Sunday, August 24, 2014

MGoMix 2014

We're back!  After a summer where we just don't know any more, but we're about to find out, we're back with our breakdown of our new playlist for the 2014 season.  We tried to mix it up a bit while following our rules: no more than 80 minutes of music, make every effort not to repeat non-Michigan songs from previous years, and try to capture the mood of the season while driving to Ann Arbor and walking to Michigan Stadium.  With that in mind, here we go:

1). "Brand New Colony" by the Postal Service
"I want to take you far from the cynics in this town"
Here's to hope.

2). "Razorblade" by the Strokes
"My feelings are more important than yours."
The unofficial slogan of every amateur sports blogger, whether they acknowledge it or not.

3). "Tell Me What You Already Did" by Fountains of Wayne
"Don't tell me what you're gonna do or what you wanna do
Tell me what you already did."Michigan's mandate to Old Hat Creative in making the hype videos.

4). "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
You really can't go wrong with this choice.  I am Groot?

5). "Gimme Some Lovin'" by the Spencer Davis Group
For a period from roughly 1987-1992, at least five movies a year were legally required to include this song in some form of montage.

6). "Space and Time" by The Verve
I will forever associate this song with the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl of 2013.  It also would be a great backing track for a Doctor Who fanvid.

7).  "Stubborn Love" by the Lumineers.
"It's better to feel pain, than nothing at all / the opposite of love's indifference."
Michigan football, ladies and gentlemen.

8). "Breathe" by Alexi Murdoch
"Then the answer that you're seeking / For the question that you found 
Drives you further to confusion  / As you lose your sense of ground."
Michigan football, ladies and gentlemen.

9). "Shot at the Night" by the Killers
"Look at my reflection in the mirror / Underneath the power of the light
Give me a shot at the night / Give me a shot at the night / Give me a shot at the night
I feel like I'm losing the fight"
Still wish Harrison missed that three.

10). "Line of Fire" by Junip
"Convince yourself to be someone else / And hold back from the world
Your lack of confidence / What you choose to believe in
Dictates your rise or your fall / Dictates your rise or your fall"

11). "Run Right Back" by the Black Keys

Or Run Off Tackle, either way, let's hope the Offensive Live holds up.

12). "Word Up!" by Cameo
I can't believe I've never used this for an MGoMix before.

13). "Rudderless" by The Lemonheads
"Hope in my past / Hope in my past"

14). "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)" by The Eurythmics
Here's to hoping Michigan's new offense doesn't Halt and Catch Fire.

15). "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" by Bruce Cockburn
"But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight --
Got to kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight"

16). "Rain in the Summertime" by The Alarm
aka "The best U2 song U2 never wrote."

17). "I Can't Turn You Loose" by The Blues Brothers
18). "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" by The Blues Brothers
"We're so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight and we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of the Big Ten officiating community who have chosen to join us here in the Michigan Amphitheater at this time. We do sincerely hope you'll all enjoy the show and please remember people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there're still some things that make us all the same. You, me, _them_, everybody, everybody."

19). "I Can't Turn You Loose" by Michigan Marching Band
And suddenly, I am craving cake and electronic dis-co.

20). "M Fanfare" by Michigan Marching Band
21). "The Victors" by Michigan Marching Band
22). "Temptation" by Michigan Marching Band
23). "Hawaiian War Chant" by Michigan Marching Band
24). "Varsity" by Michigan Marching Band
25). "Star Spangled Banner" by Michigan Marching Band

Monday, August 11, 2014

Looking good, Billy Ray

It started simply, from Jane's Michigan preview for EDSBS, which most of you have probably already read.  But, the important quote is:
"If Notre Dame fans are noted for their eternal (and quixotic) optimism, Michigan fans are noted for boundless, unceasing pessimism."
I agreed with this, but one of my friends argued that it is classic Michigan arrogance to feel like we lead the world in pessimism.  I agreed that this is fair, but went on to make this argument:

Michigan fans, at least in the last decade, have lived waiting for the other shoe to drop and knowing it's not if but when. The history, as it recedes further and further into the past, becomes harder to hold on to. Impossible to please, absolutely. But it's a brand of pessimism born of having tasted success and wanting it again, Pat Riley's "Disease of More" if you will. 
Michigan went from 1969-2007 without a losing season and just one .500 season caused by a freak injury to Jim Harbaugh in 1984. So the last six years have been about a massive re-calibration of expectations in a new world and not knowing what this world is like. It's like Michigan has become the college football version of Louis Winthorpe III and we have not yet figured out how to exact our revenge on the Dukes. (Hell, even Duke is good now.) 

Billy Ray Valentine: [watches Louis clean his shotgun] "You know, you can't just go around and shoot people in the kneecaps with a double-barreled shotgun 'cause you pissed at 'em."

Louis Winthorpe III:
 "Why not?"

Billy Ray Valentine:
 "'Cause it's called assault with a deadly weapon, you get 20 years for that..."

There was a time, and I can tell you, it was 2007, I was standing in Pancheros in Livonia, waiting in line, and I was plotting out the schedule and figuring out how a team that featured seniors Chad Henne and Mike Hart and Jake Long and junior Mario Manningham and was looking and figuring out where the ten wins were in the schedule.  I remember particularly fretting over the Illinois game, since ABC had announced it was going to be a night game and going to Illinois always screws Michigan up somehow.  Bad things.  But the key is, I never, for a moment, considered that Michigan could lose to a MAC team, like Eastern Michigan, let alone Appalachian State, I mean, sure, they were the defending I-AA champs, but well, this is Michigan and such.

If you want to say that the aura of invincibility was shattered forever that day, I wouldn't blame you.  Michigan had lost games before.  Michigan was actually on a two game losing streak and if you're here, I probably don't need to recap this because you're reading a Michigan football and you remember all too well what happened that day.

And yet, we could, and would, sink lower.  We did sink lower.  Toledo.  Northwestern and the Class III Fandom Endurance Badge, four tries from the one at Illinois, at Purdue 2009, Wisconsin 2010, that Gator Bowl.  We came to expect that losses were as likely as wins.  For a Michigan fan from the late 1960s on, this was a brave new world, and we had no idea how to function in it.

As fans, we found new ways though.  We savored the wins a little more, but I also think we came to appreciate the players a little more.  One could argue that Denard Robinson is the most beloved Michigan athlete in half a generation because he visibly loved Michigan as much as we did.  He was a fan like we were, except he just happened to be able to do amazing things on the football field.  An 11-2 season and a Sugar Bowl win didn't hurt that either.  But you can only sate yourself for so long on individual performances.  If you love Michigan, you love the team, and if you love the team, you want the team to win.  So when he doesn't win, and it looks not so great in some of the ones it does win, doubt creeps in.  And doubt is one of the hardest things to fight, because the only thing that conquers doubt is results to the contrary.

One of the hardest things about being a college football fans is that the season only lasts for a few short months.  For those glorious months of September (well, late August, but you know) through early January, there are results, measurements, data, to process and calculate and understand.  But from the end of the season until the beginning of fall camp, all you have is the inverse sentiments of doubt and hope.  Doubt and hope exist as the opposite sides of the same coin.  Hope is "Well, sure." Doubt is "Well, no."  Prior to 2007, Michigan fans lived in a world of hope with a small vein of doubt.  You wouldn't look at the schedule and say oh, sure, undefeated.  You knew there was a loss in there somewhere, you just didn't know where.  Post 2007, every view of the schedule is looking where the losses are and worrying that the wins won't materialize.  This is our eighth year of this and we still don't know how to function in this new world.

Here's to hope.  Here's to looking good.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Throwback to throwbacks

As many of you know, my passion for the history of Michigan football is exceptionally high.  I'm not alone in this regard; it is why I have a kinship with Greg Dooley of in large part because of this.  Greg's work on the Michigan uniform timeline is a passion project and one I have been happy to be a part of as well.

So when Tiedman and Formby offered me a chance to give a sneak preview at their 2014 Michigan throwbacks, I jumped at the chance.  This is totally a recognition of my affection for their work (I currently own a 1934 Gerald Ford #48 throwback from them.)

Before I go any further, let me first note that Craig Tiedman* asked if I would mention the Kickstarter they are currently running which ends on June 11, 2014:

He told me that they are offering jerseys at discounted pre-order prices as a reward for pre-orders
(The Kickstarter is to help with working capital.)

*-Yet another example of my firm belief in the Craig recognize Craig rule.

Well, what's available this year for you, Michigan fans?

Let's start with a 1927 Benny Oosterbaan felt sweater.  Block M on the front, #47 on the back, complete with the Drop Tail.  Perhaps a little warm for September games, but still, Bennie!

The Mad Magicians won the 1947 National Championship on the backs of a several of significant players, two of whom, the ringleader, Bob Chappuis and future Michigan coach Bump Elliott, get the Cotton Durene treatment here.  (Similar to the Ford and Harmon jerseys.)

The 1964 Rose Bowl team, coached by Bump, led by Captain Conley, celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, and T&F celebrate them with a Rose Bowl jersey from that year, Mel Anthony's #37.  They nailed the shoulder Ms, well done all around.

Next up, one that I think will be very popular, partially as it has not been offered before, but the 1976 away jersey for the Guts and Glue of the Maize and Blue, #7, Mr. Rick Leach.  The detail note here I love is the exceptionally narrow sleeve stripes which were a mainstay of the mid-70s tear-away away jerseys.

 T&F also brings back three 1990s classics, Howard, Woodson, and Brady, in the porthole mesh and dazzle fabric, which I presume will replicate the 1990s look to a T.

On the basketball side, another 50th anniversary item, a road jersey for the Final Four team, represented here by #22 Bill Buntin.  Such a classic look to this jersey.  Were adidas not so concerned with their own branding, this should be Michigan's basketball look.  Clean, crisp, classic.

And last, and certainly not least, on the hockey side, the greatest Michigan jersey ever, the 1962 Red Berenson navy sweater.  I am so happy Michigan embraced its classic past in recent years (even if the Block Ms are a bit gratuitous.)  But now, if you've regretted the branding choices, you can get the original, in the original sweater material.


All in all, T&F have done a great job "getting it right".  Classic materials, classic sizing (which yeah, keep that in mind when ordering), the small details.  If you have a passion for Michigan's classic looks, this is the place.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

(Off Topic) Urban HIMYMs: "Last Forever"

Once upon a time, when the world was young and new, I was part of a plucky start-up pop culture blog called DeadOn.  We wrote about pop culture, as one is apt to do when you're in your mid-20s and have plenty of free time.  I wrote Urban HIMYMs, reviews of How I Met Your Mother, back when it was a struggling, always on the cancellation bubble show.  I stopped doing this roughly about the time that I met Franklin's mother, but last night's series finale rousted me out of my recapping slumber one last time.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."  If you could encapsulate the mission statement of How I Met Your Mother, it would be this line from John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy".  Ostensibly Ted is telling his kids the story about how he met their mother, but there's a long and twisting road to get there.  Why I think this story connected with me was that I am roughly Ted's age (mathematically, Ted, Marshall, and Lily are all Class of 1996 from high school, so the tie in was strong.)  While there was always a heightened sense of reality, there were always the core small moments of reality that kept it grounded.  I always felt like that for all of the broad strokes that could not possibly have happened, the details and emotional notes were right.

Which is why the last five minutes of last night's episode are so maddening.  We know now that the creators had this idea of how they were going to end the show in their mind forever, which OK, awesome, probably better to have a plan than to make it up as they go along.  (The example of this for me would be 24, where it always felt like the writers would have eight basic hours plotted out, and then realize that they had painted themselves into a lot of corners with no obvious end games.)  But, while they were making other plans, life happened.  Things happened in the show.  For a long time.  For a longer time than they expected.  So when we finally did meet the mother, when we finally caught the glimpses, and got to know her piece by piece, and we got to see her with Ted in the flash forwards, I think we started to like her.  Part of this is that Cristin Milioti just sold being the person Ted would logically end up with, part of this was that the layers had been put there, that all of the grief and heartache Ted had gone through up to that night on the train platform in Farhampton, all of that was going to pay off because as my friend Victoria liked to remind me "It doesn't have to be the perfect person, just the person perfect for you."
And then they killed her.

The hints had been there and we were so proud of ourselves for catching them, and then we all realized "wait, that would suck" so we collectively talked ourselves out of it.  And then they killed her.  And they gave us all of 30 seconds to grieve before Ted's off to win Robin back with a bookend to create perfect symmetry for the series.  But while Ted may have had six years to get to that point to be OK, and while Ted may be a person who can't be alone, we as viewers spent eight years waiting to meet this person, Tracy, the core premise of the show, only to have her killed off in a passing moment.  We don't get to see Ted's grief, we don't get to see this because we spent a season watching the build up to a wedding that was undone halfway through the next episode.  There was no time for any of this to breathe because of the decisions made by the creators.

So much of this boils down to the core issue of American television development.  We don't know how long we're going to get with a show, especially a sitcom, but if it can get in striking range of 100 episodes, we know it will get there because the business model says it should.  But then when you don't have anything as promising in development, you drag things on well past the point where you should have logically wrapped things up.  But you've held on to the way you wanted things to end for so long, you couldn't let go of it now, even if it didn't make any sense.  I suppose this is fair, when you're living inside of something, you can get tunnel vision for the sake of your own artistic creation.

In the end, this was a fun show, it was clever at times, it missed at others, but it's probably one I will have a long-standing attachment to because of that age cohort connection.  But like so many things, it ended badly, because happy endings really are too often too much to ask.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Mister Fantastic tried his absolute best. (Dustin Johnson/
Dustin Johnson captured many amazing shots of the Regional Final, which I recommend checking out here before going forward.  But this one stands out, because it speaks to the hardest part about being a sports fan.

Sometimes, the other guy just makes a play.  Your team didn't do anything wrong, the other guy just does his job and it works.  Aaron Harrison was one of the most highly sought after recruits in the country last season and sometimes talent just overwhelms.

Look at what else is going on in that shot.  Look at all of that Kentucky Blue in the stands, punctuated by hints of adidas highlighter yellow.  Kentucky is actually a touch closer to Indianapolis than Michigan is, especially the heart of Michigan country relative to the heart of Big Blue Nation.  Big Blue Nation was out in force, they wanted to see the battle royale with their in-state rivals in Louisville, and now they were back here in the House that Peyton Built to see their prized class, the pre-season #1, their beloved Wildcats try to prove everyone wrong by advancing to the Final Four.  The only team younger than Michigan in the tournament, they had grown up quickly, or so we had been told.  Sometimes talent can find its way.

Sometimes statistics are defied.  Kentucky shot 7-11 on three pointers, or nearly double their season average, whereas conversely, Michigan shot just a shade under their usual 40% on threes.  (Side note: If they call LeVert's shot in the first half a three, which could have gone either way, then Michigan shoots 42% for the game, or just a shade above their season average.  It also puts Michigan up one after the putback, which may have changed any number of things, but that is speculation at best.)

Sometimes, your luck runs out.  Michigan had not lost a game by fewer than double digits since their two point loss to Arizona back in December.  When Michigan had lost, it had lost big, at Indiana, at Iowa, to Wisconsin, to Michigan State, it was rough outings.  Conversely, Michigan has won thirteen games by single digits, seven by three points or fewer.  Michigan had lived on the knife edge on Friday night against the Vols and survived.  This time, they lost their margin of error that they had had throughout the tournament was not there, and it was over.  It was gone.

Sometimes you don't appreciate you have until it's gone.  Which is why I am thankful we were able to send off Jordan Morgan on a high note.  Morgan is exactly what we want our players to be, tenacious, hard-working, always working to be better, and, oh yeah, a pretty damn good student to boot.  To see all of the #ThanksJMo tweets after the game is to know that we didn't lose sight of what was going to end when Stauskas's last shot fell short.  We know we're probably also losing some other players, and we'll deal with that when the time comes, but for now, we appreciate what we had, because it was fun.  It was just fun.

So a tip of a cap to Coach Beilein and his staff for making us care again.  A salute to the Wildcats for a well-earned victory.  But most of all, a thanks for the memories that this team created, ones not soon forgotten.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hypersensitive Probabilities

There's been a lot of talk about Tennessee and their bewilderingly high tempo-free rating, a rating so confusing that Ken Pomeroy wrote a column trying to explain it. To summarize, Tennessee is CHAOSTEAM: they throw a wrench into the ranking system by consistently winning by a lot and losing by a little. That's how a 12-loss team can have a Pythagorean rating of 91.61%.

A team's Pythagorean rating is an estimate of the probability of the team defeating an average team. In Division I in 2013-14, the teams that rate out as most average are Holy Cross, a good team from a weak conference, and USC, a bad team from a power conference. If you have the Pythagorean ratings for two teams, A and B, you can calculate the probability that Team A defeats Team B using the log5 formula rediscovered by Bill James:

In words, the log5 formula states that the odds in favor of Team A beating Team B are equal to the odds in favor of Team A beating an average team times the odds in favor of an average team beating Team B. This formula is equivalent to the Elo chess rating system and several formal statistical models. If we apply the log5 formula to the Tennessee-Michigan game, we input Tennessee's Pythagorean rating of 91.61% and Michigan's rating of 90.32% and find that the probability of Tennessee winning the game is about 55%.

However, a lot of people are looking askance at these Pythagorean ratings as it just doesn't seem right that a 24-12 team from the weakest of the power conferences should be the #6 team in the country. Tennessee has been extremely unlucky according to kenpom: they rank 337th out of 351 with a luck score of -0.86. Among major conference teams, only Iowa and Oklahoma State have been unluckier.

The word "luck" is a misnomer here as it implies that deviations from the model are due to random chance. For all but the simplest of phenomena, errors in a statistical model are a combination of both random chance and systemic error. No existing model has captured effects like the B Factor - these effects are not necessary intangible, but they aren't captured by the models and are part of the reason that predictions can go awry.

Let's look at the Final Four probabilities for the Midwest Regional and suppose that some percentage of a team's luck is a real, systemic, deviation from their calculated Pythagorean rating. If luck is completely transitory, then Louisville is the clear favorite with a 46% chance of making it to Dallas, followed by Tennessee, Michigan, and then Kentucky.

The ratings and luck for the four teams are:

            Pyth  Luck
Louisville .9543 -.034
Tennessee  .9161 -.086
Michigan   .9032  .054
Kentucky   .8986 -.043

Of these four teams, only Michigan has had positive luck this year. If some of this luck is a real effect, how does luck effect the probability of going to the Final Four? Introduce a luck factor that can vary from 0 to 1, and suppose that each team's actual rating is Pyth+Luck*(luck factor). As the effect of luck (or uncertainty) increases, the chances of making the Final Four change a great deal:
You only need to believe that 10% of that luck is a real systemic error for Tennessee and Michigan to be at even odds. If you're willing to accept that even more luck is real, you can increase the chances of Michigan making the Final Four from 17% to 57%!

The issue is that probabilities computed using log5 become very sensitive when each team has a very high Pythagorean rating. This isn't a huge problem in baseball, where teams almost never win less than 30% or more than 70% of their games. But this does cause a problem when calculating the win probabilities between very good teams. Slight changes in the Pythagorean ratings can result in big changes in the log5 output.

For comparison, let's turn the four teams in the Midwest Regional into average teams by subtracting 0.4 from their Pythagorean ratings. I've changed the team names to average teams with similar tempo-free numbers:

                Pyth  Luck
Boston College .5543 -.034
Santa Clara    .5161 -.086
Holy Cross     .5032  .054
Brown          .4986 -.043

When the teams are close to average, the log5 probabilities are far less sensitive to changes in the Pythagorean ratings. Holy Cross, as the only lucky team, sees its win probability increase from 23% to 35% as we increase the role of luck, but this is far less than the 40% swing we saw with Michigan. The probabilities for Boston College and Brown decrease only slightly, while Santa Clara, the unluckiest team of all, has its probability of winning two games decrease by 10%.

Most statistical models are far better at predicting the behavior of the average or typical subjects and far weaker at predicting how outliers will behave. Now that we've reached the Sweet Sixteen, it turns out that tempo-free stats are no different: the probability that a given team will make the final four is very sensitive to the precise value of the Pythagorean rating, to the point where these ratings can really only give a rough estimate of win probability with very large error bars.

Or, to put things even more simply: I am incapable of predicting what's going to happen in the Sweet Sixteen because no one can predict what's going to happen with a high degree of confidence. The probabilities are just too sensitive to underlying uncertainties and systemic errors. Being uncertain about the outcome makes sports fun. Also terrifying, but fun.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tempo-Free Hate 2013-2014: Bo Ryan's Revenge!

Last year, between the Ohio and Wisconsin games, we spent the time wondering why do we all hate Aaron Craft so much? To answer this question, we proposed the Four Factors of Hate, and used these factors to find the Big Ten leaders in Tempo-Free Hate. This year, the question of why we all hate Aaron Craft was answered once and for all when Doug Gottlieb blamed this on the ball being too slippery:

GIF by Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog)
Even though unwarranted media attention and apologia are good reasons to be annoyed by a player, the Four Factors of Hate try to quantify just what makes a player so annoying using only the stats on the floor. The four factors are:
  • Steals per personal foul (ST/PF). Also known as handchecking ability, or Craftiness.
  • Ability to draw fouls (Free Throw Attempts/(Minutes Played * Usage %)).  Jordan Morgan is not as bad at this as you think.
  • Three-Point Specialization (3FG/FG). The "Just A Shooter" Award.
  • Free Throw Percentage (FT%). For those annoying players who just Win The Game. Since all players are supposed to be able to shoot free throws reasonably well FT% only counts half as much as the other three.
All stats come from Sports Reference College Basketball, except for team adjusted tempo, which is pulled from the front page at kenpom. Who is the most annoying player in the Big Ten? Find out after the jump!

Monday, February 24, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again

Goodbye old friend.(Photo by Michael Barera)
Let me start off by saying this is in no way a complaint, because it would be the stupidest, pettiest kind of complaining that I could do.  It's not a complaint.  At most, it's a nostalgic longing for a youth that probably never was in the first place.

My goodness, it's shiny.  Shiny and bright.  That was my initial reaction.  I hadn't been to Yost since the renovations.  I had been to Crisler, and I had been to Michigan Stadium, but I had not been to Yost.  The Crisler renovations really didn't mean a whole lot to me because I didn't spend a lot of time at Crisler*.  Michigan Stadium's renovations happened so slowly, that I had time to get used to them and other than the shadows and night games, I don't know how much they really impacted me.  It was a net positive, but nothing that went, wow, this is perfect either.

*-I think I went to three total basketball games at Crisler between 1996-2000.  I did get to see Brian Cardinal play for Purdue during his eight year residency, and I did get to see Brian Ellerbee execute a perfect psychological warfare plot of moving the Michigan bench chairs as close to the baseline as possible when the opponent was shooting on that side in the first quarter, only to then move them well back in the second half, creating the illusion of space.  If Tom Izzo could actually put Michigan State's bench chairs on the court during the first half, I know he would.)

But Yost, well, I spent a lot of time at Yost.  Between 1996-2006, I went to 105 college hockey games, of which 77 were Michigan games, of which 46 were at Yost.  If being a Michigan football fan is part of being something larger than yourself, being a Michigan hockey fan is like that, but smaller, more intimate.  There is definitely a metaphorical secret handshake, and you come to understand that not everyone will get it, but you also tell yourself the right people will and that's all that matters.  For almost all of those games, my college roommate Dave was along side of me.  So we have a whole complex series of in jokes and shared memories about Michigan hockey.

But, life happens.  You grow up, you get a job, you get married, you have a kid, Big Ten Network starts showing more and more hockey games and all of the sudden your trips to Yost become fewer and further between.  I was actually struggling to remember the last time I went.  My email archive tells me it actually may pre-date the Big Chill, so yeah, it's been a while.  My son had never been to Yost for a game, even though we held his first birthday party there (which also pre-dated the renovation.)  I had seen photos, I had heard the stories, but I had not actually been in there.

So myself, my wife, my son, our niece and nephew, and Dave, went to the game on Saturday.  Penn State was an easy ticket to get and sure enough, we had great seats in section 14 (up high, you could see all of the action.)  So when we went in, what struck me was that the front is largely the same building that it always was, where I went in 1998 to pick up my student tickets, the displays have been updated but still have that hand-made charm they always have had.  But then you walk down the corridor along the State Street side and it's just, it's angular, and bright, and shiny.  It is a clear celebration of Michigan's glorious hockey past, and I learned a bunch of things that I had either forgotten or taken for granted.  The execution is top-notch and should be saluted.  The Michigan bubble hockey game, awesome.

And then you enter the arena itself and it's just so bright and airy and open.  You can see everything, and nothing feels like it's closing in on you.  The seats are shiny, aluminium, and reflective, and the scoreboard is streaming HD video advertisements to you.  If you had no knowledge of what Yost was, this place would be amazing.  The uncovered windows restoring Yost to its original 1920s glory are just the icing on the cake.

And yet...

Yost was dark, dank, cramped, and angry.  It was cold and unwelcoming to friend and for alike.  And mind you, I only ever started going to Yost after the mid-1990s renovation, so it was actually nicer then than when Michigan began to reascend in the world of college hockey.  The wood bleachers were lived in, the things that had fallen beneath them were something no one should ever want to see (I saw the Facebook photo album, I can't unsee it.)  There was a raucousness, a rough edge, a hand spun feeling to being there, even if we had all learned the chants from one another.  It's so easy for students now to coordinate something like a Don Cherry night, and I am glad they do, because college is supposed to be stupid fun, but I hope the memories are the same for them, that they will have the same depth, the same meaning.  Because we cared about this place deeply, even when few others would have.  And it's still here, but it's not what it was, and maybe that's OK.  But the shock of seeing what was lost in the name of progress and revenue streams, well, I'll get over it some day.  But just not right now.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

History Time! Michigan Enabling and Statehood Acts

Many states proudly post the text of the legislation establishing their statehood on their governmental web site. Michigan does not do this, probably because the Enabling Act of 1836 has the shameful title of "An Act to establish the northern boundary line of the State of Ohio, and to provide for the admission of the State of Michigan into the Union upon the conditions therein expressed." So, as a public service at the start of Year 178, here is the text of the Michigan statehood act of January 26, 1837.

An Act to admit the State of Michigan into the Union, upon an equal footing with the original States.

Whereas, in pursuance of the act of Congress of June the fifteenth, eighteen hundred and thirty-six, entitled “An act to establish the northern boundary of the State of Ohio, and to provide for the admission of the State of Michigan into the Union upon the conditions therein expressed,” a convention of delegates, elected by the people of the said State of Michigan, for the sole purpose of giving their assent to the boundaries of the said State of Michigan as described, declared, and established, in and by the said act, did, on the fifteenth of December, eighteen hundred and thirty-six, assent to the provisions of the said act, therefore:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the State of Michigan shall be one, and is hereby declared to be one, of the United States of America, and admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, in all respects whatever.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury, in carrying into effect the thirteenth and fourteenth sections of the act of the twenty-third of June, eighteen hundred and thirty-six, entitled, “An act to regulate the deposites of the public money,” shall consider the State of Michigan as being one of the United States.

APPROVED, January 26, 1837.

After the jump, the aforementioned Enabling Act of 1836.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Long live the Nussmeter!

Doug Nussmeier presents a quandary for fans of arbitrary meters ranking offensive coordinators. He is the most famous Nussmeier in the world. There has never been a Jorge Luis Nussmeier out there writing Nobel Prize-winning magic realism. He is no Todd Grantham, who allows Louisville's defense to be ranked according to Downton Abbey characters (I rank his hire a solid Ethel).

We therefore turn to etymology. Nussmeier comes from Low German and means, roughly, nut farmer. So, to replace the Borges-O-Meter, please welcome the Nussmeter. From this day, we shall rank Michigan's offensive performance by comparing it to the appropriate kind of nut. We refer to "nut" in the culinary sense: botanical drupes and nut-like seeds are part of the Nussmeter.

The Nussmeter has 12 levels, listed below:

0. Buckeye

The Nussmeter already has a big advantage over the Borges-O-Meter: there is clearly a nut we can call the absolute zero of nuts. The Nussmeter can never go negative. Thanks to Craig for finding the appropriately terrifying buckeye image over two years ago.

1. Filbert

According to Wikipedia, filberts are "are commonly used as 'filler' in mixed nut combinations." So that's pretty bad.

2. Brazil nut

Brazil nuts are a pain in the butt to crack and not worth the trouble of cracking. They're a good source of selenium, which makes them better than filberts.

3. Chestnut

For when the offense gets roasted on an open fire.

4. Almond

"Eating even a few dozen at one sitting can be fatal." The offense is all right but you wouldn't want large doses of it.

5. Red Pistachio Nut
6. All-Natural White Pistachio Nut

7. Walnut
8. Pecan

The walnut and pecan are the only nuts associated with bowl games. Diamond Walnut sponsored the San Francisco Bowl before it became the Fight Hunger Bowl we know and acknowledge. I was surprised to learn that the pecan is the only nut to ever have a bowl game itself named for it. The walnut and pecan thus symbolize bowl-capable offensive performance.

9. Cashew

The opposite of the filbert: the nut you pick out of the mixed nuts.

10. Macadamia

The most expensive of the nuts by weight. Can survive in Hardiness Zone 10. Would be at the top of the charts, if not for:

11. Nuts and Gum

Together at last! The Tlön of the nut world.

The Nussmeter starts out at Level 5, red pistachio nut. There are a lot of flaws that are being dyed over right now but, if they get straightened out, we could have something Wonderful.

Here is the Nussmeter in its GIFfy glory:

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

It's not all good news

The Borges-O-Meter is sadly retired. Perhaps the new offensive co-ordinator will be Larry Paz, Steve Neruda, or Mike Garcia Marquez. Until then, we soldier on and learn as much as we can about the works of Adolfo Mazzone.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Lost in Space

Luna-Lost in Space-1995
(Sorry gang, can't embed, but you can listen along)

You heard it all before
And said your case was tragic
You heard it all before
And now they say it's magic

You need
Time off
For good
And you know there's something else
But you can't give a name
Someone's selling all your heroes

And it seems such a shame

Maybe the worst part about being 7-6 is that one literally cannot know if things will get better or worse next year because both possibilities seem equally probable.  People like to say "Michigan was just three plays away from 9-4" which, OK, sure, (A Gibbons make in the Penn State game, the two point conversion in the Ohio State game, I can accept both of those as they were so late in the game, the quantum realities that exist from that point are limited, especially the Gibbons field goal.)  We were also easily two plays away from being 5-7 (Gibbons misses in the rain in Evanston, Akron connects on the final play of the game).  So 7-6 is probably right and fitting, win some, lose some.

But it really is hard to know what to think for next year, which is probably for the best that we can have some time away from this, some distance before we must contemplate the future, in both short and long terms.  There is talent, I know it because I have seen it and because everyone who seems to know these things better than I do tells me so.  The question is, can there be improvement?  Will there be improvement?  Because I think the athletic department knows there has to be.

The Athletic Department is in a bind.  It is facing the worst home football schedule in Michigan's history, an increasingly disgruntled, or at the very least, discontented fan and alumni base, who feels increasingly hit in the wallet when asked to re-up for season tickets, facing a Michigan Stadium atmosphere that feels less and less like the one that people cherished and more and more like a multi-level marketing...wait, sorry...synergy machine that we're told is the future because the people who get to make these decisions want to create the future, whether or not anyone wants to go along with them for the ride.   By the same token, they want to sell us on the glory of the past, which starts to feel more and more like imperial decline, like remembering the high water mark of the empire and silently (or sometimes more loudly) fretting that the grandest days are behind us (Notre Dame reclaiming the winning percentage mark after ten years in part because they made up SEVEN games on Michigan in the last two years would be a good example of that kind of fear in a more tangible form.)

And by the way, as guilty of this as I am, don't think for a moment that collectively telling ourselves that this is all just 2013's fault isn't a symptom of this fear.  Because the alternative is far darker.

Maybe the greatest gift of growing up is that you can still appreciate things that meant so much to you in your childhood and young adulthood without being consumed by them.  I still care about this program, about this team, about these players, but it no longer drives my mood for a week.  It's the realization not that there are more important things, though there are, but that willingly handing your emotional state to things well outside control is just a really poor decision for one's temperament.  (I would like to thank the Detroit Lions for helping me reach this realization sooner rather than later.)

So, come August, well cheer again, we'll get excited about the players who made significant strides during fall camp, we'll look at the schedule and try to find those nine wins, knowing that we're not going to Indianapolis without some good luck.  We'll say goodbye to our friends from South Bend, because it is ending because of the new world order, and we'll welcome some new "friends" from the East for the same reason, looking at them sideways the way one one might with step-siblings (Yes, there's a Brady Bunch joke there.  Yes, I am declining to make it.)  We'll show up and we'll hope and we'll complain and we'll wonder, going up, or going down?  Because right now, we just don't know.

Farewell Team 134.  Godspeed to you Team 135.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Smash Mouth Football

It started here...
Then this happened...
And, well, since bad song parodies are a thing we do here...

Somebody once told me the SEC is gonna roll me
But they ain't the sharpest tool in the shed
We were looking kind of dumb with our offense in the 'gun
In the shape of an "I" it's what the Borge said

Well, the hits start coming and they don't stop coming
If you don't block, can get the ground running
Didn't make sense not to block or run
Your lizard brain isn't smart so your OC gets dumb

So much to do, beat UConn by three
Couple of bounces might have prevented some bad beats.
You'll never know if you don't go
But then Gibbons misses two off his toe

Hey now, you're mediocre
Head to Tempe, Go, Play

Hey now, you lost to Penn State
Are you surprised this bowl's lame?

It's a hot seat and they say it gets warmer
They're fired up now but wait 'til your O Line gets older
But the media men beg to differ
Judging by the hole in the B1G ring picture

Safety depth is getting pretty thin
Gardner's gettin sacked, makes it tough to win
Sparty couches on fire. How about yours?
That's the way we like it as we say stuff untoward.

[Chorus 2x]

Somebody once preened should we call a bubble screen
I need to make plays in space
I said yep what a concept
Just got to execute better myself
Ignoring the calls for O-Coordinator change

Well, the hits start coming and they don't stop coming
If you don't block, can't get the ground running
Didn't make sense not to block or run
Your lizard brain isn't smart so your offense plays dumb

So much to do, beat UConn by three
Couple of bounces might have prevented some bad beats.
You'll never know if you don't go
But then Gibbons misses two off his toe


And all DB wants is gold
Need a title to break the mold

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Yosef Looks Familiar

Appalachian State announced a new alternate logo this week called "Victory Josef." Reaction from the Internet has been mixed. ASU alumni are reportedly supportive of the new logo, but they also liked the "Hot Hot Hot" video, so their taste is questionable at best.

It's a bold move rolling out new product in advance of next fall's Clonus Horror at the Big House. All those ASU shirts in Columbus must be getting worn out by now. But Yosef looks awfully familiar. Let's turn him 90 degrees and switch out his hat:

There we have it. Brian's been working on the inside over there to make sure The Horror doesn't happen again. Now let's put him back in profile:

"Panic and Run Around Screaming" is perfectly good advice after realizing how much you shelled out for a 2014 home schedule featuring Appalachian State.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


Toledo Blade/Andy Morrison
from Latin valēre: to be strong

In the end, it was for them and we're just happy to have been a part of it.  This isn't about moral victories or taking solace in the margin being closer even if the result was what most of us expected at the beginning of the week.  It is for them.  If we doubt that, just look at Devin Gardner's face as he meets with the media after the game.  He doesn't look that way because he let us down, no, it is because he knows he let his teammates down, even if the reality of the day contradicts that feeling.  As much as any person on the field, he got his team in a position to go for that win when very few people outside of their locker room thought it was even possible.  Then they didn't get that win, and the feeling sucks, and you try telling him otherwise.

But perhaps the most telling reaction to Saturday is the seemingly overwhelming approbation, both local and national, for the decision to go for two.  Hoke said that he asked the seniors if they wanted to do it and they claim to a man, they said yes.  I respect the decision even more for one of the core principles of leadership, trust your people, believe in them.  The players, in the end, owned that choice as much as Hoke.  Win or lose, they all owned the decision.  Hoke gave his players agency in a world where all too often they are treated as interchangeable parts in a machine.  In the end, eleven moving parts couldn't make it happen because of eleven other moving parts with the directive to stop them.  In another reality, they did make it.  But neither set of players in these parallel realities will ever know how the other feels, but as I said yesterday, to once again draw on the wisdom of the War Doctor, "at worst, we failed doing the right thing, as opposed to succeeding in doing the wrong,"

We spend so much time obsessing over what it means to be a "Michigan man" to the point where we are readily parodied for it. But Saturday reminded me why we end up loving these teams and these players, win or lose.  We do get those occasional glimpses of just how much this means to them, how much they truly embrace the ethos of team, instead of it slowly becoming a marketing gimmick to repeated at halftime.  They're not perfect, but neither are we.  But I was reminded, as the Tom Brady speech to Team 134 was replayed on the video board during the game, the players in that room all chose Michigan, just like all of us did, alumnus, student, and supporter alike.  The circumstances of that choosing will vary from person to person, but like the decision to go for two, we own that choice.  We may get frustrated by any number of things, we may be upset by the outlook for the future, but it is only because we care so deeply about that choice.  It defines us in ways that we don't even always want to acknowledge because society frowns upon the level of devotion that we may grant to a secular entity.  But the things that define us, shape us, inform us, all serve to reflect to the world what we hope to see in ourselves.  So we can find a way to be angry with the result, but be proud of the effort, because we are gifted with a first-rate intelligence, one with is "the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

So to Team 134, that latest link in the Maize Chain of Being, we salute you.  We are reminded of the words of our University's co-founder in the wake of the fire that destroyed Detroit in 1805: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus; or "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes."

In the end, perhaps this was an exercise in reminding us of the meaning of valiant and while it always feels better to be victorious and valiant, we can always try to be valiant nonetheless.