Sunday, October 22, 2017

Irish rising

You could see the hype beginning to gather, there in the last ruined minutes for USC. Sam Darnold, eons ago a Heisman Trophy candidate, was long gone, helmet off, prowling the visitors' sideline. So, for Notre Dame, was Josh Adams (maybe now a Heisman candidate), butt-dancing on the Irish bench after hitting the Trojans in the mouth for 191 and three scores.

And here came the hype, a ghost in the October night, as the clock ran down on Notre Dame 49, USC 14.

Statement game for the Irish ...

Puts them right in the mix for the playoff ...

Looked like one of those old slobber-knocker Lou Holtz teams ...

JOSH ADAMS FOR THE HEISMAN!

And so on, and so on.

And all the Blob will say about that is, slow your roll, Domers. While understanding that when you ball-peen an alleged top-ten USC team by 35, at home or not, the roll is going to roll no matter how many words of caution get parceled out.

That's because this is Notre Dame and you are not, and the lore will be served. The place is a National College Football Museum like no other, with those statues and those Heismans and that endless celebration of a storied past. That there's nowhere quite like Notre Dame is both gospel and delusion at once; it really is like nowhere else, in that it's the last great independent (although these days only kinda-sorta), and it's just like everywhere else in that football is as corporate there as anywhere.

And so, yes, the hype will circle now. How much of it's reality and how much of it is the customary We Won A Big Game So Look Out World over-inflation remains to be seen.

Here's what the Blob thinks: Notre Dame is a legitimate top ten team.

Also, Josh Adams is going to enter the Heisman conversation now because A) he's a really good running back; B) he's a really good running back who plays for Notre Dame; and C) he's a really good running back who plays for Notre Dame and who's encroaching on the lore, seeing how his yards-per-carry could wind up knocking George Gipp out of the record books.

You get your name in the same sentence with George Gipp at Notre Dame, it's pretty much required that you also get your name in the same sentence with the Heisman. So there's that.

As to whether Notre Dame really is an emerging team of Holtzian dimensions ...

Well. Couple things about that.

One, Notre Dame is now 6-1 and has lost only to Georgia, a legit playoff contender, by one point at home. So it was probably underrated before last night.

Two, the much-hyped (that word again) Murderer's Row is probably not a Murderer's Row. A Mugger's Row, maybe, but not a Murderer's Row.

True, the end-game stretch includes six teams with a combined 32-9 record, and one of them (Miami) is undefeated at 6-0. And the Irish have to play the Hurricanes in their house.

But the notion that this is an exceedingly brutal stretch has, frankly, been as overblown as a lot of things inevitably tend to get in South Bend. USC was always a suspect 6-1, and no one should be surprised that the Irish handled them. North Carolina State is also 6-1, but the Irish get the Wolfpack at home next week. And, yes, Navy is 5-2 and always gives the Irish fits, but the Irish get the Middies at home, too -- and in any case, Navy always seems to jump up and bite Notre Dame only when no one expects it to.

Half of America expects it to this time. So it won't.

Then there's Wake Forest, a 4-3 ACC team. And finally there's Stanford, who always seem to give Notre Dame fits, too, but who lost to USC by 18 and lost to San Diego State. Not quite the same  Stanford team, it would seem.

And so, going forward?

Well, the obvious loss in this stretch would seem to be Miami. And I, for one, could see the Irish getting knocked off by NC State, because it happens right after the huge win last night. Beyond that ...

Beats me. The Blob's prodigious gut tells it Notre Dame winds up 10-2 and either in the playoff or just out of it. At which time, of course, arguments will ensue as to whether (in the first case) they got in just because they're Notre Dame, or (in the second case) they got hosed just because they're Notre Dame.

That, after all, is also part of the Notre Dame experience. Just like the hype, beginning to circle now in the chill October air.

Friday, October 20, 2017

As Luck would have it

Or, you know, not.

Not, because at this point the inhabitants of the grassy knoll enter the picture, after Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard announced they were shutting Andrew Luck down again, barely four days after he began throwing a football. Apparently there was some soreness in his surgical right shoulder, even though Luck was not, apparently, launching rockets. Word out of Indy is he was chucking it 30 or 40 yards downfield, but with nothing on it.

And so ...

And so now with the conspiracy theories.

Now the moment when the Blob was informed by an acquaintance who lives in Indy, and who has seen Luck on local TV a few times, that, beyond just the shoulder, the Colts' franchise QB looks seriously unhealthy. Pale, thin, shockingly frail. So there's that.

(Of course, when you've been virtually inactive since January, you're probably not going to look like some cartoon muscle-y superhero. So there's that, too).

Anyway ... the suspicion grows that the Colts are hiding something, fueled by the conventional wisdom that, when it comes to injuries, NFL teams tend to be less than forthright. Is there something else going on besides the shoulder? Was the shoulder itself far more extensively damaged than the Colts are letting on, necessitating a far more extensive surgical procedure than the simple labrum repair we've been led to believe?

I don't know. Maybe this really is just the Colts being super-cautious. Maybe it really is the customary recovery timeline for this sort of surgery. But ...

But it's been, what, nine months since the surgery? And yet Luck is only now beginning tentatively to throw. And  after just four days of throwing, his shoulder is hurting again. So it is reasonable to suspect that this is a lot more serious than the Colts have led us to believe, given that initially they were talking about him being ready for the start of the season.

Now we're six weeks past that, and he's no more ready than he was in August. So, yes, the grassy knoll people are starting to whisper among themselves.

Me?

I think now that his return this season is more than just problematical. And I didn't before.

So there's that, too.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Statuesque, Part Deux

So they're going to erect some statuary in Assembly Hall honoring Indiana University's rich basketball legacy, and you-know-who will not be among them.

Some people think this is classless on the part of IU, ignoring Robert Montgomery Knight like that.

Other people actually conversant with the facts know IU is simply honoring Knight's request that they not include him in the display, on account of he's still miffed at the school even though no one but Knight cares anymore.

And so one sculpture will depict Everett Dean, a member of the basketball Hall of Fame and Indiana's first All-American player and first iconic coach. Another will honor Branch McCracken and the late Bill Garrett, who broke the Big Ten color barrier.

A third will include six players from IU's undefeated 1975-76 national championship team, a fourth will feature Steve Alford, Keith Smart and the 1987 title team, and a fifth will feature Isiah Thomas, star of the 1981 IU national champs.

Knight, of course, coached those last three teams. And, frankly, I think he deserves his own sculpture whether he wants it or not -- if only so IU could return his extended middle finger with one of its own.

And so the question becomes, what signature IU basketball moment would it portray?

Knight with one granite arm extended and one eye closed, aiming a starter's pistol at reporter Russ Brown?

Knight in mid-fling, with a marble chair in bas relief?

Knight in mid-fling again, this time with a marble flower vase in bas relief?

Personally, I'd go with bookend images of Knight grabbing Jim Wisman by his limestone jersey and Knight with his hand around the late Neil Reed's limestone throat. Or maybe Knight and NCAA Tournament moderator Rance Pugmire in profile, commemorating the time Knight publicly humiliated Pugmire over a simple honest mistake.

So much stone. So many choices.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Baseball, in short

Briefest possible reaction to Yankees 6, Astros 4 and Dodgers 6, Cubs 1 last night:

1. Well, crap.

2. Well, crap.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Planet Pitino

The world Rick Pitino inhabits is not this world. That ought to be crystal to everyone by now.

No, on Planet Pitino, the head coach never sees nothin'. He's not accountable for what goes on in his program, even when it happens right under his nose. If his awful, awful assistants do something corrupt, how can their stink ever touch him?

After all (just to remind you), he didn't see nothin'. And if he didn't see nothin', how can he be fired?

This is essentially the argument his lawyers are making, as Pitino claims once more that he's blameless as a babe in the latest corruption to embroil his Louisville program. First it was hookers turning the basketball building into a bordello; now it's the shoe company that pays Pitino millions bribing his underlings.

But, hey. He's just the head coach. All he's done is pocket 98 percent of the money Adidas threw at Louisville to wear its shoes. If his assistants were taking additional bribes under the table, how's he responsible for that?

And so he's contesting his firing by Louisville, an act of chutzpah breathtaking in its scope. Never mind the fact he should have been gone after the hooker thing, when he presented the absurd argument that, nope, he didn't see nothin', even though it was happening in a building he inhabited every day. Now he's claiming, essentially, that he can't be fired for this, either, on account of he's not accountable for the actions of those who work for him.

On Planet Pitino, this makes perfect sense.

Everywhere else ...

Well, everywhere else, it's pretty much revealed truth that when you make as much money as Pitino did as coach of a premier college basketball program -- a Hall of Fame coach, by the way -- you are damn skippy responsible for everything that goes on in your program, whether you knew about it or not (and in Pitino's case, the "not" remains highly suspect). The greater your reward, the greater your accountability. Especially when you have the track record for sleaze Pitino does.

The man is slipperier than an oiled eel, and he's gotten away with it for a long time. It's not just the Adidas thing, which is the subject of a criminal investigation. It's not even just the hooker thing, or the having-sex-on-a-table-in-a-restaurant thing -- which should have gotten him fired, too, but didn't because the woman he had sex with was foolish enough to try to blackmail him.

Still, it added to his body of work, so to speak. And if it took the FBI to wake Louisville up to that body of work, then good for the FBI.

He's claiming Louisville doesn't have the right to fire him?

Wait'll the Hall of Fame tries to fire him, which ought to happen next.

That sound you hear is Pitino's head exploding.

A few brief thoughts on NFL Week 6

And now this week's edition of The NFL In So Many Words, the numbingly formulaic Blob feature of which critics have said "It's a touchdown!" and the replay booth has said "No, it's not!":

1. It's a touchdown, New York Jets! (In every known universe except Alpha Replayus Examinus Every Playus At The Cellular Levelus).

2. Sorry, New York Jets, it's not! (In the aforementioned universe)

3. Can we have a replay of the replay booth? (Pretty much everyone in America who is not a New England Patriots fan)

4. Meanwhile, the Titans!

5. Kept us from saying "The Colts!" for the first time in a dozen meetings!

6. In other history news, the Bears!

7. Won a road game?

8. Sorry. Wrong punctuation. Won a road game!

9.  Sad news of the week (in Green Bay): The Vikings broke Aaron Rodgers.

10. Sadder news of the week (everywhere football is cherished): The Browns are still Brownsing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A most American act

And now the painfully obvious reaction to Colin Kaepernick, Super Bowl quarterback, filing a grievance against the NFL owners who have kept him out of a league over-served with QB mediocrities and worse:

What took you so long, man?

Also, how ironic is it that a man blackballed for kneeling before the flag (on the advice of one of "the troops" he was accused of disrespecting, btw) is now the man standing tallest for the values that flag represents?

Good for Kaepernick.

Heck. Good for America.