Monday, August 31, 2009

What we leave behind...

So there has been much to do about the Free Press' investigation into the Michigan football team and the alleged "absurd" practice regimen, one which is alleged to violate NCAA guidelines. I have nothing to add to this. I suspect that a lot of this revolves around the word "voluntary" and the implicit connections between the "voluntary" efforts made by players and how those efforts, or a lack there of, may impact their standing, real or perceived by the coaching staff. I cannot add anything to this because I am not in a position to speak to NCAA rules/guidelines, or what it's like to work out until you puke, or what it's like to be a part of a team where the peer pressure to keep working hard, even beyond what is required in order to even try to be the best. I've never done it and the reality is, most fans have never done it either. Those who have likely have a much deeper and more complete understanding of this situation and it is one that even if they explained it to us, we would still never fully grasp it because we don't own that.

The reality is, we, as fans, want to believe that the allegations are not true because it is what is best for the program, but we also probably know that the reality is and that while there will likely be few or no violations found by the NCAA (I hope), we also probably know that the players, the ones who we want to go, fight, win and give their all for Michigan do put in a huge time commitment to be the best, and that's the crux of the problem.

Because "voluntary" is so subjective, because the perception of how one will be treated if one does not show up for something that is voluntary will affect one's standing within the program, we're in such a gray area that it makes it really hard to get one's head around this. It also makes it really hard to explain to someone how it could arguably true that the players probably did put in more than 20 hours a week (something closer to the 45 hour number that the NCAA survey found) and it's probable (OK, I'm hopeful and projecting) that no violations will be found. So how can both things be true?

It's the Fitzgerald paradox (from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-up):

"Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work - the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside - the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don't show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within - that you don't feel until it's too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. The first sort of breakage seems to happen quick - the second kind happens almost without your knowing it but is realized suddenly indeed. Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation - the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise."

On the whole, perhaps we as fans forget what goes on on the field is the result of not only the effort and preparation that has gone on behind the scenes, but also the cost of that. The issue is, that sacrifice is part of a larger choice and asking a group of 18-22 year olds to fully understand what that means and what they are in for, well, it ends up creating friction, disconnect, and problems. Many of those players accept the sacrifices without comment, or at least, without comment to those outside the program. So when those comments do get out, they are going to be discussed, analyzed, and beaten to death. So we want to understand this, and we cannot, because what they have left behind is, in one sense ephemeral, and in another sense permanent. We don't necessarily remember that there's much more beneath the surface than just Saturdays and perhaps understanding that, we can generate a respect for what they are doing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three Things

1. Preseason Practice. Daily and weekly hour limitations do not apply to countable athletically related activities occurring during preseason practice prior to the frst day of classes or the frst scheduled contest, whichever is earlier. (Adopted: 1/10/91 efective 8/1/91)

2. Daily and Weekly Hour Limitations—Playing Season. A student-athlete’s participation in countable athletically related activities (see Bylaw 17.02.1) shall be limited to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week. (Adopted: 1/10/91 effective 8/1/91)


Marching band practice consists of 1.5 hours per day, Monday to Friday out on Elbel Field. Each section generally also has a mandatory half-hour practice before one of those days. On game day, there is a two-hour practice, a "lunch" break, then a half-hour visualization session prior to step-off to the stadium. The NCAA defines a football game as 3 hours, regardless of how long it actually takes. That's a 13.5-hour week for the marching band.