i like 'em both
Spring such and such for Michigan's most important 2007 opponents happened over the weekend. A recap!
I am of the opinion that when your fourth-string quarterback is the most impressive passer at your spring game, you might have issues. Anthony Morelli didn't play much; when he did BSD fill-in The Nittany Line didn't sound impressed. Neither did he endorse Austin Scott, who came to Penn State with a barrel of hype four years ago and has one good game against Florida State to show for it. He's the starter by default but...
Scott averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 13 carries but didn't really show me anything. He looked like he got to the corner pretty quick but I think he still tends to "dance" a bit when he should be burring his head and getting the extra yard. That may be an unfair assessment since I'm used to seeing Tony Hunt, the human plow, take tacklers head on. Like Mike thought, we didn't really get a chance to see Scott's blocking ability and that is probably his biggest weakness up to this point.
The wide receivers didn't show much that was unexpected. They're all decent enough but uninspiring. Sophomore Chris Bell had an impressive spring and should find himself featured at some point. He has something -- size -- that PSU's current cast of mighty mites lacks. Derrick Williams has not deviated from his distinctively Breastonian career path thus far.
Defense: Irritatingly, it appears that Chris Rogers -- a Pennsylvania native who transferred from Michigan after a redshirt year claiming homesickness -- is going to start at defensive end. Rogers either has rich or annoyed parents, since Big Ten rules prohibit Penn State from giving an intra-conference transfer any scholarship money.
The second corner is probably going to be AJ Wallace. We might be catching him at a vulnerable point:
Wallace got burned a couple of times last year in coverage, and JoePa's comments about Wallace in the pre-game presser are not especially encouraging: "When he's healthy, he's a very gifted athlete. [My only criticism is] every once in a while, he's a little loosey-goosey out there. When you're playing corner, loosey-goosey could be six points." Uh, no kidding.
BSD echoes that assessment:
A.J. seemed a tad lost a couple times I watched him, but he also showed me some really good recovery speed. I think it's only a matter of experience before Wallace fulfills the potential he came to PSU with.
Wallace was a fairly shirtless recruit a couple years ago and Justin King is a potential All-American (argh), but if Wallace is "loosey-goosey" and we manage to get Manningham lined up across from him great success could be in the offing.
Reading way too much into assessments of meaningless spring games that themselves read way too much into meaningless spring games: Nothing of note happened in the Penn State spring. Morelli's the starting quarterback, there are major questions on the offensive line and in the person of talented but enigmatic Austin Scott. The defense projects to be at least pretty good, though they'll need someone to step forward on the line. No information was gathered on that project.
A similar situation: the big star of the spring game was someone called "Junior Jabbie," a man who sounds like the hero of a low-rent 80s-era knockoff arcade game, and his 87 rushing yards on 13 carries. I don't know if Jabbie's performance highlighted the absurdity of trying to draw conclusions from any spring game or what, because no Irish blogger bothered to say anything substantive. Rakes: nothing. HRB: nothing. Irish Roundtable: nothing. BGS: skepticism about the coming Jabbie era but little else about actual on-field events. A 10-6 victory where the only touchdowns come from a badly overthrown interception return and a wounded duck from a hit-while-throwing Demetrius Jones tends to mute enthusiasm.
I did find some impressions from the obscurer sections of Notre Dame blogdom, though not many. "Her Loyal Sons" says Jimmah looked good:
Our reporter K-man's opinion was that Jimmy Clausen looked the most comfortable under center, and that Demetrius and Frazer looked decidedly uncomfortable. Take one man's opinion on 'comfort level' with a grain of salt, but it's pretty telling that he felt the other two big QB recruits didn't even look comfortable let alone efficient or good.
The blog arm of UNHD says not so fast:
Quarterbacks weren't overly impressive. Jones fumbled (which his team recovered) and had a pick returned for a touchdown, Frazer threw a pick, Sharpley fumbled (which he also didn't lose), and Clausen missed some receivers.
Sharpley had the best command of the offense and moved the chains the best of the four.
When Jimmah was given the opportunity to win the dang game, results weren't good:
And with two minutes left in the game, with the Blue trailing 10-6, Clausen took the field with a chance to wow the sun-drenched crowd. Instead the sequence went: Travis Thomas four-yard run, incomplete pass to John Carlson in traffic, an intentional throwaway under pressure that looked like it was intended for Parseghian, an offensive pass-interference penalty and an incomplete pass to Robby Parris on fourth-and-21.
No quarterback did well. Clausen was 3 of 7 for 23 yards. Jones was 3-6 and threw a pick six. Sharpley was 5 of 7 for 31 yards but was sacked for negative 39. Zach Frazer threw four passes; the only one that was caught was intercepted. Between both teams Notre Dame chose to run the ball 54 times to just 24 passes.
But never fear! Some commenters pointed out this Wayne Drehs article from ESPN.com:
Freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen's play was, well, unremarkable. Which is just the way Charlie Weis wanted it.
Coming from Wayne Drehs in November: "Charlie Weis, the iconoclast genius, has discovered a way for Notre Dame to cease extending its bowl losing streak: fail to qualify for one. Yes, it's all going to plan for the only man to set foot on the moon... with his mind!"
Reading way too much into assessments of meaningless spring games that themselves read way too much into meaningless spring games: The quarterback competition will go into the fall. Given how the offensive line got overrun in pass protection against a defensive line that has very little talent (according to recruiting gurus, at least), the run-pass ratio Weis broke out in the spring game might not be far off from the one deployed during the year.
I talked with Vijay about this a bit: it's amazing how crap Ohio State's quarterback recruiting has been over the past few years.
- 2007: no recruits.
- 2006: Antonio Henton, a three star who was Rivals #9 "dual-threat QB" and only the 25th best recruit in Georgia. Committed to OSU over Illinois, Maryland, and Louisville.
- 2005: Rob Schoenhoft. Four-star who was Rivals' #6 pro-style QB. Committed to OSU over Michigan.
- 2003: Todd Boeckman, a three-star and Rivals #19 pro-style QB. Committed to OSU over Pitt and Maryland.
That doesn't look too bad -- a little thin, but not awful -- until you consider the strange case of Schoenhoft. He's 6'5" and apparently a camp superstar. He had an impressive ranking from Rivals and some nice offers, but some seriously strange high school statistics. As a junior he completed 37% of his passes. As a senior he was better but only slightly, completing 45%. What's the deal? EDSBS picked up a report from a Buckeye that pieces the puzzle together:
Who will replace Troy Smith? ... Not Rob Schoenhoft. God, he sucks. Think "Sexy Rexy," but without the talent. Fuck it. He's throwing downfield, and by God, it will leave his hand at mach 8.
Michigan and OSU offered him on the basis of a big arm and prototype size; Schoenhoft has little else. Henton is black and short and is thus universally compared to Troy Smith. Does anyone remember how bad Troy Smith was early in his career? Yeah...
Henton did have a very Smith-esque game, going 8/16 for 40 yards, 3 picks, and 2 fumbles.
Zounds! Buckeye Commentary has some impressions of his own. Sounds similar to the Michigan spring along the lines: starters are being held out and the projected first string defensive line is dominating the backups. From the sounds of it Boeckman is solid but uninspiring, a Krenzel type.
Reading way too much into assessments of meaningless spring games that themselves read way too much into meaningless spring games: Boeckman starter. If he sucks or is injured OSU is in deep trouble. No conclusions can be drawn about the defense given the QB situation and the absence of non-Maurice Wells tailbacks, but most of those guys return so it should be about the same. Expect Ohio State to revert to Tresselball this year. Chris Wells is going to get run ragged, the special teams and defense will be good to infuriating, etc, etc.
Update 4/20: Linked to article on TX RB Sam McGuffie. Removed CA CB Brandon Leslie (no mutual interest), PA LB Andrew Sweat (dropped us), CA QB Dayne Crist (ND), MI S Charles Burrell(MSU). Added OH RB Darius Ashley, MD RB Josh Haden, NC RB Brandon Barnes, LA TE Tyler Edwards. Linked to header on OH OT Elliot Mealer, article on PA WR Jonathan Baldwin, article on OH LB Brandon Beachum, article on MI TE Tyler Hoover.
Removed GA S Darrell Simmons (dropped us), USC LB Brendan Beal (dropped us). Linked to article on OH OL Zebrie Sanders. Added TX S Keanon Cooper, OK S Kye Staley. Moved OH OL Elliot Mealer to committed.
Editorial Opinion: Dangit. I wrote this last night...
Offensive linestuffs. JB Shugarts is widely rumored to have committed to Ohio State. This is bad news and good news wrapped into one. Ohio State now has commits from Shugarts, Mike Adams, and Michael Brewster, all of whom are potential collegiate tackles. Ohio State has a small class this year and is looking to take a maximum of four offensive linemen. As a result, they're holding off on offering a couple of well-regarded instate tackles. One is Zebrie Sanders, who has offers a lot of schools, including Florida and Georgia. A recent transplant from South Carolina, he might be inclined to go elsewhere but Michigan is in his current top three. The other is Elliot Mealer, who says Michigan leads. Mealer appears to be waiting on an Ohio State offer, though, and will probably go there if he gets one. It might be better for us if OSU picks up WV OL Josh Jenkins or VA OL Kyle Long, leaving Mealer for us. It's kind of crappy to be picking up on OSU's scraps, but they're putting together a killer offensive line class. In most years both Sanders and Mealer would already have Ohio State offers.
...and Mealer goes and commits in the interim. Inconvenient timing. Mealer is a Scout 4*; Rivals hasn't assigned stars yet but he's outside of their preliminary "250 to watch" so at the moment he's probably a three star to them. The other aspects of his recruitment -- a pre-camp offer from Michigan, serious interest from Ohio State -- indicate he's a good pickup. We'll probably take a third if we can find one we like.
Dayne Crist wasn't coming here, but jeez that's a weird decision to make.
Running back explosivo! Much news here. Sam McGuffie's been running around visiting and getting offered by everyone. Quote to give you hives:
"I want an offer from them so bad. ...
"Great running backs come from USC," McGuffie said. "I've been compared to Reggie Bush before and that's a big deal. I'm going to take a trip there at the beginning of the season hopefully. An offer from SC would be huge. I would definitely be tempted to commit."
Yuck. Normally this would be where I would point out that USC collects All-American tailback prospects like funny similie, but since they've locked down X in the past two years obviously the rules about sanity don't apply.
McGuffie did say some nice things about Michigan:
"Coach (Fred) Jackson texts me every single day. He says that they see me starting and I could be the first white freshman All-American running back. They really need running backs, especially with a couple guys hurt this year. I'm going to take an official there for sure."
"I really like Michigan too," said McGuffie. "My family's from there so I've been to Ann Arbor a couple of times. It's a great campus and a really nice area. You drive in and you don't see anything, then all of a sudden, there is it! It's great.
A damage-control article from GBW popped up in the aftermath of this article to paint a rosy picture, but at this point it appears that Michigan is just one in a pack of schools chasing McGuffie and is no more or less likely to lock him down than anyone else he has serious interest in.
Tight ends and whatnot. I've added LA TE Tyler Edwards to the board but grudgingly. He claims a solid LSU lead, and given Michigan's recent fortunes with Louisiana prospects who claim Michigan leads one would be forgiven for ignoring a Lousianan who's not even teasing us with the prospect of a commitment entirely. But he has an offer and says he'll visit...
Despite saying he doesn't like to travel, Edwards says that distance from home won't be a factor. ["Despite saying he hates sugar, Edwards keeps an open mind about dessert." -ed] "Michigan is far, but I want to visit them," he said. "They are a big-time program and I like their tradition and want to learn more about them.
...so on the board he goes. If there was a Super Nefarious Eduardo icon, he would get it.
Michigan's chances are much better with the other tight end named Tyler, instate prospect Tyler Hoover from Novi. He recently acquired a Michigan offer and says his decision will come down to the two instate schools:
"It's pretty much Michigan or Michigan State," said Hoover, who finished his junior season with 87 tackles, eight for loss. "They both are recruiting me probably the hardest. I'm in contact with both about the same too."
The last head-to-head recruiting battle Michigan State won was... uh... TJ Duckett(?), so confidence should be running high. Michigan says they're recruiting Hoover for either side of the ball, while State says defensive end. Best quote ever coming up:
"Michigan State is recruiting me mainly for defensive end," said Hoover, who claims to run a 4.8 forty. "I think I'd have more potential of playing early at State because their defense is really pretty weak."
I'm this close to throwing up a Mr. Blue for Hoover but he didn't indicate he was leaning either way in the article. Maybe soon.
Jonathan Baldwin went on the record with a top five. The rumored Michigan lead isn't explicit, but...
"I really like Michigan," he said. "They've been recruiting me the hardest. I get a lot of text messages from them. They want me for receiver. I know I'd have a chance to go in there and start early.
"I went there for the Michigan/Michigan State game last year. I really liked the campus. Everything is new there and really cool. I think I'm going to take an official this summer."
...it does sound pretty good, though he can't take an official until fall. His offer list is getting very impressive: Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Miami, and Alabama amongst others. The art
icle doesn't mention the possibility Baldwin will go to school to play basketball. Don't know if that's no longer a possibility or not, but his profile in football is much higher than it is in basketball, where Marquette is his best offer and presumed leader. Chances are he ends up a football player.
For whatever reason we appear to be ignoring OH LB Brandon Beachum, which is weird. He is the recipient of plenty of early recruiting hype and has a pretty flashy offer list: Oklahoma, LSU, Nebraska, and a bunch of midlevel BCS schools. Michigan and Ohio State are notable exceptions. Maybe the two schools know something others don't?
Full board here.
Whatever. There were reports over the weekend that Michigan had been eliminated from the decision process of the plinko machine that is Alex Legion, but reports of our demise were at least slightly exaggerated:
Legion, a 6-foot-5 senior guard out of Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., who visited the University of Kentucky from Thursday through Saturday, told Rivals.com he's down to Kentucky, UCLA and Michigan.
(KU is out of the running since they want Legion to wait on Brandon Rush's NBA decision. Rush entered the draft but has not retained an agent and may withdraw.) Wait... UCLA? One of the two teams that an enraged Official Mom of Legion said her son would most certainly not attend, Tim Green be damned? Yes. UCLA. Alex Legion is less decisive than Charlie Weis at Baskin Robbins. So it's with the strongest hesitation that I offer any prediction whatsoever, but it sounds like UK is his probable destination:
"With UCLA, I've always been a fan," Legion said. "I always thought it would be nice to play there. They have great tradition like Kentucky. With Michigan, it's still home. I'm still going to give them a shot. I just don't know how I'd fit in with what coach (John) Beilein wants to do. I was excited about playing for coach Amaker (Tommy, new coach at Harvard), so that kind of changed my feelings about Michigan.
"I'm real comfortable with Kentucky right now. It's only five hours from home, not too far at all."
+1 to the Lawrence Journal-World reporter for laconically mentioning that "It should be noted that schools have reappeared on Legion's list after getting sliced." Indeed.
A no-doubt insane Todd McShay puts together a mock draft of not 12345 or 6 but 7(!) rounds for ESPN. Michigan players in his latest:
- #10 Leon Hall
- #11 Alan Branch (behind the Louisville guy, which is completely insane)
- #35 Lamarr Woodley (one pick after he has the Lions taking Trent Edwards with Stanton still on the board)
- #52 David Harris (crazy low)
- #191 Steve Breason (mid-sixth round)
- #204 Prescott Burgess (towards the end of the sixth)
NFL.com's Gil Brandt -- who I almost call "Gil Thorpe" whenever I type his name; who's called "Gil" in this day and age anyway? -- has Harris his #2 inside linebacker:
He had a very good workout at the Combine, running better than people thought he would, and looked good in drills. He has good strength for the position. He's smart and will compete on every down. He's good, but not a great athlete. His best position most likely is at inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He uses his hands well and has been well coached.
Well, that's totally unexpected. Scott Dreisbach's life has been a weird one, but I don't know if this can be topped. He's currently in the Arena Football league. In Columbus...
3) I think Columbus backup QB Scott Dreisbach is probably the only backup signal caller in the League truly 'playing' for his paycheck (that was until Andy Kelly and Tony Graziani went down forcing backups Steve Bellisari and Juston Wood into the lineup).
... playing linebacker:
Instead of holding a clipboard on the sideline and charting plays, Dreisbach plays a handful of series at 'jack' linebacker on defense (6.5 tackles on the season) and covers kicks on special teams for the Destroyers.
His role has expanded as he gets used to it:
Again, the whole team gave a full effort. This included two late stops "Jack" positioned-reserve QB Scott Dreisbach, who played defense and special teams.
"Scott made very crucial stops in the 4th," Columbus Head Coach Doug Kay explained, "We have been working on that all week; we need to stick to the (opponent's) quarterback with every play. David Saunders is excellent, too; at that position."
Dreisbach made five tackles.
I got nothing here. It's just weird, that's all.
I hope to have more on this later, but the Big Ten Network is rapidly morphing from a cool idea into a disaster waiting to happen. They're reportedly asking for $1.10 per subscriber in the local area and trying to get placed in the same price band ESPN does. They should ask the NFL network (70 cents a subscriber and placement in areas of cable it takes a sherpa to reach) how well that's going to work.
No big deal as long as the football games are of the Northwestern-Illinois variety, right? Unfortunately, the network is going to have some weeks that they have the second or third pick... before ESPN, so there's a possibility that several Michigan games could be yanked off national TV and shoved onto a tiny cable network no one gets in a power struggle.
The answer to all of this is a la carte pricing for cable, which will come as soon as Congress passes a law demanding it. IE: not by this fall.
Today I write to you wanting to know your side of the story about the luxury boxes. I assure you I'm not a journalist or anything. I just want to hear what you thought about the renovations. From your latest blog entry, I can deduce that you support the luxury boxes. I'm interested to know why. I have been caught between the argument for a while. I'm a life-long Michigan fan; 2 hours after I was born, my dad bought me a teddy bear with a Michigan sweater and hat. It sits next to my bed to this day. Whenever he was able to purchase tickets, he would take me to the game. I want the Big House to be louder, and I want tickets to stop going up in price (this year it's $204!). But at the same time, I hate the idea of catering to the rich, blocking out the sun that would shine on the student section, and ending any possibility of being the Big House. I'm caught up with my feelings of nostalgia.
I hope that hearing your side will help influence my opinion, but it will not dictate it. I look forward to continuing reading your blog everyday. Possibly next November, you could do a piece on the Blood Battle between Ohio State and Michigan. I'm one of the four students in charge of it. We are always looking for any type of publicity. I really want to win both the game and the Blood Battle while I'm a student here.
Thank You for Your Time,
(Remind me about the blood battle.) An answer:
First off, it's completely reasonable to have reservations about the luxury boxes. It's completely reasonable to hate the idea of them. Not everyone who hates the idea is the Hero of Tiananmen Square. Their addition is a serious matter worthy of discussion. Where tHOTS goes wrong is by assuming that because a bunch of his NYC friends think it's just awful that luxury boxes might be installed that he speaks for the Michigan fanbase. I know that the sometime strident opinons expressed here may give off the impression that I look down upon those who disagree. Not so: I only look down upon those who would try to twist the reality of the situation to serve their own opinions.
What follows is a point-by-point debunking of what I think are the main points espoused by those who oppose the installation of luxury boxes. The finale is an argument in favor of their addition in the absence of (hopefully dismissed or at least mitigated) concerns.
Luxury boxes are going to cost the university money. This assumes that Bill Martin, the guy who brought Michigan kicking and screaming into the modern era of collegiate athletics, has no idea what he's doing when it comes to dollars and cents. No matter that he's a lifelong business entrepreneur. No matter that he spent years as the president of the USOC. No matter that every move he's made at the Michigan AD has been to wring money out of ticket-holders, donors, sponsors, and anyone who walks by.
I think 80 dollar Appalachian State tickets suck just as much as anyone else, but Michigan fading into obscurity is worse. Clearly having shiny athletic palaces is a way to help avert obscurity. It's complicated. I'm annoyed by Michigan's building spree as a ticketholder but pleased as a fan. I just think that anyone who's been paying attention should acknowledge that Martin has erred on the side of filling the athletic department's coffers. He's gone from a Goss-era deficit to a sixteen million dollar surplus. The idea that he's flipped out and decided to install luxury boxes just so he can have a place to host cocktail parties no matter the cost the university goes against everything on his track record.
Luxury boxes are going to break an egalitarian utopia. There were no protests when Martin instituted PSLs that socked people based on their seats' location. There have been no protests about the distinctively capitalist way season tickets get allotted: donate a ton of money and get good seats. Michigan Stadium has always been about getting people to pay an awful lot of money to sit in it. Despite the appearance of a unified proletariat all sitting on their benches, I can tell you that I have sat on the twenty, on the forty, in the student section, and in the endzone and that the character of each location is vastly different. I have sat next to men in hunting caps wearing pleather Red Wings jackets and looked down on them. I have sat in front of well-coiffed elderly women who have looked down on me. I have had elderly men yell at me for standing up because everyone in front of me has stood up. I have loathed and been loathed because the people in Michigan Stadium have differing ideas on what constitutes appropriate behavior. Always have. Always will. The installation of luxury boxes makes concrete (ha!) a distinction that has long existed.
And it's a small step towards giving everyone what they want. They provide a way for people with differing definitions of the word "better" to coexist. My definition of "better": I can see everything. I can hear Ron English bark out commands. I can hear the band. I can see Mike Hart sweat. Rich mofos' definition: I have a roof and pate? Sweet. Without boxes, the only status these people can have is sitting on the fifty, occupying seats that I could have without their fur-clad indolence. Providing these people really expensive status markers that don't impact where I can sit can only be a benefit.
I am touchy about this tradition stuff. If Martin announced that he'd be putting in the sort of advertising that's all over Ohio Stadium I would be livid. But that's something that directly affects me: I see the advertising, I feel that the tradition of Michigan Stadium is evaporating. The opposition of luxury boxes on tradition grounds is about objecting to someone else experiencing a game "better" than I am, but better to who? I don't want to sit there. While they're busy thinking of me as an insignificant plebe, I'm thinking "thanks, suckers." My experience is not degraded just because someone else is paying a lot of money to have a nice time.
Luxury boxes are going to hurt the stadium atmosphere. Though commenters brought the Daily article I linked which asserted that the local noise levels would double into considerable question, I don't think they conclusively dismissed it, if that was even their intent. One of the arguments put forth by luxury box opponents is that the removal of a certain number of fans from the lower bowl will reduce noise levels. This relies on doubtful assumptions:
- the sort of person who ends up in a luxury box made any noise whatsoever before being placed in the luxury box
- the luxury boxes don't contribute any acoustic benefits to the stadium
- neither do the luxury boxes contribute any general shock and awe to the stadium.
Though I hate to credit Ohio State with anything, I must admit that the stadium itself, even devoid of fans, is a more imposing edifice than Michigan's. Penn State, too. A large part of this increased bad-assery of their stadium consists of vertical walls of steel and glass. Michigan's proletarian bowl is nice but most neutral observers think it somewhat lacking. Michigan Stadium is basically a very large hole in the ground. From the outside it looks squat and mildly homely. The inside has the same sort of brute-force grandeur that the distance between stars or anything associated with some incredible number does, but is lacking in on-top-of-you intimidation. Compare Ohio Stadium...
Why add them?
The addition of luxury boxes will charge a certain subset of fans who treasure certain things I don't an exorbitant rate. These fans also happen to be the sort of fans who A) don't make any noise whatsoever and B) glare at you when you do. A relatively small number of rich as sin fans will get a place within which they can consume tartare and wine without having to tolerate the sort of people who go "AAAAAAAH" before every third down. In exchange, I get to benefit from their willingness to pay thousands of dollars to attend a football game without enduring their glares when I attempt to aid the team we're all watching by screaming real loud.* The money the boxes generate will help Michigan keep pace in the facilities arms race. The boxes themselves will increase the noise levels. From the outside they will look badass.
Ultimately, they will help Michigan win, and that's what I care about.
*(Or, rather, I get to benefit when my compatriots yell real loud. I am only nominally a boisterous fan, since I freak out when the stakes get too high and sit there, paralyzed into silence, wondering how my life is going to turn out based on the outcome of the next play. In the real world, the "best" fans in terms of pure noise are not the ones who are most invested in the outcome but the ones who really care who wins the game while simultaneously understand their ability to shrug off a disappointing outcome. I meet only the former qualification. Viva Downriver, never leave us.)
VT family members across the country have united to declare this Friday April 20th, an "Orange and Maroon Effect" day to honor those killed in the tragic events on campus Monday, and to show support for VT student, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and friends. "Orange and Maroon Effect" was born several years ago as an invitation to Tech Fans to wear orange and maroon to VT athletic events. We invite everyone from all over the country
to be a part of the VT family this Friday. To wear orange and maroon to support the families of those who were lost, and to support the school and community we all love so much.
Unfortunately some image and external aspects of MGoBlog just don't go "whoop" when you tell them to be maroon and orange, but we do what we can. More later.
There's a section on John Pollack. It has swearing because by God people like John Pollack are why swearing was invented.
I am not a journalist! That's the point of this enterprise. But of late I have been pondering doing some kind of journalism-esque things. So when news came down of the Paralyzed Veterans of America suing the University over the renovations proposed I gave one of the law-talking guys a call. Because of IANAJTTP, this will not be an impartial news article; there would be no point with Official Journalists covering it much better and much quicker than I could. Witness this AP article heavily quoting Richard Bernstein, who happens to be the law-talking guy I spoke to. My conversation with the guy ran along the same lines. Bernstein to Official Journalist:
"It's extremely disappointing that it had to come to this," said Richard Bernstein, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.
Bernstein to me (note that all quotes were hastily transcribed and may not be exact. I've tried to hew as closely to his words as I could):
"When you file a federal lawsuit it's always a last resort."
"Notre Dame has 17 wheelchair-accessible seating locations throughout the stadium," Bernstein said, who also is an adjunct political science professor at Michigan. "We have two."
"Notre Dame Stadium is a carbon copy of the Michigan stadium and is ADA compliant. They have 17 locations that are wheelchair compliant."
(He also mentioned he was a professor twice.)
Bernstein, who is blind and has taken the case pro bono, said the lawsuit is more far-reaching than simply providing better wheelchair access during Michigan football games and commencement exercises. He said a federal court ruling in favor of the university could have a "devastating impact on the ADA" because it would open the door for other developers looking to sidestep ADA provisions.
He said the court must draw a distinct line between "repair" and "alteration" projects, since the latter compels developers and property owners to comply with ADA guidelines. Left undefined, he said, disabled individuals will find it more difficult to use public venues, such as movie theaters, shopping malls and public transportation.
"Wheelchair users will lose access across the board, and will find it more difficult to be part of the community," Bernstein said.
"The reason we had to file was because what this entire case comes down to is the concept of alteration versus repair."
"This isn't a critical issue because it's Michigan football. If Michigan establishes this precedent about doing renovation over a series of years, you'll see shopping centers, airports, any public venue, will follow what Michigan is doing, scattering their renovations over a long period of time."
He said Michigan's ongoing construction project, dubbed a "renovation" on its Web site, is "offensive." ... "We're not asking for really good seats. We're asking for equal access. It's about inclusion. It's about civil rights."
"This is a major civil rights issue; this is infuriating to me."
I am fairly heartened that it seems the Official Journalist could do no better when it came to getting something that didn't seem relentlessly practiced out of Bernstein than I did; at first I thought I was a hopeless n00b. Turns out we're all n00bs in the face of a lawyer.
The Daily has some of the same quotes but did a better job getting hard numbers than either myself or the AP:
Stadium-wide compliance would include making 1 percent of all seating handicap accessible and offering a variety of seating locations and ticket prices for disabled visitors. For the officially 107,501-seat stadium, that means there must be at least 1,000 handicap accessible seats.
The MPVA wants the renovations to follow the example of those at the University of Notre Dame. After recent renovations, Notre Dame Stadium provides more than 400 wheelchair-accessible seats in 17 different locations.
"If you look at Notre Dame and the University of Michigan, their stadiums were built by the same architect in the same era. All we're asking is U of M do what Notre Dame did," Bernstein said.
Isn't this the most important thing? What compliance is, what the current situation is, what the hard numbers are on the comparable Bernstein uses? How can every other article ignore it? Good job, Daily! Do you still have people who think "This
Postmodern World" is a good title for a column? And can we deport them?
There are some things I managed to get in edgewise that didn't get reported in the papers:
- Our good and dear friend John Pollack's involvement was discussed. Bernstein managed to convince me that Pollack was not the motive force behind the lawsuit; it would be going on without his misguided attempts to "save" Michigan Stadium. However:
"When he read in the papers that we were moving forward on this, he called me. He's been helpful. He gave us some details on Notre Dame Stadium's accessibility."
Pollack jumped on board, seeing any avenue to shut down the renovations no matter how irrelevant to his cause.
This is where the opinion starts to come in, so full disclosure: I am in favor of these renovations and think John Pollack is a delusional idiot who believes he knows what's best for all Michigan fans. I'm striving to be fair to Bernstein and his paralyzed veterans and not misrepresent anything they've said or claimed, but I make no attempt to be "objective" in the traditional journalism sense. (IANAJTTP.) That sort of objectivity gets you articles that make no attempt to evaluate the claims laid out by the various sides, which is deeply annoying to me. Here we evaluate.
Anyway. This was my first experience talking to a lawyer trying to do PR and it was... interesting. Idiotically, I hadn't gotten the very relevant and very basic info on the university's renovation site about the ADA:
Q: Will the renovations address ADA accessibility?
Yes, the University will significantly increase the number and location of accessible seating for fans with impaired mobility. The new design adds an additional 72 accessible seats plus companion seats on the west side of the stadium. These seats will be covered and accessible through a new elevator. The east side of the stadium, the new design adds an additional 24 accessible outdoor club seats plus companion seats and 14 accessible inside club seats. In addition, there will be one accessible seat in every one of the suites. The total number of accessible seats will increase and the choice for location of accessible seating will now include both end zones and sideline seating.
Leaving out the accessible seats in the suites, the renovation calls for a total addition of 110 accessible seats to the already existing 100 in the endzones (though I'm not sure that all 100 of those seats can functionally be used by handicapped people; I think there's just a handicap-accessible area that holds a total o
f 100 people, including companions.) Note that each of the proposed 110 additional seats comes with a companion seat and that the distribution of the seats would be throughout the stadium. Also note that the total seating, even including the luxury box seats, is around 280, way below the mendoza line.
The veterans took an alternate proposal to the regents late last year; Bernstein made a big deal about regents Cathy White and Larry Deitch concurring with the vets and making a motion and a second to reject the renovations based upon it.
"There was a motion and a second, and they voted it down 6-2."
The implication was that because someone had heeded them and another regent agreed that the others were callous for not following a long. I don't get that, especially because what he failed to mention is that White and Deitch were two of the three regents who consistently voted against the renovations for any and all available reasons. How much of their concern was real and how much was pretext?
So how am I supposed to reconcile that information with this quote from Bernstein?
"The university has been totally unresponsive."
I dunno. I kind of think this is an exaggeration, but how am I to know? I don't think Bernstein was being entirely honest with me. Not that he was being dishonest. He was being lawyery. It was kind of creepy.
This was the most bothersome thing, the grand microcosm:
"What is it they're fighting for?"
That was Bernstein's big finish. I really dislike the implications there: plaintiffs Fight For Justice against "totally unresponsive" faceless athletic department. By the time we were done, I had gotten a couple questions in edgewise, heard a lot of things over and over again, and felt vaguely like I had just been witness to a particularly fast-pitched political speech. The University is fighting for... me. They want to do right by the handicapped guys but they also have constraints here. Assuming that they're screwing over handicapped guys just because there aren't any Indonesians around they can force to make licensed apparel is kind of dishonest. This is a really hard process and at the very least Michigan is vastly improving the situation.
The whole thing seems shoddy to me. I don't know if Robert Bernstein is related to Sam Bernstein, but I do know that he works for Sam Bernstein's firm... you know, 1-800-CALL-SAM. The guy who can get results for you after your car accident. And it shows. Not contend with rounding up some wheelchair-bound disability rights advocates, these guys go right for the paralyzed veterans. They're veterans, dammit! Why don't you let them in to your stadium? Do you hate America?
But... they kind of have a point. IA(obviously)NAL, but if Michigan is trying to claim that they don't need to be fully ADA compliant because what they plan to do to the stadium doesn't constitute an alteration, well, that's pretty weaselly. I'm not totally insensitive to this issue. I have a friend who teeters in and out of the stadium on crutches every week. My grandfather (who was an usher at Ferry Field(!) and is the primary reason that I am often suffered to sit at the 40 yard line, since our tickets have been in the family since the 50s) spent his final Michigan games watching from the crappy seats in the endzone. I don't know what's enough seating and don't have anywhere near enough information to pick a winner, but I can say that this is a real lawsuit and a real concern as opposed to that hippie crap going on at Cal and that some of the intemperate comments in the aftermath of the lawsuit's filing were out of line (even if I shared that opinion for a moment or an hour).
One final note: This is the point on Bullshit where Penn drops the jokes and very seriously addresses the camera: John Pollack is a cynical, manipulative asshole who will stop at nothing for his luxury box hissyfit to conclude successfully. I'm dead serious about this. This isn't "Stewart Mandel is retarded" or "CFN is retarded" or "Matt Hayes is a synonym for penis." Though I get angry when media professionals run around saying very stupid things, it's a shallow anger that I mostly mine for humor. If I ran into any of these people I wouldn't regard them with anything other than condescension. I'm not actually angry at them. This is different. John Pollack has no use for what the truth is. In his mind, the ends always justify the means:
"This is being driven by an obsession with luxury boxes," he said. "The University is effectively arguing that it is more important to provide seating for 1,500 people in luxury boxes than it is to provide seating for people with disabilities as required by law."
Ridiculous. Insulting. And a paranoid fantasy caused by his unsupported belief that "the University is trying to subsidize the loss in revenue that would be caused by luxury boxes by increasing regular bleacher seating and overlooking the interests of disabled people." Yes, of course. Bill Martin's putting in luxury boxes just like all those other pro and college teams that just love losing money. Paralyzed veterans are a way for Pollack to get what he wants, and the truth is only something for him to spin into something unrecognizable to stoke outrage. The only outrage in this complicated issue is Pollack and his behavior.
And you know the kicker? Motherfucker went to Stanford. Go screw up your alma mater, asshole. (Motherfucker also spent 30 years building a boat out of wine corks and he has the gall to criticize someone else for ill-advised construction?)
No, wait. This is the kicker. The kicker of kickers. This is what John Pollack thinks of himself and his quest to prevent luxury boxes at Michigan Stadium.
In 1989, the image of one man standing in front. Can one man, willing to take a stand, make a difference? Can one person stop the powers that be dead in their tracks?
Remember Tiananmen Square?
Profiles of that kind of courage seem hard to find these days but, if you are willing to look then you will indeed find, examples of that kind of heroism.
I swear to God I'm not making this up. There is an enormous profile/interview of this prick up at "DanaRoc.com" -- Dana Roc apparently "creates, develops and produces programs that empower people to be productive, powerful, successful and happy" -- about this "Save The Big House" campaign and it starts off by directly comparing John Pollack to the kid in front of the tank in Tianamen Square. Seriously:
An extraordinarily courageous young man captured the attention of the entire world in June of 1989, when he single handedly stopped the advance of a tank column by standing in its way...
JP reminds us all again of the power of one man willing to take a stand.
One person cheering doesn't make a whole lot of noise but, you get 100,000 people cheering and suddenly you've got a roar! -- John Pollack
This is the face of luxury box opposition. Even if he didn't write this enormously offensive blurb, by God, he's read it and didn't immediately demand its removal. I'm speechless. I mean, what can you say?