Monday, October 31, 2011

Seal Block Week 10: Conference USA, where teddy bears sometimes do wear top hats

Finding the seals for major conference schools is easy. They're usually on Wikipedia or they can be located with a simple Google image search. Once you get down to Conference USA, you find schools that are more protective of the official status of their seals, and thus try to limit their dissemination on the Internet. Fortunately for me, most of these schools have never heard of "screen grab" technology and put nice clean versions of their seals in the online PDF versions of their identity guidelines. Only Rice was smart enough to put "For Official Use Only" over their seal in the identity guideline document. That's how you know they're the conference's nerd school.
It's Alabama's seal, with the word "Birmingham" in place of the founding date. That's a step down.
11. Central Florida
What it's trying to say: My horn can pierce the sky!
What it's actually saying: Lisa Frank is our Dean of Arts.
There are no words. As a writer for one of the top 20 Michigan sports blogs, I should be able to easily write a joke about a seal this awful. But I stared at it, and I stared at it, and I had nothing that could be expressed in words. Then, while looking on the Internet, it hit me exactly what is so terrible about this seal. Fifteen minutes in Gimp gave me what I needed.
OK, there's one made-up word: Nyan-Horse.

Coming Home

(Great photo of Mike Martin and Denard Robinson from John T. Greilick of The Detroit News)

Five Homecoming things from the land of the Purdoomed and the land of the "I'm still trying to write up my epic Three and Out post that is now verging on 3000 words and I'm only a third of the way through the book):
1).           So we're working on the 4th and an inch plan, right? I'm loathe to call anything "unacceptable", but man, seriously, we need to get on that.

2).           "Seven Nation Army", no.  "Hardest Button to Button", yes.

3).           Students, seriously, get to the game on time.  I will be an old man and tell you that it's embarrassing to see the alumni in the seats before kickoff and a student section that is less than 50% full.  Rocket Man could have safely landed in the student section with no collateral damage.  I don't care that it's Halloween weekend and some how in the last ten years, Halloween became a big deal on college campuses,* you make claims about being the engine that makes the Michigan Stadium experience go?  Get there.  Plan ahead.  Take the time.  Leave your pre-game fifteen minutes earlier, but be there for kickoff, even for Purdue, even in the cold.**  Otherwise, you're leaving yourselves open to the criticism you receive.

(*-As was once said to me by a fellow member of the Class of 2000: "I don't have a lot of regrets about college, but I do lament that we went to college in the era of shame based clothing.")

(**-Five years of student tickets 1996-2000, never got there late, never left early, not even during Syracuse 1998.  You can do it if you want to do it.)
(It's casual Devin and striding Denard!  David Guralnick/The Detroit News)
4).           Not that I mind, but since when does Michigan's Homecoming have a theme?  Moreover, if it's had a theme, since when have been told what it is?

(Michael Shaw finishes in style. John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
5).           Fitz's long run was nice, but the little hesitation move that Michael Shaw put on his defender to get past him for the touchdown was exceptional.

Onward to Iowa.  RIP GopherQuest.  Leading the Legends in the first week of November, yeah, it's a pretty good feeling.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Seal Block Week 9: The WAC gives you something you can feel

The WAC. It's still a football conference? It's still in FBS? So we have to do a Seal Block about it? Well, I guess we don't, but it would be kind of silly to stop now.
8. New Mexico State
What it's trying to say: Derp.
What it's actually saying: Look, this is so bad that we changed it, OK?
Ooh, a mystery! NMSU has recently changed their seal to one that is not unbelievably shitty. The new seal, with a Zuni cross superimposed on the shape of the state with the letters N, M, S, and U in the four corners, is a significant improvement, despite the fact they refuse to put up a decent size version of it up anywhere on the Internet. You get no points for improving your seal if you don't let anyone look at it.
Despite NMSU's newfound interest in brand identity guidelines, their brand identity people are still bad at their jobs. You'd figure one of their priorities would be making sure that their Wikipedia page isn't displaying the old seal? Also somewhat amusing: the bookmarks on the web browser from this brand identity presentation.

Before the Storm

I can see the squall line from here, in that I've lived it.  I've read the excerpts, I've looked over Bacon's answers to some thoughtful questions, I know what I am getting in to when I read this.  I'll learn things I cannot unlearn, I will see people in new lights, perhaps lights that are unflattering, but it has to happen.  We need to know the truth, or something close to it, because we need to learn from history, no matter how painful it may be.

So we're going to read it (fair warning, we're not going to review it until we're done, and that may be a while, it's just the nature of my life at the moment).  I'll happily discuss the book with you, but be advised, in any conversation of this type, I will prefer sourced notions to speculation.

Here we go...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bye Week Arts & Crafts!

So while I was in the middle of a pointless flame war on MGoBlog this week over proper statistical techniques - oh, the things we flame about at MGoBlog! - someone told me my icon should be turned into an MGoShirt. For reference, here is my icon:
Now, I don't believe that I should make money off of Denard Robinson's athletic exploits if the man himself cannot. So I'm making this design freely available under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. Please attribute to "The Hoover Street Rag" and link to this post if applicable.
To make it into a T-shirt, do the following:
  • Download the following large, mirror-image version of the picture by clicking below:
  • Purchase an inexpensive T-shirt from a craft store or elsewhere.
  • Purchase iron-on printer paper (e.g. Avery 3271) from your local office supply store.
  • Print the mirror-image version on the iron-on paper. Follow the instructions that come with the paper to make the T-shirt transfer. Kids, make sure to have parental supervision.
Soon you will have an awesome Denard T-shirt you can claim you made yourself! For reference, the numbers in the design are:
  • 16 (atomic number): Uniform number.
  • 193.00 (atomic weight): Robinson's listed weight.
  • +3, +7 (ionization states): probable outcomes of offensive drives led by Mr. Robinson. The +3 is outlined because it's not very stable.
  • 2316, 1693 (boiling/melting points): Robinson's regular season passing and rushing yards for the 2010 season.
  • 4.44 (electronegativity): His fake 40 time.
Hopefully making a new T-shirt will brighten your mood as much as the Purdue-Illinois game is brightening mine! (i.e. increasing my perception that Michigan can beat both of them.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


With the bye week upon us, I'm not writing about Michigan this week, because everything's been said. So I'm choosing to write about another Big Ten team and my vision for their future.  So I would not blame you, Michigan fan, if you chose to skip it.

"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

Yahoo's Dan Wetzel, in series of three tweets on Sunday morning, said the following:
"Lot of talk about Michigan State being unduly physical, even dirty. Whatever. I say embrace it as your identity.
Denard facemask twist was over the top. The other stuff, I don't know. MSU is never going to get a bunch of speedster, have to be tough.
Michigan State deserves whatever penalties and suspensions they get. Mentality of playing on (or over) the edge is working though."
That's when it occurred to me, Wetzel is 100%, absolutely correct.  This is exactly what Michigan State needs to do.  They must embrace this role.  They must become the Big Ten's bully, the most physical team, the dirtiest team in the conference.

The reason is simple: Michigan State's current national identity, as much as they have one in football, is built around essentially "Sparty, no!"  That's not just with Michigan fans, when Rece Davis says it on College Football Final, you have an identity crisis.  You will not embrace the Little Brother standard, and that's probably wise, because no one wins with that.  But pure evil, goatee wearing evil, yes, that is what Michigan State football could be.

Think about it, think about all of the time you could save.  You wouldn't need to feign sportsmanship at press conferences, you could just come out and say that your players played sixty minutes of unnecessary roughness and you were lucky you didn't get caught.  Your players could come right out and say that the game was played dirty. You wouldn't need to ignore the actions of your team off the field and you could immediately allow players who had served jail time back on to your team without any kind of punishment.  You wouldn't need to spend days on internal reviews of a punch by one of your players caught on camera.  It would just be who you are.  You could be like the Raiders of the Big Ten.  You could play on the edge of the rules, cross over the river of sportsmanship like a bridge, burn the bridge, burn the ashes, salt the earth, and take up residence to the dark side of college football.  You could start wearing black helmets, black jerseys, and black pants with the tiniest hint of green to remind you of your past and become the nemesis, the bully.  Instead of being the Goofus to Michigan's Gallant, you would be Hades to Michigan's Zeus, Angra Mainyu to Michigan's Ahura Mazda, Louis XIV to Michigan's Phillipe, Bizarro to Michigan's Superman, Lore to Michigan's Data, Bender to Michigan's Flexo.  You could be wholly unapologetic about it, unrepentant in the least.

Seriously Sparty, you know you want tell people to bite your shiny bronze age ass.
Now, if you do this, I do have one request, and that is to stop pretending that you are anything but this.  Stop having your coach pay lip service to the ideas of sportsmanship and values and merely not comment on it.  Stop pretending that looking stern is the same as choosing to act sternly when it comes to discipline.  Stop trying to convince the country that your program believes in playing nicely with others.  Evil comes with a price, and if you decide to go the Two-Face route, in the end, everyone will know what you are.  Because people can abide by evil, but they cannot stand being lied to their face.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More seal-based humor

Seal Block Week 8: The MAC is jammin' with Moxy Fruvous

The Mid-American Conference is looking for offhanded ways to improve the lives of communities in the north-central United States. Under their own volition, they took up their position. They are incapable of making references to the song by The Tallest Man On Earth with the same name.
13. Bowling Green
What it's trying to say: We've got grain and sun and arrows and mountains!
What it's actually saying: Mountains????
A PR blog favorably compares BGSU's graphic identity standards to those of nearby Toledo's. We'd like to remind everyone that a graphic identity is more than just a seal, and, since the seal is only used in official situations, it is frequently not considered part of the graphic identity. That's why we see BGSU here and Toledo much later, because Bowling Green's seal is pretty terrible. Mountains? Really? Mountains?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Michigan vs. Michigan State: Remedial Chaos Theory

Portrait of Will Gholston
Ever wonder why they called it "Greendale" and not "Maizedale"?
The PIZZA GUY rings the buzzer. EVERYONE touches their noses simultaneously.
Ugh. OK, staring on my left with one, your number comes up, you go.
Just so you know, Joel, you are now creating six different timelines.
Of course I am, Danny.
The DIE lands with the number TWO facing up.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seal Block Week 7: The Mountain West on a Mission

This week in the Seal Block, we've got the Mountain West conference and we've got our first disqualification. Which of the remaining seven seals will come out on top. Play a game of chess with death and find out!
Now that we're out of the automatic qualifying conferences, we have to impose a rule: branch campus seals are excluded unless they are significantly different from those of the respective main campuses. UNLV's seal is more or less the same as Nevada-Reno's, so we won't see it until we visit the WAC in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

No Pressure

Devin Gardner, doing Devin Gardner things.  We aren't sure what they are yet, but we like them.
AP Photo
So Michigan's 6-0 after six games of the 2011 season thanks to last night's comeback win in Evanston, a nice bit of second half magic* that was almost so routine in the workmanlike nature of the adjustments and the like, Denard settling in after a first half of "Oh no!" to become a second half of "Oh wow!" and Jordan Kovacs continuing to be everyone's favorite scrappy former walk-on.  Michigan is bowl eligible on the earliest date it could possibly be and is now a Top 10 team heading into East Lansing for a Legends Division showdown with Michigan State.**

Uh oh, Mr. Persa hears footsteps.
Photo from

*-From USA Today: "The Wolverines have outscored opponents 62-7 in the fourth quarter."

*-I'm sorry Big Ten, I tried using the new vernacular, but it just feels wrong.  Not just the name, but the notion of divisions is utterly foreign and confusing to me.  I'm sure it will grow on me, but the notion that for two weeks in a row, on some level, I should be rooting for Ohio State because they were facing teams in Michigan's division just felt wrong as well.  But nevertheless...

But there's something else going on with this Michigan 6-0 start and I want to toss out a theory.  This is not a residual of the "Summer of Hoke" lovefest, or the "Anyone but Rodriguez" notions of others.  My working thesis is simply this: Michigan is 6-0 and, outside of Michigan's core fans, very few people in Metro Detroit care right now.

Why is this?  Well, blame the Lions, and blame the Tigers.  The fact that the Tigers are still playing into October, at least for another week, has drawn many of the column inches and focus of the sport talk radio callers. * And that might be enough, but then the Lions being 4-0* for the first time since 1980 and the NFL can trump all when your team is winning, especially in Detroit, where we've waited so long for something resembling competence in our NFL franchise.  You only have so much you can focus on as a sports fan, only so many free cycles you can allocate, and Michigan isn't getting them from your "average" Detroit sports fan.

*-I had my wife's car on Friday to get the oil changed after work.  She does not have Sirius like I have in my car, so I was listening to 97.1.  After deciding I hated myself, I realized that sports talk radio just edges out local newspaper online comment section as the worst thing in the history of ever that doesn't actually involve people dying.

**--Going into Monday Night Football, the Lions are 4-0, Michigan  is 6-0 and Sparty is 4-1, so that's 14 of the 22 available wins for the year.  If this keeps up, we're going to party like it's 1999.

OK, fine, so the "average" Detroit sports fan doesn't care, but what about the college football world?  Surely someone has noticed the Michigan football renaissance?  Well, yes, several have, there's no way to say it's been ignored, but let's just take for the sake of argument that Michigan really is the 11th best team in the country right now.  Look at the ten teams ranked ahead of them: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Clemson, Oregon, and Arkansas.  In each case, they have at least one great story that can be discussed, be it a Honey Badger, the greatest defense in the history of the world, the implosion of the Big XII, Russell Wilson's War, the Rodney Dangerfields of the BCS, Justin Blackmon, Andrew Luck, how the heck is Clemson in this mix, the spread and shred Ducks, and the fighting Petrinos.  This doesn't even count Ohio State's continuing NCAA troubles or conference realignment also eating into the timeline.  Michigan has some compelling angles from a national sense, the Brady Hoke Secret Service angle, the Brady Hoke hat thief angle, the wither Denard Robinson? angle, the Greg Mattison angle, the return to Michigan being Michigan angle, there's a lot of possibilities, and as you can see, they are getting some run.  But the smoke and mirrors feel of this, the notion that Michigan is 6-0 by luck more than skill or design, especially as they needed comebacks against the two "real" teams that they have faced (Notre Dame and Northwestern), well, there's a lot of reason that Michigan might only be the 11th best team in the country yet, and even then everyone is still not sure if they are.

So this Saturday becomes the first real test of Michigan's 132nd team, a trip into the dark recesses of this state's soul, a place where they know they are hated with a deep and bitter passion that stems from a combination of envy and frustration*, where the team in black and bronze will try to send a senior class off with four straight wins over Michigan, one where Brady Hoke will try to do something that Bump, Bo, Mo, Lloyd, or RichRod couldn't do, beat Big Ten member Michigan State in his first season as coach.**

*-If you're a Michigan State fan, it has to gnaw at your very soul that you have your best team in decades in 2010, and you don't get to go to the Rose Bowl because of the tie-breaker rules, you don't get to go to a BCS bowl because Ohio State gets picked ahead of you, you get killed by Alabama in your bowl game, and then Rodriguez's dismissal and Hoke's hiring and the the OSU issues, steal all of the off-season headlines.  Michigan State is 4-1 and they just got back into the AP poll this week after the Notre Dame loss in Week 3.  The lack of respect is arguably palpable and tangible, and yet, it doesn't seem like they can do anything about it.  The best press Michigan State has had all season is from Kirk Cousins' speech at the B1G kickoff luncheon.  What's worse is that because of the Lions and Tigers, Michigan State, which already doesn't get the Detroit area coverage that Michigan does, will potentially be a smaller story and if Michigan State wins, right or wrong, a lot of the focus will end up being on why Michigan lost rather than how Michigan State won.  Sorry Sparty, I don't make the rules, and remember, there's a reason that "Sparty, no!" is a meme.

**--Rich Rodriguez, 2008, L 35-21
Lloyd Carr, 1995, L 28-25 (DAMN YOU TONY BANKS!)
Gary Moeller, 1990, L 28-27 (DAMN YOU EDDIE BROWN!)
Bo Schembechler, 1969, L 23-12

Bump Elliott, 1959, L 34-8
(Every coach from Yost (State Agricultural College) to Little (Michigan Agricultural College) to Kipke (Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science) to Ooosterbaan all beat what we no know as Michigan State. Yost's Michigan team didn't play SAC in his first season at Michigan.  He made up for beating the Aggies 119-0 in 1902.)

So in locker rooms in East Lansing and Ann Arbor, a pair of countdown clocks each wind toward the inexorable conclusion at noon on Saturday.  A pair of teams whose destinies are intertwined.  The build up is immense, and yet, it nothing like it might have been in a different year.  But hey, no pressure.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Michigan Defense Theater Experiment 1106: "Zook People/Persa A-Go-Go"

In the not too distant future, Saturday A.D.
There was a guy named Jordan, not too different from you or me
He worked at Schembechler Institute, just another face in a maize jumpsuit
He did a good job cleaning up the place, but his bosses kinda liked him so they made him play in space
(Curse you GERG!)
We'll send him speedy runners, the best we can find
He'll have to stop, tackle them all as we monitor his mind
Now keep in mind he can't control when the games begin or end
He'll try to keep his sanity with the help of his D-Line friends...
Martin! (I'm Captain!)
Heininger! (Left side!)
Van Bergen! (Where've you been?)
Rooooooooooooooooh! (I'm sophomore!)
If you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts
He's got a meal card and it's set on earth so you can really just relax
For Michigan Defense Theater 3000.
Hi, everyone and welcome to the Satellite of Yost. I'm Jordan Kovacs and I'm usually accompanied by my pals Roh and Van Bergen, but I don't see them around right now. Martin, can you get me Rocket Number 9?
Rocket Number 9 shows MARTIN, HEININGER, VAN BERGEN, and ROH holding off a disorganized horde of invaders of Minnesota. The horde retreats, and VAN BERGEN and ROH enter the Satellite of Yost.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Seal Block Week 6: The Big East in "The Octosigillion: The Zombie Diaries"

A secret society of the eight wealthiest mascots in the Northeast has just convened at an estate in Providence, RI, otherwise known as John Marinatto's basement. Chip crumbs, an almost empty bowl of mango-peach salsa, and an apology note to Sean Keeley form a still-life on an otherwise empty table. The basement itself is a 16-sided room, from which the mascots control the Northeastern bank money supplies, Fort Dix, ESPN and the Wesleyan College student newspaper.

On the walls of this room are eight seals. They are known as The Octosigillion.

Parental discretion is advised.

(holding a copy of C.F. Gauss's Disquisitiones Arithmeticae)
Listen up, ladies and gentlemen and neuters. TCU's going to be joining us soon, so we have to renovate this room so that it is a regular 17-sided polygon. In order to do that, the contractors have asked us to rate ourselves from best to worst-designed. Since we don't have names, I propose we adopt the names of our school's mascots for this discussion. Are you OK with that, Otto?

Wisterias and wonderlands! (coughs) I mean, whatever, as long as we don't have to have the same personalities. I'd hold off on those plans, Husky. Isn't that right, Panther?

Can we just get out of here? Otto and I got the invite from Greensboro, and we're heading down to the ACC. You coming with us, 'Eer?

The only message I got from ACC country is that we should do the ranking anyway, because a Michigan sports blog needs some midweek filler content during football season.

Have a Seat

Don Canham, in one of his many out of the box efforts to build the Michigan football season ticket list, famously sent a mailer out to every resident of Plymouth, Michigan in 1970 inviting them to buy season tickets.  In 2011, I got a different kind of letter from the Athletic Department, and maybe you did as well.  It should not have surprised me, but if nothing else, it made me a little sad because a dream was pretty much dying right there.

The Athletic Department has decided to do away with the "Season Ticket Interest List" better known as the waiting list and has instead gone to a model which essentially requires anyone interested in Season Tickets for Michigan Football to join the Victors Club at a minimum level of $100.  Doing so will not guarantee season tickets, but merely the opportunity to purchase single game tickets and packages for next season.  A donation of $500 will assure you of the chance to buy season tickets in 2012.  The waiting list is done; this is how it's going to be now.

I've always wanted my own Michigan season tickets, and I was waiting out my opportunity.  I've cobbled together season ticket packages from the Alumni Association, from the Athletic Department's general sale, from friends, from other means.  So I have gone to my share of games, especially over the last five years.  But the reality is simply that I don't have $1000 to spend on six games in 2012, especially if the highlights are Michigan State and Iowa.  I suppose this is the new economic reality of big time college football, the middle class are being squeezed out of a stadium that can hold a medium sized Michigan city; the wealthy, those who can afford to donate to the athletic department, are the lifeblood of the program, the core customers to whom need to be catered, both figuratively and literally.  Season tickets are not about having tickets for all of the games, but rather assuring that you have tickets for Ohio State or Michigan State, depending on the year.  This is not new, but it's going to become more and more common with the ever escalating financial demands on the season ticket holders.  The Athletic Department now faces a stadium for the Ohio State game which may lack an enthusiastic student section because of the post-Thanksgiving date of the game, and may lack the focused pro-Michigan crowd they want due to potential highest bidder ticket sell off by season ticket holders.  Perhaps it doesn't matter to the Athletic Department.  As long as the ticket has been paid for, it doesn't matter who is in the stands.  The partnership with StubHub seems to indicate this line of thinking may have merit.

I do love going to Michigan games, and I cannot blame the Athletic Department for needing to keep up with its aspirational peers in a ceaseless arms race.  But at some point people are going to realize that the game looks pretty darn good on television.  They will realize that you don't need to find and pay for parking for a middling Big Ten opponent.  The fans will realize that you don't need to pay $4 for a Coke against the MACrifice.  And something will be lost, the bubble will burst, and there will be pieces left to pick up.

I know I am not the first to rail against any of these things.  I know others have made more compelling economic arguments.  This is, if nothing else, a personal lament for the death of a dream, another harsh realization about how the world works and how the choices one makes inform other decisions that are made for you.  Maybe it's just the naiveté of a belief that a university should not be actively pricing its alumni out of its football program, that the free market will conquer all, regardless of the casualties around it.  Scoreboards and scholarships and renovations don't pay for themselves, after all.  I guess it was just in looking at that letter did I realize that never has a stadium that holds nearly 110,000 people felt smaller than it does when you're being told that you're no longer wanted, except at the right price. 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mystic chords of memory

One of the single biggest themes that Brady Hoke has put forward during his time as Michigan's head coach is the idea that this team, Team 132, is connected to all of the previous Michigan teams that have gone before it and that it is the duty of the players and the coaches to play well in order to honor the memory of all of the men who have worn the winged helmet previously.

(AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Everybody pants now!

Congratulations, Michigan, on retaining the Little Brown Jug.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


The Michigan Marching Band is already loaded in the tunnel, ready to take the field missing one of its own. As I'm sure you've all heard, trumpet Patrick Fleming was killed on Monday on US-23.

I didn't know Patrick, and I've been struggling with what to put up over here. He sounds like a remarkable guy, having the dedication to work full time, take classes at UM-Flint, and on top of it all he put in the hours and hours needed to excel in the MMB.

Tributes have been pouring in from all over. MSU's band played "Amazing Grace" in his honor. Groups from the State band and OSU's band traveled to practice on Elbel Field to lend their support. Patrick's spot will be empty on the field and all band members are wearing armbands and trumpet pins in his honor.

I don't know what more to say. But stay safe out there; we need you all.