Friday, August 20, 2010

"It's a damn trial balloon, Kenny!"

So, this happened.

David Brandon went on the radio this morning and cautioned Michigan football fans that it may be the end of the (football) world as they know it, and they should feel fine. Michigan fans, being Michigan fans, did, well pretty much the exact opposite.

As I stated over at, and will expand upon here, I have a theory, for what it is worth.

Consider whom were dealing with here. David Brandon. The guy who Michigan fans have been resoundingly praising as a savior for the Michigan Athletic Department, a man who exudes strength, leadership, confidence, and charisma from the Athletic Department offices. A guy who spent a long time in the business world and who played football at Michigan during the Ten Year War. He is pretty much the wish list of what Michigan fans, old school, new school, and every school in between, could ask for in an AD. This is why I firmly believe that David Brandon is test marketing this idea, just like he and his leadership team at Domino's test marketed the new Domino's Pizza. He's getting critical feedback on what matters to Michigan fans (and Ohio State fans. As I said, this may be the first thing that Michigan and Ohio State fans have ever agreed upon. Seriously, Michigan fans could say the sky is blue, and Ohio State fans would say that the sky is "OH-IO." But this, this we agree upon. "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"). He can then take it back to the other ADs and to Jim Delany and say "Look, this is a dumb idea. Here's WHY it's a dumb idea." He may be "the new guy", but when you're a smart guy, when you do your homework, when you show up with the data, people will listen. They may not agree with you, but they will listen. It's the James Madison theory of committee meetings.

Because it's not just Michigan fans and Ohio State fans who feel this way. This is becoming an MSM thing and it is being picked up by national writers. This is why I am convinced that it's a trial balloon and it's savvy business. This is the worst case scenario for Michigan and Ohio State fans, right? So anything else they come up with will seem better by comparison. But more importantly, there's still time to fix this and to placate the masses by saying "We heard you! The traditions of the Big Ten mean something to our fans and our alumni and we want to do what we can to preserve them."

Notice that no one is rolling out the old chestnuts about how Michigan and Ohio State didn't start playing until the last game of the season since 1935, about how Michigan and Ohio State have both gone to Hawaii in some years, about how the Big Ten Championship game between Michigan and Ohio State would be huge? No, because they know that they won't hold water. Eyeballs are eyeballs, but Michigan and Ohio State is about emotion, it's as close as anything in the Big Ten comes to pure SEC fan insanity (meant in the most respectful and awestruck way possible SEC fans.) On Eight Simple Rules, John Ritter's character Paul said "For Michigan fans, football is a religion. And the Ohio State game is Easter." He was right. It's a religious thing. To do this would be to tell Michigan and Ohio State fans that Easter is now in August and well, get over it.

There is also an additional benefit. With David Brandon discussing this situation in this manner, it frames Michigan in a very positive long-time, big picture light. Michigan may be down at the moment, The Game may not have gone Michigan's way during the last decade, but it still matters. David Brandon is focusing attention right now on Michigan, the brand, Michigan, the all-time winningest program in Division I football history, not Michigan, the 2010 football team, not Michigan, the house divided. Given everything that has happened this week when the focus has been on the 2010 team and how it's been Panic! in the Disco, and fire at the Taco bell, this, to me, feels like a smart CEO protecting his flagship brand by talking about changing it. Plus, in discussing changing it, doesn't it focus on what makes Big Ten football great, focusing on what many consider to be the greatest rivalry in all of North American sports? This is not just Michigan, this is Michigan and Ohio State, the yin and yang of a spiritual battle for the soul of Midwestern football. Blue versus red. The Victors versus Carmen Ohio. Touching the Banner versus Script Ohio. Winged Helmets versus Buckeye stickers and gold pants. Bo vs. Woody. Good versus evil (your side may vary).

What if this is the Big Ten football equivalent of New Coke? What if we're being played exactly like the very smart men in charge of multi-million dollar enterprises want us to be played? What if this is nothing more than a trial balloon?

That is, at least, my hope. Because otherwise, it will be the end of the football world as we know it, and I'll be very sad.


James said...

I hope with every fiber of my being that you're right!

Sam said...

Wait, what, are you serious? Is this happening? WTF? When we planned our wedding I had only one restriction: not on the third Saturday in November. This cannot come to pass.

Anonymous said...


Too calm, man! You're lulling your readers into some false sense of security.

Hysteria is the correct reaction especially if this is a trial balloon. Hysterical "sky-is-falling" all-caps posts with many many exclamation points are essential to help ensure that Brandon -- and Smith and the other ADs -- do not do something so unbelievably f*ing stupid!!!

So, I'm all for calm. But where is your call to action? Where are the email addresses for Brandon, Delany, Smith, the Governor of Michigan, etc.?

Your post is a call for passivity.

That is PRECISELY what we CANNOT have.

With respect, write something that inspires the masses to actually do something.



Craig Barker said...


With respect, mine was not a call for passivity, but rather, after a day of off the handle reactions that would not generate anything but hysteria, mine was a call for moderating calm while trusting that while action should still be taken, it should be done so with a clear head so one's point can be heard. Absolutely there should be letters written, but they should be done in such a way that they cannot be dismissed by mere handwaving or scoffs. So yes, by all means, every one who cares should stand up and be heard, but make your voice heard in a way that when people are listening, they are hearing what you are saying. There is no security here, but rather, the notion that there is still time to have changes made. That is my hope and that is what I hope people will act upon.

I do thank you for taking the time to comment. The opposing view is important to see.