A brief history of the Nam Le Curse

This post is dedicated to tracking all the wrong predictions I have made this year, which is now at hilariously sad levels. No, I’m not sure why I suddenly don’t know anything now, and I’ll be periodically updating this post as we go along.

1/1/2014 -

Nothing else needed.

1/4/2014 -
Other unlucky victims to start 2014: Alabama, Ohio State, Baylor. (Oklahoma State didn’t make the BCS, but I picked them too, and they…you guessed it, lost.)

1/4/2014 -

I decide to make some selections for the NFL playoffs, and fare no better. At this point, followers are beginning to notice the trend.

1/13/2014 -

Inspired by Breaking Madden, I chose not to count out Touchdown Tom. Thanks a lot, Jon Bois.

1/15/2014 -


2/19/2014 -

Thought Cal basketball might continue winning after I attended the Arizona victory. They did not.

2/20/2014 -

Two minutes after this, the US Women’s Hockey team fell victim.


3/18/2014 -

Coming off of years of success in the March Madness brackets — I finished 99th percentile a few years back and regularly hit 80+ — only Florida survived. Georges Niang broke his damn foot.

Final four, I have: Iowa State, Louisville, Florida, SDSU (I may have just accidentally put the Nam Le curse on them sorry @HunterHewitt) — Nam Le (@AGuyNamedNam) March 18, 2014

6/22/2014 -
Portugal scored not more than 4 minutes after this.

7/11/2014 -

This happened an hour before the article about Cleveland came out. Welp.

7/13/2014 -

At least I knew what I was getting into this time.

7/29/2014 -

UCLA’s campus floods due to a busted pipe main, damaging Pauley Pavilion and shutting down a good portion of it overall. Twitter is quick to attribute the damage to my commiting, back in April.

Some thoughts heading into the Northwestern game

Though I still don’t think we’ve completely exorcised whatever curses the football gods have sprung on Strawberry Canyon these last couple years, they have at least granted me one gift — another fresh angle for my 3rd annual “pre-season personal thinkpiece”, which I usually use to sort through some feelings on the state of the program before the opening kickoff. As always, enjoy or don’t. 

Ask any resident of Bear Territory about last August 31st, and you’ll discover plenty of lingering resentment at Northwestern’s suspiciously shall we say, convenient 2nd half cramping. Thanks to those dubious shenanigans, to this day, there remains some belief in the fan base — and even on the coaching staff — that last season would have gone quite differently, had we just gotten off on the right foot and found ourselves on the other side of 44-30. Unfortunately for our memories, the record, and the loss will stand, no matter how much outrage may remain.

Reality leaves us only with a rematch at Ryan Field; a 364 day wait made in hopes that revenge is a dish best served Chicago style.

Seeking it, though, will be a Cal team that isn’t quite who we thought they’d be. At least, not yet — a largely unique position, considering the pre-season outlooks of the 2012 and 2013 teams. Unlike those predecessors, there is no expectation of bowl-dom at this juncture, as there was in the last hurrahs of the Tedford/Keenan Allen/Zach Maynard era, nor is there any of the mystery and intrigue that marked Sonny Dykes’ debut in Berkeley.

Despite hopes that there would be a quick Jim Mora-esque turnaround under Coach Dykes, the much harder truth is the one that has set in these last 12 games — that this team isn’t, and won’t be the ones down south; that they remain amid a badly needed, but still ongoing rebuild, even with the abundance of highly rated recruits Jeff Tedford left behind. A flurry of offseason activity now behind them, these 2014 Bears still project as massive underdogs in every matchup this season, topping out at a line of 34 points against USC, and with most projections falling in the 3-4 win range, the fringe lunatics have already begun to call for Sonny Dykes’ head.

Now, there has already been progress in that rebuild. Of course there has been — we are all no doubt aware of the immense turnaround occurring on the APR front, and a new, warmer program culture emphasizing the Cal family, continues to be nursed along with each set of Dykes’ recruits. (Although it’s a small sample size and anecdotal, to be sure, my impression of the freshmen I’ve met or worked with at Summer Bridge in this 2014 class is quite positive on the academic end, especially in comparison to some of the classes I’ve encountered toward the end of the Tedford era, and I’ve been there for four years now.)

On the field, this team returns a year older and a year more tested, many, the beneficiary of game reps they may not have been fully ready to take, but had to anyway, for one reason or another. Jared Goff is the poster child for this, but he’s one of many — throwing guys like Cameron Walker, Hardy Nickerson, and Chris Borrayo into the fire early should begin paying dividends soon enough, as they continue to be molded into the cornerstones for the future.

The only problem is that their refinement — and most of this youthful roster’s, really — remains ongoing, likely still aways from completion, making this the first season in a little while with no realistic expectation of success, no December vacation destination in sight. That is not to say that the coaching staff will roll over willingly for the fall to come, nor the players, either — it is simply to acknowledge that getting within even sniffing distance of, say, El Paso would be considered a great achievement by most.

Yes, these are the times that try the souls of fans, and though I may have written that line before, damn it, I’m writing it again. (Authorial license and such.)

So, that’s the dilemma ahead for me, one I haven’t encountered since I seriously — and literally, at times — began caping up for California. What is the correct way to feel, heading into a year with only expectations of mediocrity at best, and success at least another calendar away?

I’ve never been a drinker before games, even though that violates Commandment 0 of the college football Bible. Anger, the home that many Blue and Gold keyboard warriors have been taking shelter in as of late, is more tiring than it is constructive, and apathy would leave me with too much time on my hands each Saturday…not to mention depriving me of the chance to write for you all.

Those options, time tested by the legions of frustrated before me, are out.

No, I’ve made my peace with the upcoming year another way, finding a tiny, simple, kernal of liberation in the notion of bowlless existence.

I’ll wait through it for now, taking heart in the gains we do make, while trying to hang onto the oft-forgot axiom that progress is not linear. It will spike, slant, and slump, just as often as it soars, let alone doing it at a satisfactory rate — no different than it would be with any of my students. Many of them make clear advances after a summer, a semester, a year with me, but still, certain concepts remain hazy on occasion, essays of theirs inching closer to putting it all together. More likely than not, the team will look the same way in 2014, progressing forward bit by bit, slipping away at others.

And that’s okay.

I’ll wait for now, because I simply love the acts — of teaching, of watching college football, of writing on it — themselves anyway, and while eventual results in both areas are important, reaching them without struggle would make everything feel hollow, unearned. Those Roses, should they ever bloom, would smell much sweeter after growing from our immeasurable frustrations.

Losing forever isn’t tolerable. Neither are consistent, depressingly low expected win totals. That’s not what I mean to imply in writing all this. In the present, though, it has to be — to me, anyway — if we are to give this staff a fair chance to build toward something greater down the line, or allow them to simply be accurately evaluated on their own merits.

And should down the line — or the minimum 8 wins I’m banking on in 2015 — never come, I won’t be afraid to say that I was wrong about everything. I never have been.

There will be time for those determinations, time for that discussion.

This just isn’t it yet. One calendar turn later, maybe.

I just don’t see a point in rushing to judgement one way or another, the most unfortunate byproduct of an era of instancy and an insatiable demand for hot takes. My insistence on patience surely makes a tired refrain in contrast — especially for those who read any of my work, since I always insist on rational, measured reaction, rather than reacting simply for reaction’s sake — but I think that’s what makes it a crucial one to keep in mind.

These are notions of the young, you may say. A fancy of the foolish. That I, like all Old Blues, will have that patience and levelheadedness beat out of me soon enough.

I sure as hell hope not. I wouldn’t want to be any other way.

See you in Evanston. Go Bears.

#The52Project (16) – “Write an essay on the topic of Writer’s Doubt.”

The beast of Not Believing has lived with me a long time.

As far as I can tell, for all 22 of my years on Earth, it has lurked deep within my being, hungering insistently for the destruction of my fragile, but genuine love for language itself. Although it only shows its actual face on rare occasion, in the quietest hours of the night, I can always make out the sound of its breathing: a cruel, rumbling snarl that swears no word, no syllable, no letter I’ve ever typed has merit, a piercing cry that says my work has never been worth reading, a sharp roar that strips away any semblance of accepted self competence.

No matter how constant or concerted my attempts to do so – and believe me, there have been many — I have not yet found a way to destroy the backing soundtrack of my imagination. I don’t think I ever will, truthfully. The same sounds have tortured every producer of prose before me, and will almost certainly repeat in the heads of those after, as well.

But I have found reprieve from all the noise and from my inner demon in the moments when the words lying before me come alive, singing a song I will never hear anywhere else. Sometimes, I can catch a snatch of it after a particularly satisfying sentence, or following a turn of phrase. On extremely rare occasion, it even plays in full at the end of a finished piece.

Where and when I encounter it, though, are far less important than what, and what it is is some combination of honed passion, honesty, and vulnerability, traits shared by all writerly voices, but finally clicking together in an arrangement that resembles no one else’s. Something that is mine, and mine alone.

In those moments, I have won. I have quieted the beast inside of me, able to drown out its shrieks and yells with my own voice – not the voice granted to me simply by virtue of speaking or writing or birth, but what I instinctively know to be, beyond anything else, my voice. This must seem like such an odd, and perhaps even hollow, way to claim victory over what is destined to be a lifelong nemesis, but the knowledge that such a thing – a voice, authentically my own — even exists reminds me why it is I keep struggling with language, all doubts be damned.

True, a voice is not a guarantee of a work of worth, but no work of worth will ever exist without a voice. And in these moments, brief and fleeting as they may be, I know again with whole hearted-certainty that I might one day have both.

I simply have to keep at it.

#The52Project (15) – “Write a wrestling promo.”

Pro wrestling has a long, long tradition of guys using packaged segments to talk. This action, known as promo cutting, is essential for revealing motivations and building storylines, as well.

Everything – including parallel and egregious/repetitive name dropping – here has been done intentionally, remaining as faithful as possible to actual/real life wrestling tropes. Cutting promos is a chance for me to blow off steam irrationally, in a way I would never present myself in my normal writing. Have fun with it. :)

I did.

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Orange is The New Black Character Power Rankings

I could write volumes on Orange is the New Black – what it means, what makes it such a great show in the first place, my thoughts on season 2, so on and so forth. Instead, though, I’m just going to drop some thoughts on the various characters, based mostly upon quality of acting performance, character depth, and general tolerability/likability. [SLIGHT spoilers from Season 2 has factored into these rankings, but takes a back seat to entire body of work.]

Agree? Disagree? Enjoy the fantastic 13 episode run that released on Friday, then sound off. Continue reading