Monday, August 30, 2010

Craig's MGoMix 2010

[Author's note: Today, I'll be breaking down the songs that I put on this year’s MGoMix, the "mix tape" that I make for driving to Michigan football games. It should be noted that this is not a hype mix, it’s more in line with Will Ferrell's character in The Other Guys having Little River Band on as they drive to the call, these are songs which reflect where I am right now as a Michigan football fan. As is the rule, until Michigan wins a Big Ten title, no repeat non-Michigan songs from the previous year’s MGoMix. Also, this entire endeavor owes a debt of gratitude to Geoff for giving me the idea to do it in the first place.]

1). "L'estasi dell'oro (The Ecstasy of Gold)" by Ennio Morricone (from the soundtrack to the 1966 film The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.)

Metallica has used this as their introductory music for every concert since 1983, and it is a perfect mood setter for wanting to get something done.  The Red Wings also used it as part of their pre-game video this past season.
In the film, this track plays while Tuco is frantically searching a graveyard for the grave that holds $200,000 in gold coins.  Which is sort of an apt parallel for Michigan fans the last two seasons when you think about it.  Searching through a graveyard, looking for something shiny and beautiful.

2). "Duck and Cover" by Glen Phillips (from his 2005 album Winter Pays for Summer)

I've always been a huge Toad the Wet Sprocket fan since I was in high school, and so when this track from Glen's solo album came up on Pandora, I was immediately drawn to it.  The lyrics are simply amazing and speak deeply to the Michigan fan experience of the last couple of seasons.  To wit:
Everybody here's got a story to tell
Everybody's been through their own hell
There's nothing too special about getting hurt
Getting over it, that takes the work
Cause one way or another
One way or another
You won't get what you wanted
You'll get enough, for sure
One way or another
Winter pays for the summer
Won't get what you wanted
What you got'll be good
It is my hope that this is pretty much what will happen this season.  You won't get what you wanted, but what you got will be good.

3). "19th Nervous Breakdown" by the Rolling Stones (from the 1966 single "As Tears Go By/19th Nervous Breakdown")

When I was making the mix this year, I had it down to this track or "The Last Time" and I took it to Dave, my college roommate and longtime Michigan football partner in crime to make the decision.  He chose "19th Nervous Breakdown", not simply because it represented how we both feel about the Michigan secondary this season, but also because of the line "Well, nothing I do don't seem to work / It only seems to make the matters worse."  That's the last two seasons in a nutshell.

4). "Don't Let Me Down" by the Beatles (from the 1969 single "Get Back/Don't Let Me Down")

What is an anguished love song/plea from John Lennon to Yoko doing on a college football mix?  Because as a Michigan football fan, you're not rooting for victories, you're rooting not to be disappointed, or to have your heart ripped out in memorable fashion.  "Don't let me down" is the perfect sentiment for this.  It's trust, but verify, at its finest.

5). "Don't Let Go" by Weezer (from the band's 2001 album Weezer (Green Album)

This is the flip side of the "Don't Let Me Down" coin, not letting go.  It would be so easy to give up right now, wait for another losing season, and a new head coach and say "I never liked him, he didn't feel right."  It would be easy, but it doesn't make you a good fan.  Anyone can do that.  You picked the team for a reason, you don't just get up and leave in the middle of it because it's not going the way it had for so long.  Loyalty is a two-way street.  "Confrontations in my mind / Got me running out of time."

6). "Crossfire" by Brandon Flowers (from his forthcoming 2010 debut solo album Flamingo)
As many of you know, I am a huge fan of the Killers.  So when this rotated in on my Pandora in May 2010, I knew this was going to end up being in this year's MGoMix.  Why?
"And we're caught up in the crossfire / of heaven and hell / And were searching for shelter."  Yep, Michigan football for the last two years.

7). "Radiation Vibe" by Fountains of Wayne (from the band's 1996 self-titled album)

I was going to try and connect this to the "I went to Pittsburgh / and joined a pro team / What a bad dream / I broke a knee." but the reality is, I just really like this song and wanted to include it in the mix.  It's that simple.

8). "Reptilia" by The Strokes (from the band's 2003 album Room on Fire.)

This is where we enter the "need to get pumped" section of the MGoMix.  It's upbeat, it's guitar driven, and "I said please don't slow me down / If I'm going too fast / You're in a strange part of our town...", well, that's the Rodriguez offense for you...

9). "Let's Go Blue" by the Michigan Marching Band (from the 1993 album A Saturday Tradition)

Think of it as an interlude, a little intermission before moving on to other things.  Worth noting, "Joe Carl, a tuba player from 1973 to 1976, and Albert Ahronheim, a drum major from 1972 to 1974. It originated as a cheer at Michigan hockey games before moving to the Big House."  I can't verify this with a second source, but it sounds reasonable to me.

10). "Not Afraid" by Eminem (from his 2010 album Recovery)

I am fully and wholly expecting this will show up in a Michigan hype video for 2010, official or otherwise.  Let's run down why:

Chorus that is essentially defiant and calls for a return to previous glory?  Check.
Michigan born and raised product?  Check.
#1 song at some point during 2010? Check.

So yeah, I'm totally going cliche here and I know it.
We'll walk this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just lettin you know that, you're not alone
Holla if you feel like you've been down the same road (same road)
11). “Time Won't Let Me Go" by The Bravery (from their 2007 album The Sun and the Moon)

"Whenever I look back / On the best days of my life / I think I saw them all on T.V."
If I had to figure out a way to describe so much of my early Michigan fandom, this would be it.  Desmond's catch against Notre Dame in 1991, "Hello Heisman", Biakabutuka's 313 yards against Ohio State, Woodson's interception against Michigan State, Navarre's rumble against Minnesota, the Trick Play in Champaign...all of them on TV.  (Yes, I realize that I have also been there for many great moments, Braylonfest, The comeback against Wisconsin, Forcier to Matthews, but it's just still what stuck with me.)

"I am so homesick now for / Someone that I never knew / I am so homesick now for / Someplace I will never be."
(aka The Carr Years)
12). “Show Me What I'm Looking For” by Carolina Liar (from the band’s 2008 album Coming to Terms)

Of any song on here, I think the lyrics for this track best represent Michigan football 2008-09:

Don't let go / I've wanted this far too long / Mistakes become regrets / I've learned to love abuse / Please show me what I'm looking for

Save me, I'm lost / Oh lord, I've been waiting for you / I'll pay any cost / Save me from being confused / Show me what I'm looking for / Show me what I'm looking for…oh lord.
13). “Twilight Zone” by CSS (from the 2009 Lincoln ad campaign.)

Somewhere in a lonely hotel room there's a guy starting to realize that eternal fate has turned its back on him. It's 2 AM.

And then discussing the Michigan fan civil war:

Help, I'm stepping into the Twilight Zone
The place is a mad-house, feels like being cloned
My beacon's been moved under moon and star
Where am I to go now that I've gone too far

Soon you will come to know
When the bullet hits the bone
Soon you will come to know
When the bullet hits the bone
14). “Singular Girl” by Old 97s (a bonus track from the band's 2001 album Satellite Rides)

You've got the teeth of the hyrda upon you.  I love the T.Rex reference.  Plus, Old 97s is one off from Old 98 and Old 97 is a pretty good year in Michigan football history.  Plus, I frequently used "Murder or a H(e)art Attack" to reference Mike Hart runs during his Michigan tenure.  Oh, also:

"I've been trying to find you / May I remind you, I'm under oath now / I've been trying to see you / 'cause I can see you, want the truth now."
15). “In Hiding” by Pearl Jam (from the band's 1998 album Yield)

It's been about three days now
Since I've been aground
No longer overwhelmed and it seems so simple now
It's funny when things change so much
It's all state of mind
It's all State of Mind.  If you believe that there's something good to be seen, we can find it.  Otherwise, we're just doing to keep seeing the bad things, finding fault, and hating life.

16). "A Better Son/Daughter" by Rilo Kiley (from the band's 2002 album The Execution of All Things)

It's highlights set to a waltz
!  It makes sense.  Because sometimes when you're on, you're really fucking on and your friends they sing along, and they love you!   But the lows are so extreme, that the good seems fucking cheap! And it teases you for weeks in its absence!
I know it didn't work out last year, but I still believe this to be true.

17). "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" by Mike and the Mechanics (from the band's 1985 self-titled album.)

OK, so it's a song about a country being over run by a war, civil or otherwise.  Instructions are being giving to someone who is caught in the middle of it.  It's not hopeful, it's practical, and honest.  If I were making a Michigan hype video for this season, it would be to this song (save the fact that you would need to find six minutes of highlights from last season.  Perhaps it's best not to think about it too much...)

Swear allegiance to the flag
Whatever flag they offer
Never hint at what you really feel
Teach the children quietly
For some day sons and daughters
Will rise up and fight while we stood still
The mix then finishes with the Michigan songs run:

18). "Across 110th Street" by J.J. Johnson & His Orchestra
(aka the Michigan Replay theme.  Plus, a bonus Yaphet Kotto reset!)

19). "I Can't Turn You Loose" by the Michigan Marching Band (1993 edition)
(aka the Blues Brothers theme, but more importantly, sometimes there is cake.  You need to get a chance to hear master bluesmen practicing their craft.)

20). "The Hoover Street Rag" by the Michigan Marching Band (1993 edition)
(yeah, like I couldn't have the HSR on this.  The ragtime arraignment of "The Victors." Worth noting, the 1993 album A Saturday Tradition was picked this year in part because it is the album that my brother-in-law was a member of the band for.)

21). "Temptation" by the Michigan Marching Band (1993 edition)
(I have no idea how a standard, made popular by Perry Como, became one of the most beloved songs in the MMB arsenal, but there it is.)

22). "Hawaiian War Chant" by the Michigan Marching Band (1993 edition)
(because you can't have one without the other.)

23). "M Fanfare" by the Michigan Marching Band (1993 edition)

24). "The Victors" by the Michigan Marching Band (1993 edition)
(the standard full version of the Victors.)

25). "The Yellow and Blue" by the Michigan Marching Band (1993 edition)
Closing with the alma mater.  Hoorah for the yellow and blue.  Hail! [small fist raise])

So that's it, that's the list, 78 1/2 minutes of mix.  Probably a bit too depressed for it's own good, but who knows?  Comments, concerns, questions, you know where to find me.  Go Blue!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong."

Yeah, so about that trial balloon. Consider that the optimist in me, and a naive one at best.

So, where does that leave us?

Brian has the roundup of everything you need to get caught up to speed on this matter (the Bucknuts piece is very much worth the read), but as I read, my mind wandered and I was struck by this (slightly modified) notion:

"We of the [Big Ten] administration who participated in the decisions on [divisional alignment] acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this [conference]. We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why."

That is a modified version of the opening of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's 1995 book In Retrospect where he examined the decision making that went on during the Vietnam War in the highest levels of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. What has always struck me about this (and McNamara's later comments in The Fog of War) is that rarely do people who are making decisions think "I am making a terrible decision, but I am going to continue to do so, because I love making terrible decisions." There are reasons, and people believe they are good reasons, and it is sometimes only when it is too late to see the folly.

I guess what makes me sad is that there's no good way to do this, when you think about it:

1). Michigan and Ohio State in the same division

Pro: They would still play at the end of the season. In 9 of the last 13 seasons, it is likely that the outcome of the Game would have decided the division winner.

Con: They would not still play for the right to go to the Rose Bowl/BCS/What have you.

2). Michigan and Ohio State in different divisions, play the last game of the regular season.

Pro: They would still play at the end of the season.

Con: The game might have little to no impact on who plays in the Championship game, and if it does, it sets up a potential rematch the next week, which diminishes the value of the product.

3). Michigan and Ohio State in different divisions, play at some other point in the season.

Pro: Makes a potential Big Ten championship game between Michigan and Ohio State more appealing to television. Con: Ends 75 years of tradition. Diminishes the meaning of "The Game".

So, they'll, of course, do #3, because they'll see the revenue projections and they'll say "We'd be stupid NOT to do this. Look at the money." Meanwhile, a little part of the soul of every Big Ten fan dies. They try to make it better by introducing new rivalries, or convincing you that it's better this way, but you're not stupid, you know better. You know that playing Michigan State on Thanksgiving weekend is not only wrong, but that it actually benefits Michigan State because they actually get their Michigan obsessed existence justified. Ohio State, meanwhile, is playing Penn State or Nebraska in the final game of the season, and it's a good game, and people are interested, but it's not the same. It's like Coca-Cola Classic. Because you no longer have the real thing, you now have to accept the imitation that's close to the original, but just doesn't taste the same.

In other places, there are people who don't get it, who don't understand why this matters, and why we're making such a big deal about it. The rest of college football has changed, the Big Ten should be no different. But please be understanding if some of us feel like something that matters to us is dying. And life will go on, and we'll get through, but we will miss it, and we will be sad when we look back on what once was and what went away because of decision makers who thought they were doing what was in the best interest of the conference. And perhaps down the line some say, Jim Delany, or someone of his ilk, will come back and say "We were wrong, terribly wrong" or something similar, and it won't make us feel better, because it won't bring back what we have lost.

There's still time, there's still a chance, there's still ways to make your voice heard. I encourage you to do what you need to do to make yourself feel like you have made a difference. Even if it doesn't end up making a difference in the end. You'll be like General Winfield Scott Hancock in Gods and Generals, reviewing General Burnside's plan for the assault on Mayre's Heights behind Fredricksburg in 1862 via pontoon boat.

"No, general, we'll meet them head on. And it will be a bloody mess. We'll march up to that hill there, and we'll eat their artillery fire all the way across this field. And when it's over, we'll be able to look at ourselves and say: "We're good soldiers. We did what we were told." If we're not successful, we can say it was a good plan, but there were contingencies. You can go back to your hometown and tell the families of your men they died doing their duty."

Friday, August 20, 2010

"It's a damn trial balloon, Kenny!"

So, this happened.

David Brandon went on the radio this morning and cautioned Michigan football fans that it may be the end of the (football) world as they know it, and they should feel fine. Michigan fans, being Michigan fans, did, well pretty much the exact opposite.

As I stated over at, and will expand upon here, I have a theory, for what it is worth.

Consider whom were dealing with here. David Brandon. The guy who Michigan fans have been resoundingly praising as a savior for the Michigan Athletic Department, a man who exudes strength, leadership, confidence, and charisma from the Athletic Department offices. A guy who spent a long time in the business world and who played football at Michigan during the Ten Year War. He is pretty much the wish list of what Michigan fans, old school, new school, and every school in between, could ask for in an AD. This is why I firmly believe that David Brandon is test marketing this idea, just like he and his leadership team at Domino's test marketed the new Domino's Pizza. He's getting critical feedback on what matters to Michigan fans (and Ohio State fans. As I said, this may be the first thing that Michigan and Ohio State fans have ever agreed upon. Seriously, Michigan fans could say the sky is blue, and Ohio State fans would say that the sky is "OH-IO." But this, this we agree upon. "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!"). He can then take it back to the other ADs and to Jim Delany and say "Look, this is a dumb idea. Here's WHY it's a dumb idea." He may be "the new guy", but when you're a smart guy, when you do your homework, when you show up with the data, people will listen. They may not agree with you, but they will listen. It's the James Madison theory of committee meetings.

Because it's not just Michigan fans and Ohio State fans who feel this way. This is becoming an MSM thing and it is being picked up by national writers. This is why I am convinced that it's a trial balloon and it's savvy business. This is the worst case scenario for Michigan and Ohio State fans, right? So anything else they come up with will seem better by comparison. But more importantly, there's still time to fix this and to placate the masses by saying "We heard you! The traditions of the Big Ten mean something to our fans and our alumni and we want to do what we can to preserve them."

Notice that no one is rolling out the old chestnuts about how Michigan and Ohio State didn't start playing until the last game of the season since 1935, about how Michigan and Ohio State have both gone to Hawaii in some years, about how the Big Ten Championship game between Michigan and Ohio State would be huge? No, because they know that they won't hold water. Eyeballs are eyeballs, but Michigan and Ohio State is about emotion, it's as close as anything in the Big Ten comes to pure SEC fan insanity (meant in the most respectful and awestruck way possible SEC fans.) On Eight Simple Rules, John Ritter's character Paul said "For Michigan fans, football is a religion. And the Ohio State game is Easter." He was right. It's a religious thing. To do this would be to tell Michigan and Ohio State fans that Easter is now in August and well, get over it.

There is also an additional benefit. With David Brandon discussing this situation in this manner, it frames Michigan in a very positive long-time, big picture light. Michigan may be down at the moment, The Game may not have gone Michigan's way during the last decade, but it still matters. David Brandon is focusing attention right now on Michigan, the brand, Michigan, the all-time winningest program in Division I football history, not Michigan, the 2010 football team, not Michigan, the house divided. Given everything that has happened this week when the focus has been on the 2010 team and how it's been Panic! in the Disco, and fire at the Taco bell, this, to me, feels like a smart CEO protecting his flagship brand by talking about changing it. Plus, in discussing changing it, doesn't it focus on what makes Big Ten football great, focusing on what many consider to be the greatest rivalry in all of North American sports? This is not just Michigan, this is Michigan and Ohio State, the yin and yang of a spiritual battle for the soul of Midwestern football. Blue versus red. The Victors versus Carmen Ohio. Touching the Banner versus Script Ohio. Winged Helmets versus Buckeye stickers and gold pants. Bo vs. Woody. Good versus evil (your side may vary).

What if this is the Big Ten football equivalent of New Coke? What if we're being played exactly like the very smart men in charge of multi-million dollar enterprises want us to be played? What if this is nothing more than a trial balloon?

That is, at least, my hope. Because otherwise, it will be the end of the football world as we know it, and I'll be very sad.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Michigan logos, a primer

The inspiration for this post comes from this post by Greg Dooley at MVictors. (If you don't already check out Greg on a daily basis, you should do so. He's exceptional at what he does.)
I also want to tip my hat to this MGoBoard thread which brought me to this place.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about Michigan is that it has had a variety of logos through the years, and even the Block M has had variations within any given space or time.   When I got the banner seen below for Christmas a couple of years ago, I became even more fascinated by the variations.

So, with this in mind, I am going to post several Michigan logos below, with captions. I will then discuss them below.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Earning your wings

Five thoughts on the contrivoversy* about certain Michigan football players not having the traditional wings on the helmet during fall practices:

1). AP teachers often discuss among themselves the idea that one of the hardest types of students to deal with is the student who has never known failure before. You've made it through to a point where you think that you're invincible, and then you're faced with a challenge where you, despite your talent, do not succeed against an objective standard. At this divergence point, some students will buckle down, redouble their efforts, and figure it out, but others will have a complete meltdown and just start to act out, like it's not worth their time, like that if they can't do it, it's not worth it. So, when faced with a talented student who does not know how to handle the situation in front of them, motivational ploys can be employed. Sometimes is the carrot, sometimes it's the stick; sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

2). This is a classic case of people seeing what the want to see. Some will see it as a great motivational ploy by a coach trying to get the most out of his players. Others will see it as a signal of a desperate coach who has lost his team and is now playing games to try and look like he still knows what he's doing.

3). One thing that confuses me about the haters on this one is, if one of the arguments against Coach Rodriguez is that he doesn't "get" Michigan, he doesn't understand the traditions and the things that mean the most to Michigan fans, wouldn't taking away the wings from a players helmet show that they are something important, something that is earned, not given? Wouldn't this go into the "getting it" side of the ledger?

4). Bill Bradley once said that "Becoming number one is easier than remaining number one." Because behind you is someone talented, someone motivated by the fact that they are being told, through empirical means, that they are not as good as someone else. Some will not rise to the challenge, but others will. In this case, it is entirely possible that we have a quarterback who has been groomed to be a quarterback his whole life who has the academic side of the game down, but is perhaps lacking in the physical tools (allowing for an injury which limited his mobility and development.) On the other side, we have a spectacularly talented player, one who has shown flashes of brilliance, but is exceedingly raw, in part because he has only had limited training on the academic side of the game, and one, who by all accounts, has taken to the training with vigor and earnestness. If that means that #2 is coming up fast on #1, well, maybe #1 needs to think about staying #1 rather than relinquishing it.

5). The season cannot get here soon enough. Seriously.

*-contrivoversy--A word coined by my quiz bowl friend and Red Sox beat writing pal Jon Couture to describe a media invented, fan fueled controversy which really isn't that big a deal in the end.

Friday, August 06, 2010

First MMB Shows of 2010

This is what we know so far:
9/4: Blues Brothers (feat. "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," "Gimme Some Lovin'," "Minnie the Moocher," "Peter Gunn," "Think," "Shake a Tail Feather," and of course, "Can't Turn You Loose.")
9/11: Assume a repeat of the "Blues Brothers" show at Notre Dame.
9/18: Lady Gaga
No details are known yet, but Ms. Gaga is performing at the Palace on September 4th. Like how Patrick Stewart conducted the MMB while he was in town, perhaps she could stick around and make a weirdly relevant appearance.
Anyway, this is a very strong start to the 2010 season!