Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blogger Give and Take: Buckeye Battle Cry

So, we were asked to fill in as the Michigan blog for Buckeye Battle Cry's annual "give and take" discussion leading up to The Game.  Since answering questions is pretty much what we do for a living, we said yes.  Our answers to BBC's questions can be found here.  The staff's answers to our questions can be found below.  All questions and answers are reproduced faithfully, editor's notes at the end.

So, be honest, did you ever think without Braxton you could be sitting here coming up to The Game with a chance to be in the Playoff conversation?
After watching the Spring Game I would say NO WAY. JT was pretty good vs Navy which gave us fans hope and then came the ugly loss against VT. Amazing how this young man has turned it around with such poise and command of the offense. With that being said, I was not even think BIG Championship game and possibly a 3 loss season.

Building off that, what has been the most surprising thing about J.T. Barnett this year?


That the kid just finally got tired of people not knowing that his last name is Barrett? Just Kidding.* The most surprising thing to most people has probably been his production since the VaTech game. He has been a model of consistency, with the exception of the PSU game. I think most people expected there to be more of other players Like Marshall this past week, stepping up and being the offensive leaders. More and more each week we have seen what the confidence of surrounding players and staff has done for him. His production as a RS freshman will go down in the history books as one of the best ever by a QB at Ohio State, including better than the Heisman winner they are honoring this weekend.

Michigan averages allowing 302 yards per game this season, which is amazingly good enough for ninth best in the country.  How many football fields worth of yards will Ohio State put up on Michigan beyond their season average?


When it comes to this game, I think you can throw out every statistical category alive to man. 2013 is a perfect example of that very fact. That being said, I think OSU will still put up it's average 500 yards of offense and score 25+ points. This may have been a different answer had Frank Clark not been dismissed from the team.

Two part question: We know that the Buckeyes opponent in the B1GCG comes down to the Gophers or the Badgers.  1). Who is the better matchup for Ohio State? 2). Which one gives you a better resume for the CFB Playoff, (if anyone actually knows the committee's voodoo)?


1) I think the better match-up for Ohio State would be Minnesota. They've already played one another and despite being -1 in turnovers, OSU eked out a road win. David Cobb had a good day against Ohio State, but I think the rest of their offense can be contained, and that OSU will have better ball security next time around. Minny's defense is good, but it can be had. Let's face it; the last three top-shelf RB's that Ohio State has played (Langford 137; Cobb 145; and Coleman 228) haven't created a comfort zone of defending MGIII.

2) I agree with your assumption about the CFB Committee Voodoo, but let's proceed anyway. I think that Wisconsin brings the CFB eye-candy, should Ohio State play them and win. They've been consistently ranked this season and are still probably basking from the "Melvin Gordonization" of Nebraska a couple weeks ago. Wisconsin would be a better take-down for Ohio State to burnish whatever cred they may have with CFB Committee Voodoo.

Would you be so kind as to make the case for Urban Meyer over Jerry Kill as Big Ten Coach of the Year?  Can you make a case for Urban for National Coach of the Year, especially since he has, amazingly, never won one of the many awards of that ilk that are offered annually?

I respect what Jerry Kill has done. He's been fantastic and has the Gophers in a position that is everything they could have asked for, namely they have a shot to head to Indianapolis next weekend. That said, Kill didn't lose the Big Ten MVP (Braxton Miller) on offense roughly 10 days before his opener and didn't lose one of the best athletes in the league and his, arguably, best defensive player in Noah Spence. Having two players of that caliber being out of starting lineups that contain a lot of freshman and sophomores and still being 10-1 (hopefully 11-1, no offense) would be impossible for even some of the best of the very best.

I remember in the preseason one of our local radio hosts saying how this year is the "learning year" for all the young kids and how, hypothetically, it would be amazing to somehow bottle Braxton Miller and use him in 2015 when all the kids are much more grown up. Well, look at them now. Obviously because of the injury they do have Miller back for 2015 but there's a real debate as to if he should or shouldn't be the quarterback next year because of the way they have developed JT Barrett. It's amazing what they've gotten out of guys like Darron Lee and Michael Thomas. Look no further than the offensive line for a shining example of the work they've done in-season.

What I'm saying is, I think it'll be a shame if he doesn't win Big Ten coach of the year no matter how these last two weeks play out. If they fulfill the goal of beating the team up north and wining the Big Ten championship game, thus being 12-1 and likely in the top 4, I don't see how he can not be national coach of the year. I mean no disrespect to Dan Mullen or any other candidates, but, come on let's be real here. Urban Meyer has coached his you know what off this year.

So, this is an awkward question, but, well...Michigan is, more than likely, looking for a new coach very soon.  As you well know, in the past, Michigan has had some success hiring Ohio State assistants to be their head coach.  People I've read and respect suggest that Tom Herman is a great candidate in waiting, though young.  Assuming he would even take the call, from a Michigan side, sell me on why he'd be a great choice for Our School Up North?


Tom Herman has been successful everywhere he has coached and his offenses have set numerous school records.  At Iowa State he built a very potent offence and they aren't exactly known as a football powerhouse.  In his first year at OSU, Herman took an offense that had been one of the worst in the country in in 2011 into the top scoring offense in the Big Ten in 2012.

This year the OSU offense is still one of the top ones in the conference despite losing Braxton Miller and having to go with an untested JT Barret whose success is also a testament to Herman's ability.  Of course, being a good head coach requires much more than good play calling ability and while we can't judge how Herman will do at managing a program, we know that he can manage an offensive staff and he has been a highly successful recruiter.

And don't forget, he is also a member of MENSA.

Who is the most underrated Buckeye of the Urban Meyer era?  What makes him stand out to you where others miss it?


Have to go with “El Guapo” Carlos Hyde. This is kind of an odd answer since he was The Man carrying the ball under Meyer, but Luke Fickell tried to use a 3-headed running back when he was in charge.I understand Boom Herron needed the bulk of the carries during his senior year, but look at how much better the offense was when Urban rode Hyde and didn't split carries with anyone else except for the obligatory change of pace. His value was under rated in my opinion.

I always enjoy asking people this one: What is your favorite memory from The Game....in one where Ohio State lost?


Hmmmm…. There haven’t been all that many of them recently, have there? The two I’d have to point to are the 2011 game in Ann Arbor, where the Wolverines were one overthrown pass from a freshman quarterback away from another loss to the Buckeyes, but celebrated Hoke’s victory like it was the changing of the guard rather than a win over an undermanned team.  What I remember about that is how short the celebration was… we at tBBC had known for about two weeks that there was a head coaching change coming at Ohio State, and when Urban was announced immediately following The Game, you could just feel all the air coming out of the state up north.


The second might not be popular with Buckeye fans, but in 1969 Bo Schembechler led the Wolverines to one of the greatest upsets in the series, and defeated the team that Woody called his best. It focused the Ohio State fanbase even greater, and began one of the greatest chapters in the most heated rivalry in college sports.

*-(This was totally a screw up on my end.  I have a former student with a very similar name and have made the mistake dozens of times this year, I just forgot to crosscheck.)

We thank BBC for having us along this week and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and a less happy Saturday.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lincoln's Second Inaugural, The Scorpion and the Frog



On March 4, 1865, after taking the Presidential oath of office for the second time, Abraham Lincoln addressed the mass of Americans that had gathered for the occasion.  He used just 701 words to lay out a vision of what could be, but to also suggest that America deserved the mess it was in.

Lincoln knew the end of the war was near and knew that the Union was likely to be victorious.  He rejected a victory lap and instead reminded those listening (and those reading in coming days) that everyone had been wrong about the war four years earlier.  Everyone thought it would be an easy victory.  Everyone thought that it would go there way.  No one expected to be in this position four years hence.

Lincoln made heavy allusion to the Bible, wrestling with the question of whether the war was a divine punishment for the sin of slavery and if it is, accepts whatever duration of punishment that Providence seeks to levy upon the American people.

But, he closes with hope.  "With malice toward none, with charity for all," are probably the most famous works of this address and truthfully, Lincoln was more hopeful than history would bear out.  Part of this was that Lincoln would not be there to see the end, given over to the angels by a zealot.  But the spirit of reconciliation persists as the spirit of hope that we can find the better angels of our nature, that we can find our best possible selves and that when new leadership arises, they can be competent and rise to the occasion.  History shows what happens when the wrong man is placed at the reins at a critical juncture.  Sometimes this is because of good intentions and a lack of foresight.  But sometimes, it can work.  Let us hope that the right choice is made.
-------------------------------------------
There really isn't a whole lot to say about yesterday's game, but one thing struck me.  The last 40 seconds, as Maryland realized that the clock had ticked down under 40 and the play clock had not started, Michigan Stadium was silent.  Not the stunned silence of a last minute comeback.  Not the angry silence of an all-time upset.  But the knowing silence of a half-empty venue knowing that this day was as much a funeral as it was a football game.  It would have been eerie, except it was almost expected, as much as something like this can be.

We came to say goodbye to some seniors, and to likely say goodbye to Brady Hoke, in the last weeks of the job he would have walked to Ann Arbor from San Diego to take.  There has to be something to be said for getting your dream job and looking like you actually are going to be able to do something with it, only to see it slip away, like sand through ones fingers.

The modern fable of The Scorpion and the Frog can be briefly summarized as this:
A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, both would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature. 
For us to expect yesterday to be anything different was to be vested in hope rather than reality.  A Brady Hoke coached team could not simply suddenly morph into a competent, detail oriented unit off an open date just because Brady's job might be on the line.  Because, wouldn't logic serve that if they were capable of it, wouldn't they have done it sooner?  That is the nature of this team, and that is the nature of this staff.  They are amazingly consistent in their inconsistency.  It is the maddening hallmark of the Hoke era, which will draw to a close more than likely after a severe crushing at the hands of the rival Buckeyes for their 12th win in the series this millennium.  A new era will rise in its place, sooner rather than later.  We will be sold hope, because we've oversold tradition and heritage.  We will be told that the new guy's got a plan, and we'll believe it because we want to believe.  We will wait until September to make our judgments, failing to remember that the last time we were here, the first September taught us all the wrong lessons.  We will do that, because it is our nature.

#beatohiostate #hopedieslast

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Eternal Yesterday and England's Dreaming



"The German sociologist Max Weber cited three reasons for citizens to obey their rulers: 'the authority of the eternal yesterday,' or historical prestige; 'the authority of the extraordinary personal gift of grace,' or the ruler's charisma; and 'domination by virtue of legality,' or order and justice."

To put this another way, "the eternal yesterday" means that traditional authorities receive loyalty because they continue and support the preservation of existing values, the status quo.

OK, so we know where I'm going with this.  But first, a detour.

When I was a junior at Michigan, I took History 321, Britain since 1945.  My final paper for that class was a brief history of English Football since 1945.  There is no paper I wish I could go back and rewrite from my college years more than that one, not because I got a bad grade on it, but because I could do so much better with what I have learned in the last 15 years.

What I now understand so much better (and would have understood without the intervening 15 years of history, though those 15 years certainly crystallize it) is that England's National Team is a fight against the one shining moment of triumph, on home soil, for a country that invented the game (just ask them).  A pop culture annus mirabilis of  modern British culture framed against this singular victory left a generation of Britons seeking to recapture the moment, telling their children about the feeling, and hoping to feel it just once more.

In "Three Lions", David Baddiel and Frank Skinner use a comic touch to get at the core of the notion that England is just waiting for that moment again, and maybe with Euro '96, on English soil, those thirty years of hurt would be over.  But the underlying notion is that English fans, since that fateful day in Wembley in 1966, have been waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it inevitably does, a notion reinforced perpetually by a media driven narrative.  In this version, instead of being comforted by the victory, 1966 haunts England like a specter, the glorious past that recedes ever faster into the shroud of gray that accompanies time.

And yet, through all that, the chorus speaks to unshakeable optimism: "Thirty years of hurt never stopped me dreaming."  It's that essential English optimism, that true belief that the ecstasy of the moment overrides everything else.

There's a fascinating disconnect among Michigan fans of various generations in recent years, and it is best understood by looking at the origin of the word nostalgia.  It comes from the Greek root words nostos "return home" and algos "pain"; essentially nostalgia is "acute homesickness".  We are only nostalgic for the things we miss from a previous time.  We tend to block out all of the bad things, we blast past them, hands over our eyes, focusing only on the good things, and overlooking the bad.  We're nostalgic for those 40 years when 6-6 and 7-5 were "years of infinite pain".  We tend to forget that we start the clock in 1969, when Michigan went 8-3 under Bo, forgetting that Michigan went 8-2 in 1968 under Bump.  The difference, of course is, one of those years ends 50-14 because Woody couldn't go for three against the #4 team in the nation, and one of those years "ends" on 24-12 because of the Upset of the Century by the #12 team in the country over the defending national champions.  (OK, it actually ends in the Arroyo Seco with Bo in the hospital and USC holding Michigan to a field goal in 10-3 Trojans victory.)  But Bo is the savior, but so history gets rewritten by The Victors.

This is not to take away from the joy of the 1969 season, not in the least.  It is to merely point how dangerous it is to choose a starting point and say "This, and ONLY THIS, is what Michigan football is."  Admittedly, it is a good starting point, from 1969 to 1974, Michigan went 58-7-1 over those six years.  No other school in the country did as well during that six year period*.  And yet, no national championship, 2-3-1 against Woody, 56-4-0 against everyone else.  The modern landscape of college football is so utterly different, however, that era might as well be Yost's 55-1-1 from 1901 to 1905 for all of its relevance to today.

(*-Michigan's 96-15-3 clip from 1969-1978 is the longest consecutive run in the early Bo period where Michigan was the best team in the country.  Basically, if you needed a regular season football coach during the Nixon/Ford years, you call Bo.)

So we want Bo, because Bo was larger than life, or as Weber might say, he possessed "the authority of the extraordinary personal gift of grace."  Bo won, a lot.  As Geoff once said to me, the only thing that Michigan fans like more than winning is winning a lot.  It's true.  As much as I believe that Michigan fans ultimately like not losing more than winning, we are in love with winning.  Add to that that Bo represents the values of toughness, grit, hard work, straight shooting that are as Midwestern as rivalry trophies and the term "pop" to describe carbonated beverages.  We know those aviators, we know that headset, we  know that New Era cap, we see that and we know that everything is going to be OK.  We know our collective football in loco parentis is home, if you will.

But Bo himself, or should I say, the collective vision of what Bo was, wouldn't work today.  Bo's sideline fury would lead to day long breakdowns on SportsCenter and discussions of Bo's brand of "leadership".  Bo couldn't "throw kids off the team" like he used to without it becoming a social media firestorm.  Wanting the Bo that lingers in our eternal yesterday is longing for the results and wishing that the world were still such that the process could be the same too, all the while knowing it's not.  This, in turn, creates a psychic tension that cannot be broken because we are not ready to admit that this past is gone, because we worry that our letting that go will diminish the memory.

We long for the authority of our eternal yesterday because the reality of our present does not resemble the glorious past.  We long for Bo because we have memories of him, as fans either remembering the greatest glories under Bo, or growing up with him as our first coach.  We are confronted with a new generation of students for whom Michigan's 1997 National Championship might be as foreign as their 1933 National Championship.  For whom Lloyd is their first coach, for all of the ups and downs of what it means to have Lloyd, the accidental emperor, (our own George VI, if you will) as your first coach completely alters your perceptions of Michigan football and the past.

So, please let me say that Michigan football is in need of a Renaissance, a small Renaissance, but a Renaissance nonetheless.  It needs a new ruler for a new era, one who can bring stability to the land, who can recapture the spirit of 1901, the spirit of 1969, and yes, the spirit of 1997, but in their own particular idiom.  Perhaps it a Prodigal son, not a direct heir, but a branch of the tree.  Perhaps it is new blood, a vision of what Michigan can be again in their own particular style.  But we need this moment because the only way we can truly appreciate the way forward is to appreciate each era on its own merits and in its own contexts.  The past never leaves us, but it cannot block our path.

In this way, it's not unlike the debate over the Legends jerseys.  On the one hand, it's great to honor the people who built Michigan football into what it is today.  On the other hand, today's players should have the same chance to make their numbers their own, write their own legacies.  In the last seven years, we've tried a little bit of both, and the results have been less than spectacular.  But it should not stop us again.  There are no guarantees in life.  But if we choose wisely, if we choose well, and if we can get behind a new vision, if we are patient, understanding, and hopeful, we might just have a chance to succeed.

Let us celebrate the past as a link in a chain towards a brighter tomorrow,  not one sinking toward the seabed and an anchor without purchase, drifting ever closer to the shoals of imperial decline.

"I know that was then, but it could be again."

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Kill the M00N



In 2002, the Detroit Lions, who would end up going 3-13 that year, hosted the Dallas Cowboys, who ended up going 5-11, at Ford Field in a game that ended up Lions 9, Cowboys 7.

That game was scoreless at halftime, and memorable for the fact that Filip Filipovic and John Jett combined for 19 punts between them, the first nine possessions of the game ended in punts before a Dallas fumble in the second quarter ended the streak.  Fox even put up a graphic that said "Coming up next: A Punt."  A veritable fiesta of punts. It was as ugly a football game as I have ever watched.

And then M00N (HT: @mgoshoe) arose over Evanston.  It was a bad M00N rising.

To list the offenses against football competence in this game would be to invite charges of piling on.  It was bad, we know it was bad, and in the end, the final play, with Trevor Siemian slipping on the greasy Ryan Field turf as Frank Clark bore down on him like a Stinger missile.  Michigan knew what was coming and played it perfectly, Northwestern threw scissors and Michigan didn't just bring rock, they brought boulder, only to see Siemian embed the scissors in his thigh of his own volition.  It was the imperfect capper to an imperfect game.

In the end, Michigan won.  Michigan has lost just four times to Northwestern in their last 35 meetings.  I have clear and vivid memories of each of those four losses:
2008: Fandom Endurance III
2000: A-Train Fumble
1996: We just lost to you LAST YEAR!
1995: Luther Van Dammit

The only other team that I have this precise a memory of losses to is Minnesota, and that is mostly Jug related.  If you'd like to make the argument that Michigan should be 0-3 against Northwestern over the last three years, you'd very well be on to something.  And yet, here we are.  Football is a strange game, deserving to win does not assure that you will.  Northwestern did everything they could to give this game to Michigan, and Michigan did everything they could to give the game back to Northwestern.

It was only the Michigan defense that kept this game from going rapidly south.  Jake Ryan and Frank Clark were essentially picked Michigan up time and again.  They assured that this 2014 season is now 2009 as opposed to 2008 with a chance to go to 2010.  It's not the happiest of thoughts, but at this point in the year, given everything this team has been through, let's just enjoy the ride.  Because chaos is swirling everywhere in college football, we're just a part of a giant string of random.

So another week off, another week of sitting on an Open Date with a win, and a winnable game against Maryland, and amazingly, a chance to finish third in the B1G East, where we sort of thought we might be at the start of the year.  We've got two more games, maybe three, so let's enjoy the moments, no matter how terrible they are on paper. #915

Monday, November 03, 2014

Fix the Schedule

When it comes to the Big Ten, the first job for the new athletic director should be going to the committee in charge of drawing up the football schedule and getting everyone to agree to an incredibly simple fix to a problem plaguing two of the East's biggest programs.

Currently, Michigan and Michigan State are both stuck with schedules that have them in alternate years playing two home games against their primary rivals followed by two road games. In 2014, Michigan has road games against both MSU and OSU, and MSU is at home against UM and OSU. Next year the situation is reversed, with Michigan playing MSU and OSU at home, while the Spartans have to go on the road against the Wolverines and Buckeyes.

This is vastly sub-optimal for both teams, from the standpoint of both ticket sales and overall competitive balance. Really, you want each team to play one home game and one road game against each rival. Craig and I were talking about this unfortunate situation yesterday at the Indiana game, and Craig told me he'd happened upon a ridiculously simple solution, and Indiana is the key.

Since Indiana is in the East, both Michigan and Michigan State play them every season. Fortutiously, Indiana played MSU at home and Michigan on the road this year. Therefore, all you have to do is flip the Indiana game from a home game to an away game and flip MSU from an away game to a home game. Everyone still ends up with the same number of home and away games, and the bottleneck is cleared.

Obviously, the time has passed when we can fix the 2014 schedule. And we might as well go through the 2015 schedule as is, since I don't think anyone wants to play at MSU for three consecutive seasons. Where we should fix it is 2016.

Current 2016 Schedule
UM at MSU, at OSU, vs IU
MSU vs UM, vs OSU, at IU
OSU at MSU, vs UM, vs IU
IU vs MSU, at UM, at OSU

Proposed 2016 Schedule
UM vs MSU, at OSU, at IU
MSU at UM, vs OSU, vs IU
OSU at MSU, vs UM, vs IU
IU at MSU, vs UM, at OSU

It would mean MSU has to play at Michigan for two consecutive seasons, but that's only fair since Michigan has just done the opposite. Michigan would also have to play two consecutive seasons at Indiana, which is a small price to pay for getting off the cycle we're currently on. Sure, it's messing with a schedule that's a mere two seasons down the road, but it solves one of the more annoying problems in the current scheduling landscape.

(Additional information by Craig: 1:00 PM Monday:

One of the issues I saw was that in the 2016 schedule, swapping Indiana to be an away game would give Michigan a weird stretch of four straight home dates, followed by three straight road dates to close the year, which is suboptimal.  So, I plugged the 2016 schedule into Excel, and in six minutes, I solved it by moving just four games total.

Illinois at Michigan, originally scheduled for 10/22/16, now moves to the team's mutual open date of 9/24/16
Michigan at Iowa, originally scheduled for 11/12/16, now moves to 10/22/16.
Iowa at Wisconsin, originally scheduled for 10/22/16, now moves to 11/12/16
Illinois at Wisconsin, originally schedule for 11/12/16, now moves to 10/22/16.

It's not perfect, because it gives Wisconsin three straight home games, followed by three straight road games, but it does give them a potential breather having opened the season at Michigan, at Michigan State, home to Ohio State, ------, home to Nebraska.  With a couple other moves, you might even be able to make that one work out better too...)

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Just like starting over

Love the Drake!
Started from the bottom, now we're here.

OK, now that we have the obvious Drake joke out of the way, let's get on with the column.

It's going to be the common theme of many columns on the Indiana game that things were different, better, new again after Friday's resignation.  That is the power of projecting that which you wish to believe can have that impact on a view of the world.   But it's hard to know for sure.  For one,  I've just regained enough feeling in my fingers to be able to type the column.

Yesterday, Michigan beat Indiana, as it has the last 19 times the teams have played since 1988, and as they have done every time they have played at Michigan Stadium since 1967 (17 times), and 54 times out of the 63 that they have played.  Beating Indiana on the regular is almost a given in the days of Michigan's past, but nothing can or should be taken for granted any more (and probably shouldn't have been in the first place.)

In the grand scheme of things, this game won't mean much, and likely won't be remembered in the annals of Michigan football lore.  But, if I do remember this game, it will likely be "the Drake Johnson game".  That makes me happy for a kid who crossed Main Street from Pioneer to the Big House, for a kid whose mom has been Michigan's cheerleading coach for over three decades, to get not one but two touchdowns, and looking good doing it, I'm happy for him.  Some day in the future, he'll be able to tell people that in the depths of Michigan's despair, he had his number called and he stepped up and provided a spark.  Most players will tell you that they just want to do what they can to help the team, and Drake Johnson, wearing the #20, did just that yesterday.  Good for him.

By recent convention, I'm supposed to note that everything around Michigan football would be better if Michigan's record were better.  I have nothing to add to that, since it seems like it's so patently obvious that it needs further elaboration, but since everyone who has chipped in with an opinion on Michigan football or the Michigan athletic department over the last month has said it, I felt duty bound to include it.

New eras have to start somewhere.  This isn't the beginning of the end of this era, well, we can't know for sure, but, as Churchill said so many years ago,  I am comfortable saying it's the end of the beginning.  A new day will dawn soon enough.  What that day holds for us has yet to be determined.  But with good decision making, clear eyed leadership, and hope for the future once again settling in, we can hope for better days.  It's up to us to fight for them.

Side Notes:
  • It doesn't seem like a Brady thing to do, but Joe Bolden was a game captain this week.  Does this mean that he was trying to say "Sorry, not sorry." back up East Lansing way?
  • Why the Penn State style Blue and White Scarves for the Weekend of Champions?  
  • Maybe it was just Homecoming, but Special K seemed more under wraps this weekend.  Perhaps wishful thinking?
  • Man was it cold.  It's the coldest I've ever been at a Michigan game without also being cold and wet.  I'm calling this one Fandom Endurance II, Cold and Wind Variant.  Still not Northwestern 2008.
  • The Wave got screwed up.  But The Wave happened, so that's progress.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HSR Exclusive: Mailbag!

Due to the recent email messages that have come to light, Dave Brandon has taken a leave of absence from responding to his email from various alumni and season ticket holders. In his stead, a number of guest authors have taken his place.


Mr. Brandon,

In the long history of my Michigan fandom, I have never been as disappointed in my alma mater as I am right now.  Not for the on the field product, but rather for the continuing litany of gaffes, both small and significant, that the athletic department seems committed to making on an almost daily basis.  I will not be renewing my tickets next year after 35 seasons as a season ticket holder and donor.

Thank you,
David Sanderson

Mr. Sanderson,

Pray tell whatever gaffes do you speak of for this great Meeechingan of ours?  While mistakes have been made, they have been made doing the great things, trying the bold and the innovative, creating a tradition and a future of which all Meeechigan men can be proud.  We hope that our new commitment to the moral benefits young men receive from playing foot ball will bring you back to Ferry Field next fall.

Sincerely,
F. H. Yost,
Coach
Foot Ball Department
Michigan Athletic Association

[Dictated to an urchin while running down State Street upon disembarking from a train]



Mr. Brandon,

My family and I have been season ticket holders since the early 1970's, and it pains me to say that we won't be renewing them this year. The price of the tickets, plus the "voluntary" donation, is just too much for us to bear on our fixed income, as my wife and I recently retired. Michigan Stadium has been so important to us, but squeezing every last cent out of the fan base has left us cold. We feel left out of the Michigan family.

Sincerely,
James Fairfield


Mr. Fairfield,

DISRESPECT. You feel left out? How dare you. I bet you don't respect football enough to earn the right to buy these tickets. This is a game for men, and men do what it takes to get the job done.

Pride goeth before the fall,
Mark Dantonio



Dear David Brandon,

I've been going to football games at Michigan Stadium since I was a young boy, so I've been through the lean times and the good times. But I can't say I've ever seen such a sorry stretch of football.  The RichRod years were a disaster, and hiring Brady Hoke has just made things worse. Until things change, you won't be seeing me on Saturday and my donations will go somewhere they make a difference.

Raylon Bedwards


Dear Raylon,

I think you're aware of my policy. I'm going to need you to bring me something from the dictionary for us to continue this conversation.

Yours,
Lloyd Carr


Dear Coach Carr,

My word is "autoclave". An autoclave is a pressure chamber used to sterilize equipment and supplies with high pressure steam.

Raylon


Dear Raylon,

Thank you.  I appreciate your letter, and I've given it a lot of thought.  It sounds to me like you and Michigan football aren't on the same page. If you want a situation where you can be #1, maybe you should transfer your allegiances to someplace more suitable. Central or Eastern would definitely appreciate you, or any other non-Big Ten institution would be acceptable to us. I've attached the transfer paperwork to this email.

Yours,
Lloyd Carr

PS: If you change your mind and commit to sticking it out, I have a group of young men who run the stairs every morning. It's tremendous.



Mr. Brandon,

It has occurred to me the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.  So here's to hoping for bowl eligibility.

Sincerely,
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

Mr. Fitzgerald,

I suggest, once again, you quit drinking and go to bed.

Sincerely,
Fritz

H.O Crisler
Football Coach
Board in Control of Physical Education
Ferry Field, Ann Arbor
University of Michigan



Dear Mr. Brandon,

I'm sick and tired of the athletic department rolling out these idiotic schemes and then having to walk everything back when the students and the alumni get wind of them. The noodle, the Coke incident, and the student ticket policy were just foolish.  Getting stuck with playing MSU and OSU on the road every other year is actively detrimental to our success and the athletic department's bottom line. Please be less embarrassing.

Thanks,

James Lindgren


Dear Mr. Lind,

Well, the noodle...I haven't been fully informed about that.  The Coke thing was something from the marketing...their marketing department which we never approved. The student ticket policy, I've been told that they're OK, just an ankle thing, though we don't usually comment on injuries. I don't think we're playing them both on the road every year, just this time. We wouldn't do  that every other year. Anyway, it's all part of big boy football.  I love our kids, we're just going to go out there and compete.

Brady Hoke
It's Michigan fergodsakes!



Mr. Brandon,

I think the time has come that you have to let Brady Hoke go. The mismanagement of the Shane Morris injury is the last straw for me. I would say anything less than 8-4 and you have to fire him anyway, but leaving a kid in there after a shot like Morris took is just unacceptable.

Thanks,
Al Stapleton


Mr. Stapleton,

The first thing you have to understand is that Adreain Payne has a child's lungs. He can't go like some of the other guys, he just gets gassed. And Gary Harris is out there playing on a wooden pirate leg.  Drew Neitzel has alopecia, and that lack of self-confidence really impacts his game.  Goran Suton is from a different galaxy and he's just getting used to Earth's gravity, so you have to be patient with him. Draymond Green, he gives everything he's got on every play, but he's playing with seal flippers sewed to his arm stumps.  What I'm trying to say is we're pretty banged up, and the refs don't give us the calls because we're Michigan State.

Sincerely,
Tom Izzo

PS: Next year I'm dressing up as Jason Bateman in Teen Wolf Too! The kids are going to go nuts!



Mr. Brandon,

After all the price increases and embarrassing incidents, I don't think you have what it takes to be the athletic director at the University of Michigan. Do everyone a favor and quit now, so the university can save the outrageous three million bucks in your buyout.

James Anderson


Dear Mr. Anderson,

I regret to inform you that we cannot answer your recent email. Coach Hayes is already quite incensed that it made it past his spam filter and has destroyed several chairs and a down marker; I suspect your use of "bucks" is what allowed it to slip through. He has had me print it out and burn it, his computer, and our servers, after which the ashes will be couriered to the state line and dumped, as Coach Hayes is loathe to pollute our fair Ohio with such detritus from That School Up North. Please accept this letter as my personal apology.

Yours truly,
Rachel H. Phillips
Executive Secretary to Coach W.W. Hayes, The Ohio State University
GO BUCKS!



Dear Mr. Brandon,

For all of Michigan's marketing of "legacy" and "history", the future which you so claim to love looks bleak and foreboding.  What steps are you taking to bring Michigan back to the pride of the good old days?  I hope you have a plan and a vision, because right now, it's as dark as midnight round here.

Hopeful for the future,
Sherman Williams

Mr. Williams,




Sincerely,
Gordon Berenson


Coach Berenson,

I've renewed my football season tickets and applied for hockey season tickets. I cut the grass, did the laundry, cleaned the house, helped my kids with their homework, paid my bills, balanced my checkbook, did my taxes, and rescued a puppy. I hope this is satisfactory.


Sherman Williams

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stubborn Love



The dumbest part of this whole thing is that when I was going through the schedule, that twisted modified schedule that Delany handed us as part of the Rutgers/Maryland package, I knew, I knew that this was a loss.  I've known it since last year.  I didn't see anyway around it.

She'll tear a hole in you, the one you can't repair
But I still love her, I don't really care

So why did it still hurt?  Was it the particular level of ineptitude, even knowing that Michigan was more than capable of it?  Was it because losing to a rival stinks any way you slice it?  I don't know, I wish I knew?

When we were young, oh, oh, we did enough
When it got cold, ooh, ooh, we bundled up
I can't be told, ah, ah, it can't be done

Goodness knows it would be so much easier not to care.  To chalk it up to another bad season, a dead coach walking scenario, to check the score when it was over and wait for better days and brighter tomorrows.  But we don't.  And I don't know that I get it.  I can't explain to you why I want to watch next week against Indiana, I can't explain it at all.  And yet I do.

It's better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love's indifference
So pay attention now, I'm standing on your porch screaming out
And I won't leave until you come downstairs

I've said so much before about why I think we keep coming back, but all of those things might just be cover for the fact that we need to believe in something larger than ourselves.  We love being an individual, but to share a belief with a group of like minded people is powerful.  The down side of that connection is that you're never going to always be on top.

So keep your head up, keep your love
Keep your head up, my loveKeep your head up, my love 
Keep your head up, keep your love

Homecoming next week will be like so many cliche family holiday gatherings, too much tension, too high of expectations, inevitable disappointments.  But keep your head up, keep your love.  Because some day, it will be better.  Some day you'll be able to tell people you got through the hard time.  Some day you'll appreciate the good more because you've been through this.

Friday, October 24, 2014

We happy few

Once upon a time, on October 25, a noble power was in a bit of a slump.  Things looked gloomy as they faced a massive battle with rival on the rival's home turf, even though they probably should have been playing at home this time.

But then, as the masses lamented their sad state of affairs, their leader came forth with his own version of the aneurysm of leadership.










WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V,
 Act IV, Scene iii, 18–67.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ten Years Gone

(Author's note: Before I was a blogger here, I had my own personal blog.  It was your standard zaniness of a 20-something with too much time on his hands and a belief that people wanted to read every thought you had in an era before Twitter, where we now know this to be true.  The following is my "game story" from Thought for the Day (TFTD) from Monday, November 1, 2004.  As it is Michigan State week, it felt right to share my own trip back to Braylonfest, before we even knew we were calling it Braylonfest. I will attempt to annotate as appropriate.)

Games I Watched: 
#11 Michigan 45, Michigan State 37--I was at this game. I must tell the story of this game. All other games you can read about elsewhere, right now, you get this game. 

In Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby writes: 

"For a match to be really, truly memorable, the kind of game that sends you home buzzing inside with the fulfillment of it all, you require as many of the following features as possible. 

(1) Goals: As Many As Possible. 
(2) Outrageously bad refereeing decisions 
(3) A noisy crowd 
(4) Rain, a greasy surface, etc. 
(5) Opposition misses a penalty (or a late game field goal to win it.) 
(6) Member of the opposition receives a red card. 
(7) Some kind of 'disgraceful incident'" 

OK, so let's look at this in terms of Michigan's win, and adjust for American football: 

(1) Goals: As Many As Possible. 
Well, let's see. With 7 minutes or so to go in the fourth, it was 27-10, which is pretty high scoring. By the end of the game, it was 45-37, so yes, we have that. 

(2) Outrageously bad refereeing decisions, preferably against your team that do not cost your team the game. 
Oh, well, which one would you like? The reversal on the roughing the kicker that went for State, the fumble out of bounds that State never had, the phantom pass interference that allowed State to try its last second field goal in the fourth. I think we have a winner here. 

(3) A noisy crowd 
The loudest that a Michigan crowd has ever been in my experience, and that includes after the 1997 Ohio State game. Part of the problem is that the noise just gets sucked into the bowl and sort of dies, it's very hard to sustain any noise. But as the comeback got rolling and there started to be a true sense of belief, it got very loud, very quickly and sustained itself to the point of hoarseness. 

(4) Rain, a greasy surface, etc. 
In our case, major sustained winds throughout. It was going to wreak havoc all day and it did. It also made it very cold by the end of the night. Also, it was a 3:30 start, which meant it was dark by the time the whole thing was over. That is a very rare thing at Michigan Stadium and I think will add to the mystique of the game. 

(5) Opposition misses a penalty 
OK, in American football parlance, this would be opposition misses a late game field goal which would win it. And well, yes, made better by the fact that it came right at Dave and I and fell short. 

(6) Member of the opposition receives a red card. 
American football lacks this, and I have a hard time drawing a parallel. 

(7) Some kind of "disgraceful incident" 
When Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton went down in the second quarter, [college roommate/longtime seatmate] Dave turned to me and said "It's 100,000 people trying very hard not to cheer." As [longtime friend/now cousin in law] Mike pointed out yesterday, "And only 80,000 were successful." As much as Stanton was killing us, and I mean, he was destroying us, you can't cheer when the kid gets hurt, even if he was running with the ball. It's just bad form. Kind of shameful, no matter what the positive outcome that may occur for your team as a result of the injury. 

Now, I will add three personal criteria that I also think you need. 
(8) It is better if it is a rivalry game. 
Had Michigan rallied to beat, say, Indiana, I don't know it would have been AS exciting. Knowing that they rallied to beat State, saving us, the alums, from a year of Sparties lording it over us, which you know they would, is a tremendous thing. 

(9) Spectacular plays, especially for scores. 
Let's see, there was the amazing onside kick recovery, there was Braylon's first touchdown grab in Desmond corner, there was Braylon's SECOND touchdown grab in Desmond corner, there was Avant's "miracle make-sure I get a leg in" catch in the overtime, so yes, we had plenty of that. 

(10) You have to be there with someone who shares the same intensity and passion for the team as you do. 
This was not a game for a first date or an introduction to the game, this was a game where you go with your friend who has been there with you for years, who knows the whole history as well as you do, who understands the up and down, and who gets your jokes about or at least appreciates your witty comments. I had long-time partner in crime Dave and it made the whole thing even more spectacular. 

Part of the reason that i am not a sports journalist is that I know I am not able to fully convey what I saw on Saturday, and certainly not with an even-handed approach. But I do know when Braylon scored that touchdown to make it 27-20, I said "Uh-oh, Sparty hears footsteps." And I know that a comeback is best experienced in person, but it's still not the best Michigan game that I have ever attended in person. OK, here it is, my Top Five: 

1). 10/18/1997: #5 Michigan 28, #15 Iowa 24 
At halftime, Iowa leads 21-7, thanks in part to a brilliant Tim Dwight punt return for a TD. It's late October and the dream of an undefeated season is hanging in the balance. Michigan roars back with two third quarter TDs, the defense stiffens and Michigan emerges with a 28-24 win. Part of what makes a great game is what the stakes are. Michigan season this year was already somewhat sullied in South Bend, the Iowa game represented the march of the possible. 

2). 10/30/2004: #11 Michigan 45, Michigan State 37 (3OT) 
See previous. 

3). 10/12/2002: #13 Michigan 27, #15 Penn State 24 (OT) 
The only other overtime game in Michigan history, this one stems from the fact that it had me sitting in the closest you can get to F. Scott's at the Big House thanks to [friend/game show winner] Kevin's largesse. 

4). 11/22/1997: #1 Michigan 20, #4 Ohio State 14 
Charles Woodson's punt return wins him the Heisman. Michigan's win over the Buckeyes seals the first Rose Bowl bid since in the Carr era. 

5). 08/31/1996: #12 Michigan 20, Illinois 8 
Not a particularly great game, but it was my first game as a Michigan student, it was my 18th birthday, and thanks to my efforts, most of Stevenson's class of 1996 that was attending the U was sitting in Section 30 with Dave and I. 

Also, this is from Slate this morning: 

ORLANDO?The South Florida Sun-Sentinel buried this nugget Sunday in a story about the late delivery of 2,500 absentee ballots in Broward County: WPLG-Channel 10, an ABC affiliate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, aired a half-hour chunk of Stolen Honor, the 43-minute anti-Kerry documentary, on Saturday. The time was purchased by Newton Media, a Virginia-based media placement company that says it was founded "on biblical principles" and that includes a number of "media ministries" among its clients. 

Angry callers "flooded the customer service phone lines" at the station for airing the program, the Sun-Sentinel reported. A liberal backlash? No, just sports fans upset that the Michigan-Michigan State football game, "tied, 37-37, and about to go into overtime," was pre-empted. Doesn't anyone at Newton Media know the story of the "Heidi game"? 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Central Student Government, U-M LS&A Agree to Collaboration

Source: focus.lsa.umich.edu.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has reached a contentless agreement with Central Student Government announced at the monthly Board of Regents meeting held today (Monday, Oct. 20) at the U-M Flint campus.

CSG President Bobby Dishell made a presentation to the Regents regarding the findings from a CSG survey about the student experience at English composition courses and the student body's relationship with the history department. He outlined the following agreements between Michigan LS&A and CSG that will take effect immediately:

  • LS&A will work to design a new plan for next semester that will include a significant price decrease for freshman physics textbook prices. LS&A will announce student textbook prices for the 2015 winter semester next week.
  • Rental fees for LS&A facilities will be eliminated for student groups with a charitable focus.
  • The department has committed to work with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation to create a blackout weekend where the Modern Languages Building will be available for quizbowl tournaments in 2016.
  • Monthly meetings with students will be held with LS&A Dean Andrew D. Martin to address topics relating to all 85 majors and Michigan LS&A.
  • Dishell and Martin will have regular standing meetings.
  • The LS&A college will create a student advisory board comprised of student-scholars, non-scholars, Hill Auditorium season-ticket holders and Hill Auditorium non-ticket holders.
"It has been great working with our LS&A Dean and his department to come to these agreements," said Dishell. "This is a huge step forward for students and our relationship with our College of LS&A. We look forward to continuing to work together to create the optimal environment for all Michigan students."

"Often times, negativity is louder than positivity; however, it is important to realize that Bobby, myself and other student leaders on campus have worked hard to establish effective lines of communication that aim to enhance Michigan tradition today and into the future," said Cooper Charlton, President of U-M's Student-Scholar Advisory Committee (SSAC) that is representative of all 43,426 student-scholars. "The newly created opportunity for open dialogue creates a framework to hold our LS&A department and students accountable, thus fostering a relationship built on trust. Together, we will create sustainable long-term relationships that forge a unified Michigan family."

"Michigan LS&A looks forward to forging a strong relationship with Central Student Government," said Andrew D. Martin, the as-yet-unsponsored Dean of Literature, Science, and the Arts. "This is an important relationship for us, one that we need to repair, and one that will provide mutual support among all students. We have worked closely with CSG over the past year, and this will continue to strengthen our very important work with the student community."

(h/t Maize N Brew)

The Nussmeter exhibits poor time management

We updated the Nussmeter to 3 after the Rutgers game, but failed to make a post announcing it. After numerous delays, we have now updated the Nussmeter post-Penn State. It's at 2, which is the bland and impossible-to-open Brazil nut.



We can only hope that Michigan doesn't join Brazil in finding out what it's like to be outscored at a ratio of 7:1. But, look, a glimpse of days long past: Denard highlights!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hockey Returns

Oh happy day, hockey season is back.  Michigan already has three game-like substances in the books, though only one actually counts.  In an odd road opener at Ferris State on October 4, the Wolverines dug themselves an early hole, first hanging Nagelvoort out to dry on a breakaway and then leaving a Bulldog unattended at the point, all within the first 2 minutes of the season, and Ferris added a power-play tally to make it 3-0 at the end of the first period. Tyler Motte scored immediately to open the second period, but an ill-timed pinch gave up a short-handed goal to push Ferris's lead back to 3.  Michigan carried play for most of the third and clawed back with a pair of goals, but ultimately came up short, losing 4-3.  If I was told prior to the start of the game that Michigan would drop its road opener to defending WCHA champion Ferris State 4-3, I would take it.  Falling behind 3-0 is somewhat more disappointing, but this was overall a good result.

The USNTDP came over to Yost just two days later for an exhibition game, and Michigan pulled away in a wild one to win 7-4. Given that the Under 18s have won the last two meetings with the Wolverines, this represents significant progress.  Michigan then played their third game of the week on Thursday when they welcomed Wilfrid Laurier as their annual Canadian collegiate opponent. For the first time this year, Michigan scored first. The Wolverines pushed their lead out to 3-0 by the end of the first period and were up 4-0 before the Golden Hawks put one in the net. The game ended 5-2, with Steve Racine taking over for Nagelvoort after the second intermission and posting a clean sheet.

On Friday, New Hampshire pays a visit to Yost in return for the Wolverines' trip last year. Both games went to overtime, with UNH stealing one and the other ending in a tie.  Michigan and New Hampshire find themselves in similar situations this year: Both teams had up and down seasons last year with records of over .500, but neither of them reached the NCAA tournament.  The Wildcats lost their exhibition game with Canada's St. Francis Xavier 2-0 and their first non-conference game of the season to Union, the defending NCAA Champions, 3-1.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Necessary

(Author's note: This is late, in part because The Daily's Alejandro Zúñiga already had used my premise I had devised in my head for what I was going to do with this column and then did an awesome job with it.)

Devin mgoblue

In the end, maybe, some times, you just need to dance it out.  And that's OK.  It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back, but if you can shake him off, you can find yourself in a position to find the joy and the happiness that football should bring, playing for yourself, for your teammates, well, maybe that's all that matters.

This win is one win, as the cliche goes, and it is not going to be a season changer, necessarily.  But it was necessary because it does actually take some things off the table.  To wit:

  • A B1G win means that Michigan will not go winless in B1G play.
  • A third win means that this season cannot be, from a W-L standpoint, worse than 2008.
  • At worst, Michigan can only end the year on a five game losing streak.
Now, you may say that these are at best small victories, cold comfort, but I think they're important.  When you're in a hole, either you keep going deeper, or you start digging out.  I don't know what this game will ultimately mean, Michigan still has a metric ton of problems to sort out among itself.  But it's a start.  In this way, it's necessary, because it moves the conversation for the bye week to "Well, maybe it's not as dark as we thought."  Again, in a season like this, take the victories where they come.

Bullet Points
  • I have no training in football coaching, so I probably should not be able to manage the clock better than not one, but two Power Five head coaches.  And yet...
  • Could someone please ask Brady what he was thinking about the time out at the end of the first half.  Mostly so I can know what he was thinking.  Because I am stumped.
  • We sat next to a father-son pair of Penn State fans who were, as is usual with Penn State fans, model opposing fans.  Cheered on their team, never jerky or belligerent, just wanted their team to do well.  The father did comment that Norfleet has a bit of hot dog in him and that for a football player, he's a pretty good dancer.  This is fair.  But when it's your guy, well,  
  • The night game jerseys were actually fine when you saw them on the field.  It just felt, like so many alternate jerseys, unnecessary.  But, you know, marketing, teenagers like shiny things, I get it.
  • It is my understanding from Guest Services that IMG has discontinued magnet schedules for all Michigan sports.  This has me greatly distressed and I must investigate.
In the end, we won.  Alright. Hey. Alright. Good job, guys. Let's just not come in this Saturday. Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shawarma? There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Curses

I was sound asleep when the call came in early this morning.  I rolled over, fumbled for my phone, and did my best to answer.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Mr. Barker.  I'd like to speak to you about an exciting opportunity."

"It's 12:53 in the morning, who in their right mind thinks this is a good time to...wait, are you from the Michigan Athletic Department?"

"Yes.  For the purposes of this conversation, you may call me 'The Admiral.'"

"OK Admiral, gotta say, the James Earl Jones voice modulator is a nice touch.  Sounds very professional."

"Yes, voice modulator.  No matter.  Mr. Barker, we have an assignment for you and you're the best man for the job.  We need you to solve a Michigan football mystery."

"I can't say that I'm the best man for that job.  Why didn't you guys call Dooley?"

"The truth is Mr. Barker, Mr. Dooley has been sitting in the Towsley Family Museum, looking at the spot where the Little Brown Jug is supposed to be, gently weeping while he reviews a copy of the deed of gift to see if there's a basketball loophole.  When we could get him refocused for a moment, he mentioned you."

"OK, but how did you get my number?"

"Did you really think those Facebook giveaways for tickets were out of the goodness of our hearts?"

"Fair enough.  OK.  So what's the assignment?"

"The truth, Mr. Barker, is that Michigan football is cursed..."

"Well, I mean, it's been a bit of rough sledding, but cursed seems a bit..."

"No, we have a very well written note, in calligraphy and everything, that just says 'Michigan football is cursed.  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.    Ha."

"That many ha's?  Really?"

"Yes.  The note says that if we can discover the curse, the means of removing it will be obvious.  We don't want to tell you what to do, but we do know it has "post 11/18/06" scrawled at the bottom.  We think they're trying to narrow your search field."

"OK, I can look into it.  How many possible explanations do you want?"

"Ten is good.  Brady wore 10 here, let's go with ten.  Give us the curse, the background, the record since, the probability, and what we need to do to remove it."

"Where do you want me to send it?"

"Just post it on your blog.  It gives us plausible deniability, because who would believe we're stealing ideas for a Blogger blog without its own domain?"

"That kind of hurts a little bit."

"Sorry, would you like two free tickets to this Saturday's game?"

"I have tickets."

"Two Coke Zeroes then?"

"OK, I have to be up for work in four hours, can I got back to sleep now?"

"Just one more thing, how is your stock of delicious Chobani yogurt?"

"I don't eat yogurt."

"No matter, we're just contractually obligated to ask in any dealings we have online or on the phone.  Good luck Mr. Barker."

So, with my mission charges to me, I set about to discover what, exactly, was cursing Michigan football since that fateful day in November 2006.

Possibility #1. The Curse of President Ford
Background: Michigan alumnus and 1934 Team MVP, President Gerald Ford passed away on December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California.  Somehow his passing sapped a part of the spirit of Michigan.

Michigan's record since: 52-43
Reasons for this particular nexus point: The 2007 Rose Bowl, The Horror, Dennis Dixon, Chad Henne's numb elbow would all be explained.
Probability: Medium, 4.8/10
While it would be nice to explain the Horror with something supernatural, a 93-year old man passing away doesn't really feel like a curse.
What do we need to do to remove it: Jack Miller needs to go to the top of a staircar on a rainy day and take a tumble to the tarmac.

Possibility #2. The Curse of Little Brother
Background: Down 10 to Michigan State at East Lansing with just over seven minutes left to play, Chad Henne throws a pair of touchdown passes to win 28-24.  Henne will trip on his way out of Spartan Stadium, and then senior captain Mike Hart says: “I was just laughing.  I thought it was funny. They got excited. It's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and you let him get the lead. Then you come back and take it from him."

Michigan's record since: 44-41
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan, which had won eight straight after starting 0-2 and had a chance to win the Big Ten, lose their next two games to Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.20/10
The words of rebuttal to Hart from Mark Dantonio: "I find a lot of the things they do amusing. They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall..." kind of feels like a curse.  Or a vow of revenge.
What do we need to do to remove it: Win at Spartan Stadium for the first time since that game, call Michigan State our brothers in arms against our common enemy, Ohio State.

Possibility #3. The Curse of Herbie
Background: On December 1, 2007, ESPN College GameDay's Kirk Herbstreit reports that LSU coach Les Miles, following LSU's participation in the SEC Championship game, barring something extraordinary, will be the next coach at the University of Michigan.

Michigan's record since: 44-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Well, it might explain why Bill Martin didn't know how to work his new cell phone.
Probability: Moderate, 6.4/10
I still firmly believe that Herbie was reporting what he had been told, and that Miles planned to announce his intentions to come to Ann Arbor after the game.  By announcing it before the game, LSU had time to counter in a big way, which they did.
What do we need to do to remove it: Cut a check.

Possibility #4. The Curse of Tim Tebow
Background: In the 2008 Capital One Bowl, Michigan sends Coach Lloyd Carr off into the sunset, with a 41-35 win over Urban Meyer and Florida.  Michigan becomes the only team to defeat Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in a bowl game.

Michigan's record since: 43-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: 3-9, losing to Toledo, losing 42-7 to Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.6/10
A lot of this is going to depend on your view of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but this isn't our original thesis:

What do we need to do to remove it: Devin Gardner needs to go before the Monday press availability and speak these exact words after a conference game you lost when you had a field goal blocked:
"To the fans and everybody of MGoNation, I’m sorry. Extremely sorry. We wanted an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Michigan has done a lot. I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this.

You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see another player push his team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless."

Possibility #5. The Curse of Yost Bleachers
Background: In the spring of 2012, Michigan undertakes a renovation of Yost Ice Arena, which includes replacement of the bleachers that have been there since its conversion to an ice arena in the 1970s.  When removing the bleachers, they unleash the horrifying creature that Don Canham had successfully trapped under the bleachers, kept alive by the garbage dropped under the stands by patrons.

Michigan's record since: 17-15
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2012 and 2013 regression and all of 2014.  It also explains why Michigan Hockey has missed the NCAA Tournament for two years in a row after two decades of making it.
Probability: Moderate, 5.0/10
Once you saw what was under the West End Bleachers, you couldn't unsee it.  I will firmly believe that a horrible beast was being imprisoned there.
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a team of hunters to find it, bring Red Berenson to the creature.  Let him glare at it for a solid minute.  Creature will flee to Munn.

Possibility #6. The Curse of Clowney Comin'
Background: During the 2013 Outback Bowl, Taylor Lewan fails to call "Deuce", allows All-America DE Jadeveon Clowney to do this to this to Vincent Smith.

Michigan's record since: 9-11
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2013 regression and all of 2014.  It also explains why Michigan offensive players look somewhat uncertain at times, as if they hear the footsteps of Clowney.
Probability: Low, 0.7/10
Honestly, the Clowney hit was just instant karma for the terrible spot that the refs gave Michigan on the previous play.  Or for the terrible uniforms Michigan wore in that game.
What do we need to do to remove it: Make a sizable donation to Tay Odoms/Vincent Smith's H.O.P.E. for Pahokee charity at a game.

Possibility #7. The Curse of the Noodle
Background: On the W.O.W. Friday before Michigan's 2013 season opener against Central Michigan, a large Kraft Macaroni and Cheese noodle is spotted on the grounds of Michigan Stadium, violating the near sacrosanct rule about no advertising at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan's record since: 9-10
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the extreme cheesiness of recent Michigan Athletic Department decisions.
Probability: Low, 1.0/10
I mean, there's a Cadillac at Michigan Stadium this year, but because it has the Michigan wings, it's OK, right?
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a Giant Ramen Noodle.

Possibility #8. The Curse of Old 98
Possibility #9. The Curse of the Chicken Dance
Possibility #10. The Curse of the Skywriters
Background: At Under the Lights II, Michigan enrolls Tom Harmon's Old 98, the last remaining retired number, into the Legends Program and puts it on Devin Gardner.  Michigan wins, but Gardner throws an amazing 0 yard pick six that has to be seen to be believed.  After the victory, the Michigan Stadium PA plays "The Chicken Dance" in reference to Notre Dame ending the series after the 2014 game.  Prior to the start of Michigan's game against Akron, the next week, the Michigan Athletic Department pays skywriters to make Block M's and write "Go Blue" in the sky over Michigan Stadium...and in the sky over Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.  The Athletic Department denies that they paid for the Spartan Stadium skywriters, until they are outed by the skywriters themselves.  Michigan sheepishly admits they spent $3,000-$5,000 for the stunt.

Michigan's record since: 8-10 (for #8), 7-10 (for #9 and #10)
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan has a losing record ever since these events.
Probability: Very High, 9.8/10
Hubris: extreme pride or self-confidence. When it offends the Gods of ancient Greece, it is usually punished.  Hubris is usually perceived as a characteristic of an individual rather than a group, although the group the offender belongs to may suffer consequences from the wrongful act. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

What do we need to do to remove it:
 Devin Gardner calls the Harmon family, thanks them for their kindness and courtesy but says that there is but one Old 98 and it is and always should be, Tom Harmon.  Devin Gardner gets Old #12 back on.  At the 50 yard line of Michigan Stadium, the Michigan Athletic Department Game Day Experience staffers take a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, cover it in shamrocks, and set it ablaze.  Michigan's Athletic Department hires skywriters to write "Molon Labe" over Spartan Stadium during the Ohio State game and then cuts a check for $72,000 for pediatric cancer research to the Love Like Lacey fund, the latter of which isn't a terrible idea anyway.

In the end, I go back to The Bard:
"Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Let's be humbled by this and humble ourselves.  If we have offended some football higher power, it certainly can't hurt.




(P.S.: In all seriousness, there is one possibility I left off here, November 22, 2009.  If this is what cursed Michigan, then we probably deserve what it is getting for trying to ignore something so serious and then prevaricating to us about it when people tried to raise the issue.)