasses. (You know who I mean -- the sorts of people who write sarcastic-ass notes to the Observer about storming the field after a loss.) These are the people to not listen to, ever. These are the people who, after a loss to Navy, will happily ensure that you don't win another game for the rest of the season, because they're pussies, and they're going to cash in their chips early and walk away. Probably even thinking they've won something, because they still have money left in their pocket at the end of the day.

Well, let me tell you something, jackass. You don't get anything by not playing. You don't get anything by giving up. And you sure as shit don't have the right to go around insulting people who are out there doing what you could never do.

Does anyone remember a couple of seasons ago when the Irish lost 17-0 to Boston College and I posted a rant saying we were having football dysentery? I'm sorry I ever wrote it that way. I'm not saying that game wasn't sufficiently painful to watch, I'm just saying...letting frustration turn to venom like that is not the way to go. (I say after openly accusing certain Notre Dame students of being jackasses.) I mean, spouting out agony and frustration and openly wondering wtf is going on out there is one thing, but football dysentery? I think that was taking things too far. (YES I JUST SAID THAT.) Sometimes I think I take everything too far. point is...

Look, it's not like I'm happy with what's going on here, either. This isn't what we want to see, this isn't what tradition mandates, this was a gut-wrenching, heart-humbling week to begin with...but the way I see it, we've got two options.

1. We can either cash our chips in like a bunch of pussies and give up, or

2. We can make like the football team, give ourselves a 24-hour rule, GET OVER IT, and figure out what the hell we can do to make it a game against Utah.

The more I suffer, I suffocate

We need to stop suffocating ourselves. Or maybe just the head coach. Brian Kelly looks older to me already. And tired. This goes back to what I said earlier about everyone just needing some sleep. I mean it. I think the pressure's too much. We all just need to step back and take an effing chill pill. Did you see how much Charlie aged during his interim as head coach? We must have taken ten years off that poor man's life. And his kid. Charlie Jr. couldn't even go to school sometimes after losses.


"But it's a D-I program, it's a fishbowl, there's tons of pressure all the time, everyone knows that, Brian Kelly knows that, he's even addressed it in press conferences..." and BLAH BLAH BLAH.

That's great and all, but these guys are all also human beings, and maybe if after every loss we wouldn't lament and bemoan and beat things to death and we could just take our chokehold off for a few seconds, everyone would have time to breathe and rest and think properly, and be all calm and sharply focused, instead of wound up like a corkscrew being all FUCKFUCKFUCK, we have to WIN we have to WIN why aren't we WINNING?????!??!?!?!?!

HEY - remember that time we went 6-6 and the players elected to go the Hawaii Bowl and everyone was all pissed off and saying "what the hell this is the worst idea ever, we can't play a game on Christmas Eve, and why is the University wasting all this money flying the team all the way to Hawaii just so we can lose another bowl game to a mediocre-ass team" and WAH WAH WAH BLAHBLAHBLAH --

But the football players didn't hear any of this shit because they were in HAWAII, going to luaus and watching Jimmy Clausen fall on his ass in a waterpark, and then they went out on the field and kicked the shit out of Hawaii, just like they should have been kicking the shit out of every other semi-decent team all season (but they weren't because who-the-hell-knows-why), and they proved everybody wrong and came back with a pineapple trophy and Manti Te'o.

That wasn't so bad.

See? So maybe everybody just needs to RELAX. Veg out. Refocus.

And we need to do some serious refocusing, because thanks to injuries we've got practically a whole different team out there from the one we started the season with.

I can't breathe, but I still fight while I can fight

So, assuming that the Notre Dame chokehold doesn't release (which of course it won't; even if this was being read by more than like 10 people every week why the hell would anyone listen to me? because I am CLEARLY CRAZY), I'm guessing it will be something of a struggle to battle through the general campus atmosphere these next couple weeks. It's bad to go into a bye on a loss, even worse to go into a bye after a loss that could easily have been a win.

But after the week that campus just had, I think a bye is kind of what everyone needs right now.

It will be good for the players to have some time to regroup. They've got a new quarterback to contend with, a shift in scheme...if ever there was a time for Kelly's "next man in" mentality to come to fruition, the time is now.

Obviously there are some things you can't do in two weeks. You can't give your freshman QB any more live-game experience. You can only do so much about his high, frighteningly floaty passes. You can't surround him with veteran players.

But you can get things going. You can build trust; and it seems like, with the way the players have been buying in to Kelly's philosophy, there's a good level of trust between them to begin with. You can work on building chemistry; and in some ways having younger receivers out there might help a young QB build that chemistry. (Unless, you know, the young receivers completely blow their assignments.) And you can work on the head stuff. Mental preparation, leadership, confidence, etc etc etc. Which, actually, I must say, it seems like Rees has a pretty good foundation of to begin with.

He didn't look scared out there. He threw some floaty passes, yeah; threw behind some receivers a little bit; is pretty lucky he was going up against Tulsa's abysmal pass defense in his first start. But nevertheless he threw for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns and went 60% on completions, and that is not shabby at all. (And it helped, too, to have Floyd out there with 11 catches for 104 yards and 2 TDs.)

Not that I don't lament the loss of Crist. How much do I wish all of our players were healthy? Sooooo much. But this is the way things are, and if we're going to have a freshman QB lead the team for the next three games, it might as well be a freshman QB who has two full weeks to prepare for his first official start.

I like the way it hurts

Okay, well, that's kind of a total lie, but what I'm referring to here (in the most tangential way possible), is the playcalling at the end of the game. It's easy to look back now and think, "WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU NOT KICK THE FIELD GOAL?? RIGHT NOW THE KICKER IS THE MOST CONSISTENT PLAYER ON OUR TEAM!!!!"

But to be honest, at the time, I didn't think twice about it. In fact, I totally concurred. So I guess that means I still do kind of concur.

You have more than one down left--you're close enough to the endzone to give it a shot--you have time--why NOT go for it? In fact, since you already have the central field position you want for your kicker, might as well go ahead and throw it to the endzone twice.

Yes, there's always a chance of an interception; but there's also the chance that if you kick the FG now, Tulsa will have a really killer return run on special teams that will set them up for a game-winning field goal with five seconds left on the clock.

And fear of interceptions is no reason not to throw the ball. Especially not when your QB just threw for four touchdowns.

(And just in case your mind went there, yes, I was also in favor of Belichick's 4th-and-1 call against Indianapolis last season. Although actually the first thing that came to mind just now--speaking of gutsy NFL playcalls--was a Tampa Bay game I watched a few years back when Jon Gruden was still coaching. Tampa scored a TD at the very end of the game, and if they'd kicked the extra point they would have tied and sent it into overtime, but Gruden decided to go for the two-point conversion instead. Tampa Bay got the two-point conversion and they won. I remember watching the post-game interview, and the reporters asking Gruden why he went with such a gutsy playcall, and his response was something along the lines of, "Well, you know, any time you make a call like that, people are going to call you a moron if it doesn't work, and they're going to call you a genius if you win. I play to win football games. I don't play for overtime. We had a shot to win right then, so I called it, and we won." This is a philosophy I completely respect and, as a coach, would probably adhere to. If I ever had my own team [hahahaha], I think I'd be like that one high school coach who always goes for it on fourth down. He had a feature in Sports Illustrated a few seasons back. Screw punting--just go for it. I am always in favor of going for it on fourth down. And of throwing Hail Marys. And of NOT playing for overtime.)

Not that this makes the result of yesterday's game any better....I'm just saying.

All I know is I love you too much to walk away

So here comes another Senior Day. Another neutral-site "home game." Another season's end.

I know everyone's thinking "f*ck, no bowl game this season," but, as mentioned, that is a pussy-ass mentality, and can we please not fall victim to it?

It is football. Anything can happen. Maybe Utah comes in thinking, "Aha! A weak sauce Notre Dame team with a freshman quarterback and a spate of injuries that just lost to Tulsa! VICTORY IS OURS!!!"

And instead we kick their ass. (Kind of like Iowa over MSU. Bahahaha.)

I know, everyone thinks I'm delusional. But, as I have mentioned several times, losses are only guaranteed if you cash in your chips before the game even starts.

Don't cash in. Don't do it.

And hell, even if you think you're going to go down, why not throw out everything you have and end in a blaze of glory?

I've seen plenty of giving up these past couple seasons.

I think we're long overdue for some glory.

And if Brian Kelly's not saying the exact same shit to his team over the next two weeks, I will eat my effing shamrock socks.


That is all I have to say.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fishbowls and Football Fields

This is what happens when I'm grouchy and off-kilter and don't write anything for a long time.

In the great fishbowl of fate, it is hard sometimes not to feel dead in the water--like a moist, pebbly fish dropping, or a stiff plastic stem of seaweed, or a lumpy green clump of algae stuck to the side of the tank.

Work and alarm clocks and disappointments drag us down.
Chemicals in the brain fizz over into agony--apathy--dischord--sleep.

I was not who I am this morning. I haven't felt like myself all day.

I'm trying to be eloquent, but mostly what I feel right now is tired.

Tired of letting time slip away--tired of the ways in which the days force me to spend my time--tired of never having enough time to sleep--

Tired of the descant of drudgery splashed across the newspaper pages,
the wrath of ages,
the talking heads they tout as sages,
the dyspepsias of cubicle cages.

And things that rhyme.

I'm tired of using up my minutes on the minutae of my life.
Tired of composing melodious malefactions on the mismatched militiamen of the gridiron.

Every time I sit and pick at words, the time comes up empty.

I'm not making much sense, I know. I've slipped into the doldrums this week.

For the past several weeks.

I keep meaning to write something about football.... I keep meaning to write. And this week, when it seems like it would be most respectful to let the words fall flat and let time pass in silence--

I can't.

I keep thinking about Declan Sullivan.

And all sorts of things that go along with that, too, of course...youth and life and death and time, and what I use and what I waste, and what if I had been cut off at 20 years old? And all that sort of thing.

But it seems unwise to say too much on Sullivan specifically; what happened this week feels too far away and too close to home all at once, and anyway what could I say that has not been said already? Especially speaking of a person I never really knew.

I can only express, in the act of breathing in and out and pressing my fingers to the keyboard, the strange and unrelenting sensation of being alive...the solidarity of sleeping and waking and sensing that is shared among everything ephemeral, everything that dies.

And to say that, on the opposite tack some might take when speaking of perspective, in fact I think tomorrow means a great deal. To watch the game. To play the game. To sweat and scream and shiver. To be alive because we are alive. We owe that to ourselves, and to each other. And, in no disrespectful way at all, to the dead.

Every awakening--every spurt of blood--every slash of pain--every shaking press of palm to palm--

These are all saturated with the knowledge that we are vital, we exist, and sometimes I think the only real disrespect is to ignore that--to resent it--to be careless with our time and piss it away.

To stare down the field of fate and decide not to play.

I suddenly don't feel so stuck anymore.

In memoriam...

I will scream louder
I will live harder
I will breathe into every last inch of me
and I will not be afraid of time.