Friday, August 28, 2015

MGoMix 2015

We're back!  After a summer of Harbaugh, Harbaugh, Harbaugh, we're back with our breakdown of our new playlist for the 2015 season.  We tried to mix it up a bit while following our rules: no more than 80 minutes of music, make every effort not to repeat non-Michigan songs from previous years, and try to capture the mood of the season while driving to Ann Arbor and walking to Michigan Stadium.  With that in mind, here we go:

1). "Hymn to Red October" by Basil Poledouris
Yes, this was a late addition to the list.  Here's to Jim Harbaugh, who makes the hard part of beat reports job's easy and the easy part of their jobs hard.  Besides, how else better to celebrate control of dissemination of information to only friendly, state controlled sources than a Soviet anthem?

2). "Wounded" by Third Eye Blind
"Let me break it down 'till I force the issue 
You never come around, and you know we miss you 
Well nobody took your pride away 
I said, that's something people say 
Back down the bully to the back of the bus 
'Cause it's time for them to be scared of us 
'Till you're yelling, how we living cause you got the ball 
Then you rock on baby, rock on, you rock on, on and on.

We love something and sometimes its hard to see it going through something wrong, or bad, and you wish you could help.

3). "Garands" by Young the Giant
"Got what's left
Lost my rights when I was young
Taken by the 
Ones I trust
Long before I knew of love
All the things I understood
Fighting for the greater good
Now tell me why this feels so wrong
Feels so wrong, to hold this gun

Now look what I've become
Before the day is done
Now that we have won."
OK, maybe a little ahead of schedule, but still, great song.

4). "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic
"Every thing that kills me makes me feel alive."
It's kind of a nice summary of Michigan football fandom, isn't it?

5). "On Top of the World" by Imagine Dragons
"I've tried to cut these corners
Try to take the easy way out
I kept on falling short of something

I coulda gave up then but
Then again I couldn’t have 'cause
I've traveled all this way for something."

Or a summary of the Michigan Athletic Department 2010-14.

6). "Fire Escape" by Fastball
"I can be myself, how 'bout you?"

Welcome back (hopefully) to Michigan football as we have known it.

7).  "This is Your Life" by The Killers
"And the sky is full of dreams 
But you don't know how to fly 
I don't have a simple answer 
But I know that I could answer 
Something better.
Wait for something better."
It's an exciting time, folks, but we're also going to need to wait for something better.  We can't fall prey to the expectations that border on absurdity.  Things take time.  Anything great this year is a bonus.

8). "Bulletproof" by La Roux
"I won't let you turn around
And tell me now I'm much too proud
To walk away from something when it's dead
Do, do, do your dirty words
Come out to play when you are hurt
There are certain things that should be left unsaid.
This'll be...Bulletproof."

Michigan football, ladies and gentlemen.

9). "Yellow Flicker Beat" by Lorde
"This is the start of how it all ends
They used to shout my name, now they whisper it
I’m speeding up and this is the red, orange, yellow flicker beat sparking up my heart
We're at the start, the colours disappear
I never watch the stars, there’s so much down here
So I just try to keep up with the red, orange, yellow flicker beat sparking up my heart."

I'm sure it's just coincidence that there are a couple of songs from soundtracks to The Hunger Games movies, right?

10). "Neon Tiger" by The Killers
"I don't wanna be kept, I don't wanna be caged, I don't wanna be damned, oh hell
I don't wanna be broke, I don't wanna be saved, I don't wanna be S.O.L.
Give me rolling hills and tonight can be the night that I stand among the thousand thrills
Mister cut me some slack, 'cause I don't wanna go back, I want a new day and age

Come on girls and boys, everyone make some noise!"

I want a new day and age.
11). "Sleepwalker" by the Wallflowers
"The sleepwalker in me
And God only know that I've tried."

Also known as what the last three games of the season looked like.

12). "I Bet My Life" by Imagine Dragons
"I've been around the world and never in my wildest dreams
Would I come running home to you
I've told a million lies but now I tell a single truth
There's you in everything I do."

Welcome home Captain Comeback.

13). "Crystals" by Of Monsters and Men
"I know I'll wither so peel away the bark
Because nothing grows when it is dark
In spite of all my fears, I can see it all so clear
I see it all so clear"

14). "Red Hands" by Walk Off The Earth
"I've seen it all before, you back out, and everything's changing
I needed something more, you stepped down, so what are you chasing?
I'd put it on rewind for this time only
(Is that what you really want?)"

15). "Atlas" by Coldplay
"Carry your world.  I'll carry your world."

16). "Roll Tide" by Hans Zimmer
Why can't we have the 20th anniversary version of this movie with Nick Saban in the Gene Hackman role and Lane Kiffin in the Denzel Washington role?

17). "I Can't Turn You Loose" by The Blues Brothers
18). "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" by The Blues Brothers
"We're so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight and we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of the Big Ten officiating community who have chosen to join us here in the Michigan Amphitheater at this time. We do sincerely hope you'll all enjoy the show and please remember people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there're still some things that make us all the same. You, me, _them_, everybody, everybody."

19). "I Can't Turn You Loose" by Michigan Marching Band
And suddenly, I am craving cake and electronic dis-co.

20). "M Fanfare" by Michigan Marching Band
21). "The Victors" by Michigan Marching Band
22). "Temptation" by Michigan Marching Band
23). "Hawaiian War Chant" by Michigan Marching Band
24). "Varsity" by Michigan Marching Band
25). "Star Spangled Banner" by Michigan Marching Band

Monday, August 24, 2015

A (Maize and Blue) Nation at Risk: A Review of Endzone by John U. Bacon

Mark Twain, building off a notion from Lord Byron, once said: "It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense."  It is in reading a review copy of ENDZONE: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football (St. Martin's Press, $27,99, available September 1, 2015) that one is profoundly reminded of this notion.   If I had not lived through the era covered by this book, I would have found some of Bacon's notions preposterous and downright insulting to my intelligence.  Instead, Bacon fills in the notions of what many of us suspected with details that somehow are simultaneous gratifying and infuriating.

If you have read Three and Out or Fourth and Long, Bacon's strengths from those books come to the fore again.  Bacon starts, like most good historians, with a clear argument he sets forth to prove in the book.  He proceeds to do this with brief chapters focused on one singular idea or issue.  This allows Bacon's facts to speak for themselves with a minimum of editorializing.  In the end, he presents the actions of Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon and allows the reader to make their own decisions.  What I respect here is that Bacon could easily allow his version of Brandon to descend into cartoonish supervillainy, in part because he knows his core audience would lap it up.  But he never does.  If Brandon comes off poorly in this book, it is because of what he did and the choices he made, not because Bacon chooses to piles on.  If Brandon seems imperious in this book, it is because of the manner in which he acted in front of people willing to call him on it now, not because Bacon casts him in that light without factual backing.  Truthfully, in reading, I was reminded of a phrase first put forward in 1983's A Nation at Risk.  To paraphrase: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on Michigan the mediocre administrative performance that existed in 2010-14, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."

One of the things that struck me as I read this is that I am not sure there would be an audience for a book like this among many college football fan bases.  Bacon has acknowledged repeatedly, in previous books and on Twitter, one of the fundamental notions of Michigan fandom: There is a segment of this fan base that isn't happy unless it's unhappy.  But I also think this look back comes at the exact right moment in Michigan's history, needing to wrap up what went wrong over the last four years and explain what went right in December 2014.  It is a public morbidity and mortality conference for the Brandon administration.  (I should also note: Bacon makes a reasonable effort to track the "tipping points" of various constituencies when it came to Brandon.  There are the ones you knew, and will get mad about again, and then there are ones you didn't know about and will make you made all over again.)

If there are unexpected stars in Endzone, they are Michigan students.  Bacon devotes considerable time to Will Hagerup, whose personal struggles during the Brandon Administration make for a compelling story.  Hagerup's story of recovery shows the need for strong mental health support systems and the wisdom Hagerup won during his time at Michigan is a great message.  My soft spot for Devin Gardner also wins renewed backing, for the seriousness of his reflections, but ones seemingly lacking any form of bitterness.  The Central Student Government tandem of Michael Proppe and Bobby Dishell also make for wonderful, plucky underdog characters who win the day because they do what Michigan students have done for years: go hard, bring facts, and never lose faith in your argument if the data is there, even if those in power don't want to hear it.  Bacon's ability to forge relationships with "college kids" is unsurprising, given his work in the college classroom, but the respect he grants them by letting them tell their story in their words is a tribute to knowing how to get the best out of someone.

The most difficult part of Endzone, in my estimation, is resolving the dichotomy between the student-athlete support for David Brandon (built on the notion that he viewed them as his core constituency, which may have been an admirable choice, but not necessarily the wisest course of action) and his seeming hand-waving dismissals of the non-athlete students, the alumni, and fans.  I respect that there may be no simple or straight forward answer to this, in part because each side has reason to feel like they deserve most favored nation status.  Bacon has repeatedly pressed forward on the idea that when you treat your fans like customers, don't be surprised if they act like consumers.  This is repeatedly what has happened in Ann Arbor since 2010.  The question is, will Jim Hackett and his eventual successor be able to restore some of what was lost in the Brandon years. History tells us that if something is broken, it can never be made whole again, just repaired.  The hiring of Jim Harbaugh is a great first step.  We have not had a new season of Football Saturdays to see if we can go home again.  I have hope that we will, but it remains to be seen.

In conclusion, this is an important book for Michigan fans, if not a "fun" book to read.  You may literally yell at people (or empty spaces) when certain notions are revealed.  But it's OK, really, it's cathartic.  Read the book, learn from this chapter of our past, then move forward into the 2015 season in the warming glow of HARBAUGH.

Friday, August 21, 2015

We're Back!

We're back.  13 days from now Michigan football will be back.  To refute reports that we had been trapped in our basement from wreckage from a HOCKEYBEAR strike, we wanted to give you a heads up on some content soon to be seen here:

We'll have our usual posting of MGoMix 2015 (which also serves as a season preview).
We'll have our book review of John U. Bacon's new book ENDZONE.
We'll hopefully have Q&A from John U. Bacon as well about the book.
We'll have a shot by shot dissection of what makes The Hunt for Red October the greatest movie of 1990.

Thank you for your patience.  Yours in Harbaugh.