Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Five Questions: Marquette

The next featured school in my Five Questions series is Marquette University. Joining me for my five questions is fellow "Biggest Fan of the Big East" contestant, blogger and Marquette alum, Brian Moran. Brian's Blog not only features Marquette hoops, but also random thoughts on life and entrepreneurship!

What team are you most looking forward to playing in Big East play?

Notre Dame. LOVE the rivalry.

What is the biggest improvement Marquette has made this year from last year?

Last year we made the Sweet 16 and lost to a very tough North Carolina team. This year, we seem to be faster and more tenacious on defense. We bring 40 minutes of Hell to each and every game. In our last game, Louisville was up 18-2 after five minutes. We won the game by double digits. Those teams that take our work ethic lightly, do so at their own peril.

Who is your favorite player on the team?

Jae Crowder & Darius Johnson-Odom. They are the heart and soul of the Marquette team. We need their senior leadership on the floor if we are going to win games.

(Jae Crowder)

What quiet player will become a standout player before the year is over?

Todd Mayo. He’s OJ Mayo’s younger brother and a helluva freshman player. He’s a 6’3 guard who will be an impact player for us come tournament time.

(Todd Mayo)

What is the best part about playing in the Big East?

Every game is exciting. I feel like we go from 30 mph to 110 mph once the season starts. There are usually 5-7 teams in the top 25 and everyone is gunning for each other. Never a dull moment.

[bonus] What is your prediction for the score of the Notre Dame - Marquette game?

PAIN! (I love that line from Mr. T)

Marquette 77 Notre Dame 65

A big thank you to Brian Moran for stopping by the blog to answer my Five Questions. Why don't you stop by Brian's blog, and show him some Big East love!

And while I've got your undivided attention, please stop by my "Biggest Fan of the Big East" profile and cast a vote my direction!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Closer to Fine

Today's edition of Retro Friday features the female duo the Indigo Girls, and the song "Closer to Fine."

With all of the time that I've been thinking about Notre Dame and my college days as of late, I found myself singing this classic Indigo Girls song today ... "Closer to Fine."

The Indigo Girls are an American folk rock music duo consisting of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. They met in elementary school and began performing together as high school classmates in Decatur, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. They started performing with the name “Indigo Girls” as college students at Emory University, performing weekly at The Dugout, a bar in the Emory Village.

Their first major label release came in the late 1980's following the success of The 10,000 Maniacs, Tracy Chapman, and Suzanne Vega. Epic signed the duo in 1988. Their first major-label release, also entitled Indigo Girls, included their first hit song "Closer To Fine" (an unlikely collaboration with Irish band Hothouse Flowers), which topped at #52 on the popular music chart and #26 on the modern rock chart. In 1990, they won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. They were also nominated for Best New Artist (but lost to Milli Vanilli who eventually had that award revoked).

"Closer to Fine" just seems like the perfect college/young adult song to me. A struggle to find out who you are, where you are going, a stop by the bar - plus for me it brings back good memories of hanging out in a dorm room, jamming with good friends and a guitar! Oh, and also memories of hanging out at the old CJ's in South Bend. If you were there back in the day ... you know exactly what I'm talking about! (Cough. You know who you are!)

So here it is, "Closer to Fine" ... take a listen, and I've posted the lyrics below!

I'm trying to tell you something 'bout my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
And the best thing you ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously
It's only life after all, yeah

Well, darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
And I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it
I'm crawling on your shores

And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive (The less I seek my source)
Closer I am to fine, yeah
Closer I am to fine, yeah

And I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind
Got my paper and I was free

And I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive (The less I seek my source)
Closer I am to fine, yeah
Closer I am to fine, yeah

I stopped by the bar at 3 A.M.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
And I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
And I went in seeking clarity

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains

We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains
We look to the children, we drink from the fountain

Yeah, we go to the Bible, we go through the workout
We read up on revival, we stand up for the lookout

There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive (The less I seek my source)
Closer I am to fine
Closer I am to fine
Closer I am to fine, yeah


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cultivating the Garden

I can’t believe we’re already on Challenge #6 in the “Biggest Fan of the Big East” contest, but here it is! And the challenge question is: What are your favorite places to watch your team when you can't be at your hometown arena (for me … The Purcell Pavilion)?

This is a tough question for me … because anyone who knows me, my friends, family … my children; know how VOCAL I am when I watch Notre Dame basketball. Or Notre Dame anything for that matter! And I have also been known to hurl things at the TV, jump up and down, and/or storm out of the room; but THAT is neither here nor there!

If I’m in St. Louis, and need a place to watch Notre Dame basketball, my first choice (if I’m not screaming on my couch) would have to be to hop in my brand new Volvo S60 and head on down to a Notre Dame Alumni Club of St. Louis sponsored Game Watch party.

We have a few regular haunts that we have Game Watch parties at, and they are always a good time because you know that there will be fellow alum & fans there to either commiserate or celebrate with. This, of course, is much better when you are winning, as opposed to crying in your beer, but strength in numbers is always good regardless.

When the St. Louis Alumni Club is not sponsoring a Game Watch party, I either go one of two directions. There are two very “college” type bars here in St. Louis, that are wonderful places to watch basketball. One is a St. Louis University establishment: Humphrey's, and one is University of Missouri establishment: Harpo’s (based off the original Harpo’s in Columbia, MO), and they are simply awesome places to watch ND basketball because both St. Louis University and Mizzou alums are also very passionate about basketball … so they make fun game watching pals!


Humphrey's was established nearly 40 years ago, on June 18, 1976, by Robert "Humphrey" Mangelsdorf and his wife, Janis. Humphrey was a 1969 graduate of Saint Louis University's Cook School of Business, and was an active member of the fraternity Phi Kappa Theta. His original concept was to have a higher end bar, which led to the creation of the still used logo of "The Humphrey Man" in a tuxedo. Today, Humphrey's is known for its reasonably priced food and beverages, and is a favorite hangout for students and alumni alike. Robert and Janis restored the 1904 building that became the first part of the current home of Humphrey's. Robert started the famous tradition of a free libation from a plunger on your birthday (if you are of legal age), which is still carried on today. Humphrey's is an avid supporter of Billiken Athletics, and they have made it a very festive place to watch college basketball.


The original Harpo's was established in Columbia, Missouri, near the campus of Mizzou 40 years ago as well. Harpo’s has been a Columbia landmark for generations and has entertained countless University of Missouri students and Columbia residents. Seeing as there are so many Mizzou alums in both St. Louis and Kansas City, they have opened satellite bars in both cities so that the alums could continue enjoying the Harpo's tradition. It is a great place to watch basketball as it is always filled with spirited Mizzou alum & sports fans!

Secondly … I go the Irish route. They are some great Irish establishments in St. Louis that are also great places to watch basketball. And as a Notre Dame fan, you are always welcome in an Irish bar, especially when your sur name is McGuire or Kelly!

McGurk's Irish Pub

John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub and Garden was established 30 years ago and has risen to the top of the class among the Irish Pubs in St. Louis. In fact, Esquire Magazine, in its June, 2007 Edition, saluting the best bars in America, chose John D. McGurk’s as its only bar so honored in the State of Missouri.

McGurk’s is known throughout the Midwest for its great Irish music, food, drink, and its 8,000 square foot outdoor garden, complete with breathtaking landscaping, a fountain, a waterfall, and two terrific outdoor bars ... plus plenty of TVs to watch your favorite Notre Dame Fighting Irish sporting event. Inside and out, McGurk’s is nearly 20,000 square feet of pure Irish fun.

The inside of McGurks is a series of strung together dining rooms and bars. Its brick and wood décor with wonderful Irish artifacts makes one think they are enjoying a pub in Dublin. The atmosphere is remarkable, the Irish food is second to none, and it is by far one of my favorite places to enjoy a Notre Dame basketball game. Sáinte!

Helen's Fitzgeralds

Helen Fitzgerald's is really an American sports bar and restaurant with a tinge of Irish flavor, but we still claim it as an Irish establishment! Plus it's one of the best sports bars around with walls of flat screen HD TVs to watch the big Notre Dame basketball game. Plus if you need your Emerald Isle fix, the Irish Stew with a side of of Jameson can't be beat!

The Dubliner

The Dubliner is for sure a crowd favorite as far as Irish bars in St. Louis that are great basketball watching places. The Dubliner is an authentic European Gastropub with Irish inspired food that is to die for. Great Irish food, drinks, and basketball ... seriously. How can you go wrong?

BUT … if you really want to know where I’d most like to be watching a Notre Dame basketball game when NOT at the Purcell Pavilion … I’d have to say Madison Square Garden.

Where better to watch a Notre Dame basketball game than at the Garden?

History is made each and every year at the "Mecca of College Hoops!"

Each season, some of the best teams in the nation visit New York City to play on The Garden’s famous hardwood. Since 1934, generations of College Basketball fans have flocked to "The World's Most Famous Arena."

Plus … what could be better than enjoying Notre Dame game, at the garden, with good friends and ice cold BEER. Yep, I said beer. No beer imbibing at the Purcell Pavilion … so that is an added bonus of The Garden for sure. Even if it is more expensive than if I were enjoying it on my couch, it is definitely more fun to be at a game at The Garden!

So there you have it, my top places to watch Notre Dame basketball when NOT at the Purcell Pavilion! Hey, I'm in 7th place in this voting thing, and am getting KILLED by St. John's and Nova. Please tell your friends, family, your Grandma, your boss ... basically ANYONE you can think of, to swing by my "Biggest Fan of the Big East" profile and cast a vote my way! THANKS!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Biggest Fan of the Big East - Notre Dame Video

Here it is ... my video documenting my Alma Mater trip to Notre Dame to see Notre Dame vs. Syracuse basketball game as a contestant in the "Biggest Fan of the Big East" contest!! Woo hoo!!

Check it out!

Oh, and while I've got you here ... HELP!!! I'm in 7th place in this voting thing, and am getting KILLED by St. John's and Nova. Please tell your friends, family, your Grandma, your boss ... basically ANYONE you can think of, to swing by my "Biggest Fan of the Big East" profile and cast a vote my way! THANKS!


One Shining Moment

One of my Dad’s favorite Notre Dame games/moments is the Notre Dame 31-30 win over the University of Miami during the 1988 Championship season. He has a poster hanging in his office from that game which is entitled “One Shining Moment.”

I didn’t think that I could actually ever top MY best Notre Dame moment (which was the Notre Dame win over Penn State in 1992 entitled the “Snow Bowl”), but during my Volvo/Big East trip back to Notre Dame, I think I did!

It started out as one of those trips where I didn’t actually think I was going to MAKE it TO Notre Dame. The night before we left, they cancelled our second flight from Chicago to South Bend due to the storm that was predicted to hit the Great Lakes area on Friday. Our first flight was landing in Chicago at 9:00 am and they cancelled our 11:30am flight to South Bend … rebooking us on a 5:00pm flight … which made absolutely NO sense to me if the storm was going to start at 11:00am and snow straight through until MIDNIGHT!

So to avoid being stuck in Chicago, we hedged our bets and rented a car from Chicago to South Bend, figuring that if we left Chicago by car at 9:00am, we would get to South Bend BEFORE the storm even started in Chicago … and we were right. In hindsight, I am SO glad we opted for driving to South Bend, because they ended up closing the airport in South Bend, and we would never have made it!

Our weekend started out on Friday by swinging over to Mishawaka, Indiana and picking up the awesome RED Volvo S60, which, by-the-way is absolutely stunning. And I cannot even begin to tell you how great the heated seats were, with it being in the teens temperature wise all weekend in South Bend! Yep, welcome to winter in South Bend!

(Heated Seats!)

After we took possession of the sassy Red Volvo S60, our next stop was over to the Purcell Pavilion where I had the honor of being interviewed by the video crew of UND.com. Jack Nolan, from the UND.com show Irish Connection, invited me to come down to the Purcell Pavilion and be interviewed by him & the UND.com video crew … giving me a chance to explain what I was doing at Notre Dame and to give some details about myself and Volvo’s “Biggest Fan of the Big East” contest. As a huge fan of the Irish Connection show, it was an honor just to MEET Jack and the UND.com video crew, let alone to be interviewed by them! Not only did they interview me, they let me borrow one of their flip cams so that I could document my weekend at Notre Dame, and so at the end of this post you’ll be able to WATCH and SEE all of the places that I am writing about!

Following my interview, I took some time to tour my husband around the Purcell Pavilion. I showed him all of the basketball trophies, including the Women's Basketball 2001 National Championship Trophy, and the hardwood floor from the Final Four in St. Louis that is now the floor IN the Women's Basketball office! Then we went over and toured the old hockey arena, and hopped on over to the “Goog” Athletic Complex to see & touch (did I mention TOUCH?!) firsthand the Irish HEISMAN TROPHIES! (Wow.)

Notre Dame Women's Basketball 2001 National Championship Trophy

Heisman Trophies

Then, it was time for our next stop, my first visit to the brand new Compton Family Ice Arena. The old hockey arena (when I was at Notre Dame) was basically just an ice rink with bleachers … not really what you would expect from a school like Notre Dame. But at a school where Football & Basketball basically rule the roost, it took some time and convincing of the people who control the purse strings that Notre Dame Hockey really is a force to reckon with. Now that Notre Dame Hockey really IS on the map, they have the ice facility to back it up! This place was absolutely phenomenal. The Compton Family Ice Arena is a facility that is as good as, if not BETTER than, most NHL facilities. It is simply outstanding. So we managed to get in to see Notre Dame face the University of Michigan in the “White Out” game, where they gave all of the Notre Dame fans white shirts so that the arena was a “White Out” … which was quite amusing seeing as it was a “White Out” outside as well with the blizzard going on! It was an awesome game, and the Irish ended up defeating Michigan 3-1.

Compton Family Ice Arena

Jumbo Tron

Our next stop was to Brother’s Pub, to do some mingling and celebrating with the students & fans, and to spread the word about the “swag” that we were going to give away after the big win over Syracuse on Saturday. (Little did we know how EPIC the win would actually be!)

After a restful night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast Saturday morning, we headed out into the frozen tundra of South Bend to visit some of my favorite sites on campus and get hyped up for the big game Saturday night.

(Look at all of the snow we woke up to!)

We hit my top campus spots … the bookstore, the Dome, the Grotto, the Basilica … we even got an up close and personal encounter with one of the crazy Notre Dame squirrels! It was the funniest thing. As I was explaining on camera how the squirrels on campus have absolutely NO fear, and used to walk over our feet as we sat on benches on the “God Quad” … this squirrel literally comes right up to me and puts his front paws ON MY LEG. I swear, we could not have planned that any better if we had tried!! Insane! (Hey, you can follow him on Twitter, too! Apparently he stole a student’s iPhone! @NDSquirrel)




ND Squirrel

Once we were completely frozen from walking around campus, we grabbed a bite to eat in the LaFortune Student Center, warmed up with some caramel cider, and then headed on to the few remaining places on my favorite spots on campus tour: St. Mary's Lake, Stonehenge: the war memorial, my old dorm Siegfried Hall, the Hesburgh Library and Touchdown Jesus mosaic, the football stadium and back to the basketball arena.

St. Mary's Lake

Now it was time to head into the Purcell Pavilion for the battle of Notre Dame vs. number 1 Syracuse. Once again we reminded the fans that there would be swag to be given away after the crushing of Syracuse, and headed on in to find our seats. After we found our (awesome) seats, I once again visited with the UND.com video crew to give my final pre-game predictions (Notre Dame to trounce Syracuse of course), and then hunkered in for what would turn out to be my new MOST FAVORITE, Notre Dame, “One Shining Moment.”

Check it out ... I'm on the big screen!

Notre Dame came out of the box, and truly never looked back. Starting the game with an 8-2 lead, the Irish set their tempo, and never let Syracuse get the lead, or any sort of rhythm for that matter. Even with our team captain Atkins having some foul issues and having to sit out a good portion of the first half, the rest of the team took control and never let Syracuse run the high powered scoring game that they are used to running. Of course it also helped that Syracuse’s starting Center Melo had to sit out due to academic issues, but that was neither here nor there. This was Notre Dame’s game, and there was no looking back.

It made me laugh, listening to the two Syracuse fans sitting in front of us. They kept shaking their heads and saying … "What is going on?? Notre Dame ISN’T EVEN THAT GOOD!"

There was no lack of spirited fans at the game either. I snapped a few shots, but there were plenty more where these came from!


More Body Paint!

The Distraction Wheel (that was behind the basket where Syracuse was shooting)

The Leprechaun!

During the half time break, they put me up on the jumbo tron, announcing that I was in attendance at the game and encouraging people once again to vote for me as the Notre Dame representative of the “Biggest Fan of the Big East” contest. As the second half started, I couldn’t help think that I was witnessing history in the making! As the story continued to unravel, I could not help think about the six other number one teams who had also entered South Bend undefeated, and left with a loss to the Irish. Was this actually happening again? Simply unbelievable!

As the seconds ticked off the clock and we prepared to storm the court, I seriously needed someone to pinch me! I could not even wrap my head around what we had just seen!! Wow.

Storming the Court!
(Photo courtesy of Matt Cashore)

Me and Grant!

As the clock hit zero we rushed the court and celebrated with the team, students, and fellow Notre Dame fans … each and every one of us trying to understand what we really had just witnessed. After Syracuse’s Head Coach, and Notre Dame’s Coach Brey addressed the media, the UND.com video crew interviewed me once more to get my post-game thoughts … and then we headed out to celebrate the big win!

Post Game Interview

Following our post game meal, we headed out to my favorite South Bend establishment, The Linebacker Lounge, to celebrate the win with friends, students, and Notre Dame fans, and gave out some Volvo/Big East swag to an elated Irish crowd!

Me & My Ladies at the Backer!

As we headed back to our hotel for the night, I really didn’t think that I’d ever fall asleep. What an amazing weekend. I saw two Irish wins: basketball and hockey … Got to see all of my favorite campus spots ... Got to enjoy time with some old friends. Really, what more could a fanatical Irish girl want out of a weekend at Notre Dame? Absolutely nothing!

And now it’s time to return the Volvo, and head back home, and all I can think of is just when I think I’ve seen it all … life goes ahead and surprises me!

Once again, a BIG THANK YOU to Volvo and the Big East Conference for the best weekend a fan could EVER wish for, and thank you for giving me the chance to share my experiences with Notre Dame and Big East Fans all over the world!

I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have … and stayed tune for Challenge Post #6 which I am also working on at this very moment!

Want to see more? Check out the video I made documenting my alma mater weekend at Notre Dame!

And, as always, if you have not had a chance yet, please swing by my “Biggest Fan of the Big East” profile and cast a vote in my direction!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Five Questions: Seton Hall

The next team in my Five Questions series is Seton Hall University, and features fellow "Biggest Fan of the Big East" contestant and blogger Colleen Murphy!

What team are you most looking forward to playing in Big East play?

It’s a toss between UConn and Rutgers. I am looking forward to the rematch with UConn. This will show our win was not a fluke and that we can beat them with the evil Jim Calhoun on the bench. Rutgers is our backyard rival and always a good game.

What is the biggest improvement Seton Hall has made this year from last year?

I'm trying my hardest to block out the last two losses. But, our biggest improvement has been in the discipline department. In years past, supremely talented players like Herb Pope would take ill-advised three pointers. Now the team, except the 36 attempted threes vs. Nova, has stuck to the game plan.

Who is your favorite player on the team?

Jordan Theodore. He is a leader, plays with heart and intensity. He knows the game and the basic fundamentals to win a game with a team.

What quiet player will become a standout player before the year is over?

Brandon Mobley

What is the best part about playing in the Big East?

It improves the strength of schedule and gives the Pirates the best chance to be dancing. The season is always unpredictable, I usually find myself on the edge of my seat.

[Bonus] What is your prediction for the score of the Notre Dame - Seton Hall game?

SHU 71-ND 70

A big thank you to Colleen Murphy for stopping by the blog to answer my Five Questions. Why don't you stop by Colleen's blog, and show her some Big East love!

And while I've got your undivided attention, please stop by my "Biggest Fan of the Big East" profile and cast a vote my direction!

Also, stay tuned to the blog. The wrap up from my Alma Mater trip to Notre Dame this past weekend (detailing the dethroning of number 1 Syracuse) is coming soon ... and it is NOT to be missed!!


Friday, January 20, 2012

Here Come The Irish

This week's edition of Retro Friday is not going to be so much of a "Retro Friday" post! In honor of my Volvo Big East Fan trip to Notre Dame this weekend, I am featuring a Notre Dame song today. "Here Come The Irish (of Notre Dame)" by Cathy Richardson.

Catherine E. Richardson, born on February 21, 1969, is a singer/songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. Before starting her music career in 1990, Richardson worked as an auto mechanic and as a cashier at her father's gas station.

Millions of American preschoolers have seen her on Noggin's Jack's Big Music Show, and the Cathy Richardson Band has been voted as the "Best Local Band" in music polls by the Chicago Tribune and Fox News Chicago. She portrayed Janis Joplin in the original cast of the hit Off-Broadway musical "Love, Janis." She also sang Janis' vocal parts for Big Brother and the Holding Company during many of their recent live shows.

But this is my very favorite Cathy Ricardson song, for obvious reasons. And now for your listening pleasure, here is "Here Come The Irish (of Notre Dame)."

Oh, and if you haven't stopped by yet, please stop by my "Biggest Fan of the Big East" profile and (please) send a vote my way!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Five Questions: Syracuse

The next edition of my "Five Questions" series features the "Biggest Fan of the Big East" fellow contest from Syracuse & fellow blogger Nicole Hering. Here are her answers to my five questions!

What team are you most looking forward to playing in Big East play?

What's great about Syracuse basketball program is every Big East game is something we look forward to, but after last year I think its safe to say that for the current #1 team, UConn has a huge target on their back :)

What is the biggest improvement Syracuse has made this year from last year?

While the Syracuse program and team has clearly shown some serious improvements collectively, I think it all ladders back to one player who gave it his all in the off season: Fab Melo. Seeing Melo this season in comparison last year is a complete transformation and you can see it on the court. His improved athleticism has directly affected the greater teams' performance and we are so excited to see where his next two years are Syracuse bring us!

(Photo, Senior Kris Joseph, One Of 25 Wooden Award Finalists)

Who is your favorite player on the team?

Current, Scoop Jardine; Former, Carmelo Anthony!!!!

What quiet player will become a standout player before the year is over?

Our freshman are having more court time than your average first year player this year. No one ever expects a game changer from them but I think Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams have their fair share of cheers ahead of them

What is the best part about playing in the Big East?

I think any Big East alum would say the same: even though the conference is a teenager in the grand scheme of NCAA basketball, the rivalries are without a doubt unparalleled by any other conference in the nation. I'll always have a sweet spot for Syracuse naturally, but the competition is my fuel throughout every winter with each and every conference game.

[bonus] What is your prediction for the score of the Notre Dame - Syracuse game?

Cuse: 83 Notre Dame: 76

A big thank you to Nicole for stopping by the blog and answering my five questions! Please stop by her blog and show her some Big East love!

But don't forget to stop by my "Biggest Fan of the Big East" profile and (please) cast a vote my way!

And watch for me at the game as I (hopefully) cheer, cheer the Irish on to victory!