Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Deconstructing Pat Forde

In 2006, Michigan scored 28 points off of five Notre Dame turnovers in posting a 26-point victory over the Irish. The AP headline read, "Michigan Stuns Notre Dame, Puts Up 47 Points in South Bend Rout." This year, Notre Dame scored 21 points off of six Michigan turnovers en route to an 18-point victory over the Wolverines. Their headline for this win? "Notre Dame Takes Advantage of Mistake-Prone Michigan." So, in the AP's telling, while the Wolverines were "stunning" and "routing" Notre Dame in "putting up" 47 points, the Irish were simply the fortunate beneficiaries of a few goofs by Michigan. Interesting take.
Of course, the AP wasn't alone in their assessment of Notre Dame's victory. On ABC's pre-game show, prior to the USC-Ohio State game, John Saunders was equally unimpressed, citing Michigan's yardage and time-of-possession advantages as evidence that Notre Dame's win was nothing more than a lucky break (this was before Craig James helpfully pointed out that while Michigan had the yardage advantage, the Irish dominated the only stat that matters - the score). As expected, though, the biggest offender of the "Irish win means nothing" group was ESPN's Pat Forde. Of course, as Irish fans well know, Forde is, what word am I looking for here? Oh yes, Forde is an idiot.
For the most recent proof of his idiocy, let's take a look at the assault on reason and language Pat has managed to vomit into publication this week.
Entitled, "Irish Victory No Sign of South Bend Resurrection", Forde's remarkably thick-headed exegesis begins thusly:

Notre Dame traditionally produces a new "spirit shirt" every season, and tens of thousands of them can be seen on campus every football Saturday. This year's version reads, in part: "Notre Dame will rise again." As resurrections go, this is not exactly a Lazarus production. There is little here to inspire reverence."

It's good to see that Forde not only struggles with college football, but with theology as well. Per the New Testament, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. As such, both the "production" and "reverence" would belong to that Christ fellow Notre Damers tend to go on about; not old Laz. Beyond that, find me one Irish fan who has declared, "Yup, we beat Michigan, we're back, baby!" I'm sure this poor soul exists, but I hardly think he is representative of the wider Notre Dame fan base. ND fans have been happy with the win and feel it shows progress from last season, but no one I know's booking their ticket for the 2009 BCS Championship just yet. As for the t-shirt, Pat knows it was designed prior to the game, right? Ok, moving on...

The head coach is on crutches. The quarterback threw for 11 second-half yards Saturday. The longest running play of the season is 18 yards. The Fighting Irish have been outgained in both games. The new campus cult hero is a 5-foot-8 3/4, 175-pound former walk-on.

Whoa, whoa whoa - the coach is on crutches? God, this team must suck. I mean, honestly, crutches? Oh, and they're rooting for an underdog who's succeeded against the odds? Who does that?!

Yet after rallying past awful San Diego State in the opener and accepting a gift-wrapped 35-17 victory Saturday from self-destructing Michigan, the Irish are 2-0. Don't look now, folks, but they could be on their way to becoming the worst good team in recent college football history.

Pat called us "folks", he's such a regular guy! As for "the worst good team in recent college football history", how can any team not named "Ohio State" possibly lay claim to that title? To review Buckeye futility: 2006, finished the season ranked #1 led by the (poorly chosen) Heisman Trophy winner, get slaughtered by Florida, 41-14. 2007, finish the season ranked #1 get slaughtered by LSU, 38-24. 2008, begin the season either #2 or #3 (depending on poll), play USC while ranked #5, get slaughtered, 35-3. Does anyone else see a pattern developing here?

San Diego State and (to hell with) Michigan were not ranked coming into South Bend. Nine more currently unranked opponents stand between Notre Dame and USC on Nov. 29. If those teams remain outside the polls, it would be a school record most unranked opponents played in one season.

Yeah, yeah and if the Queen had balls, she'd be king. What's the point? First off, schedules are made years in advance and no one has a clue as to how good or bad those teams will be when the game is actually played. Second, tell me what team in the national championship race doesn't play cupcakes during the course of the year. Third and fourth, in 1989, Notre Dame beat no less than six Top-25 teams, while Miami played a schedule consisting of fourth-place finishers in the Special Olympics - guess who won the national championship? In 1993, Notre Dame played an equally challenging schedule and knocked off Florida State, who had played an ACC schedule (and thus, a slightly easier slate than the Special Olympians Miami played) - guess who won the national championship?

Against that motley lineup, the highly average Irish conceivably could win enough to return to a big-time bowl game. Where they'd get crushed again.

If you're keeping score at home, that's two major assumptions Pat makes in the course of two sentences. If Pat is going to go ahead and make wild predictions based on little evidence, he should have some fun with it. Suggest things like, "With the proliferation of nuclear weapons increasing the likelihood of a fiery holocaust which could wipe out large swaths of the male population, I may be looking at People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 2009."

Put it this way: This Notre Dame team bears no resemblance to the 1988 national champions who were honored here this weekend.

Put it this way: Pat Forde bears no resemblance to Erin Andrews, yet both of them draw paychecks from ESPN.

But after the 3-9 fiasco of 2007, you won't find anyone at Notre Dame soft-selling 2-0. Not after beating a school that humiliated them the past two years.

Let me try writing this sentence another way that gets at the heart of what Pat actually means, "In spite of the fact that it is eminently reasonable for Irish fans to feel pretty good about being 2-0 after last season, I'm still going to write this completely slanted and pointless column under the guise of intelligent commentary."

Weis sucked it up and coached through the pain and rain. You can't blame him for not wanting to miss a play of this game, perhaps just to see how Michigan was going to give his team the ball next.

Hey oh! You just got served, Rich Rodriguez!

The young Wolverines turned it over six times, their most in a game in 16 years, which is how you outgain a team by 128 yards and still lose by 18 points. One of those turnovers was caused by Notre Dame and the other five were giveaways.

The "young Wolverines", as compared to the veteran squad of freshman and sophomores fielded by the Irish. As for the turnover business, two of them were interceptions so, by any reasonable standard, Notre Dame ought to be credited with "causing" at least three. Then, with regard to the others, does Pat feel comfortable in asserting that pressure played no role in causation? Can he absolutely assert that nothing Notre Dame did had anything to do with them? If he can't, then best not to draw a conclusion. At the end of the day, it doesn't even matter. There's only one relevant question - what did Notre Dame do with Michigan's turnovers? The answer is simple - they both scored and prevented the Wolverines from scoring. That is what good teams (or those who aspire to be good) do. End of story.

There was only one strip, by excellent safety David Bruton (who originally committed to Ty Willingham). The rest were a series of gaffes most self-respecting high school teams would avoid.

So, is David Bruton an excellent safety because he committed to Ty Willingham? Did Ty Willingham teach him to "strip"? (write your own punchlines, you sick bastards). If neither of those is the case, referencing Willingham in that sentence is a non-sequiter that ranks up there with, "The column was by abysmal ESPN writer Pat Forde (who enjoys barely-legal German porn)."

Especially the first two, which just about sealed Michigan's fate.

It's true. With about 10 minutes to go in the first quarter, I was shocked to discover the refs would allow the game to go forward. With Michigan's fate having been just about sealed at that juncture, it seemed awfully brutish for them to allow the teams to continue on for another 3 2/3 quarters. Why, no team's ever come back from such a forbidding deficit as 14 points!

Its first possession started with freshman Boubacar Cissoko fumbling the opening kickoff, retrieving it and being tackled at the 9-yard line. It ended with quarterback Steven Threet throwing a backward pass to running back Brandon Minor, who dropped it. The Irish recovered at the 11. Aided by a pass interference penalty, Notre Dame scored in three plays.

I love the addition of "aided by a pass interference penalty." I guess, inasmuch as the penalty was not a deterrent to scoring, one could argue it "aided" them. Well played, Pat.

Michigan freshman Michael Shaw fumbled the ensuing kickoff - straight through the hands, and then between the legs and then behind them. That one was recovered on the Michigan 14 by Irish special-teams star Mike Anello, the tiny former walk-on whose bio isn't even in the media guide but whose kick coverage is now the stuff of legend after two bang-up games to start the year.

Uh oh...sounds like Pat's found himself a new cult hero.

I couldn't have dreamed this up, " Anello said. "If you told me I'd be playing for Notre Dame, let alone getting on the field and earning a scholarship, I'd have laughed at you." On Saturday, the laughter you could hear seemed to be coming from Morgantown, W.Va, where there's nothing more enjoyable than seeing the Mountaineers' former coach flail to an error-ridden 1-2 start at Michigan.

Does it concern anyone else that Pat is hearing distant laughter?

When the Wolverines were not dropping the ball or hitting Irish defenders in the chest with passes, they did some decent things offensively. Freshman running back Sam McGuffie is more than just a YouTube phenomenon; he's a legit talent who ran for 131 yards and caught four passes for 47 more yards.

With a performance like that, you'd have thought this fellow might have been a highly-rated and recruited prospect coming out of high school. Well, no worry, it's finally settled; Pat Forde has declared him to be a legit talent.

Notre Dame, on the other hand, is still looking for a running game that it can count on. The Irish wheezed to 105 yards rushing against San Diego State and had 113 against the Wolverines. Averaging 3.2 yards per carry is well short of dazzling.

Conversely, the 3.7 that Michigan is averaging...lights out!

But the one thing the Irish are doing much better this year than last is keeping their quarterback upright. Last season, Notre Dame surrendered a school-record 58 sacks. So far this year? Zero. That left Weis knocking on the wooden podium he stood behind in the postgame news conference. So far, the bewildered blockers of '07 are now a pretty solid unit in '08.

You don't suppose this could have anything to do with the Irish being 2-0, do you? I mean, when has line play ever dictated the outcome of a game? Crazy talk.

Notre Dame will next go toe-to-toe with a Michigan State team that shut out Florida Atlantic on Saturday. But before then, the Irish would like some props. "Sooner or later," cornerback Raeshon McNeil said, "everyone's going to have to start giving us some respect." Shouldn't it be enough that Michigan gave Notre Dame the ball all day Saturday? Now the Irish want respect on a platter too? Respect will have to be earned, and it will take more than Notre Dame showed in this game for that to happen.

I'm sorry, did I miss the part of Raeshon McNeil's quote where he asked for members of the media to declare Notre Dame to be "Lords and masters of all they survey?" Geez, if respect is this tough for him, Pat must get positively apoplectic at the thought of having admiration for anyone.

And, so ends another Pat Forde classic. The sad part is, it was a column that didn't even need to be written. Notre Dame-Michigan was nowhere near the biggest game this past weekend and, as mentioned previously, Irish fans offered no groundswell of support for the idea that this win meant ND was "back". Still, Pat's got his agenda and ESPN lacks anything approaching journalistic standards, so these columns are inevitable. On the bright side, laughter is said to reduce stress and help in preventing heart attacks so, this perfect storm of incompetency may actually be allowing Irish fans to live longer. And you thought Pat Forde was good for nothing...


Irish1083 said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Forde writes a piece of crap for an article, but then why would anyone give Notre Dame credit when it's due. I also like the point about the headlines from '06 to the headline this year.
Great post!

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog. I, too, was stunned at Forde's subjective analysis. Wonder why he has it in for ND? Did he go to Boston College or something? Oh, well. We beat Michigan. And if we beat Sparty I'll really be pleasantly surprised with this team.

Clay said...

Very nicely done, BH. Forde's column is absolute drivel. Excellent post and great blog. Keep up the good work.