Monday, November 05, 2007

There's no accounting for the Irish.

THE SECOND SHOE DROPS.There was only one notable football game over the weekend. Forget the incredibly over-hyped nonsense between the Patriots and the Colts. If you really are one of the morons contemplating the notion that the Boston Patriots are the greatest team ever, ask yourself what the Pittsburgh Steelers of Chuck Noll would have done to pretty boy Brady in the days before salary caps and lefty sports announcers who mistake stupid gestures for virtue.

Heart of Darkness: The new candy-ass NFL. Lights out to save the world.

When you come up with the answer, keep it to yourself. For all our sakes.

In their heart of hearts, Mean Joe Green and Terry Bradshaw are smiling quietly to themselves. So are we. (Uh, forget the "perfect" Dolphins, who would also have beaten the 2007 Patriots despite a regular season schedule that was almost -- but not quite -- as easy as the 6-game free ride Boston gets just for being in the same division with the Jets (1-8), Bills (4-4), and Dolphins (0-8).)

Speaking of green (Were we? Sorry), the one notable game was Navy's defeat of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after 43 consecutive years of losses We've written before about the extraordinary nature of this rivalry, but this year we're, well, overwhelmed. In a good way.

Navy can't recruit like a Division I-A team, which is why they're not a Division I-A team. They shouldn't be playing Notre Dame at all, and wouldn't be without the special relationship that exists between the two institutions. But given that Navy insists on playing teams it shouldn't, the Navy coach has adopted a beautiful strategy: run a quasi-wishbone run-run-run offense designed to exhaust the super athletes who aren't used to having to stop the run 50 or 60 times in a row. Never punt, (almost) never pass, and never quit. In this way, Coach Johnson uses the only advantage he has -- character -- to perfection. Most of the time, sheer talent overcomes character, but the opposition always knows they had to earn their victory against a smaller, slower but unbelievably relentless team.†

This year, though, Coach Weisz of Notre Dame had less talent than usual. Still more than Navy could ever put on the field, but he responded in a highly unusual way. He decided that he would play Navy's game and make it a contest of character for the Midshipmen as well as the Fighting Irish. He also made his team run and run and run, and he rmostly refused to punt, and even with the game on the line, he passed up the opportunity to win with an easy field goal:

The Irish drove to the 24, but on fourth-and-8 Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis decided to go for it rather than attempt a field goal. Chris Kuhar-Pitters, who earlier returned a fumble 16 yards for a touchdown, sacked Evan Sharpley with 45 seconds left.

Navy coach Paul Johnson immediately tried to return the favor, calling a bizarre succession of plays guaranteed to give Notre Dame one last chance at a 44th straight victory, but the gods of the Celts intervened, sending the game to overtime. In the end, Navy scored a two point conversion twice in a row, thus satisfying the Celtic gods and securing an historic victory for Annapolis. I have to admit it's the first time I've ever liked Notre Dame and the first example of true gentlemanly conduct I've seen in college football since Number One ranked Cornell conceded they'd beaten Dartmouth on a fifth down and forfeited a national title to preserve their honor.

Yes, as the title of the post proclaims, there's no accounting for the Irish. They have a knack for being surprising. Consider the case of a world-famous rock star who actually departs from the easy leftism that cradles his super-pampered kind and dares to speak the truth instead of the usual bullshit:

There is an imminent threat. It manifested itself on 9/11. Itís real and grave. It is as serious a threat as Stalinism and National Socialism were. Letís not pretend it isnít.

Hats off to Irish superstar Bono.

In honor of this odd, lovely race, we'll conclude with two non-topical references that nevertheless reinforce the central point. One is a book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, which you can still procure for less than a sufficient quantity of Guinness. The other is a puzzlingly awful recitation of The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by its author, William Butler Yeats.

All in all, you'll find you just can't ever figure them out. They'll be exactly who they are all the way to the end of the world. That's what it means to be Irish. Among other things.

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