Posts from 2010 April


National Enquirer claims Obama cheating scandal: But, unlike with Edwards, the sourcing / basis appears pretty thin.

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Can’t wait to watch Kentucky Derby with Loyette tomorrow. I bet she’ll think that horsies running really fast for 2 minutes is AWESOME.

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OMG there’s a restaurant in Fort Collins called Avogadro’s Number??? And they have live bluegrass??? I LOVE IT!!! #mole

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CNN Breaking News — Severe storms, including possible tornadoes, kill at least three people in northern Arkansas, state officials say.

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From the official Notre Dame YouTube channel:

My initial reaction was “meh,” but I watched it on my new iPod Touch, which makes everything seem more cool / less lame, and I had the volume low. The Domersphere as a whole, meanwhile, is dying of embarrassment. Here is Her Loyal Sons’ take. See also the comments here. ND Nation threads here, here, here, here, here and here.

And Every Day Should Be Saturday is having an absolute blast with it. The general consensus seems to be that it falls into the same general category as…

Ah, Appalachian State. Memories!

Anyway, I eagerly await the video of Hitler reacting to the new Notre Dame video.

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CNN Breaking News — Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announces decision to quit the GOP’s Senate primary race and run without party affiliation.

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It’s been almost four full months since my series on Brendan’s Defining Days of the Decade — of the previous decade, that is — came to a screeching halt. We’re now almost a third of a year into the 2010s, which means 3.2% of this decade is already over! And yet I’ve still got four “Defining Days” posts to go. This is what happens when I don’t have a concrete deadline. :)

But hey, better late than never, right? Anyway I figure I’d better get on with it, before the NCAA decrees that the topic of this post, Defining Day #4, never happened. Ahem.

So, let’s see, where were we? To review:

#12: May 15, 2003: Becky and I Graduate From College
#11: November 7, 2000: The Election of a Lifetime
#10: August 14, 2003: The Great Northeast Blackout
#9: September 15, 2008: The Economy Implodes — And I Get A Job
#8: July 3, 2004: Becky and I Get Engaged
#7: July 2, 2000: The Day I Fell In Love
#6: August 26, 2005: “Get The Hell Out”
#5: April 30, 2007: Holy Crap, I’m Gonna Be A Daddy

Number Four, if you haven’t already guessed it from my unsubtle hint…


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October 15, 2005: A Football Game for the Ages

That’s right: the day of USC-Notre Dame football game in 2005 — you might call it the “Bush Push” game; I prefer the “4th and 9” game — is number 4 on my list. No joke.

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You may ask how a mere football game — albeit an epic, instant-classic clash between two archrivals who also happen to be my co-alma maters, which I personally attended as a Trojan fan embedded in the Irish student section — can possibly rank so high as a defining day of my decade.

Or, you may not ask; indeed, if you know me well enough, you may be surprised it’s not number 1. :) I certainly talk about it enough, probably more than any other single day in the 2000s.

Still, the intrinsic significance of October 15, 2005 to the history of my life is surely far less than that of the days when I graduated college, fell in love, proposed to Becky, learned I’d be a father, etc., etc., all of which I’ve ranked lower on my list than 10/15/05. Likewise, the external newsworthiness of a college football game, even a really big college football game, obviously cannot hold a candle to, for instance, the 2000 presidential election or the Lehman Brothers collapse. So it’s perfectly reasonable to look at this ranking and ask “why?,” or even, “WTF?”

The answer calls for a quick review of the principles underlying my list. At the outset of this project, I said I’d be using an unscientific, Potter Stewart-esque “I know it when I see it” standard to rank my Defining Days, based on a mishmash of criteria involving some amorphous combination of contemporaneous memorableness and noteworthiness, emotional significance, historical importance and future implications for my life.

Admittedly, October 15, 2005 barely registers in terms of those last two categories. But with regard to “how contemporaneously memorable and noteworthy each event was,” October 15, 2005 is — crazily, irrationally — very, very close to the top. I was there, watching this overwhelmingly engrossing, epic, I’ll-tell-my-grandkids-I-was-there game, from a totally unique perspective. It was incredible. It was unbelievable. I’ll never, ever forget it.

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A fuller explanation of October 15’s overwhelming, outsize memorableness, noteworthiness and emotional significance to me, personally, must necessarily begin with an understanding of my unusual position as an “Irish Trojan” — i.e., a USC alumnus and, at the time, a Notre Dame law student.

IMG_5822Whatever my intentions may have been initially, in terms of my rooting interests, Notre Dame ensnared me as a fan in my very first game as a Domer, when the Irish upset a Top 10-ranked Michigan team and we rushed the field in jubilation afterward. The pomp, the pageantry, the camaraderie, the tradition: I couldn’t help but love the Irish.

But of course, I was a Trojan fan first and foremost, having attended USC from 1999 to 2003 — suffering through the last throes of the miserable Hackett years, UCLA, 1999then riding the wave as the Trojans rose to national glory in my senior year and beyond. Traveler, Conquest, the Olympic torch, Tommy Trojan. Pete Carroll, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush. There was just so much to love about USC, and my loyalty was unwavering.

Hence, I became a Notre Dame fan who roots for the Irish 11 out of 12 games each year. USC, I always root for.

So, flash back to October 2005. In the season-and-a-half of football since my arrival in the land of the Golden Domers, I had embraced this strange role with gusto, enthusiastically straddling two diametrically opposed worlds of fandom. Indeed, the week of each year’s ND-USC game, I would wear nothing but Trojan apparel to the law school each day, talk trash to my friends about the team I otherwise root for, and generally relish my glorious, irritating status as an “Irish Trojan” with unabashed, unrestrained impish glee.

But October 15, 2005 was always going to be unique. It was the day — the one and only day in my three years at Notre Dame — when my two worlds would collide right there in South Bend. So the date was circled on my mental calendar pretty much from the moment I enrolled at ND.

As the big day approached, it became clear that, for the first time in a while (and, as it would turn out, the last time in a while), Notre Dame had a really good team capable of challenging the mighty Trojans. I joked that if USC lost, I’d have to drop out of law school, the (richly deserved) ribbing from my classmates would be so intense. Rarely, if ever, have I been so emotionally invested in a sporting event, even before it began. An absolutely enormous amount, in terms of pride and bragging rights, was riding on this one game.

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If the game was overwhelmingly hyped in my own mind, the hype in the wider sports world was only slightly less intense. I’m not sure there was another single regular-season college football game in the 2000s that had the same level of national build-up. Maybe Michigan-Ohio State 2006, but that’s about it. Regardless, this game was huge, and the crescendo of excitement on Notre Dame’s campus was simply tremendous. Would the Irish wear green jerseys? Would Notre Dame bust up another huge winning streak? (USC came in on a 27-game tear, stretching over three seasons.) Would Charlie Weis wake up the echoes? The game was the only thing that mattered — everything else in the wider world was secondary.

IMG_4139.JPGThe closer we got to Saturday, the more it felt like South Bend had become the undisputed gravitational center of the sports universe. GameDay was coming. Bon Jovi was rumored to be coming. Maybe Bruce Springsteen, too. The Goodyear Blimp was there (from, like, Thursday on). ESPN personalities and sports celebrities were everywhere. Digger. Rudy. Joe Montana. The Trojan horse. The pep rally was held outdoors — and it was televised live on national TV. The pep rally!!

IMG_4012.JPGThe evening before the game, I went out to Corby’s and the Backer — a classic Notre Dame night — with some of my law-school classmates. I distinctly remember that one of my friends, a committed Irish fan who shall remain nameless (NOT the one pictured at right), confided, after more than a few drinks, that he didn’t think Notre Dame could or would win the next day, but he was looking forward to the game anyway because it would be great to see USC’s amazing athletes up close and in action. And hey, you never know.

This is, of course, the sort of thing you don’t admit when you’re sober. But I think the underlying sentiment — the Irish can’t really win, but dammit, let’s hope against hope they do — was probably pretty common in South Bend that night, and all that week. The pre-game excitement around campus was more like a giddy, suspended-disbelief hope than actual solid, confidence-based bravado. It’s a bit like how UConn fans felt heading into the 1999 title game against Duke. Sure, we’re a good team, and sure, we’re putting on a brave face, but can we really stop the juggernaut? Probably not. But, as the Domers would say, “what though the odds be great or small…”

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IMG_4230.JPGWhen Saturday, October 15 dawned, it was game on. Becky and I woke up early and headed out — “I ♥ BUSH” sign in hand — to the quad where GameDay would be filming. The signs were, as always, entertaining: a terrorist reference, the obligatory references to O.J. Simpson and Matt Leinart’s dance class, lots of talk about ending the streak, a total non-sequitur circa 2004, the ubiquitous Wazzu flag, and even some shameless self-promotion by yours truly. Most of all, there was plenty of hate.

Naturally, when Kirk picked ND, the crowd went wild; when Corso put on the Trojan helmet, less so. But whoever they might have picked, no one could have predicted the amazing game that was now just a few hours away.

We headed back to our apartment after GameDay to, among other things, unload my camera’s memory card and recharge batteries. We also met up with Adrienne, our friend and fellow Trojan for whom we had secured a ticket in the Irish student section, alongside our regular ND season tickets. About an hour before kickoff, at 1:30 PM local time, we headed out to the tailgate lots. After a brief pit stop there, we took our seats in the stadium — creating a little island of red (or rather cardinal) in a sea of gold.

We got there in time to watch the tail end of the teams’ warmups. (When they exited to head into the locker room, Notre Dame was wearing its usual blue jerseys.) Then, out came the Trojan Marching Band. It was an absolutely perfect, gorgeous day for football, as you can tell from the photos:


A while later, the Irish emerged from their locker room. But wait, something was different about their jerseys. My double-Domer friend Lisa and I had just been conversing about the USC Song Girls’ shoes, which Lisa observed were bright red, when I spotted the Irish players and, almost at a loss for words, momentarily confused Lisa by shouting, “GREEN! GREEN!” Then they came out of the tunnel, Lisa grasped what I was talking about — and the crowd erupted.


It was the first real sign of what a special day this would be. For the first time in ages, Notre Dame had busted out the “lucky” green jerseys, and the crowd reaction was absolutely electric.

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I won’t bore you with a play-by-play account of the game. You can get that elsewhere. Instead, here are some pictures from the first half, followed by a slightly modified version of my first-anniversary account of how I experienced the contest that unfolded before my eyes.





The game was tense throughout, a real back-and-forth affair, and man, was I nervous. Never in my life had I been so emotionally invested in a sporting event. I spent much of the afternoon and early evening with my hands clasped together in front of my face, as if in prayer, only removed when it was time to cheer — and then right back to the prayerful pose. I felt like my personal pride was at stake on that field — and I also just really, really, really wanted the Trojans to win.

A funny thing happened in the final minutes of the game, though. As intense as it was, I went from being a nervous wreck to being remarkably sanguine about the game’s outcome. I know that’s counterintuitive, given how incredibly close and exciting the final minutes were, but the closer we got to the end — especially after Brady Quinn scored the go-ahead touchdown and the entire crowd went so unbelievably crazy that I was literally hearing static because it was too loud for my ears to really process the level of sound — the more I realized, you know what, no matter who ends up winning this game, it is just so freakin’ cool that I am here.

As I watched the full moon rise over the eastern side of the stadium, and listened to the crowd scream its collective lungs out, all the while witnessing a truly epic battle unfolding on the field below, I realized that I would literally someday tell my grandkids that I had been at this game.

And then it got better.

I don’t need to remind y’all of what happened in the final minute-and-a-half of the game; you already know. A few phrases should get the point across, like: 4th and 9. Leinart to Jarrett. Holy s**t. Then, 0:00 on the clock. The crowd rushes the field. The crowd rushes off the field (amazingly fast). A season saved by the luckiest fumble in the history of the universe. No timeouts. No spike. No fear. The Bush Push. A touchdown. A USC victory. Somehow, a USC victory. Holy f**ing s**t. Not quite Cal-Stanford, but… wow. WOW.

That’s (mostly) from my October 15, 2006 post, looking back on the game. For those who don’t know the final sequence, here’s how it unfolded.

MVI_4386_2The Irish trailed by four points with just over two minutes left, but Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn — Mr. Two Minute Drill — was leading them down the field on a perfectly executed, Elway-esque drive. As it turns out, it was too flawless and efficient; he needed to take a little more time.

But when, amid an explosion of flash-bulbs like I’ve never seen, he scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:04 left on the clock, few of the 80,000 screaming fans — and I mean screaming; I wasn’t kidding when I described the noise level as “static” (and Notre Dame Stadium is not an acoustically intimidating place) — were thinking about that.

They were just thinking about the score:


The Streak was almost over. Just play a little defense and Notre Dame would have its biggest win since 1993, or maybe 1988. And voila, they’d instantly be in the hunt for the national championship.

And they did play a little defense. In fact, they played a lot of really good defense. They got USC down to 4th and 9 from their own 26 with 1:32 left. I was convinced it was over, and turned my camera toward the Notre Dame students all around me, simply wanting to document their reactions when — not if — the Trojans were stuffed and the Irish clinched their epic upset.

And then, Leinart-to-Jarrett happened.

That video clip — which gives me goosebumps whenever I watch it — gives away the ending (“TOUCHDOWN USC!!! With 3 seconds to go! The Trojans have scored! Matt Leinart has scored! And the Trojans will win the ballgame!”), but leaves out a key piece.

In between Leinart’s out-of-bounds fumble with 9 seconds left and his game-winning, “Bush Push”-assisted touchdown with 3 seconds left, there was the totally bizarre, unbelievable, unforgettable moment where the clock erroneously kept running and time expired, Notre Dame thought it had won, and thousands of Irish fans rushed onto the field, only to just as quickly get off the field when the public address announcer said the Irish would be penalized if they stayed. (I’ve often joked that this was the only possible threat that could have worked in that moment. “The National Guard will come out and beat you up” wouldn’t have been nearly as effective as “Notre Dame will be penalized.”)

In my compilation of video clips from the game, below, you can hear nearby ND students screaming and pleading with the field-rushers to “GET OFF THE FIELD!!!” The NBC cameras missed almost all of this, but let me tell you, the scene was absolutely freakin’ crazy. Totally surreal. The relevant sequence starts at around the 2:53 mark.

As you can see in both of the video clips, time was (correctly) put back on the clock, USC was allowed to run one more play, and — at around the 4:20 mark of the clip directly above — Reggie Bush pushed Matt Leinart into the end zone (technically illegal, but as numerous knowledgeable folks have attested in the years since, that call is never made), and the Trojans won the greatest game I’ll ever see, 34-31 over the Irish.


Ever the consummate nerd, immediately after Leinart’s touchdown, I turned to Becky and said, “You do realize, we just witnessed one of the most amazing moments in college football history, right?”

Her response? “THAT WAS SO F***ING AWESOME!!!!!”

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We were, as I’ve mentioned, embedded in the Notre Dame student section — I was, after all, a Notre Dame student, and Becky had a season ticket right next to mine — and there had been a fair bit of good-natured trash talking throughout the game. That it remained “good-natured” (well, mostly) is a testament to the general friendliness of Notre Dame fans, and also to the fact that graduate students understand the whole dual-loyalties stuff better than undergrads; if we had been in the senior section, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have survived.

But after the final sequence, and our initial celebration, Becky and I realized we needed to sort of quiet down and lay low. People all around us were literally crying. The die-hard Irish fans were crushed… absolutely crushed. And these were my friends. I’m not usually one to feel bad for the vanquished foe, but in this case, I did. I was glad USC won, very glad, but at the same time, I felt bad for my friends, and the Irish players. It’s hard to imagine a more heartbreaking way to lose, particularly in that setting, with everything that had lead up to the moment of their… near-victory.

When the game ended and Notre Dame came off the field, it was a really touching and memorable moment, as there were thousands of students on the field (having prematurely rushed it, then retreated to the sideline), greeting them and applauding them for their incredible effort. Becky and I cheered and applauded, too. The Irish played a great game.

And when the band played the Alma Mater, I tapped my friend Dmytro on the shoulder and asked if I could link arms with him and sing along, as is tradition for ND fans –and players — after games, win or lose. I knew that the emotions were perhaps too raw for some of the folks around me to allow a Trojan to participate in that ritual, but I knew Dmytro would understand, and he did. After all, once the clock hit 0:00, I was back to being both a Notre Dame fan and a USC fan. And I was proud of “my” Irish.

It was a really weird moment, and threw my dual loyalties into sharp relief. I’m not sure how to describe it. Bittersweet jubilation? Is that even possible? In any case, I don’t know that I’ve ever been prouder to be both a Domer and a Trojan.

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For those who still don’t quite understand how all of this adds up to a “defining day” of an entire decade, perhaps this excerpt from my October 15, 2007 post, written exactly two years after the game and two-and-a-half months before my firstborn daughter entered the world, will help:

I’ll never forget October 15, 2005 — and, specifically, the USC-Notre Dame epic that was the centerpiece of that madcap day of football mayhem — as long as I live. If I ever go senile, it’ll probably be one of the last things I remember: I might forget my own name, what year it is, and where the hell I am, but you can be sure the employees at the nursing home will know all about Leinart-to-Jarrett and the Bush Push.

More imminently, you can bet that eighteen years from today, our teenage daughter will roll her eyes as her 43-year-old dad starts waxing nostalgic again about the Greatest Game He Ever Saw, 20 years ago that very day: the hype and build-up; the pep rally with Joe Montana and Rudy (but not, alas, Bon Jovi); the green jerseys; the nail-biting first three quarters; the full moon rising over Notre Dame Stadium in the fourth quarter; the surreal, larger-than-life, echoes-awakened atmosphere of those final minutes, like something out of a movie and yet so much better than any movie; the flash bulbs popping from one end of the stadium to the other; the impossibly loud, ear-shattering screams of eighty thousand Irish fans when Brady Quinn scored the go-ahead TD; the insanity of 4th and 9; the delirious, premature field-rushing; our jubilation and the crushing heartbreak all around us moments later; how we stayed put and let the stadium clear out before we left, and then steered clear of Turtle Creek on our walk home, lest our USC sweatshirts provoke drunken Domers like a matador’s cape provokes an angry bull; and so on, and so forth. I know, Dad, I know. You’ve told me all about it a million times. Can I borrow the car?

Heh. So true.


CNN Breaking News — White House declares Gulf of Mexico oil spill to be of “national significance,” freeing up aid.

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I am shocked, SHOCKED. RT @ProPublica: Banks Pressured Credit Agencies, Then Blamed Them –

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OH, SNAP!!! Steve Jobs on Flash: “Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.” OOOHHHHH!!!



It’s Sir Peter Jackson now:

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JaMarcus Russell, at $25 million per victory, to “supplant Ryan Leaf as the NFL’s biggest draft bust in history” –

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If you sort of squint at this clip of an Adriatic League basketball game’s dramatic finish, you can almost pretend the Croatians (in white) are Duke, the Serbians (in black) are Butler… and Gordon Hayward’s shot goes in.

The uniforms are even the right colors! (Kinda.) You may want to turn down the volume, though, as Croatia/”Duke” is, distractingly for my analogy, clearly the home team. Also, the pre-shot sequence is all wrong; a Krzyzewski-coached team would never be so undisciplined as to forget to play defense with time still on the clock, because they were too busy celebrating their previous shot; and I’m thinking the sequence isn’t exactly going down as one of the Top 5 moments in European sports history. But still. Like I said: you have to squint. And use your imagination. And then sigh, and think about those what ifs.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan, of all people. … and a hat tip to Jazz on the title.)

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“This is Alabama; we speak English,” gubernatorial candidate says: Some Tennesseeans would question this. @jayljohnson

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China loses 2000 bronze medal to Americans because of underage gymnast. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! –

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OTOH… RT @nytimes: NYT NEWS ALERT: Republicans Say They Will Stop Blocking Debate on Financial Overhaul | Harry Reid = idiot genius?

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Why, Harry Reid, why? #unforcederror #idiot RT @politico Reid: GOP filibuster of financial reform “anti-American”.

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Breaking News of the Bloody Obvious: Charlie Crist to run as independent.

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The NCAA’s new president, the University of Washington’s Mark Emmert, said eighteen months ago that he thinks a college football playoff is…

This according to a Seattle Times column by Bud Withers:

Here’s a wild guess. When Emmert hangs ’em up as NCAA president — in five years, in a decade — we might remember him as the guy who successfully bucked all the guys out there in the fuchsia sport coats, the bowl officials, and finally jammed into place some sort of football playoff.

“I happen to be one that thinks it’s inevitable we’ll have a playoff,” he told me in a conversation about 18 months ago.

That could be something modest, like the plus-one format that wouldn’t materially affect the bowls, or it could be more dramatic, something like an eight- or 16-team fiesta. …

Talking football playoff back then, Emmert referred to “illusory arguments” like missed class time.

“I’d like to be one having shaped that,” he said of a playoff, the words now sounding almost haunting, “rather than having it shaped by others.”

Welcome to Indy, Mark Emmert. You’ve got a lot of shaping ahead of you.

Withers also seems to tentatively broach the topic of the Sports Bubble, noting that Emmert’s new job will require him to “help set a course for college athletics that keeps schools from a vast sinkhole created by fiscal irresponsibility rampant nationwide” (Withers adds: “Good luck with that”) and to “try to steer college sports away from the cliff where it often appears to be headed.” Withers also writes that “it’s almost inevitable [INEVITABLE!!! -ed.] that [Emmert’s] big issues will surround money and the viability of today’s structure of college athletics.” If and when a football playoff happens, Withers writes, “it will be because it’s a big revenue-producer. That won’t solve the myriad financial problems of college programs, but it will come partly in response to them.”

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The latest on the “Fire Mike Brey” beat: (Deadspin), (Starcasm), (Lead Graf).

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