Wednesday, September 14, 2005
THE SLINGS AND ARROWS OF OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE...
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...have downed SMQ, doomed the blog to half-done preseason predictions on its sidebar and silence on issues of national importance such as Ohio State-Texas and Oklahoma's quarterback issues.
But what looked like a season-ending injury is healing fast. Depending on the speed at which SMQ can obtain employment in a location with Internet access for all and relocate there - things are moving very quickly on this front, very quickly - the blog could be open for business again by mid-season. Potentially sooner, though SMQ makes no promises and mid-season sneaks up so quickly.
A note on the hurricane: you have doubtlessly seen the pictures of the destruction here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the flooding in New Orleans and wept or sighed, but the slices of national reporting SMQ has witnessed do not quite get a hold on the scope of this story; they don't know the region. The levels of destruction are pretty well-defined in certain areas, and the news now is how quickly the region is coming back to life.
Here's what the storm did, as far as SMQ can tell from reports and his own eyes: a huge storm surge washed well onto the beach and a little ways inland, and monstrous waves on top of it destroyed everything from about a quarter mile or so inland from the normal coast line. This is the destruction, the gutted houses, washed up casino barges, piles of rubble on concrete slabs, yards that look like landfills, you've seen. It extends as far north as the water went, which is about six blocks - in the two harest hit counties, Harrison and Hancock, that's to the railroad tracks that extend across the coast (in the other coastal county, Jackson, the tracks continue on the same parallel as in Harrison and Hancock but there is much more land southward, so the devastation did reach beyond the beach there but not to the tracks), which is why the buzz here is, "south of the railroad tracks." Officials in some cities all across the coast have put razor wire, as you'd see on a prison fence, across the tracks to prevent people from getting there - some people had actually been trying to live in their leaning homes, apparently. SMQ himself has not driven into this region because the bridge connecting his hometown to the larger ones to the west was destroyed. He has talked his way onto the restricted beachfronts of his town (no razor wire here), which included his grandmother's gutted condo, and it is a land of devastation.
A lot of people lost everything, friends and family members of SMQ included, and shelters are full. Unemployment will be monumental.
But for those of us north of the tracks, well off the beach, the damage (unless you live on one of many bayous, which flooded) is an inconvenience by comparison. Most of us have had power for a while now and are living comfortable in our homes. Restaurants, gas stations, stores are open, the high school football season will be salvaged almost entirely intact and school will open back in a couple weeks. We do not have cable - for SMQ and many others, that means no Internet - but otherwise are returning very quickly to normalcy. So much help is coming in in every way, it seems like it's more than we'll even be able to use (though it probably isn't - people will be without homes for a long time).
As for SMQ's status, he has been safe and comfortable all the while since returning from evacuation (not far enough north to miss the storm or remain with electricity, mind you), with water and power for well over a week now in his parents' home, which suffered very minor roof damage and subsequent leaking upstairs but in light of the flood damage to other homes SMQ has been in here, it hardly seems worth mentioning. Soon, he hopes to be moving northward within the state to begin anew, and then the blog will be back on a regular basis.
SMQ is in his parents' home and without employment because he had been living and working in New Orleans, and clearly the job market there is not at a high right now. His apartment, in a suburb west of the city, was untouched - the cable was on when SMQ and roommate of SMQ returned last week, we watched ESPN while moving possessions out - but his job, in the French Quarter, was inevitably touched in a very wrong way, if not by flood water then by hopeless looters, people who begged SMQ on the street for change every day or hung out outside the Unique Grocery.
In an interview last week, President Bush said no one expected the levies on the lake to break, which is completely wrong. Everyone knew the levies would break. Citizens of New Orleans had been warned for years on a weekly basis of the catastrophe that awaited if a major storm hit the city; they all knew, we all knew, that was why the mayor issued a mandatory evacuation. Compared to the constant doomsayers' forecasts, the city got off easy, in that it only caught a glancing blow from the storm and there is still a city to rebuild.
In more football-related news, SMQ got to watch some last weekend through various means - including his beloved Saints, bless their little hearts, on Sunday - and offers these thoughts:
The Big Ten: O-ver-RA-ted.
Notre Dame-Michigan: Don't know if Chad Henne misses being able to just lob it up to Braylon Edwards that much or if he was a victim of a revamped defense, but he looked terrible and Notre Dame looked great. The Irish are clearly coming down with New Coach Syndrome, and will play hard, pull out close games, and run to the ball on defense for Charlie Weiss the same way they did for Ty Willingham in 2002, though this team seems to have more talent than that pedestrian squad. Watch out for Notre Dame, friends. Michigan fans: worry about Chad Henne. That looked like a step backwards.
Iowa-Iowa State: SMQ saw only the score of this one, did not even see highlights and has no idea how Iowa State laid the Hawkeyes out in the fashion of 23-3. What happened?
Oklahoma: Adrian Peterson is still the real deal - did you see his third touchdown run against Tulsa? - but how did OU end up with quarterbacks who had to be barred from passing for an entire half to get by the Golden Hurricane? SMQ was most vocal in the preseason about the inevitability of another OU victory over Texas, in large part because of Texas' one-dimensionality on offense, but how will the Sooners get anything done against anyone in the Big XII if they're scared to throw a pass against Tulsa? (yes, SMQ knows they lost to TCU, if anyone was wondering).
Southern Miss-Alabama: Tough way to open the season for USM. SMQ's Golden Eagles gave Alabama hell for awhile, as usual, but wore down under the weight of the more physical Tide rushing game, as usual. Bama has been content to grind it out against USM in the past (under 100 yards passing the past two years combined), with success, but threw for some ridiculous number, well over 300, against the Eagles' awful-looking secondary Saturday, which prominently included an inept individual named Eddie Willingham, whom USM scrutinizer SMQ had never previously heard of, and other inept individuals such as Howard Overby, whom SMQ unfortunately has heard of. SMQ and father of SMQ agree that the blind, around-the-back-of-the-defender-bear-hugging-me catch Tyrone Prothro made to turn the game around on a fourth and 18 just before the half is among the top two catches either has witnessed in our lives, and neither can think of the other one on the list. Also, courtesy of the momentary, inadvertent insight of ESPN's Mark Jones, a new nickname for Alabama's temporary head coach: The Perplexed-Looking Mike Shula.
Ohio State-Texas: Caught only the last couple minutes yet still saw A Huge Mistake by Justin Zwick, whom SMQ vocally argued should have been on the bench in that situation for the obvious reason that he will commit a huge mistake. Of course, Troy Smith came on after a sort-of goal line stop (the freshman back was in) and was immediately sacked for a safety, which prompted the question: down by one on your own one, with 25 seconds left, could the safety have been intentional? Likely not, since he would have probably run out of the back of the end zone if it was, but did OSU stand a better chance of taking a safety, getting an onside kick and trying to kick a tying field goal than it did of moving out of the goalline situation? SMQ thinks yes, though Jim Tressel probably didn't think of that (SMQ didn't, either; someone else brought it up).
Arizona State-LSU: A fantastic contest, not least because of Sam Keller, who could not help the incredibly awful special teams mistakes that really cost his team the game, nor the poor decision to not pressure Jamarcus Russell on the fourth-and-ten touchdown pass that directly won it for LSU. Keller is legit, even though he has this urgent shotput delivery, because he tore LSU up with NFL-style passing, finding receivers in holes in zones and hitting mismatches for big plays. ASU has a well-designed offense, and the Devils will beat a lot of people with Keller; should have beaten LSU. If SMQ were giving out a player of the week award - he is not - Keller would probably win it despite the loss.
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We had a tornado here in South Bend a few years back in mid-October, a nasty one that took down a lot of neighborhood trees and a couple of houses...I only lost two trees, no housing damage, but in the midst of helping neighbors clean up and the like, I totally forgot about going to the ND game that I had tickets for. I guess that it ust wasn't important.
Good luck / God bless.