Monday, August 22, 2011

Irish Blogger Gathering: Preseason Multimedia Extravaganza

1. Go to youtube, pick a song that a) applies to your life in some way and b) will serve as the unofficial 2011 Fighting Irish Football Anthem. Extra points if you entirely avoid any band with members born in Ireland. Disqualification for any use of Freekbass. Embed the video for that song in your answers and explain why it’s so fitting under both qualifications A and B.

I picked this song for a bunch of reasons. First, I was there on Sunday at Lollapalooza, braving the scorching heat and pouring rain to see the Foo Fighters live in concert. Second, I feel like this song embodies the kind of transformation that this football team and myself have been going through.

I think I lost my way
Getting good at starting over
Every time that I return

I'm learning to walk again
I believe I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?
I'm learning to talk again
Can't you see I've waited long enough
Where do I begin?

I left the security of an established firm at the end of January to start my own practice. While I was confident in my skills as an attorney, I was completely unprepared for many of the trials and tribulations that come with running a business. I knew how to handle the cases, but I felt like a child learning to walk again when it came to things like trust accounts, marketing, pricing, etc. But I was willing to take the risk and start over because I had waited long enough at my previous firm for some kind of recognition from the partnership of my achievements at that firm. And starting on day one, I've asked myself many times when I walk in my office door in the morning - "Where do I begin?" But as time has passed, I've slowly gotten the hang of it - just like learning to talk or walk again.

The Notre Dame football team is in that position now as well. They've walked the walk in the past - 11 national championships, 7 Heisman Trophy winners, the most consensus All-Americans. But since we lost Lou, we've lost our way. We've turned time and again to coaches with glaring holes (sometimes literally) in their coaching pedigree. Davie had never coached before, and was unprepared for the spotlight of the Notre Dame stage. O'Leary lied on his resume. Willingham was fast-tracked through his coaching career, rather than patiently learning the ropes and practicing the dedication to be a coach at this level. Weis' brash arrogance in his own intellect hamstrung the team, and his lack of head coaching experience meant that he didn't know how to put together a defense.

But they are learning to walk again. We've finally hired a coach with enough head coaching experience at progressively higher levels of competition who has developed a system of coaching which has led to success after success. But the program had forgotten how to walk the walk. So they're learning to walk again. Learning what it means to represent the University with the greatest tradition of winning football in all the land.

We've waited long enough.

I think I found my place
Can't you feel it growing stronger
Little conqueror

As I've grown into this exciting new phase of my life, I've started to see how well the life of a solo attorney fits my demeanor and lifestyle. I have the flexibility to work a schedule that suits me, to work on the kind of cases I want to work on. I can focus on helping the client, rather than simply focusing on the bottom line as my previous partners cared about. And as the practice develops, I can feel it growing stronger. I'm developing better relationships within the legal community, rather than being insulated by the firm. I feel like I'm ready to conquer the legal world, one step at a time.

Likewise, there is a quiet confidence among not only Notre Dame fans, but also the media and people knowledgeable about college football, that Notre Dame has found it's coach, and is ready to retake its place at the pinnacle of college football. Even the haters aren't so quick to dismiss the Irish. Those who follow the program can feel it growing stronger. Many even believe that the Irish are poised to conquer the football world this year.

Forever, whenever
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I never wanna die
I'm on my knees
I never wanna die
I'm dancing on my grave
I'm Running through the fire
Forever, whatever
I Never wanna die
I Never wanna leave
I'll Never say goodbye
Forever, whatever
Forever, Whatever

As I'm completing my detailed business plan for my new business, my confidence in this practice as a lifetime commitment is growing. The more I grow into it, the more I realize that this is what I want to do forever. I'm getting ambitious about the future and starting to plan for not only sustainability, but also growth. I'm willing to take the extra risks necessary to run through the fire and never let this die.

And that's the fire and intensity that's starting to grow within the football team. Floyd coming back for his senior year, and ResLife trusting the new coach to discipline him appropriately. Te'o bypassing his mission to pursue football as his calling from God to represent his religion and his family. Eifert stepping up to replace All-everything Kyle Rudolph. Young kids (4 of the top 10 defensive ends in this year's class) seeing the potential and jumping on the bandwagon. The passion and intensity that the Irish played with towards the end of last season has carried through.

Can't you see I've waited long enough?

We may not be there quite yet. The pieces are coming together, and there are big things on the horizon. But all that stands between us and our dreams is our own talent and dedication. And with an all in mentality, we will get there.

BONUS videos:

And I wonder
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again

2. Now that you’ve got your unofficial anthem rocking the home office, predict the single biggest play, positive or negative for the Irish, that will occur this season in a Notre Dame football game. Color this prediction with situation, players involved, opposing team, and even weather conditions. It’s the pre-season. Let’s see what your imaginations are doing.

Michigan stadium. Night. The stadium is absolutely rocking with 100,000+ drunken Michigan fans. The Irish have been struggling with the noise all night, and have had a few really questionable calls on big plays that have allowed Michigan to stay in what otherwise should have been a lopsided ball game.
It's 4th and goal, from the Irish 1 yard line. There are 3 seconds on the clock at the end of the game, and the Irish are trailing 24-20. Notre Dame lines up in their jumbo set. They snap the ball, and Dayne Crist hands off to Cierre Wood. Cierre dives over the line of scrimmage, being met in mid-air by a Michigan defender right at the goal line. But wait! Cierre didn't have the ball. Crist rolls out to the right. Michael Floyd is triple covered in the middle of the end zone. But Eifert is standing all alone at the back corner! Crist rifles a perfect spiral right into his waiting hands. Touchdown Irish as time expires! The Irish team rushes the field, as the Michigan faithful fall dead silent. Final Score: Notre Dame 26 Michigan 20

3. I’m a fan of the cinematic hit, “Kicking and Screaming.” I know, it’s a film you all love too. So naturally we’d all like to re-live that moment when they’re playing “Would You Rather.” So let’s do so: Would you rather suffer a humiliating loss to Michigan this year, or a humiliating loss to Southern Cal? Why? And stop eyeing that chicken across the street, perv.

I threw up a little in my mouth when reading this question. It's sort of like asking whether you'd rather be tortured by the rack or Chinese water torture. Forced to pick between the two, however, I'd pick Southern Cal. I think SC is a better team, talent-wise, than the Skunkbears, and we just beat them last year. Losing to Michigan as they are adjusting to a new coach and new scheme as we're supposed to be hitting our stride, especially that early in the season, is more than I can stomach at this point.

That said, for the first time in far too long, I'm not anticipating any humiliating losses of any kind this year. The defense is too strong, and the offense will score plenty of points. We may lose a game or three, but not in blow-out fashion.

4. Great teams require leadership, and with Notre Dame being the only truly national college football program in the country, a great Notre Dame football team requires national leaders. So pick one. Name a player on the Irish roster in 2011 who will lead the nation in a particular, official NCAA category. Also specify how much he’ll lead the nation by indicating his national rank in that category. Note: You must be predicting this leader to finish at least as high as 10th in the nation in your chosen category. Bonus Points: Don’t pick David Ruffer – the best player on the Irish Roster.

Michael Floyd. National rank: #4

Michael Floyd is a special talent at wide receiver. There will be a lot of people rolling coverages to him, but the talent at the other receiver positions will mean that will be short-lived. I expect that at the end of the year, Michael will be a legit Heisman contender, and go over 1,500 yards on the year.

5. You’ve already done more parsing of Brian Kelly’s words than is healthy since he first took a podium in this pre-season. What’s the single most surprising thing he’s said in that time?

Q. Are you happy with where you are one year into turning a corner and making this an elite college program?

COACH KELLY: That to me is more about your message and it's more about what your players need to believe when they come here. Our recruiting has changed in that we're recruiting young men that you're coming to Notre Dame to play for our Lady. Your not coming here to hang your hat because you're going to the league. If you want to do that, there are other schools for you. We may not get some of those guys that have that attitude. They could be eight star, nine star players, whatever is the highest star is out. If they fit that mentality, we won't recruit those guys.

We're starting by recruiting guys that want to be at Notre Dame, get their degree, play for Notre Dame. That's when it started. It didn't start because we changed the locker room or we did more collegiate things. It was really about that paradigm shift in terms of attitude.

We are a Catholic University. It is integral to who we are and what we do. And for the first time that I can remember since Lou Holtz, we have a coach that isn't afraid to talk about recruiting kids to play for Our Lady. He's not making the Catholic nature of our school a turn-off for players from other religions - there's a renaissance of Mormon players on our roster. But he gets it. He gets who we are and what we do. And he is building the program around the three pronged character of this university - a commitment to our Catholic heritage, dedication to academic excellence, and the pursuit of championship level athletic performance.

His message, in many ways, hearkens back to the messages of Holtz, Parseghian and Leahy. He knows what it takes, and he's embracing it wholeheartedly. No fancy chains as a gimmick. No jersey color changes to pump the team up. Just a consistent, day-to-day approach to demanding excellence from our student athletes.