Tuesday, October 31, 2006

We Didn't Say This Was Actually Clever...

I'm sure that, if you've been to a Michigan game...ever, or even spent enough time on the internet, you've seen the shirts that make unfounded accusations regarding Ann Arbor's virtue. Well, your correspondent here at The Hoover Street Rag has spent all of ten minutes coming up with slightly more high-minded responses.


In 1492, Columbus crossed the Atlantic and set foot for the first time in the West Indies. His voyages left a legacy of disease and war and eventually some 90% of the native inhabitants would be killed. That's why they named the city after him.


Author of the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and a two-term president, James Madison was wee and frail. At 5'4", he was easily our nation's most diminutive commander-in-chief.


Sometimes you just want to get straight to the point.

Even if that were true, Bloomington still wouldn't know what to do with her.

A little wordy for a t-shirt slogan, yes, but I still like it. A little more subtle than "Bloomington Is Lousy In Bed", and a direct response.

Other ideas: Champaign Is Flat, Minneapolis St. Paul Is A Stripper, State College Is Non-Descript...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Why the Band Matters

To many Michigan football fans, they may simply be one part of the whole, a branch off the tree of tradition. To others, they are something to be mocked or ignored because they're just entertainment when there isn't football. But that isn't really true. The Band Matters. The Band matters because it is the only thing that can give you chills when you think about Michigan football. You can remember amazing plays, amazing games, the sights, the feeling, the images of a particular game, but it is the band that is providing the soundtrack to those moments. It isn't preprocessed, it's not prerecorded, but it is preselected. Every action at a Michigan football game has a sound that is associated with it. Whether it's "Temptation" on third down stops or it's "The Victors" trio after a touchdown, it enhances the context and connects one generation of player to the next and one generation of fan to the next, weaving a deft sonic tapestry throughout all of the years and reminding us that in the hearts of many Wolverines, their favorite song, whether they are willing to admit it publicly or not, is 110 years old next month.

Is it more important than any other part? Probably not, but it is certainly the equal of the Winged Helmet, the Block M, and the Big House. It may not be why we watch, but it is certainly part of the reason we keep coming back. That's why the Band Matters.

"Who are we?" "The Wildcats!"
"Who are we gonna beat?" "The Wildcats!"

Yeah, you're not going to win when you're playing Michigan and you give up five turnovers. Combine that with -13 yards on the ground, and you're not going to do much with the ball, period. Still, this was a closer game than it should've been. Poor execution by our offense kept this game from being a complete blowout. On Michigan Replay, Lloyd confessed his displeasure with the passing game. The ground game was much better, but without a passing threat they were running into stacked fronts all day. With even a little more success in the air, we're up 17-0 going into halftime. It's not that the game was in question – not with the ridiculous dominance of our defense – but with a bigger lead we could afford to give the backups more playing time. As it was, Mike Hart was on the sidelines for long stretches of the game (Carr called him "banged up"), and it was little-heralded Jerome Jackson who had the most success in his stead.

The weather for this game was absolutely miserable. I've heard more than one person call it the worst weather since '95 Purdue, where the game ended 5-0 in a sloppy, snowy mess of a game. The water in the air was all liquid this time, but the windchill was down to 30°F at kickoff. I ski, so I'm not unused to cold, wet conditions, but even I went inside Crisler Arena after halftime and stayed there for much of the second half. I'd used my poncho to keep the water off my knees, so my supposedly waterproof coat was soaked through. My gloves were so wet that they didn't dry off until last night. Once I could tell from the TV that the sun had come out, we went back into the stadium. Out in the parking lot after the game, the sun stayed out, but was accompanied by an even stronger wind. Not really conducive to a post-game celebration.

The Band

Being homecoming, everyone marched halftime. Simple formations, not a lot of movement. The music was all early rock 'n' roll; the MMB did "Great Balls of Fire" and "Rock Around the Clock". The alumni band then joined them for some Elvis before moving on to traditional Michigan songs. They did "Temptation", "Hawaiian War Chant", "I Wanna Go Back To Michigan", and maybe a couple others. I heard a rumor that Jean-Luc Picard will be involved in next week's show. Maybe something to do with Patrick Stewart being in town with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Northwestern Preview

The Series

  • Record: 50-14-2 (Michigan leads)
  • Since '69: 22-3-0
  • First Meeting: 10-8 Northwestern, 10/29/1892, 25th Street Field, Chicago, Illinois
  • Last Meeting: 33-17 Michigan, 10/29/2005, Ryan Field
  • Northwestern
    • Most Points: 55-24, 10/18/1958, Ryan Field
    • Since '69: 54-51, 10/28/2000, Ryan Field
    • Biggest Margin of Victory: 55-24, 10/18/1958, Ryan Field
    • Since '69: 19-13, 10/7/1995, Michigan Stadium
    • Biggest Shutout: 9-0, 11/14/1936, Michigan Stadium
    • Since '69: N/A
  • Michigan
    • Most Points: 72-6, 11/18/1893, Ann Arbor Fairgrounds
    • Since '69: 69-0, 10/18/1975, Michigan Stadium*
      *Also the biggest margin of victory and largest shutout in the history of the series.

Data from the Bentley Historical Library


An already-rough season for the Wildcats isn't getting any easier on Saturday. Last week they surrendered 38 unanswered points to Michigan State in a Division-IA record-setting comeback victory for the Spartans. Northwestern's season is essentially lost in the wake of Randy Walker's passing. With Brett Basanez's graduation, Northwestern's strength this year has been their running game, which should be crushed entirely by Michigan's front seven. The Wildcats traditionally use quicker, smarter players to make up for their size deficiencies, but that doesn't really matter when they try to run against Michigan's front seven.

A defense that gives up 38 second-half points to Michigan State is not one that inspires fear. Lloyd's going to call off the dogs early in this one if we get up big. If we have a win in hand, we don't have anything left to play for; we just want to escape without injury. Ideally, I'd like to see Jason Forcier play the entire fourth quarter with a rotating cast of running backs not named Mike Hart. That said, I'll be mightily disappointed if we don't have a two-touchdown lead going into halftime.

In lieu of further discussion of actual football, I move on to historical facts. In 1860, the state of Wisconsin was riven with tension. The abolitionist governor had publicly speculated that Wisconsin might secede should the federal government fail to outlaw slavery. The state had four militia companies and the State Adjutant General surveyed them to determine whose side they'd take if it came to that. The commander of Milwaukee's Irish Union Guards, though an abolitionist, insisted that it would be treason to go against the federal government. The Guards were promptly disarmed and he lost his commission. They refused to disband, and – in an attempt to raise the money to rearm their unit – sponsored a cruise to Chicago to attend a Democratic party rally and hear Stephen Douglas speak.

Old shipwrecks: Just what you want out of your college football preview.

After the festivities, the passengers re-embarked on the sidewheel steamer Lady Elgin. The captain didn't like the looks of the weather, but the pressure from the passengers and business sense convinced him to head back up the lake to Milwaukee carrying between 600 and 700 souls. Some of the passengers turned in for the night, others took advantage of the party boat. The weather was bad, but not catastrophic. It was the schooner Augusta that did her in.

Full of lumber, the two-masted Augusta was heading down the lake to Chicago. Her crew had failed to lessen sail as the storm blew up and now they were flying out of control, nearly capsizing. Her mate had reported seeing the Lady Elgin, but her captain took no notice of it until it was too late. At 2:30AM the Augusta struck the Elgin aft of her port wheel, snapping off her bowsprit, before running swiftly by, now without her headsails. Eventually she limped into Chicago harbor.

Technically, sail vessels always have the right of way, being at the mercy of the elements, but the signs of poor seamanship abound here. In her day, the crew of the Augusta was heavily criticized. They had to rename the schooner and sneak out of port, running all the way down to the Atlantic to sell her for whatever price they could get.

Meanwhile, the Lady Elgin was coming apart fast. Passengers began chopping the hurricane deck apart to make rafts in the hope of making shore, seven miles away near Winnetka. The Elgin broke up within twenty minutes of the collision, leaving maybe 500 survivors in the water. A lifeboat had been cast off early as part of an attempt to survey the damage, but the first mate and a few crew had been launched in a boat without oars. They were the first to come ashore, and the mate scaled the steep bluffs and raised the alarm. By 8:00AM, volunteers had come to the beach to do what they could, including many Northwestern students.

Fortunately, mid-September Lake Michigan is much warmer than mid-October or -November. Maybe 400 people were still alive as the rafts of wreckage approached the beach. However, the storm had worked up a punishing surf and wicked undertow, killing people on the rocks or dragging the exhausted victims down.

One of the Northwestern students, Edward Spencer, was a strong swimmer. Over and over, he plunged into the surf to bring the living safely ashore. In the end, he saved 18 people on his own. A delirious, exhausted wreck himself at the end, he was unable to go back in. Over and over, he kept asking, "Did I do my best? Did I do my best?"

That's real heroism.

Hawkeyes' Wings Clipped

To my brother: Yes, that was a ridiculously early hour to arrive at the game. My bad. When the entire Champions Lot is empty, it doesn't mean much, but when there's only one other car in our Blue Lot row, you might be a bit ahead of schedule.

From the stands, the Iowa game looked like a mirror image of Penn State. Instead of a dominant performance that didn't show up on the scoreboard, we had a tight game that we put away late. The secondary still appears to be the weak point in our defense, especially our linebackers in pass coverage against tight ends. Iowa burned us several times when the TE would get open in the middle of the field. Still, even with Iowa's receiving corps playing out of their shoes (only one real dropped pass all day, which is apparently a rarity for the Hawkeyes), Iowa never managed to get into the endzone and Drew Tate called Michigan the best defense he's seen all year. Morgan Trent's playing better as his hand heals up and he's been playing the deep ball very well. You still see him tackling a lot more receivers than Leon Hall, but that's because people are throwing away from Hall.

Our defensive line is unreal. Unreal.

I really disliked the run plays we called on the first few series. We kept running wide on the short side of the field, where Hart would run out of room before he could get the corner. Iowa knew we'd come out running (As long as zebras roam the Earth, Michigan will try to establish the run...), and probably to the left side of our line, so it was no surprise to them when we did just that on our first two plays from scrimmage. For that matter, if you want to run the stretch play, why not use Carlos Brown? He's just that much faster. We opened it up and made good adjustments at halftime, which is a nice enough change from last year. Henne looked decent, but not like a world-beater. He took sacks and made scrambles earlier than I'd like to see, but he also found Arrington and Breaston and Butler over and over. On the pass to Butler that took us down to the 12 (I think that was the play), I saw Hart make an excellent, excellent pickup on a rusher who was charging at Henne. Just another reason why Mike Hart is awesome. Also? Mike. Hart. Does. Not. Fumble. Remember that, Mr. Referee. As soon as it was ruled Iowa ball, I said, "Oh, this is going to review." Why? Because Mike Hart does not fumble. The six-game gauntlet that loomed at the start of this season has been run. I was sure we'd come out of it with a loss somewhere on the way, but we're 8-0 with what should be clear sailing until The Game on 11/18. The team might not be able to look past Northwestern, Ball State, and Indiana, but I sure can. 11-0 vs 11-0 in the biggest, most celebrated rivalry in all of college sports? A game like this only comes along maybe (maybe!) once every 30 years.

The Band

Iowa didn't bring their band this week, which sort of surprised me. Maybe they suck. I don't think I've ever seen them play. In pregame, our band did The Cake, which was particularly awesome. Starting in concentric circles, they collapse inward while playing the tune from The Blues Brothers, "I Can't Turn You Loose". There's a script to this song.

For at least the past 14 years, part of the script has been for Carl Grapentine to claim, "By the year 2006, the music now known as the blues will exist only in the classical record department of your local public library." So among the preseason question this year was, given that it's now 2006, how will they change the script? It's not up there with "Will Chad Henne regress again? Will we keep Mike Hart healthy? Will we stop playing a pillowy soft zone at the end of every close game?", but it was a question nonetheless. Answer: We've pushed the demise of the blues back to 2010. Not really a lot of faith out there in the staying power of the art form, I suppose.

A couple of weeks ago, I supposed that the jazz show would be the last time the band played a show of non-popular music. I was wrong, as they went even further away from pandering to the audience by playing a show of marches no one in the stadium had ever cared about, and the songs weren't exactly hummable. The marching itself was very different for the MMB. Not everyone was facing the same sideline, people switched which sideline they were playing to in the middle of songs, etc. More of an old-school show, to go with the antique-sounding music.

Next week is homecoming, which is always a grab bag. I would expect that this is the show where John Stout does the arrangements, everyone marches --> everything's pretty simple. The regular MMB might end up playing a bunch of short songs before the alumni join them on the field for some of the classics (Temptation, War Chant, St. Louis Blues?, etc.). I will put money on it that it can't be any worse than our homecoming salute to the med school in 2001, which was one bad musical pun after another (For Your Eyes Only, Mack the Knife, etc., etc.).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Penn State Neutered, Placed In Pet Taxi

I watched this game up north, surrounded by the woods. I'd been up north for the Notre Dame game, so I thought this would help us win, even if I was by the lake for that one. I was really worried about this game. An undefeated team goes on the road to play an overmatched team looking for redemption? Where have I heard this script before? Thankfully, we didn't fall victim to what could've been a trap game.

THAT was an impressive defensive performance. This game was never as close as the score would indicate, as the Nittany Lions got all of their points off of a pair of busted plays. Tony Hunt gets tackled on that 56-yard TD screen pass if Johnny Sears and Shakir Edwards (I think it was #27; it might have been Mundy, who's #21) don't crash into each other on their pursuit. When was the last time Michigan had seven sacks against a team that wasn't Michigan State? It was a severe pummeling of quarterbacks.

On the other side of the ball, Henne looked poised if not perfect. That TD pass to Arrington in the second quarter was magnificent. Breaston missed a couple of passes he had a shot at, including the third-down play in the fourth quarter, but he turned in a quality performance. Arrington's starting to play up to his potential. Mike Massey just couldn't make that grab in the endzone, turning 7 points into a Rivas field goal. I have accepted Mike Hart as my own personal hero.

Broadcast Notes:

  • My dad watched the whole game with me. Normally he can't bear to watch a Michigan game unless he's in the stadium.
  • When Brent Musberger had all but declared the game over in the early fourth quarter, we began shouting at him to to shut the hell up, he was going to lose us the game. Then the Tony Hunt thing happened.
  • I can sort of see now why others think the broadcasters are biased toward Michigan. Not just the Musberger thing; Davie and Herbstreit were more than complimentary to the maize and blue.

Back to the Big House to take on Iowa. I didn't see much of their game with Indiana, but their offense looked good. Given that they were playing Indiana, that doesn't mean much. Also given that they were playing Indiana, it doesn't say much for their defense that they gave up 31 points and lost. They'll be out for blood on Saturday.


I spend enough of my time thinking about Michigan football (and hockey, and basketball) that I figured it was time to blog about it, rather than continuing to randomly accost people on the street. However, as you may have noticed, there are more than enough quality bloggers out there covering these subjects. Rather than simply rehash what others have written, I want this blog to at least have something unique about it. I don't have special X's and O's insight into football, and I don't have any contacts on the team. I do know the band better than any other blogger out there, I think. So that's my hook.

I wanted to get some content out there quickly, so I've run up quick impressions from each game this year of the MMB and the visiting bands. I figure this will at least be a little fresher than game recaps. Football content will be mixed in as the season continues.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Vague Impressions Of The Band: PSU Blue Band

  • The whole silver-instruments-with-brass-interiors thing still looks really low-rent.
  • If you have to depend on "Zombie Nation" to get the crowd fired up, your band just might be t3h suxx0rz.
  • You do, however, get serious points for bringing "Seven Nation Army"

Really, There Just Aren't Enough Michigan Blogs Out There

I'll probably just use this space to consolidate other Michigan-related postings from my other blogs, and I might invite other contributors, but as an ex-MMB member I couldn't let this space go unclaimed. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 13, 2006


Seriously. Brian Cook of MGoBlog has, at the AOL Fanhouse, posted why the Wisconsin band is on what they're calling "double-secret probation".

Band members, it is well known, have filthy, filthy minds. Like, for reals. But in the MMB, it always stayed just talk. This is ridiculous and completely over the line. If they were a frat, they could be kicked off campus for behavior like this.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Focus On The Bands: MSU game

Spartan Marching Band

Their pre-game entrance is still weird to see, with that jitter every eight counts (or whatever), but they're a top-tier band with a third-rate football team. As a trumpet I may be biased, but I like the big, brassy sound they have. They also chose to do a modern Broadway show (which is still not a good idea), but they sound better than Wisconsin.


I got several complaints about this show, as if I'm a person with any influence on the band ("Hey! You're the person I know who was most-recently a low-ranking, near-permanent reserve! Let me tell you what I think you should make that Jamie Nix do..."). I'll say here what I said at the game: This show was not meant to entertain you, it was meant to impress Michigan State's band. The MMB pulled out a big band/Latin jazz show this week. It was technically very good, the musicality was there, and they did some pretty impressive stuff on the ground. However, it wasn't really going to get the crowd going. This should be the last time that sort of show happens this year (OSU being a road game, after all), so I'd expect more pop-based shows for the rest of the season.