Saturday, January 15, 2005

Hord joins the Irish | by Pat

Notre Dame picked up its 12th* verbal commitment when Kansas City Rockhurst wide receiver DJ Hord picked a Notre Dame hat out of a duffel bag on NBC during the halftime of the US Army High-School All-American game. And while I wanted to write something positive about the talented Hord and the recruiting class that Charlie Weis is building, I have to talk about the sheer comedy value of the Game that Lemming BuiltTM. That is, after I shower to get rid of the creepy feeling I got from watching the broadcast.

Yeah, I admit to watching it. I thought it would be fun to put faces to the names and exaggerated 40 times seen on all of the recruiting websites. But instead I feel like one of the tools featured on the commercial. (For the record, Rivals, I don't need to know where a recruit is going before his momma does).

It seems that when NBC planned this game, they decided to flush any shame they had left after green-lighting The Biggest Loser. The overblown drama and utter seriousness of what really is just a glorified high school football game was at the same time both hilarious and embarrassing. I'll leave the irony and social implications of praising the "heart" and "dedication" of 18-year-old football players in front of a crowd of 18-year-old Army soldiers awaiting deployment to Iraq to someone else, and just point out some of my favorite highlights from the broadcast.

DeSean Jackson's hot dog 4.5-yard dive into the endzone from the 5-yard line (he broke free and was about to score when he decided to somersault into the endzone, came up a foot short, hit the ground and fumbled the ball) was undoubtedly the funniest/best moment from an otherwise sloppy, mistake-filled game won by the West 35-3. But you would never guess how ugly the game was by listening to the praise raining down from the announcers booth. I lost track of how many different players "stood out from the rest" and once the Boss Hog himself, Tom Lemming, began offering up his professionally amateur opinion, the word hyperbole surrendered. I'm pretty sure that half of the NFL Pro Bowl team was used in comparisons to kids still waiting to get lucky on their senior prom. (Okay, so I typed hoping, realized they are already playing football on national TV, and changed it to waiting.)

The only thing that could have topped the high-school-senior-to-Strahan comparisons arrived in the form of Jamie Newberg and his up-to-the-second Recruiting Top 10. Considering he was told all of the choices of the kids before the game (do you think they just happen to have the correct college fight song cued up over the PA?) his "predictions" early in the show weren't exactly a result of his keen insight. Seriously though, did we really need to know that Iowa jumped from outside the top 10 before the game, to 7 or 8 sometime in the 2nd quarter, before settling in at 4 at the end of the game? Why don't we just update the college basketball Top 25 on a bucket-by-bucket basis? Sadly, it's extraneous fluff like this that highlights the ugly business-and-bottom-line-aspect of recruiting, in what should be an otherwise fun day for these guys to just play a football game. If you need to fill the broadcast, how about a story about one of the kids' personal lives outside of football? You know, to humanize them a bit? They're not all just season stats and combine results. Come on NBC, I've watched the Olympics. That sort of stuff is your bag, baby.

Still, after yet another painfully tacky halftime performance and extended Arena League promo, I watched as Don Juan Hord chose Notre Dame -- proudly, and in coherent, complete sentences -- unlike some of the other guys on the show (we'll chalk it up to nerves, Ryan Bain). He joins previous All-American Bowl alumni like Carlos Campbell, Zach Giles, Chris Frome, Nate Schiccatano, Anthony Fasano, Brian Mattes, Jake Carney, Marcus Freeman, Scott Raridon, Bob Morton, James Bonelli, Maurice Stovall, Rhema McKnight, Travis Leitko, Brady Quinn, Travis Thomas, John Carlson, John Sullivan, Victor Abiamiri, Tom Zbikowski, Ambrose Wooden, Ryan Harris, John Kadous, Terrail Lambert, and Anthony Vernaglia.

Let's just hope that the All-American Bowl isn't the last bowl game that DJ Hord wins. Now if you excuse me, the All-American Bowl high school juniors -- yes, juniors -- combine results should be posted on the web soon.

* David Nelson's level of commitment to Notre Dame seems to be changing by the minute. Where's Jamie Newberg when you really need him.