Sunday, October 04, 2015

Raining in Baltimore

"I am waving my hands in the air, as if I just don't care."  --Jim Harbaugh, maybe?  (CSTV)
One of the truly great pleasures of being a Michigan fan is underrated, well, perhaps it was until it went away for a while.  Michigan plays in the early game, wins the game over a lesser opponent, and you can watch the rest of the afternoon and evening's games without worrying about seeing the highlights or analysis.  You can sit back and watch everyone else and mentally start thinking about the next opponent.

I can't underrate a shutout, because they are rare and they are a beautiful thing.  If the other team doesn't score, they can't win.  It's the fundamental theorem of sport. So if your defense does not allow the other team to score, you're going to win the game (well provided you can get some points yourself.)

I had a mild repiphany this past week.  A repiphany, of course, is when you remember a life changing revelation that you had about yourself previously but had allowed to fade in to the background.  But my realization is that I am fundamentally about defense.  If you ask me to choose which I like better, offense or defense, it's going to be defense.  (This is mildly ironic because quiz bowl, with which I have been involved for nearly a quarter century as a player, tournament director, and coach, is one of the few competitive activities of two teams facing each other simultaneously where you cannot play defense, except by playing offense.)  In football, offense is about imposing your will on the other side.  I want to do this particular thing to achieve this particular goal, and this is how I will go about doing it.  Defense is about guessing what the opponent wants to do and preparing for any and all contingencies as best as possible.  You array your players on the field to maximize your strengths and disguise your weaknesses.  So if you have a lockdown secondary, you can be more aggressive in the pass rush.  If you have a stout run defense, you can force the opposition into throwing more, even if they don't want to do so.  Offense is planning, defense is constant adaption, but, if you have superior defense, you can impose your own will on the offense.

The 1997 Michigan defense is, of course, the gold standard of great modern defenses* in Ann Arbor.  This defense isn't there yet.  But...That 1997 unit gave up 26 points in the first five games of the season.  Michigan's defense has only given up 29 (the Rudock Pick 6 against Utah can't be held against this defense, can it?)  This Michigan defense has given up fewer yards than the 1997 unit (admittedly, that 1997 team played all Power 5 schools in their first five games, but still.)  Anything this Michigan team is going to do is going to come from what the defense can do.  Michigan turns the ball over?  No problem, defense forces a three and out.  (OK, admittedly, this is not a viable long-term strategy, but it's much less annoying that feeling doomed because the offense just screwed up again.)  Put in your back up quarterback to find a spark?  Willie Henry blasts through your offense line to stand over him looking like a hungry bear that has stumbled upon a campsite of unprepared urbanites trying to be "rugged."  Move the game up eight hours because the hurricane sitting in the middle of the Atlantic might be headed for Maryland?  Michigan gets the job done well ahead of schedule and comes home to start prepping for Northwestern.  

We keep recalibrating expectations for this season, in part because we spent the summer trying to tamp them down because the last seven seasons wouldn't allow us to dream.  Next week will be a huge test for this Michigan team, in large part because Northwestern might be an even better defense than Michigan's.  But Michigan's at home, and maybe that might be just enough. 

But, hooray for having faith in two of your three units.  Trust but verify on the third.

(*-I mean, Yost's 1901-1903 teams went 26 straight games without allowing a point.   Just sayin'.)

(**-My initial plan for this season was to use all Florence + The Machine song titles for the names of the columns, but then the Killers column happened, so it's just all song titles this season.  But were I going for a F+TM title for this one, it would have been "Hurricane Drunk.") 

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Drevnometer discovers aesthetics

A dominating second-quarter performance from the Michigan O pushes the Drevnometer to new heights: an 8! This is higher than the Nussmeter ever reached, and the Borges-O-Meter usually exceeded these heights only due to Denard-related exuberance.

Much like the Michigan offense, the Drevnometer chart is adding new wrinkles each week:

Picture showing that Tim Drevno's knot-tying game is off point from

The Drevnometer's Three Stars of the Game

Previous Three Stars

Oregon State: ★★★ Ty Isaac ★★ Jehu Chesson ★ Sione Houma
Oregon State: ★★★ De'Veon Smith ★★ Erik Magnuson ★ A.J. Williams
Utah: ★★★ Jake Butt ★★ Amara Darboh ★ Graham Glasgow

We're now using the Americans for Amara Darboh. And, based on that tie, being slightly left-of-center is a very Drevno thing to do.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Daily 125

On the occasion of The Michigan Daily's 125th anniversary.  (And as always, I could probably use a good editor.)

My time at Michigan was built around four years (plus some mentoring) with UAC's Michigan Academic Competitions.  So much of my Michigan life, including almost all of my long-term friendships formed at Michigan, came from my days on MAC.  Of the three men who stood up in my wedding, one was my brother, one was my friend Geoff, who was a fellow MAC member, and one was my best man, my friend from high school, my college roommate, Dave Wallace.  It is through Dave that I first came to understand The Michigan Daily and that which is 420 Maynard St.

To many a Michigan student of my era, and I am sure of eras before and after, The Daily was the thing you grabbed to read before class started and maybe kept around to do the crossword.  (OK, I did a lot of Daily crosswords while sitting in the back part of the NatSci auditorium.  No one denies this.)  But from Dave, I understood it was something more.  It was long hours.  It was hard work.  It was craft.  It was dedication.  Though I was always told in high school that I had a knack for writing, but it was well and truly agreed that Dave had the gift.  Dave wrote in a way that a high school student should not be able to do, but he had a gift.  (True story: My mom would read our high school paper and she was always very complimentary of my writing, she would tell me how exceptional Dave's latest column or article was.)  So I would always look for what Dave wrote in The Daily and I would appreciate that the he was surrounded by some other exceptional writers, and that they were all writing for this student paper that we could pick up for free in the stairwell of the MLB.

(My only contribution to The Daily when I was a student was helping Dave name his column when he earned one in his junior/senior year.  We threw around a lot of names before landing on "Exile on Maynard Street", which was a wonderful combination of pun, nod to the Daily, and Rolling Stones reference.) 

Like many things from college, you move away from things as you leave college, but around the same time that Twitter burst into prominence around 2009-10, I started following some of the Daily sports writers.  They were insightful, they were funny, and they were always willing to listen and interplay on topics.  Just like watching college players move through their careers and grow and mature, I got to see and read these articles, which were so polished, so concise, so clean, giving a perspective on Michigan athletics that doesn't always get picked up by a local beat writer (I would argue that not only did The Daily fill the void after the Ann Arbor News stopped publishing a printed daily paper, they became a wonderful complimentary piece to MLive.)

So when, due to some very complicated issues, the high school I teach at stopped having a newspaper, it disappointed me because I wanted to send some of my kids to write for the Daily.  But, just as not having a journalism major hasn't stopped the Daily from turning our great journalists, not having a newspaper wasn't going to stop me from trying to connect my future Wolverines with The Daily.  It thrills me to no end that four of my former students are currently writers for The Daily and that through them, I get a vicarious view into the wonderful world of 420 Maynard Street as it is in 2015.  I am thrilled to see these college kids become even more than they were when they first showed up for a Daily mass meeting as freshmen.  Some of them have and will go on to  great journalism careers, like so many of their predecessors.  Others maybe will not pursue journalism, but will treasure their time at The Daily just as others treasure their time in college on the stage, or in a club sport, even if it is a part of their past without being their future.   The knowledge that you were a part of something larger than yourself, and you're connected to the past and the present and the future of something that has been around for a 125 years, well, that's kind of amazing.

So to you, The Daily, the kids who give us something great to read every day, five days a week, a bunch of weeks of the year, thank you.  Wherever the road leads you in the future, we appreciate the moments you had when you were exiled on Maynard Street.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Diamonds from Sierra Leone

Amara Darboh with a leaping grab, as captured by Eric Upchurch.

Every so often, you get one right.

I saw this great photo from Michigan's David Turnley as a part of Mark Snyder's tremendous story about Amara Darboh becoming an American citizen this week.  I saw the joy in a young person's eye in becoming an American citizen, affirming on paper what he already had in his heart and in his mind.  And I thought "Wouldn't it be great if Darboh had a big game this week?"  It would certainly be a nice narrative.  As I waited to get in to Michigan Stadium on Saturday, hurrying as best we could after a late morning youth soccer game that we coached, I said to my wife "I feel like Darboh's going to have a big game today.  He became a citizen this week, I think he's feeling good and he'll be really focused."  The native of Sierra Leone would not disappoint.  Nor would his teammates.

Every so often, you get one right.  I had no idea that Darboh would do it in such spectacular fashion.  On a previous Saturday this September, maybe that Rudock throw is a little higher, or a little less on target and Darboh makes a great effort but for naught.  But on this day, on 3rd and 5, with the Michigan Stadium winds swirling, having gone three and out on the opening drive of the game, Darboh made a catch that will be long remembered and replayed in Michigan lore.  (Thankfully, it was part of a touchdown drive, when Rudock scrambled for three yards for a touchdown, meaning it actually was a part of something useful.)

Darboh would also snag a touchdown catch early in the second quarter, helping propel him to game ball honors for Michigan, but the best part of today was the moment where you just think to yourself "Oh my goodness, everyone is having a great game!"  It isn't objectively true, I am sure things will be found on the game film that can be corrected and improved upon, but in a week when Jim Harbaugh backed his starting quarterback to the media, Jake Rudock had his best game as a Wolverine, with no turnovers, smart decision making (including a couple of wise throwaways), and some scrambling (which led to two touchdowns), to pick but one notion, it is a nice feeling.  The defense, which wanted the shutout last week, got it*, only to be disappointed in not keeping BYU under 100 yards of total offense.  As our friend Tom Servo once famously reminded us "Oh yeah, these are the problems you want to have."

One of the problems with writing a weekly column on Michigan football is that you end up looking for deeper meaning in each game when sometimes, none exists.  Other days, however, when the stars align just right, meaning stares you right in the face.  Michigan fans wanted to know what this season would be.  With September in the rearview, Michigan emerged from the non-conference schedule 3-1, winning their home games and losing a road game to a tough Utah team by just seven points.  They head into B1G play not as the favorites in the B1G East, or even as the second choice.  But they get Michigan State and Ohio State at home, and if the defense can play even remotely in the neighborhood of what they did today, well, you never know...Neither looks as invincible as we initially thought on paper (the losses of Tom Herman at OSU and Pat Narduzzi at MSU may loom large down the line.)

But for now, an exceptional day at the Big House, and not a perfect September, but one that ends on a high note.  No result on the field could hope to match the hype of the off-season, and certainly that opening game loss but a damper on expectations, but October doesn't feel dread filled, but rather challenging and compelling.  After the last few years, so many of us will happily take that.  So, onward to a night in College Park, the start of conference play, and the hope that better every day is a truth to behold.

(*-Some wonderful symmetry here: Michigan took the consecutive games without being shutout streak away from BYU in game 362 (in 2013 against Ohio State) (only to lose it in game 365 of the streak on a 31-0 shutout to a religious school that plays as FBS independent.  This game was the first time BYU was shutout since the 2003 loss to Utah that ended BYU's 361 game streak.  Yes, I know way too much about this streak.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Drevnometer discovers Mathematics

This week the Drevnometer drops from 6 (Temple of Artemis) to 4 (Pyramids of Giza). This drop corresponds to the drop from the enthusiastic feeling of "we can run through anybody!" to the lingering dread of "what if the only thing we can do is run through anybody?" The Drevnometer's progress now comes in handy chart form:

This chart may get prettier as the year progresses.

While the Drevnometer took a hit this week, it's still a welcome sight compared to the Borges-O-Meter. San José State was Oregon State's opponent this week, allowing for a common opponent comparison: the Spartans only had 253 yards to Michigan's 405, had 149 passing yards divided between three QBs, and a pick 6. They did win the time of possession battle though! The Borges-O-Meter gets a 2.

The Debord-O-Meter also took a big retroactive hit this week, as the Oklahoma defense the held Tennessee to 254 yards last week gave up more than 600 yards to Tulsa. A dominant performance against Western Carolina does not undo the fact that the defense that looked dominant against you looked significantly less so against an average AAC team. The best possible explanation for Debord is that the OU defense really is that good and the Stoopses told them to take it easy last weekend at part of their continued trolling operation against the SEC.

The Drevnometer's Three Stars of the Game

Previous Three Stars

Oregon State: ★★★ De'Veon Smith ★★ Erik Magnuson ★ A.J. Williams
Utah: ★★★ Jake Butt ★★ Amara Darboh ★ Graham Glasgow

Sione Houma is second only to Kraig Baker among Michigan football players who share their names with cities in Louisiana, although Zachary Gentry may be nibbling at his heels next year.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Welcome to Fabulous

Mr. Smith goes to the End Zone (Photo Melanie Maxwell/MLive)
(I don't know if there's a lot to glean from this week, but when I found the gimmick, the premise seemed like a Killer...  So if it doesn't work for you, I'm sorry, but no reason to make a Hot Fuss.)

For us Michigan fans of a certain vintage, "When You Were Young", this would have been the kind of Michigan game that you would have expected.  It's "The Way It Was" and "The Way It's Always Been" but when you're "On Top", you don't always appreciate it.  We've been "Losing Touch" with this, "For Reasons Unknown", but that is the "The World We Live In" in this Day and Age.  "From Here on Out" it was "A Matter of Time"  until someone came along to "Change Your Mind" that Michigan was back.

"My List" of things I wanted to see today was solid running attack, improved passing, and hopefully nothing to sweat in terms of UNLV's offense.  "Between Me and You", "Somebody Told Me" that "Runaways" or blowouts only come if your team practices "Hard Enough".  But "Everything Will Be Alright" if Michigan came out, did it's job and didn't suffer any major injuries.  It's almost as if Michigan could "Read My Mind" during that first half "Joy Ride", a semi-repeat of "All These Things That I've Done" last week, and you could "Smile Like You Mean It" as Michigan made its "Bones" on a "The Rising Tide" of overpowering a much smaller Rebel team.

If I am going to be "Mr. Brightside", Michigan football is trying to be a "Prize Fighter", overpowering opponents by punching and punching, making them ask "Why Do I Keep Counting?" until they're "On the Floor".  But "The Clock Was Tickin'" and the early scores by Smith, Chesson, and Isaac had "The Desired Effect" and UNLV had to "Swallow It", looking 2012 "Jacksonville"  Jaguars-esque at times.  They were "Playing with Fire", but "This Is Your Life" as a Mountain West team looking for a guarantee game, a "Flesh and Bone" opponent that would like to acquit itself as something more than just looking for a paycheck.  But the scarlet and gray team from "Sam's Town" are "Battle Born" and were hoping that "Dreams Come True".  But, caught in the "Crossfire",  they ended up in "Lonely Town", their upset dreams just a "A Dustland Fairytale".  Maybe if you made a few more plays in "Spaceman", you'd look something more than "Human".

(OK, I'm done.)

In the final analysis, Michigan does have some things to work on, before BYU and before conference play.  They need to get the timing down between Rudock and his receivers.  They need to keep refining, smooth, polishing the stone.  But there is something nice in knowing that Michigan seems to have two legitimate options at running back in De'Veon Smith and Ty Isaac, as well as a returning Drake Johnson.  If this season has a developing theme, it is that it's going to be someone new every week, and potentially every quarter.  The leverage of using whatever's working and whatever the defense feels like just seems like, dare I say it, good coaching?  On some level, we should not be too excited, Michigan beat two teams that will likely end up with losing records at season's end, but they looked like a team ready to do more.  Next week against BYU and then the road trip to Maryland will be real eye-openers.  But for now, I am happy with where Michigan is as a team.

"Goodnight, Travel Well"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Drevnometer discovers Calendar

Greater minds than our own have both captured Jim Harbaugh's bad call-fueled rage in GIF format and analyzed it thoroughly. However, we here at the Drevnometer wish to draw you attention to the right-hand side of the picture, where our namesake, the eminence grise of the Michigan offense, the Dap King himself, is reacting to the man in charge.

He's walking down the sideline, sees Harbaugh start throwing things. He looks at Harbaugh and think to himself, "Yeah. That'll happen." Unflappable.

The Drevnometer has a four-point jump this week, from 2 (pre-season and Utah) to 6. That may seem low after such a dominant running performance, but we need to save room for when the passing game starts clicking. The offense is running smoothly on one cylinder, but it can run smoothly on both.

The Drevnometer's Three Stars of the Game

Honorable mention to Wilton Speight and the proper demonstration of how a redshirt works.

Previous Three Stars

Utah: ★★★ Jake Butt ★★ Amara Darboh ★ Graham Glasgow (We totally meant to post this. We promise.)

Elsewhere in Michigan Offense-Related Puns

I was quite confused when Joe Davis, Kim Davis's husband, told WDRB that the judge that locked up his wife was "a butt." Why would he compare the judge to Jake Butt unless he thought the judge was great? If he wanted to say the judge was bad, he should have suggested that Judge Bunning must have earned his law degree from Rutgers. /rimshot

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Breath of Life

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. (Photo from
(Editor's Note: Updated throughout 9/14 for clarity.  Apparently me fail English yesterday morning.)

If you asked a sports fan to be truly honest, they will admit that while they loathe it when their teams lose, the thing that worries them most deeply is chaos.  Fans of power programs want routine wins, just like the prophecies had foretold.  They want their teams' games that play out exactly as they had scripted in their head.  Let the chaos come to that Notre Dame/Virginia game that you watch at home after your team has packed up a nice win in the expected packaging and is thinking about next week.

Routine is about not about eliminating the unknown, but minimizing the impact chaos can have on one's life.  Oh, you build an extra 20 minutes into your commute so that if there's a chemical spill on US-23, you're not going to be late for work.  You have trouble remembering to get a card for your sister's birthday?  Write a Google Calendar task to remind you a week early so you're not scrambling on the actual day.  You buy yourself some cushion so when the chaos comes, because it will, because it must, because as an Austrian philosopher once said "All genius is a conquering of chaos and mystery."

I don't know if it is true genius to build your football program around the principles of a stout run game, taking care of the football, and getting off the field on third down on defense.  Maybe it was genius at one point in time that then became the conventional wisdom because obviousness of  the plan demonstrated itself often enough in programs that won that it seems so easy to replicate and earn similar results.  If the past seven years have taught Michigan fans anything (and believe me, they should have taught us a great deal) it's that saying the words, telling people that is what you want to do, does not automatically mean you will do it, let alone do it well well.  Heck, sometimes you won't even do it at all.  But when you can do it, it becomes apparent that your team will win a lot more football games than it loses.  It is removing as much chaos from the game as possible.  A stout run game means you're theoretically gaining yards and keeping on schedule.  Taking care of the football means you're limiting turnovers, and thus not only the opportunities that your opponent has to score, but also the associated sudden change situations that are chaotic in and of themselves.  Getting off the field on third down on defense means that your opponent is not extending drives, a subtle form of chaos.

The first 5% of Michigan's game with Oregon State was a form of chaos.  The Beavers, who had struggled with FCS Weber State last week at home, crossed three time zones for a noon kickoff, and came out ready to do the dam thing.   They marched down the field with seeming relative ease and all of the sudden, the 109,651 in the Big House were suddenly reaching for their collars.  This was further abetted by Jake Rudock's fumble on just the third offensive play of Michigan's day and all of the sudden, all of the bad memories of the last seven years came rushing to the fore.

So when Joe Bolden committed the perfect Bolden on Bolden crime and recovered an Oregon State fumble, it took a couple of series, but Michigan got the ship righted.  The 95 yard swing on the punt (which came in the series after Jeremy Clark was called for a terrible Roughing the Kicker penalty, for which Harbaugh was right to lose his mind, followed by a three down stand, and a Oregon State Delay of Game Penalty) allowed Michigan to score last in the first half, and then first in the second half, and the game was salted away.

So, 1-1, UNLV coming to town next week, and feeling a little better than we did last week.

* Thank you ABC/ESPN for including Wolverbear in the new CFB graphics package.

* The internal video board graphics at Michigan Stadium looked clean and crisp.
* Michigan's win was #916 of all time.  They remain behind Notre Dame in the winning percentage race, .7316 to .7291.  Michigan currently needs to win three four games on days with Notre Dame losses to reclaim the crown (and obviously, not lose when Notre Dame wins). (Editor's note: Updated, the numbers we had for both schools did not account for Week 1.  We have corrected the error.
* Bryan Cole looked really good on punt block duty.
* Watch the two point conversion play.  Really heady work by Rudock to wait until he had something and found Smith.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Long and Lost

Jake Butt, in triple coverage? Why not?  (Photo by Bryan Fuller)

If we're truly honest with ourselves, it wasn't that different than our usual collective delusion of a summer.  We overinvest in the positives, we paper over the negatives or doubts with rationalizations or dismissing them as unknowns.  We talked ourselves into the notion that the guy who only had 1.9% of his pass attempts last year intercepted would take better care of the ball.  We told ourselves that the O-Line would have improved technique and hey, throw in some Harbaugh and boom, problems solved, past buried, ship righted.

It's not going to be easy, because if it were easy, Brady Hoke would probably still be Michigan's coach.  There are flaws and they're not necessarily fixed quickly.  But I'm going to not focus on the flaws, because we're all going to see them.  They're very similar to the ones that haunted Michigan last year.  But they also feel correctable.  They feel like things that happen against a pretty good team, on the road, in your opener.  Utah left lots of points on the table as well, so this was not exactly a classic of the genre.  This was a game where the home team played better than the visitor that it was probably a bit better than anyway and won by a touchdown.  That's like 40% of all football games.  (I have no way of proving that, but it feels about right.)

Positives are there.  Jake Butt looks tanned, rested, and ready to go.  He's going to be a weapon for the offense.  Jabrill Peppers didn't make a ton of huge plays, but the presence was there and the plays he did make gave me confidence that there's something here.  De'Veon Smith had churn.  He didn't hit every hole, but there were a bunch of moments in the game where he could have had one or two yards became three or four or five.  It was a little Mike Hart-ish.  Do we believe that Rudock, with a little more time and practice, can hit the open receivers deep?  Because they were there and if they were there tonight, they could very well be there in the future.  Drop that ball in the basket, and Michigan is cooking with gas.

It's a start.  It's a data set that we previously lacked.  We can be hopeful and think it will be the roughest and rawest Michigan will look all year.  We can be pessimistic and think that all of the issues we've spent the last few years dealing with are still there.  The truth is probably, as it almost always is, somewhere in the middle.  Besides, years of early season games against Notre Dame temper ones dread about Septembers that didn't quite start right.

But now the hype is over.  Michigan's moment in the spotlight, nine months in the making, was not a triumph, fists raised overhead in glory.  It wasn't an embarrassment, facepalms and garment rending as appropriate.  It was a loss, one that can, will, and should be learned from.  Michigan will come home to Ann Arbor and more than likely look better against Oregon State next Saturday.  Not every great book has a tremendous opening chapter.  Not every script has a great opening act.  If it gets better as it goes, though, you can forgive the flaws, because you see where it came from.  The difference right now is that I believe that it will get better, because the adults in charge won't accept anything less than that.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Introducing... the Drevnometer

The first few days after Jim Harbaugh was hired were heady days for fans of pun-based offensive coordinator rating systems. First we got to retire the Nussmeter - which, let's face it - was a bit of a stretch and, honestly, too painful to update on a regular basis by the end of last season. The less said of it, the better.

Second, rumors swirled that Harbaugh was going to bring 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman with him. While bringing an NFL coordinator to the college game is usually a recipe for disaster, in this case, it was a recipe for an endless smorgasbord of puns! Popes! Sins! Emperors! Orators! Numerals! It was such an embarrassment of potential riches that we had already worked out three possible ratings based on the speculation alone. To top it all off, Greg Roman totally looks like Craig:

As soon as we got our hopes up, those hopes were brutally dashed when Harbaugh hired Tim Drevno as OC. It's like he doesn't even consider the punnability of his assistants' names when making hiring decisions! But we here at HSR have been making horrible puns for so long that when we started, Adam Jacobi was still calling puns the lowest form of humor.

So, undeterred, we looks for ways to make puns on the name Drevno. It's an anagram of "vendor." There's a Gene Drevno school in Torrance, California. And, uh, that's about it. Not much to work with. A search of articles about his time at Stanford indicated that his offensive line earned the nickname "Tunnel Workers' Union". That had a little promise. Whatever the hell's going on under Seattle's the bottom of the scale, Detroit-Windsor's somewhere in the middle. But can you name 10 famous tunnels off the top of your head? Neither could we.

Desperate for ideas, we went to Google Translate, typed "drevno" into the box, and clicked "Detect language." There was a hit - Croatian! - where apparently "drevno" means "ancient." There are lots of ancient things! Ancient Ones! We can work with this. There are dozens to choose from.

The problem is that it's hard to fit a good ranking system. Is Cthulhu worthy of a higher ranking than Sheb-Niggurath? Where does Azathoth fit into all this?  There are two many choices and, frankly, Dave Brandon's fired now, so it's time to leave unspeakable terrors in the past.

A solution was finally found on the Civ Fanatics message board. They had a poll rating the ancient wonders, which provided a convenient full ordering of ancient history. Science demonstrated that the Hanging Gardens and +6 food is the best, and the Statue of Zeus and a 15% city attacking bonus is the worst.

We therefore introduce, with much fanfare and rambling, the Drevnometer! May it last more than two seasons.

The Drevnometer kicks of the 2015-16 season at 2 because when you have two quarterbacks, you get a two. The Great Lighthouse lets you see further, but it's no help on grass.

Friday, August 28, 2015

MGoMix 2015

We're back!  After a summer of Harbaugh, Harbaugh, Harbaugh, we're back with our breakdown of our new playlist for the 2015 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). "Hymn to Red October" by Basil Poledouris
Yes, this was a late addition to the list.  Here's to Jim Harbaugh, who makes the hard part of beat reports job's easy and the easy part of their jobs hard.  Besides, how else better to celebrate control of dissemination of information to only friendly, state controlled sources than a Soviet anthem?

2). "Wounded" by Third Eye Blind
"Let me break it down 'till I force the issue 
You never come around, and you know we miss you 
Well nobody took your pride away 
I said, that's something people say 
Back down the bully to the back of the bus 
'Cause it's time for them to be scared of us 
'Till you're yelling, how we living cause you got the ball 
Then you rock on baby, rock on, you rock on, on and on.

We love something and sometimes its hard to see it going through something wrong, or bad, and you wish you could help.

3). "Garands" by Young the Giant
"Got what's left
Lost my rights when I was young
Taken by the 
Ones I trust
Long before I knew of love
All the things I understood
Fighting for the greater good
Now tell me why this feels so wrong
Feels so wrong, to hold this gun

Now look what I've become
Before the day is done
Now that we have won."
OK, maybe a little ahead of schedule, but still, great song.

4). "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic
"Every thing that kills me makes me feel alive."
It's kind of a nice summary of Michigan football fandom, isn't it?

5). "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons
"I've tried to cut these corners
Try to take the easy way out
I kept on falling short of something

I coulda gave up then but
Then again I couldn’t have 'cause
I've traveled all this way for something."

Or a summary of the Michigan Athletic Department 2010-14.

6). "Fire Escape" by Fastball
"I can be myself, how 'bout you?"

Welcome back (hopefully) to Michigan football as we have known it.

7).  "This is Your Life" by The Killers
"And the sky is full of dreams 
But you don't know how to fly 
I don't have a simple answer 
But I know that I could answer 
Something better.
Wait for something better."
It's an exciting time, folks, but we're also going to need to wait for something better.  We can't fall prey to the expectations that border on absurdity.  Things take time.  Anything great this year is a bonus.

8). "Bulletproof" by La Roux
"I won't let you turn around
And tell me now I'm much too proud
To walk away from something when it's dead
Do, do, do your dirty words
Come out to play when you are hurt
There are certain things that should be left unsaid.
This'll be...Bulletproof."

Michigan football, ladies and gentlemen.

9). "Yellow Flicker Beat" by Lorde
"This is the start of how it all ends
They used to shout my name, now they whisper it
I’m speeding up and this is the red, orange, yellow flicker beat sparking up my heart
We're at the start, the colours disappear
I never watch the stars, there’s so much down here
So I just try to keep up with the red, orange, yellow flicker beat sparking up my heart."

I'm sure it's just coincidence that there are a couple of songs from soundtracks to The Hunger Games movies, right?

10). "Neon Tiger" by The Killers
"I don't wanna be kept, I don't wanna be caged, I don't wanna be damned, oh hell
I don't wanna be broke, I don't wanna be saved, I don't wanna be S.O.L.
Give me rolling hills and tonight can be the night that I stand among the thousand thrills
Mister cut me some slack, 'cause I don't wanna go back, I want a new day and age

Come on girls and boys, everyone make some noise!"

I want a new day and age.
11). "Sleepwalker" by the Wallflowers
"The sleepwalker in me
And God only know that I've tried."

Also known as what the last three games of the season looked like.

12). "I Bet My Life" by Imagine Dragons
"I've been around the world and never in my wildest dreams
Would I come running home to you
I've told a million lies but now I tell a single truth
There's you in everything I do."

Welcome home Captain Comeback.

13). "Crystals" by Of Monsters and Men
"I know I'll wither so peel away the bark
Because nothing grows when it is dark
In spite of all my fears, I can see it all so clear
I see it all so clear"

14). "Red Hands" by Walk Off The Earth
"I've seen it all before, you back out, and everything's changing
I needed something more, you stepped down, so what are you chasing?
I'd put it on rewind for this time only
(Is that what you really want?)"

15). "Atlas" by Coldplay
"Carry your world.  I'll carry your world."

16). "Roll Tide" by Hans Zimmer
Why can't we have the 20th anniversary version of this movie with Nick Saban in the Gene Hackman role and Lane Kiffin in the Denzel Washington role?

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 24, 2015

A (Maize and Blue) Nation at Risk: A Review of Endzone by John U. Bacon

Mark Twain, building off a notion from Lord Byron, once said: "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense."  It is in reading a review copy of ENDZONE: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football (St. Martin's Press, $27,99, available September 1, 2015) that one is profoundly reminded of this notion.   If I had not lived through the era covered by this book, I would have found some of Bacon's notions preposterous and downright insulting to my intelligence.  Instead, Bacon fills in the notions of what many of us suspected with details that somehow are simultaneous gratifying and infuriating.

If you have read Three and Out or Fourth and Long, Bacon's strengths from those books come to the fore again.  Bacon starts, like most good historians, with a clear argument he sets forth to prove in the book.  He proceeds to do this with brief chapters focused on one singular idea or issue.  This allows Bacon's facts to speak for themselves with a minimum of editorializing.  In the end, he presents the actions of Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon and allows the reader to make their own decisions.  What I respect here is that Bacon could easily allow his version of Brandon to descend into cartoonish supervillainy, in part because he knows his core audience would lap it up.  But he never does.  If Brandon comes off poorly in this book, it is because of what he did and the choices he made, not because Bacon chooses to piles on.  If Brandon seems imperious in this book, it is because of the manner in which he acted in front of people willing to call him on it now, not because Bacon casts him in that light without factual backing.  Truthfully, in reading, I was reminded of a phrase first put forward in 1983's A Nation at Risk.  To paraphrase: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on Michigan the mediocre administrative performance that existed in 2010-14, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."

One of the things that struck me as I read this is that I am not sure there would be an audience for a book like this among many college football fan bases.  Bacon has acknowledged repeatedly, in previous books and on Twitter, one of the fundamental notions of Michigan fandom: There is a segment of this fan base that isn't happy unless it's unhappy.  But I also think this look back comes at the exact right moment in Michigan's history, needing to wrap up what went wrong over the last four years and explain what went right in December 2014.  It is a public morbidity and mortality conference for the Brandon administration.  (I should also note: Bacon makes a reasonable effort to track the "tipping points" of various constituencies when it came to Brandon.  There are the ones you knew, and will get mad about again, and then there are ones you didn't know about and will make you made all over again.)

If there are unexpected stars in Endzone, they are Michigan students.  Bacon devotes considerable time to Will Hagerup, whose personal struggles during the Brandon Administration make for a compelling story.  Hagerup's story of recovery shows the need for strong mental health support systems and the wisdom Hagerup won during his time at Michigan is a great message.  My soft spot for Devin Gardner also wins renewed backing, for the seriousness of his reflections, but ones seemingly lacking any form of bitterness.  The Central Student Government tandem of Michael Proppe and Bobby Dishell also make for wonderful, plucky underdog characters who win the day because they do what Michigan students have done for years: go hard, bring facts, and never lose faith in your argument if the data is there, even if those in power don't want to hear it.  Bacon's ability to forge relationships with "college kids" is unsurprising, given his work in the college classroom, but the respect he grants them by letting them tell their story in their words is a tribute to knowing how to get the best out of someone.

The most difficult part of Endzone, in my estimation, is resolving the dichotomy between the student-athlete support for David Brandon (built on the notion that he viewed them as his core constituency, which may have been an admirable choice, but not necessarily the wisest course of action) and his seeming hand-waving dismissals of the non-athlete students, the alumni, and fans.  I respect that there may be no simple or straight forward answer to this, in part because each side has reason to feel like they deserve most favored nation status.  Bacon has repeatedly pressed forward on the idea that when you treat your fans like customers, don't be surprised if they act like consumers.  This is repeatedly what has happened in Ann Arbor since 2010.  The question is, will Jim Hackett and his eventual successor be able to restore some of what was lost in the Brandon years. History tells us that if something is broken, it can never be made whole again, just repaired.  The hiring of Jim Harbaugh is a great first step.  We have not had a new season of Football Saturdays to see if we can go home again.  I have hope that we will, but it remains to be seen.

In conclusion, this is an important book for Michigan fans, if not a "fun" book to read.  You may literally yell at people (or empty spaces) when certain notions are revealed.  But it's OK, really, it's cathartic.  Read the book, learn from this chapter of our past, then move forward into the 2015 season in the warming glow of HARBAUGH.

Friday, August 21, 2015

We're Back!

We're back.  13 days from now Michigan football will be back.  To refute reports that we had been trapped in our basement from wreckage from a HOCKEYBEAR strike, we wanted to give you a heads up on some content soon to be seen here:

We'll have our usual posting of MGoMix 2015 (which also serves as a season preview).
We'll have our book review of John U. Bacon's new book ENDZONE.
We'll hopefully have Q&A from John U. Bacon as well about the book.
We'll have a shot by shot dissection of what makes The Hunt for Red October the greatest movie of 1990.

Thank you for your patience.  Yours in Harbaugh.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Local Student Seeks Career In Entertainment/Social Marketing/Something With Famous People

This is going to fail.

  1. The project, as presented, does not sound like it's designed to replace "The Victors". An "additional thematic song" sounds more like "In the Big House" redux. This is less bad than replacing "The Victors", but only in the way that measles is less bad than smallpox.
  2. The project comes across mostly as a way for the students involved to meet famous people. David Banner's name has been invoked, perhaps with his agreement, and the campaign's representative stated “The goal of this song is to get a lot of big names that are associated with the University.” Note that the goal of this project is not to make a good song that represents the university well.
  3. As of now, there is neither a tune nor lyrics for this project.
  4. Somebody "conceptualized" the project.
  5. The Hail and Unite group is seeking $2,750, with $1,750 going toward producing the promo video for the crowdfunding campaign (Of course there's a crowdfunding campaign) and $1,000 to go toward getting a celebrity or two to appear in the video.

I would say it is NOT impossible that a project like this could make a positive contribution to the University. But I think that this project is going about it in completely the wrong way.

To put it simply to its backers, you're going about it backward. If you're interested in anything more than networking with famous people, you have to get the song right first. At least make a demo, bro. Every major piece of music in the MMB canon was written or arranged by a student. Yes, Louis Elbel wrote "The Victors" in 1898, and Lawton and Moore wrote "Varsity" in 1911. But Joe Carl and Al Ahronheim wrote and arranged "Let's Go Blue" in the mid-'70's, and it spread like wildfire throughout the country. My point is, maybe get some lyrics and music down before you tweet at Eminem or ask for funding from CSG.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Welcome home.
"Carry your world, I'll carry your world."

We're not going to be fair to him.  On some level, I'm OK with that, because there will be a compensation package commensurate to that burden.  But I also know that he's coming back and he knows the expectations and he relishes it.  He knows he can do it and he knows if he does, he becomes a legend, even more than he already may have been in our eyes.

For the last few weeks, I couldn't even bring myself to type his name, for fear that it was an illusion and saying it would shatter the well crafted fiction/delusion we had imagined for ourselves.  The most fascinating part of this is how the Michigan fan base, or at least the part I follow because there's a rationality even in the most irrational of times, one factionalized and divided, united under one banner. Our provincialism be damned, we fought against the NFL reporters and their agendas, and the unwavering belief that every day that he didn't say no was a day closer to him coming home.  Then the plane landed at Metro, and he was home, he was back.

There has been a tremendous amount of Biblical imagery thrown around in the last month.  Part of this is because it's one of the easiest cultural references to make, even in a more secular world, the references are still well known.  When Paine wrote Common Sense and The Crisis, he often sprinkled in Biblical references to give weight and gravitas to his arguments while still making them accessible to the common men and women of the colonies whom he sought to persuade.  I think we made use of these references because we know what Ufer taught us, or our parents or our grandparents: "Michigan football is a religion and Saturday's the holy day of obligation." Or as John U. Bacon said "Michigan football is a religion, not a business, and something economics can't accurately explain."  We've thrown our phrases like "prodigal son", "second coming", "wandering in the desert" and yet, we have to know in doing this, it's placing a ridiculous amount of expectation on one man.  But it is because that fandom is a faith, secular as it might be, but residing on a belief in the unseen, on "miracles", it sometimes come down to needing to believe in one man, because hope is still the most powerful fuel that fandom runs on.

In Gods and Generals, a Michigan native gets to give a nice little monologue, built on the Roman Civil War for a direct parallel to the American Civil War.  Watching as Union troops head to a slaughter on Mayre's Heights because Burnside is the latest in a string of generals not up to the challenge of leading the Army of the Potomac, Jeff Daniels, as Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain begins by saying:

"How swiftly Caesar had surmounted the icy Alps and in his mind conceived immense upheavals, coming war. When he reached the water of the Little Rubicon, clearly to the leader through the murky night appeared a mighty image of his country in distress, grief in her face, her white hair streaming from her tower-crowned head, with tresses torn and shoulders bare she stood before him."

I believe that he knows this.  He's been told this by an Michigan fan, alum, teammate, booster, or general believer who can get his ear for one moment that his school is in distress.  He had to know and I think he wants to know that what was can be again and he may be the only one to do it.  It may not be the perfect moment or opportunity, but you don't get to pick when these moments come along.  He seized the moment because the moment was there.  And now we wait.

It will be a long eight months between now and fall camp.  There will be recruiting battles to try and salvage.  There will be anticipation for Spring Ball and debates and discussions. We'll know nothing and believe we know everything.  This is as it should be.  We will suffer the slings and arrows of the rest of the college football world.  We must because as much as people say college football is better when Michigan is great, they also know that they enjoy attacking Michigan because, well, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.  While that crown has not been national or even a B1G championship of late, the #915 is still there.

He is not Bo, but he reveres him at least as much as we do, and while that may not mean anything anymore, it's a Hell of a place to start.  Until that Thursday night in Salt Lake City in August, we must survive on belief that it will be better.

So here's to that.  Welcome home, Coach Harbaugh.

"Heaven we hope is just up the road.
Show me the way, lord because I am about to explode."