Monday, October 15, 2007

I know that you who read this aren't tremendously interested in what books I read and when I read them. But tonight, I feel compelled to tell you, as it seems to dovetail very nicely with this travesty of a sports weekend. The book is The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul by Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It is appropriate because that's what I'm going through as both sports fan and blogger.

As a kid, I never thought I'd live to see the day where BC would be ranked #3 overall, and Notre Dame would be a sinking ship grasping at minor trivialities to see signs of hope going forward. And yet that is where we stand right now. Before they start popping champagne corks, or perhaps buying all the Natty Light in Cleveland Circle, BC fans might want to remember that ND was a lot closer to pulling an upset than they should have been.

If the left guard weren't flagged for holding (and God knows, BC has gotten away with a million holds building a mysterious reputation as Lineman U these past 15 years or so), it's a seven point game. Half of BC's points came on drives that started in fantastic field position thanks to a botched snap on a punt and a kickoff from the Notre Dame 15 yard line following the excessive celebration penalty. I hope the Heisman voters weren't watching those sequences.

That said, Charlie Weis has some difficult questions to answer. In no particular order, here are some that have been vexing me. Why wasn't Evan Sharpley the starting quarterback from jump street in this nightmare season? Why, when Demetrius Jones showed no capacity to move the team or hold the football wasn't Evan Sharpley the second option? Why after Jimmy Clausen couldn't move the ball against any team at any time this season was Evan Sharpley not the starting quarterback? I guess you can probably notice a trend here, unless of course you happen to be a BC fan, and anything short of a meat hammer upside your head is far too subtle.

Evan Sharpley has consistently moved the football when he has been called upon to spell Jimmy Clausen. Jimmy Clausen has not moved the football consistently. He hasn't moved the football at all, really. I understand that he's only a freshman, and yanking him now could ruin his confidence. Unfortunately, I am not even remotely sensitive. So yank him. Send him to Northern Illinois to room with Demetrius Jones, or to the North Pole. Just don't let him start another game for a very long time. And send Ron Powlus with him.

Gerry Faust, by all accounts, was a very nice man. He was a great man for considering his players' feelings and trying not to hurt them. He was also a spectacular failure as coach at Notre Dame. The one incident from his tenure I remember most vividly is Jimmy Johnson's response to Faust complaining that the convicts had run up the score on the Catholics. Johnson said: "If you don't want to get blown out, recruit better players."

I said all that to say this: Charlie Weis isn't paid to be sensitive. He is paid to win football games. And paid very well at that. At the end of the day, protecting Jimmy Clausen's ego is right up there with buying the director's cut of the Astronaut Farmer, getting a pedicure and giving up red meat on the list of things to do posted on my wall.

And for those people who would say that coaching is, at least in part, about teaching life lessons, I have this to say. What if you produced as well Jimmy Clausen has in your professional capacities? Would your boss string you along as projects stalled around you, or would you be out on your ass? That's a real life lesson. So what if he's only 20. As John Fogerty said: "You better learn it fast and you better learn it young."

I demand the firing of Ron Powlus. I never liked him as a player. I thought he was in no way, shape or form qualified for the job. He underachieved and failed to handle the pressure of playing QB at ND, and what has Jimmy Clausen done under his tutelage? And I remember that when Lou Holtz retired as coach at ND, Ron Powlus threw a party and came back for one more season at Notre Dame. That was a bad day, and the University should left him where they found him.

But back to Charlie Weis. I don't think the school should fire him. There are signs of hope on this team. The freshman OLBs are great. They get better each week. James Aldridge gets better each week at tailback, and Robert Hughes the freshman shows promise as a big back.

There are some other unpleasant questions one must ask about this team. The most important, other than the quarterback issue, is why weren't the wide receivers that have played well of late playing sooner? I think, and I'm not thrilled to say it, that Weis is finally learning to coach college players. He inherited a veteran team from Ty Willingham, one that could be coached in much the same fashion as the pros he worked with in New England. Now he finally has to learn how to coach a college team, even though he should have after the two bowl blowouts. I'm not ready to see him fired until he shows that he can't learn to coach college kids.

In other Notre Dame related matters, two players probably passed each other in the upcoming draft ratings. Trevor Laws has shown over the last two years that he will in all likelihood be a very good defensive tackle in the NFL for some time to come. He's blocked three kicks this season, he leads college linemen in tackles and he's playing end in a 3-4, when he's naturally suited to play tackle in a 4-3. I'm rooting for the Bears to draft him in the second round.

And the player who passed him is on the way down. I know who's responsible and I assume Charlie Weis will take appropriate steps to ensure that he's punished. The player responsible is Kery Neal, the rising star at rush end for Notre Dame. And the player who is plummeting down draft lists as we speak is Gosder Cherilus, the heir to the mantle of overrated fraud from the offensive line tradition dating back to Pete Kendall.

Charlie Weis should have made sure that Kerry Neal read the scouting reports and paeans in the Boston media prior to the game, then Neal would have thought twice before he destroyed Cherilus' livelihood. He probably cost Cherilus $20 million or so by beating him the way he did. Kerry Neal should have been told that BC is now Lineman U. Look at the way guys like Chris Snee and Jeremy Trueblood rule the NFL landscape, who is better than a BC lineman? At least NFL scouts now have warning when guys like Freeney and DeMarcus Ware feast on him.

And then there is the other thing that happened this weekend. I won't admit that I was wrong in my prediction. To say that wouldn't come close to doing it justice. I was spectacularly wrong. I'm still not sure that the Patriots are as awesome as people seem determined to tell me. But they had one hell of a plan when Dallas hit them, taking the first second half lead against the Pats this season.

Maybe the Cowboys were like one of those basketball teams that comes back from a huge deficit, but just runs out of gas. But I still say that Terrell Owens is better than Randy Moss. I'd still take him over any day of the week. I am deeply disappointed that Wade Philips kicked a field goal on 4th and 5, down the way they were in the game. Like it mattered down two TDs. Go for it, and make the Pats go 95 yards. They won by 21 any way.

But the most surprising thing about the game from my point of view is the Bum Philips is still alive. I may sound callous, mean, cruel and insensitive, but you were thinking the same thing, if you even knew who he was (and I'm sure a lot of young fans would believe me if I said Bum Philips was the crazy homeless guy who rode that strange three wheeled bike and screamed like a siren down Comm Ave). So in the privacy of your cubicle, office or home, feel free to raise your hand if you thought Bum Philips was dead until they showed him in the crowd in Dallas.

What disappointed me most about the Cowboys was the performance of DeMarcus Ware. He had one great series in the second quarter and a few flashes in other spots. But he has the talent to take over a game, not quite the way the real LT used to, but as close as any one playing today can, but he didn't show up the way I had hoped.

I don't have a lot to say about the Red Sox going down 2-1 in the ALCS. As I've said, I don't have much enthusiasm for the Indians. Plus I won't believe that the Red Sox are down and out until it's over for good. The ALCS nightmare of 2004 taught me to be cautious. But it was pretty damn funny to see David Prtiz run himself into a big out in the 4th. Especially since Little Leaguers usually know enough not to get hit by a ball running from second to third. I wouldn't have expected a player of his caliber and his talent to waste his own leadoff double in such a silly way. But there is a lot of time left in this series.

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