Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fame Beckons -- Hall, that is

So begins what is no doubt one of the greatest weeks in Adrian Dantley's life. This Friday, the former Irish hardwood star will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, along with other luminaries like Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Pat Riley, and the irrepressible Dick Vitale.

I will be in Springfield on Friday for all the festivities, and will be live-blogging all day to the extent I'm able:

10am -- Press conference for the inductees
Noon -- Pep Rally, Downtown Springfield
7:30pm -- Enshrinement Ceremony

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hoops Gameday Visiting South Bend

EsPN just announced that the basketball version of GameDay will be making its inaugural visit to South Bend on January 24th for the game between the Fighting Irish and the Huskies of UConn, which will tip at 7pm on EsPN.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Classroom Contest

There's nothing more useless than a lock with a voiceprint, with the possible exception of sport website online "contests". "Whose quarterback is better?" "Who has better tailgating?" And, of course, the piece de resistance of the genre recently undertaken by the Kiddie Paper, "Whose female fans are hotter?" Yeesh.

Usually the domain of EsPN and its ilk, sites frequently use these ridiculous constructs to pit manic fans against one another, usually for the sole purpose of gathering eyeballs and/or attention. But this attempt, brought to my attention by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Mike Rothstein, has an associated good cause, so I'm eschewing my usual disdain of the things and encouraging you to participate.

SI's Stewart Mandel is a pretty solid writer who at least tries to stay out of the hyperbolic hair-pulling so prevalent in op-ed these days. In his latest weekly mailbag, he challenges college sports fans to put their money where their fandom is and donate money to classroom-related charitable causes through

The user selects his "team" (in our case, FBS independents), and then donates money to an associated effort. The group whose constituents contribute the most will "win", although one would argue the kids in those classrooms win no matter what.

As I said, these kinds of contests are usually worthless. But this is a chance to put some dollars somewhere they can do some good. So dip into your tailgating fund a little bit. You'll be glad you did.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Think System

I've probably devoted more bandwidth to l'affaire Beer Olympics than it deserves. But in the clamor to evaluate the situation (and hope beyond hope it's the proverbial straw on the camel's back for this kind of non-news news), I have yet to see a good critique of the true mistake-maker in the whole thing: The Olympic-class nimrod who not only took the picture but posted it on a public networking site.

I don't know where the picture originated, but for a site like The Big Lead to get their hands on it, they either took it (very doubtful) or were sent it by someone who saw it somewhere (very likely). This means some nitwit took a picture of football players at a party and, for whatever reason, decided to share them.

Now, obviously I have some experience running a website*, so I have a reasonably good idea what led to the posting. Someone had football players at his party and wanted to show his friends at home he was hanging out with them. One of the players' friends wanted to make sure everyone saw the goofy "uniforms" they were wearing. I'd like to think it wasn't because someone wanted to get them into trouble. But any or all could have been the cause.

Unfortunately, as so many in their situation do, the poster didn't think it through and realize what posting something on the Internet does.

So often, people on message boards or social websites or the Internet in general get caught up in the individual conversations or exchanges that take place through the electronic medium and forget the wider audience involved. If you're sending an email to your buddy, Joe, it never occurs to you other people might see it if Joe decides to forward it. If you're participating in a message board thread, you're focused on your discussion with a couple of other posters, not realizing thousands of other people who aren't posting are reading it (and maybe copying it into emails and sending it to even more people). When you put something on MySpace or FaceBook (or even LinkedIn), it goes beyond your 10 friends on the cheerleading squad, and may end up with teachers or parents before it's done.

It happens over and over (as detailed by The Fire). This isn't even the first Notre Dame-related example ... I recall an email written by a recruit's dad that ended up forwarded to thousands of people. In the email, he shared some details about his son's visit to ND, including some exchanges with coaches that were meant to be private. Both the dad and the kid ended up very embarrassed over the entire thing. But again, it wasn't thought through.

I suppose what bothers me the most about it is the response in these situations is never, "Gee, maybe I should think before I post something online", but rather, "Stop harshing our buzz, man, I can post what I want." You should never blame other people because you don't think. Remember the Miranda warning: Anything you say can and will be used against you. Would you walk into your parents' bedrooms and tell them, "Wow, you wouldn't believe how many beers I had last night" as a senior in high school? Would you tell your wife about the hot girl you were flirting with at a bar when you were away on a business trip? Only if you're an idiot. But if you post it online, you're as good as doing that. Idiot.

As I've said many times about NDNation, when you open something up to the public, the public tends to show up and you shouldn't blame them when they do. Unless the medium you're participating in is somehow restricted, like a premium content website, what's said to one is being said to all. To expect people not to read your publicly-available profile or site or post because you have a right to privacy is at best self-contradictory and at worst really really stupid.

So next time you're going to hit the "post message" or "upload photo" buttons, think for a minute: Who is the absolute last person I'd want to see this picture, and what are the chances he or she has Internet access? Then think a little more.

* private joke, relax

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Gladiator Games

Normally, SEE and I are pretty close on our viewpoints, which is what enables us to work together so smoothly.

This time, however, I'm going to depart from his conventional wisdom a bit. Devil's Advocate? Perhaps, but I don't think the situation is as black-and-white as he does.

Before I get started, in the interest of full disclosure, I have some connection to the Chicago Trib. Aside from it being my home-town paper and my having a subscription to it daily, my cousin (and writing mentor) not only works there but is Brian Hamilton's boss. For the record, this article is written from the random thoughts emitting from my own overworked noggin and not as a result of contact with or suggestion from him (although I'm guessing I may hear about it later).

And before you ask, yes, members of my family routinely ride him for hiring David Haugh. It's an agree-to-disagree kind of thing. Moving on.

I agree with SEE that this whole thing is not news. A college student possibly drinking a beer, possibly before reaching the age of 21? If we reserved inches in the print media every time that happened, everyone would wake in the morning with a phone book on their front porch. I drank when I was in college, and so did 99 percent of the people I knew then and know now. I don't know if Clausen, Aldridge, et al, were imbibing (although a reasonable-person test indicates they probably were), but frankly, my dears, I don't give a damn whether he was or not.

Now, if he'd gotten into a car after drinking, that would be news. If he'd gotten hurt after drinking, again, news. If he'd hurt someone else after drinking, definitely news. Any of the three would be news I want to hear, because I don't like things like that happening anywhere, let alone at my alma mater. I also realize any or all of those three things could happen when someone decides to drink alcohol. But in this case, just as my my sister's lack of testicles means she's not my brother, it ain't news because none of that happened.

I'll take it a step further and say I don't think the majority of ND fans believe it's news either, nor do they (or any other rational person) believe it would reflect poorly on either Notre Dame as a whole or Jimmy Clausen and his teammates in particular if the school were to shrug its shoulders and respond, "So?" If there is any source of angst associated with this, it's that rational reactions for things like this have been in short supply in South Bend lately, and the fear is that Notre Dame will overreact because, history being our guide, that's what they do. The coming days will tell us whether or not the worry is worthwhile.

But even though I don't believe it's news, I understand why Brian Hamilton wrote the story. Dan Wiederer covered the concept nicely, but I'll build on it: In a society as influenced by reality television and its ilk as ours is, the definition of what people consider news has shifted and some media outlets are merely trying to keep up.

Sites like Deadspin, The Big Lead, WWTDD, et al, exist because we've become a society of voyeurs. It's gladiator games in the Coliseum all over again, except now you don't have to get off your ass to watch unless your TV remote isn't working. People seek out this minutiae, so providers move to fill the niche and satiate the need.

While I don't consider the Clausen thing news, unfortunately, there's a subset of mammals out there in Billy Joel's No-Man's Land who do. And they're going to go to the place that gives it to them first. If Hamilton didn't write the article, someone else would have, and that person would have his name repeated "as reported by" a couple hundred times.

Is it right? I don't believe so. But it's what is, so either the reality or the perception must change. I'd deal with the latter while working on the former, but we're not there yet. I can't wait until we are.

Edit, since I didn't do a good job of summarizing my point: Some people are acting like this is all Brian Hamilton's fault and if he wouldn't have written the story, it'd all be fine. That's not the case. BH bears some of the blame for writing a non-story, but an equal part of the problem is the public jones for stories like this. BH could leave the Tribune tomorrow, and we'd still see these kinds of stories. The only way to truly combat them is to not read them and let people know they're not necessary.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

My Fifth Best Day

The day I was married.

The days my children were born.

The day I stood in my grandparents' living room and showed my grandfather my acceptance letter to Notre Dame.

Those are my four best days, and I can't envision anything ever topping them.

But the Three Amigos Dinner last night would, as Ezekiel once said to King Nebuchadnezzar, definitely make the team picture. It's not often I can say that within the space of two hours, I shook hands and had conversations with Ara Parseghian, Lou Holtz, Charlie Weis, Joe Montana, John Paxson, Dave Casper, Chris Zorich, "Flash" Gordon, Jim Hendry (yes, the consummate Sox fan talked Wrigley madness for a good three to four minutes), Pete Schivarelli, Stan Mikita, and the like. Actually, it's not ever I've been able to say that, so....

It's an experience I'll treasure for a long time, not only because of who was there but what was done and why. It was a Notre Dame evening, and yet it was not. Notre Dame was the common bond but not the common theme. It was mentioned, but not talked about. There were more important things on the docket, and while the class rings may have provided the first contact, they certainly didn't define the day.

The C4C letter talked about the Three Pillars on which Notre Dame was built. Last night was a celebration of the two that don't involve football, Catholicism and Education, as men and women educated in the Catholic tradition of ND gave of their time and money to support three great causes: The Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation, searching for a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C Disease; Hannah and Friends, aiding developmentally disabled children and adults; and the Lou Holtz Foundation, which helps the economically disadvantaged areas in the Ohio River valley among the many charities it supports.

It wasn't a Rockne Dinner by any stretch of the imagination (although I did find myself hoping that some members of the ND Club of Chicago were there to watch the effortless manner in which Jeff Jeffers emceed ... there's your logical host, boys and girls). Other than Charlie mentioning that the players would be reporting in early August and how "September 6th can't come soon enough", you didn't hear a peep about the program.

But I found it much more gratifying listening to Cindy Parseghian, a woman who had suffered the loss of not one but three children, talking with pride about the progress that had been made in the fight than I would have to listen to analysis about how our linebackers are doing. Ara told a story or two from his coaching days, but his exhortations that "we started in our own end zone [against this disease], but we've pushed it to the opponent's 35 yard line, and we're going to score!" got a much stronger reaction. Lou likes to bring a smile to his listeners' faces, but the poignancy of the video showing the poverty of East Liverpool and hearing of the satisfaction Lou felt that the foundation was making a difference there made the smiles even bigger. The video of Hannah Weis in school and the pictures of the buildings going up on the Farm did a lot more for me than a highlight film would have.

We talk about the Notre Dame Family a lot -- the bond that connects people, subway and alumnus alike, and leads them to go above and beyond in taking care of each other. Well, last night was a family reunion. It wasn't football, sports, or even Notre Dame per se ... it was a manifestation in action of the ideals and principles we'd learned there. Love thy neighbor as thyself, especially those more in need of love than most, and don't be afraid to get a little of it on ya.

I'm bummed they're not planning any more of these dinners -- last night was the third of three. But maybe someday they'll dust the idea off and give it another go, or something like it. If they do, I'll be there.

Plus, I won a print of the photo that inspired the original "Irish Impact" poster. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

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Dayton/Cincinnati Charlie Party

Our own Charlie Weis will be appearing in Dayton, OH, over this coming weekend.

The Wernle Foundation, run by Irish great Darrell "Flash" Gordon, gives aid and support to emotionally troubled kids and their families. This Sunday, August 3rd, they will be having a benefit dinner and auction honoring Charlie as a "Catalyst for Change", thanks to his work with Hannah and Friends.

Late notice though it may be, Ohioans, check your calendars. If your time permits, it's a wonderful opportunity to hear Charlie speak and benefit a good cause. If your time does not permit but your wallet does, it remains a wonderful cause.

Click here for more information