Monday, November 27, 2017


A year ago, following Michigan's 30-27 double-overtime loss to Ohio State, Jim Harbaugh was fined $10,000 by the Big Ten Conference for his post-game comments regarding the game's questionable officiating. Michigan football blogger Justin Potts from 
Maize & Go Blue decided to try and turn a negative into a positive by creating a fundraiser to match that $10,000 fine with donations to the ChadTough Foundation which raises awareness and money for DIPG research.

Last week, November 23rd, marked the two year anniversary of Chad Carr's passing after a heroic battle with this dreadful disease for which there currently is no treatment.

Justin, along with 
Brad Muckenthaler from Maize and Blue Nation, Kerri from SupportUofM and ourselves are proudly making this an annual event. Last year our goal was to raise $10,000. In just one week, we surpassed $28,000 in donations of which 100% went directly to the ChadTough Foundation. The loss to OSU a year ago was hard, but the fundraiser was very useful in helping me get over the loss and like Justin said, turn a negative into a positive.

Let's do it again!

And after you donate...SPREAD THE WORD!

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday. Please make it a point to check out the ChadTough Foundation and the amazing work being done by them. DIPG is an absolutely horrible disease. However, in just a couple short years, new research has made some incredible discoveries and uncovered possibilities where none previously existed. It is not hyperbole to say that these discoveries may have not been realized without ChadTough!  We know there are a lot of worthy causes out there, we encourage you to follow your heart, but I know as a father of a six-year-old son who loves Michigan football with all of his heart, I cannot imagine anything harder than what the Carr family faced and their exceptional grace in turning this tragedy into hope for others.

Thank you and forever Go Blue!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Every Breaking Wave

It was going well until it was not. (AP Photo)

"There is an old Romulan saying that tells that if all around you lies in ruins, either fault yourself, or seek the serpent. Are you the serpent?" -Aventeer Vokar

You want to blame somebody for this.  I get it.  You actually want to blame everyone for this but yourself, because you clearly wanted this win more than anyone else.  Which is bullshit and you damn well know it, but you're already ignoring me and "reasonableness".  You demand explanations and you demand vengeance and you demand everything but lex parsimoniae, because you know the moment that you reach for the simplest explanation, you will not like the conclusion.  Michigan was on its third choice quarterback and when it needed a big play in the fourth quarter, its offense coaching staff inexplicably called three straight passes when the running game had been flashing brilliant all afternoon.  It had third and four from plus territory (after one of those "really?" moments where O'Korn was tripped up on the center/quarterback exchange, costing Michigan three yards when Evans and Higdon had been ripping off nine yard runs on said same drive.)  Those passes went wide, high, and lastly, directly to a waiting center fielder.  You want an explanation for THAT, (even though there's Zach Gentry streaking wide open up the middle of the field if read correctly.)

You want to scream your fool head off at O'Korn, because how could he do this to you?  You see the press conference, you see how much it hurt him, how he knows its on him, how it's going to sting, how people are going to criticize him, berate him, mock him, and what hurts him worse is how he let his teammates down.  But you want more from him because it clearly means more to you than it does to the players, because they're just here for four years and you've never left.  You are assured it's always about you.

Nobody bakes an untasty pie.  This bit of accidental wisdom has stuck with me for nearly two decades.  When discussing whether "tasty" was a necessary adjective for pie, it was argued that "Nobody bakes an untasty pie."  This morphed, in my mind, over the years, to become philosophically, that no one sets out to do a bad job. A bad job may be the end result, but no one actually stands there and says "I am going to bake an untasty pie."  No one on Michigan set out today and said: "Yep, I'm going to screw this up."  A person can argue whether some of the players had the necessary talent to be successful in this situation, whether they were in the optimal position to be successful, but it is, at best, unkind, to question the heart and desire of players on the field. Their finished product may have left one wanting, but the intent was there and should not be questioned.

You are kind of being a jerk about this, because what you want (which is not to say that I don't want it too) is for the bleeding to stop. You want the hurting to stop. You want the tides to turn.  You want to know when Urban Meyer's insane horseshoe will finally run out of luck.  You want to know how Ohio State can lose their starting quarterback and somehow end up playing better.  You want to know what Ohio State's secret recipe for holding Maurice Hurst without getting called is so you can send Michigan a formula to attempt to replicate it.  You want to know the unknowable. You want answers to the unanswerable. You deeply desire to understand what is ultimately inevitably irrelevant.  Things will get better when they get better.  You will know when it happens because everyone will.  You don't have to be happy that it isn't now, but you also made the choice to love Michigan, so you have to decide whether its worth it.  Is the pain, the anguish, the frustration, the emptiness worth it?  Only you can decide for yourself.

One additional note
Having sat near a large contingent of OSU fans in their usual spot in the visitors' seating area, they were their usual selves.  I understand this, to want them to be anything but themselves is asking a leopard to change its spots.  However, I did not particularly enjoy how so many Michigan fans around me became a dark mirror of Ohio fans. It's as if being around them draws the worst and darkest aspects of Michigan fandom out of people.  I do not ever want to tell people how to conduct themselves in person as a fan, that's not my place.  All I would ask is that people take a look at how they act in these situations and whether they were acting as their best possible selves.  That said, I know this request will fall on deaf ears.  The people who will read it are likely the ones who do not need to course correct and those who do would never see themselves needing to change their ways.  So perhaps I am just saying it to say it, knowing it won't do any good.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Some Days Are Better Than Others

There were moments.  You wanted to believe.
"You wonder why. It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired the traits you hold dear -- loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory. And you wonder: if you were a different person who valued other things would you care so much? It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired other traits you share but do not hold particularly dear -- cantankerousness, stubbornness, an inability to suffer fools gladly. And you wonder: do I like Michigan because of the way I am, or am I the way I am because I like Michigan?"  -Brian Cook, "Eleven Swans", MGoBlog, November 18, 2006

Only speaking from my own experience, I cannot see much joy in defaulting to pessimism, other than life would rarely disappoint you.  If you expect the worst, it's hard to be disappointed when the world shows its true colors to you time and again.  Some might even call it realism, a life view based on experience.  But my experience with college football, and specifically, with being a Michigan fan, is that I choose to be optimistic until the exact moment where it just starts to feel impossible.

At 2:06 of the third quarter of the game against Wisconsin, sophomore quarterback Brandon Peters was left in the open as an unblocked Andrew Van Ginkel ran straight at him and proceeded to bury him in the Camp Randall turf moments after Peters released an incomplete throw in the direction of Chris Evans.  No penalty was called, but Peters would need a cart to be removed from the field and would later be transported to the UW hospital for tests.  Even the most optimistic Michigan fan would look at the situation and think Michigan might still be able to pull off an upset.

The sad part was, however, that ten minutes of real time before that moment, most Michigan fans were, if not believing in the upset, at least trying to plot a course to it.  Through the rocky shoals of defeating a highly ranked team on the road, something Michigan has...struggled with for, well, most of this millennium.

It would seem to me that you have to want to believe that things like this can happen, even if you academically know in your mind they are unlikely or improbable.  College football presents you with a veritable buffet of this kind of thing each year, and the math rarely, if ever, checks out on it.  But hope isn't about math, it's about the art of the possible, even if that potential seems like a faint glimmer of light on an endless field of blackness.

You come to realize that most things fade into that blackness of your mind because they are not memorable.  The replay challenges that go your way, the penalties that don't get called because they weren't there, they just recede into memory.  In fact, it's almost worse than that because fans tend to ascribe favorable breaks for their side as "skill" or "karma" or "justice" and ill fortune as "a vast, multinational conspiracy designed to destroy your team." So you worry if you wonder what the B1G schedule makers were thinking when Michigan had to face Wisconsin on the road before Ohio State while Ohio State got Illinois and whether you're just being paranoid or angry or lost because you honestly just don't know any longer.

You want to be optimistic heading into The Game, because what would be the point of getting excited about it otherwise.  Even if you know the numbers will tell a story that runs contrary to that optimism, you still want to believe otherwise because it is a part of who you are.  You aren't sure why you are that way, the conundrum presented to open our piece, so correctly stated 11 years ago today.  Like so many things when you get older, you find yourself less and less sure of the reasons why things happen, something that a younger you would be befuddled by because you expected the world to make more sense as you got older, not less.  It's why we long for the nostalgic past, the one cast in the gauzy haze that allows you to forget that things similar to this happened then too.  You've just had more time to process it, but more importantly, to come to terms with it.

Some days, a solid but unspectacular quarterback starts lacing ultraprecise laser passes into impossible spots.  Some days, the replay official can't see that a foot got down inbounds before the one went out of bounds.  Some days, your offensive line struggles with stunts and twists. 

Some days are better than others. 
Some days you feel ahead; 
You're making sense of what she said.  
Some days are better than others. 
Some days I hear a voice taking me to another place. 
Some days are better then others.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Raised by Wolves

By leaps and bounds (Brad Mills | USA TODAY Sports)
I have been sick for roughly the last ten days.  Nothing serious, just the low-grade crud you get when you work around 1800+ people who are not always overly concerned about hand washing protocols.  But yesterday, at approximately 1:00 pm, I had to go to bed because I had such a nasty set of chills, I needed a pair of blankets to make me feel even remotely warm.  I was, therefore, kind of hoping that Michigan would just jump out to an early lead and cruise to victory and maybe I could get a nice little nap in.

Maryland was in a generous mood, gifting Michigan field position like a kid playing Madden who says "Yeah, I never punt." without realizing that's a really solid way to lose winnable games.  In the space of four minutes, Michigan scored 21 points, oddly each one at X:21, and put the game into cruise control.  No reason to put anything new on tape for Wisconsin or OSU.

Maryland had plenty of opportunities in this game; certainly, Glen Mason would like you to believe that Maryland was a play or two away from an upset in a game that they lost by 25.  But while Maryland was putting together drives, they were also kicking field goals from the 25 (on 4th and 2) and the 2 (on goal to go) and were not really deeply invested in trying to win the game with their fifth different starting QB of the year.  I don't know if I can blame them

Yes, Maryland did cut Michigan's lead to 28-10.  Yes, Michigan twitter proceeded to have a panic attack.  Yes, Chris Evans caught wind of said panic attack and said: "I got this" and with plays of 20, 14, and 17, put Michigan back up by 25 and once more on cruise control, if too late for a nap.  This game served merely to reaffirm that Michigan has the talent and coaching to beat teams of lesser talent, but it did nothing to answer the questions of whether it can go toe to toe with Wisconsin or Ohio State in the final two weeks.  But, Michigan sits at 8 wins for the season, with at least a puncher's chance in its next two games.  I find myself more intrigued than anything else about what can happen going forward from here, which is a lot more than I can say for the last few seasons of the Hoke era (enjoy your new interim coach Tennessee!).  Mostly, right now, I just want this sinus headache to go away and the body aches to cease.  I'll take that in a heartbeat.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Electrical Storm

Jug security is at a premium.  Always (Two hands good, unlike Winovich.  Man...) (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
It wasn't perfect football weather at noon on Saturday, November 4, but it was darn close.  It was cool, crisp, and a bit cloudy, but it was looking like when the game should have been played, especially when Michigan State/Penn State went into a lengthy lightning delay in East Lansing.  I was pondering all of this as I sat in the concourse of the Crisler Center, next to the Mr. and Miss Basketball trophies for the state of Michigan, whether I would be completely soaked during the Battle for the Little Brown Jug, or just moderately wet.

It turned out that while there was a subtle mist that lingered over Michigan Stadium for most of Saturday night, it was not a particularly annoying weather game.  It wasn't cold, per se, it wasn't raining, just damp, and once I cleared off my seat with a tried and true method of water removal on a Michigan Stadium bench;* it was just a game at night, later than we thought, but in the end, a regular old-fashioned B1G game.

*-(the keys are dabbing rather than pushing the water off and getting the front and back lips of the bench to not get the runoff catches)
There were plenty of things to be annoyed about, between the officiating and some pass protection issues that led to Peters taking a couple of nasty looking sacks, but for the most part, this was a night of run, run, and run some more.  Karan Higdon was finding holes, hitting holes, and flying out of those holes where they lead, going for huge runs and getting the Michigan Stadium crowd on its feet.  Chris Evans followed Higdon's example and arguably had one of the best "break some tackles and stay in bounds" runs I have seen in a while.  It was almost spoiling, by the end of the game, one was nearly disappointed in a five or six yard run because you knew it could have been more with one more cut (even if that wasn't true.)

But moreover, the defense was just its usual crushing, attacking self.  Khaleke Hudson spent so much time in the Minnesota backfield, he was getting Amazon Prime packages delivered to him there by the fourth quarter.  (He also made my choice of my #7 jersey as the extra layer between quarter-zip and raincoat feel like an excellent choice.)  Much like the offense, it was almost a disappointment any time Michigan did not get into the Minnesota backfield to wreak havoc.

Yes, all of the usual caveats apply, Minnesota's a program in year 0.5 of a rebuild (and I do suspect they will be good at some point in the near future, but I like PJ Fleck, so that could just be projection) and Michigan's strengths matched up nicely to Minnesota's weaknesses.  We still need to see more out of the passing game if we're going to have any real shot in the last two games of the year.  But securing the Jug for the next three years, setting it up for a sweet long-term lease in Schembechler Hall is always a good feeling.  Another step forward in the Peters era next week, the first road start in Maryland looms (Maryland may be on its fourth quarterback of the year, so we kind of understand where they are coming from.)  But for one night at Michigan Stadium, a winning season was secured, reminding us that most of the time, the magic of Michigan Stadium comes from what happens on the field, not when it happens.

Side notes:
  • I love The Killers, so I am simultaneously pleased and confused as to how the Mr. Brightside singalong became a Michigan Stadium "thing".  (I know the link is from the MSU game, but it was the same basic bear.)
  • For goodness sakes Chase Winovich, TWO HANDS!
  • Cell signal inside Crisler was spotty, thankfully the eruptive cheers from the crowd watching Ohio State/Iowa were quite instructive.
  • I don't fault PJ Fleck for going for the field goal after the long drive against the backups, and I do credit him for not calling his three TOs on the Malzone "drive" when he was down 23 points.  I suspect this may be in part because he knows Harbaugh has a long memory and would remember something like that.
  • The jazz-based halftime was solid, I did enjoy that I now know that someone is likely majoring in jazz vocals at Michigan.  This means, on some level, she's majoring in scatting, whereas someone in the biology department is, on some level, majoring in scat.  I feel like these two people should meet.
  • My six year old son made it through the whole game in his rain gear that made him look like he had to go from The Big House to work his shift on a crab boat.  A solid investment.