Dec 30, 2011

Quarterback Musings

Let me take you back in time to a familiar yet alternate universe. It’s the Spring of 2011, and the Notre Dame football squad is fully immersed in spring practices. Coming off a solid end of the year and bowl win over traditional power Miami, optimism is abound. Maybe, just maybe, Notre Dame is finally on the cusp of becoming a national power again….

Over on the sidelines, Brian Kelly contemplates the future of his program. The most important decision, the one the press is hounding him about, is who will go into next season as his quarterback. The sun’s in his eyes and he has to squint a little to survey the field and his options. Currently running with the first team is a guy who just looks like a professional quarterback. 6’4”, strong arm, commanding presence, and well liked, Dayne Crist takes the snap, scans the field, and then wings an out route in the direction of T.J. Jones. The ball looks majestic. Tight spiral, great zip, and then…..over Jones’ head by two feet. Kelly lets out a sigh. He thinks to himself “if I’d had this kid from day one, he might have been great. Injuries have derailed him, and now he can’t quite seem to get into the flow of things. I wish he hadn’t taken 5 seconds to find Jones on that out route. It was a simple look.”

Off to the side, tossing the ball around with a few of the guys and watching the first team for a few minutes is rising sophomore Tommy Rees. He doesn’t look like a college quarterback. He looks like Elijah Wood's taller and moderately more athletic brother. His ball has no natural zip to it. In order to get anything on it, Rees seems to coil his entire body and then unleash a knuckler that frequently misses the intended target. During running drills it’s pretty apparent that Rees couldn’t outrun the student manager who’s standing on the sideline. For a second time, Kelly lets out a sigh and thinks “he can’t run, he’s barely passable with his arm, but the kid gets it. He understands what I’m trying to do. Makes quick reads…though not always correct, and gets rid of the ball. I don’t love him, but at least he understands what I’m trying to do. And, he’s still young and developing.”

It’s already become clear that the battle for the quarterback position will be between these two. Crist, the senior leader versus Rees, the guy who “finds a way to win.” Kelly’s not enamored with either, but expectations are high. After a slow start, they’d found a way to finish 8-5. They have enough playmakers to wreak havoc even without stellar quarterback play, and the defense is coming along fast. If Michael Floyd straightens himself out, they could be great. Kelly looks down at a sheet of paper on his clipboard which lists the 2011 schedule: Most of these games should be wins. “We could go 11-1, 10-2 without much problem. Hell, Stanford’s the only team on here that scares me, and who knows what they’ll be like without Harbaugh around…”

Kelly blows a whistle, barks out a few instructions, and then the second team offense comes onto the field. Under center is Kelly’s third string quarterback. He’s watched this kid from a distance for several years now and knows what he’s capable of. When Crist went down during the middle of last season, Kelly refused to throw him to the wolves. This was just the first season of a major overhaul and he was not going to waste a year of eligibility. Besides, he’s really not ready. Still unsure of the correct reads and so physically gifted that he has not yet adjusted to football at a level where where he can’t just impose his will, Andrew Hendrix still displays flashes of truly elite talent. Perfectly suited to Kelly’s system.

Hendrix’s unease is not all his doing. Kelly knows this. But committing to Hendrix would alienate a senior who’s put in his time to be a starter. Even worse, he’s also got Rees to think about. Rees isn’t the answer, but he’s light years ahead of Hendrix in terms of understanding the offense, and he won a bowl game. Hendrix needs snaps with the first team to get better. He needs to get used to the speed of the game, the tempo Kelly wants, and the first team needs to get used to running Kelly’s spread offense with a true running threat at quarterback. Sadly, there are not snaps to be had…at least not yet.

From press conferences, speaking engagements, fundraisers, and alumni events, ND nation has made it very clear…they want to win NOW. “The Nation” has been appeased by the bowl win, and everyone keeps pointing to how manageable the 2011 schedule is. Taking a step back right now is not an option. “Just don’t make mistakes guys. We’ll need to be more conservative on offense than I’d like to be and certainly more limited than we should be, but with that schedule, if we just avoid mistakes, we can get to 10 wins.” Just at that moment, Kelly watches a play unfold on the field: Hendrix takes the snap out of the shotgun, fakes a hand off to Cierre Wood, and then uses his speed to move out of the pocket and on the run wings a 30 yard bullet through the air to Tyler Eiffert running down the middle of the field. “That’s the future, just not the present, not yet.”

For a fleeting moment, Kelly has one more thought run through his head: “What if I just said screw it? Crist’s not my guy, he’s not made for this system, and I don’t have long enough to retrain him anyways. Rees should be a third or fourth stringer at best. What if I just came out and told everyone we’re going with Hendrix? The Nation would have some questions about that no doubt. Hell, I’d need to be real candid. I’d have to tell everyone that Hendrix is young, that he doesn’t yet understand the system, and is only just now getting first team reps. I’d have to set expectations low for 2011. Tell them 6-6 or 7-5 would be optimistic because Hendrix is not going to be mistake free. But I’d then get 3 years after to let Hendrix command this team. He’ll get it by then, he just needs the reps.” Kelly comes out of his daze, looks up and watches Hendrix throw a ball directly to Manti Te’o. “I can’t do it. I just can’t answer those types of questions all year. What if he makes that bad a mistake in the South Florida game? ‘The Nation’ would never understand. They’d never let me live it down.

- Moons

Jan 13, 2011

In the Company of Heroes

Now I know that in our first couple posts here at John Lynch’s Dad, Jim and I said that we wanted to create an environment where we would discuss topics in a good-hearted, light-natured manner.  This post might not qualify as that, but it is something that I think needs to be written.

I read this week that on January 2, 2011 Major Dick Winters, a veteran of World War II, passed away.  Most people know of Winters from Damian Lewis’ portrayal of him in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. The show, based on a book by Stephen E. Ambrose with the same title, documented one paratroop company’s campaign of duty in the European Theater of World War II. 

I mention this for two reasons. 

First, many of my roommates/good friends were Band of Brothers aficionados during the time we spent together in college.  A lot of times, we’d watch an episode or four all while discussing the respect that we had for these men who, during the war, were the same age as us.  To many people in my generation, I think it takes a show like Band of Brothers to open our eyes to what the young men and women sacrificed for our country when they were our age.  For us, being 20 meant going to class, cheering for the Irish and trying to meet girls.  For men like Dick Winters and his band of brothers, it meant doing everything in their power to stop what was becoming one of the most devastatingly horrific power-conquests in modern times.

Secondly, I wanted to mention this because last April, I had the privilege of being a guardian on the Honor Flight of the Quad Cities.  The Honor Flight Network was created as a way to honor World War II veterans throughout the country by flying them to Washington, D.C. to see many of the city’s memorials.

I don’t recall the exact numbers for the flight I accompanied, but there were roughly 80 or 90 World War II veterans on the flight with about 60 guardians (helpers) and some other attendees (news crews, reporters, etc.).  I was guardian to my grandfather, Edward Haydon (Army, European Theater) and LeeRoy Copple (Navy, Pacific Theater). 

We arrived to the Quad Cities International Airport before the sun rose on April 23.  My grandpa somehow got his foldable walking cane through the TSA checkpoint.  Apparently, they didn’t figure a man using a wheelchair could pose much of a threat! We arrived in DC mid-morning fortunate to have a beautiful, sunny spring day to spend in our nation’s capitol. 

Group Photo @ World War II Memorial.
Upon arrival, we all loaded into busses and headed to the World War II memorial, where a group photo was taken of all the veterans.  We were given free time to roam around the memorial, take photos and see the sights.  The World War II memorial is on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  Prior to this visit, I had never seen the National Mall during the day.  Its expanse is much greater in person than it appeared from pictures or film/tv.  One thing that happened here really took me by surprise.  Complete strangers were approaching the veterans and thanking them for their service, with some even shaking hands or saluting.  Some school-aged kids even wanted to take pictures with the vets.  This was the beginning of a trend we would experience throughout the day.

Following the World War II Memorial, we hopped across the river to see the United States Air Force Memorial, which is adjacent to the Arlington National Cemetery.  The USAF Memorial is a very cool design, with 3 spires shooting upward like the smoke trailing fighter jets during a demonstration. 

Group @ Iwo Jima Memorial
We didn’t spend as much time at the USAF Memorial as the World War II memorial, and our next stop was the Iwo Jima Memorial.  I was excited to see this, as the much-anticipated miniseries The Pacific debuted about a month prior to our visit to DC, and the show was about halfway through its allotted episodes.  Before this series aired (which ended up being a very good series, portraying World War II in a different light than Band of Brothers), I really didn’t know a lot about the war in the pacific.  Most of the reading I had done and shows or movies I had seen focused on the European Front. 

On a lighter note, while at the Iwo Jima Memorial, another veteran on our flight (and a relation on my mom’s side), Albert Dussliere, was chatting with a few people at the memorial who were not with our group.  He called me over, and introduced me to some moderately-distant relatives on my mom’s side of the family.  They were visiting DC for vacation.  I guess we really do live in a small world sometimes.  

After we visited the Iwo Jima Memorial, we headed to Arlington Cemetery.  We briefly stopped by the Women in Service Memorial, and then unloaded the busses near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Our stop was timed so we could watch the changing of the tomb guards. The precision in timing that the tomb guards display is quite impressive.

The last place we stopped before returning home was the Lincoln Memorial, so the vets could have a chance to experience the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool.  As time ran short, we weren’t able to view the Vietnam Memorial, but we did get to soak in the rest of the area.  The reflecting pool extends from the Lincoln Memorial all the way back down to the World War II Memorial, where we started our day.  As time came to load back into the busses, everyone (myself included) was starting to feel the effects of walking around all day in the sun, and we were ready to head home.  Little did we know that the best part of our day was yet to come.

Back in the Quad Cities, other veteran groups and friends and family of the vets on the Honor Flight lined the airport terminal.  As the veterans and their guardians poured into the terminal, they were welcomed with a rousing “Welcome Home!” I can safely report that by the time the last veteran reached the terminal, there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.  There must have been a lot of pollen in the air that time of the year.

Ed Haydon and LeeRoy Copple
In Major Dick Winters’ case, he and the men he led (probably unwittingly) became famous for the courageousness they displayed in their actions during World War II.   For others, like Ed Haydon and LeeRoy Copple, life after World War II was pretty anonymous.  But for one day at least, these veterans were fittingly treated like heroes.

Stephen Ambrose wrote of Dick Winters, “And he made a promise to himself: if he lived through the war, he was going to find an isolated farm somewhere and spend the remainder of his life in peace and quiet.”  I know that Major Winters will spend the rest of eternity in the peace and quiet he so rightly earned.  As for the rest of men and women who were a part of World War II, I can only hope they live out their days knowing that what they sacrificed and endured was truly heroic. 

(editor's note): I cannot emphasize how enjoyable and rewarding the Honor Flight experience was.  If anyone has any interest in doing something like this, you can get information about the Honor Flight here.  I highly recommend doing this.  I hope to be able to go again in the future.

Jan 6, 2011

A Tale of Three Legends: An NFL Star, an Ox, and the Father Who Brought Them Together

So, something compelled you to stop by Brent and I’s little cove of the interweb, eh? Well, in all likelihood, that was a serious mistake, but you’re here….Now what’s with the name? Is this a football blog? Are we just serious fans of the man who played a contributing role in the birth of John Lynch? I’ll go ahead and end the suspense right now by simply saying “no.” To understand this blog’s name and purpose, I’m using the word “purpose” quite liberally, I need to tell you the story of the three individuals responsible for this blog’s name.

The first, and undoubtedly least important, member of the trio is former NFL player John Lynch. According to Wikipedia, Lynch played 14 seasons in the NFL. During his career, he reached the Pro Bowl on 9 separate occasions. He won a Super Bowl in 2002 while playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and also has the prestigious title of being ranked #10 on the NFL Network’s countdown of the “Top 10 Most Feared Tacklers in NFL History.” I think it’s pretty obvious that were we to ask John Lynch which of his accomplishments he’s most proud of, he would not hesitate to say it was the distinction handed down by the NFL Network. If you’d like to read more about his career, you may do so here:

Like many humans, John Lynch has both a mother and father. We know this because he was born, and there is no apparent reference to him in the Bible as being the result of a second Immaculate Conception. While I’m sure his mother is a lovely person, she is unfortunately a silent partner in our story today. Instead, we focus on his father.

Having done extensive research, it appears that the word “dad” likely derives its origin from the sounds babies make such as “Da-da” or “Ta-ta.” Parent figures, and frequently fathers, somewhere along the way decided that when their spawn makes these sounds during the same period that the spawn soils itself and constantly drools that he/she/it is directly referring to his/her/its father. Hence, “dad” became a synonym for “father.” I can’t argue with this line of thinking.

When we combine these two proven facts: (1) John Lynch has a father, and (2) “dad” is a synonym for “father,” we can deduce that John Lynch has a dad. I think we all know why I aced philosophy in college now. Before we get to a John Lynch’s dad though, I first need to talk about a college friend of mine affectionately known as “The Ox.”

When I arrived on the campus of Notre Dame in 2001 as a freshman, it did not take long for me to hear the tales of The Ox. I did not know him yet, but the stories of him shot-gunning an entire keg of beer and then eating the keg were already the thing of legend. I can’t remember the first time I laid eyes on The Ox, but what I can tell you is that when I saw him, I knew the stories of his keg shot-gunning abilities were true.

Like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Justin Bieber, the full origin of The Ox is unknown. The one detail I know to be true is that The Ox came from San Diego, CA, and I’ll explain why that is important shortly. During Brent and I’s junior years, we became good friends with The Ox. I never saw him shot-gun a keg of beer, but there are two other things that helped solidify the legend of The Ox in my mind. The first was The Ox’s uncanny use of the “negative agreement.”

I think most everyone knows that person who is a one-upper or who loves to disagree with everything you say. You know how it goes. If you say Notre Dame is having a good season, this friend tells you why they’re actually having a horrible year. If you talk about this awesome steak recipe you cooked last weekend, this friend tells you about his even more incredible streak recipe that he did last weekend. However, it takes a special person to consistently agree with you by disagreeing. That’s what The Ox could do. The “negative agreement” is an art more than a method of speech. The Ox was a true master. A typical conversation between yourself and The Ox might go something like this.

You: Dude, that bartender last night was freakin’ hot.

Ox: No, that bartender last night was unbelievably hot!

You: Oh yeah man, I can’t believe she didn’t even charge us for our drinks.

Ox: No, she didn’t even bother to run our tabs on those drinks!

You: What a great night, let’s do it again tonight.

Ox: No, we’re definitely doing that again tonight.

You: Ummm…..the sky is blue.

Ox: No, the sky is unbelievably blue. Like, bluer than blue…

The Ox had found a way to successfully integrate the one-up technique with the disagree technique so that he was actually able to disagree with any statement you made, even if he was just agreeing. I’d never met a person who could disagree with every sentence that came out of my mouth before meeting The Ox, and I’ll probably never meet one again.

That leads me to the second thing The Ox became legendary for, and that was storytelling. Constantly the topic of conversation was San Diego. It’s a mythical place in a land far away…California. I believe he once told me that it had never rained there, and that people rode unicorns instead of driving cars. I believe him. He would come back from a vacation from school and entertain us with his stories, and this is where John Lynch’s dad makes his appearance.

If I recall correctly, John Lynch’s dad worked with The Ox’s father (a mythical beast in his own right). That may not be accurate, but their families definitely knew each other somehow. The Ox would provide stories of going to get a drink with “John Lynch’s dad” or getting to meet “John Lynch’s dad” for brunch on a perfect sunny morning in San Diego. Sometimes, the stories would be about how “John Lynch’s dad” had talked to The Ox about what John Lynch was doing in the NFL. I remember each story fondly.

What separates The Ox from the rest of us is that if most of us told these stories they would have been mundane, non-repeatable experiences from a trip home. The story would have been nothing more than “I got a drink with one of my dad’s friends from work.” However, this was San Diego! More importantly, this was John Lynch’s dad! Clearly, there was something special here. The Ox had a way of extracting maximum value from the ordinary.

I don’t know John Lynch’s dad. I’m sure he’s a great person, and he should be very proud of his son’s accomplishments. By contrast, I sure as hell know “John Lynch’s dad.” That man is legend. He turns everyday occurrences into newsworthy events. Whatever it is, “John Lynch’s dad” makes it better. During senior year at Notre Dame especially, any The Ox story was not complete without reference to “John Lynch’s dad.” My roommate that year made a point of asking The Ox whether “John Lynch’s dad” was there anytime The Ox told one of his stories. We all knew the story was not complete unless “John Lynch’s dad” was there.

And that leads us to the title of this blog. Really, the blog should be “John Lynch’s Dad” instead of just John Lynch’s Dad. “John Lynch’s Dad” embodies the making of legend out of everyday human experience. It’s changing the ordinary into the extraordinary. There is no limit to where Brent and I’s rambling may go in the months to come. There’s no topic off limit. Just be assured, we will find that “John Lynch’s Dad” moment in everything we write about.



Jan 5, 2011

It's like a blog, only it's not...

So my buddy Moons (aka Jim) and I have been kicking around the idea of a blog for a while.  Moons recently became adamant that we start the blog ASAP because he felt he needed a space to rant about things.  I think what he really meant was "My girlfriend is done listening to my bullshit," but only he can confirm that.  I suppose most sports and music will dominate the discussion here, but I don't think any topic will be off limits.  

As some background, both Moons and I graduated from Notre Dame in 2005.  Both of us also have JDs and practice law.  One of us is competent.  If the Domers are rolling, then all is good in the world; but if there is struggle in the land of the Irish, watch out.  Jim is from the DirtyDirty, and I live on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities. Moons wasn't much of an athlete after Little League Baseball, but I'm a hell of a golfer.  In fact, I have the course record at 14 courses on EA Sports Tiger Woods.  I will give Jim some credit, though, because he is a fantastic cook.  Brent's Future Prediction no. 1: Jim will make Alton Brown his bitch within the next 15 years.  Jim and I both learned how to play guitar around the same time, and during college we jammed a lot.  We got pretty good, and honestly, so many coeds loved our singing that the football players were jealous.  That's really saying something, considering that, besides us, nobody else on campus got any besides the football team and Chris Thomas.

Anyway, that is a short intro, but it should suffice.  Anyone who knows me knows that short is par for the course.  Hopefully we can not only bring some good discussion and/or insight to the table, but we can also bring you some laughs.

Play ball.