Chianti Dan and His Last Crusade

Great stories make you feel things, right?

Are you angry? Upset? Confused? Hopeful? Excited ... but braced for a letdown?

All of the above?

Are you watching a replay of any random UCLA football game from the last decade?

Or are you following Chianti Dan and His Last Crusade, the third installment of what we can only hope is just a trilogy.

Of course, you remember volume one, Receivers of the Lost Ark, the one where a bold, new athletic director fired Bob Toledo, flirted with Mike Riley, then settled on the always engaging and gregarious Karl Dorrell to be UCLA's newest football coach. That one opened so strong, with Chianti Dan cracking his whip and announcing we would "Fire Out" and compete for championships. Of course, the plot of that one took a turn for the absurd right around the time Dorrell "forgot" about Manuel White and told the press he didn't know where to stand on the sidelines. Other than one great scene, the 13-9 scene, that version slowly withered until Dan yelled "Cut."

And no one can forget Chianti Dan and the Temple of Neu, the one where our star maneuvered to bring back the down on his luck, oft-fired, prodigal son back into the fold. It was, in some ways, the inevitable sequel but in retrospect one that should never have been made. We knew the story was over long before our hero did, hoping he'd make one last dramatic move after the Debacle in the Desert -- alas Chianti Dan let the whole thing run on too long, damaging Part III even before it began.

Now, we're watching Chianti Dan On His Last Crusade, which we can only hope is the last installment of the "Chianti Dan Tries to Get It Right When Hiring a Football Coach" series.

This has to be it, right?

Either Dan gets it right or he gets fired.

It's not in the realm of possibility that someone lets him star in Part IV of the series, is it?

Let's see where we are so far in the story:

After blowing the ending of Temple of Neu by not ending it after the Arizona game, our hero waited until after a 0-50 point performance against USC before finally announcing the Rick Neuheisel era was over. (This was a marked contrast to Receivers of the Lost Ark, where we actually beat USC in the fourth meeting -- a move that allowed that episode to run a full season longer than "Neu." As an aside, it's actually quite amazing how much better the whole Dorrell era is going to look than the Rick Neuheisel era does, when future historians look back at the dark days of UCLA football. Let's put it this way: If Karl Dorrell had compiled the exact same record he had at UCLA at Washington, we'd be putting him on the current list to replace Rick Neuheisel. That's how bad the Neuheisel era looks on paper. Now, back to our story ... )

At this point, Last Crusade is more confusing than the first half hour of Godfather III (a film, btw, made by a UCLA alumnus and while GFIII does not live up to the first two films in that series, did get an Academy Award nomination for best picture and is considered by some critics a flawed masterpiece. We can only hope Chianti Dan's third version does this well.) So far, we've been given hope by the news that UCLA has suddenly realized it's 2011 and has cobbled together a rumored 4 million dollars to throw at the next coach. Then, we had those hopes dashed when we found out that Chris Petersen isn't moving to Los Angeles for any amount of money.

At this point, the coaching search has become a full on David Lynch film -- except that David Lynch films are cool. All we have rumors and the rumors aren't that exciting. We either rejected or were rejected by Houston's Kevin Sumlin. We're looking hard at Jim Mora's son (because he once met Terry Donahue in San Francisco) and maybe Jon Gruden's brother (because Chianti Dan once watched Monday Night Football after How I Met Your Mother was over). We might end up with Oregon's coach -- no, not the one who blows us out every year, the one who has been out of coaching for four years and who snubbed us a couple of times before.

Meanwhile, we're all just left wondering: Exactly how bad are things where there isn't one really solid college football coach with a good coaching record willing to move to Bel Air and coach UCLA's football team, a team whose campus sits right in the middle of one of the best recruiting areas in the nation.

Of course, the blame falls on the shoulders of our star, Chianti Dan. It seems he has no idea who to ask and those he relies on for advice aren't all that imaginative. He's also at fault for allowing our facilities to fall into neglect, the few improvements made faring poorly in comparison to those made at peer schools. In fairness to The Sommelier, it's not all his fault. The entire UCLA culture is to blame, as it's come late to a party that demands significant attention, commitment and investment in football to be competitive and is only now reluctantly walking through that door kicking and screaming.

I have to say, one of the most amazing things about UCLA football is this: Despite the fact that it's been poorly run for a decade (some would say a quarter century) we're still 6-7 and headed for a winnable bowl game. Cal and Stanford had to go through epically bad seasons to shake things up and change their approach to football. But we've never gone 1-11 or anything like that. That should tell you something: Even when we're not trying, we recruit enough talent to get to six wins. Even at our worst, our very worst, we win four. Karl Dorrell had a 10 win season. Just think, just imagine how we'd do if a good coach with the right resources was running things.

That's why this coaching search is so, so frustrating. Dan Mullen, just to throw out an example, coaches Mississippi State in the SEC West. He's got LSU, Alabama and Arkansas on his schedule and he still won six game after getting to nine last year. Imagine how he'd do at UCLA, where he'd have Colorado and Utah on his schedule. (No offense Utah, I know you blew us out, still, we somehow managed to finish higher than you in the standings).

At this point, the ending isn't written yet. Though it looks like we're looking at possible moustache giveaways at the Rose Bowl to honor our newest head coach Mike Bellotti, it's still possible Chianti Dan will write a surprise ending and deliver us a great football coach. Indiana Jones battled Nazis and brought home the Ark of the Covenant. All we're asking is that you battle your own worst instincts and deliver us Art Briles.

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