I imagine I’ll probably do a New Year’s Eve post here at the site tomorrow, so this probably isn’t the final MacAoidh Hayride post of 2019. But let’s assume it is, for the sake of giving what’s more of a stream of consciousness than anything cogent. I don’t have much focus at the moment, and what I do have I’m using on writing the sequel to Animus, which if you haven’t bought a copy of by now…I mean, really, what on earth are you waiting for?
But more on that below. I’ll just belch out a couple of thoughts on a few largely unrelated subjects of interest first.
This morning I have a column up at The American Spectator contrasting what happened yesterday in White Settlement, Texas, west of Fort Worth with what’s been happening in New York City, and the obvious factor present in one place and missing in the other.
In White Settlement, a would-be mass shooter showed up with a long gun and a black trenchcoat, and squeezed off two rounds in an attempt to massacre the parishioners at the West Freeway Church of Christ before one of his would-be victims drew down on him and blew a canyon through his head. It was the classic case of what happens when one of these dysfunctional nuts picks the wrong target for his rage against a civilization he’s not good enough for, and as a result there won’t be a whole lot of media coverage.
That’s a shame, because the man who put an end to what could have been a far worse atrocity ought to be a national hero. His name is Jack Wilson, and he’s a firearms instructor and a member of that church. His skill and composure in a life-and-death situation is something every one of us should aspire to, and because of Wilson and several other members of that church – no less than seven parishioners had their guns out ready to defend themselves and their friends on the video of the incident – the butcher’s bill from that shooter was only one dead and one in critical condition, plus one dead dysfunctional loser who won’t be bothering anyone else ever again.
But in New York, a series of violent attacks on Jews, mostly in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Williamsburg, by people who appear to all (or nearly all) be black, escalated Friday night into a machete attack on a Hanukkah celebration in the upstate town of Monsey. That was a major step up from what had essentially been a series of beatings, slappings and other minor street violence.
What I said was that what’s needed in New York won’t be had until it’s too late; namely, what they had in White Settlement…
For some reason violent anti-Semitism has been allowed to become widespread in New York’s black community, and unless it is made unfashionable it’s only a matter of time before someone is killed in an episode of this escalating Jew-hatred.
And the worried warblings of Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio certainly won’t change the current fashion.
What will change that fashion and put a stop to those attacks is the knowledge that perpetrating violence against those people is a dangerous thing to do because they can fight back against you — perhaps even with the level of force the people being attacked in White Settlement, Texas, were able to use to put down the villain in their midst.
We know that good guys with guns are the best terminators of violent crime. We’ve always known that. It was proven over the weekend in Texas. But sadly, there will be no good guys with guns stopping anti-Semitic attacks in New York, and those will quite likely escalate.
What else? Well, we had some football over the weekend, and it seems to be pretty much the largest thing occupying the brains of people in Louisiana.
Let’s face it, this is the best team LSU has ever put on a football field and it isn’t close.
There are people who would argue that point, but come on. Yes, LSU won national championships in 1958, 2003 and 2007 and this one hasn’t. And yes, there are people who would argue the 2011 team, which ran into a buzzsaw in the national title game and lost to Alabama after playing an almost perfect season, was the best Tiger team. One might even make the argument that the 2006 team, which blew out Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl and finished #3, is a viable candidate for best ever.
All of those teams should be remembered very fondly, but no. This is the one. In two weeks it’s more likely than not that they’ll knock off defending national champion Clemson and claim the mantle not just of best LSU football team ever, which is arguable now but won’t be then, but quite possibly the best college team ever.
That’s within reach.
Seeing Joe Burrow and those receivers destroy Oklahoma 63-28 on Saturday, after they annihilated Georgia three weeks earlier in the same building, made it pretty obvious how good this team is.
This LSU team, as it’s playing now, has everything. For one thing, it isn’t possible for a college team to stop Burrow, for a number of reasons.
First, LSU’s offensive line was awarded as the best unit in college football, and that wasn’t an accident. They don’t give up pressure to three- or four-man pass rushes. Burrow has been sacked a little this year, but it’s almost always happened when the opponent is blitzing. And when there is a rush, Burrow is hard to sack. His pocket presence and situational awareness is better than most NFL quarterbacks.
And if you can’t sack or pressure him, you can’t stop him from cutting your defense to shreds.
Oklahoma came into the game terrified of Ja’Marr Chase, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver in college football, and resolved not to let Chase beat them. That was an entirely understandable move on their part, and for the most part they did exactly that. Chase had, for him, a terrible game – just two catches for 61 yards and no touchdowns. He was bracketed and double-teamed all night long.
And it was an abject disaster of a strategy.
Why? Because Burrow threw 18 times for Justin Jefferson, who was lined up in the slot against a safety or linebacker, and he completed 14 of those throws for 227 yards and four touchdowns. And he also hit Terrance Marshall six times for 80 yards and a pair of scores before Marshall got banged up in the second half. Plus there were the four catches for 99 yards and a touchdown Burrow hooked up with Thad Moss for.
And that was with Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who had caught 50 passes on the season, mostly sitting out the game with a sore hamstring.
The point being, LSU can beat you five different ways with this offense, and there is nothing a college defense can do to stop Burrow. He’s proven that time and again in shooting down no less than six teams ranked in the Top 10 at the time of playing LSU.
Plus LSU can run the ball when it wants to. With Edwards-Helaire only carrying twice for 14 yards against Oklahoma, LSU had to use three freshman running backs to carry the ground game, and that wasn’t a problem. Chris Curry, who had barely seen action all year, stepped up and had 16 carries for 89 yards to lead a 160-yard rushing effort.
Sure, Oklahoma isn’t one of the better defenses LSU has played and Clemson is. So what? The previous game the Tigers played was against Georgia, ranked the second best defense in the country, and they annihilated the Bulldogs, scoring virtually at will. Clemson is currently ranked #1 in total defense, but they gave up over 500 yards to Ohio State on Saturday and it ought to be recognized that Clemson’s schedule was flat-out poor this year.
Which brings us to LSU’s defense. For some reason people want to bash this unit because at times this season they’ve surrendered yards and points enough to dirty up the box score. For example, Oklahoma had 28 points and 322 yards Saturday. But most of that came in garbage time after LSU had blown the Sooners out. This, by the way, is also true of the other games LSU has surrendered some defensive statistics that didn’t look great. Sure, Vanderbilt scored 38 points – in a game LSU scored 66, and by the way 14 of that 38 came on defensive scores, and seven of the 14 were in total garbage time when Myles Brennan was in the game and even then there was a ridiculously-obvious targeting call on Brennan that wasn’t made. And yes, Ole Miss ran for 400 yards, but that was in a game that was never in doubt. Ditto for the two garbage touchdowns Arkansas scored after LSU was ahead 56-6.
This defense is loaded. There isn’t a starter, and there may not even be a major contributor, who won’t at least spend some time in camp with an NFL team, and the vast majority of them will be on an NFL roster within the next two or three years. Three of them, Grant Delpit, Kristian Fulton and K’Lavon Chaisson, currently project as first round picks next April (as does Burrow, who’s almost certainly going to be the first player taken, and Jefferson). Derek Stingley could well be the top pick in the 2022 draft at the rate he’s going. And others, like Tyler Shelvin, Jacob Phillips, Jacoby Stevens and Patrick Queen, could be first round picks if they stick around after this year; they’ll all be drafted if they opt to leave now.
Best. Team. Ever. That Ed Orgeron built this is something which is still hard to fully grasp, but there is no doubt it’s real. LSU, even with a ton of juniors leaving for the NFL following this season, is going to be completely loaded across the depth chart next year.
But while the Tigers are clearly on the path to glory, the Saints, who looked every bit as good as LSU in blowing out Carolina on the road Sunday to close the season 13-3, can’t get much luck this year.
It’s a damn shame. A team goes 13-3 and they end up the third seed in the conference playoffs. Never heard of anything like it.
And it wouldn’t have happened but for what else went on around the NFC. Detroit, which is just a terrible football team, had a two-touchdown lead on a Green Bay team which is absolutely not that good and found a way to blow it through some of the worst fourth-quarter playcalling I’ve ever seen. That allowed the Packers, whose 13-3 gives them a tiebreaker over the Saints due to conference record, to clinch a first-round bye. Then Seattle, who woke up from a 13-0 deficit to San Francisco, comes back to put themselves in position to win the game on the final possession before a series of events nobody would ever believe if you just made them up denies the Seahawks a win which would have made the Saints the #2 seed. Seattle converts a fourth down at the one-yard line with less than a minute left, and then proceeds to get a delay-of-game penalty in one of the stupidest mistakes in NFL history. Then San Francisco gets away with the most obvious textbook example of pass interference in the end zone anyone will ever see, and there is for some reason no booth review. And then on fourth down, Seattle completes a pass at the goal line and the receiver is tackled either an inch from breaking the plane or actually does it, but of course it’s decided in the 49ers’ favor.
So instead of getting a bye at 13-3, the Saints have to play next week against Minnesota. I remember the first Saints playoff game, back in 1987. It was a wild card game in the Superdome, after the Saints had won 13 games and finished behind San Francisco for the NFC West. And the opponent was…the Vikings. That ended in a 44-7 nightmare, which other than the 21-0 Alabama pasting of LSU in the 2012 national championship game remains the worst moment of my life as a sports spectator. Minnesota also is responsible for inflicting that horrendous loss two years ago on the Saints thanks to a play which should never have happened.
So yeah – Drew Brees and company owe those people a beating like the one Burrow and company laid on Oklahoma Saturday. If they manage it, the reward is a trip to Green Bay, in the snow, for a playoff game. But for the weather it’s winnable, but we all know that when it comes to the playoffs, if the Saints are at home they win (unless it’s against the Rams, in which case the officials will steal the game from them), and if they’re on the road they’ll lose.
This team just doesn’t seem destined to win that elusive second Super Bowl. Which is not to say they aren’t playing well enough to do it.
Finally, as I’d mentioned above I’m writing the sequel to Animus, which – did I mention you need to buy your copy of Animus? – is more fun than I’ve ever had as an adult. The sequel is named Perdition, and it’s a much fuller and more epic tale of my fictional good-guy country of Ardenia. In case you’re not familiar with the setup of these books, the Ardenians are a society not dissimilar to a Gilded Age United States or Great Britain, and they’re rolling along in an early Industrial Age pattern of progress and prosperity until their old enemies the Udar, who are their southern neighbors and not very neighborly, decide to make trouble. The Ardenians have a history of winning battles and wars against the Udar and then going home, and did so quite famously a generation prior to the beginning of this series of books, but the bad guys have gotten far worse in the interim and are really intent on doing bad-guy things as the story begins.
Animus is a very quick read. I had an email over the weekend from a reader who said he knocked out half the book on a plane ride from Baton Rouge to Atlanta on the way to the Peach Bowl and then the other half on the ride back. It’s written as a page-turner, and it’s essentially a rescue story.
But Perdition is much more of an epic tale. If you want, you can perhaps describe Animus as a story about, essentially, a Pearl Harbor, and then according to that analogy Perdition covers the first part of the war in the Pacific.
What I’m finding, though, is that I’m getting better as an author having gone through writing the first novel. This one has better dialogue, I do a better job of describing scenery, I’m getting better with building intricate plot lines and I’m even doing a pretty good job of weaving historical or even current events into the story. There are things that happen in Perdition which at least reference stuff currently in the national headlines, as the life of the Ardenians isn’t all that foreign to ours.
Which is to say I think readers will find it pretty relevant even though it’s set in a fictional world. And a lot of the differences between that world and ours are actually explainable by things the reader will recognize in our reality. Which is something I won’t explain, because I don’t want to give away the story.
But enough of that. In case I don’t have anything else to offer tomorrow, let me take the opportunity to wish all of you a happy new year, and all the best for 2020.