Monday, August 27, 2007

Nostradamus 2008

I've decided to start a new kind of pool. The rules are simple and the costs are low (i.e., no cost, no winnings).

Rule: predict your college team's record for this football year, and pick the records of any THREE other teams represented by this list. Person with best overall +/- differential will be declared College Football's Nostradamus 2008.

ND: 7-5 I'd rather be lucky than good. ND gets lucky in a couple of games.
BC: 8-4 The post TO'B era begins, SuperFans rejoice.
NCSU: 7-5 The post Chest era begins, WITH fans rejoice...until they realize they now have The TO'B.
OU: 9-3 Stoops & Co. march towards yet another monumental bowl-game embarrassment.

NCSU 4-8
BC 7-5
ND 5-7
FL 10-2

Delaware: 7-4
Florida: 10-2
Ohio State: 9-3

OU: 13-0 (NC #8)
ND: 5-6 (visions of the Gerry Faust)
UF: 10-3 (not sold on Tebow for the long haul)
UT: 0-11 (with continuing arrests, whorns roster dwindles to 8 walk-ons by end of the year)

BC: 11-1. Rags to Jags.
NCSt: 5-6. [silence].
OSU: 9-3. Holy Buckeye! Brent Musberger puts out call for John Cooper - "John Cooper, where you @ pard-NER?"
TENN: 7-5. Tell Warren I'm sorry, Britton Colquitt can't hold a damn thing vs the other 18 Colquitt Vol punters. Plus, no Jim Bob Cooter this year.

UF: 10-2
ND: 9-3
PSU: 8-4
MD: 7-5

Stanford 3-9 under the sheer motivating talents of Jim Harbaugh.
Ohio State has been my favorite team since I was a kid so I will predict that they go 10-2.
Notre Dame will be better than people think, 8-4.
Finally, Texas goes 9-3.

Tennessee .... 7-6 including a win in the Shreveport Poulan Weedeater Bowl - Fat Phil gets fired.
Notre Dame.... 6-7 includng a loss in the Shreveport Poulan Weedeater Bowl - the Catholics (and Episcopals) call for Fat Charlie's resignation.
Penn State.... 8-5
Texas.... 9-4

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Post-Season Schneid

For those still living under rocks

In case you missed it, ND is currently enjoying an 8-game bowl losing streak, tied for the longest in NCAA history. Here's a recap of the carnage for the Irish, whose streak comes with an average score of 34-18:

TEMPE, Ariz. (Jan. 2, 2006) — Notre Dame’s return to national prominence under first-year head coach Charlie Weis was capped by the first Irish appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game in five years. Unfortunately, the result was not indicative of the team’s success in the regular season as the fifth-ranked Irish suffered a 34-20 loss to fourth-ranked Ohio State in the 2006 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Playing under an interim head coach at the conclusion of one of the most tumultuous months in Notre Dame football history, the Irish ended the 2004 season with a loss to Oregon State in the Insight Bowl at Bank One Ballpark in downtown Phoenix. Derek Anderson passed for 358 yards and four touchdowns as Notre Dame fell to Oregon State, 38- 21.

JACKSONVILLE — Progress can be measured in different ways. While Notre Dame's 28-6 loss to North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl might have put a damper on an otherwise brilliant season, it did serve as an indicator of the progress the Irish made it in a very short period of time.

TEMPE — Oregon State used four third quarter touchdowns, capitalizing on two Notre Dame turnovers, to defeat the Irish 41-9 in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

Notre Dame’s trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl was its 11th New Year’s Day Bowl game in 14 years and second in the four-year tenure of Irish head coach Bob Davie. The loss was its fifth straight bowl game defeat, a drought that goes back to the 1994 Cotton Bowl win over sixth-ranked Texas A&M.

“That football team out there impressed me.” Davie said.

JACKSONVILLE — Nearly all the pre-game speculation in the Notre Dame camp prior to the 1999 Gator Bowl matchup with Georgia Tech centered around the physical condition of Irish quarterback Jarious Jackson. Though Jackson wasn’t quite 100 percent, his gutty contributions and those of record-setting Irish tailback Autry Denson nearly were enough to carry green-clad Notre Dame to victory at Alltel Stadium.

Instead, it was the big-play offense of Georgia Tech that paved the way for a 35-28 Yellow Jacket victory in a rematch between the same two teams that had opened the 1997 regular season in the dedication game of the expanded Notre Dame Stadium.

SHREVEPORT — The rematch track record alone didn’t bode well for the Irish.In 12 previous bowl games that had been rematches of regular-season contests, the same team had won both games on only four occasions.

It had been tough enough for Notre Dame to venture into Louisiana once, with the Irish coming away with an impressive 24-6 conquest of 11th-rated LSU in Baton Rouge in mid-November. Now, Bob Davie’s crew was assigned to return to that same state, this time to Shreveport, for a Independence Bowl date with those same Tigers of LSU.

And the Irish showed signs early on making it two straight against Gerry DiNardo’s team. Then came Rondell Mealey. He, more than any other single player, accounted for the eventual 27-9 LSU triumph.

MIAMI — Notre Dame’s 1996 Orange Bowl matchup with eighth-ranked Florida State qualified as a historic occasion, since the Irish and Seminoles comprised the final combatants in Miami’s venerable Orange Bowl facility before the game’s switch to Joe Robbie Stadium for 1997.

The game itself was not without its challenges for Lou Holtz’s sixth-ranked team that was without injured quarterback Ron Powlus and leading rusher Randy Kinder — and found itself facing a Florida State offensive attack averaging 48.4 points and 551.5 yards per game.

Still, backup quarterback Tom Krug, all-star split end Derrick Mayes and their Irish teammates combined to keep the Seminoles on their heels most of the evening until a 17-point fourth-quarter rally wiped out a 12-point Notre Dame lead and gave Florida State a 31-26 win for its 11th consecutive postseason victory.

TEMPE — If holding the Heisman Trophy winner in check ranked as the only goal, Notre Dame’s defensive performance against fourth-rated Colorado in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl might have qualified as impressive.

Unfortunately for the Irish, there proved to be far more to the Buffaloes’ potency than runningback Rashaan Salaam. Though he did score three touchdowns on runs of five, one and one yards, Notre Dame limited him to 83 net yards on 27 attempts, for a 3.1-yard average with no gain greater than 13 yards.

The same could not be said for quarterback Kordell Stewart. Running the Colorado option attack with precision, Stewart threw for 226 yards and a touchdown and — more impressively — scuttled the Irish defense with 143 rushing yards on only seven carries. He easily earned the game’s offensive MVP award and had more to do than anyone else with Colorado scurrying out to a 31-3 lead on its way to an eventual 41-24 victory over Notre Dame.

One way or another, the result of the matchup against LSU in the 2007 Sugar Bowl will be a defining moment.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Department of Redundancy Department

Stop me if you've heard this one before

All the news that's fit to print...? On November 27, Alabama fired football Coach Mike Shula after a 6-6 season. In a closed-to-the-public press conference, Director of Athletics Mal Moore cited much of the standard clichés we’ve come to associate with these departures (note the clichés in bold):

“I have informed Mike Shula that he will not be retained as head football coach at the University of Alabama.

“Mike and his staff took over our program during a trying period four years ago, and in a number of ways Mike has been an excellent representative of our program. He personally has displayed impeccable character. As both a player and a head coach, Mike has made tremendous contributions to our program and we always will be grateful for his efforts. He has provided stability for our program through four years of NCAA probation which ends on February 1, 2007.

However, we did not make progress on the field this season and have not been able to maintain the positive momentum necessary to return Alabama football to a place among college football’s elite programs.

We will immediately begin a national search for a new head football coach. I am seeking a proven head coach with a proven record of achievement who can reach the level of excellence that all of us desire.
--Mal Moore director of athletics at the University of Alabama, November 27, 2006

So just how “standard” are these standard clichés? Well, it would appear that the new version of Microsoft Word 2007™ comes with a bonus feature, the Terminated Head Coach

"...The University has determined that Tyrone Willingham will not be retained as the Notre Dame head football coach, and I informed Tyrone of that decision this morning."

"All of us had great expectations when we sat here three years ago, and in a number of ways Tyrone has been an excellent fit and a great representative of our program. He personally has displayed impeccable integrity and tremendous character, and his players have represented themselves off the field in a first-class manner."

"In addition, our football program under his watch has never been stronger in terms of academic performance. We simply have not made the progress on the field that we need to make. Nor have we been able to create the positive momentum necessary in our efforts to return the Notre Dame program to the elite level of the college football world."

"We will immediately begin a national search for a new football coach. I don't have any particular parameters in mind, other than identifying an individual who can lead Notre Dame football back to the sustained level of excellence that everyone associated with the university and the program wants and desires."
--Kevin White, University of Notre Dame Athletic Director, November 30, 2004

Congratulations, Mal! You’ve just won the 2006 Jayson Blair Award for Excellence in PR Plagiarism.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Notre Dame @ USC 11/25/2006

This is a really important game

Thank GOD he's gone!Leading up to last year’s epic match-up in South Bend as well as this year’s game at The Coliseum, with all the BCS implications, there’s plenty of rehashing of the legendary games between the two storied programs (ESPN and SI have a few in their archives). For me, the one ND-USC game that will always be prominent in my memory is the 38-37 win by the Irish in 1986, a game the Irish won on a last-second field goal.

I did not grow up as a kid with a Joe Montana jersey, nor did I even follow college football until, well, I was actually in college. The lone time I recall watching ND play on TV was the 1983 Liberty Bowl, and even then I was only watching because we lived firmly in Boston College country (I secretly was rooting against BC that day).

My freshman year began with a new coach and a team that was 4-6 entering Thanksgiving weekend, with 5 of those 6 losses by a combined 14 points. It seemed that while another loss was possible, even probable, it would not swing much emotion on campus either way. Many students had retreated to the safety of their hometowns for the holiday weekend, and a group of guys from the dorm collected after dinner to watch the second half of the game on a small black and white TV. Our 3-day buzz was enough to keep us from readily grasping the significance of the 19-point comeback the Irish staged that day, and CBS was kind enough to not even broadcast the final winning 19-yard FG by John Carney:

Although the No. 1 vs. No. 2 match-up two years later would be more significant, this game, in Lou Holtz's inaugural year with the Irish, re-established ND's gridiron credibility. Irish rebound from a 37-20 fourth quarter deficit and are saved by a 56-yard punt return by Tim Brown to the Trojan 16 in the final minute. CBS misses John Carney's game-winning field goal as time expired because the network was showing a commercial.

Go Irish. Beat SC.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stay Classy, Bucky

#1 vs #2 and the Entire Moral Compass of Humanity

As this year's unsurpassed version of Armageddon approaches, two media clips caught my eye. For the most part, they speak for themselves:

Tailgatin', Buckeye Style!

The M Club Supports You...In Ann Arbor. In Columbus, Yer On Yer Own!

Dear UM Student:

We know that it can be uncomfortable being in an opposing team's environment, especially when the stakes are so high. We would like to offer a few suggestions in order to help you stay safe and have a positive experience this weekend:

--Try carpooling to the game; if possible, drive a car with non-Michigan license plates.
--Keep your Michigan gear to a minimum, or wait until you are inside the stadium to display it.
--Stay with a group.
--Know and obey the laws regarding alcohol use.
--If you are of legal age to drink, use alcohol in moderation. Stay in the blue.
--Stay low-key; don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
--If verbally harrassed by opposing fans, don't take the bait.
--Avoid High Street in Columbus.

If at any time you feel unsafe, you should call 9-1-1 for assistance. U-M campus police also will be available in Columbus to support our fans. You may call them with non-emergency concerns at (734) ***-****.

We look forward to a tremendous game on Saturday. Let's help the Wolverines win with spirit and class.

Go Blue!

Sue Eklund, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students
Steve Grafton, President, Alumni Association
Nicole Stallings, MSA President
# # #

1.) Michigan over Ohio State
2.) A handful of drunken OSU jag-offs violate the pre-game "moment of silence" for Bo Schembechler.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Notre Dame vs Army 11/18/06

286 Miles Northwest of Armageddon is the Home of the Original Apocalypse

When Notre Dame and Army square off Saturday for the 49th time, over 235 years of football history will be on the field. Well before the era of endorsements, special teams and agents, the two programs exemplified excellence on the gridiron. For one stretch from 1944-49 during their shared halcyon days, the two programs won or shared an amazing seven national championships.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

While this matchup doesn't look on paper to be close, here are more than a handful of reasons why they play the games:

October 18, 1924: After one of the most famous and important games in Notre Dame and college football history, New York Herald-Tribune sportswriter Grantland Rice pens his acclaimed lead after the Irish beat Army 13-7 at the Polo Grounds in New York: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. There real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley, and Layden." The Four Horsemen would be the most famous backfield of all time."

October 30, 1920: George Gipp put on the greatest performance of his career in leading the Irish to victory over Army 27-17. The following account of an incident which took place near the end of the game is from One for The Gipper, Pat Chelland's excellent biography of George Gipp:

With his brother Alexander in the stands cheering him on, George Gipp had put on one of the greatest performances of his career. Gipp's statistics were as follows: 150 yards gained in twenty rushes; 123 yards picked up as a result of five completed passes out of nine attempts; an additional 112 yards gained in running back punts and kick-offs. All of this was against one of the greatest teams of the era.

Despite Gipp's brilliant performance on the field, one of the most memorable moments of the afternoon occurred shortly after George left the field and took a seat on the Notre Dame bench to watch the final minutes of action. To those critics of George who have accused him of being self-centered, lacking in school loyalty, and indifferent to his team's fortunes, Father Charles L. O'Donnell, who happened to be seated on the Irish bench, has left behind a moving description of what he witnessed:

"He had done everything that any football player had ever done upon a field, and he had done it better than most. Darkness was coming in on the bitter winds that swept across the plains as he sat there in his blanket, relaxed, pale, silent, crying a little, I think. Then suddenly he was on his feet. He leaped onto the bench; the blanket had fallen from his shoulders.

"Chet Wynne, our fullback, had made one of his amazing cuts through the line, good for some fifteen or twenty yards. In a voice that could be heard, it seemed to me, above all the roar of the crowd, Gipp shouted: 'Yea, Chet!' as he stood there, self entirely forgotten, quivering from head to toe with joy and loyal pride in the achievement of a teammate."

November 1, 1913: In a game that serves as the school's springboard to national prominence, Notre Dame shock's Army 35-13 on the plains of West Point. Quarterback Gus Dorais and end Knute Rockne help to popularize use of the forward pass by introducing it as a staple of their offense. The forward pass had been legal for seven years, but until this game, most of the eastern teams had viewed the aerial mode of attack at worst as gimmickry, at best as unnecessarily risky.

November 4, 1916: The Army team, led by their all-time great runner Elmer Oliphant, defeated the Irish 30-10 at West Point. Rockne referred to Oliphant as in the '16 game as a "one-man team phenomenon. If anybody asks me who was the greatest player Army ever had, my vote goes to Oliphant." George Gipp, then a freshmen, was schooled to imitate Oliphant in the Notre Dame practice sessions. Rock said: "He gave a perfect imitation of Oliphant's veering style of ball-carrying, which arched his body so that he could spin or pivot at any fraction of an instant. The only drawback was that in the actual game with Army, Oliphant gave a perfect imitation of Gipp."

November 9, 1946: A titanic struggle between two powerhouse teams ends in a 0-0 tie for Notre Dame and Army. Notre Dame students, stung by two consecutive losses with military depleted teams, 59-0 and 48-0, chanted "59 and 48, this is the year we retaliate!" The game is also famous for Leahy distaining to go for the game winning field goal late in the game, and Notre Dame was stopped on downs near the goal line. Also famous was Johnny Lujack's diving touchdown and game saving tackle of Doc Blanchard.

November 10, 1928: In one of the most famous game and moments in Notre Dame football history, Knute Rockne gives his "Win one for the Gipper" speech. An outmanned ND team defeats the favored Army team 12-6 At Yankee Stadium. Jack Chevigny, who was later killed on Iwo Jima, shouts "There's one for the Gipper" as he scores ND first touchdown.

November 24, 1934: Army was favored this year and the game attracted "the biggest turn out of fans in the East this season." Eighty-one thousand "jammed the huge triple-decked Yankee Stadium, overflowed into the aisles and furnished a brilliant, vociferous background...for the football battle." (AP) Paul Gallico estimated that three-quarters [of the fans were] were bawling at the top of their lungs for Notre Dame du Lac," and, on this day, they cheered a satisfying Fighting Irish win. They also embraced the new head coach [Elmer Layden], some running on the field after the game to lift him onto their shoulders. The press emphasized the point that, in this victory, a symbolic torch passed from Rockne to Layden because the player scoring the winning touchdown was "the last remaining Rockne coached member of the Fighting Irish." (New York Post) Fullback Don Hanley of the switched-jersey fame (1931 USC game) had sat out 1931-1932, but Layden sent him into the Army game as a substitute and with time running out, Hanley plunged over to secure the 12-6 win.

December 2, 1933: In what turns out to be Coach Hunk Anderson's final game as head coach, Notre Dame edges Army 13-12 before 73,594 at Yankee Stadium in New York. Anderson compiles a 16-9-2 record (.630) in the three years following Knute Rockne's tragic death and would be replaced by one of the Four Horsemen, Elmer Layden.

December 14, 1920: "The Gipper" - star Notre Dame halfback George Gipp - dies early in the morning of a severe strep throat infection at age twenty-five in South Bend. He had lapsed into a coma the day before. In his last conversation with Coach Knute Rockne, he evidently made a plea that Rockne one day ask the team to "win one for the Gipper." Eight years later against Army, Rockne did, and the squad responded with a victory, upsetting Army 12-6 at Yankee Stadium.

December 30, 1946: On this day, Notre Dame and Army jointly announced a temporary severance of football relations after a final game at South Bend in 1947, because it "will be good for both schools and for intercollegiate athletics as a whole." The announcement was full of good will and friendship. In essence it said that the Notre Dame - Army game had grown too big and produced too many problems and that a breather period would be welcome. The series had started in 1913, and Notre Dame led in the series of games played, 23-8-4.

Source: Irish Legends

Notre Dame over Army.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Beautiful Mind

God, Country, Notre DameGod, Country, Notre Dame.

As an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, this mantra comprises the very fiber of every student who has stepped foot on the Indiana campus established by Father Sorin and the Brothers of the Holy Cross over one hundred fifty years ago.

Today, the phrase assumes an elevated level of near deification status when chanted amongst the throngs of football-obsessed followers of the Fightin’ Irish. Since 1966, crowds have filled Notre Dame Stadium to the gills just to catch a glance of the gridders in action on hallowed ground once graced by gods such as Rockne, Leahy, the Four Horsemen, and Beuerlein. And since my freshman year in 1986, I have joined those very throngs on no fewer than forty times in the House that Rockne built.

Alas, since those early days of my youth I have grown and matured--or at least got old--and am now married. With children. Actually only one child, but you get the idea. And because since well before my college days I had also been a diehard New York Yankees fan, I’ve often mused that ensconced above the portico of our estate would be the formula,

God, Country, Notre Dame, Yankees, Val (my wife).

God, Country, Notre Dame, Yankees, Val
She doesn’t think it’s nearly as humorous as do I when I repeat it with a childish snicker. Further, I don’t know that she gathers much consolation when I tell her each September, “Hey, at least you’re in the top 5—you still have a shot to make move up a bit before the end of the season!”

I don’t mention my family situation so as to bemoan that I am a stereotypical sports-crazed TV-watching lunatic with a nagging wife and screaming kids (or kid). In truth my wife is a wonderful woman and my just-shy-of-3-years-old son screams quite rarely, though almost reliably when I have a headache or am thoroughly exhausted. Or both (aka, hungover). I swear he has a sixth sense in that regard.

Rather, I mention this because it is a reality that with a family comes other responsibilities, and sometimes those responsibilities may conflict with your other priorities…such as watching football. Because of this reality, I find myself in a protracted balancing act from September through December each year, and sometimes August. And definitely January, too.

I have been quite fortunate in one regard. Since 1992 and not long after I graduated from Notre Dame in 1990, Fightin’ Irish football has been broadcast on a major network for 169 straight games over the course of fifteen years. That is, until the second weekend of November, when the streak was broken.

The Notre Dame-Air Force game would not be broadcast on any major network station. Not NBC. Not ABC. Not CBS. Not ESPN or ESPN2. Not even The Ocho. Rather, the game was to be shown on CSTV (College Sports TV), a small but up-and-coming cable network. Because I am one of the cheapest bastards ever, I opted not to pony up the $12/month to enjoy this programming as part of DirecTV’s premier SportsPack.November 11, 2006: Rumble in the Rockies While I can plan in advance to make a road trip to see a game or two a year, or as many NFL fans might do, spend a day at FedEx field or the Meadowlands or wherever, the argument for “road tripping” to a local bar just to watch a game on TV is a bit tougher to make when there are diapers to be changed and leaves to be raked. How could I in good conscience spend these beer-drinking, TV-watching hours in gridiron bliss, no doubt suffering a crushing blow to my Catholic guilt?

My mind immediately sprang into action. It seemed pretty simple:
1) Locate friend in area with CSTV access;
2) Invite self over to friend’s house;
3) Concoct reason to be presented to wife as to why such an endeavor is a worthwhile expenditure of my time.

Steps 1 & 2, I thought, would be fairly easy. Step 3 would likely prove to be a bit more problematic.

My wife is a very smart cookie (though at times I wonder just how smart…after all, she did marry me) but I like to think that I far outdistance her in the conniving sneakiness department. Still, I needed a plan that would put me on the couch at some random friend's house on that Saturday afternoon without emptying out my full allocation of kitchen passes.

Indeed, I needed a good plan. A really, really good, evil, sinister, diabolical plan. And I got my inspiration in a most serendipitous manner.

On the Friday night two weeks prior to the game, my wife and I were out enjoying a nice dinner together. At one point she noted rather sheepishly that she had succumbed to a “very small, teeny-tiny, inexpensive shopping trip” at some place called the Ann Taylor Loft. I guess they have chick clothes and stuff. Of course, she always knows to mention these trips a) after the fact, and b) when I am in a good mood such as over a nice dinner with a few beers in tow, aka almost loaded. And as predicted, I took it in stride, but made a mental note in my semi-inerbriated state for future reference.

Evil, EVIL Store!
The future came quite quickly. I presumed, very accurately, that since her Dad was visiting us and occupying the spare bedroom, she likely hadn’t had time to lay out her new clothes for the purpose of matching them up with current outfits (all married men recognize this silly ritual.) Later that night after dinner and while she was talking to her Dad before bedtime, I snuck into the spare bedroom, found the Ann Taylor Loft booty, and using a pair of scissors, snipped a small hole in the armpit of one grey sweater. Taking a pen and paper from the bedside table, I made note of the size, color and style of the item and returned the sweater along with the other items to their previous hiding spot.

Saturday with my morning coffee, I continued my reconnaissance work. I Googled all the nearby Ann Taylor Loft locations. Rutt-ro, Shaggy! There sure were a lot of locations. Of the numerous locations somewhat near our home in Alexandria, VA, roughly twelve qualified as “local”, as in ones which wouldn’t be too far for my wife to travel to in order to perform some type of shopping for an elusive but much sought-after grey sweater. I then called these twelve stores later that morning, and asked if they had the specific item in question. Lucky for me, it was a popular sale item, and many stores did not have it in stock. Five of the locations did have one (or more) of said item. I asked them to hold them under my first name through the weekend.

You're A Mean One, Mr. GrinchOn Sunday I was working a baseball doubleheader in Alexandria. Prior to the games, I visited the Ann Taylor Loft stores at Landmark Mall, Old Town and Clarendon. The second game ended early due to darkness, and I sped off to complete my missions with visits to the stores in Georgetown and Pentagon Row. In true Grinch-who-stole-Christmas manner, I bought up the entire local supply of Ann Taylor Loft grey Petites XSP sweaters. I bought up the entire local supply, that is, except from the store in Reston, VA.

It just so happens that my friend Big Pete lives in Reston, VA. Big Pete has the DirecTV SportsPack programming. Big Pete also has a brand-spanking new 60-inch High Definition TV.

Big Pete is my friend.

I emailed Big Pete. CSTV? Check. Me at your place 4:00pm Saturday with beer offering? Check. Like I said, Steps 1 & 2...very easy.

On to Step 3. There were some tenuous moments early that next week, as I made almost daily calls to the nearly dozen area Ann Taylor Loft stores to verify any possible incoming shipments for the grey sweater, returns/exchanges and the like. By Tuesday evening, my wife had fully consumed the bait. After dinner, again with much chagrin, she asked if, by chance, my errands and travels during the week might take me out to the Reston area.

I responded in a manner as guilt-inducing as possible, “Well, not really…though I guess I could swing out there Saturday afternoon...maybe I'll stop by Big Pete’s place while I’m in the area.” This was a calculated risk, as I wagered that the last thing my wife wanted to do after a full work-week was to spend two hours driving to and from Reston. I calculated correctly. Likewise, my wife knew I probably didn’t want to make such a drive on the weekend, and opted to not disclose the full details of her inquisition at that point in time.

As expected, the next day I got an email from her detailing the injustice of her having purchased a damaged Ann Taylor Loft grey Petites XSP sweater, and the further inhumanity that none of the multitudinous locations had any in stock. Except the Reston store, that is. Then in a continued shower of gratitude, she begged me to “please, please, please!” make this special trip for her.

I “hesitantly” agreed to fulfill her request, again with attempts to incite as much guilt on her part as possible. Later in the week she made several feeble forays to release me from my task, revealing new information that the exchange might not be as straightforward as one would expect, since there were to be some price adjustments, sale percentage considerations and other flim-flam. Yet again I submitted to agreeing to perform the onerous task, sprinkling in such phrases as “due to my undying love and devotion” and “for better or for worse.” The kudos in my account were quickly accumulating.! Saturday afternoon, I collected the now-infamous Ann Taylor Loft grey Petites XSP sweater, a stack of receipts, and performed one final walkthrough of my instructions. I walked out amidst yet another shower of kisses and thank-yous. By the time I reached the Beltway, I was as giddy as a high school senior with a six-pack on prom night. Giddy, that was, until I realized that the beer offering I’d planned for my visit to Big Pete’s was still back in our refrigerator. This was only a small hiccup in the soon-to-be successful completion of my masterful plan.

Mmmmm...HDTVThe exchange at the Ann Taylor Loft was quick and painless, and I had enough time buffered in to make a stop at the grocery store for some beer. I managed to arrive at Big Pete’s with a few minutes to spare before the 4pm kickoff. Later that evening I called Val to check in, and let her know that the new grey sweater had successfully been procured. Not being one to stop a good thing from getting even better, I told her that the exchange was a nightmare, and that I had to return to the store at halftime to speak with the store manager and finish the exchange, thereby missing a good portion of the football game’s second half (I lied.) And despite not arriving home until close to 1am, the following day the kudos parade continued.

There’s an old saying that ‘Honesty is the best policy’. Personally, I prefer, ‘Never let marriage stand in the way of a good football game…or a good story.’

God, Country, Notre Dame.