Saturday, July 05, 2008

"The Big House" book review

So on Thursday I used a power failure to finish up reading The Big House: Fielding Yost and the Building of Michigan Stadium. I thought I would share a couple of thoughts about the book.

Let me begin by saying that I do think that if you have any interest in the history of the Michigan football program, this book is a definite must read. The prose lacks a certain lyrical flow, but it is more than made up for in the exceptional level of research done. Drawing from Yost's letters as coach, AD, and his personal correspondence, along with extensive excerpts from The Michigan Daily, Dr. Soderstrom gives the reader an exceptional view of what it was like to be a Michigan football fan in the 1920s.

Which leads me to one of my favorite things I drew from the book: In 85 years, Michigan football fans (and college football in general) has changed immensely and at the same time, very little. There were academic wailings about the quality of student that was brought in to be a part of the football team, concerns about a stadium "arms race" among colleges, the concerns over professionalism and its impact upon the sport, concerns about student rowdiness at games and on road trips, the concerns about students using football games as an excuse to get drunk, and my personal favorite, the Daily repeatedly calling out the Ferry Field crowd for its lack of vocal and enthusiastic support for what were some great Michigan teams. So much of college football handwringing today is really nothing more than variations on a theme.

I also enjoyed the insight into Fielding Yost. We need never question where the popularity of the phrase "Michigan man" came from. It's clearly a Yostism. In dozens of letters and speeches, his focus was on the "Michigan man" (and woman, Yost's willingness to embrace a co-educational university and equality in physical education for women is a recurrent theme in the book.) I was also impressed with Yost's tirelessness, particularly in his advocacy for building Michigan Stadium, and the obstacles he was compelled to overcome to build it. Indeed, even the reminder that before it was Yost Ice Arena, it was Yost Field House is worth the time devoted to it, the first Field House in the country.

All in all, I enjoyed the book because I have an interest in the subject area, and the level of research more than made up for any other failings of the book.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Viva La Vida: July 2nd, 2008

Welcome to Viva La Vida for July 2, 2008.

This will be an occasionally recurring feature where I post roughly quick hit points that I have not been able to get to that I did want to discuss.

1). Life in Technicolor

I am reserving judgment on the new uniform issue, because I am not sure that anything out there is official. I have maintained for a long time that as long as they do not touch the home uniform, I really am OK with any wackiness they may want to try on the away uniform, within reason. I also trust that adidas' contract with Michigan is as much about Michigan enhancing their brand as it is adidas enhancing the Michigan brand. But hey, clearance sale at the M-Den for the current jerseys. Plenty of Harts, Hennes, and Manninghams left.

2). Cemeteries of London

It was announced yesterday that Michigan Replay is no more. This saddens me as a traditionalist but by the same token, I don't know that Coach Rod was going to have the same level of hilariously awkward banter with Jim Brandstatter that Lloyd Carr did, but still, I think what I will miss most is the third quarter snippet of the theme from the 1972 film Across 110th Street, which also served as the theme to Michigan Replay for lo these many years.

3). Lost!

If you have not already picked up your Phil Steele preview guide, you'll want to do so as soon as possible, lest ye be lost for the upcoming season. His preview on Michigan is alternately dour and hopeful, in that, yes, he does not expect Michigan to match last season's nine wins (but who among us actually does?) but he also thinks that "the streaks" will remain alive, which is well, kind of important.

4). 42

The only Michigan player to win All-America honors while wearing #42 is Billy Taylor. He's among Bo's first players at Michigan and has a pretty amazing life story which you can read about here.

5). Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love

Little known fact: Logan, better known as Wolverine, is a follower of the Shinto faith, as seen here.

(Yes, it was a stretch and yes, I do apologize, but it was the first thing that made sense when I typed "Wolverine Japan" into GIS.)

6). Yes

If you're going to propose to your Michigan fan girlfriend, I highly recommend doing it in Ann Arbor. It works out quite well from my experience.

7). Viva La Vida

We here at the Hoover Street Rag would like to wish a happy 71st birthday to one of our favorite people in the world, 2008 College Football Hall of Fame electee John Cooper. Coach, we miss you. A lot. Even if we're Facebook friends with you.

8). Violet Hill

If you have not seen Varsity Blue's photos of the Michigan Stadium construction, you should, it's pretty awesome (I was over there on Monday and was going to mention how impressive it was, but the slide show is worth several thousand words.)

9). Strawberry Swing

If you have not had a shake from Pizza Bob's recently, you really should do so. Go get a BTB and then walk down a couple of doors and hook yourself with a shake.

10). Death and All His Friends

I'm thinking about adopting the line from the song as my Michigan mantra for the forthcoming season: "So come over, just be patient, and don't worry." I don't see it working, but you know, it's July, I can maintain a level head right now.

Thanks for reading. Have a great week!