to play football, not to play trumpet
I'm writing this at a Starbucks in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, already one 20-ounce beer deep after a most depressing lunch at a nearby Chile's. I packed three shirts for this trip, all maize; my 2006 student football shirt draws pitied looks from those in red, hollow stares of sadness from fellow Michigan faithful.
Last night, I surveyed the carnage from my perch in the second deck; all I could think of was Switch, staring at inevitability.
Not like this.
Not like this.
Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 34 for a 1ST down.
The one Alabama fan I spoke to at length has but one question as we prepare to go through security and enter Cowboys Stadium. He is the archetype of the middle-aged Tide male, red polo with the script 'A' tucked into his khakis, carrying the air of a man who's seen the bottom of many a bottle.
"So, do y'all really think you have a chance?"
The question isn't spoken derisively, at least on its surface—like the others, he's almost disarmingly polite. Over the course of the next four hours, this particular trait goes from charming to infuriating.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 33.
The two words are reflex, easily deciphered by the amateur lip-reader any time an Alabama fan appears on the behemoth jumbotron, spoken any time two groups of fans pass in the concourse, emblazoned on T-shirts, seared into my soul.
Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 33.
Denard Robinson's third carry comes on the first drive of the third quarter. The scoreboard reads Alabama 31, Michigan 7.
Had I known this was the plan, I'd have watched from my couch.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 40.
Vincent Smith's fourth carry comes on the first play of the second quarter. To this point, Michigan's 34 yards of offense are almost entirely offset by their 25 penalty yards.
Had I known this was the plan, I'd have not watched at all.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 2 yards to the Mich 38.
Alabama's five-star running back, Dee Hart, hurtles down the field and connects flush with Dennis Norfleet. This is a kickoff return. Hart is on the coverage team. Had he stuck with his initial commitment to Michigan,—and after yesterday, nobody can blame him for not doing so—Hart would have started at running back for the Wolverines. He certainly would not have played kickoff coverage.
Half of the stadium erupts. It is not my half.
Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Mich 5.
My friends and I enter the stadium at six o'clock local time. After locating our section, we exit the concourse to stand at the railing behind out seats and stare agape at the jumbotron. It is as advertised, so mind-blowingly large that it takes every effort to avert my eyes and watch the players on the field. I briefly note how much larger the Alabama players look before going back to ogling the screen.
A 30-something man wearing crimson from head to toe strikes up a conversation. He tells us that he's really a Michigan fan, too, and still was trying to decide upon a team for which to cheer. He is gregarious, pleasant, and wishes us all the best when we head to our seats.
I hate this man.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 12.
Seven Wolverine defenders—Joe Bolden, Keith Heitzman, Mario Ojemudia, Ondre Pipkins, Terry Richardson, James Ross, and Jarrod Wilson—make their career debut.
None can stop the bleeding, of course. They are but freshmen, and freshmen cannot save you here.
Vincent Smith rush for 3 yards to the Mich 25.
Each Miller Lite costs $8 at Cowboys Stadium. This is criminal, of course, but the alternative is so much worse.
I'll take two, please.
Vincent Smith rush for no gain to the Alab 46.
Thomas Gordon finishes with nine tackles, leading the team, and—in my memory, at least—missing at least as many.
God bless Thomas Gordon. He tried, long after the point when I'd given up hope.
Vincent Smith rush for 1 yard to the Mich 15.
Hours before kickoff, we park in Lot 10 to begin tailgating. The signs for the lot bear the image of a Dallas Cowboys legend of some sort, though I don't recognize the face. We are next to a Wal-Mart. It is a stark reminder of where we are, and where we are not. By the time this sniveling jackass graces the big screen...
...I'll have vowed never to attend a regular season neutral site game again.
Vincent Smith rush for 22 yards to the Alab 48 for a 1ST down.
Vincent Smith—God bless him, too—finally turns the corner on his 11th carry, scampering 22 yards before screeching to a halt in front of an Alabama safety, falling to the turf when his legs cannot dance as his panicked mind intends. A Michigan fan behind me then utters the stupidest sentence in the history of man:
"He could’ve gotten about three more yards if he ran through that guy.”
I nearly miss Devin Gardner's touchdown two plays later as I frantically tweet to save the quote for posterity's sake.
Vincent Smith rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Mich 7.
This morning, before we load our luggage into the rental car, my friend Dan grabs an unopened 12-pack from the trunk.
Last night, in our haste to reach the hotel and never talk about that again, we forget to drink away our sorrows.
Vincent Smith rush for 2 yards to the Mich 28.
We find ourselves in the exclusive club section of Cowboys Stadium. We shouldn't be there, but Dan's girlfriend has that invaluable charm that renders such things moot. After a day of drinking and ignoring more basic needs, I am hungry. The concession stand offers a $13 Kobe Beef BBQ Burger, so of course I order one.
I eat my burger on a marble countertop. I state unequivocally that it's the best burger I've ever eaten, and long after the beers wear off I stand by that statement.
That turns out to be the highlight of my evening. An hour later, Alabama is up 21-0, and I've barely had time to get comfortable. I gaze at the field, resigned.
Not like this.
just putting this here
thought this had many interesting aspects that would be helpful for you
in times like these we must consider all aspects of the problem
polygot architecture burns
New system. Remain calm. The Liveblog Chaos Mitigation Post is still in effect, plz.
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one. Something like… Punt-Counterpunt.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
Michigan-Alabama Cowboy Classic
Punt/Counterpunt are together again for another go-round. The last time I wrote for this column, Lloyd Carr was still head coach of the Wolverines. I’ll count as a blessing that I didn’t have to write during the dark days of Michigan football. Bet you never thought you’d be more glad to be rid of “he who we shall not name” than that old curmudgeon Lloyd, did you?
I wanted to thank Brian for giving Nick and I another opportunity to voice our opinions, but I’m having second thoughts about doing this again. I’m finding it difficult to get excited about cranking this out every week, having a deadline, dealing with Counterpunt—it’s too much like work.
Actually dealing with Counterpunt is probably more like babysitting a spoiled child. They never know what they want, they make unreasonable demands and you can’t satisfy them no matter what you do.
Take this Michigan/Alabama game. How long have we known this was scheduled? Did you make any arrangements for attending it—tickets, air or hotel reservations? Noooo—but who decides last night while quaffing his fruity, hoppy brew ski that we just had to go on a 1200 mile road trip, leaving in the next five hours? I might have downed a few vodka tonics by then, but at least I know what’s feasible and what isn’t.
A feat that can be accomplished is Blue beating ‘Bama. First game of the season is the perfect time to play them. Coach Hoke and defensive coordinator Mattison have had eight months to game plan for this one. We’ll have the second coming of Megatron, when Devin Gardner lines up at wide receiver – which DB on Tide defense is going to cover him? And then there’s Denard. If you don’t have faith in what this kid can do by now, then you’ll just be a nonbeliever forever.
It should be obvious to all that my column-mate has issues. The man calls Bama’s coach Nick “Satan” for god sakes. Didn’t anyone ever tell Counter-runt to stay away from the red kool-aid? Nick stockpiles the talent and then just overwhelms you. Nothing special about the offense, just run it down his opponent’s throat until they choke. Remind you of anyone we used to know?
Michigan 31, Alabama 28
By Nick RouMel
Michigan-Alabama Cowboy Classic
Many thanks to MGoBlog for bringing Punt/Counterpunt out of retirement. While I was easy enough to track down, Punt was a challenge. He was eventually found living in a hut along the Mekong Delta, wearing a bathrobe with fuzzy slippers, with a vodka tonic and a Swedish K at his side. He was raving, but Brian promised him a bath and a visit to the set of “American Guns,” and he was persuaded to return and resume his column.
While one might surmise that such a Kaczynski-like hermit would be fearsome, Punt is actually quite the chicken. “Pawk, pawk!” I taunted him when he revealed he would be choosing Michigan in the Cowboy Classic. “So you don’t want anyone to question your right to wear your Sam McGuffie UM jersey?” Punt wouldn’t pick against Michigan even if they were playing, oh, say, Appalachian State.
Punt and I do share excitement about the Cowboy Classic, but not enough for him to actually attend. I told him I’d be at his door at 5 AM on Friday for the 19 hour drive to the Republic of Texas. I argued that by the time his death bed rolls around, he’d have more regrets about missing this grudge match with Nick Satan. But Punt stood firm, so we’re watching on the big screen.
Unfortunately, I do not share my friend’s optimism about this weekend’s matchup. Satan commands a reverential buzz these days. While at MSU he was barely able to put up Denny Stoltz-like numbers, in the hotter climes of the southern US, he has three national championships, two with Alabama.
Not even the antics of his devilish daughter can distract Satan from his evil mission. Kristen Saban, an Alabama co-ed, is now facing a lawsuit from fellow student Sarah Grimes. Sarah claims that after the younger Satan posted on her Facebook page, "No one likes Sarah! Yayyyyy!" she confronted Kristen to remove the post - but Kristen responded by pulverizing her. Just like her daddy teaches the Alabama defense.
It is that very defense that is now salivating for the opportunity to pulverize Denard & Co. Punt sees a glimmer of hope because Satan has lost a few of his minions to the NFL, but he seems to forget that Satan has more henchmen than the Wicked Witch. Yes, I fear that the good guys are going to get our winged helmets handed to us by the winged monkeys.
Evil prevails. Satan dances in his cloven hooves, his forked tail twitching with glee.
ALABAMA 24, MICHIGAN 14
Trapped in enemy territory, their far smaller band weakened by attrition and fearing the superior recruitment of the unchallengeable and suppressive French, the English cower in fear and mull surrender, but for those bowered by their once mocked, portly, stalwart and heroic monarch. Cloaked as a commoner he walks amongst his men.
NARRATOR: With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty; that every wretch, pining and pale before, beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks; A largess universal, like the sun, His liberal eye doth give to every one, Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all. Behold, as may unworthiness define, A little touch of Harry in the night.
And so our scene must to the battle fly; Where- O for pity!- we shall much disgrace, with four or five most vile and ragged foils, right ill-dispos'd in brawl ridiculous, the name of Agincourt. Yet sit and see, Minding true things by what their mock'ries be.
Enter the KING.
(Hover over the links to see which diary is which)
WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here but nineteen-ninety seven's men of England, that have not eligibility today.
What's he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin; If we are mark'd to die, we are enough to do our country loss; and if to live, the fewer men recruited, the greater share of honour. God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England. God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour as one man more methinks would share from me.
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more! Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse. We would not die in that man's company that fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian!
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, and rouse him at the name of football season come again. He that shall live this day, and see old age, will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, and say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, and say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but he'll remember, with advantages, what feats he did that day. Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words: Brady the King, Shoelace and Omameh, Kovacs and Campbell, Demens and Floyd, Barnum and Schofield and Roundtree, Lewan and Toussaint, Hopkins and Gallon and Mealer, Roh, and Black, and Washington and Morgan, Gordon and Countess and Hagerup and Gibbons and Moore, be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red!
This story shall the good man teach his son; and Opening Weekend shall ne'er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered--
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile. This day shall gentle his condition, and gentlemen in England now-a-bed shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day!
(Take the jump, or close the wall up with our English dead)
Hey! I'm tired. You may have missed some stuff in the annual "oh God it's the week before the season and I promised myself I wouldn't do this again" content blitz, so here it is again with extremely brief summaries attached:
Brady Hoke is the Real William Carlos Williams.
Quarterback: weeeeeeeee STOP THROWING INTERCEPTIONS
Running back: like a slavering pack of robot velociraptors, but fast!
Wide receiver: see "Quarterback"
Offensive line: bubble wrap these mofos
Questions and answers: SHOTGUN, fusion, Gardnecieving, short yardage
Defensive line: just take it easy, man
Linebackers: calmer than you are
Safety: calmer than you are
Question and answers: fumbles, short yardage, fire zones, and yes the DL.
Podcast: can someone tell me if the new "generic podcast feed" is working for them?
Special teams: meh? I love meh!
Heuristics and the official prediction: 9-3, man, 9-3.
Ace draws the official game preview: predicts 31-20. Official MGoBrian prediction: Alabama, 22-15.
Ace FFFFs those bastards.
THINGS THAT LIVE ELSEWHERE
Brabbs on the ten year anniversary of Washington 2002.
The Daily has a great three-parter on the 2000 Orange Bowl. The feature is an oral history:
David Terrell, sophomore receiver: “It was the scariest night of my life.”
“Y2K, man. You had everyone go out and get canned goods, bottled water. I didn’t even know the world was going to be here in the morning when I got up.”
Matt Hinton has an Xs-and-Os post on Alabama versus running quarterbacks and Denard versus OSU that's worth your time.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Orson Swindle season kickoff post go.
Dallas? A Michigan Man's curiosity is like the noble albatross: ever soaring and observant, encompassing all without soiling its feet with the filthy soil of strange atolls--GADZOOKS I have stepped in expectorated tobacco remnants. LET US END THIS TOUR WITH HASTE AND RETURN TO OUR PULLMAN CARS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Michigan will be Michigan again when Brady Hoke's recruiting comes home to roost, and that will be excellent since this version of Michigan seems like it wants to take advantage of the opportunities presented it. It's still not quite there. The lines are thin and the future NFL stars are hard to find. The shotgun rules and the quarterback can make you laugh just because he moves like so.
In the lull here we can pause and savor things. We have a moment to not have those crushing expectations, to look down and think Michigan can't do it but hope they can, hope they can write themselves into lore as champions.
Here between the trough and the peak there will be a moment in which "can't" becomes "did." Maybe tomorrow.