Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hockey: MICH vs. ND

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy Birthday Red

We here at HSR wanted to wish Red a happy 70th birthday and share this article with our readers.

At age 70, coach Red Berenson still going strong for U-M hockey

One note which I think would be awesome:

Don't be surprised if the Michigan student section, seated by the Wolverines' bench, gives a high-spirited version of "Happy Birthday" to Red Berenson prior to the Michigan-Notre Dame game Friday night at Yost.

As Friday is an HSR field trip, if this can be made to happen, I think it must. Signs and well wishes for Red on Friday, and hopefully a win!

Also, be sure to check out Red's top fives in the sidebar. I think you get a great deal of insight into the last quarter century of Michigan hockey when you look at Red's picks.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Bobby Bowden, Charlie Weis, and the Art of the Possible.

Yesterday, it became very clear that two "prestige" programs in Division I football were going to move in new directions with their head coach. Notre Dame said goodbye to Charlie Weis after five seasons, the last three of which all featured at least six losses. Whispers and leaks out of Tallahassee had Florida State backing Bobby Bowden into a corner and giving him two unpalatable options for the 2010 season, "ambassador" or "retired" and Bowden is likely to choose the latter. In both cases, as well as in the case of Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, all three fell victims to the art of the possible.

Bismarck's maxim that "politics is the art of the possible" is, way oversimplified" the idea that you look at what you have set before you and you find a way to make something work, not everybody wins, but the compromises don't make any one too angry, or if they do, the aggrieved party is so powerless to do anything about it that they need not be worried about. The art of the possible explains why it is so much easier to replicate a scientific accomplishment, rather than work in a theoretical field, because you know that it can be done and what the result looks like. The art of the possible is what gives TCU and other non-power conference schools hope. They look at what Utah did to Alabama last year in the Sugar Bowl or what Boise State did to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in 2007. They see it can be done and it buoys them. They conveniently ignore what Georgia did to Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl because while it's also possible, it doesn't fit their narrative game plan.

The problem with the art of the possible as it applies to history as opposed to science is that unlike science, where progress always points forward and knowledge learned cannot be unlearned, history evolves where we can define progress, at least we could hope to define it, as moving toward the greater benefit of the largest number of people. The art of the possible in college football means that the landscape of college football has changed, to the benefit of a larger number of teams. Scholarship limits mean that larger schools cannot just horde players for depth, creating a trickle-down effect for other schools. The democratization of television coverage, be it by court decision or by the existence of cable and now the internet, has been a boon for the college football fan as virtually every game in Division I FBS can now be found somewhere to be watched. A fan can know, easily, as much about any of the other 119 FBS schools as they would their own twenty years ago. While 2009 is not a meritocratic wonderland where every team has a fair chance to win the national championship in any given year, it is a much more level playing field than ever before. The problem with this is that while fans may appreciate this on one hand, fans of certain schools may not appreciate the fact that this change means that things can never go back to being the way they were.

Notre Dame had everything going for it in a bygone era. If they were not America's team, they were Catholic America's team, and that's not a little thing. They were the aspiration of every working class high school football player at a Catholic school, and if Notre Dame wanted you, it meant something. Notre Dame was so big it got its own television deal and could remain an independent; long after all of the prestige independents found homes in conferences. Notre Dame carried enough weight to get special rules for itself in the BCS, and even as it is a waning power, their coaching search is still the talk of the college football nation, despite a tantalizing SEC Championship Game on Saturday and a still unsettled Heisman race. Notre Dame means something today because Notre Dame meant something for a long time. The problem is, today's high school junior will not necessarily be swayed by the glories of Notre Dame's black and white past, when Rockne and Leahy and Parseghian are but specters looming over the program and Lou Holtz is the crazy old guy on ESPN who gives the fake pep talks and does the magic tricks. Notre Dame means something, but not what it used to mean. When all you have is tradition to point to, you cling to it hard and fast, because no one can take from you what happened. Notre Dame will need to evolve to remain relevant in the new college football landscape. I suspect it will, simply because there is too much at stake not to do so.

Florida State had everything going for it in a not too bygone era. For 14 straight years, Florida State finished the year in the Top 5 of the AP Poll. Say what you will about polls, no one else has ever done that, in any era. Florida State went 152-18-1 during that period and played for five national championships during that era, more than any other Division I-A school. Florida State had flash, a bit of an edge, great rivalries with two other in-state powers, and a derring-do that said "We'll become the best by playing the best and beating the best." That is Bobby Bowden's doing. He may not invented Florida State football, but he invented Florida State football as anyone outside of Tallahassee knows about it or cares about it. But it's a new era, and since 2000, Bowden's Florida State teams have lost 42 times. That's as just a shade under as many losses as Florida State had from 1980-2000. The standard that Bowden set for Florida State is so impossibly high that I would be happy to argue that no school in a BCS conference could replicate half of it, let alone all of it. But, because the success is so recent, it's hard to understand how the landscape has changed and how it would be difficult to be that successful again. The art of what is possible for Florida State has changed just as much for what happened for Notre Dame. It may be a much quicker change, but it did change. They will evolve and adjust, because they have to and because Florida State fans will accept nothing less.

Which brings us to Michigan. Michigan didn't fire its coach yesterday. It didn't announce a retirement of one of the all-time coaching legends in college football. It didn't make any noise yesterday because its season is over at a disappointing 5-7, no bowl for a second straight year, and other than the crumbs of the recruiting trail, nothing to tide over a frustrated fan base until April at the earliest, and August for most. We've seen the screeds against Coach Rodriguez, claiming he's the wrong guy, desperately wanting him to be gone, and someone more like Bo brought in, because someone more like Bo would make everything better. The thing is, Bo's era is the same bygone era of Notre Dame past, and the same changes in the landscape that have been made to Florida State. A Bo clone could not just come in tomorrow and win 10 games and get Michigan back to the Rose Bowl by virtue of being Bo and doing the things that Bo did, because it is no longer possible. Too much has changed and while we do not have to like it, we need to accept that a new definition of success may be in line for many schools, Michigan included. Michigan held fast against the tide for longer than any other school in the modern era of college football. It doesn't mean that Michigan fans shouldn't want to go to a bowl game every year, that Michigan fans shouldn't want to be playing Ohio State in November with the Big Ten title on the line, that Michigan fans should accept the bending of the rules. What it does mean for every school is that it's a different world, one in which we sail forward on a troubled sea, looking for a shore like the one we were on just two years ago.

We may get back there someday, but it won't be the place we left, because it never is again. We've stepped into a new and larger world, one colder, meaner, and angrier than the one we left, and even should we make it back to the safe harbor of success, we'll know that what is possible changes from decade to decade and from year to year. We'll see the visages of Yale, and Chicago, and Army sailing on the horizon, knowing that their day is safely ensconced in the past. We'll see sleek vessels like Florida, and Boise State, modern, swift, and not encumbered by history, just by the future. We'll see stately ships like Texas and Oklahoma and Alabama and USC, older models who found ways to bring themselves into the present. And we'll see ships like Notre Dame and Florida State sailing along side us, looking for any direction home and hoping that they make it. Know that we're sailing alongside them. We just need fair winds and following seas.