Discuss amongst yourselves

Week 13 picks

Last week: 13-3. Overall: 111-63. Fantasy: 6-5-1 (4th place)

W-St. Louis Rams over San Francisco 49ers

W-New England Patriots over Cleveland Browns

W-Pittsburgh Steelers over Jacksonville Jaguars

W-Indianapolis Colts over Tennessee Titans

L-Minnesota Vikings over Chicago Bears

W-Philadelphia Eagles over Green Bay Packers

W-Detroit Lions over Arizona Cardinals

W-San Diego Chargers over Denver Broncos

Seattle Seahawks over Dallas Cowboys

W-New York Jets over Houston Texans

W-Buffalo Bills over Miami Dolphins

W-Kansas City Chiefs over Oakland Raiders

W-Carolina Panthers over New Orleans Saints

L-Atlanta Falcons over Tampa Bay Buccaneers

L-Baltimore Ravens over Cincinnati Bengals

L-New York Giants over Washington Redskins

Not bad. Third place in the picks pool regardless of the Seattle result and a HUGE fantasy win moving the Fish into a strong third-place at 7-5-1 and a likely playoff spot. Only a loss combined with two upsets will knock me out; it’s possible, but not probable since I’m playing the White Buffalo’s crippled, out-of-roster-moves team.

Spiritual capital

Rod Dreher on the societal sickness that has followed spiritual abandonment in Holland:

Like dissolute descendants of old money, the Dutch have been living for two generations now on the moral and spiritual capital built from centuries of religious faith and practice, however imperfect. The accounts are nearly depleted. “The Dutch believe that if it’s possible, then you mustn’t forbid it, you must tolerate it,” says Focus on the Family’s Hondsmerk. “We’ve had that for a generation now. That works as long as people have a natural self-control, but that is fast fading.”

“What we are witnessing now is the very first generation who grew up without a religious background,” says Kinneging. “What has happened until now is that most people without a religious background have become consumerists, materialists, and hedonists. They are still law-abiding citizens. We’ll have to see what the next generation will become.”

As the difference between Woodstock I and Woodstock II suggests, probably nothing good.

Most negative columnists

From Lying in Ponds:

1 Robert Scheer

2 Molly Ivins

3 Paul Krugman

4 Maureen Dowd

5 Ann Coulter

6 Thomas Sowell

7 Joe Conason

8 NYT Lead Editorial

9 Richard Cohen

10 Michael Kinsley

I count two conservatives and eight liberals there. Clearly, it’s those conservatives who are the mean, nasty ones….

Never assume

When I saw the headline: Undesirable Irish: Why Notre Dame has become the worst job in college football, and saw that it was written by a black man, SI managing editor Roy S. Johnson, I was sure that this would be yet another emotional, fact-free assertion of why Notre Dame is to be condemned for racism because they dumped a coach, Ty Willingham, who is not performing at the required level. I was wrong.

Notre Dame will never again be a regular contender for the national title. And let’s stop blaming the school’s high academic requirements. Sure, the school’s admission standards are a barrier for many of the nation’s top athletes, but a surly admissions officer isn’t even one of the top three reasons the job is the worst in college football.

The primary culprit is the Irish’s schedule. In the BCS era, an undefeated record does not guarantee an invitation to the title game (See: Auburn, Utah and Boise State), and a single loss (Cal, Texas) can make you Team Irrelevant. Notre Dame plays the toughest schedule in the nation, and will do so at least until 2008, the last season for which its schedule is already locked in. Next year, four of the Irish’s first five games are on the road, at Pittsburgh, Michigan, Washington and Purdue. Then they’ll face USC at home. Season over.

The second reason is the one Notre Dame officials and boosters seem most delusional about: Notre Dame just simply isn’t Notre Dame anymore. It’s no longer the Holy Grail of college football. Talented young men no longer dream of representing the Golden Dome and following the legacies of the Four Horsemen and the Joes, Theismann and Montana. Blue-chip players dream of competing for conference titles. That’s not happening at Notre Dame. It’s happening at places like Purdue, Wisconsin, Cal, Florida, Auburn and even Boise State. They dream of playing close to family and friends, which helped schools like Virginia Tech, Iowa and LSU retain home-grown talent and achieve respectability. South Bend? Please.

The third reason Notre Dame has come to this place was ignited 13 years ago when the school signed NBC to be its exclusive football broadcaster. Most TV deals are struck with conferences, allowing teams to share the television revenue and the pressure to produce solid ratings. As an independent, the Irish signed a deal that allows them to pocket all the revenue (variously reported to be $9 million annually). But it also puts the ratings burden squarely — and solely — on Irish shoulder pads.

Mr. Jones writes a good, dispassionate assessment of why Notre Dame is in a stew of its own making. He takes a more charitable view of Willingham’s performance than I do, but his position is an eminently reasonable one that revolves around academic performance and off-field character, not race. I wish the white sportswriters who are undergoing fainting spells at the notion that a black coach would be held accountable to the same brutal standards of college coaching as everyone else would take a lesson from the man.