Saturday, September 29, 2007

2-0!

Michigan 28, Northwestern 16. It wasn't pretty, but we got the job done and we're 2-0 on HSR Field Trips.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We're Evanston-Bound

M Flag

Craig and I had such a good time at last year's Indiana game that we're making the HSR Field Trip an annual thing. This time around we're headed to Evanston for this weekend's game against Northwestern. We'll be tailgating before and after the game, even if 11:00AM starts are the devil's handiwork. Come by and see us if you'd like; our first choice spot is on the golf course near the Alumni Association tailgate, and we should be setting up at 8:00, otherwise we'll be in the parking lot on Campus Drive just south of where it turns into Lincoln. Look for the Michigan flag with the block M top on the blue pole and the old-school design. We'd like to thank Northwestern blog Lake the Posts for their help with our tailgating questions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Here For You, To Cheer For You

Last week, a trombone player in the MMB collapsed on the practice field in the middle of the pregame rehearsal. Students rushed to his aid and ultimately had to perform CPR while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. It's not fair to describe this secondhand when there are so many primary sources out there, so here's Lydia's take:
Practice halted; the directors flew down from the tower, a cluster of students, mostly ones in the nursing program I think, grouped around him. We all stepped back. We all waited. We watched, as much as we felt we shouldn't look, because we wanted to know what had happened. What went wrong? What was going on? Would he be okay? Oh God, just let him be okay.
At first he was placed in the cardiac intensive care unit on the 7th floor under sedation and on a ventilator to maintain an airway. They kept him unconscious overnight to perform tests because they still had no idea why this happened. The first tests didn't show any reason why either, but he continued to improve and eventually weaned himself off the sedatives and no longer needed a tube.

In addition to the dozens of visitors, he also received a card. The Phi Mu Alpha brothers who coordinated that and sent updates included the text of the card:

Nick,

You're in our prayers... get better soon. We need you! Go Blue!

Best wishes,
Lloyd Carr
and the Michigan football team

On the opposite page of the card were personal messages from Mike Hart, Jake Long and Shawn Crable.

(Whether or not they realized it, they do need him; he's the second chair trombonist.)

But the doctors weren't done with him yet, and he had to get chest x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs of his brain. Eventually he transferred out of the cardiac ICU, and seemed to improve every hour of the day. On Friday he remembered that we beat Notre Dame. By Saturday he was back to his normal self and walking around the hospital floor. He had a defibrillator implanted in his chest and could be back to school by tomorrow.

The sustained outpouring of support has been incredible. 50 people came to visit in the first two days. The nurses had to ask his family for suggestions how to manage all his traffic. People say that the band, like many great tight-knit organizations, becomes a second family. The support that Nick has should erase any doubt.

This has been a stressful and scary time for Nick and his family. Being in the hospital for so long seems to have its perks though: Rest. Recovery. And if you're lucky like Nick was, Lloyd Carr will come visit you the evening before a big game.

Nick will return, in whatever capacity the doctors allow, as soon as he can. Here's wishing for a continued speedy recovery.

Friday, September 21, 2007

WTI: Hart of Gold

Craig: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to WTI: Joy hath returned to my Hart edition.
Geoff: That was a deeply necessary victory.
Craig: Indeed. Necessary is the only word to describe it.
Craig: It becomes "important" based on this week's result.
Craig: But we will get to that soon enough.
Geoff: Notre Dame's band came into Michigan Stadium with flip folders for both pregame and halftime once again. They sounded fine enough, but their pregame was...not exciting.
Craig: It just doesn't work. But a band from Indiana played Mellencamp. Let's act shocked.
Geoff: I think a band with their history can do better.
Geoff: Ours looked good, once again. Cody caught the toss, but I don't think we're going to see a rubber-spined drum major in the near future.
Craig: He's trying REALLY hard though.
Craig: I loved this week's show. It was great. I loved the sense of whimsy, the appropriate use of the video boards, the musicianship, and "Freebird".
Geoff: It's a classic rock show in disguise, but all the extraneous Guitar Hero pieces bring it together. And "Freebird" was awesome.
Craig: I enjoyed even having the colored dots at the open.
Geoff: My only criticism is that the "Sweet Child O' Mine" arrangement was a little too straight, but that's a tiny thing in a great show.
Craig: It was. It really was. Full marks, lads.
Craig: What's on tap this week?
Geoff: A Bobby Darin show. I'm guessing "Splish Splash", "Beyond The Sea", and "Mack the Knife".
Craig: I do love "Beyond the Sea"
Geoff: And no, I don't know if Kevin Spacey will be involved.
Craig: Maybe he can give the pregame pep talk
Geoff: We're batting 1.000 when Academy Award winners give the pregame speech.
Craig: OK, let's more on...The Penn State game. We don't do previews anymore
Geoff: They only end in tears or victories over pitiable competition.
Craig: But I think this week is the real test. Bold pronouncements like that make me sound MSM.
Geoff: But it's a big deal. It'll tell us whether we have a chance in the Big Ten. Our second season starts on Saturday.
Geoff: Morelli vs. our secondary will be an interesting battle to watch. And Hart vs. Linebacker U is going to be a real fight.
Craig: Indeed. And the gamesmanship of will we have Henne is more noise than signal I think.
Craig: And if it's Mallett, I think that can be made to work. I wasn't "wow" with Mallett, but I thought he got the job done. If Braylon bailed out the freshman Henne back in 2004, maybe it will be Mike Hart doing it here.
Geoff: Absolutely. I think Henne's out. Mallett performed well when he was asked to manage the game.
Craig: And maybe Mallett got a few more pages of the playbook. And the defense a few less.
Geoff: Penn State's not going to try confusing us too much. It's going to be execution vs. execution. Hart will carry the mail. Hell, he'll carry the mail truck.
Craig: He is the Postmaster General. He's nothing but Pottery Barn catalogs and Publisher's Clearing House mailings
Geoff: Hey, I may *already* be a winner.
Craig: It would be a nice change
Craig: And if we can win in the trenches, I think we have a very good chance. But, all things with time. We'll know what the deal is by 7 PM Saturday.
Craig: And for this week's roundtable question: In "honor" of the Michigan State visit to Notre Dame Stadium this week, HSR asks "Should fans of a school root for the other teams in their conference during non-conference play?"
Geoff: We should, but that doesn't mean we always do.
Craig: See, I can understand it in the abstract.
Geoff: I find it impossible to root for tOSU. The closest I can get is to not root against them.
Craig: You want your conference to look strong, especially in an era where conference strength is such a topic of debate in the media. Look no further than this week's SI cover. But, I mean, I can't root for tOSU, and I have a really hard time rooting for Michigan State. The best I can do is not loathe them.
Craig: And we know, from the reactions of early September, that CLEARLY Sparty feels that you do not root for your conference. But in conversations with Oregon fans, they were stunned that we would be rooting against our conference mates.
Geoff: I think this year it's really important for the Big Ten to do well in whatever non-conference action we have remaining. After App St, Duke, Iowa State, and last year's Florida BEATDOWN(S), the Big Ten Network, Harbaugh, and Jim Delaney, the conference has a need to repair its image in the public eye
Craig: So, again, I don't know that there is a "right" answer here. We'd love to hear your thoughts on it though in the comments.
Craig: It has been a rough year for the Big Ten, there's no question.
Geoff: If Sparty loses to Notre Dame this weekend, the Big Ten may collapse into a naked singularity.
Craig: Well, OK, yes, I will give you that
Geoff: It would be just like MSU to do that to us.
Geoff: I hate those guys.
Craig: Well, that is all we have for this week. Next week, we preview Michigan's first trip outside of Ann Arbor this year, which is actually our first road trip of the year as well. We're going to EVANSTON! (Wait, that sounds sad, really)
Geoff: I'd say we're road-tripping to Chicago for a game but
1.) No, we're not going to see the Bears, and
2.) No, it's not 1907.
Craig: So until next time, I'm Craig...
Geoff: ...And there are none who call me Tim.
Craig: We better not risk another frontal assault, that rabbit's dynamite.
Geoff: Can he play safety?
Craig: Yes, yes he can...
Geoff: Have him take the SAT and see Lloyd in his office later.
Craig: Fetch me the Holy Hart Grenade of Syracuse!
The Major: I'm sorry, I'm going to have to stop this. It's too silly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's like the back half of Abbey Road...

I had no real major article this week, so I wanted to roll with two ideas which were partially formed in my head: The Michigan State/Notre Dame game this week and an appreciation of Joe Paterno. So that's what you'll get, after the jump…

1). Michigan State/Notre Dame: One Fan's Quandary

In this "Death not an option" exercise, I need to try and decide whom I should be "rooting" for this weekend in the Spartans visit to the Fightin' Irish. There are a number of things to consider in this, so let's look at them.

a). Arrogance

It is often said that Michigan fans are the most arrogant of all college football fans. This, of course, is a pure and abject lie. But, Michigan fans consider Notre Dame fans to be the most arrogant of all college football fans, so this is possibly saying something. By the same token, a not insignificant segment of Michigan State fans have a tendency to be the worst of all college football fans, the needling little brother. Michigan State fans, if they were being purely honest with themselves, are happier that Michigan started 0-2 than that they started 2-0. Notre Dame fans may be arrogant, but they would never revel in a rival's failing ahead of their own success. 1 point to the Irish.

b). Brothers in Arms

There are those who believe that you root for your conference mates during non-conference play for the sake of your conference's national perception. That said, 3-0 Michigan State beating 0-3 Notre Dame this year will not make the Big Ten look strong, but losing to Notre Dame will be another knock against the Big Ten. 1 point to the Spartans.

c). Making history

If Michigan State wins, they will have won six straight games at Notre Dame Stadium, something that no visiting team has ever done. I'm not sure I like Michigan State owning that record. So a small point, but a point, to Notre Dame.

d). We got ours

Michigan has beaten Notre Dame this year, and beaten them soundly. So I don't feel the need to see Notre Dame win to make their beating of Michigan look better in the stream. A point to Michigan State.

e). Does it really matter?

If Michigan State wins, it's another week of "what's wrong with Notre Dame" stories, which, admittedly, takes heat off Michigan. If Notre Dame wins, it's a classic Sparty being Sparty. In the end, it doesn't matter which team wins for Michigan's sake. Maybe it's the choices we do not make that count the most.

2). An appreciation of JoePa I like Joe Paterno. How can you not? Does Penn State have any rivals? I mean, sure, Pittsburgh, but why would you want to play your rivals? But their old Eastern rivalries have died and they're still treated like the new stepson of the Big Ten, sort of the Cousin Oliver when you think about it. But Penn State has Joe Paterno, and they have had Joe Paterno since the Johnson administration. And JoePa may be crusty, and old, and any other hammer you want to hit him with, but he's still the Brooklyn accented bad ass coach who played at Brown, who has more wins against schools in Division I FCS than any other coach, the only coach to win the Orange, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, and Rose Bowl in his career, chaser of referees, leader of pep rallies, philanthropist, holder of high academic standards, and general all around grand old man of the game. Perhaps it's easy to like a coach when your team has won eight straight over his team, but if given a choice of who I'd want as my grandpa, I'd pick JoePa over Coach Carr every time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

21 Jump Street

This post is Mathman approved!

As some of you may know, this past weekend, I pulled off the rare football trifecta, watching a high school game on Friday night at my alma mater, Saturday was the Michigan/Notre Dame game and Sunday, I went to Ford Field for the Lions/Vikings game. Three games, three wins. A pretty neat circumstance. As we were walking out of the game, I snarkily noted "Lions 2-0, Michigan State 3-0, Michigan 1-2. We are in the end times gentlemen."

And that is when my friend Mike stated the following premise (essentially):

"Each year, there's a pile of 20 wins and Michigan, Michigan State, and the Lions divvy them up between them."

So I did the math from 1970 (the year of the NFL-AFL merger and Bo's second year in Ann Arbor)

(and for the purposes of this, I did not count ties as half wins. They were ignored.)

The results after the jump...

The bold number is the highest win total for the year.

Graphically:

So what did we learn? Well, actually it's that there's a pile of 21 or so wins available and the teams seem to divvy them up amongst themselves. So Mike was very close to being right without any significant research, just off the top of his head.

Outliers: 1982: the NFL Strike Year, which cost the Lions seven chances to win. Presuming that they went 4-5 in the 9 games, an extrapolated 7-9 would bring that up to 17, which would be almost right there. Still a bad year.

1984: But if you're going to have a set of collective bad years in Detroit, that would be the year to do it.

1991: Mike's initial premise buster as stated to me isn't actually that far off because of how bad Michigan State was.

1997: Michigan goes undefeated and wins the (Mythical) National Championship, Lions make playoffs, Michigan State not awful under Nick Saban.

1999: Michigan goes to the Orange Bowl, Lions amazingly make playoffs post-Sanders retirement, and Saban gets his season to get him lured to LSU.

And, as Geoff pointed out to me in writing this up, Michigan is responsible for roughly 9 of those wins a year, leaving MSU and the Lions to fight over the other 12 between them.

Conclusions: Well, sir, the data support no conclusions as yet. The absence of activity in the Pacific suggests this could be just an exercise. But when you look at how often Michigan has carried the banner, it is amazing considering that the Lions have three more chances a year for most of those years, if not four. Let's hope that this year is the good kind of 1999 style outlier and everyone ends up happy (maybe flip the result of the Michigan/Michigan State game that year, just to be safe).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Listening To the 2005 Penn State Game

Let's turn back the clock to 2005 for a lesson on how to lose embarrassingly in Michigan Stadium.

Imagine you're in the Blue Band drumline. Michigan is looking the worst they've looked since the 1980s and PSU is rolling in 6-0. They're tied 3-3 at halftime, and your director had you use flip folders for your Hindemith show. Granted, it's a hard show, but, flip folders.

You watch Michigan and Penn State trade blows in the second half. JoePa argues with the refs to get two seconds put back on the clock with 3:28 left. Finally it's the end of the game, you're up four points, and all you have to do is stop the worst Michigan team in twenty years from scoring a touchdown on the last play of the game. What could go wrong?

Well, for starters, your corners could cover the Massaquoi/Breaston cross which frees up Manningham underneath the safety, and Henne could thread the needle between the linebacker and the corner moving the other way. Your undefeated season is lost. So what do you do?

Listen closely for the two booming crashes right after Brad Nessler yells "touchdown Manningham," and again after "Michigan wins." Apparently, what you do is you bang your bass drum in frustration so hard it's audible on the broadcast above the crowd noise. Twice.

My friend Steve and I watched this video a few (dozen) times the week after that game and figured out what that bashing noise is. Draw a vertical line up from where the goal line meets the far sideline. There, on the edge of the PSU band, is what we assume to be the guilty drummer. He brings his arm up and thrusts it down almost exactly in time with the noise on the broadcast (TV stations like to put mics on the drumline). This is illustrated in the crude replay below.

video

Such an overreaction is explained by the heat of the moment, but it's generally unacceptable for any marching band member to play out of turn like that or to take out his frustration on his instrument. Penn State and their band could benefit from playing a game like Notre Dame played this weekend: Losing disastrously, throughout the course of the afternoon. Saving it for the very last play only invites undue heartbreak that leads to poor decisions.

Yakety Sacks

Cross-posted to mgoblog.

Friday, September 14, 2007

WTI: Fell on Black Days

Craig: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to WTI: Fell On Black Days Edition.
Craig: So first up today is our assessment of this past week's MMB show, and our look ahead to this week.
Jeremy:  Let's start where they start: Pregame.
Jeremy:  The drum major caught the goalpost toss this week, but the team apparently didn't see it.
Geoff:  That's the trouble with them being in the tunnel.
Jeremy:  As for the backbend, all I'm going to suggest is that he keep the hat on this week.
Geoff:  My mom is still worried that he's going to break his neck one of these days.
Craig: He does look like the drum major yearling. Of course, I say this as someone who WOULD break his neck if he tried that, so here's to hoping practice makes perfect.
Jeremy:  I think they added Calyptors in the stands this week (that's the calypso version of the Victors), and the quadridirectional Let's Go Blue, which was a great touch.
Geoff:  Agreed. I like Calyptors a lot. Of course, I like the Hoover Street Rag (the Dixieland jazz version of the Victors) better, but it's a much tougher song.
Craig: I was impressed with our mobile fanfare unit deployments this week.
Geoff:  Fanfare band actually came down my aisle for once.
Craig: I'm getting the unique experience of six games in six different sections this year, so I am seeing what happens.
Jeremy:  The stadium tour package?
Geoff:  It's cheaper than the bowl trips from the Alumni Association.
Craig: I have a joke there, but I like my tickets from the Alumni Association, so...
Geoff:  Halftime now? I liked the Beach Boys show a lot, and the Nix arrangements were good.
Jeremy:  I liked it. The Nix arrangements sound livelier. And the annual crowd favorite DANCE(!!!) featured the only wave of the day.
Craig: I really liked the sound, but next time, I demand mobile theremin.
Geoff:  We did have a couple of clarinets run into each other. Oops. One of them started marking time early and got run over.
Jeremy:  If you're reading this, kids, write your moves on your music.
Jeremy:  They made the shape of a surfer on a surfboard, and even had the arms move for balance -- but the stadium cams never caught it! So that's my only complaint: Get the big screen cameras to show the full band shot when it's a recognizable shape.
Geoff:  Agreed. It's hard to tell what some shapes are unless you're on the press box 40 in Row 60.
Jeremy:  I think they made a T-bird logo too, but that may just be my Rorschach analysis.
Geoff:  As you can see, I made it to practice before the game. Boerma seems to run a tight ship there.
Craig: Great photos on that Geoff. I must say that, even as someone who rocks the shorts whenever possible, the band could not look goofier at practice.
Jeremy:  C'mon, black shoes and socks with hats and plumes are what the college crowd loves these days.
Geoff:  The hats are weird, granted, but everything else is standard issue for a workout. And anyone who's ever seen pregame knows what a workout that is.
Craig: Well, on the plus side, the hats with plumes are a much better look than some of the hair styles rocked by the college kids today.
Geoff:  You just want them to get off your lawn.
Craig: Grrr!
Craig: [shakes fist]
Jeremy:  Saturday's halftime show is Guitar Hero.
Craig: I demand Monkeywrench!
Jeremy:  Iron Man (longer version of stands tune), Sweet Child o' Mine, Killer Queen, and Freebird.
Craig: Note to self: Bring lighter.
Craig: Note to self: Have lighter confiscated.
Jeremy:  However, they're not making any references to guitar hero other than the songs. No guitars, no ovals running across the field, no synchronized bobbing to the beat.
Craig: No Joel Zumaya cameos.
Jeremy:  My friend Bill suggested they form a guitar on the field and play decently, with occasional mistakes, then rotate the guitar shape vertically and just explode with sound. But alas.
Jeremy:  This is obviously the annual student-focused show, and it seems like they're stopping short of completely grabbing the students.
Craig: Yeah, but you know, it's really hard to grab the students completely.
Jeremy:  They did pretty well with the Patrick Stewart, Monty Python, and Video Game shows.
Craig: True that. So we'll see...
Craig: Now, onto a new segment for WTI: Our roundtable question. Every so often, we'll take on a question from the realm of college football that has no consensus in conventional wisdom. And while I'd like to say this is coming from nowhere, well, we know better...
Craig: This week's topic: Is it OK for fans to boo college athletes? Gentlemen, your thoughts. Obviously there is no right answer, and we'd love to hear from our commenters on this as well...
Jeremy:  I boo opposing teams all the time. But as for booing my own team, no, under no circumstances.
Geoff:  I won't give people grief over doing it, because I've done it on a few occasions, but I don't like it. You don't help anyone.
Craig: I don't like it, but it does leave fans powerless to express their displeasure with things such as the coaching staff or the playcalling...It's not like people can hold up Wile E. Coyote style signs to to explain whom you are booing at.
Jeremy:  I'll certainly complain up a storm, but I'll keep it to the people around me. The players need to hear my support.
Geoff:  One condition I'd want to apply is that you don't earn the right to boo anybody if you haven't been loud when you're supporting the team.
Jeremy:  I think staying quiet and letting the opponents' cheers come through works well enough. Oregon players were feeding off our booing, trying to pump up (or tear down?) the crowd to get more.
Craig: So you're saying that withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.
Jeremy:  The marching band conditioning probably helped me, as they were always very strict about not booing or swearing, and staying positive.
Jeremy:  My grandfather staring at me in icy silence often changed my behavior far quicker than yelling at me would've.
Craig: Can we call the players by their middle names?
Geoff:  Not anymore, now that the free programs are gone. Does anyone know what happened there?
Craig: We were counterpunted?
Jeremy:  Surely they weren't driven out of business by the not-free programs.
Geoff:  Counterpunt must have been too busy defending players arrested in t3h bestest offseason EVAR.
Craig: Ahh yes...The harbinger.
Geoff:  Our cynical tailgate partners think that the university wanted to increase sales of the big glossy programs and kicked them out.
Craig: It's not the least likely idea I have heard.
Craig: Well gentlemen, shall we wrap this up? This week is Notre Dame...and I'd like to get my hate on, and I am sure I will at some point Saturday....
Jeremy:  I love this week when the anger goes beyond just wanting to win because it's an actual, hated rival.
Geoff:  Yeah, but for me the opponent has become so much less important than this team finding its way again.
Craig: Agreed on both counts.
Jeremy:  For me, this is about kicking sand in the face of another down program.
Craig: Which would have the advantage of hopefully righting the ship?
Geoff:  Hopefully we see some spark out there. Or Mike Hart is going to explode in a fountain of rage.
Jeremy:  If they kept a mic and camera on him for the whole game, I'd buy a pay-per-view feed.
Craig: 110%. You could pay for the new basketball practice facility with that money.
Geoff:  Mike Hart doesn't put money in vending machines. He just slips through the cracks in the door.
Craig: Mike Hart gives you the whole nine yards, but that is only after you presume he has been stopped for a loss of three.
Geoff:  Mike Hart goes through 30-40 pairs of gloves a game because he's physically incapable of letting go of the football.
Craig: Mike Hart hates Liberty Mutual because he doesn't understand about "The Part Where You Let Go" .
Geoff:  I think I'm spending all of tomorrow thinking up more of these.
Craig: I think we all should...
Craig: And with that ladies and gentlemen, we call it a night. Good luck and go blue!
Jeremy:  Please. Please Go Blue.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Flip Folders

Ah, flip folders: The fallback crutch when memorization fails. It's one thing to use them for halftime, the stands, or postgame; in the realm of marching bands, let's consider those venial sins that allow for a greater variety of music or to guarantee the band knows pieces they just saw for the first time on Monday.

The mortal sin, then, is using flip folders for pregame, suggesting that the band cannot memorize its own fight song or music it plays every week. Sometimes the use of flip folders is optional and not uniformly enforced, so members using them stick out, brandishing their awkward plastic folios like a scarlet letter. It's like riding a tricycle: Sure, you can brag that you won't tip over, but you really ought to learn to ride a bike. Plus, what happens if you drop it? Now you're lost and hopeless, you owe money to the equipment staff, and you've violated another commandment of Michigan football: Don't trash the Big House!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I've lost my keys!

Literally, I have misplaced my car keys (well, key, I mean, it's just one key anymore, but the point remains.) But it's as good a segue as anything...

Ladies and gentlemen, we've been called out by one of America's leading college football bloggers, Orson Swindle of EDSBS, for the Key Play thing. Now, as is pointed out, this is not unfamiliar territory for readers of Michigan blogs as MZone went after this is October 2005, but that's more internal conversation memo than it is national calling out when we're already not at 100% as a fan base.

So the question is simple, what is a fan base to do? Well deal with that after the jump.

I have decided, like Geoff, that I, too, will make it through this season, but my current preferred method will be to use this moment to step back and look at the Michigan football experience in the larger whole. We are deeply proud of being Wolverines, the tradition, the heritage, of being Michigan men (and women). But we cannot rest on our laurels, stagnate, and be left to reflect on glories past without any glories in the future. We must be willing to commit ourselves to improvement as Michigan fans without abandoning those things which make us Michigan. So I will be writing a series of posts this year, I hope, in an effort to broach discussion on the fan experience. We know that Varsity Blue is already working this angle as well, but it is my hope in the notion that generating more conversation about this and other game day topics, we can find ideas and attempt to put them into use.

Please, also remember, that these pieces are designed to be conversations. I am one fan with one opinion, and often times, I miss a critical aspect. We have comments because we want to hear from you, I promise that I will do my best to reply to any legitimate point raised in one of these pieces. I will also be stockpiling them for a final look for the off-season.

In my mind, there are several problems that are not readily understood by the non-Michigan fan about the crowd noise issue:

1). We are actually concentrating on the game.

because...

2). We're just anticipating the pivotal moment of failure.

Now, obviously, you can't make a monster noise in a stadium if you don't know what is going on in the game. And, thanks to a wonderful project by one of my students a few years back, I know the history of cheerleading stems, in part, from a desire to take the undirected and unfocused noise generated by fans and turn it into something useful to the team. But, when most of us are choking for air because we're, to steal a line from Art Alexakis, waiting for it to all go wrong again. It makes it hard to cheer when you can't open your throat, even in a metaphorical sense.

3). The Justified and Ancient

If I have read my MGoBlog comments correctly over the past year, there is a certain segment of Michigan fan, mocked by a writer last year as "a symphony crowd" who does not seem to appreciate the need to make noise to help the team on the field. They are appalled if you dare stand up and will use Event Staff to have you disappeared like a magician's assistant. They are likely fans who remember the glory days of Bump Elliott...as 1947's Big Nine Conference MVP. Any change in the overall culture of Michigan Stadium will require the social contract to shift with these fans as well as those who seek to make the Big House a loud house as well.

4). Keys

On the one hand, the key play symbolism and understated nature has its charm. It certainly has its tradition and has been institutionalized by the athletic department, much to the chagrin of many. This could end up being a line in the sand for fans, so we need a way to deal with it respectfully. Also, why is it presumed that because we're jingling the keys that we're not also yelling? I mean, we can multitask, no?

5). The Architecture

Michigan Stadium is a bowl that traps noise and the Field Turf eats even more than that. OK, we've been here before, we'll come back here later.

6). Who we are and who we want to be

This may be one of the most difficult questions of all. Do we, as fans, genuinely want to change. Is there so unspoken desire to become loud, boisterous, rowdy just looking for a leader and a vision? Is this just "the snobbery" issue, Michigan fans think they are better than everyone else, therefore, they don't need to act like every one else (which poses an interesting question in my mind. According to the U.S. News and World Report rankings, flawed as they might be, there are 16 schools among their top 40 which play Division I FBS football. Six in the ACC! (Duke, UVa, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Georgia Tech), three Big Ten schools (Northwestern, Michigan, and Wisconsin), one independent (them...), four Pac-10 schools (Stanford, Cal, UCLA, and USC), one CUSA school (Rice), and one SEC school (Vandy). Off the top of my head, do any of these 16 schools have a standout crowd known for being loud, raucous, and "into it"? Wisconsin is often cited as one example and I realize that if we looked at basketball as well, the ACC steps to the fore in that regard, but that is another post for another time. But if you are a fan of one of these schools, do these allegations of apathy dog your fanbases as well?) The question for these schools might be: Do we just have too many geeks and nerds among us to truly just enjoy the game? It would definitely tie in my the fretful fan thesis. So, do we want to change who we are, or are we comfortable with the slings and arrows of other teams, knowing we are who we are?

I am sure there are many other issues, this is just a first blush take on my part. As a whole, there are times where I would love if Michigan were loud and noisy and crazy, because it would be an outward expression of the passion and intensity that I know in my heart that most Michigan fans have for their team. But I also know that just as most traditions develop organically, changes to any culture also tend to be evolutionary unless change is forced upon a population. So consider this an opening for a discussion, and let us take it from there.

Postgame sets

Occasionally after the marching band postgame show (you do stay for the postgame show, don't you?), the band will make a formation spelling out someone's name and just stand there for a few seconds. Anyone can do this; for a $10,000 donation, you will receive a photograph of the band spelling your name out on the field.But wait! There aren't that many fans in the stadium after the game is done. The photo has to be combined with a stock image of a full stadium to give the appearance that it was taken during halftime. The lesson here: Save MMB photography staff work by staying for the postgame show.

Photographs by Dick Gaskill

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Saturday Tradition













I tried to write something to go with this, but I think the pictures stand better on their own. These are all from the day of the Oregon game.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me

We pulled into the Blue Lot at the stadium a little before 9:30 on Saturday morning, tailgated until 3:00, and then went in. When we were on defense, I yelled so loudly that the 9-year-old kid in front of me in the Brady jersey first covered his ears with his hands, then switched seats with his dad. Then his dad covered his own ears with his hands. When Oregon made it 25-7, I was in agony. When they made it 32-7, though, it stopped hurting. The game's importance just dropped away from me and I fell into the bitter sarcasm familiar to all Lions fans.

I came to the realization that I just can't put the same emotional investment into this team that I usually do. The Year of Infinite Pain is still fresh in my mind, and I know that I wasn't always pleasant to be around then. I don't want to know what I'd be like when faced with this season's Year of Impossible Torment if I took every loss as hard as I did then.

I'm not abandoning the team. I'm going to show up to nine games this season where I'll cheer loudly enough to distress small children, but I can't put as much of myself into this as I usually do. I still care, and care deeply, but I'd rather not be an alcoholic by December and I don't need the little black raincloud of despair following me every day. I probably won't be as vigilant in keeping up with all of my blogroll, and there's no way I'm reading the collective rending of garments in the game day open threads. Perpective is what I'll be striving for.

Of course, all of this detachment is going out the window as soon as the team shows some signs of life, only to kick me to the curb the next week.


I went up to Wazoo Records for the first time in a while on Saturday and bought The Sunset Tree, which has a line I like in it, even if applied under very different circumstances.

There will be feasting
and dancing
in Jerusalem next year.
I am gonna make it
through this year
if it kills me.

Step back off the ledge, people.

The Mountain Goats – This Year

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Laundering the season through pop culture references

Fictional characters express it better.
Threat Level: Midnight.

Losing to Appalachian State: Taking my heart and dropping it in a bucket of boiling tears.

Losing to Oregon: Someone else hitting my soul in the crotch with a frozen sledgehammer.

Losing to Notre Dame (should it happen): A third guy walks in and starts punching me in the grief bone, and I'm crying, and nobody can hear me, because I'm terribly, terribly alone.

I kept thinking about this yesterday, but I'm not sure whether Michigan is Farmer Brown or Flight 430:

Friday, September 07, 2007

HSR Preview: Oregon

work yourself up and sharpen you wings to conquer and circulate lower and upper case As, Bs & Cs, sign, shout, swear, organise prose into a form that is absolutely and irrefutably obvious, prove its ne plus ultra and maintain that novelty resembles life in the same way as the latest apparition of a harlot proves the essence of God. His existence had already been proved by the accordion, the landscape and soft words. * To impose one's A.B.C. is only natural - and therefore regrettable. Everyone does it in the form of a crystalbluff-madonna, or a monetary system, or pharmaceutical preparations, a naked leg being the invitation to an ardent and sterile Spring. The love of novelty is a pleasant sort of cross, it's evidence of a naive don't-give-a-damn attitude, a passing, positive, sign without rhyme or reason. But this need is out of date, too. By giving art the impetus of supreme simplicity - novelty - we are being human and true in relation to innocent pleasures; impulsive and vibrant n order to crucify boredom. At the lighted crossroads, alert, attentive, lying in wait for years, in the forest. * I am writing a manifesto and there's nothing I want, and yet I'm saying certain things, and in principle I am against manifestos, as I am against principles (quantifying measures of the moral value of every phrase - too easy; approximation was invested by the impressionists). *

Michigan is a state in the Eastern time zone. Oregon is in the Pacific. Both have trees. Sometimes it rains. I have no idea what will happen on Saturday, but I am very afraid. The trick is, you find the ones without the hoe-downs. Tennis shoes.

(PS: The video is "What's A Girl To Do?" by Bat For Lashes and the first paragraph is lifted from Tristan Tzara's 1918 Dada Manifesto. Potato chip. It's a ferris wheel. So what I'm really trying to say is plastic bag plastic bag plastic bag.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Life Lessons from a Whiz Kid

This would be the normal spot where the alumni showdown would go for this week, but since I believe I am part of the problem, I've decided to put the feature on hiatus for the time being. But I still have content to provide.

I didn't want to raise comparisons to last weekend's unpleasantness to Vietnam, but since Orson did over at EDSBS, well, the door is open. And that got me to thinking about Robert McNamara. A former Ann Arbor resident, Secretary McNamara is one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century. And while I await the great biography of McNamara that awaits to be written, the detail provided by David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest and the insights I have gleaned from repeated assigned showings of Errol Morris' The Fog of War have given me some insight into the complex man who served as President of Ford in 1961, Secretary of Defense from 1961-1967 and as President of the World Bank from 1967-1981. In The Fog of War, Errol Morris punctuates the various segments of the film with "Life Lessons" that he gleaned from conversations and discussions with Mr. McNamara in the process of making the film. Those 11 lessons are my jumping off point for today as I attempt to use them to make sense of the state of Michigan football.

The Life Lessons of Robert McNamara, as applied to Michigan Football.

Lesson #1: Empathize with your enemy.

In this sense, Michigan utterly failed last weekend, both as a team and as a fan base. I will not presume to speak for the team, but I will make a few presumptions to speak for the fans: We did not empathize with our opponent, we failed to consider the distinct possibility that Appalachian State was going to come out that Saturday and play to win, especially when they had nothing to lose. We presumed that they were there to collect a paycheck and to get some national exposure. We did not see that talent alone could not win the game. What's worse is that Michigan failed to defend its home soil. The Mountaineers were a team far away from Boone, North Carolina, and yet they never played like they were scared in the least, and if they were scared, they certainly did not show it. We failed to understand that they wanted to win and respect that in them.

Lesson #2: Rationality will not save us.

McNamara was talking in this respect about the potential for a nuclear exchange and the limits of mutually assured destruction as a form of deterrence. In my understanding here, simply breaking down the reasons why Michigan lost last weekend will not save us as fans. We may point to the very valid arguments about why Appalachian State won, every rational argument to be made, and we may point to very valid reasons why Michigan lost, but that is not the point. The point is that college football is a game of reputation, a game based on history, tradition, and heritage. But to rest of those things, to simply presume that by merely showing up, our team, let alone any team, would win is arrogance, and it's the worst kind of arrogance, the kind of arrogance that Michigan fans staunchly defend ourselves against when accused of it. If we serve as cautionary tale for ourselves, let alone any other football team, let alone any other sporting team in the country, then we should be grateful that we have salvaged something positive out of this miserable experience.

Lesson #3: There's something beyond one's self.

The team, the team, the team. We treasure the notions of Bo's words as Michigan fans, but we also see Michigan teams that fail to live up to that maxim. We're fans, we want to support the team, we want to be proud of the team that represents the school that many of us hold dear for whatever reason. We want to believe in something larger than ourselves and being a Michigan fan gives us lease on that notion. It's something we share, something we value, perhaps a little too much, but something that gives us a backdrop against which we can weave the tapestry of the moments of our real lives. But in taking those highs and the glory, we must also take the lows and the pain.

Lesson #4: Maximize efficiency.

I can't disagree with this one, and given Mike Hart's yards per carry, it would seem that he does not either. Let's go down and get points every time we have the ball. Let's chew up the clock. Let's make sure we're not shooting ourselves in the foot with procedure penalties. Let us be an efficient strike force that casts fear into the hearts of our opposition.

Lesson #5: Proportionality should be a guideline in war.

OK, if war is the socially acceptable stand-in for football, we can make this work. There are those who want Michigan to go out and beat teams like Eastern Michigan, and Northwestern, and Notre Dame by eleventy billion, and while that may make us feel a little better, in the end, it's hollow. Wins like that don't tell you anything about your own team, you just want them so you know you have the game locked up and you can rest your starters. Running up the score for the sake of running up the score, it's like inflating the body count numbers in Vietnam: it's flashy for the Five O'Clock Follies (which, if you have ever watched Around the Horn, seems apt), but it doesn't tell the true story of what is happening in the field. If we are in a position to win and win big, let us keep things in perspective.

Lesson #6: Get the data.

Several weeks ago on EDSBS Live, I made my case against pre-season polling, in the sense that we just don't have the data to know what is right or wrong, just presumptions, assumptions, and speculation.

Michigan's glaring flaws on defense, so vividly exposed in the final two games of 2006 were treated as a fixable deviation from the norm by many pollsters, ignoring the loss of significant talent to the NFL at each level of the defense, presuming that the roster would just plug in new guys and hit the ground running. And that's a wonderful compliment from the mainstream media and the coaches (or whomever in the athletic department) who vote in the polls, but it was a guess. They guessed wrong this time, and they adjusted accordingly.

Based on the data, Michigan doesn't deserve to be in the top 25 this week. If the team recovers this week and beats Oregon, well, then they have something they can point to and make the argument. But until such time, based on the small sample size that exists, it's a difficult argument to be made.

Lesson #7: Belief and seeing are both often wrong.

The obvious conclusion to draw here would be that, based on what we saw last week, Michigan is either:

a). Going to fix everything this week in practice, run the table, and send Coach Carr out with a Rose Bowl win.

b). The worst Michigan team in recorded history.

The reality is that neither one is true. Darn it, we should know better. The former is belief, the latter is seeing, granted the worst possible vision, but you know, we're in pain. There are flaws, flaws we had been willing to overlook, or magically presume that they would go away, that have been there for years. The beauty of college football is the chance to believe in perennial rebirth. No one is there for more than five years, save the coaching staff, so it is too often presumed that what was once a problem will magically disappear with the next batch of players, especially when you have such top level talent coming into the program year in and year out. We have a tremendous amount of belief, hell, let's call it what it is, faith, in Michigan football, and yet, we spend every year wondering not if the shoe would drop, but when, save that one glorious year when the lack of shoe dropping was it's own special kind of shoe dropping, the one that made us doubt that the shoe HAD to come, which is even more dangerous than knowing the shoe will drop at some point, because we had been seduced into thinking that maybe it didn't always have to be like this. Think about last year for a moment: Ask yourself how often you waited for it to all go wrong, and yet, when we kept winning, or escaping, we either waited for the shoe to drop the next week, or we forgot about it until we went to Columbus. My point is that we believe the worst will happen virtually every week, and yet we ignore obvious signs to us that we can see that things nearly did go wrong. Somewhere between faith and reason lies the truth.

Lesson #8: Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.

My friend Mike has made a case to me that there is a tendency in some corners to believe that years of playing NCAA Football/Madden makes a not small percentage of people think they know exactly how to coach football and moreover, exactly how to fix what ails their football team. Of course, I stuck myself in NCAA Football 08 as a 5'11'' 295 pound Michigan fullback with 4.6 40-speed who won the Heisman Trophy his freshman year by breaking the NCAA single season rushing mark, so I know that it's a deception to believe that what works in a video game has any connection to reality. That said, it was none too subtly argued by Orson that Michigan has on its sidelines the best football minds 1983 has to offer. A willingness for the Michigan coaching staff to reevaluate what is working, what is not, and how adjustments can be made, both during the week and during the game, couldn't hurt, could it?

Lesson #9: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.

OK, maybe not evil, but is play-action out of the question? Is a trick play that does not involve the words "screen pass" possible? I know, you don't open up the playbook in Week 1, but still.

Lesson #10: Never say never.

If we were truly honest with ourselves, as Michigan fans, we never allowed the possibility that Michigan might lose that game, let alone would lose that game enter our heads. And why should we have at that point, save the fact that you cannot ever say never. We should have allowed at least the possibility it might happen enter our head, if only to perhaps take seriously the threat posed by what losing would mean to us as fans, to Michigan as a program, and to the sporting nation as a whole. But we did not. We cannot change this fact in retrospect. We were wrong, horribly, horribly wrong. But we can learn from it: We can respect any opponent for that which maybe cannot show up on game film. We can take every game seriously and understand that while they may not always have the same meaning in the end, they do matter for that week at least, and a bad win is always better than a hard-fought loss. And we cannot be afraid of what we can do simply because we have always done thing a certain way. We must find a way to blend tradition with innovation, we must evolve or risk becoming truly irrelevant.

Lesson #11: You can’t change human nature.

I think this was the hardest lesson of all to learn this past weekend, knowing that the single biggest emotion to come out of this result was not anger, or loathing, or fear, or anguish or rage on the part of our own fans, but consistently of schadenfreude from fans of not only Big Ten rival teams, but on a national level as well. Watching the sheer joy some took in seeing Michigan fail was stunning to me, though it should not have been. Michigan is a nationally prominent program, steeped in heritage which we as fans love to point to as being the reason we are what we are as a program. So to become the first AP ranked team to fall to an FCS school, a moment of college football infamy, we should have seen that coming. I think I had deluded myself into thinking that Michigan's Scandinavian nature, as I have already laid out in lesson #7, was well and truly understood by fans around the country. That we did not take as much joy out of college football because, much like Michigan seemed to always play games not to lose, we rooted for Michigan not to lose. Not for Michigan to win, for Michigan not to lose. It's not that uncommon a thinking when you actually take a look at the data, but somehow, we had perfected it, or so it seemed. In my mind, this made Michigan different, in the sense that somehow that would lessen the need for schadenfreude. And perhaps in several respects, it did. I know for me, I cannot ignore the dozens of my friends and colleagues who asked me how I was doing, and when they asked me what went wrong, they wanted to know not to rub it in, but because they were curious from the view from my perspective, from a Michigan perspective. Because maybe as the initial shock of the result wore off for all of us, we as Michigan fans began to realize that good can come out of this if we're willing to learn some hard lessons that are staring us in the face, and a nation of fans of other teams began to realize that there, but for the grace of a defense that can slow down a spread option attack, goes my team.

Much like McNamara implies in the film, the goal of the statement of these life lessons is not to break new ground with their profound wisdom, but to get us to consider how what he has learned in his life can be used going forward to impart wisdom to those who lack experience. The situation of this past Saturday can never come again. It was not only a perfect storm of an experienced team, lower division they might be, coming into a game with nothing to lose, and playing their hearts out against a traditional power who failed to take the risks associated with the game seriously, or at the very least, appeared to fail to take them seriously. No one can ever pull this upset off again, its uniqueness lies in its position as the first major upset of its kind. There may be bigger upsets, there may be more shocking results on the scoreboard, but because this was the first of its kind, it cannot be replicated. Let us learn lessons from this so we may never make them again and let us head into this Saturday's matchup with our eyes wide open.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

WTI: WTF?

Craig:  Welcome to WTI: The....We don't even have a name for it...edition.
Jeremy:  "Speechless?"
Geoff:  "WTF?"
Craig:  Welcome to WTI: The WTF Edition...
Geoff:  Everyone knows what happened to the football team on Saturday. It was inexplicable, and we're not qualified to make the attempt, even presuming we felt like it. Instead, we'll stick to the marching band.
Jeremy:  Boerma started things off well. I was at rehearsals Friday and Saturday. He has the band sounding better already.
Jeremy:  Pregame was good up until the drum major's goalpost baton toss, which was dropped -- superstition says this means we lose the game.
Geoff:  Yeah. His backbend was also shaky.
Craig:  And he's from Texas
Geoff:  He landed pretty hard. Maybe that shook him up and caused the missed toss. But other than that, pregame looked good. Sweep lines were nice and straight.
Jeremy:  The hatless backbend has become the standard from day one, but I think the DM should go back to working up to it.
Jeremy:  It used to be for very special occasions only. Then it was used for the start of Big Ten play. Then, perhaps prematurely, since day one. Alas, we award no points for difficulty, only execution.
Jeremy:  Interesting note: Cody's custom-made "DM Martin" rehearsal jersey has the number 48 on it. He's only #48 if you count BOTH drum majors from last season. Is he making a political statement?
Craig:  Or he's honoring Gerald Ford.
Geoff:  Probably not? He's just counting everyone who's been named to the office, even if only 47 have seen the field.
Geoff:  Did anyone else think Appalachian State's pregame seemed more like a halftime performance?
Jeremy:  Definitely took too long to get into that block A. Didn't fire me up for football at all.
Geoff:  And it was all glide step. Very unlike a Big Ten band, though they sounded fine.
Jeremy:  Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they sounded. But I'm a sucker for the Olympic fanfare.
Geoff:  That's always a winner. They brought a fairly large block as well.
Craig:  It did seem large from where I was sitting.
Geoff:  What was their halftime show? I've already forgotten.
Craig:  Classic Rock of the 1970s.
Jeremy:  70s rock. Think "25 or 6 to 4".
Craig:  Or as my seatmate said "Dude, AM GOLD!"
Geoff:  Oh yes, I remember that it seemed like a bunch of marching band staples. They played a Blood, Sweat & Tears song too.
Jeremy:  So there were several occasions when Boerma did not cut off the band in time. Most notably, playing entirely through 2-point conversions, and on several occasions, playing right up until the team snaps the ball.
Geoff:  Yeah. He was reluctant to cut out in the middle of a phrase and he pushed it with the timing a lot. Let's hope he learns to adjust quickly.
Craig:  As an untrained observer, it did seem off to me. So yes, I agree with Geoff.
Jeremy:  I can understand his reluctance to abruptly cut off, and the band's equal reluctance to stop playing in the middle even when ordered to keep going. I doubt it actually affected the team, but it certainly couldn't help.
Geoff:  I just want to hear a few songs that aren't "Let's Go Blue".
Jeremy:  Well, he did add a new stands tune (Carmen Fanfare), and had them playing more. I liked that.
Craig:  Let me ask you guys, again, as the outsider. Is this a case of "not opening up the playbook" yet? Trying to get the basics down and building week to week, especially with a new person in charge?
Jeremy:  I say yes, it's better to learn a few songs very well than half-ass several songs. I expect them to add at least one more per week.
Geoff:  The band only plays tunes from memory, so there's a lot of music to get down for the show and pregame before you touch any other of the traditionals.
Geoff:  It's a case of not having the playbook memorized yet, if you will.
Craig:  And with four home games in a row...
Geoff:  I like having us play from memory for pregame and halftime -- and I may be alone in this -- but I'd like to see us use flip folders in the stands. I want the band to have a much wider range of songs to pull from so we don't get 62 instances of "Let's Go Blue" before the third quarter is over.
Jeremy:  It would add a ton of variety, but at the expense of preparedness, and maybe a little prestige. Plus the director would need to plan what to play well ahead of time.
Geoff:  Yeah, he'd have to call for the next song at least a play or two ahead.
Jeremy:  Then there's always the instances where a flipfolder song is ready, but a big play happens, and they get caught on TV playing the fight song with flip folders out.
Craig:  I don't know if either of you saw this, but App. State's band had a series of signs of what was to be played.
Craig:  Which was humorous to me, when you know, I was allowed humor.
Jeremy:  Did they have huge signs that said "HI-YA YAKAS" or whatever nonsense their fight song is called?
Geoff:  Signs? As in boards with words written on them? Or as in sign language?
Craig:  No, it was like "Incredibles", "Mission Impossible", "Can't Turn You Loose" all on plastic boards with screen printed letters.
Geoff:  Oh. At first I thought you meant hand signals, which we have for "The Victors", "Let's Go Blue", and "Temptation", among others.
Craig:  No, literally, I could read what they were about to play next. I was impressed with the variety of options, I think they had boards with song names and boards with tempo and length variables. It was really quite the thing.
Craig:  But this is what you get when you sit in the south end zone in row 13
Geoff:  What did people think of our "Vegas!" halftime show? Personally, I think it was a solid, safe show. Nothing really flashy, but executed well.
Jeremy:  I thought it looked and sounded good, and that the east sideline appreciated the rare about-face. It was a little square, though.
Craig:  Uh, can I be completely honest?
Geoff:  Please.
Craig:  I don't remember it. Because I was furiously typing angry text messages to people. I would not trust my opinion of the show to be uncorrupted by rage.
Geoff:  It was Vegas standards. "It's Not Unusual", some Sinatra...
Jeremy:  It was hard sometimes to play while losing as well. Fortunately during my era we usually only lost games after 4th quarter collapses.
Craig:  I remember the Tom Jones and the Sinatra. I did think that it seemed safe, but I also remember thinking that it would be when Jeremy posted the list.
Geoff:  Yeah, nothing unexpected there. And on the east sideline I was definitely happy to be played to for once.
Geoff:  So next week we have Oregon coming to town and a Beach Boys show.
Craig:  Oooh! Love the Beach Boys...
Jeremy:  Beach Boys is a Jamie Nix arrangement; expect more flashiness and volume.
Geoff:  Any idea if they're bringing their band?
Jeremy:  I hope so. I want to make fun of their ridiculous outfits.
Craig:  They no longer have the riot gear unis, right?
Jeremy:  aw, why not?
Geoff:  But I want to see the Phil Knight 1st Shock Army uniforms.
Geoff:  I like Nix's arrangements for the rock shows a lot. I'm looking forward to it.
Craig:  We should play Carnac on the songs
Craig:  I'd love to hear them slow it down with "God Only Knows"
Craig:  But I suspect you'll get "Fun, Fun, Fun", "I Get Around" and "All Summer Long"
Jeremy:  Fun Fun Fun, I Get Around, Good Vibrations, and Surfin USA. Good guess!
Jeremy:  And Surfer Girl.
Craig:  Will there be a mobile Theremin?!?
Jeremy:  With the obligatory annual DANCE(!!!) during Surfin USA.
Geoff:  I think someone pulled out a copy of Endless Summer and put it on shuffle.
Geoff:  Aww yeah. The dance! I enjoy those more now that I don't have to learn them.
Jeremy:  One last issue with stands performance:
Jeremy:  The band was booed (and shouted at quite a bit) for playing the Victors at the end of the game.
Geoff:  We always play "The Victors", win or lose. The only difference is we play "Victors Waltz" first if we win.
Jeremy:  To which I say, what the hell. That is the fight song. That is the flag we fly, win or lose.
Craig:  I'm going to chalk that up to pure anger, not anything against the band save that they were the first convenient target.
Geoff:  It's the danger you run when your song is called "The Victors".
Jeremy:  Sure, but I just wanted to clarify that it's not a Boerma issue at all; he made the right call there.
Geoff:  Absolutely.
Craig:  Oh absolutely...As Geoff said, it's the risk you run.
Geoff:  And I think that about wraps it up for us.
Geoff:  Hopefully by next week we'll be more in the mood to talk about football again.
Jeremy:  Let's do this again under better circumstances.
Craig:  If you're going to the game this week: Be loud, be proud, and remember:  Noise cannot hurt our defense.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gam zeh ya'avor

So, like most of you, I returned to work today, a workplace full of Spartans with verbal stings, and Wolverine fans looking for answers. In both cases, I had no real words for them. All I could think of was a story that I looked up to comfort me...

One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, "Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it." "If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty," replied Benaiah, "I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?" "It has magic powers," answered the king. "If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy." Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring.

On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day's wares on a shabby carpet. "Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?" asked Benaiah. He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile.

That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity. "Well, my friend," said Solomon, "have you found what I sent you after?" All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone's surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, "Here it is, your majesty!" As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweler had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words "Gam zeh ya'avor" -- "This too shall pass."

At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

At a time when everyone either wants to take their shots at us, or we look at each other for answers that none of us have, however much we profess otherwise, just remember, we'll know a little more Saturday, and a little more after that. Until then we just need to remember, this, too, shall pass.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Blame Game

Saturday was a debacle, and I think there's a lot of blame to go around. Some of it is ours, some of it goes elsewhere, but we have to find out who's responsible so that we can go about correcting the problems. Here are a few reasons why we think Black Saturday happened.

Geoff:

  • New Mix CD Sucks
    Fiona Apple? What was I thinking? IT'S DIVISION 1 FOOTBALL, it demands something stronger than that. And you can tell I gave up entirely on track ordering after "Hounds of Love".

  • New Season T-Shirt Possessed By The Devil
    I should've stuck with last year's "DOWN IN FRONT IS NOT A CHEER" shirt from the M Zone. Instead I bought this season's shirt at the M Den before kickoff. Maybe I should make some sort of burnt offering of it to appease the football gods.

  • Hailey Lafontaine
    Les Miles said it best: "Never...and I mean never...have I seen such a thoroughly mediocre and pisspoor performance by a child in all aspects of her life as in Hayley Lafontaine." She's dragging our program down just by existing, and this honesty and passion are why Les Miles should coach Michigan football and win eleventy-two champeenships for us.

  • The Earth
    Stupid Earth, going around the sun that extra time. We were fine up until November 18 of last year, but then the Earth must've passed through some weird radiation field that renders all attempts by Michigan to play defense entirely useless.

  • The Iraq

    I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh... people out there in our nation don't have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and... I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., err, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our
    Appalachian State student/Miss Teen South Carolina Lauren Caitlin Upton

    To steal from Lewis Black, that's the kind of sentence that when you hear it, your brain comes to a screeching halt. And the left hand side of the brain looks at the right hand side and goes, "It's dark in here, and we may die." Don't! Don't think about that response for more than three minutes, or blood'll shoot out your nose. I think too many members of the football team spent too long trying to make sense of that and then all of a sudden it was the third quarter and they'd just come to.

  • Jerry Falwell
    Somehow, in time, I'm going to figure out a way to blame this on Jerry Falwell. Until then I will lean on Sports Night references like a crutch.

Craig:

  • The New Ride
    For the first time in my life, I am driving a car that is not yellow or blue. I decided in April to go with a Black Mercury Milan instead of a navy one after nine years of loyal service from the Nautic Blue Volvo S70.

  • Hats Off
    Last season, I wore my Tigers home cap to every game. This year, I switched to my Michigan football hat with the side view of the winged helmet, forgetting that was my headgear of choice in 2005.

  • Damn You, Jim Harbaugh
    While I have several Michigan jerseys, including a pair of home #7s, old and new road #7s, a Tom Brady 2000 Orange Bowl replica (which it turns out should be a white and is a blue, but still looks good), and sewn, unlabeled #4. I wore the #4 last year, but did not want to wear it this year due to the summer of discontent.

  • Alumni Showdowns
    Michigan is 1-3 since I started writing the alumni showdown feature with the win coming against Indiana. So that's done.

  • Nike
    I should have worn the adidas shoes to the game to appease our new corporate overlords. Instead, it was the Nikes.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Real Bad News

It's been 24 hours now and I still don't know what to say, because I feel like anything I say is just going to be hollow. I didn't do anything that made this happen, and yet somehow I still feel responsible. I can't do anything to change it, and yet trying to ignore it just makes me feel worse. I was there, I saw it happen, and yet, here we are.

I could give you every argument about hubris, about failing to respect a quality opponent, much better than their label or the expectations held by all but a very few people. I could attack any other of a dozen reasons as to why Michigan lost, but the simple matter is nothing that I say matters. Nothing I say as a fan matters, nothing of what I think as a fan matters, nothing of what I write as a fan matters, because in the end, I am just a fan and as much as I love Michigan football, and as much as I refer to the football team as "we", it's not about "we", and it never has been about "we". If it were a "we" thing, I could do something to make it better, I could do something to fix it, I could do something to ease the pain. But I can't and I think it is that powerlessness, that sense of a lack of control is what hurts the most in my mind. As fans, we believe we're truly a part of something, and somehow we derive a sense of personal self-worth from the fortunes of the team(s) that we root for (as inappropriate as that may seem in the objective abstract), and yet, in the end, we're just following the team, we're just supporting them and for everything we believe that we're doing to make things better for them, in the end, we're powerless.

So fans lash out. They attack the easy and obvious targets, they focus their rage by writing blog entries and comments that will never be seen by anyone than other fans, and they think they are somehow helping the team by "politely" pointing out what went wrong. The problem is, as fans, we only know what we're told and we have a tendency to see only that which we want to see. So we don't have the whole story, we don't have perfect knowledge, and in the end, our powerlessness is magnified.

In the end, I want to believe it's just one game, but I know it will come to mean much more than that. In the end, I want to believe that it will perhaps serve as a catalyst for change and improvement, but that is more hope than knowledge. In the end, we'll see thousands of words about what happened, and what should happen, but that is just the expression of opinion, not a plan of action. In the end, I'm trying to move past yesterday, but I know that I'm just writing this in a fruitless attempt to feel better. In the end, this is a pain that can only be diminished by time, and time is a constant.

But in the end, I am going to be there next week, because that is where I want to be, even if it hurts a lot right now.

Black is white, up is down

Buried in the hysteria, the smug, self-satisfied mockery, and the hindsight-based smarm of every comment thread on every UM blog today comes this, from Calvert at Maize n' Brew:
What the events of today should have shown to everyone is that the perceived dominance of the BCS conferences is nowhere near as great as those conferences and their media spokesmen want you to believe. The gap in talent has been shrinking at an alarming rate. It was only a matter of time before a title-caliber BCS conference team felt secure enough, as Michigan did this year, to put a top non-BCS conference team on their schedule and have it bite them in the ass. Michigan, the Big Ten and the BCS conferences actually started believing their own propaganda, forgetting that dominance isn't something that is given to you...it is something you have to earn every single day. Oklahoma forgot that in January. The Wolverines forgot it today and they will be paying the price for their incompetence and arrogance for a very long time.

The Appalachian States, the New Hampshires and the Boise States of the world can no longer be treated with contempt, scorn and ridicule by programs that simply assume are their betters without being asked to prove it on the field. The Mouse has Roared...and it is far too late to call the exterminator.

"I could have conquered Europe, all of it, but I had women in my life."

Also, the drum major dropped the goalpost toss.

Beat the Buckeyes.