Thursday, November 15, 2007

ND's Annus Horribilis Continues Against Duke | by Brian

So it's come to this: Notre Dame prepares for senior day hoping to avoid a winless home campaign with a victory over Duke. This is not a matchup which, even in the best of times, would have inspired Grantland Rice-like prose, nor drinking deep the aura of the game a la George Will. With that in mind, I hereby present Blue-Gray Sky's Half-Assed Notre Dame/Duke Preview.

Famous Dukes
We were somewhere outside Barstow
when the losing began to take hold.
  • Duke Ellington, jazzman
  • Duke Phillips, animated character, The Critic
  • Duke Cunningham, disgraced ex-Congressman
  • David Duke, professional bigot
  • Marmaduke, beloved dog
  • Raoul Duke, gonzo journalist
  • Patty Duke/Patty Duke's Cousin, identical cousins
  • John Wayne, actor/patriot/founder of Duke University (see below)
  • Duquan "Dukie" Weems, former student of Baltimore cop-turned-teacher Roland Pryzbylewski
  • The James Madison Dukes, 2004 FCSOABM Champions---famous JMU Dukes include former NFLers Gary Clark, Charles Haley, and The Toast of Buffalo, Scott Norwood
  • Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh
  • Duke of Earl, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl
  • Isaac Hayes in Escape From New York
  • Randolph & Mortimer Duke, commodity brokers who like to make the occasional wager (see below)
  • Tom Wopat, just a good ol' boy never meanin' no harm
A Few Words About Duke Footbawl

It's been another long year for the Blue Devils, but as we've all figured out by this point, we can't just put this game in the win column for Notre Dame. Duke is dangerous. Duke's head footbawl coach has the team focused and fired up for this weekend's matchup. Duke's quarterback is, no doubt, going to throw it several times to Duke's receivers or Duke's tight end, or possibly even to one of Duke's running backs. But the offensive weaponry doesn't stop there---look for Duke's running backs to occasionally try to run the ball through holes opened up by Duke's offensive linemen.

On defense, special attention must be paid to Duke's linebackers, but the Irish offense will also have to contend with Duke's defensive tackles, Duke's defensive ends, Duke's cornerbacks, and Duke's safeties. Each will be attempting to tackle Notre Dame ballcarriers, bat down passes, make interceptions, and so forth. Essentially, Duke's defensive game plan will be to allow fewer points than their offense scores.

And it almost goes without saying that Duke will get vital contributions from Duke's kicker, Duke's punter, and Duke's kick returners.

Looking over the roster, it appears that, while the Blue Devils are the easiest team ND has faced, their names are the hardest to pronounce:
  • Greg Akinbiyi
  • Zack Asack (didn't they have a hit with "Friends Forever"?)
  • Adrian "Donnie" Aye-Darko
  • Pontus "Give Us Barabbas" Bondeson
  • Re'quan Boyette
  • Evalio Harrell
  • Vince Oghobaase
  • Ayanga Okpokowuruk and Ifreke Okpokowuruk (of the Newport Okpokowuruks?)
  • Chris Rwabukamba
  • Michael "I'd Like to Buy an I, Pat" Tauiliili
Yes, it will be a long day for our old friend, NBC's Tom Hammond. By the end of the game, he'll be in such bad shape that he'll have to be put down, like one of the champion throughbreds he's so fond of covering.

Duke founder John Wayne and President
John Ford, after cavalry lessons
The Southern Cal of the East

Duke University was founded in 1948 by the actor John Wayne, who envisioned an east coast version of his beloved alma mater, Southern Cal. Under the university's first president, John Ford, the school's mission was to teach acting and train cavalry officers, both of which continue to this day. Duke's motto
is Eruditio et Religio, which is Latin for "Howdy, pilgrim." The school's nickname, the Blue Devils, derives from Wayne's 1946 film of the same name, in which he played an officer with a devil-may-care attitude who leads an elite squad of flyboys into action over Holland, in support of Operation Market Garden.

An all-male school until the 1970's, the men of Duke used to spend their free time with the girls of Duke's sister school, Maureen O'Hara College. Even to this day, with Duke coed, the bonds between Duke men and Maureen O'Hara women remain strong. Duke's students continue to follow John Wayne's example of patriotism, riding straight in the saddle, and facing all of life's challenges with guns blazing. This spirit is epitomized by the Blue Devil football team, which each year bestows its coveted Rooster Cogburn Award upon the player voted by his teammates as the squad's most inspirational leader and grittiest drunkard.

"Do you think Eddie will give us cameos
Coming to America?"
"Looking good, football team." "Feeling good, basketball team."

Are Duke's struggles as a football program a result of their environment, or are they genetically destined to fail at sports? That's the premise of a wager between immensely wealthy Philadelphia commodity brokers Randolph and Mortimer Duke. The brothers hatch a scheme in which the Duke basketball team is framed for NCAA violations, and demoted to the football squad, while the football team is given the keys to the kingdom, so to speak, and is promoted to the Good Life of Duke basketball.

In this "nature" vs. "nurture" experiment, Mortimer believes that, despite the change in fortunes, the well-bred basketball team will rise to the occasion and succeed as a football team, while the lowly riff-raff of the football team will fail no matter what opportunities are presented to them. Randolph, on the other hand, feels that the basketball team will fall apart when faced with the challenges of trying to field a competitive football team and playing in an empty stadium, while the football team will take full advantage of the tremendous opportunity it has been given, and will become a winning basketball team. A dollar hangs on the outcome.

Will the two teams discover that they are innocent pawns being used for the Dukes' amusement? If so, will they be able to turn the tables on the brothers? And will a young Jamie Lee Curtis bare her breasts? Those are questions for a better writer than me to answer.

Vitale LOVES Notre Dame football!

NO!!! The Dukies are my precioussss!
One Shill to Rule Them All

Dick Vitale is a noted shill for both Notre Dame football and Duke basketball. He was recently asked which program was more precious to him. This was his Vitale's response:

[Vitale smiles, and speaks animatedly]

"The University of Notre Dame is Awesome, baby, with a capital A! I was so honored to send both of my girls to Notre Dame, and my son-in-laws went there. I coulda gotten into Notre Dame too, baby! I got a 1400 on my SAT! Yeah, if you add my scores together---I took it twice!"

[He turns, and suddenly his face twists into an evil expression]

"NO!!! Duke basketball is where it's at, baby! Coach K epitomizes what college athletics is all about. It's like he says in the commercial, he's not just a coach, he's a Leader of Men. He learned from the best---the General, Robert Montgomery Knight."

[Vitale turns, and his face again returns to an innocent grin]

"Notre Dame football is what it's all about. Yeah, I know they're struggling, but Charlie Weis is one of the best in the business, and he will right the ship. Look at some of these youngsters they've got---Jimmy Clausen, Armando Allen, Duval Kamara---they're Diaper Dandies, baby! And check this out, look at this---they have the number one recruiting class in America, baby! They're going to be back in a big way!"

[He turns again, and his expression is full of hatred and anger]

"OHHH!!! OHHH!!! It's the Dukies, baby! The Cameron Crazies!!! It's unbelievable!!! J.J. Redick: he's the three S's: Super, Scintillating, Sensational!!! Shane Battier: what a class act, what tremendous ath-a-leticism. And the current crop is as talented a group as Mike Krzyzewski has had. I mean, you've got Greg Paulus, he's on my All-Thomas Edison Team. He's an innovator!"

Eventually, Vitale tired out before giving a definitive answer to the question.

The Blind Oracle Looks to Cash In

Having been unfortunately accurate for an alarming number of games this season, The Blind Oracle At Bristol is looking to profit. He recently announced a plan to charge customers $9.95 for access to his prediction for this week's ND/Duke game, in what he was calling The Blind Oracle Golden Horseshoe Lead Pipe Lock of the Year. Luckily, Blue-Gray Sky's cadre of lawyers intervened, forcing the Oracle to fulfill his contractual commitments to us. Here is his prediction:

"Imagine a doormat rising up and kicking down the door. From the Triangle, the Devil went up to Indiana. The defense slaps the grass as a display of intensity. The old arena's lights go out on its darkest year. Bottom line, the Irish lack the team speed to keep up with the Blue Devils. Duke beats Notre Dame 35-10."