Friday, December 28, 2007

The Heisman Trophy Story

When you write for a blog, especially just as a casual thing, you should not have any expectations of anyone recognizing your efforts, because, in general, you will end up disappointed. I feel that we've been lucky here at the HSR. Brian links to us at MGoBlog with some frequency, so we probably get more hits than would be expected for a small Michigan sports blog, and we've been linked on Deadspin a couple of times, but, for the most part, we're just doing this for our own amusement.

That's what makes the sequence of events of December 3 all the more unlikely.

Just as my school day was ending on Monday, December 3, I received a forward from Jeremy with the simple words *jaw on floor*...It turned out that the people from the Heisman Trophy Trust were looking for me. They wanted to talk to me about a piece I had written in October to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Charles Woodson's Heisman Trophy win (and specifically the interception against Michigan State). They wanted to use it in the Heisman Journal, essentially the program given out at the Heisman Trophy Awards dinner the Monday following the presentation of the Trophy itself. Naturally, I said yes, as I was thrilled. They offered me a ticket to the dinner (which I had to decline due to the logistical difficulties of trying to get me to New York in less than a week and the horror of me in a tuxedo.) and they also sent me a bag's worth of Heisman Swag.

So, what did I get...Well...

But, from left to right, we have the Heisman Journal (where the article was published), the Heisman hat, a Heisman Trophy trivia book, a Heisman mini-football, and a Heisman Trophy mini-helmet.

(Not pictured, in part because I couldn't get it into the photo, is the Heisman mini-backpack.)

Now, not only did I get all of this, but each of the things you see there, I got multiple instances of. So not only did the Heisman Trophy people send me great stuff, they sent me a ton of great stuff. So, to everyone at the Heisman Trust, thank you for your generosity and for honoring me in a way that I could have never possibly imagined. To Charles Woodson, thank you for continuing to pay dividends ten years after the fact. To Geoff and Jeremy, thanks for having me as a part of this crazy thing. It's just a heck of a thing.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Coach Rodriguez "LiveBlog"

The plan had been to liveblog this morning's presser, but there was not a whole lot of cooperation in, you know, watching the whole thing, and by the time I had figured out, well, they were well into the questions. That's my bad. So what you're getting instead is my sense of things...

I get a sense that the Detroit media are already excited about the new era, solely because Coach Rod speaks at a much quicker clip than Coach Carr did. Everyone wants to make it sound like Coach Carr was a humorless curmudgeon, but I've heard too many laughs at his press conferences to know that is a lie. But Coach Rod has a different feel. But the southern drawl and a world unseen await us. (By the way, I have believed for weeks that the Killers' "Read My Mind" was actually about the Michigan coaching search, and now, given the hire, I'm still convinced. Look up the lyrics, and you can see there's too many coincidences. I know it sounds crazy, but when you get an idea stuck in your head, strange things happen. It's also why I worry about close reading and linguistic interpretation.)

I'd like to think Coach Rod "gets it" about what coming to Michigan means to Michigan fans. He knows its a different place than West Virginia and he knows that he's got some things to learn about being at Michigan. That's not the worst thing. Similarly, he won't do everything the way it's always been done, and that may take some getting used to by us as a fan base. That's not the worst thing either.

Right now, we have the situation where the greatest thing that we as fans have as fans is hope. We see what Coach Rod has done with less highly thought of recruits at West Virginia and we salivate at the possibility of having top-notch athletes here in Ann Arbor. We think that it will be a cure all, that all of the pain and the frustration and the anguish. It's not going to be. No coach is perfect, no coach is a panacea for all that ails the football soul. We're also suckers for the new and shiny, especially when the new and shiny promises to be exciting as all get out. There will be times in the near future when Michigan loses a game because the offense could hold a lead late and we'll long for the old boring days. It will happen because it's who we are as a fan base. But let us keep things in perspective. Let us always remember that, no matter how important football may be to us, in the end, it is still just a game. From what I understand, it is that failure to understand things that helped push Coach Rod over our way.

There's an amazing difference right now between the not knowing of the coaching search and the knowing of whom we have hired and the not knowing of what the on-field future holds and seeing the results. I thought that this past summer was the most excited I had ever been waiting for a college football season to start. It shall pale next to the excitement over the anticipation of what is to come. It will be a rough transition, I know this, Coach Rod was already being very clear that there are "bumps" during the transitional period. But a new day begins today, and if we're smart, Michigan fans will do well to realize that history is what we make of it today.

Good luck Coach Rod and Go Blue. R2A2.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Finding the Level

I'm going to do something very strange in the realm of a college coaching search. As a fan, I'm going to ask people collectively to calm down.

Now, I know, that immediately casts suspicion on me as a). an apologist, b). a Bill Martin lackey, or c). completely dispassionate with regard to Michigan football. I can assure you, I am none of those things. But the problem is this: We, the alumni, the fans, the media, and anyone else you care to throw into that "we", want a resolution to this search because we want to KNOW. We want to know who shall be the steward of Michigan's program for the next few seasons. We want to know whom our autumn Saturdays shall be entrusted to, and we want to know to whom the awesome responsibility of maintaining the winning seasons and bowl streaks shall fall. We want to know because not knowing is one of the single worst feelings that we, as human beings, can experience. Because not knowing is the worst combination of hope and fear. We pounce on every rumor, every morsel, every third hand bit of gossip, every crazy conspiracy theory, because it's better than the nothing we have. So as we start to listen to all of those things, with little, if any, ability to judge the validity of the source's information and we start to panic. We get our ire up because we want an answer NOW. We want to stop looking like a laughing stock to the rest of the country. We want to know because even a bad choice is still a choice. So we're in a collective uproar, and I think we need to stop.

I want to trust Bill Martin. You don't get to his position in the business world by being dumb. But yes, I know, the world of intercollegiate athletics is not the same as the business world. Well, Martin's learning. Martin also is facing down several factions, each pulling him in different directions, all having some level of power over him, if not in reality, perceptually. So he must try and find a way to make this work, and right now he's kind of stuck. He'll get it right, I'm sure of it. It just may take some time. I'm so sure, in part because I want to believe he will. But I think the biggest factor here is, Martin needs to get some spin control out there. He needs to be talking to people and taking control of this situation, because the longer he lets the situation percolate without resolution, the worse the speculation becomes, and the hotter the temperature becomes. (Heck, even just saying Mike DeBord will not be the head coach next season would be a huge step towards turning the temperature down, but he can't do it for fear of offending Coach Carr.)

So, my friends, my fellow Michigan fans, I just suggest remaining calm. There's not a whole lot we can do right now, and there will be time enough for fretting when a decision has been made.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Things Fall Apart

The slow drumbeat of the coaching search process had been announcing Les Miles as the next coach of the Michigan Wolverines for the past week. It was an open secret. LSU fans were preparing themselves to lose their defensive coordinator and their head coach. It reached a crescendo on Saturday morning when Kirk Herbstreit announced it on ESPN. Then all hell broke loose.

What happened? Where did things go wrong? I think Michael Rosenberg in today's Free Press has it right, and Brian's take is as good as his work usually is. It doesn't make sense to claim that Miles was never interested in Michigan. Everything he said up until Saturday had been a carefully crafted non-statement. He never said he didn't want the Michigan job, but he couldn't say that he did.

The press conference on Saturday is hard to read. I don't know how he usually addresses the press, but this one was full of bluster and anger, the sort Lloyd Carr usually reserves for the refs. It makes me think this was a snap judgment and an emotional decision from Miles. Something pissed him off and made him jump.

There's the talk out there about Martin and Michigan asking Miles to dance to their song and go through the interview process, there's the story of LSU presenting Miles with an ultimatum to commit to them or be fired on the spot, and there's the fact of the dumptruck full of money they backed up to his house. I don't know. All season we've watched Miles go for it on 4th down, ratcheting up his risk for the promise of a much bigger reward. Michigan's desire for Miles to go through a real interview process may have seemed demeaning to a man of his ego and accomplishments, but I don't think it's enough to make him snap like he did, not with his ultimate prize out there. Overnight his public statement went from "I haven't given it any thought" to "Oh, hell no."

The only thing that changed was the ESPN story. Within a few hours of Herbstreit shooting his mouth off, Miles had suddenly agreed to an extension with LSU and was calling a press conference. I think it points to a big, emotional reaction. Maybe Les heard the story and tried to get in touch with the athletic department, but Bill Martin was taking in a matinee of the hilarious comedy Hitman and turned his cell phone off. Maybe he just assumed Desmond leaked it to Herbie. Everything sounds like this was a snap decision from Les to spurn Michigan and go where he knows he's wanted.

With the dust settling, Michigan still has three days to beg Miles to take the job. That's not going to happen. Bill Martin placed a token phone call on Sunday and Miles's agent said he isn't interested. By now, though, Miles has to know that he's never going to wear Bo's windbreaker, barring some seismic shift in Michigan's athletic department (and it would take an apocalyptic run for that to occur). And while he may be financially more secure, the only winner here is LSU.

Meanwhile, Mitch Albom needs to shut up*. His piece this morning is petulant and reeks of the arrogance Michigan fans are always accused of carrying. Yeah, good riddance to a guy who is unquestionably one of the best candidates Michigan had available to it, even if he wasn't universally anointed by the athletic department. Whose team is playing for a national championship, Mitch?

*I didn't even bother reading Drew Sharp, but I'm confident that he also needs to shut up.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dewey Defeats Truman

What a great hour that was. If waking up to this was like Christmas morning, then the rest of the day was having LSU burn down your tree and give you dysentery.

(Side note: Though they acknowledged it throughout the day, ESPN's frantic backpedaling was odd, as they didn't even change the URL when they turned it into the "Miles is Staying" story. We have always been at war with Eastasia.)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Live-Blog: Hockey vs. OSU, 12/01/07

Even though it didn't work out last night, I suppose I'll give it another go for the second game against Ohio State. The Blog That Yost Built also did a live-blog of last night's action, and I'd encourage you to check that out, especially if you want to see an account of the game by someone who knows way more about hockey than I do.

After last night and the Les Miles saga unfolding all day, let's see if the hockey team can make things any better. I should probably just start drinking. Bell's Two-Hearted IPA, coming up.

Brian Hogan gets the start in net tonight. Really? This is an interesting wrinkle. Sauer didn't play that badly last night. Was this some sort of scheduled thing? Get Hogan blooded against supposedly inferior competition?

Same officiating crew as last night. Kampfer is back in our lineup, however. Fardig's playing with a cast on his hand. If he starts missing passes, I'll just call him "Tim Massaquoi". We look just as listless tonight as last night. And just as I type that, Porter almost sneaks through the Buckeye defense. OSU sends a shot at HOgan, but it goes wide. He hasn't made a stop yet. I don't think Palmer has either. OSU's trying dump and chase, to no avail. GOAL!!! Hagelin carries it in, his shot goes wide, but it's held in behind the OSU net. A Buckeye defender tries to hamper Rust, but he steps out to Palmer's left and stuffs it in on the wrap-around.

Apologies to the FSN crew, I guess it's Red who can't pronounce "Palushaj" (It's "Puh-loo-SHY", by the way). Fardig goes down to block a nice shot from the point by DeSantis. Ooooohhh. 3-2, pass all the way across in front from Porter to Kalorik and Palmer makes the save. Holy crap, bouncing puck, Hogan on the other side. Michigan defender (Kampfer, I think) gets a stick on the rebound to knock it away from Elkins.

Off an OSU icing call, Hagelin gets the puck in the other corner, skates near the faceoff circle, passes back to Palushaj, who sends it right back and Hagelin stuffs it past Palmer. YESSS!!! 2-0, Wolverines!

11:44 left in the first. OSU looks much more disorganized now. They take another icing call. Palmer's favorite athlete is Tom Brady? OK, kind of weird. Langlais rocks Fritsche, who's slow to get up, and takes an elbowing/contact to the head call. OSU gets pressure, gets a scrum going in front. The refs are slow to stop the play and there's a...penalty shot? Oh, crap. Please be real, Hogan. Goebel's the shooter. YESSSS!!!!!!!!! DENIED!!!!!! Goebel comes in, goes backhand, stick side, but Hogan has him!!!

Side note: I love that they've got Sergott mic'd up tonight.

Fardig blocks a shot and we get a clear. :21 left in the penalty to Langlais, and DeSantis is heading to the box to make it 4-4 hockey for a while. Langlais is out. Up top, Paciorretty to Porter, over to Langlais, back to Pacioretty near the...4:30 of the circle. He's left open, so why not take a shot? It's frickin' bullet and Palmer whiffs. GOAL!!! I love this game so far. 3-0, good guys. We want MOOOOOOORE GOALS.

The Bucks immediately take another penalty, this one Dingle for cross-checking Miller halfway down the ice. Nothing's going right for them. A giveaway in the neutral zone momentarily gives me pause, but almost immediately Porter is crashing the net with a great chance and Palmer makes a nice save on him. Someone hits the wrong button and we get the Belle Tire in a Michigan helmet instead of the game. Screw you, Belle Tire. I saw you supporting MSU up in East Lansing at that football game. :30 left in the penalty, 6:00 in the period, they get a clear. OSU has 5 shots on the board, are at full strength, and still sucks. Turnbull tries to make a shot go through Palmer, but that doesn't work.

Comcast would have us believe that the Big Ten Network was a guard at Abu Ghraib and was caught on a yacht with Donna Rice.

Michigan has a great puck control sequence down low, but they aren't going to get anything out of it. Going the other way, Kevin Porter gets called for a high stick. Hey, I have an idea. Let's not make Hogan stop another penalty shot. OSU got 4 shots on their first powerplay, and on their first one here, Hogan makes a good stop. It's getting a little chippy down there. Llewellyn giveaway near the slot, yikes, but OSU can't get a shot. Holy crap, how did the puck not go in? Wild sequence with Wolverines sprawled all over and Hogans stick in his net, but Bucks just miss. Then Somma hits a Wolverine after the whistle, so he's going to the box. Our penalty expires, and then the period does. We get some shots, but Palushaj's rocket goes wide and the period ends. 3-0, Maize and Blue.

OSU managed to get their shot count up to 10 and we're sitting at 11, which is surprisingly even. OSU's had three high-quality chances, I'd say, and they haven't converted. We start with about 1:15 left on our powerplay. Langlais has trouble keeping a puck in from Pacioretty, so reset. I think Langlais really wants to be a forward. Ooh, momentary 2-1 for the Bucks after the penalty expires. No pass and Hogan makes a nice stop on the shooter.

Sergott now whistles Rust and Peter Boyd for roughing/contact to the head, so we're 4-4 for two minutes. Should be a net advantage for us. But Reed is trying to crash the net, but Kevin Quick does a nice job of taking everything away from him. A Summers drop pass results in a shot and a stop. Kampfer, from the point, is denied. And everyone's back to full strength. We look really confident out there, if less hungry.

OH SNAP. Mitera LEVELS a Buck. Fardig skates in alone on Palmer, but can't get a good shot and it dribbles into Palmer. I can't believe I said "oh snap."

Dammit, Comcast Local. Somehow OSU gets a complete breakaway and Dingle beats Hogan to close it to a 3-1 game, but we're playing an interview with Red and don't see the play happen.

And now OSU's on the powerplay after a big Mitera hit. Have to stand tall on this. OSU has a decided spring in their set. Can we stop talking about Goebel's colitis? And something happened with Porter on a shorthanded try and he's heading to the box for a high stick. :08 of 5-3 don't matter. Michigan's doing a nice job on the kill. A puck unfortunately rolls dangerously into the high slot, but shot goes wide. PK over. OSU didn't register a shot on goal. They're still playing a lot better and we look a bit disorganized. Michigan breaks up a 4-2 and heads back the other way, but Palmer makes saves on Turnbull and Winnett and the puck lands on the wrong side of the net.

OSU has stepped up their level of play by a lot. We need to reassert ourselves. Palmer's looking a lot more like last night. 4:30 left. Kolarik to Porter, who gets stuffed and the puck's just sitting out in front, but Palmer gets a toe on the rebound. Porter gets a 2-1 and draws the defender. He slides the puck over to Pacioretty and he buries the opportunity. GOALLL!!! 4-1, Michigan, and I breathe a little easier for the moment. 3:15 left.

Delayed penatly. Extra attacker on, rotation set up. Palmer saves the one-timer and Sims heads to the box.

Arg. Pacioretty gets called for tripping as Dingle tries to get a shorthanded break. Hagelin is fast. He catches Goebel easily, as this game has started to go end-to-end. Somma comes in, gets a shot, and the rebound is irrelevant as the period has already ended. 4-1, Michigan after 2.

Oh, Kolarik starts the period with a nice chance he can't connect on. He put a sweet move on Reed. Penalty to Pacioretty expires without further incident. BGSU is burying Wayne State. I'd watch out for them. Oh, Palushaj finds Naurato crashing the net, but Toy gets his stick in to break up the chance. Hogan makes the save on a 2-2. Miller gets hit and is a little slow getting up. Sergio Somma rocks Langlais well after he ices the puck, but not late enough to get a call. 16:30 left, let's finish this game.

Someone has a dirty mullet. Palushaj has a sweet shot denied by Palmer. If not for him, this is a laugher. Oh, damn it. Somma draws a penalty and, on the delayed call, a Michigan defender trips in the right slot. The guy in front goes to take his spot, vacating the left slot with Somma just sitting there. He tries to walk around Hogan, but he's there for the initial stop. Unfortunately, he now has a wide open rebound. 4-2, 14:58 remaining.

SOmma's favorite movie is Tommy Boy. It figures. Hey, hey, hey! McIlvane goes high and demolishes Kampfer.

Kolarik goes spinorama and almost finds the open net. He's played well this whole series.

12:12 left in this game. Run clock, run.

The Big Ten Network was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Savings & Loan scandal. It was also a guest of Idi Amin. They had the defense minister over for dinner.

Holy crap. Again, lots of space and lots of bouncing pucks near the front of our net. It all ends with Summers and a Buckeye going to the box. 11:30 left.

On the 4 on 4, Michigan did a great job of controlling play and denying OSU and opportunity to get any closer. The Comcast director sucks, giving us shots of guys getting on and off the ice when the GAME IS HAPPENING. 9:00 left now.

Comcast, giving props to the Hockey Band and Alumni Band from last week. Lebler draws a stupid minor (I'm considering making a macro) with 7:19 left, getting his stick up too high when finishing a check. It's Kolarik who gets a shorthanded opportunity first. Comcast has lost the clock. OK, it's back 0:36 left in the penalty, 5:56 in the game as OSU brings it in offsides. Michigan clears and Gorham is going to the box! Roughing/contact to the head is the call. 5:48 left in the game. Big, dumb penalty, borne of frustration. Oh, crap. Puck gets left in the high slot. Hogan makes the save and we manage to find the handle before a rebound can be attempted. And HOLY BALLS! Langlais whiffs trying to hold in a puck and gives up a 2-1 and Hogan just STONES Goebel. The puck is sitting in the crease, but the Palushaj finds it and heads the other way. Fantastic save.

OSU is getting good pressure again, very aggressive on the PK. We're not exactly super-aggressive ourselves. Penalty expires.

2:00 left. Coincidental penalties. Gorham is more comfortable in the box and Llewellyn has heard about the accomodations. OSU has an empty net. Puck slips down the ice over DeSantis's stick, but 4 Bucks are on Pacioretty to deny him a hat trick. Back in our zone, the net comes off and the faceoff is outside our zone. They still carry it in and get good pressure. Hogan makes a nice save on a quick wrister from the circle that sneaks around Quick. Under 30 to play. Miller does a nice job of tying up OSU in their end for a little while. Goebel gets a last chance, but Hogan makes the stop.

Great game out of Hogan for his debut. He made some excellent stops. We didn't play like the #2 team in the country, but we came out of here with a good, solid win. That big start in the first period was huge. We kept making ugly turnovers in the neutral zone and our own end and had some trouble cleaning up in front of our own net, but the offensive end was clicking better. Our other 3 lines played much better tonight following the shakeup by Red. Next up is Bowling Green, and that could be a very tough series.

Miles Interview

Following the press conference, CBS's Tracy Wolfson grabbed an interview with Miles at 2:15 EST. She asked him why he made his announcement.

Les Miles: "Our football team was diverted and I wanted to address some misinformation that was out...I'm the head coach at LSU, I will be the head coach at LSU, and...and will be next year.

Tracy Wolfson: You will be the head coach next year?

Les Miles: Absolutely.

From the sidelines, Wolfson quoted Miles as saying nothing's been signed yet, but anything changing would be "extremely unfaithful."

Les Miles Press Conference Transcript

From Les Miles's press conference:

I'm the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else. I've got a championship game to play. And I'm excited about the opportunity of my damn strong football team to play in it. And that's really all I'd like to say. It was unfortunate that I had to address my team with this information this morning, but that being done, I think we'll be ready to play.

Update: Via MGoBlog and Quo Vadimus (Is Calvin Traeger going to be our next coach?):