Monday, December 30, 2013

Lost in Space

Luna-Lost in Space-1995
(Sorry gang, can't embed, but you can listen along)

You heard it all before
And said your case was tragic
You heard it all before
And now they say it's magic

You need
Time off
For good
And you know there's something else
But you can't give a name
Someone's selling all your heroes

And it seems such a shame

Maybe the worst part about being 7-6 is that one literally cannot know if things will get better or worse next year because both possibilities seem equally probable.  People like to say "Michigan was just three plays away from 9-4" which, OK, sure, (A Gibbons make in the Penn State game, the two point conversion in the Ohio State game, I can accept both of those as they were so late in the game, the quantum realities that exist from that point are limited, especially the Gibbons field goal.)  We were also easily two plays away from being 5-7 (Gibbons misses in the rain in Evanston, Akron connects on the final play of the game).  So 7-6 is probably right and fitting, win some, lose some.

But it really is hard to know what to think for next year, which is probably for the best that we can have some time away from this, some distance before we must contemplate the future, in both short and long terms.  There is talent, I know it because I have seen it and because everyone who seems to know these things better than I do tells me so.  The question is, can there be improvement?  Will there be improvement?  Because I think the athletic department knows there has to be.

The Athletic Department is in a bind.  It is facing the worst home football schedule in Michigan's history, an increasingly disgruntled, or at the very least, discontented fan and alumni base, who feels increasingly hit in the wallet when asked to re-up for season tickets, facing a Michigan Stadium atmosphere that feels less and less like the one that people cherished and more and more like a multi-level marketing...wait, sorry...synergy machine that we're told is the future because the people who get to make these decisions want to create the future, whether or not anyone wants to go along with them for the ride.   By the same token, they want to sell us on the glory of the past, which starts to feel more and more like imperial decline, like remembering the high water mark of the empire and silently (or sometimes more loudly) fretting that the grandest days are behind us (Notre Dame reclaiming the winning percentage mark after ten years in part because they made up SEVEN games on Michigan in the last two years would be a good example of that kind of fear in a more tangible form.)

And by the way, as guilty of this as I am, don't think for a moment that collectively telling ourselves that this is all just 2013's fault isn't a symptom of this fear.  Because the alternative is far darker.

Maybe the greatest gift of growing up is that you can still appreciate things that meant so much to you in your childhood and young adulthood without being consumed by them.  I still care about this program, about this team, about these players, but it no longer drives my mood for a week.  It's the realization not that there are more important things, though there are, but that willingly handing your emotional state to things well outside control is just a really poor decision for one's temperament.  (I would like to thank the Detroit Lions for helping me reach this realization sooner rather than later.)

So, come August, well cheer again, we'll get excited about the players who made significant strides during fall camp, we'll look at the schedule and try to find those nine wins, knowing that we're not going to Indianapolis without some good luck.  We'll say goodbye to our friends from South Bend, because it is ending because of the new world order, and we'll welcome some new "friends" from the East for the same reason, looking at them sideways the way one one might with step-siblings (Yes, there's a Brady Bunch joke there.  Yes, I am declining to make it.)  We'll show up and we'll hope and we'll complain and we'll wonder, going up, or going down?  Because right now, we just don't know.

Farewell Team 134.  Godspeed to you Team 135.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Smash Mouth Football

It started here...
Then this happened...
And, well, since bad song parodies are a thing we do here...

Somebody once told me the SEC is gonna roll me
But they ain't the sharpest tool in the shed
We were looking kind of dumb with our offense in the 'gun
In the shape of an "I" it's what the Borge said

Well, the hits start coming and they don't stop coming
If you don't block, can get the ground running
Didn't make sense not to block or run
Your lizard brain isn't smart so your OC gets dumb

So much to do, beat UConn by three
Couple of bounces might have prevented some bad beats.
You'll never know if you don't go
But then Gibbons misses two off his toe

Hey now, you're mediocre
Head to Tempe, Go, Play

Hey now, you lost to Penn State
Are you surprised this bowl's lame?

It's a hot seat and they say it gets warmer
They're fired up now but wait 'til your O Line gets older
But the media men beg to differ
Judging by the hole in the B1G ring picture

Safety depth is getting pretty thin
Gardner's gettin sacked, makes it tough to win
Sparty couches on fire. How about yours?
That's the way we like it as we say stuff untoward.

[Chorus 2x]

Somebody once preened should we call a bubble screen
I need to make plays in space
I said yep what a concept
Just got to execute better myself
Ignoring the calls for O-Coordinator change

Well, the hits start coming and they don't stop coming
If you don't block, can't get the ground running
Didn't make sense not to block or run
Your lizard brain isn't smart so your offense plays dumb

So much to do, beat UConn by three
Couple of bounces might have prevented some bad beats.
You'll never know if you don't go
But then Gibbons misses two off his toe


And all DB wants is gold
Need a title to break the mold

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Yosef Looks Familiar

Appalachian State announced a new alternate logo this week called "Victory Josef." Reaction from the Internet has been mixed. ASU alumni are reportedly supportive of the new logo, but they also liked the "Hot Hot Hot" video, so their taste is questionable at best.

It's a bold move rolling out new product in advance of next fall's Clonus Horror at the Big House. All those ASU shirts in Columbus must be getting worn out by now. But Yosef looks awfully familiar. Let's turn him 90 degrees and switch out his hat:

There we have it. Brian's been working on the inside over there to make sure The Horror doesn't happen again. Now let's put him back in profile:

"Panic and Run Around Screaming" is perfectly good advice after realizing how much you shelled out for a 2014 home schedule featuring Appalachian State.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


Toledo Blade/Andy Morrison
from Latin val─ôre: to be strong

In the end, it was for them and we're just happy to have been a part of it.  This isn't about moral victories or taking solace in the margin being closer even if the result was what most of us expected at the beginning of the week.  It is for them.  If we doubt that, just look at Devin Gardner's face as he meets with the media after the game.  He doesn't look that way because he let us down, no, it is because he knows he let his teammates down, even if the reality of the day contradicts that feeling.  As much as any person on the field, he got his team in a position to go for that win when very few people outside of their locker room thought it was even possible.  Then they didn't get that win, and the feeling sucks, and you try telling him otherwise.

But perhaps the most telling reaction to Saturday is the seemingly overwhelming approbation, both local and national, for the decision to go for two.  Hoke said that he asked the seniors if they wanted to do it and they claim to a man, they said yes.  I respect the decision even more for one of the core principles of leadership, trust your people, believe in them.  The players, in the end, owned that choice as much as Hoke.  Win or lose, they all owned the decision.  Hoke gave his players agency in a world where all too often they are treated as interchangeable parts in a machine.  In the end, eleven moving parts couldn't make it happen because of eleven other moving parts with the directive to stop them.  In another reality, they did make it.  But neither set of players in these parallel realities will ever know how the other feels, but as I said yesterday, to once again draw on the wisdom of the War Doctor, "at worst, we failed doing the right thing, as opposed to succeeding in doing the wrong,"

We spend so much time obsessing over what it means to be a "Michigan man" to the point where we are readily parodied for it. But Saturday reminded me why we end up loving these teams and these players, win or lose.  We do get those occasional glimpses of just how much this means to them, how much they truly embrace the ethos of team, instead of it slowly becoming a marketing gimmick to repeated at halftime.  They're not perfect, but neither are we.  But I was reminded, as the Tom Brady speech to Team 134 was replayed on the video board during the game, the players in that room all chose Michigan, just like all of us did, alumnus, student, and supporter alike.  The circumstances of that choosing will vary from person to person, but like the decision to go for two, we own that choice.  We may get frustrated by any number of things, we may be upset by the outlook for the future, but it is only because we care so deeply about that choice.  It defines us in ways that we don't even always want to acknowledge because society frowns upon the level of devotion that we may grant to a secular entity.  But the things that define us, shape us, inform us, all serve to reflect to the world what we hope to see in ourselves.  So we can find a way to be angry with the result, but be proud of the effort, because we are gifted with a first-rate intelligence, one with is "the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

So to Team 134, that latest link in the Maize Chain of Being, we salute you.  We are reminded of the words of our University's co-founder in the wake of the fire that destroyed Detroit in 1805: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus; or "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes."

In the end, perhaps this was an exercise in reminding us of the meaning of valiant and while it always feels better to be victorious and valiant, we can always try to be valiant nonetheless.