Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HSR Exclusive: Mailbag!

Due to the recent email messages that have come to light, Dave Brandon has taken a leave of absence from responding to his email from various alumni and season ticket holders. In his stead, a number of guest authors have taken his place.

Mr. Brandon,

In the long history of my Michigan fandom, I have never been as disappointed in my alma mater as I am right now.  Not for the on the field product, but rather for the continuing litany of gaffes, both small and significant, that the athletic department seems committed to making on an almost daily basis.  I will not be renewing my tickets next year after 35 seasons as a season ticket holder and donor.

Thank you,
David Sanderson

Mr. Sanderson,

Pray tell whatever gaffes do you speak of for this great Meeechingan of ours?  While mistakes have been made, they have been made doing the great things, trying the bold and the innovative, creating a tradition and a future of which all Meeechigan men can be proud.  We hope that our new commitment to the moral benefits young men receive from playing foot ball will bring you back to Ferry Field next fall.

F. H. Yost,
Foot Ball Department
Michigan Athletic Association

[Dictated to an urchin while running down State Street upon disembarking from a train]

Mr. Brandon,

My family and I have been season ticket holders since the early 1970's, and it pains me to say that we won't be renewing them this year. The price of the tickets, plus the "voluntary" donation, is just too much for us to bear on our fixed income, as my wife and I recently retired. Michigan Stadium has been so important to us, but squeezing every last cent out of the fan base has left us cold. We feel left out of the Michigan family.

James Fairfield

Mr. Fairfield,

DISRESPECT. You feel left out? How dare you. I bet you don't respect football enough to earn the right to buy these tickets. This is a game for men, and men do what it takes to get the job done.

Pride goeth before the fall,
Mark Dantonio

Dear David Brandon,

I've been going to football games at Michigan Stadium since I was a young boy, so I've been through the lean times and the good times. But I can't say I've ever seen such a sorry stretch of football.  The RichRod years were a disaster, and hiring Brady Hoke has just made things worse. Until things change, you won't be seeing me on Saturday and my donations will go somewhere they make a difference.

Raylon Bedwards

Dear Raylon,

I think you're aware of my policy. I'm going to need you to bring me something from the dictionary for us to continue this conversation.

Lloyd Carr

Dear Coach Carr,

My word is "autoclave". An autoclave is a pressure chamber used to sterilize equipment and supplies with high pressure steam.


Dear Raylon,

Thank you.  I appreciate your letter, and I've given it a lot of thought.  It sounds to me like you and Michigan football aren't on the same page. If you want a situation where you can be #1, maybe you should transfer your allegiances to someplace more suitable. Central or Eastern would definitely appreciate you, or any other non-Big Ten institution would be acceptable to us. I've attached the transfer paperwork to this email.

Lloyd Carr

PS: If you change your mind and commit to sticking it out, I have a group of young men who run the stairs every morning. It's tremendous.

Mr. Brandon,

It has occurred to me 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.  So here's to hoping for bowl eligibility.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

Mr. Fitzgerald,

I suggest, once again, you quit drinking and go to bed.


H.O Crisler
Football Coach
Board in Control of Physical Education
Ferry Field, Ann Arbor
University of Michigan

Dear Mr. Brandon,

I'm sick and tired of the athletic department rolling out these idiotic schemes and then having to walk everything back when the students and the alumni get wind of them. The noodle, the Coke incident, and the student ticket policy were just foolish.  Getting stuck with playing MSU and OSU on the road every other year is actively detrimental to our success and the athletic department's bottom line. Please be less embarrassing.


James Lindgren

Dear Mr. Lind,

Well, the noodle...I haven't been fully informed about that.  The Coke thing was something from the marketing...their marketing department which we never approved. The student ticket policy, I've been told that they're OK, just an ankle thing, though we don't usually comment on injuries. I don't think we're playing them both on the road every year, just this time. We wouldn't do  that every other year. Anyway, it's all part of big boy football.  I love our kids, we're just going to go out there and compete.

Brady Hoke
It's Michigan fergodsakes!

Mr. Brandon,

I think the time has come that you have to let Brady Hoke go. The mismanagement of the Shane Morris injury is the last straw for me. I would say anything less than 8-4 and you have to fire him anyway, but leaving a kid in there after a shot like Morris took is just unacceptable.

Al Stapleton

Mr. Stapleton,

The first thing you have to understand is that Adreain Payne has a child's lungs. He can't go like some of the other guys, he just gets gassed. And Gary Harris is out there playing on a wooden pirate leg.  Drew Neitzel has alopecia, and that lack of self-confidence really impacts his game.  Goran Suton is from a different galaxy and he's just getting used to Earth's gravity, so you have to be patient with him. Draymond Green, he gives everything he's got on every play, but he's playing with seal flippers sewed to his arm stumps.  What I'm trying to say is we're pretty banged up, and the refs don't give us the calls because we're Michigan State.

Tom Izzo

PS: Next year I'm dressing up as Jason Bateman in Teen Wolf Too! The kids are going to go nuts!

Mr. Brandon,

After all the price increases and embarrassing incidents, I don't think you have what it takes to be the athletic director at the University of Michigan. Do everyone a favor and quit now, so the university can save the outrageous three million bucks in your buyout.

James Anderson

Dear Mr. Anderson,

I regret to inform you that we cannot answer your recent email. Coach Hayes is already quite incensed that it made it past his spam filter and has destroyed several chairs and a down marker; I suspect your use of "bucks" is what allowed it to slip through. He has had me print it out and burn it, his computer, and our servers, after which the ashes will be couriered to the state line and dumped, as Coach Hayes is loathe to pollute our fair Ohio with such detritus from That School Up North. Please accept this letter as my personal apology.

Yours truly,
Rachel H. Phillips
Executive Secretary to Coach W.W. Hayes, The Ohio State University

Dear Mr. Brandon,

For all of Michigan's marketing of "legacy" and "history", the future which you so claim to love looks bleak and foreboding.  What steps are you taking to bring Michigan back to the pride of the good old days?  I hope you have a plan and a vision, because right now, it's as dark as midnight round here.

Hopeful for the future,
Sherman Williams

Mr. Williams,

Gordon Berenson

Coach Berenson,

I've renewed my football season tickets and applied for hockey season tickets. I cut the grass, did the laundry, cleaned the house, helped my kids with their homework, paid my bills, balanced my checkbook, did my taxes, and rescued a puppy. I hope this is satisfactory.

Sherman Williams

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stubborn Love

The dumbest part of this whole thing is that when I was going through the schedule, that twisted modified schedule that Delany handed us as part of the Rutgers/Maryland package, I knew, I knew that this was a loss.  I've known it since last year.  I didn't see anyway around it.

She'll tear a hole in you, the one you can't repair
But I still love her, I don't really care

So why did it still hurt?  Was it the particular level of ineptitude, even knowing that Michigan was more than capable of it?  Was it because losing to a rival stinks any way you slice it?  I don't know, I wish I knew?

When we were young, oh, oh, we did enough
When it got cold, ooh, ooh, we bundled up
I can't be told, ah, ah, it can't be done

Goodness knows it would be so much easier not to care.  To chalk it up to another bad season, a dead coach walking scenario, to check the score when it was over and wait for better days and brighter tomorrows.  But we don't.  And I don't know that I get it.  I can't explain to you why I want to watch next week against Indiana, I can't explain it at all.  And yet I do.

It's better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love's indifference
So pay attention now, I'm standing on your porch screaming out
And I won't leave until you come downstairs

I've said so much before about why I think we keep coming back, but all of those things might just be cover for the fact that we need to believe in something larger than ourselves.  We love being an individual, but to share a belief with a group of like minded people is powerful.  The down side of that connection is that you're never going to always be on top.

So keep your head up, keep your love
Keep your head up, my loveKeep your head up, my love 
Keep your head up, keep your love

Homecoming next week will be like so many cliche family holiday gatherings, too much tension, too high of expectations, inevitable disappointments.  But keep your head up, keep your love.  Because some day, it will be better.  Some day you'll be able to tell people you got through the hard time.  Some day you'll appreciate the good more because you've been through this.

Friday, October 24, 2014

We happy few

Once upon a time, on October 25, a noble power was in a bit of a slump.  Things looked gloomy as they faced a massive battle with rival on the rival's home turf, even though they probably should have been playing at home this time.

But then, as the masses lamented their sad state of affairs, their leader came forth with his own version of the aneurysm of leadership.

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V,
 Act IV, Scene iii, 18–67.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ten Years Gone

(Author's note: Before I was a blogger here, I had my own personal blog.  It was your standard zaniness of a 20-something with too much time on his hands and a belief that people wanted to read every thought you had in an era before Twitter, where we now know this to be true.  The following is my "game story" from Thought for the Day (TFTD) from Monday, November 1, 2004.  As it is Michigan State week, it felt right to share my own trip back to Braylonfest, before we even knew we were calling it Braylonfest. I will attempt to annotate as appropriate.)

Games I Watched: 
#11 Michigan 45, Michigan State 37--I was at this game. I must tell the story of this game. All other games you can read about elsewhere, right now, you get this game. 

In Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby writes: 

"For a match to be really, truly memorable, the kind of game that sends you home buzzing inside with the fulfillment of it all, you require as many of the following features as possible. 

(1) Goals: As Many As Possible. 
(2) Outrageously bad refereeing decisions 
(3) A noisy crowd 
(4) Rain, a greasy surface, etc. 
(5) Opposition misses a penalty (or a late game field goal to win it.) 
(6) Member of the opposition receives a red card. 
(7) Some kind of 'disgraceful incident'" 

OK, so let's look at this in terms of Michigan's win, and adjust for American football: 

(1) Goals: As Many As Possible. 
Well, let's see. With 7 minutes or so to go in the fourth, it was 27-10, which is pretty high scoring. By the end of the game, it was 45-37, so yes, we have that. 

(2) Outrageously bad refereeing decisions, preferably against your team that do not cost your team the game. 
Oh, well, which one would you like? The reversal on the roughing the kicker that went for State, the fumble out of bounds that State never had, the phantom pass interference that allowed State to try its last second field goal in the fourth. I think we have a winner here. 

(3) A noisy crowd 
The loudest that a Michigan crowd has ever been in my experience, and that includes after the 1997 Ohio State game. Part of the problem is that the noise just gets sucked into the bowl and sort of dies, it's very hard to sustain any noise. But as the comeback got rolling and there started to be a true sense of belief, it got very loud, very quickly and sustained itself to the point of hoarseness. 

(4) Rain, a greasy surface, etc. 
In our case, major sustained winds throughout. It was going to wreak havoc all day and it did. It also made it very cold by the end of the night. Also, it was a 3:30 start, which meant it was dark by the time the whole thing was over. That is a very rare thing at Michigan Stadium and I think will add to the mystique of the game. 

(5) Opposition misses a penalty 
OK, in American football parlance, this would be opposition misses a late game field goal which would win it. And well, yes, made better by the fact that it came right at Dave and I and fell short. 

(6) Member of the opposition receives a red card. 
American football lacks this, and I have a hard time drawing a parallel. 

(7) Some kind of "disgraceful incident" 
When Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton went down in the second quarter, [college roommate/longtime seatmate] Dave turned to me and said "It's 100,000 people trying very hard not to cheer." As [longtime friend/now cousin in law] Mike pointed out yesterday, "And only 80,000 were successful." As much as Stanton was killing us, and I mean, he was destroying us, you can't cheer when the kid gets hurt, even if he was running with the ball. It's just bad form. Kind of shameful, no matter what the positive outcome that may occur for your team as a result of the injury. 

Now, I will add three personal criteria that I also think you need. 
(8) It is better if it is a rivalry game. 
Had Michigan rallied to beat, say, Indiana, I don't know it would have been AS exciting. Knowing that they rallied to beat State, saving us, the alums, from a year of Sparties lording it over us, which you know they would, is a tremendous thing. 

(9) Spectacular plays, especially for scores. 
Let's see, there was the amazing onside kick recovery, there was Braylon's first touchdown grab in Desmond corner, there was Braylon's SECOND touchdown grab in Desmond corner, there was Avant's "miracle make-sure I get a leg in" catch in the overtime, so yes, we had plenty of that. 

(10) You have to be there with someone who shares the same intensity and passion for the team as you do. 
This was not a game for a first date or an introduction to the game, this was a game where you go with your friend who has been there with you for years, who knows the whole history as well as you do, who understands the up and down, and who gets your jokes about or at least appreciates your witty comments. I had long-time partner in crime Dave and it made the whole thing even more spectacular. 

Part of the reason that i am not a sports journalist is that I know I am not able to fully convey what I saw on Saturday, and certainly not with an even-handed approach. But I do know when Braylon scored that touchdown to make it 27-20, I said "Uh-oh, Sparty hears footsteps." And I know that a comeback is best experienced in person, but it's still not the best Michigan game that I have ever attended in person. OK, here it is, my Top Five: 

1). 10/18/1997: #5 Michigan 28, #15 Iowa 24 
At halftime, Iowa leads 21-7, thanks in part to a brilliant Tim Dwight punt return for a TD. It's late October and the dream of an undefeated season is hanging in the balance. Michigan roars back with two third quarter TDs, the defense stiffens and Michigan emerges with a 28-24 win. Part of what makes a great game is what the stakes are. Michigan season this year was already somewhat sullied in South Bend, the Iowa game represented the march of the possible. 

2). 10/30/2004: #11 Michigan 45, Michigan State 37 (3OT) 
See previous. 

3). 10/12/2002: #13 Michigan 27, #15 Penn State 24 (OT) 
The only other overtime game in Michigan history, this one stems from the fact that it had me sitting in the closest you can get to F. Scott's at the Big House thanks to [friend/game show winner] Kevin's largesse. 

4). 11/22/1997: #1 Michigan 20, #4 Ohio State 14 
Charles Woodson's punt return wins him the Heisman. Michigan's win over the Buckeyes seals the first Rose Bowl bid since in the Carr era. 

5). 08/31/1996: #12 Michigan 20, Illinois 8 
Not a particularly great game, but it was my first game as a Michigan student, it was my 18th birthday, and thanks to my efforts, most of Stevenson's class of 1996 that was attending the U was sitting in Section 30 with Dave and I. 

Also, this is from Slate this morning: 

ORLANDO?The South Florida Sun-Sentinel buried this nugget Sunday in a story about the late delivery of 2,500 absentee ballots in Broward County: WPLG-Channel 10, an ABC affiliate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, aired a half-hour chunk of Stolen Honor, the 43-minute anti-Kerry documentary, on Saturday. The time was purchased by Newton Media, a Virginia-based media placement company that says it was founded "on biblical principles" and that includes a number of "media ministries" among its clients. 

Angry callers "flooded the customer service phone lines" at the station for airing the program, the Sun-Sentinel reported. A liberal backlash? No, just sports fans upset that the Michigan-Michigan State football game, "tied, 37-37, and about to go into overtime," was pre-empted. Doesn't anyone at Newton Media know the story of the "Heidi game"? 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Central Student Government, U-M LS&A Agree to Collaboration

Source: focus.lsa.umich.edu.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has reached a contentless agreement with Central Student Government announced at the monthly Board of Regents meeting held today (Monday, Oct. 20) at the U-M Flint campus.

CSG President Bobby Dishell made a presentation to the Regents regarding the findings from a CSG survey about the student experience at English composition courses and the student body's relationship with the history department. He outlined the following agreements between Michigan LS&A and CSG that will take effect immediately:

  • LS&A will work to design a new plan for next semester that will include a significant price decrease for freshman physics textbook prices. LS&A will announce student textbook prices for the 2015 winter semester next week.
  • Rental fees for LS&A facilities will be eliminated for student groups with a charitable focus.
  • The department has committed to work with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation to create a blackout weekend where the Modern Languages Building will be available for quizbowl tournaments in 2016.
  • Monthly meetings with students will be held with LS&A Dean Andrew D. Martin to address topics relating to all 85 majors and Michigan LS&A.
  • Dishell and Martin will have regular standing meetings.
  • The LS&A college will create a student advisory board comprised of student-scholars, non-scholars, Hill Auditorium season-ticket holders and Hill Auditorium non-ticket holders.
"It has been great working with our LS&A Dean and his department to come to these agreements," said Dishell. "This is a huge step forward for students and our relationship with our College of LS&A. We look forward to continuing to work together to create the optimal environment for all Michigan students."

"Often times, negativity is louder than positivity; however, it is important to realize that Bobby, myself and other student leaders on campus have worked hard to establish effective lines of communication that aim to enhance Michigan tradition today and into the future," said Cooper Charlton, President of U-M's Student-Scholar Advisory Committee (SSAC) that is representative of all 43,426 student-scholars. "The newly created opportunity for open dialogue creates a framework to hold our LS&A department and students accountable, thus fostering a relationship built on trust. Together, we will create sustainable long-term relationships that forge a unified Michigan family."

"Michigan LS&A looks forward to forging a strong relationship with Central Student Government," said Andrew D. Martin, the as-yet-unsponsored Dean of Literature, Science, and the Arts. "This is an important relationship for us, one that we need to repair, and one that will provide mutual support among all students. We have worked closely with CSG over the past year, and this will continue to strengthen our very important work with the student community."

(h/t Maize N Brew)

The Nussmeter exhibits poor time management

We updated the Nussmeter to 3 after the Rutgers game, but failed to make a post announcing it. After numerous delays, we have now updated the Nussmeter post-Penn State. It's at 2, which is the bland and impossible-to-open Brazil nut.

We can only hope that Michigan doesn't join Brazil in finding out what it's like to be outscored at a ratio of 7:1. But, look, a glimpse of days long past: Denard highlights!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hockey Returns

Oh happy day, hockey season is back.  Michigan already has three game-like substances in the books, though only one actually counts.  In an odd road opener at Ferris State on October 4, the Wolverines dug themselves an early hole, first hanging Nagelvoort out to dry on a breakaway and then leaving a Bulldog unattended at the point, all within the first 2 minutes of the season, and Ferris added a power-play tally to make it 3-0 at the end of the first period. Tyler Motte scored immediately to open the second period, but an ill-timed pinch gave up a short-handed goal to push Ferris's lead back to 3.  Michigan carried play for most of the third and clawed back with a pair of goals, but ultimately came up short, losing 4-3.  If I was told prior to the start of the game that Michigan would drop its road opener to defending WCHA champion Ferris State 4-3, I would take it.  Falling behind 3-0 is somewhat more disappointing, but this was overall a good result.

The USNTDP came over to Yost just two days later for an exhibition game, and Michigan pulled away in a wild one to win 7-4. Given that the Under 18s have won the last two meetings with the Wolverines, this represents significant progress.  Michigan then played their third game of the week on Thursday when they welcomed Wilfrid Laurier as their annual Canadian collegiate opponent. For the first time this year, Michigan scored first. The Wolverines pushed their lead out to 3-0 by the end of the first period and were up 4-0 before the Golden Hawks put one in the net. The game ended 5-2, with Steve Racine taking over for Nagelvoort after the second intermission and posting a clean sheet.

On Friday, New Hampshire pays a visit to Yost in return for the Wolverines' trip last year. Both games went to overtime, with UNH stealing one and the other ending in a tie.  Michigan and New Hampshire find themselves in similar situations this year: Both teams had up and down seasons last year with records of over .500, but neither of them reached the NCAA tournament.  The Wildcats lost their exhibition game with Canada's St. Francis Xavier 2-0 and their first non-conference game of the season to Union, the defending NCAA Champions, 3-1.

Monday, October 13, 2014


(Author's note: This is late, in part because The Daily's Alejandro Zúñiga already had used my premise I had devised in my head for what I was going to do with this column and then did an awesome job with it.)

Devin mgoblue

In the end, maybe, some times, you just need to dance it out.  And that's OK.  It's hard to dance with the Devil on your back, but if you can shake him off, you can find yourself in a position to find the joy and the happiness that football should bring, playing for yourself, for your teammates, well, maybe that's all that matters.

This win is one win, as the cliche goes, and it is not going to be a season changer, necessarily.  But it was necessary because it does actually take some things off the table.  To wit:

  • A B1G win means that Michigan will not go winless in B1G play.
  • A third win means that this season cannot be, from a W-L standpoint, worse than 2008.
  • At worst, Michigan can only end the year on a five game losing streak.
Now, you may say that these are at best small victories, cold comfort, but I think they're important.  When you're in a hole, either you keep going deeper, or you start digging out.  I don't know what this game will ultimately mean, Michigan still has a metric ton of problems to sort out among itself.  But it's a start.  In this way, it's necessary, because it moves the conversation for the bye week to "Well, maybe it's not as dark as we thought."  Again, in a season like this, take the victories where they come.

Bullet Points
  • I have no training in football coaching, so I probably should not be able to manage the clock better than not one, but two Power Five head coaches.  And yet...
  • Could someone please ask Brady what he was thinking about the time out at the end of the first half.  Mostly so I can know what he was thinking.  Because I am stumped.
  • We sat next to a father-son pair of Penn State fans who were, as is usual with Penn State fans, model opposing fans.  Cheered on their team, never jerky or belligerent, just wanted their team to do well.  The father did comment that Norfleet has a bit of hot dog in him and that for a football player, he's a pretty good dancer.  This is fair.  But when it's your guy, well,  
  • The night game jerseys were actually fine when you saw them on the field.  It just felt, like so many alternate jerseys, unnecessary.  But, you know, marketing, teenagers like shiny things, I get it.
  • It is my understanding from Guest Services that IMG has discontinued magnet schedules for all Michigan sports.  This has me greatly distressed and I must investigate.
In the end, we won.  Alright. Hey. Alright. Good job, guys. Let's just not come in this Saturday. Let's just take a day. Have you ever tried shawarma? There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don't know what it is, but I wanna try it.

Monday, October 06, 2014


I was sound asleep when the call came in early this morning.  I rolled over, fumbled for my phone, and did my best to answer.


"Hello, Mr. Barker.  I'd like to speak to you about an exciting opportunity."

"It's 12:53 in the morning, who in their right mind thinks this is a good time to...wait, are you from the Michigan Athletic Department?"

"Yes.  For the purposes of this conversation, you may call me 'The Admiral.'"

"OK Admiral, gotta say, the James Earl Jones voice modulator is a nice touch.  Sounds very professional."

"Yes, voice modulator.  No matter.  Mr. Barker, we have an assignment for you and you're the best man for the job.  We need you to solve a Michigan football mystery."

"I can't say that I'm the best man for that job.  Why didn't you guys call Dooley?"

"The truth is Mr. Barker, Mr. Dooley has been sitting in the Towsley Family Museum, looking at the spot where the Little Brown Jug is supposed to be, gently weeping while he reviews a copy of the deed of gift to see if there's a basketball loophole.  When we could get him refocused for a moment, he mentioned you."

"OK, but how did you get my number?"

"Did you really think those Facebook giveaways for tickets were out of the goodness of our hearts?"

"Fair enough.  OK.  So what's the assignment?"

"The truth, Mr. Barker, is that Michigan football is cursed..."

"Well, I mean, it's been a bit of rough sledding, but cursed seems a bit..."

"No, we have a very well written note, in calligraphy and everything, that just says 'Michigan football is cursed.  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.    Ha."

"That many ha's?  Really?"

"Yes.  The note says that if we can discover the curse, the means of removing it will be obvious.  We don't want to tell you what to do, but we do know it has "post 11/18/06" scrawled at the bottom.  We think they're trying to narrow your search field."

"OK, I can look into it.  How many possible explanations do you want?"

"Ten is good.  Brady wore 10 here, let's go with ten.  Give us the curse, the background, the record since, the probability, and what we need to do to remove it."

"Where do you want me to send it?"

"Just post it on your blog.  It gives us plausible deniability, because who would believe we're stealing ideas for a Blogger blog without its own domain?"

"That kind of hurts a little bit."

"Sorry, would you like two free tickets to this Saturday's game?"

"I have tickets."

"Two Coke Zeroes then?"

"OK, I have to be up for work in four hours, can I got back to sleep now?"

"Just one more thing, how is your stock of delicious Chobani yogurt?"

"I don't eat yogurt."

"No matter, we're just contractually obligated to ask in any dealings we have online or on the phone.  Good luck Mr. Barker."

So, with my mission charges to me, I set about to discover what, exactly, was cursing Michigan football since that fateful day in November 2006.

Possibility #1. The Curse of President Ford
Background: Michigan alumnus and 1934 Team MVP, President Gerald Ford passed away on December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California.  Somehow his passing sapped a part of the spirit of Michigan.

Michigan's record since: 52-43
Reasons for this particular nexus point: The 2007 Rose Bowl, The Horror, Dennis Dixon, Chad Henne's numb elbow would all be explained.
Probability: Medium, 4.8/10
While it would be nice to explain the Horror with something supernatural, a 93-year old man passing away doesn't really feel like a curse.
What do we need to do to remove it: Jack Miller needs to go to the top of a staircar on a rainy day and take a tumble to the tarmac.

Possibility #2. The Curse of Little Brother
Background: Down 10 to Michigan State at East Lansing with just over seven minutes left to play, Chad Henne throws a pair of touchdown passes to win 28-24.  Henne will trip on his way out of Spartan Stadium, and then senior captain Mike Hart says: “I was just laughing.  I thought it was funny. They got excited. It's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and you let him get the lead. Then you come back and take it from him."

Michigan's record since: 44-41
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan, which had won eight straight after starting 0-2 and had a chance to win the Big Ten, lose their next two games to Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.20/10
The words of rebuttal to Hart from Mark Dantonio: "I find a lot of the things they do amusing. They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall..." kind of feels like a curse.  Or a vow of revenge.
What do we need to do to remove it: Win at Spartan Stadium for the first time since that game, call Michigan State our brothers in arms against our common enemy, Ohio State.

Possibility #3. The Curse of Herbie
Background: On December 1, 2007, ESPN College GameDay's Kirk Herbstreit reports that LSU coach Les Miles, following LSU's participation in the SEC Championship game, barring something extraordinary, will be the next coach at the University of Michigan.

Michigan's record since: 44-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Well, it might explain why Bill Martin didn't know how to work his new cell phone.
Probability: Moderate, 6.4/10
I still firmly believe that Herbie was reporting what he had been told, and that Miles planned to announce his intentions to come to Ann Arbor after the game.  By announcing it before the game, LSU had time to counter in a big way, which they did.
What do we need to do to remove it: Cut a check.

Possibility #4. The Curse of Tim Tebow
Background: In the 2008 Capital One Bowl, Michigan sends Coach Lloyd Carr off into the sunset, with a 41-35 win over Urban Meyer and Florida.  Michigan becomes the only team to defeat Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in a bowl game.

Michigan's record since: 43-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: 3-9, losing to Toledo, losing 42-7 to Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.6/10
A lot of this is going to depend on your view of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but this isn't our original thesis:

What do we need to do to remove it: Devin Gardner needs to go before the Monday press availability and speak these exact words after a conference game you lost when you had a field goal blocked:
"To the fans and everybody of MGoNation, I’m sorry. Extremely sorry. We wanted an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Michigan has done a lot. I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this.

You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see another player push his team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless."

Possibility #5. The Curse of Yost Bleachers
Background: In the spring of 2012, Michigan undertakes a renovation of Yost Ice Arena, which includes replacement of the bleachers that have been there since its conversion to an ice arena in the 1970s.  When removing the bleachers, they unleash the horrifying creature that Don Canham had successfully trapped under the bleachers, kept alive by the garbage dropped under the stands by patrons.

Michigan's record since: 17-15
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2012 and 2013 regression and all of 2014.  It also explains why Michigan Hockey has missed the NCAA Tournament for two years in a row after two decades of making it.
Probability: Moderate, 5.0/10
Once you saw what was under the West End Bleachers, you couldn't unsee it.  I will firmly believe that a horrible beast was being imprisoned there.
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a team of hunters to find it, bring Red Berenson to the creature.  Let him glare at it for a solid minute.  Creature will flee to Munn.

Possibility #6. The Curse of Clowney Comin'
Background: During the 2013 Outback Bowl, Taylor Lewan fails to call "Deuce", allows All-America DE Jadeveon Clowney to do this to this to Vincent Smith.

Michigan's record since: 9-11
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2013 regression and all of 2014.  It also explains why Michigan offensive players look somewhat uncertain at times, as if they hear the footsteps of Clowney.
Probability: Low, 0.7/10
Honestly, the Clowney hit was just instant karma for the terrible spot that the refs gave Michigan on the previous play.  Or for the terrible uniforms Michigan wore in that game.
What do we need to do to remove it: Make a sizable donation to Tay Odoms/Vincent Smith's H.O.P.E. for Pahokee charity at a game.

Possibility #7. The Curse of the Noodle
Background: On the W.O.W. Friday before Michigan's 2013 season opener against Central Michigan, a large Kraft Macaroni and Cheese noodle is spotted on the grounds of Michigan Stadium, violating the near sacrosanct rule about no advertising at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan's record since: 9-10
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the extreme cheesiness of recent Michigan Athletic Department decisions.
Probability: Low, 1.0/10
I mean, there's a Cadillac at Michigan Stadium this year, but because it has the Michigan wings, it's OK, right?
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a Giant Ramen Noodle.

Possibility #8. The Curse of Old 98
Possibility #9. The Curse of the Chicken Dance
Possibility #10. The Curse of the Skywriters
Background: At Under the Lights II, Michigan enrolls Tom Harmon's Old 98, the last remaining retired number, into the Legends Program and puts it on Devin Gardner.  Michigan wins, but Gardner throws an amazing 0 yard pick six that has to be seen to be believed.  After the victory, the Michigan Stadium PA plays "The Chicken Dance" in reference to Notre Dame ending the series after the 2014 game.  Prior to the start of Michigan's game against Akron, the next week, the Michigan Athletic Department pays skywriters to make Block M's and write "Go Blue" in the sky over Michigan Stadium...and in the sky over Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.  The Athletic Department denies that they paid for the Spartan Stadium skywriters, until they are outed by the skywriters themselves.  Michigan sheepishly admits they spent $3,000-$5,000 for the stunt.

Michigan's record since: 8-10 (for #8), 7-10 (for #9 and #10)
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan has a losing record ever since these events.
Probability: Very High, 9.8/10
Hubris: extreme pride or self-confidence. When it offends the Gods of ancient Greece, it is usually punished.  Hubris is usually perceived as a characteristic of an individual rather than a group, although the group the offender belongs to may suffer consequences from the wrongful act. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

What do we need to do to remove it:
 Devin Gardner calls the Harmon family, thanks them for their kindness and courtesy but says that there is but one Old 98 and it is and always should be, Tom Harmon.  Devin Gardner gets Old #12 back on.  At the 50 yard line of Michigan Stadium, the Michigan Athletic Department Game Day Experience staffers take a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, cover it in shamrocks, and set it ablaze.  Michigan's Athletic Department hires skywriters to write "Molon Labe" over Spartan Stadium during the Ohio State game and then cuts a check for $72,000 for pediatric cancer research to the Love Like Lacey fund, the latter of which isn't a terrible idea anyway.

In the end, I go back to The Bard:
"Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Let's be humbled by this and humble ourselves.  If we have offended some football higher power, it certainly can't hurt.

(P.S.: In all seriousness, there is one possibility I left off here, November 22, 2009.  If this is what cursed Michigan, then we probably deserve what it is getting for trying to ignore something so serious and then prevaricating to us about it when people tried to raise the issue.)

Sunday, October 05, 2014


When this came out on Friday morning, I was mad at this, because I thought it was unnecessary, but now I realize ultimately, it's correct.  My history doesn't matter, neither foes yours.  My opinions don't matter, neither do yours.  Nothing is going to change.  They're not going to fire Brandon, because as long as the big money donors are behind him (and for now, they are) and the current and former student athletes are behind him (and for now, they are), then he can point to that, say he's doing his job, and make some general vague statements about rebuilding his relationships with the students.  He's not getting fired because he will figure out a way to survive this.  So things will not change, because you don't make the choices you have made in the last four years running the department because you think you're not doing a good job.  No one is going to look at the laundry list of offenses as perceived by a group without power and suddenly have a change of heart.  He's going to keep doing what he's been doing because he doesn't believe he's wrong and none of the people in the department who he has hired are going to tell him he's wrong.

Brady Hoke is getting fired because Michigan cannot afford to keep losing like this in football.  He'll get fired, they'll find some way to screw up the coaching search, they'll find someone that they'll try to sell to us as the man to turn it around, he'll look good for a while, and we'll regress to something worse in about four years and start this process all over again.  Whether or not this happens during the season or not, once thought impossible, is now looking like it could happen.  Were it not for whom Michigan faces after the bye week, I would say that he probably gets served his walking papers after Penn State next week, because losing another humiliating game on national television should do the trick.

But we'll keep watching, not because we're stupid, but because we're loyal. Because we're not loyal to a specific coach (well, maybe one), or an athletic director (OK, maybe one, but that's a very few of us), but to an ideal and because of that ideal, we're also loyal to the other people like us who share this belief, no matter how far away it feels from us right now and no matter how well or how vaguely we know them.  It is built on something akin to faith, and during the darkest times, you hold fast to faith and to the faithful because when the world keeps crumbling down, it may feel like all that you have left.

We're mad, sad, frustrated, angry, and generally in a malaise, but we're all we have because, while we're (hopefully) rooting for the players, they're not rooting for us, because we're fickle and demanding.  While we're hoping the athletic department figures this out, we fear that they don't see us as anything more as dollars to leverage out of our wallets.  So we have to hold on to something in this endeavor, however foolish or misplaced others might see it as.  We chose this life.  We ride out the storms together and we fight for better days.

Friday, October 03, 2014

So Your Program is Doomed?


So your [CHOOSE ONE: once-proud / erratically successful / perennial also-ran / perpetual tire fire / Eastern Michigan] football program is struggling this year?
  • Yes.  Oh sweet jebus, yes.
  • Nope. Not sure why I'm taking this fake survey.

What do you propose to do about it? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • Do nothing. ROLL TIDE.
  • Do nothing. Mediocrity is an impossible dream.
  • Insist "They just need more time!"
  • Fire a coordinator
  • Fire the coach
  • Fire the AD

Do you have any coaching candidates in mind? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • An absurdly over-qualified alumnus who won't bother answering your phone calls
  • Pipe-dream hotshot coach who'd be insane to leave behind his current success / low expectations
  • Genius coordinator who's never been a head coach
  • Up-and-coming mid-major / FCS coach with no big-time experience
  • NFL retread
  • NFL coordinator with no college experience in the past decade
  • NFL position coach
  • NFL position coach who flamed out as a college head coach (and may have slapped himself)
  • Your current OC/DC on an interim basis
  • Some guy who had one good MAC season
  • Charlie Weiss

On a scale of Rodriguez at Michigan to Saban at Alabama, how good of a cultural fit is your dream candidate? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • Rich Rodriguez / Michigan (2008)
  • Charlie Weiss / Kansas (2012)
  • Randy Edsall / Maryland (2011)
  • Al Golden / Miami (2011)
  • Brian Kelly / Notre Dame (2010)
  • Brady Hoke / Michigan (2011)
  • Chip Kelly / Oregon (2009)
  • Nick Saban / Alabama (2007)

What is making you so angry? (Check all that apply)
  • Lost to a rival
  • Lost to most-hated rival
  • Lost to a perpetual tomato-can
  • Can't recruit
  • Team is hemorrhaging players
  • Fans treated like walking checkbook
  • Insolvent athletic department
  • NCAA violations
  • Players put in danger
  • Felonies
  • Covering up felonies
  • Oversigning

Would you still be this angry if your team was winning? (CHOOSE ONE)
  • No, obviously not, because *something* would be going better.
  • No, because winning is the only thing that matters
  • No, because my team is perfectly OK except they're terrible.
  • Yes, because I am lying.
  • Yes, because I don't like football.
  • Yes, because I am an incendiary rage-bot. SOMETHING is going to set me off.

What kind of doomed is your program?
  • EMU: As DOOMED as DOOMED can be. 
  • Toledo: Once in a while we can win the MAC and get our coach a better job.
  • Purdue: The Cure as a football team.  
  • Indiana: Our greatest teams have the ability to beat almost anyone on any down, so they most often beat themselves. Otherwise a conference doormat. 
  • Illinois: Once in a generation Rose Bowl, but usually Zooked. 
  • Iowa: Real success every four years; otherwise losing to Iowa State. 
  • Pitt: Crushing mediocrity with no hope is the norm forever, despite national championships not that long ago.
  • Clemson: Perennial success, but never on a national title scale. See: Wisconsin.
  • Notre Dame: We're living in the past, so the present is disappointing even when we're good.
  • Texas: We have every advantage possible and are somehow terrible and in the middle of a gut-wrenching transition. See: Florida, Michigan (Michigan bonus: In our darkest hour, we hope to be Notre Dame.)
  • Ohio State: Not quite a national title contender this year, but always a threat to win our league. See: Oklahoma
  • Michigan State: Suddenly we're the pre-eminent program in our state for the first time in 50 years. Not anyone's default pick for a national championship team, but we have legitimate hope. See: Texas A&M, Stanford.
  • Oregon: We don't really have a history, but we don't care because GOT MONEY and are successful now. We watched the first half of a video on the Miami Hurricanes, so we know this never changes!
  • Alabama: Whether or not you choose to recognize it, we won every national championship since 1892. ROLL TIDE.