Wednesday, September 10, 2014

State Fair Omaha

I can't come back, I don't know how it works! Good-bye, folks!
"I can't come back, I don't know how it works! Good-bye, folks!"
One of the absolute great lines in The Wizard of Oz, both the book and the movie, is when the Wizard, having been found out, is accused of being a very bad man by the Scarecrow.  The Wizard replies:

"Oh, no my dear. I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad Wizard."

I have a great empathy for Brady Hoke's comments on Monday, specifically:
"If they're truly fans, they'll believe in these kids and the hard work they've put in.  If they're not, they won't."

Now, I personally believe that you really can never do well as a coach to talk about your fans in any manner other than the most glowing terms, for the simple reason that it's the reddest of red meat.  Journalists ask the question, knowing that the answer is a clear hook and headline for their article about the presser, but again, the ministorm that erupted in the wake of Hoke's answer proves why that answer should have been something like "Michigan fans are great, and while they're disappointed, so are we, but I have faith in them that they know the hard work we're putting in and that the results will be more like what they hope for in the coming weeks."

But, I get it, at some point, when you're a coach, when people have been speculating about your future for the entire summer, when you know that 11-2 to 8-5 to 7-6 is not "acceptable" to anyone, when you set the bar at Big Ten Championships and haven't even sniffed the title game in your three years, it has to wear on you.  We want coaches to be a hundred different things and to be excellent at them all.  You can make the case that a place like Michigan wants/deserves to have a coach that is excellent at all of these things, but that is another discussion for another day.

I empathize with Brady Hoke though on the effort/results issue though.  It's a teacher thing.  You look at your classes and you know you're responsible for their results and you do the best job you can in getting them ready and they look good in practice and you feel like they're ready to go, and then when the moment comes, it falls apart.  Consequences come from the failures in the moment, even though people will tell you that it's everything that leads up to the moment that is more important.  So when you look at what Brady Hoke sees, kids he recruited to Michigan, kids working hard in practice, looking like they're ready to go, and then falling flat on their face, it has to hurt.  And it probably leads you to say something slightly untowards because you possess knowledge that the average person does not, in part because you have kept that knowledge from people.  It cuts both ways in that regard.

For all of my love of metacognition, I don't know if Brady Hoke is a good coach.  The fact that he has won a coach of the year award at Ball State, San Diego State, and Michigan is certainly an argument in his favor.  But I do believe he is a very good man.  And at the core of who I am as a person, I truly believe that this is what will carry Michigan to better days.  Perhaps it will, perhaps it won't.  But I must believe that a good man can find his way out of a hole, and lead everyone else with him.  I have no proof that it will, but I choose to believe it will, because as much as loving to hate the team we love is Ann Arbor's second most popular pastime, it also places a great strain on one's soul.  After all, if I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: Hope dies last.

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