Monday, July 18, 2011

Statues, Rings, and Latin

For what it's worth, my take on retired numbers, statues, and the like.  This lacks a coherent narrative because there is no coherent narrative on this in my mind.

With his enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame, Desmond Howard has been talking about Michigan football's lack of recent retired numbers.  He's right in this sense, Ron Kramer is the most recent player to be honored, Gerald Ford the most recent honoree.  Consider that for a moment, Ron Kramer played before the near two score decades of Bo-Mo-Lloyd, the "vision" of Michigan football that most hold in their mind's eye.  So there's some validity to this.


Football only has 99 eligible numbers.  Michigan has retired five of them: #11, #47, #48, #87, and #98.  Oddly, these numbers are not honored anywhere in Michigan Stadium, so it takes a discussion of retired numbers to properly honor the men who wore these numbers.  Do we want the same fate to befall #21, or #2, or any other worthy number?  How do we acknowledge the fact that Tim Biakabutuka had one of the all-time great performances in 1995 while wearing #21?  This is a giant game of whack-a-mole; every time we answer one question, two new ones pop up.

My leaning is to go to a Ring of Honor, but Michigan's 130+ year history of playing football makes this a very difficult and complicated selection process.  Would popular players of recent vintage get put up ahead of legendary players of the past?  Would the retired numbers automatically be honored?  There are many questions and very few satisfactory answers.

Here's the real sticking point: #1.  By any right, #1 should be retired (three time , but well, it isn't and it won't be.  It should be retired for AC, but Derrick Alexander and David Terrell and Braylon Edwards had pretty good games in the #1 jersey (and now Braylon controls a great deal of the influence over who wears #1 with his endowed scholarship, making this even trickier.)

My sense is this: "Retire" #21 and #2* to complete the Heisman Trilogy, however, allow Desmond and Charles to authorize players to wear it if they a). play the same position, and b). have earned it. Of course, I say this like it's "easy" but it's not. 

*--For what it's worth, I have not seen anything from Mr. Woodson regarding the retirement of his number.  Of course, he's still in the NFL and rehabbing an injury, so it may not be a big deal to him right now.

By the way, the other issue with a Ring of Honor is that you would need to honor almost every Michigan head coach ever: Yost*, Crisler, Oosterbaan, Schembechler**, and Carr***.  With the exception of Coach Carr****, every one of those men has a building on the athletic campus named for them, which leads me to be reminded of Christopher Wren's epitaph: "Lector, si monumentum requiris circumspice." or "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around."

*-You cannot make a statue of Fielding Yost because you cannot capture the old man's smirk in any three dimensional medium.
**--Bo's statue would need to look like Joe Paterno's statue at Penn State and you would need to make a metal version of the banner.  Wait a second, does this not sound like a fantastic idea for a "photo op" at the Big House?  The Bo statue would need to look like this, block M hat, sunglasses, headset and the base would need to have "The Team, The Team, The Team" on one side and "Those who stay will be champions." on the other side.
***--The Coach Carr statue would just be this picture (yes, I know, all of you want the Capital One Bowl ride off in to the sunset, but this photo is so much more Coach Carr.)  It would also have a dictionary in its base where people could look up words and learn something, and the base would simply say "Tremendous."
****--I thought for sure that the Glick Building was going to be named for Coach Carr, which would have been awesome because then we could have called it the Carr-port.

I do think that the Ring of Honor is coming, especially if Mr. Brandon's vision of the breezeway connecting the east and west concourses with a south concourse comes to fruition, as , especially if it were brick arch, would be the perfect spot for the names.

In the end, this is going to be something that continues until an announcement from the Athletic Department is made, and I suspect that announcement has been delayed as Mr. Brandon struggles with many of the same issues we has as fans.

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