Merry Christmas, loyal readers! Wherever you are today, we here at HerLoyalSons wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday. To our servicemen and -women around the world, thank you for your service and your sacrifice. We hope the DFAC turkey was tasty.
Here on the bayou, in the Crescent City, Papa Noel has come and gone. Mrs Bayou and Bayou Fille are combing dolls’ hair in the shadow of the Christmas tree and yours truly is typing on the porch, the rumble of the streetcar a lonely, fading carol in the near distance. The Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers is just days away now, and we’ve got a real Christmas treat for you, loyal readers. Today, we present an interview with “The Voice of the Scarlet Knights,” Chris Carlin.
Chris is in his tenth season as the play-by-play announcer for Rutgers football and basketball. You can hear his talents on WOR (710 AM) and WCTC (1450 AM). When he’s not calling the games in Piscataway, you can find him co-hosting the New York Mets’ pre- and post-game shows, alongside 1986 World Series (sorry @phillykelly) LEGEND Bobby Ojeda. Chris also co-hosts “Beer Money!” and “Loudmouths” on the SNY network.
A graduate of Hobart College and a lifelong resident of the Garden State, Chis wears his passions on his sleeve, notably taking New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to task over his (mis-) handling of recent scandal within the State University’s athletics department. It was a pleasure and a privilege to speak with Chris over email on the occasion of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. I hope you enjoy the chat as much as I did.
My questions are in bold. Chris’s answers appear in regular type.
1.) Chris, it’s great to finally speak with you again. You and I went to high school together, graduating from Oratory Catholic Prep in 1990. Since then, you’ve gone on to the big time in sports media and are the voice of Scarlet Knight football and basketball. With your unique perspective, please give us your take on the team the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be facing in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on December 28?
You too man, it’s been too long. It’s been a bit of a transition year for Rutgers. From last year’s team, an alltime high 7 players were drafted and 15 total players went on to the NFL, including the entire starting secondary. That means 19 first or second year players have been playing significant roles, so there have been some growing pains along the way. Making a bowl game for the 8th time in 9 years has been an accomplishment, and certainly playing Notre Dame in their own backyard is an exciting proposition.
2.) Both teams are dealing with notable absences in their coaching staffs, albeit for different reasons. How have the Rutgers players dealt with the losses of Defensive Coordinator Dave Cohen, Quarterbacks Coach Rob Spence, and O-line Coach Damian Wroblewski? How has Head Coach Kyle Flood handled things since the season ended on a rough note, going 1-3 in the last four?
Coach Flood was very straight with the players about the situation when he made the changes. Rarely in college football do staffs stay intact from year to year, for obviously different reasons. Players seem to have handled the transition pretty well. Getting the win over South Florida in the season finale definitely gave this group a boost of confidence.
3.) Rutgers and Notre Dame shared a common opponent this season: Temple. We beat them early , 28-6 in our season opener. You beat them relatively late, 23-20 on November Second. What did you make of the Owls this season and are there any takeaways from either game that you can apply to the Pinstripe Bowl?
It’s interesting — Temple got better as the season went along, specifically on offense, when they shifted to true freshman P.J. Walker at quarterback. Walker threw 20 TD’s and just 8 INT’s, so it definitely looks like they’ve found their QB of the future. They came close so many times down the stretch of the season, including against Central Florida, when the Knights needed one of the highlight catches of the entire season by J.J. Worton. It’s hard to say that there’s much to be taken from the game, because I get the sense that all three teams are at much different junctures than when they met.
4.) Both Notre Dame and Rutgers have dealt with quarterback issues this season. Ours has played out across the national media and, if you believe Sports Illustrated, the narrative is being written as a redemption song with Everett Golson starting under center next year. Tell our loyal readers, please, about Rutgers’ quarterback issues this season and who the Irish will be facing on the 28th?
Gary Nova was the starter at the beginning of the year after a strong spring, and played very well early in the year. As the season went along, turnovers became an issue, and Coach Flood decided to turn to senior Chas (pronounced ‘Chase’) Dodd against Connecticut. Chas had 26 career games, including 16 starts, under his belt, so experience wasn’t an issue. He’s protected the football well, and is capable of making all the throws. He’s been a luxury to have as a backup, and his presence hasn’t changed the focus of the offense: wanting to run the football.
5.) Let’s talk recruiting and realignment. Rutgers has the same position with its recruits that, frankly, didn’t work so well for Notre Dame under Charlie Weis: “if you’re looking, we’re looking.” With the Scarlet Knights experiencing the loss of number of recruits recently, what’s your take on the state of the incoming class?
I can’t claim to be a recruiting expert, but I’ll say this: I think too much is made of commits & decommits before Signing Day actually comes. Case and point: Janarion Grant was a very late commit last year, and he was 2nd Team All AAC as a returner this year. Rutgers has had plenty of recruiting success over the last 13 years, and plenty of decommits along the way. They’ve landed the 5-star guys who have been fantastic, and some that didn’t pan out. Ray Rice was only a 3-star recruit, and Jason & Devin McCourty were just 2-star recruits, to name just a few. Translation: it’s such an inexact science, you can’t really judge classes for a while anyway.
6.) Rutgers makes the move to the Big Tweleven in 2014 and will play some teams very familiar to Irish fans and to yours truly in particular: Navy, Michigan, Michigan State, and Tulane. Looking into your crystal ball, where do you see the Scarlet Knights falling within the East Division?
Hard to say. They’re going to be competitive early. Are they going to beat Ohio State in Columbus next year? Yeah, that won’t be easy. I definitely think they’ll compete. This season didn’t go exactly as they would’ve wanted, but I think there’s been plenty of growth along the way to prepare them for the move. There’s no doubt there’s a huge buzz about the move, especially with the likes of Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin coming to Piscataway next year.
7.) In addition to your duties behind the mic for Rutgers, you’re also the co-host of the New York Mets pre- and post-game shows, along with Bobby Ojeda, and “Beer Money!” and “Loudmouths” on the SNY network. For the ND fans making the trip up to the Bronx for the game, where should they grab a beer or a meal before or after the game? For those making the trip but looking to watch inside a sports’ bar, where should they make camp?
As far as a beer before the game, they’ve gotta go to Stan’s, an institution near Yankee Stadium on River Avenue. It is THE meeting place before Yankee games. Stripped to the bones, simple place. In the city, Lansdowne Road is a favorite of mine — 10th Avenue at 44th Street. Excellent food, and plenty of big screen TV’s, plus they don’t pressure you — they respect milking of the beer while watching the game. They know you’ll be there for 3 1/2 hours. Lastly — a Notre Dame bar is Mustang Harry’s — 7th Avenue at 30th Street next to Madison Square Garden. Solid place and friendly territory for Irish fans.
8.) True story: Mrs Irish and I wound up in New Jersey after Hurricane Katrina and eventually rented an apartment in Skyline Towers in downtown New Brunswick. New Brunswick is one of the best restaurant towns in New Jersey and it’s where Mario Batali got his start, so I’d like to ask a two-part question: whether it’s a grease truck or The Frog and The Peach, what’s your favorite place to eat in New Brunswick (or Piscataway)? And since Batali’s a Rutgers grad, who’s your favorite alum to interview?
The grease trucks are legendary, but have been moved around town because of property issues with the University. Here’s the original — http://www.ruhungrynj.net/. Brother Jimmy’s opened up in New Brunswick last year, and has been the home to ‘The Kyle Flood Radio Show’ since. The McCourty’s & Shaun O’Hara are involved with ownership. Harvest Moon and Old Man Rafferty’s never disappoint, and for something a little more formal, Catherine Lombardi & Steakhouse 85 are excellent. James Gandolfini use to be a fixture at games over the past 13 years, and he’s sit in the stands with a Rutgers jersey on with his son and college roommates, very incognito. He was terrific to the fans, but never wanted to be interviewed. He just wanted to come to enjoy the games. When Greg Schiano first took the job in 2000, some of Gandolfini’s friends were excited and he shot commercials with Schiano for Rutgers Football. It was at the height of ‘The Sopranos,’ so it really made an impact. Here’s the first one, back in 2001:
There are plenty of Rutgers grads in show business, but Gandolfini was the most visible to the fanbase
9.) Final question. Our editor-in-chief, Tex, is a HUGE wrestling fan. Very few people know that our high school had its own professional wrestling circuit, and you and I squared off in a number of television title and championship bouts. We also watched some of the earliest Wrestlemanias on pay-per-view back in the day when cable t.v. meant you had a box with a cable attached to your t.v. set. So, I need to know, do you still follow wrestling and if you do, what story arcs have captivated your attention this year?
Admittedly, I haven’t followed with it, because I’m watching every possible other sporting event known to man just to keep up with work. I really loved it back then, and we’ll reminisce at work about Mr. Perfect and the Ultimate Warrior. If the Hart Foundation was still around, rest assured, I’d still be watching. As for my wrestling career, it ended with our ‘Loser Leave Town’ match junior year. I was hoping to retain the Intercontinental Championship belt and take it back to Parts Unknown, but alas, it was not meant to be after your partner hit me with a chair when Referee Earl Hebner’s back was turned.
There you have it, loyal readers. Go Irish, beat Rutgers, and Merry Christmas, y’all.