Indiana


I’ve been a Notre Dame football fan my entire life.  In fact, the Irish are the first team I can ever remember cheering for and it’s due in large part to my grandfather.  My grandfather is my namesake, one of my childhood idols, a former Captain of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, a die-hard Notre Dame fan, and yes…he’s Irish, too.  I’ve been told that the only reason he was a Fightin’ Irish fan was because of the school mascot being “The Fightin’ Irish”.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that he was also raised in the Catholic Church, but he was never an active participant in the faith.  For the most part, he was simply being loyal to his generational roots, which can be traced back directly to Ireland; and in his mind it was only logical that he be a loyal and stalwart Fightin’ Irish fan.

         

As I grew from a child to an adolescent; and from an adolescent to a young man, he would literally bribe me with the most grandious objects if I would only attend the University of Notre Dame.  For instance, there was a standing offer from my grandfather to pay my tuition if I ever accepted an opportunity to attend the university.  The only problem I had with this was that I was an average high school student with average S.A.T. scores, average athletic talent (or at least not the exceptional talent needed to play for the Irish), and nothing extraordinary in regards to my race, creed, or color of skin (which, in today’s politically correct establishment would have certainly helped).  It still didn’t stop me from secretly applying to the school as I neared high school graduation.  I kept it secret simply because I knew the chances for me actually attending Notre Dame were lower than the odds of Bill Clinton remaining loyal to his wife!  I didn’t want a lot of attention drawn to the event of me certainly being rejected, which (of course) happened.

The other main bribe that my grandfather used to motivate me was his beautiful red Corvette, which he promised to give to me upon graduation from Notre Dame.  For a young man, the motivation of a Corvette was much more appealing than the offer of tuition expenses being taken care of!  Well, the bribes were more of a constant source of conversation once I progressed a little more into my high school career, but it wasn’t a conversation topic that I intentionally avoided.  I loved to day-dream about the prospects!  Who wouldn’t?  So, instead of planning for a degree from the University of Notre Dame, I became just as stalwart and loyal in my support (and love) of Notre Dame football.  The program became my life; my daily bread; my obsession!  I loved everything that had even a modicum of similarity with the Fightin’ Irish, but what I loved the most was the discipline, character, and nature of Notre Dame football.  It became something that I not only expected, but appreciated with the utmost level of respect.  A Notre Dame football player was smart, athletic, tough, hard-nosed, and often times magical!  You never saw the program under scrutiny of scandal and you always saw the head coach recieving respect from the players.  Lou Holz (who would later go by the title “coach” or “the coach” instead of by his name) was a man I absolutely fell in love with and enjoyed watching more than any other coach on the planet (including the immortal, Bob Knight).  The players he recruited were emblazoned in my mind as they captured my heart and soul each and every late-summer and fall.  It’s hard to enjoy other football programs when you’re used to watching players like Chris Zorich, Reggie Brooks, Rick Mirer, Tim Brown, Ron Powlus, Ricky Watters, Lake Dawson, and Rahib Ismail (who is still the most unbelievable college football player I have ever seen and the fact that he never won the Heisman Trophey is not only a travesty, but a complete and utter shame for the NCAA).

         

I was spoiled with National Championship teams as well as stolen National Championships, which is STILL a major source of contention for me.  Lou Holz won only one National Championship, but it is absolutely clear that he really should have won three!  The infamous “phantom block in the back” during the 1989 Championship game and the ridiculous stolen Championship of 1993 (which was GIVEN to Florida State instead of Notre Dame eventhough the Irish beat the Seminoles near the end of the season).  Being a Notre Dame fan was more than just rooting and cheering for the team.  It was a way of life and the eventual success or failure of the Irish would dramatically affect my mood for the entire season (and in the cases of 1989 and 1993 it would carry over into the terribly long off-season).  In fact, I can remember crying some tears when Boston College upset Notre Dame immediately after the monstrous victory over Florida State in 1993.  I was in high school at the time and it wasn’t something that a lot of my peers could understand if I broadcasted the fact that I shed some tears over a college football game.  I was miserable after that game and can remember being depressed for a very long time.  My fit of depression wasn’t at all helped when the NCAA decided to allow Florida State to have the opportunity to play for the National Championship instead of Notre Dame.  I have since had a salty taste in my mouth about the entire championship process in regards to college football.  It’s obvious that there is a political nature involved, which undermines the efforts of the young men participating in the sport.  I never understood how sports writers (guys who have more than likely NEVER played the game of football in their entire, nerdy, marching band lives) could be given so much power in determining the eventual national champion!  It would be the equivilant of allowing federal prison inmates the absolute power of determining who our next Commander in Chief would be!  It makes no sense, has never made sense, and continues to make no sense nearly twenty years later! (more…)

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The Indiana Pacers have been my favorite NBA franchise since I was a little kid.  Back in the 1980’s, they were one of the most gut-wrenching teams to watch in the entire league despite their perennial lottery draft picks year after year.  Coaches of high caliber would come and go, but the same players seemed to remain on the roster year after year.  Granted, most of the names did change, but the type of player was always the same.  Chuck Persons was a bright spot for a couple of years, but his overall work-ethic and volatile personality pretty much relegated him as a type of player who would never make his team any better than they already were.  He scored points…”he got his”…but his team would always come up short when it was all said and done. 

Then the Pacers organization did something that would later affect their franchise for almost two full decades.  They drafted a scrawny marksman from UCLA who went by the name of “Reggie Miller“.  By the end of his career, Reggie would not only own the hearts of every Hoosier in the “basketball state” of Indiana, but he would also own a lot of NBA records that will probably be safe for years to come.  No one can shoot the ball quite like Reggie could because the type of player that the NBA is producing these days is more concerned with appearing on the next showing of ESPN and what their clever buddies sitting behind the booths would say about them and their “wicked” abilities.  Stewart Scott is one of the worst at this.  He never holds any of his hood-rat, thug-buddies accountable, but instead thinks of clever things to say about them when they jump sixteen feet in the air and dunk the ball.  The fundamentals of the game have weakened in the past decade and players like Reggie Miller are now few and far between.  They just don’t make ’em like they used to and to the more astute basketball fan today there is less and less of an attractive product placed on the courts of NBA franchises.  The days of watching Stockton and Malone run the pick and roll to perfection; Magic Johnson playing all five positions on the court with amazing success; Michael Jordan freezing us in our seats as he performed some of the most amazing feats all while he involved his entire team; Larry Bird stepping back and effortlessly sinking a thirty-foot shot; and so on…those days are gone.  Now, we’re stuck with the disgusting thuggery of Allen Iverson, Carmella Anthony, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Kobe Bryant (a never-ending soap opera).  These individuals are all brilliant with the ball, but their leadership abilities and overall team management philosophy is non-existent. 

It’s darn-right miserable trying to be a fan of the NBA these days, but if I had complete control of my favorite team (the Indiana Pacers) and the sky was the limit then these are things I would focus on with the purpose of turning the team’s future around AND putting a product on the court that the good people of Indiana could rally behind:

1.  I would get on my knees and beg Rick Carlisle to come back.  I would offer him a contract of his desire and wouldn’t hesitate to give him seven to ten years…guaranteed.  Carlisle was the lone bright-spot for the Pacers during these very troubling years of late.  The fact that he DIDN’T receive the Coach of the Year honors in 2005 for holding that team together after the infamous “Brawl in Detroit” while still getting the team into the playoffs is a baffling mystery to me and a complete black-eye for the NBA.  Rick Carlisle has proved that he possesses the tools to be a top-tier NBA coach and by losing him we have lost a lot of hope in the future. (more…)

* Note: when I first wrote this essay I had no idea that Boise State would end up beating Oklahoma in one of the best college football games since Notre Dame vs. Penn State in ’93!  The result of the Broncos beating up on the Sooners is that the evidence pointing towards the necessity of a BCS Playoff is now more important and legitimate than ever before!  Enjoy!

For the few who may end up reading this because you’re bored or lonely, it is my hope to educate you in an important issue that affects so many lives today.  No, I’m not referring to AIDS in Africa, the mistreatment of midgets, or the growing rates of pregnant women abusing crack cocaine!  The simple fact is, I’m not referring to anything that has to do with actual life or death (well, unless you’re a Vegas junkie with more on the line than your butt can vouch for or if you’re dealing with a couple of Soprano-like jug heads who want their money, plus interest…), but instead something that has everything to do with the greatest sport on God’s green earth!  College freakin’ football, baby!!!

In case you’re completely oblivious to the issue at hand, allow me to inform you of the growing hodgepodge and botheration of bugaboo corporate vandalism in the realm of NCAA football.  What we have here is a massive failure to communicate in the most basic of ways brought about by nothing more than pure despotism from corporate America and university presidents.  On one hand, you have the overwhelming majority of America screaming and clamoring for a playoff system (of some sort) that would finally and for the first time have the clear-cut national champion shining in the lights of football history!  On the other hand, you have the over-weight and greasy-haired fat cats of corporate America sitting next to the ivory tower acadamiac socialists from our nation’s finest institutions of higher learning who are single handedly caulking the establishment of a spectacle of sports that would be second to none…a playoff system in college football that would crown a clear cut king with no questions asked! (more…)