...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
The Heisman trophy -- proclaimed by itself and everyone else to be the most prestigious individual award in American sports -- has a dirty little secret: it sucks. Thrall to its diverse and more-than-slightly befuddled voting constituency, more often than not the Heisman goes to a default candidate chosen more for his circumstances than his magnificence. Some months later he usually loses a bowl game; some months after that he's drafted in the seventh round. He goes on to have a nondescript Arena League career and marries a girl who could probably be a model -- but not a Victoria's Secret one.
For every Barry Sanders there is a Ron Dayne; for every probably-worthy QB winner like Matt Leinart there are a half dozen noodle-armed system quarterbacks who shouldn't be let within 20 feet of the trophy: Detmer, Ware, Toretta, Weinke, etc. What does it say about an award when you can construct an clever list of ten rules that reduce the field to a half-dozen possibilities before the season starts? It says that you're eliminating 99% of everyone in college football before the first game. And it says that maybe this voting thing isn't working out so well.
We're in good hands here, people.
We're all in agreement as to who should not receive the trophy: losers. More difficult is determining who should get the damn thing, but as I always say, when dealing with matters of superiority and inferiority, Nietzsche is your man. Except I never say that.
(A note for actual philosophy-people: what follows is going to be a very pop understanding of Nietzsche because the popular concepts associated with Nietzsche fit better with what I'm driving at than the actual complicated bits, which I haven't attempted to intepret correctly anyway. A pre-emptive apology for spreading ign'ance.)
So. WWND? First, grow an amazing mustache. Second, take the problem at hand -- who is the best football player -- and attempt to mesh it with his understanding of human nature:
[Anything which] is a living and not a dying body... will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant â€” not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power.
Faced with a game of stark military aggression, Nietzsche would probably see two kinds of players: those who respond out of fear and those who impose their will on things. Meatheads call the latter "swagger." Nietzche would see masters and slaves. The giant guy in the burnt orange loping through the secondary? Master. We're looking for masters, looking for those whose understanding of the game comes from a knowledge of what they can do instead of what they fear their opponents can. We're looking for those who transcend: ubermensch. Overman.
Whereas it was Nietzsche's overman who "balances over an empty space," from the perspective of the ardent college football fan it is we who teeter over an abyss of the unknown, emotional well-being on the knife's edge, waiting for someone to rise up and push us forward... or back. As anyone who's spent too much time with Sid Meier knows, Nietzche accidentally stumbled across a gorgeous description for the sort of sporting event that you realize is far too important to you:
Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman--a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping.
The fan is simultaneously tied and carried by "those who cross over," looking down, looking across, eyeing the opposing forces. We cling to the handholds afforded by our captor-champions, and watch as a battle -- our battle -- unfolds on a bridge of rope.
The ideal Heisman candidate is frightening to behold unless he is on your side, in which case he is your flagbearer and protector. The ideal candidate is a force of nature that rolls through his opposition against tremendous odds. His name is graven on the tombstone of instant replay's creator as a justification. He is not sunnily efficient, or competent, or a great fat beast who crushes only the weak. He is slightly terrifying. There is a small but real possibility that he is the escaped prototype of a CIA-developed breed of unkillable soldiers; he is not man; he is overman.
Items Of Interest
- ubermenschliche. that's a German adverb for "superhuman" that I'm appropriating as a noun in this context. What are ubermenschliche? Plays that etch themselves into college football history for sheer amazement value; plays that seem like magic we can't understand. At their best, these are exertions of one player's will on all those around them: Howard's Heisman-pose-generating return; Roy Williams's flying squirrel attack; Leinart's forth-and-nine fade. The Heisman voters usually do get this right by focusing on the plays in a season which seem like pure exertions of will, but the emphasis on them here will be even greater. Anyone who picks up the shattered pieces of a season and fuses the shards back together will have a leg up.
- Bowl Games. The Heisman's given out before the bowls occur, probably due to college football's odd, longstanding opinion that bowl games were cute exhibitions or something. Bowl statistics didn't even count towards records until very recently. Obviously the voters can't take bowls into account unless they have a time machine, but some Heisman trophies are obsolete by January 1st. It would be silly for a retrospective look to ignore some of the greatest performances in college football history.
- In the same vein: The last couple games of the regular season. For some reason Heisman voters are allowed to submit ballots before the end of the regular season. Some take advantage of this opportunity every year. This enterprise, er, doesn't.
- (Some) NFL performance. the Heisman is a college award and shouldn't go to whoever gets drafted #1 in a particular year, but the NFL performance of a particular player can help confirm or disconfirm the talents of certain players who play at small schools or amongst a horde of other stars that may camouflage their weaknesses. Note that players not ticketed for NFL success -- option quarterbacks, 5'9" wide receivers, guys playing on six knee surgeries -- are not punished for their circumstances.
Items Of Disinterest
- Damned numbers. Right, right, I'm Mr. Computer Man with the charts and tables and stuff, but all of those things apply to teams. Attempting to divine which player's overall performance was superior because of a touchdown here or two hundred yards racked up against Ball State is impossible.
- Quarterbacks and running backs. Not prejudicially, mind you, but it's ridiculous that since 1935 only five players (Larry Kelley, Leon Hart, Tim Brown, Desmond Howard, and Charles Woodson) who haven't played the aforementioned positions have happened to be the best players in the country. That's wrong.
- Who you play for. Obviously quality of opposition matters, and it's hard to pick up ubermenschliche credit if you're not playing in important games, but we judge on the content of talent, not color of helmet.
- Eligibility. If you're a freshman and the best player in the country, it's your award.
- Career achievements. even if you've been good for the past three years, no one cares.
First Up: the most personally grating Heisman to Michigan fans in the past ten or so years: 1999. Ron Dayn
e won it largely for griding Montana A&M State under his heel but never beat or even cracked 100 against Michigan in his entire career. Nominate candidates in the comments.
I'm not sure I like it when Bruce Feldman picks out ten "spring revelations" from programs around the country and settles on Obi Oluigbo as number four. I mean, it's nice and all, but he's a fullback and with Mike DeBord back in the saddle at offensive coordinator any excuse to try the draw on second and twelve is the cause of heebie-jeebies. Feldman knows Carr, though:
Thanks to his improved quickness, Oluigbo is a guy Lloyd Carr is kind of excited about this spring.
Carr is, indeed, mildly intruiged by the possibility of that fullback dude blocking someone, but not enough to miss his Father Dowling Mysteries reruns.
Also on Feldman's list are Michigan State safety Nehemiah Warrick -- Peter's brother and a JUCO transfer -- and Ohio State freshman linebacker Ross Homan, who is reported to look like AJ Hawk. Poor guy. A piece of advice for Homan: try not to wander by any swamps, lagoons, or other areas where amorous bipeds twisted by radiation might take a fancy to you and your apparently cro-magnon visage.
FYI: it appears that the Feld-blog has been released into the wild. 'Tis free to non-OMG-Insiders, as are a fair number of other ESPN blogs. In case you hadn't wandered over there in a while.
Don't you have a headliney-checker guy or something? The south is abuzz over 'Bama booster Logan Young's recent death at the hands of an unknown assailant (though the "violent, bloody struggle" could apparently have been an "accident" according to Memphis police).
The reason I bring up this apparently unrelated piece of news is that an AP article trickled across my newsreader -- it's linked above in the "struggle" quote -- with this headline:
Must... not... laugh... at... violent... death. Maybe just a titter?
This is why Bill Walsh said "every copy desk could use a 13-year-old boy" in Lapsing Into a Comma*:
A puerile sense of humor can be a big asset in the word business. I call it the Beavis and Butthead factor. (Heh heh -- he said "big asset"!)
This means you should know why Court Deals Blow To Homosexuals is a bad headline. You should know that the previous sentence was not the place to abbreviate headline.
*(Yes, I am the kind of person who owns a book on usage and remembers enough of it to fetch it when appropriate. I'm the kind of person who reads books on usage and is pleased when the other books on usage I've read are referenced approvingly. You are given permission to give up all hope for me now.)
Also: Young's death has apparently caused the south to go all crazy-like. They're attacking innocent ninjas in Georgia. Ninja is probably going to flip out and sue. And as long as we're on the topic of headlines, Georgia student newspaper The Red And Black gets one million points for this one:
ATF rids Univ. of ninja threat
The industrious beaver-elf mulattos that sit next to the forge in my basement pumping out analysis after analysis of football/basketball/hockey minutiae dread the arrival of this coming Saturday more than any other, for it is then that I have no further use for them and set them free -- "set free," of course, being another way of putting "sell into Keebler slavery." I will then spend the summer tending their larva; in August the next generation will hatch and be introduced to their cruel half-cat, half-man taskmasters. Fettered, blindered, and abandoned, they will spend the next six to eight months of their lives painstakingly assembling the sentences offered in this space for your amusement and where the hell was I going with this?
Ah. Yes. Other than a scattered softball or baseball update, Michigan sports will reach the deep offseason after Saturday's spring game. This enterprise will trundle on. But how? With tangentially relevant posts of dubious value, recruiting updates, and more stat-bashing. The recruiting stuff is fairly straightforward, but the others are fairly wide open. The point: I'm taking suggestions. Currently on the docket, FYI:
- Full-fledged diatribe against offsides in hockey.
- The 50 Most Loathsome People in Sports
- The (Friedrich) Nietzsche Theory of the Heisman
- Application of The (Friedrich) Nietzsche Theory to Heismans of the past 15 or so years.
I may or may not replicate the extensive Big Ten previews from a year ago. Johnny from RBUAS may take that torch up, in which case I can do other things -- one only needs a single excessively detailed preview.
Anyway, there are four months here and we have to fill them all somehow. If you've got ideas, offer away.
Due to a change in plans that had me driving until now, I have nothing for you today. Lo siento. Here's this article about Alex Legion with quotes from his coach, though.
This is just like that bit in Cruel Intentions... er, I mean Dangerous Liasons. What the hell am I talking about? Here's a quote from presumptive NHL signee Matt Hunwick:
"If Jack's back, and he's our highest-profile player, I can't see why anyone else should leave," Hunwick said. "That tells you how special Michigan really is."
Earlier in the article Antoine Pitts claims that...
Last week, [TJ] Hensick and Hunwick both said there's always a slim chance they could leave early but couldn't see themselves giving up their senior years.
... without offering the actual quotes up for reassurance. Could it be true? Or is this all a cynical ploy that will unravel with the revelation of a cocaine addiction and the playing of "Bittersweet Symphony"? Stay tuned! Or something!
I for one refuse to believe that Michigan will escape the offseason without a defection until I verify the existence of each player during the Blue-White game in the fall. But... hope?
(via Yost Built)
Talk about burying the lede. BGS posted something about a bunch of Notre Dame neutral site games against the likes of South Florida but left this beauty of a phrase uncommented upon:
At last weekend's Rockne Dinner in Chicago, between Charlie saying the only reason he'd leave ND is if he were fired, he died, or he retired, and Aaron Taylor's claim that he's leaving ABC Sports to become an elementary school teacher, the big news was Kevin White's announcement of some of the locations for future "neutral site" Notre Dame games.
O frabjous day! No more banalities uttered from the side of Taylor's mouth. No more shiny head. No more broken knuckles from punching the TV*.
Also: are we sure Taylor said "teacher" and not "student"? I'm just sayin'.
*(except when Dick Vitale, Bill Walton, and many, many others are on it. So that should probably read "fractionally fewer" broken knuckles.)
The second of the three niblets of information to come out of spring practice is Lloyd Carr's post-spring press conference, which was yesterday. You can listen to the press conference (evil Real Player link) yourself at MLive; I condense and interpret below if you don't have 35 minutes. (Also: Scout transcript.)
The third niblet is the spring "game" or practice-type-thingy, which is Saturday at 1 PM. I'll attend and file a report -- hopefully it'll be useful.
Bass is out, but not that out. Carr confirmed that Antonio Bass is expected to miss the entire 2006 season with a severe knee injury. He did leave the door open a crack with some vague references to extraordinary rehabilitation, but the upshot was don't expect Antonio in '06. Carr did allay fears that the injury might be career-ending, saying that he "didn't expect" that to be the case.
Other injuries: John Thompson, Mario Manningham, and Rueben Riley have all missed portions of the spring with injuries described as "minor." Freshly-scoped Doug Dutch returned to practice last Tuesday.
More seriously, Chris McLaurin, who underwent shoulder surgery last year, may have to get a similar surgery on his other shoulder. Even if that should happen Carr said he "should be back by fall."
Chad Henne is "right where he needs to be," according to Carr. There's not much to discuss here -- Henne is the starter and good things will be said about him no matter how he performs until fall. Forcier is the backup and will hopefully not be heard from until Henne departs.
Mike Hart is going to be the starter, but Carr also had high praise for the rest of the backs, especially Kevin Grady:
[Grady] had the best day of his career on Saturday. He ran with power. He's much more comfortable with making the cuts and finding the hole. He's a guy who likes to compete. He's very tough. He has made wonderful strides. His weight is down, which has really significantly helped him.
Of note is that fifth-year walkon/dustmite Alijah Bradley may actually be in line for some playing time:
Alijah has put himself in position where we know he is a dependable guy. He can do a lot of things. He's an outstanding pass protector and pass receiver, a guy who is very quick.
Bradley did have Michigan's longest run in last year's Ohio State game, a nine yard draw that put Michigan in a fourth and short they converted on their final scoring drive. Also, Carlos Brown has terrific "breakaway speed" and is working at cornerback some.
At fullback, Carr had extensive and specific praise for fifth-year senior Obi Oluigbo:
Obi Oluigbo has had a terrific spring. My guess is this guy is going to be a dynamite fullback in the fall. ... I think he is much, much quicker. He's had some plays where everybody on the team is impressed. 'Wow!' â€“ Those kinds of blocks on linebackers. He really feels comfortable with the things we're asking him to do. He's using his athletic ability to get there, he's got his pads down and he's been exploding into the defender. He's been lights out.
Pencil him in as the starter and hope the praise is warranted.
Wideouts and Tight Ends
Manningham's been out with a minor knee sprain, so he didn't get much mention. Redshirt freshman Laterryal Savoy did, however:
[Savoy] has really shown the ability to help us this fall. He's a big guy, and he can run. He's going to be a factor.
The rest of it is unilluminating praise. At tight end, Massey and Ecker have "improved significantly," and FSF Carson Butler gets an implied superlative from Carr:
Carson Butler is going to be... [what? going to be what?] if his attitude and his work ethic... [aaaargh! whatwhatwhat?] he needs more strength, but he is probably as athletic as any tight end we've had.
Carr at his rambling best.
Tackle is sure to be the main focus of preseason panic. The first sign the coaches were scrambling was the move of natural right tackle Jake Long to the left side. Now Carr is mentioning anyone and everyone other than fifth year senior Mike Kolodziej opposite Long, including redshirt freshmen Mark Ortmann and Corey Zirbel. Yikes. Double yikes: the guy tabbed by Carr as the likely starter is Rueben Riley, who was the source of much anxiety a year ago. Remember the Penn State preview? The passing offense's "key matchup":
OTs Ruben Riley/Mike Kolodziej ("small animals in my immediate vicinity post-game") versus Tamba Hali ("wood chipper").
That prediction turned out about as well as all the rest -- Riley turned in a nigh-heroic performance against Hali -- but it was rooted in the events of the previous week against Minnesota. During that game true freshman Steve Davis repeatedly ownzored Riley and singlehandedly snuffed out three or four drives.
Anyway, with your mind properly calibrated, check this quote out about who's been playing at RT and try not to curl into the fetal position:
Brett Gallimore is lining up there, I mentioned Cory Zirbel, of course Rueben Riley and Mike Kolodziej. Kolodziej is playing at both tackles. Mark Ortmann is at left tackle. Zirbel has gotten the majority of the snaps, and Kolodziej's gotten some.
Yeesh. That probably has something to do with Riley missing hunks of practice time but it means that Zirbel is at worst second on the depth chart.
Also in limbo: right guard. Carr mentioned redshirt sophomores Alex Mitchell and Jeremy Cuilla as the main contenders, but had caveats for both:
Alex Mitchell has done some good things. He's going to have to compete. He's going to have to lose some weight, and I think the same is true of Jeremy Ciulla. The right guard is a position where we'll go into training camp having to make a decision at that position.
The nominally good news is that three positions appear to be set: Jake Long ("great spring") at left tackle, Adam Kraus ("very good spring") at left guard, and Mark Bihl ("outstanding spring") at center. You might do well to be a bit wary about Bihl's insertion into the starting lineup. He's been given every chance to grab a starting spot for the past two or three years and has never lasted more than a couple games before getting yanked.
This seems worthy of a sigh of relief...
Tim Jamison didn't have a very good day on Saturday, but up until Saturday, I would say he probably has had as good a spring as anybody on our team.
...as it lessens the chance of a re-Massey. Also coming in for praise: Terrance Taylor ("has a chance to be a great nose tackle... much stronger"), Marques Walton("played very well"), and James McKinney ("made very good progress") -- now a DT.
Ut-oh? Shawn Crable received extremely high praise...
I think Shawn Crable has had a terrific spring. Crable, if he continues, there's no way Crable is not going to be on the field, because he has really turned it up.
... but the rest of the linebackers got a big, fat raspberry from Carr:
The rest of them are up for grabs. ...
On if he is disappointed with the linebacker play this spring:
"I'm a little disappointed at certain places in there, but I expect before we're done there that they will be a strength of this team."
Since David Harris was the one thing standing between the Michigan defense and Indiana-level run defense last year, I would assume his job is safe. I would read the ominous doom-saying about the linebackers as an indication that both Prescott Burgess and Chris Graham are in serious danger of finding themselves on the bench come fall unless they stop playing like Jim Herrmann is still their coach.
The battle at corner has a surprising contender in Charles Stewart. When asked about who would start opposite Leon Hall, Carr said that both Stewart and Johnny Sears were having "very, very productive springs." Trent was not mentioned until specifically asked about later; Carr took the opportunity to say this:
He's in a very competitive position because he came into the spring as number one. Sears and Stewart have really come on. He's like a lot of guys. He's got to step up."
If I had to put together a corner depth chart right now I have no idea who would end up opposite Hall -- and it would probably be a distinction without a difference. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, since Trent seemed to perform very well for a freshman in '05.
At safety, the first name out of Carr's mouth was junior Jamar Adams:
We've had one safety I think has really ... I don't like to say solidified, but Jamar Adams has had an excellent spring.
Carr also mentioned that there were a "couple of freshmen" -- Steve Brown and Jonas Mouton -- who would be candidates for time in the fall, but I don't buy it. With Harrison, Adams, Englemon, Mundy and Barringer all returning, Michigan has no fewer than five safeties with starting experience. If Brown and Mouton are going to see the field it's going to be at corner (Brown) or linebacker (Mouton).
"no question, Zoltan has improved from the fall"
Four Heismans are still in reach.