Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Liveblog: Basketball vs. Norfolk State

Tip off. Norfolk State controls. Quick walk down by the block and M gets the ball.

Manny Harris gets the first shot and draws iron.

Norfolk State takes a quick shot and can't hit

Gibson draws iron out past the free throw line

Another miss from the Norfolk State Spartans.

It's a brickfest out here. Nobody can hit. But at least we're rebounding. We've had at least five of them on this possession. Anthony Wright had his pass knocked out and we get yet another miss after the inbound pass. 0 for 7 to start.

Gibson rebounds a State rebound and gets wrapped up for a foul on the floor. Manny Harris has the ball ripped away after a quick pass. Harris hustles down the floor and just gets in front of Aleek Pauline. The ref near the play lets it go, but the guy down the floor calls a blocking foul. Pauline hits both. NSU, 2-0.

The teams exchange misses on the next pair of possessions. Ice cold. Ice cold. 0 for 10. This is horrendous. Norfolk State matches Anthony Wright's horrendous shot, but Michigan turns it over on the other end out of bounds. 15:54 left.

"Hangover game" is mentioned for the first time. Corey Lyons hits a bucket, but it's taken away as he walked first. Commercial sign.

Merritt brings the ball up. Stu Douglass finally gets Michigan on the board with a 3-ball. Michigan 3, NSU 2.

Lyons takes a three but it rattles out.

Zack Gibson quickly gets the ball under the basket and is fouled. The shot goes down, but Gibson can't make the freebie. M 5, NSU 2.

NSU gets another bucket to go, but it took an obvious charge so the score remains unchanged.

Jevohn Shepherd is stuffed on a layup try. There's a tie-up under the basket and Michigan retains possession. Sims hands it to Douglass, who launches a long, off-target 3. 14:00 left, and NSU lets fly their-own ill-advised long ball. Manny Fresh gets rejected on a layup. Then he takes the ball from out of bounds and passes it straight back to the seats.

NSU finds an open man near the basket and he has an easy 2. Jevohn Shepherd answers with a three. UM 8, NSU 4.

Manny Harris sets up a beautiful alley-oop to Deshawn Sims. UM 10, NSU 4.

NSU finally gets an offensive rebound, gets it back outside and posts Kyle O'Quinn up. Shepherd fouls him and he goes to the line. He makes one. UM 10, NSU 5.

CJ Lee almost throws it away, but Zack Novak gets it over to Kelvin Grady, whose 3 almost drops. NSU can't get a good shot, and Grady finds Novak down in the corner where he buries the three. UM 13, NSU 5.

Kelly O'Quinn gets a feed from Corey Lyons and gets an easy two. UM 13, NSU 7.

Sims can't get it to drop. NSU can't either. CJ Lee spots up with an open 3 and misses. 10:00 left. NSU bricks another. Kelvin gets Novak a good look and it rattles out. NSU is short on a spinning layup. Novak goes back to the corner and drains it. UM 15, NSU 7.

Kelvin Grady picks up a legit blocking foul and we have commercial sign again.

Norfolk in't taking their usual quick shot this time, trying to drive the baseline, but they pick up another charging foul. 8:43 left.

Merritt brings it up. Michigan works it around the perimeter. Novak drives and kicks it out to Anthony Wright, who drains the 3. UM 18, NSU 7.

NSU drops a floater from the lane, but it's waved off. NSU retains possession. Foul? I don't know. NSU grabs another rebound and Joseph Dorsett-Jeffreys gets the putback. On the way out, NSU's Michael Deloach picks up a technical. UM 18, NSU 9. 7:58 left. More commercials.

Dow AgroSciences is trying to sell you herbicides by talking about the B-2 Spirit (aka the Stealth Bomber). I don't know, I just like the pretty pictures.

We hit the freebie. UM 19, NSU 9. Can't add, but we get a block and a steal on the other end. Novak gets the ball on the break and hits his layup. UM 21, NSU 9.

A cloud of white jerseys is drawn to the ball in the lane, but the man on the baseline can't get the reverse layup to fall. The rebound goes out, but Michigan controls the next rebound. Anthony Wright hits a midrange jumper on the other end. UM 23, NSU 9.

NSU earns a trip to the line on the other end and hits 1/2. UM 23, NSU 10. 6:31 remaining.

DeShawn tries a three, but it's way long. Corey Lyons misses a three. Novak comes off the run, gets the ball, spots up a deep three and buries it. UM 26, NSU 10.

Yeah, Kelvin Grady can't guard a 6'11" guy. UM 26, NSU 12.

Wright makes a backdoor cut and heads to the charity stripe for two. He hits both. UM 28, NSU 12. Novak and Sim out, Cronin and Douglass in.

OH! A rebound turns into a sweet fast break. Harris to Douglass, who can't finish, but Harris finishes with authority.

NSU gets it down into the post again. Cronin fouls him low as Harris gets a block. They miss both.

Cronin executes the give and go, but finishes awkwardly and it doesn't fall. After a quick NSu possession, they forget about Harris and he throws down a nice feed. UM 32, NSU 15. Exchange of baskets. Michigan can't quite get the break together and NSU comes back the other way and Deloach gets his layup. But Michigan is already going the other way and Grady dishes to Wright for the easy bucket. UM 36, NSU 19.

Cronin annoys Quinn enough, and again Michigan is going the other way quickly. Manny Harris finishes for two. UM 38, NSU 21.

NSU slows it down and Aleek Pauline gets a jumper. UM 38, NSU 21. Michigan should have been able to run out the half, but Grady gives up the ball and the NSU player goes the remaining length of the floor. UM 38, NSU 23. 3.8 seconds left. Douglass manages to get a shot off, but barely and it isn't close. Down ending to a half that started agonizingly slowly, but started rolling our way when we started exploiting the transition game.

12 assists on 16 baskets, we have a 28-19 rebounding advantage. Looks good. And after the horrendous start, a 41% field goal percentage is better than expected.


Second half. DeShawn Sims makes NSU's shot difficult, and Merritt gets a look he can't convert down low. Transition defense completely breaks down and NSU gets a quick alley oop. On the other end, Manny gets a putback.

"Economic problems" "Michigan football". Drink. Manny! UM 42, NSU 25.

Wright loses his man under the basket, but recovers, and with the help of DeShawn Sims, gets the man to move his feet for the turnover. A Wright 3-ball from the point draws iron. Monroe strolls right around Manny Harris and makes the layup. UM 42, NSU 27.

Manny draws contact on the other end, misses the first, and makes the second. UM 43, NSU 27.

NSU draw the shot clock down to 8 before going inside, where the shot is blocked by Sims and/or Harris, leaving them no time for a second attempt. On the other end, Wright drains a long three. Quick possession on the other end results in nothing. Sims has to save the ball under the basket, kicking it back out and eventually getting it back for the jam. UM 48, NSU 27.

Deloach jumper is an airball out of bounds. Commercial sign.

Douglass almost loses the ball, but hangs onto it and Grady knocks down another three. After the slow start, we've been on fire from downtown. It's that Beilein offense. UM 51, NSU 27.

Wright to Douglas, who kicks out to Grady. No good. Trade of possessions, and Norfolk finds the hole in the transition and gets a layup. UM 51, NSU 30.

Michigan can't get a bucket, but Grady makes the quick steal in our offensive zone and feeds Harris, who earns a trip to the line and knocks down both. UM 53, NSU 30.

Another steal, but the Douglass pass is way too high.

NSU splits the defense, but can't hit the layup. They get the rebound, but Michigan wrestles the ball away.

Manny tries a step-back three and hits the front of the rim. NSU can't get anything to go down. Michigan loses another ball out the baseline.

Deloach tries a baseline floater that won't go down. Manny Harris gets the steal and takes it himself for a layup. UM 57, NSU 30. Douglass gets another quick steal and dishes to Manny, who misses the first layup with a couple defenders in his face, but gets the putback. UM 59, NSU 30. The frustration is starting to bubble over for the Spartans.

Michigan is on a 15-3 run and Manny goes for a rest.

Cronin to Shepherd to Grady, who misses, and then Shepherd's there to throw it down. UM 59, NSU 30.

11:20 left. NSU is symied in their attempts to go inside. A ball goes off a foot out of bounds and Michigan will take over again.

Shepherd should've driven the baseline but held up. Grady got an open look but couldn't hit. Shepherd cleans up. UM 61, NSU 30.

Shepherd spots up a 3, no good. Aleek Pauline goes baseline and earns a rare Norfolk State trip to the line. He hits 1/2. UM 61, NSU 31.

Manny draws attention in the lane, opening up Sims who misses 2, gets his own rebound each time, and gets the 2. UM 63, NSU 31.

Before I finished writing, Michigan had the ball again. Shepherd finishes the play. And Sims gets another transition basket. UM 61, NSU 31, and this game is in garbage time with 8:45 left. When we hit a 40-point lead, this live-blog is over.

Anthony Wright does well to break up a pass, but the ball sits down and the now-open NSU player can get an easy 2. Then Merritt gets it stolen and NSU bombs a quick 3 to make it UM 69, NSU 35.

Seriously? What the hell? We're getting sloppy. UM 69, NSU 37 after another steal.

Shepherd double clutches his layup and gets it to go down. UM 71, NSU 37 for a moment before NSU gets a transition basket. UM 71, NSU 39.

3 opportunities before NSU is allowed another bucket. UM 71, NSU 41. This is weak. Beilein thinks so too, and he calls a timeout.

Grady to Wright to Shepherd to Douglass on the wing and he hits the 3. Shepherd gets another steal and feeds Douglass, who's going to the line after the break.

Woo! We're with the basketball band performing "Can't Turn You Loose."

Douglass makes 1/2, and it's UM 75, NSU 41.

Tentative under the hoop, not wanting to foul. NSU gets 2.

We're content to drain time here. Douglass takes a 3, but it doesn't fall.

OK, we're up by 30 with under 5:00. Sporadic updates.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I want you to hit me as hard as you can

I was sitting with the Michigan Marching Band in Ohio Stadium in 2002 and 2004 when the fans rushed the field after Ohio State's victories. I watched as 100,000 people and 200,000 middle fingers slowly filed past us on their way out, tearing up chunks of sod and throwing it at us.

I waited patiently as this happened again in 2004 as the fans chanted "no more Rose Bowl" (right before Iowa beat Wisconsin to send Michigan to the Rose Bowl, since the Big Ten tiebreaker rules are no match for an opportunity to cheer for your team against Michigan).

video

But this Saturday was different, for reasons besides the obvious players/records/bowl streaks. Where we were once met with scorn, fury, and projectiles, we now faced incredulity and pity.

Why are you here?
Do you guys actually like Rich Rodriguez?
Why haven't you left yet?

Why bother with insults? What peg could you possibly knock us down? "You suck" is a fact; what can we do besides shrug and agree?

This season has dulled the intensity associated both with the feelings I got when we lost a game, and the reactions and behavior from OSU fans in Columbus. 3-8 plus five in a row will do that. The only thing worse than OSU fans' dangerous, irrational hatred is their resigned indifference. I long to be hated again.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad

"We're a Big Ten Football Team, we come from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Like all programs, it has its good, and it has its bad. This is a song called "Bad."

--Bono (if he were a Michigan football fan)

(Also, if you haven't already, go read this. I'll wait, and if you don't come back, I'd more than understand. It's that good.)

I was trying to find the right metaphor to sum up this season, and I went looking for a song to sum it. The coaching search was "Read My Mind" by the Killers, but nothing had struck me (maybe because I lack a deep or even passing knowledge of the slow sad songs prevalent in the country genre) until this morning.

Every morning I wake up to the same ten song CD I custom cut for my alarm clock, one song from every good U2 studio album, in a logical order. It opens with "Desire" because that songs opening sounds like an alarm ringing. The songs progress and as I get ready to leave, if I have timed it right, the opening notes of "Bad" (the "live" Wide Awake in America version) play. It's an auditory symbol that I need to get my ass in gear, which is ironic because it's also my favorite U2 song. When I heard the notes this morning, I paused and thought about the opening line of the lyrics.

If you twist and turn away.
It you tear yourself in two again.
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would let it go.
Surrender, dislocate.

At its core, without knowing the meaning, context, or origins, "Bad" is a song about escaping something, something painful, something that needs to be departed. It's about watching someone rend themselves in twain over something that you, on the outside, cannot control, no matter how much you wish to do something. It's a powerlessness and a hopelessness in the face of the destiny of others. We cannot control it and yet we have invested something into that person or that thing knowing full well that any affection or disregard we have for it may not have an iota of influence on the impact or direction it takes.

If I could throw this lifeless life-line to the wind.
Leave this heart of clay, see you walk, walk away
Into the night, and through the rain
Into the half light and through the flame.

If I could, through myself, set your spirit free
I'd lead your heart away, see you break, break away
Into the light and to the day.

In this case, this is what we're left with for Michigan football this season, something that means so much to so many of us that we want to throw out a lifeline, make things better for them because we know in doing so, it would be better for us. But again, we are left wanting, waiting, wishing, but ultimately, without power. Our belief in all that we have done is tested by the lackluster, tempered by disappointment.

To let it go and so to find away.
To let it go and so find away.
I'm wide awake.
I'm wide awake, wide awake.
I'm not sleeping.

Were but it a dream, that we could just wake up tomorrow and everything was better, or at least unwritten. But we've been well aware of what has happened during this season, we cannot forget or let it go, no matter how hard we try. We are stained with this as fans, but the stain does not ruin what was perfect as much as it adds character to something that perhaps seemed a little too good to be true. While others heap scorn, ridicule, derived from a jealous place within the human heart or the darker recesses of the mind, we absorb the blows, because the results have rendered us all but moot. We withdraw in to our tribe, stare at each other across the fire, and know that the stars above us speak of days before and days to come.

If you should ask, then maybe
They'd tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Blue silken sky and burning flag.
Colors crash, collide in blood-shot eyes.

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would let it go.

We have seen the true colors of many a Michigan fan this season. Those who walked away after Toledo, those who have stuck it out in the hope of being rewarded down the line, those who are confused, sicked, maddened, or confused, and a majority of us who couldn't walk away if we tried. Our maize and blue blood has seeped into our eyes, from the bitter tears of defeat and the sheer madness of anger without a worthy target. But the operative word is "could". For those of us here still standing at the end of this, we couldn't walk away. Some would call us loyal, others mock us as fools. We may not even know the difference anymore, but here we stand, and here we hope, because we cannot let it go, but not for lack of trying.

This desperation, dislocation
Separation, condemnation
Revelation, in temptation
Isolation, desolation
Let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away

I'm not a huge fan of digging around for the meanings of songs I love, because I feel that all too often, it strips them of their magic. But I remember being told by a very dear friend of mine when I was in college that this song was about a friend of Bono's who overdosed on heroin on said friend's 21st birthday. What I also learned is that Bono did not know that that was his inspiration at the time, it was only later he realized it. Something powerful and horrible inspired something beautiful and meaningful for others. That's too often how tragedy works, how we rise from the ashes, our own ashes whether we realize them or not, we find something deeper to try and make sense of it in our own minds and perhaps help others. Bono, as he is apt to do, has reflected that this song is also about any form of addiction, and maybe it's time that we realize that there are similarities; the epic highs, the dizzying lows, the withdrawal like symptoms, there are parallels. But it's not a perfect analogy, because I think many of us could truly walk away if we wanted to, which means that it is a choice, that we are here for whatever reasons we have convinced ourselves are real, or others which may not be on the surface, but we hold deep in the heart. But in the end, it's not about us, it's never about us, it's about how we reflect the light of others, and what we do with that reflection. Shall we cast our light upon others, to make things grow, to light and heat others, or shall we use it to blind, or shall we merely cast it in upon ourselves. We make the choice, we hold that power, but we do not actually possess the light. Only they do, and some years, the light is dimmer than others, but it is there.

It's a scar, but a well-won scar; earned in battle in part because we stayed until the last man. Our numbered were diminished, but they were there. The loyal remained, the faithful held fast against the sweeping currents of reality and negativity. We could not change what had happened, we could not spin the results as hard as we tried. We looked to where all of college football lives, the past, and the future. The present is so fickle, so transient that meaning is lost as soon as the moment passes. So we examine what has been and what we hope shall be. We look for meaning in the past in a dire attempt to draw parallels to the future. But the past cannot change and soon this season shall reside there. We will tell the stories; sometimes when prompted, other times with motivations never necessarily clear to us, of what transpired this season. We will remember this season, in a context of which we are unsure now and may not know for a while, however long a while is anymore. But somewhere along the line, the memory will seep in and you won't even realize it was there until after it was gone. All you're left with is a scar, and a story about how you got it, and perhaps in the telling of the story, you can find peace with whether or not the scar was worth it.

Thank you, bless you, and Go Blue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Of Football Faith, and Crises therein.

"For Michigan fans, football is a religion. And the Ohio State game is Easter."

--Paul Hennessy, Eight Simple Rules

I've always liked this quote from the moment I heard it because I know that it's true for a large number of people, whether they are willing to state this as such. (It's also how Geoff and I landed on calling the first weekend of the NCAA Hockey Tournament "Hockey Christmas", but I digress.)

But it calls to mind a crisis of "football faith" which I have been having this season.

I can accept the losses, not in a way that I am happy about them, but in the nature of "darkness must exist so that we can know what light looks like." You need a down season every now and then to appreciate the good ones (and the great ones) when they come along. It keeps you humble, honest, and hopefully reaffirms that which you believe in.

My problem with my "football faith", such as it is, lies in the fact that I know I love Michigan football. I believe in it as passionately as I do few other things (though my priorities are still in family, friends, faith, America, and the inherent goodness of mankind, I'm not out of balance on this), it is a constant, it is a means by which I measure time, and it can and has been an short hand version for all of the things which I do hold dear (team over individual, combining hard work with talent, honesty, integrity, tradition, and long term success.). Yet, in loving Michigan football, I also think that I don't hate Ohio State enough.

I realize that most Michigan fans do not obsess over Ohio State in the same way that many Ohio State fans obsess over Michigan. I shall not get in to the reasons for this disparity, because that's neither the reason I am writing this, nor am I sure enough in my reasons that I think that they could stand confidently (basically, they're opinions based on loosely gathered facts.) Yet, I feel like I am missing out on one of the key tenets of the "faith". If I believe in "the father, the son, and the Holy Yost" (OK, that was probably blasphemy, but I couldn't resist the pun), do I not also need to believe equally as passionately in hating the Buckeyes? I've tried, but I also know that in disliking the Buckeyes, I also don't exactly like Notre Dame, or Michigan State, or Penn State either. (This doesn't even count schools like Illinois or Minnesota which claim a rivalry with Michigan with which we are only faintly aware at times.) I absolutely love when Michigan beats Ohio State, and I die a little inside when the Buckeyes earn another pair of gold pants, but I just can't develop the level of negative feelings towards Ohio State that I have on the positive side for Michigan. Sure, losing to Ohio State lingers, because it's usually six weeks (this year, longer) before Michigan has a chance to win again. It hurts, and I know it hurts the players more than anyone else, on a level that we as fans can only vaguely and tangentially understand. But knowing that this pain lies there, and the joy of winning is so great, it still does not raise the level of passionate loathing in me.

Perhaps it's just the nature of who I am, in that I would rather view a Michigan win over Ohio State as a success for Michigan rather than a Buckeye failure. Maybe I would rather focus on the positives because I believe too much of sports has become about the negative. Maybe I just needed to talk it out with myself, to look within myself to understand that this is OK, that Michigan fans need not be the blue-clad reflections of the Ohio State self, that fandom can exist in many flavors and many shades and that the ontological arguments of one's "football faith" are open to debate and discussion and continued examination. That could be the biggest thing of all, when one's "football faith" is shaken, to ignore those questions is to follow blindly, but to confront the challenges, face the tough questions, and to hopefully come out the other side with stronger "football faith", renewed by the knowledge that herein lies greater depth than previously held. One can only hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Get a Life!

Start with "Rodriguez says some college football fans need to get a perspective on life"

Mix with this...

And you get...below the jump.

(Addendum: 12:00 PM Wednesday: I just want to point out. In the wake of Brian's post about this topic at MGoBlog, I am well aware of the full context of Rodriguez's statements and this is more about the overblown reaction (and maybe poking a bit of fun at myself, as I am both a fan of Star Trek and Michigan football) than it is thinking that Coach Rod did something wrong. Thank you.)

[ open on an exterior shot of the "Laurel Manor" with a sign reading "Welcome Michigan Fans." ]

[ dissolve inside ]

[ A sign on the wall reads "82nd Annual Michigan Football Bust -- 2008" ]

Mgoblue1997: FireDrewSharp! Check this out!

FireDrewSharp: [ wearing "Worst State Ever" t-shirt ] Oh, outstanding, man!

Mgoblue1997: Original 1998 team photo, right before they added Henson!

FireDrewSharp: Oh, how much was it?

Mgoblue1997: Sixty dollars!

FireDrewSharp: Ohhh.... They got any left?

Carl Grapertine [over loudspeaker:] Attention Michigan fans, now available in the Kipke Room... copies of Gary Moeller's single record, "Any Tie is a Good Tie." Right now, in the Kipke Room.

Victor Valiant: [ making the Michigan "Hail" pump ] Hey guys!

FireDrewSharp & Mgoblue1997: Hey Victor Valiant!

Victor Valiant: How you guys doing on the trivia quiz?

FireDrewSharp: Awesome, you... hey, you got Yost's middle name?

Victor Valiant: [ smugly ] Harris!

FireDrewSharp: Bennie Oosterbaan's career winning percentage?

Victor Valiant: .630!

[ FireDrewSharp and Mgoblue1997 snicker knowingly to each other. ]

Victor Valiant: What? Am I wrong? Am I wrong?

[ more snickers ]

Bill Martin: Attention! Attention! Hello everybody! Welcome to the 82nd Annual Michigan Football Bust... Well! ...here in Livonia, Michigan. A few announcements.... Ah... first... ah... a wonderful new... ah... item has just been added to the M Den. It's a program from the 1975 season!

Michigan Fans: Oooo! Ahhh!

Bill Martin: Yeah! It's a very special item, I'm sure you'll enjoy it, and it's ONLY... thirty dollars.

Secondly, we have some exciting guests at the Bust today, so let me introduce them to you right now. First, we have the amazing safety Marcus Ray. Now you all remember him as the guy who played in the backfield in 1997 with Charles Woodson ... before he played for the Scottish Claymores of the World League.

And next up is Ryan Mundy, the former Michigan defensive back who transferred to West Virginia, and ah... I understand life with the Mountaineers *was* somewhat turbulent... kinda like living with a Buckeye!

Michigan Fans: [ knowing laughter ]

Bill Martin: Yeah! Well you'll all be able to meet Ryan in the Bump Elliot Wing where he'll be signing copies of his new book, "Yards After Mundy"!

And finally, the man you've all been waiting for, this is his first Michigan Football Bust, I know he's thrilled to be here, the head football coach of the University of Michigan himself, RICH RODRIGUEZ! [ Rodriguez walks to the podium. ] Now Rich's here to field a few questions so just fire away!

Michigan Fans: Coach Rodriguez! Coach Rodriguez!

Rich Rodriguez: Alright, the first question, uh, go ahead!

FireDrewSharp: Yeah! Okay, um, when you were gonna have Sheridan pass, okay, for the last time during the Northwestern game? I was wondering, like um, w-w-what was going on with the offense in that particular....

Rich Rodriguez: Uh... the Northwestern game?

FireDrewSharp: Yeah!

Rich Rodriguez: Um... you gotta give me a score and situation, see, cause it's 20 days and it's a long time... a down and distance... uh....

FireDrewSharp: Yeah, the Northwestern game, that's where it was like 30 degrees and you had a lead at the half and you let Northwestern score 14 unanswered points to win the game?

Rich Rodriguez: [ scowling ] Oh oh, yeah right, I remember, okay uh... what's the question?

FireDrewSharp: Well um, I was wondering if you could settle a bet for me and my friends, okay? Um, like, when you... um, called for the pass for the last play? And you rolled Sheridan out to the right? Um... who was his hot read?

Rich Rodriguez: [ lengthy pause, incredulous expression ] I-I-I don't know! I mean, it's been a long time! I, uh... I don't know that! Uh, okay?

FireDrewSharp: [ disappointed ] Okay! Okay!

Rich Rodriguez: Anybody? Oh, all right, go ahead! You? Go ahead! You in the funny shirt!

Victor Valiant: [ wearing Rodriguez style adidas polo] Okay! Another bet... okay... on your 2009 recruiting class... alright? How many total firm recruits do you have?

Rich Rodriguez: Uh... 21.

Victor Valiant: Wait, wait... is that including the kicker that was committed late last week?

Rich Rodriguez: [ stunned pause ] That kicker committed officially?

Victor Valiant: Friday!

Rich Rodriguez: Well I... guess it's 22 then!

Victor Valiant: ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! [ congratulated by his friends ]

Rich Rodriguez: You know, before I answer any more questions there's something I wanted to say. Having received all your emails over the years , and I've read your message board posts, and some of you have traveled... y'know... hundreds of miles to be here, I'd just like to say... GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a college football team! I mean, look at you, look at the way you're dressed! You've turned an enjoyable little job, that I did as a lark for a few years, into a COLOSSAL WASTE OF TIME!

[ a crowd of shocked and dismayed Michigan Fans.... ]

I mean, how old are you people? What have you done with yourselves?

[ to "Mgoblue1997" ] You, you must be almost 30... have you ever kissed a girl?

[ "Mgoblue1997" hangs his head ]

I didn't think so! There's a whole world out there! When I was your age, I didn't watch college football! I PLAYED IT! So... move out of your parent's basements! And get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP! I mean, it's just a football team dammit, IT'S JUST A FOOTBALL TEAM!

FireDrewSharp: Are- are you saying then that we should pay more attention to the recruiting trail?

Rich Rodriguez: NO!!! THAT'S NOT WHAT I'M SAYING AT ALL!!! HEY, YOU GUYS ARE... THE LAMEST BUNCH... I'VE NEVER SEEN... [ walks away from podium ] I can't believe these people... I mean, I really can't understand what's....

[ Bill Martin argues with Rodriguez off-mike, shoves him, Rodriguez shoves back harder.... ]

Carl Grapertine: Uh... that was Rich Rodriguez, ladies and gentlemen. Uh, I'd like to remind you Michigan fans that we have some fine refreshments from all over the Big Ten... Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, 7-Up, Orange Crush, I believe. We....

[ Meanwhile, Bill Martin waves the contract in front of Rodriguez, who then reluctantly returns to the podium.... ]

Rich Rodriguez: Of course, that speech was a "re-creation" of the "Angry Coach Rod" from um..., um... [ Bill Martin whispers ] my final game as West Virginia coach... uhh... called... [ another whisper ] "The Pitt Game."

[ Michigan Fans get happy, applaud ]

Rich Rodriguez: Yuh, Yuh, so thank you... and, and... Hail to the Victors...

[ Michigan Fans make "Hail" arm pump.... ]

Rich Rodriguez: So everybody... cheer them again, cause... THIS TEAM'S AHEAD AND WE'RE GONNA WIN THE BIG TEN, Y'KNOW? RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! THE BIG TEN!

[ fade out ]

(The scariest part of this: I thought it would take three hours to pull off. With find/replace, twelve minutes.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Freezing to Death

On 30 Rock last season, Liz was defending the idea of getting back together with her loser ex-boyfriend Dennis. Liz said that if you give into it, you just start to kinda feel numb and warm and then you just get sleepy. Jenna pointed out that this is exactly what it's like when you freeze to death. Liz came to eventually realize that Jenna was right.

Standing in the end zone at Michigan Stadium yesterday, in the cold, wind, and wet, I realized the metaphor is also apt for this Michigan football season as well.

I was going to go in to this long sojourn as to how exactly apt the metaphor was, and I wanted to do some research, and landed on this 1997 article from Outside magazine and I didn't want to do it. Read the piece and it's not even funny. It's horrifying, and as bad as this season is, it is mild in comparison.

That said, yesterday was the worst game, from a weather standpoint, I have ever attended at Michigan Stadium. I was at Boston College in 1996 when the skies opened up and I got soaked to the bone. This was worse. I was at the deluge against the Chips in 2006 and could not return to my car, because it was a mile away. This was worse. I was dressed for this weather, I was layered, I was covered in plastic and the like, and I was still freezing. The only solace I had was that Michigan was playing OK, not great, but had a lead.

When you're cold, you can't recognize friendly faces, and you start to not think correctly, so I was seduced once more in to thinking that Michigan would just play as they had in the first half and keep things on the level and get away with another win. I was cold, I was wet, I couldn't feel my toes, and I just wanted the game to be over, and perhaps, more than anything else, I wanted this suffering to be worth something, and a win would go a long way towards being worth something.

I won't recap the annoying manner in which the third quarter went down, as I lost feeling in my fingers and my toes. I won't hammer the officials for the quick whistle on Donovan Warren's interception return, or the mysterious disparity of penalties called on Northwestern (one false start on the first play of the game, one delay of game purposefully drawn for punting room), or the lack of pass interference flags late in the game. I was cold, I was wet, and now I was angry.

The thing is, as soon as I warmed up, I was fine with the loss. I had mildly expected it (as I have become accustomed to this season) and winning the game would have salvaged some pride, but not much else. It was cold, it was wet, it was miserable yesterday, in many ways an apt metaphor for the Michigan season in 2008. The good news is this: The next time I'm at Michigan Stadium in late August or early September 2009, it may be wet, but it will likely be sunny, humid, and warm, but more importantly, Michigan will have a clean slate. This season will be a part of history, hopefully something to learn from, something to grow on, but it will be in the past. It will be a part of who we as Michigan fans are, but hopefully, it will not come to identify us.

Snow can blanket the ground in a visually clean slate, but in the end, it's cold, it's wet, and it has a way of making you feel lost and without direction. When the snow has gone, a new season will emerge, hope will spring eternal, and something new will grow in place of what has happened.

Friday, November 14, 2008

WTI: Cake!

Craig: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Whatever This Is. I'm Craig Barker, thanking our service veterans...
Geoff: And remembering the 90th anniversary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Geoff: So Saturday was more than a little unexpected.
Craig: It's a good feeling around these parts, a strange and missing feeling this season. We're looking at Michigan, a winner!
Geoff: It's been a lot longer than we're used to since we could say that.
Jeremy: It reminded us how fun winning is - especially winning unexpectedly.
Craig: Indeed. The difference between enjoying a win and praying we don't lose is hugely different
Geoff: I thought that with Threet out, the way our defense had played at Purdue, and the way Minnesota had simply handled Illinois, we were looking at a missing Jug until 2011. I'd assured the Gopher in the office of it. But then Minnesota went three and out, and we drove down to score. It was only a field goal, but then it was another three and out.
Jeremy: Pretty soon Sheridan was leading the receivers on screen passes, Justin Feagin was breaking off 40 yard runs, black was white, and up was down.
Craig: And for 60 minutes on Saturday, almost everything clicked.
Jeremy: And in the end, the one enduring constant remained as it should be.

(h/t: Varsity Blue)
Geoff: It wasn't quite a fully-functional battle station, but it was a reasonable facsimile.
Craig: And it proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt: Michigan is a dome team.
Geoff: It's too bad about Purdue and Toledo. We would have dominated in the Motor City Bowl.
Geoff: The most satisfying part of Saturday's performance, for me, was the defense. Time and time again, they stepped up.
Craig: Indeed. Punishing hits across the board. The way Morgan Trent blew that Gopher up, it was like he was Carl from Caddyshack.
Jeremy: It's frustrating that it took the players themselves to request they play in a 4-3, but their wish was granted and they delivered.
Geoff: They made Adam Weber look like he was constantly overwhelmed, a mediocre-at-best Big Ten QB.
Craig: But the question is, what does this mean for this weekend?
Craig: I was shocked to learn that Michigan is favored (screwing me mildly on my annual bet on the Michigan/NU game.)
Jeremy: It means a jubilant, warm welcoming as the team takes the field.
Craig: It means that we can hopefully get one wave in this season.
Geoff: Win or lose on Saturday, we should hear "Thank you, seniors."
Geoff: We'll at least have The Cake.
Craig: And it will not be made of ashes and rusty nails.
Jeremy: The Cake! And we're inching ever closer to the moment when the music now known as "the blues" will exist only in the classical record department of your local public library.
Craig: Thankfully, according to Change.gov, "the blues" may have earned a stay of execution until 2012.
Geoff: Forget the library, I want to know what "the blues" will be known as in The Future.
Jeremy: Until 2004, it was set to expire in 2006. I guess, like most things, it will happen when Carl says it happens.
Geoff: Maybe he'll get another request to take a number out of the mix.
Craig: As long as Carl and his spotter stop fighting this season like they're in an Pinter drama. (Seriously, I may be alone on this, but no other season has seen Carl and the spotter who puts down and distance up on the scoreboard disagree as much over yardage as they have this year.)
Geoff: They need to talk to the down and distance guy at Notre Dame
Jeremy: That guy was *immediate.*
Craig: That guy was spot on all the time
Geoff: Do we know what the "America Rocks" show will consist of? "Born in the USA"? "R-O-C-K in the USA"?
Craig: Oh please say "No More Kings" and "I'm Just a Bill".
Jeremy: Opens with "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen. Then "America" by Neil Diamond. Then "God Bless the USA" complete with standard biyearly American flag unfurling
Craig: Because you can't boo freedom?
Geoff: Even in Columbus.
Jeremy: Trying to guarantee applause at OSU, I guess.
Geoff: I'm hoping that Kafka starts for Northwestern. Not because I think he's a step down from Bacher, but because the jokes write themselves. "Kafka appears to have woken up this morning as a giant bug and not a QB"
Craig: You gotta get contain on the bug though
Geoff: He'll hurt you if you don't.
Craig: It'll be a real Trial
Geoff: His offensive line is trying to put up a Castle around him
Craig: He's the kind of quarterback Rhett Miller writes love songs about
Jeremy: I'm no good at these jokes. I'm waiting for the quarterback named Calvinandhobbes or Spartanmarchingband.
Craig: It's years of quiz bowl experience, Jeremy, which means these jokes are really just therapy for Geoff and myself.
Geoff: Meanwhile, the Michigan hockey team took their biennial trip to Fairbanks
Craig: Michigan's effort in Alaska is what you expect. Win one, lose one, see Russia from the rink.
Geoff: We got a split, which is decent. With all the injuries, I've revised my expectations for the team down a bit.
Craig: I think we are compelled to do so. Two key defensemen. Michigan can still play with any team, but they're not blowing the doors off everyone.
Geoff: I think this is the kind of team to scrap its way into the tournament and see what happens. It's not the kind that'll have the regular season we saw last year.
Craig: They're going to need to win the games they should win on paper
Geoff: We do have the good fortune to play a lot of games at home in the second half of the season.
Craig: Yes, the schedule does seem to favor Michigan down the stretch. It also appears that there is no team stepping out in front and saying "We're the ones to beat" yet this season
Geoff: All I want to see is an NCAA tournament berth and a placement in the Grand Rapids regional, and then we can take it from there.
Craig: Works for me
Jeremy: the Grand Rapids regional would make too much sense.
Geoff: Yeah. I'll buy my tickets again only to see Huntsville come back to town.
Craig: By the way, it's been a while so my mad props to the Yost crowd for their Halloween weekend effort. Tremendous across the board! Well done!
Jeremy: Did Frankenberry make it?
Craig: Yes, and Frankenberry, if you're reading, PLEASE get your costume cleaned. You can send HSR the dry cleaning bill.
Geoff: With that inspirational message, I think it's about time to call it a day.
Craig: Indeed. Until next week, enjoy the cake, enjoy the seniors last home game, and above all, Go Blue!
Jeremy: And while we still can, enjoy Scotty B and his Blues Band. Go Blue!
Geoff: Go Blue.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Coach Carr for Governor

As some of you may have seen, George Perles, the one-time Michigan State football coach and athletic director and current member of the MSU Board of Trustees, is considering a run for governor in 2010. We here at the Hoover Street Rag applaud this, largely because it got us thinking.

There is but one man who can lead the State of Michigan out of its current morass and into a cycle of perpetually solid, if unspectacular, years. That man is none other than former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr. Coach Carr has the managerial and executive experience, the background in civics (he was a high school history teacher after all) and is generally well liked still around the state. Below the jump, some of the highlights we could expect to see from a Carr administration.

  • No more "you'll be blown away", all State of the State addresses would report that the state of Michigan is "tremendous".
  • Vocabulary of state officials would be increased thanks to Governor Carr's unabridged dictionary outside the door of the governor's office policy.
  • Governor Carr schedules one of his first meetings with the press with Maureen Dowd.
  • Press conferences become testy when WXYZ-TV hires Todd Harris to become its Lansing bureau chief.
  • LaMarr Woodley offered command of Michigan National Guard.
  • Mike Hart named director of the Family Independence Agency.
  • Charles Woodson considered so valuable to the Michigan government, he is compelled to work for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches without regard for the constitutional issues this raises.

    This is all we had, but please feel free to add your own in the comments below.

  • Sunday, November 09, 2008

    Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

    It had been a long time coming. Certainly as long a gap as I could remember. They had all started in the same hopeful way, getting a lead, going in to halftime with a decent chance to win, only to watch it all fall apart in the second half. It was as if we had used all of our good second half karma for the season in that win over Wisconsin. Now we were facing five straight losses, and Nick Sheridan starting at quarterback. I was certain the Jug was going to stay in Minnesota until 2011, because on paper, and in my heart, I couldn't see how Michigan could pull it off.

    The danger of football is also its beauty: It is utterly unpredictable. You may correctly be able to predict the winner of a game, but it's unlikely you'll be able to predict how it is going to happen. So to see a 7-2 team at home hosting a 2-7 team, it wouldn't matter which team was in which helmets, the 7-2 team should win. It didn't matter that Michigan had never lost in the Metrodome, that Michigan hadn't lost in Minnesota in my lifetime, the Brewster Crew was likely going to come out and send Michigan to its eighth loss.

    But something strange happened. Nick Sheridan didn't utterly suck. He was making plays (as were his receivers. Michigan was moving the ball. It converted a fake punt. There was almost a hint of swagger. The defense was aggressive, and if not ball hawking, they were letting Minnesota know that they weren't going to go anywhere, particularly on third down. All of the things that had driven Michigan fans crazy in the last five weeks weren't happening. But still, there was cause for concern. We were only getting field goals, and while Michigan's defense was pitching a shutout, there was worry that those field goals would be a portend of our doom.

    That's why the second half was amazing. Nothing bad really happened. (OK, Brandon Minor got hurt, but we don't know how bad yet.) Michigan's defense kept playing well. Michigan's offense kept getting the job done. Minnesota never put together a great drive and Michigan was able to stop them short of the end zone every time. Michigan was going to win, and it felt strange.

    During the broadcast, ESPN showed that Minnesota coach Tim Brewster had moved the trophy case for the Little Brown Jug in to the locker room, the empty case hopefully serving to motivate the Gophers to reclaim what they want and what they prize perhaps much more highly than Michigan. But perhaps what Michigan needed to put everything together (if a little too late for 2008) was to realize that not everything was gone yet. It's a small token, as someone said, Michigan really only cares about the Jug when we don't have it, but if that small token served to bring Michigan together for sixty minutes on Saturday, served to get everyone on the team to work as one, to execute at the top of their game, to make plays and play hard for the entire game, then so be it. The Jug is in Ann Arbor until 2011. There isn't an utter emptiness in Michigan football in 2008, just disappointment. We can only hope Michigan can build on this next week, find a way to win another game, and then give it everything they can in Columbus.

    In the end, it felt really good to win yesterday. I think I almost ended up appreciating it more than other wins just because it had been so few and far between this season. I'm not sure if this is learning humility, or just learning that winning is better than not losing, but either way, thank you Michigan for putting it together on Saturday. Now, let's build on it.

    Saturday, November 08, 2008

    Dome Sweet Dome

    Michigan secures an undefeated record for all time in the Metrodome and secures the Little Brown Jug until 2011. All is right with the world for one Saturday.

    --Glenn Miller Orchestra, "Little Brown Jug", 2005.

    Sunday, November 02, 2008

    Why You Should Watch...

    There's not a whole lot to say about this Michigan season that either hasn't been said or that would do a lot of good. In each of Michigan's last four conference games, we've seen Michigan take an early lead, only to falter down the stretch in the second half. There is hope given, only to be snatched away. This week, playing a measurably bad Purdue team, the same thing occurred, this time a late touchdown to give the Boilermakers a 48-42 win.

    So some of you may be thinking "That's it, I'm done. They're terrible and I am not going to watch the rest of this season circle the bowl." Well, in the spirit of optimism, allow me to make the case why you should. Here now, my top ten reasons you should watch Michigan's remaining three games of the 2008 college football season.

    10). Because you need to do something before the Michigan hockey game comes on.

    Seriously, next weekend Michigan is playing in Alaska. That game starts at 11:35 EST. You're going to need to do something on your Saturday. Remember, the hockey team, despite devastating injuries on defense to Mitera and Kampfer (whom, though good to see him walking again on Friday night, it was a little disturbing to see him in the full neck brace), is playing pretty well, save one horrible game in Boston.

    9). Because Brandon Minor is still playing hard and looking good.

    Seriously, Minor went for over 150 yards yesterday and had three touchdowns. In a season of chaos on offensive, with nary a line to protect him, Brandon Minor is running hard, finding holes, making holes, taking hits, and finding the end zone. One wonders what might have been if he had not been dinged up for parts of this season.

    8). Because you're insanely loyal.

    You've likely never had to deal with a bad Michigan season before. Hell, we thought 7-5 was a terrible showing in 2005, and now it's something we'd happily trade for at this point. But you're a Michigan fan. You don't fold the tent just because this season isn't going your way. There's a reason we're called the Maize and Blue faithful after all. We stick with it. (Besides, if you watch the Lions every possible Sunday, you have no excuse on this one.)

    7). Because in college football, anything can happen.

    I'm not saying Michigan can or will score an upset in its last three games, all against teams that have 7-2 records. What I am saying is that stranger things have happened in college football in this season, and an unexpected 2008 Michigan win would just be par for the course.

    6). Because you need to see who will still have a starting job in 2009.

    You need to know that Booboo is looking good, though still getting burned on occasion. You need to know that Mike Martin has stepped up in key spots. You need to know that Stephen Threet is not the worst quarterback in Michigan history, despite what the mainstream media might be telling you. Most importantly though, you need to be able to make a case for what you believe based on what you have seen, not on what you have read.

    5). Because there's only three games left.

    If you have made it this far, you can make it through three more games, the last three Michigan games you get until September 2009. You love Michigan football more than this hurts.

    4). Because there will be cake.

    The Northwestern game will mark not only Senior Day at Michigan Stadium, but also the return of the Michigan Marching Band's Cake formation. That's a positive, no?

    3). Because Zoltan Mesko is having an award winning season.

    It may be hard to believe, but Michigan might have an individual award winner even in this lowest of low seasons. Our beloved space emperor (of space) leads the nation in net punting and his efforts honestly looks like he has a football howitzer, dropping smart bombs just inside the 20 time and again. Punting may give you a sense of nausea because Michigan's defense will be coming on the field, but the majesty of Mesko's efforts are just fantastic.

    2). Because if you want to call for Coach Rodriguez's head, you better be able to explain exactly what he's done to deserve it.

    Basically, if you're going to make crazy rants, you better well at least know what you're talking about. Or else we can ignore you, which we probably should anyway.

    1). Because those who stay will be champions.

    I do realize I'm falling back on the old chestnut here, but I firmly believe it to be true. I believe that you need to sit through this season because it makes the wins all the more sweet. We have no birthright to winning football, we must instead realize we're like every other great program, we're going to have some down time. As long as it leads to something greater down the line, it shall be worth it.

    It's not easy being a Michigan fan, but nothing worth having is ever easy. Go Blue, and remember, it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine, because it's always great to be a Michigan Wolverine, even this year. Even when the chips are down and the breaks are going against us.