Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
Do we have to? Does it really have to be Saturday? Gah. I've felt resentment at the tennis guys or General McChrystal and everything else that keeps happening and the people who keep talking about it when all I want is a day to do nothing but get in the Clockwork Orange machine and hear "OH, IT'S INCREDIBLE" over and over again. (The only exception: Slovakia bombing Italy right out of the World Cup.) From time to time I would take breaks to listen to Andres Cantor lose his mind and his voice. Also if we could get the Japanese announcers' reactions that would be fantastic too.
Yes. We have to. But not before this bit where I link to a lot of stuff.
My favorite is the kid in his basement who treats his stairs like a rollercoaster. Girl, you'll be a blogger soon.
If you want that broken down into individual clips, the New York Times has you covered.
The best things that are writing are Orson's Proustian journey into his Nats fandom and the Run of Play writing on alternate universes and happiness. There is also Dan Levy's clutch interview with Ian Darke.
I’ve been reading match reports—you know, the analytic, intelligent, fullbacks-were-used, the-universe-didn’t-explode-into-radiant-particles variety—and I have a feeling of simultaneously understanding them and not understanding them, like a patient who’s too drugged to follow his own diagnosis. There’s another order of reality, and it’s sheared off the top of the sky. It’s incandescent. I have a broken jaw, and all my perceptions are beautiful.
A silhouette of a fan appears at the top of the hill. He's wearing an Uncle Sam top hat and American flag across his shoulders as a cape. I don't know why he's out there. In retrospect, maybe he just wanted to tell someone, anyone what had just happened. In Little Five Points at five in the morning, this would likely be a homeless man looking for grain alcohol, but he would have told him all the same, and possibly bought him a beer.
Instead he sees me, and screams at me down the hill.
"WE'RE UP ON PORTUGAL TWO-NIL! FREAKING PORTUGAL!!!"
I start sprinting up the hill. Every fan has a focal moment, a point where, like a serial killer, you crossed the line from being a normal person to someone who would discard everything in the name of obsession. With U.S. soccer, being up two goals against Portugal at five in the morning is mine.
Question: did the ridiculous American flag soccer hat spontaneously materialize on Maurice Edu's head when Landon Donovan scored?
Later they put it on Torres's head, which successfully made him look 12:
Also Ricardo Clark looks like the Baba Yaga.
DAMARCUS BEASLEY'S EYES POP OUT OF HIS DAMN HEAD
This is forever going to the image that pops into my mind whenever a terrible refereeing decision happens.
CLINT DEMPSEY AND LANDON DONOVAN
In one way—the dumb way—they're the least "diverse" members of the USA team, but Landon is admittedly a fancy lad even if "Landycakes" is so dead it's giving Beano Cook a run for his money and Dempsey, well, Dempsey:
The kid [Altidore] is part bull, though, and this time he muscled into the box and cut it to Clint Dempsey, a Texan who claims his parents sold some of their guns to finance his youth soccer career. UNITED STATES! UNITED STATES!
When I was in Chicago, Orson Swindle and I got up at the obscenely early (for me, anyway) time of 7 AM on a Saturday to catch the Australia friendly before the World Cup, and during that 90 minutes we decided that Dempsey has never ended any sentence spoken on a soccer field with a word other than "…bitch." Check the OMG Yanks photo archive for proof.
An ton of post-match commentary has focused on the Donovan goal as yet another galvanizing moment that will thrust soccer into the national consciousness. I find this depressing. Who cares? I mean, it's great that a lot of people will no longer look at you funny, but if your primary reaction to that goal is to think about what people who don't care about the national team think now that's a wasted opportunity to write something about what will probably stand as the the greatest moment in USMNT history on the day you die instead of what Jim Rome thinks about it.
The worst (the worst), though, are the That's On Point commenters who are worried that this might make soccer more popular and decrease their indie cred. Triple guh.
And, Finally, Moving On: Ghana
The situation is "win or go home." FWIW, The US is actually a slight favorite according to the bookies at +165 to Ghana's +195. Better to be us than Mexico, which is –200 against Argentina.
African sides are stereotypically athletic, skilled, disorganized, and prone to horrible mistakes. Ghana defies the latter two, and possibly latter three. They are a compact, organized defense that puts a lot of guys behind the ball and tries to counterattack with a limited number of attacking players. The result is not thrilling scoreboards:
Not since November last year, when it drew 2-2 with Mali in a World Cup qualifier in Kumasi, has Ghana scored twice in a game, and yet in that time it has reached the final of the African Cup of Nations and, after two games of Group D, looks the likeliest of the African teams to reach the knockout phase. Of its past seven competitive games, four have been won 1-0, and only Ivory Coast, which inflicted a 3-1 defeat in the Cup of Nations, has managed to score more than one against Ghana's defense.
Those streaks were extended a game each in Germany's 1-0 defeat of Ghana in the final group match. Jon Wilson, the author of the above, does point out that when Ghana was pressing for a goal against 10-man Australia they "lost shape" and unleashed a torrent of harmless long-range shots. They're not very good at breaking down a set defense, and managed to get through their group without scoring a goal from the run of play—both Ghanian goals were penalties. Their tournament has been the USA's Algeria game writ large:
Despite Germany having the better of the game, Ghana were breaking and creating chances of their own. Yet again, they lacked clinical finishing, and for all the pace and direct running they offered, you were never completely sure they were going to actually put the ball in the net. They’ve been extremely impressive at this tournament and yet have relied on two penalties for the goals.
Their setup is basically a 4-3-2-1:
Asamoah Gyan is the yellow circle, Prince Tagoe the blue circle most advanced, and then you've got a blender of midfield folk plus the standard split between very defensive center backs and somewhat attacking fullbacks. This is a slightly more attacking setup for the World Cup than they did in their surprise Essien-less run in the African Cup of Nations, replacing Inter central midfielder Sully Muntari with Prince Tagoe, who plays as an extremely advanced winger.
Gyan, a teammate of Carlos Bocanegra at Rennes, is the lone striker. He looks like Manny Harris's older brother, and his role is a cross between Brian Ching and Jozy Altidore: he is left alone up top and is asked to run on to a lot of long balls, hold them up, and wait for the midfield cavalry to arrive. He hasn't gotten a lot of his own opportunities as a result, and hasn't finished anything except the two PKs. That doesn't mean he's bad…
Ghana’s use of one man upfront meant they struggled to make too many clear-cut chances, but Gyan’s intelligent running into the channels did cause a constant threat to the Serbia defence. Ghana only had three shots on target, and they all came from the Rennes striker. He also hit the post twice – once from a near post header on the right, once from a low shot from the left. Lone strikers need to be able to cause a nuisance to both centre-backs, and Gyan does that excellently.
…it's just the tactical setup.
Leaving Gyan up top alone gives Ghana an extra guy in midfield, and as you can see by the big glob in the middle of the field above, that means a lot of tough-tackling, athletic guys right in the middle of the park breaking up attacks and holding possession. The presence of Ballack-slayer and newly minted Ghanaian international Kevin Prince Boateng has provided the team with an increased ability to build from the middle of the park, and it will be important for the strikers to come back to harry Anthony Annan, their version of Pablo Mastroeni.
Bob Bradley has some interesting tactical decisions going into the game:
Onyewu? With the quick turnaround Onyewu will likely be at least as fit as either Bocanegra or Demerit, who are coming off 270 minutes. Meanwhile, Ghana attacks the right flank with a lot more determination and skill than Algeria—which is almost entirely left-sided—did. This would expose Bornstein to an active, physical Prince Tagoe. On the other hand, Onyewu was rusty in the first two games and at least partially responsible for the three goals the US gave up.
This is a tough choice I don't envy Bradley for having to make. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think the tie-breaker is Bocanegra's extensive familiarity with Gyan. I'd put him in the middle and start Spector. Bradley will start Bornstein.
Who's the second striker? I'm with Stars and Gripes in advocating the addition of Dempsey to the front line; surely at this point Robbie Findley has played himself out of the starting lineup. Both Gomez and Buddle have been more dangerous in brief cameo appearances than Findley has been in two starts, and the most attractive attacking soccer came with Findley out of the lineup. S&G has a similar opinion:
Through two weeks, however, it’s become far too obvious that he doesn’t have the technical skill or vision to compete on this level—yet. Speed only gets you so far against world-class defenders, and Findley prematurely ended a number of promising attacks by running into a crowd and losing the ball. I was rather shocked he made the starting XI twice, and I believe that feeling has been vindicated.
Buddle and Gomez were about on par, more likely than Findley to find some space and launch a shot at goal but not exactly thrilling. The Shin Guardian expects Findley to get the nod, but… seriously… no. He will be consumed whole by Ghana's experienced back line.
Wings? Maybe one wing? Ghana's defenders are stout but short. With Isaac Vorsah out of the lineup with an injury, the back line for Ghana maxes out at 5'10". I know I suggested this for the Algeria game, but this could be a game in which Stuart Holden's crossing ability finds a use.
Who partners Bradley? If Edu is fit, you'd think it would be him, since he's the guy who's looked the best in recent games. Torres is right out since the overload in midfield will require the USA's central midfield to cover a lot of ground crossly. The quick turnaround might argue in favor of the rested Clark, but Edu came off at halftime for Feilhaber and should be fine.
D: Spector, Demerit, Bocanegra, Cherundolo
(Spector is a better matchup for the physical Tagoe and I have lingering Bornstein terror. I think you have to sit Onyewu.)
M: Donovan, Edu, Bradley, Holden
(Holden's fresh and if Dempsey has to play, and he does, I'm a little worried he'll fade if he's supposed to track counter-attacks.)
F: Altidore, Dempsey
(Dempsey can drop back into an attacking mid spot if necessary, and can pace himself if necessary.)
I'm betting Bradley goes with Bornstein and either Buddle or Gomez with Holden on the bench, though.
More yes, please. Given the current state of college football scheduling, where you have to have one real nonconference game and then you can schedule anything that will show up at your stadium down to the Albanian cricket circus, I've been in favor of expanding the conference schedule for years. So Adam Rittenberg's post on the possibility comes with some welcome quotes:
There are certainly pros and cons to increasing the number of league games, and Big Ten athletic directors expect to debate them in August during their next scheduled meeting in Chicago.
"Unless you’re really hot, fans are finding that some of the preseason games, they just don’t appreciate," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said. "They’d rather see you play every Big Ten opponent. If you went to nine games, you’d be bringing in one more Big Ten opponent, which would make your season-ticket package more attractive."
By radically increasing the amount of money people are expected to play with PSLs and mandatory donations and whatnot, schools have increased the pressure to have home schedules actually worth buying. Burke's actually in favor of ten(!) conference games, which will never happen.
The article also quotes Barry Alvarez in support and we know that Michigan has been pushing for more conference games for a few years now, so there's at least some chance the league will add another game. Another bonus of the extra conference game: if the Big Ten does go away from pure geography and creates a division that's Michigan-OSU-Alamo Party*, additional conference games will reduce the impact of any disparity. It also makes cross-division protected games (which I don't like) less necessary since you'll be playing two-thirds of the opposite division instead of half.
*(Which seems to have something of a consensus building around it. TOC threw in the towel, and once the blogs are united nothing can stand against them. If Penn State had a vote that might be a problem, but lol Penn State suffrage.)
If NASCAR counts as a sport… then solar car competitions, where you actually build the thing yourself, is like a double sport. Also Michigan's solar car team is consistently awesome. They're running the American Solar Challenge right now and, though it's fuzzy if they're actually winning, they think they're doing well:
After being tight with Minnesota this morning and afternoon, they had to pull off the road for what is rumored to be battery problems. We don't know the current location of any other teams, but we believe we are at least 15 minutes ahead of everyone but Stanford.
That was yesterday. They learned last night that Minnesota is now 40 minutes back and Missouri S&T, which is apparently big in solar cars, is 10 minutes back. The previous stage saw Infinium finish almost an hour in front of their nearest challenger. We should totally try to get this thing in the Director's Cup.
Goodbye, almost everyone. One of the tangential discussions that's entered the public consciousness after the QC/stretching violations at Michigan is "dang, there are a lot of dudes getting paid to not coach football." The NCAA is within its rights to reel these guys in somewhat, but this seems drastic:
Back in April when the Athletics Personnel and Recruiting Cabinet began seriously discussing legislation to curb the growing football and basketball staffs, there were two big questions: exactly how many noncoaching staff members would the teams be allowed and how would the legislation deal with attempts to build new offices in the athletic department?
The cabinet gave an emphatic answer to the former question, with a somewhat weaker answer to the latter. Bowl Subdivision Football would be limited to just four noncoaching staff members, while men’s and women’s basketball would be reduced to just one. In the Football Championship Subdivision, the limit would be two.
That's not four grad assistants, it's four staff members, period. The Bylaw Blog suggests this would see athletic departments devolve the many other roles undertaken by specific sport-specific staff into department-wide organizations that avoid this new regulation. The money is always going to flow somewhere. At some point the NCAA should get serious about booting I-A teams that can't manage 20,000 paid attendance per game into I-AA. The real problem here is that teams like Michigan and Eastern Michigan are being addressed by the same sets of laws when they have zero resemblance to each other.
The elusive and wonderful. Six Zero's regular series profiling some of the characters who hang out around here has an exclusive look at youtube hero Wolverine Historian. Most surprising to me was WH's age:
Wangler to Carter. Hello Heisman. Bo singing the Victors. In your expert opinion, what is the single most iconic video clip of Michigan football?
There have been many, many memorable moments over the years. But I think Wangler to Carter from Homecoming 1979 is probably the most iconic video clip of Michigan football. I was born 4 months after that game was played so I obviously have no personal memories of it. But the video speaks for itself. One last play, Carter dancing into the end zone, the crowd going insane, Bo jumping up and down, Bob Ufer screaming, “Oh my GOD!!! Carter scored!!!” and Lee Corso having a stroke on the Indiana sideline.
Given the vast breadth of WH's tape collection, I would have ballparked his date of birth sometime around 1817. Instead he is younger than me.
Merrill watch. Not in the scary way. The first round of the NHL draft is tonight and should see defenseman Jon Merrill taken. There will also be a goalie taken, and this will be lame. But back to Merrill:
"I honestly want to get drafted, but it's not that big of a deal," Merrill said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's tough not to hear about (mock drafts) or see things, but I really don't care that much about it.
"First pick or the last pick, you have the same opportunity to play in the NHL."
For the paranoid, there's no hint in of a Merrill defection anywhere in the article. The remainder of the draft will be more interesting as far as the composition of the team goes: CCHL forward Alex Guptill is eligible and has made some comments about deciding what he wants to do after he talks with the team who drafts him. He could spend a year in the USHL, possibly with fellow 2011 commit Lucas Lessio, or defect if the Kings or some other team run by paleolithic folk grabs him. He should go somewhere in the middle rounds.
The final word on SEC vs Big Ten. Sure, they may have won a zillion national titles but this is the Big Ten's position on vuvuzelas:
The Big Ten has specific policies that do not allow irritants or noisemakers, so vuvuzelas would not be allowed. Below is the specific language from our football game management manual.
This is the SEC's:
This instrument, no matter how irritating to some, will not be banned from SEC games this upcoming season, according to the SEC. The instrument of choice in South Africa, which may or may not catch on here in the states, can be brought into stadiums across the league.
Big Ten wins forever. Not that I imagine there will be a ton of vuvuzelas at SEC games. There will be three incidents where vuvuzelas are brought into the stadium, then gingerly extracted from parts of the anatomy plastic horns were not meant to tread, before everyone gets the idea.
Not technically World Cup content. This is about soccer but the larger point is excellent:
One of the hard things about forming an outlook on the World Cup is that when an event gets this much attention, the flow of commentary is so fast and broad that every possible angle is exhausted and trivial positions develop a kind of insubstantial politics. Conventional wisdom starts to seem like an ideology, and if you’re not careful, your own feelings about what happens will be dictated by where you want to stand in relation to that ideology rather than by what you actually think. There’s a pundit position, a cognoscenti backlash, an uber-cognoscenti counter-backlash, and so on till after midnight. Your heart and the stadium get farther and farther apart.
Case in point: two opinions that put you on roughly the same line of anti-pundit knowingness would be “the first round of games was actually great” and “Switzerland weren’t that exciting yesterday; Spain were just terrible.” Maybe you really feel those things, or have numbers to back them up. But in most cases, I’d guess that the attraction of these stances has a lot to do with the fact that they put some space between you and the thousand-mile pandemonium of cliches blasting out of the TV studios and the pages of your favorite newspaper. It’s not only that they make you sound like you know what you’re talking about, although there’s no discounting the lure of savvy disaffectedness. They also just turn down the volume.
That sort of contrarianism for the sake of saying something new is a constant temptation for anyone tasked with writing something people will find interesting. Sometimes it's right. Sometimes it's David Berri running a regression and declaring Dennis Rodman more valuable than Michael Jordan or that NBA coaches don't understand who their best players are. If you're trying to combat the conventional wisdom, you should regard it a tricky, wily foe that requires something more than a blunt-force blow.
Etc.: Citi dumps its Rose Bowl sponsorship.
|Gibsonia, PA - 6'3" 235|
|Scout||3*, #74 DE|
|Rivals||3*, #41 WDE, #23 PA|
|ESPN||3*, 78, #52 DE|
|Other Suitors||Pitt, Virginia, Minnesota|
|YMRMFSPA||Jeremy Van Alstyne|
|Previously On MGoBlog||Commitment post|
"Workmanlike" was the watchword of Paskorz's commitment post and that tepid word still rules after his senior season. At the time there was little to go on outside of a hastily-assembled ESPN profile in the aftermath of Paskorz's commit; after 14 months there has been additional information added to the pile.
Paskorz is still the younger brother of Notre Dame fullback Steve Paskorz and the Irish took a brief look early in the recruiting year but ended up taking a pass. This will be brought up during the next three M-ND games. He's still not a big recruit in the eyes of the sites. Scout interviewed him after his January official in which he discloses a 11.6 100 meter dash time—pretty impressive for a defensive lineman. He finished his senior year with 13 sacks and 85 tackles, ending up first team all-state on a team that made the state semis.
At Michigan, Paskorz is one of the few players told he will play at the LB/DE hybrid "quick" position currently inhabited by Craig Roh who has a high probability of sticking there. At 235 pounds currently but lacking the 6'4-6'5" frame Michigan prefers for its out-and-out linemen, Paskorz is a classic tweener who might fit in Michigan's defense better than he does elsewhere. That's the impression provided by his ESPN evaluation($), anyway:
Paskorz will offer some versatility as a defender at the college level. At the high school level, he plays from a two-point stance and could be considered as an outside linebacker/defensive end prospect in the right fit. Overall, we feel he will fit best more as a traditional defensive end. He could be asked to play from a two-point stance, but seems best suited to play near the line of scrimmage in an attacking fashion.
The rest of the evaluation is a series of sentences that go "he does this okay, but needs to work on this, too." The overall impression is that he's one of Michigan's less exciting recruits. Scout and Rivals actually think a little less of him (Rivals breaks DEs down into strongside and weakside spots, meaning he'd be about 80th on a unified list), but they all put him in the wide swath of generic three stars. What difference of opinion there happens to be is minor.
Paskorzs's offers echoed those evaluations, with a few middling-to-bad BCS teams hopping in and notable powers staying away. Pitt, Virginia, and Minnesota were the schools Paskorz picked Michigan over. He might have gotten more interest if he extended his recruitment past late May, but his offers are right in line with his rankings.
This lack of recruiting acclaim and the corresponding skepticism from the Michigan internets (possibly including this Michigan internet if the author of the following piece knows the distinction between blogs and message boards, a 50-50 proposition) spurs the haters-gonna-hate article:
Hampton's Jordan Paskorz has heard the whispers. The senior standout football player has read that he's overrated and that his scholarship offer to Michigan was helped by bloodlines. But the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Paskorz brushes it off like he has so many offensive tackles.
Once you get past the defensiveness, though, that piece has some useful quotes from Paskorz's coach:
"…it's hard to find a player of his caliber. He worked hard, he devoted time early in the morning and he didn't miss workouts. Jordan has been a quiet leader, and at least to me, he's exemplified what a Division I player should be."
"He's a physical specimen," DeMatteo said. "You look at him sometimes, and you forget he's just an 18-year-old kid."
There is also further confirmation that Paskorz is going to be behind Roh:
DeMatteo knows Paskorz likely will play a nearly identical position in the Michigan system.
"It's really based on what the offenses are doing. It's not any more complicated than that," DeMatteo said. "He has some things you can't coach.
"With all that being said, I can tell you right now, people aren't going to be afraid to run towards him. People aren't going to back down from him, and I hope he expects that."
And that's basically it when it comes to information floating out there. I've done a lot of these with an eye towards looking a little deeper than the recruiting sites do on the vast mass of three-star prospects that haven't leapt out at Scout or Rivals, often finding reasons for optimism. See Carvin Johnson for a canonical example. Here, though, there isn't much to go on. All recruits are lottery tickets that have a chance to hit big, but that doesn't mean you can't get a rough sense of the chances from surveying google. This is all a long way of saying I'm not expecting immediate contributions from Paskorz and think he's got a relatively low chance of being anything other than a functional rotation player a la Greg Banks. At this time, Pittsburgh-area newspaper cranks are invited to view this animated gif if it will make them feel better.
Why Jeremy Van Alstyne? It's really hard to find a Michigan player in the last decade who was a 230-ish pound LB/DE coming out of high school who did not have a ton of hype (Tim Jamison, Roh). I was going to go for Brandon Herron, but he was 6'2" and under 200 pounds as a high school kid. Van Alstyne was 240, listed at LB, and expected to play DE. He was always supposed to be breaking through but suffered a series of injuries and then didn't play that well even when he saw the field. He ended up a rotation player and erratic starter.
Etc.: State runner-up in the shot put. Fluffy article previewing Hampton's season last year with a couple quotes. Signing Day interview on WTKA. Paskorz's coach in an AA.com article on something he won't do at Michigan:
“I’m sure all the computer breakdowns would say that we were so right-handed because he played as our tight end to the right side,” Hampton coach Jacque DeMatteo said. “And he just mauled people. It was fun to watch. It was really nice to be able to coach something like that.”
Guru Reliability: High. Unified opinion about a healthy kid and nothing in the offers to contest the assessment.
General Excitement Level: Insert the usual disclaimers about how I don't want to be rude to a kid but have to maintain some air of objectivity: low. There's obviously some chance that Paskorz develops more than his classmates but his ceiling seems pretty average and he's got a ways to go to get there.
Projection: Redshirt, then spends another two years behind Roh before challenging for the starting job as a redshirt junior.
6/23/2010 – USA 1, Algeria 0 – 1-0-2, 5 points, top of Group A
(via omg yanks)
When you're a sportsblogger and your fiancé is getting her PhD in a humanities field, you spend a lot of time explaining yourself. (She doesn't because a few years ago the explanation became "it seemed like a good idea at the time," which fair enough.) After the beer flew and the rage subsided against Slovenia, I was asked to explain what the hell it was with me and the USMNT, and I thought about it systematically for the first time.
My first attempt to explain was jingoistic. I like the United States and would like to root for some sort of national ideal. The Olympics are far from sufficing because they don't seem fair or competitive. Hey, we grew this Michael Phelps guy in a lab, let's see how badly he can crush humans without flippers. Etc. The national team is good, but not so good that rooting for them feels like ugly Americanism.
That was kind of right, but missing the important thing. When Dodgy At Best put out an Algeria preview, his bolded section headers read "Karma," "Revenge," "Hope," "Fortune," and "Fate." Because I am who I am mine were "stop Nadir Belhadj" and "get a lot of set pieces"; DAB got it right, and I got it wrong. I can break down a football game all day. Basketball is given over to tempo-free numbers. Baseball could be played between computers these days and no one would notice. If you are so inclined, you can delve into the details of any and reject the narratives people layer on top of them because randomness can't happen and everything must have meaning. The analysis will be better and smarter but the experience a little poorer.
Soccer defies that. It is opera on a field. Not the Italian variety where a series of humorous misunderstandings yield mildly sexy results, but German opera—Klingon opera. Plenty of tridents. Sheets of rain. Thunderbolts cascading from the sky. In the background armies march through the mud, toward each other. Patterns converge in a rumble, pressure building until it's unbearable and someone falls over, a spear jutting out from his breastplate.
I don't have any critique in me any more. Jonathan Bornstein started a World Cup game and that's fine. The US went up and down the field and didn't shut down space in the midfield and didn't finish and had everyone in bars across the country three minutes from crumpling into the sort of heap that national manias are born from. A typical example will transpire later today when Serbia tries to shake off old Yugoslav demons:
Perhaps some of the Europeans there – certainly the French journalist opposite – were driven by anti-German feeling, perhaps some were instinctive Slavophiles, but when the three locals at the MTN (South Africa-based mobile telecommunications company) desk reacted to the final whistle with a group hug and collective dance, the appeal of Serbia's inner turmoil becomes difficult to deny. Unless they'd had a bet, I suppose, but when asked one said he'd decided to support Serbia because "they seemed to be trying to lose".
English journalist Simon Kuper dedicated a good chunk of his most recent book to explaining the English fatalism towards their team, one that echoes the national narrative of empire lost. It's so cliché that multiple books have been written about it, including Kuper's earlier, excellent "Football against the Enemy," but it's true: soccer does reflect the national culture, mostly because people want it to and no one can stop its narrative by dissecting it.
The USA's narrative has been bootstraps. College kids rescuing the program, batty goalies with an American flag fetish, Paul Caliguri, and so on. Tom Friend just published a lengthy story on USA 1990 third-string goalie David Vanole that's veritably dripping with half-truths dedicated to shaping that narrative. The USMNT is the 1980 hockey team spread over twenty years, because that's the way we want it.
We don't roll around on the ground. If we fall over, we probably just fell over. We run and and run and run, and late, when everything is stacked against us in a game where it's just so hard to finish the job, we do it Puritan style: ugly effort. A minute into stoppage time, the ball's just lying there and it's all about who will get there first.
It takes some doing to unearth muppets in June but here they are:
And you can't have one without the other…
That was horrible, as if Ryan Miller was actually Algeria and FIFA and the universe and God. And then the ball was just lying there, waiting to be pushed in one direction or the other.
All-time updates live on the 2011 Michigan Football Recruiting Board.
At about the 0:55 mark, that's FL WR Sammy Watkins gettin' his crush on (good pad level, that). If football and school don't work out, there's a future in stunt acting, no doubt.
Camps And Visits
The annual Sound Mind, Sound Body Camp took place at Wayne State over the weekend, drawing many of the midwest's best prospects. Sam Webb previewed the event in his Detroit News column last week:
Thanks to additional help from sponsors like Powerhouse Gym, the U.S. Army, and Scout.com, Sound Mind-Sound Body has reached farther beyond Michigan's border than ever before. As a result, before the first whistle is blown at this year's camp, it will have already surpassed last year's mark of hosting 55 prospects that eventually earned scholarship offers.
"Seventy kids already have Division I scholarship offers," said Blackwell. "We have kids coming from as far as Arizona and Minnesota. It is astounding. I'm just in awe really. This is more of a regional event now."
Prospects of interest for Michigan fans were many, and included OH OL Aundrey Walker, IL OL Chris Bryant, MI WR Commit Shawn Conway, MI WR DeAnthony Arnett, MI CB Valdez Showers, and MI CB Commit Delonte Hollowell. The Class of 2012 was represented as well, with MI LB James Ross (pictured above), MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone, and IL OL Jordan Diamond leading the way.
Michigan's summer camp also started over the weekend (and ended yesterday). Tom ran down some of the participants, and is updating that Diary as he gets new information. Check back for the latest updates, and to know who you should keep on commitment watch.
OH OL Ray Ball was in town for camp, though he didn't work out. He raved about the visit to Tom:
"I know the top schools I have on my list are Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and UCLA, but this definitely puts Michigan in a better spot than before. "
In a class that will end up with many offensive linemen, that's a positive sign.
MI OL Jake Fisher did work out, on the other hand, and left Ann Arbor with an offer in hand ($, info in header).
NC LB/S Kris Frost was (is?) in town, and Michigan and Auburn lead LSU, Cal, and Clemson. for him.
Moving on to non-camp visit news, PA DT Delvon Simmons will be visiting Michigan eventually.
IL DE James Adeyanju visited Ann Arbor last week, and may be making a return visit soon ($, info in header).
Safety prospect Avery Walls had a great visit to Ann Arbor last week, even his mother (an OSU grad) was impressed. Michigan really rolled out the red carpet, with virtually all the coaches greeting Walls in Schembechler Hall, and it paid off. He also visited MSU whilst he was up here, but UM probably has the better chance.
Walls would be a huge grab for Rodriguez and co., but don't expect a decision any time soon.
Michigan makes the top 5 for FL S LaQuentin Smith, who is visiting with his teammate, FL RB Demetrius Hart, for the Iowa game:
"I would say that right now my top five is Arkansas, South Carolina, South Florida, Ole Miss and Michigan," Smith said. "And I still have love for Colorado State because they were the first to offer me."
Smith also hinted in the article that both Smith and Hart are considering a Michigan commitment during the visit. Hart also came in for some spring fluff:
Top RB - Dee Hart, Dr. Phillips. Hart was wiped out after playing two ways for almost 15 games over the weekend as the Panthers had to fight their way back through the losers' bracket. He rarely showed that fatigued on the field, however, and he was DP's go-to-guy, as usual, helping them reach the championship game.
The Panthers were runners-up in the USF 7-on-7 Tournament.
- IN RB Remound Wright. He held a (non-committable, I think) Michigan offer, but has committed to Stanford.
- TX RB Jarrell Oliver. He committed to Utah, where he'll be in the Utes' first recruiting class as a BCS program. Michigan seemed to cool on Oliver due to interest in other RBs (and teammate, TX S Sheroid Evans, coming off the board to Texas).
- IL WR DaVaris Daniels. He was going to choose between Miami and Notre Dame yesterday, but has pushed back the announcement. Michigan still appears to be out of the picture.
- OH WR Devin Smith. He received his Ohio State offer last week and, as expected, joined the Buckeyes' class of 2011.
- OH TE Nick Vannett, though he holds a Michigan offer, is not considering the Wolverines at this time. Conventional wisdom has him picking the Buckeyes.
- VA DE Corey Marshall. He committed to Virginia Tech.
- Future happy trails to TX CB Charles Jackson, who is deciding soon ($, info in header). He holds a Michigan offer, but hasn't really mentioned the Wolverines since receiving it.
- MI CB/Ath Raymon Taylor committed to Indiana. I, for one, will be shocked if he's still a four-star by the end of the process. The local BCS programs have had tons of opportunities to see him play, and neither considered him worthy.
Still With The Quarterbackin'
Michigan might not be dead for NC QB Marquise Williams, as he claims to not have made a decision yet, but VT or North Carolina (where he took a recent unofficial) is the presumptive choice. With his decision coming this week, we're approaching a "Happy Trails" moment for him.
That means FL QB Kevin Sousa (right) may finally be getting close to that coveted Michigan offer:
I called coach (Rod) Smith today, and they are going to recruit me. He is meeting with coach Rodriguez tomorrow as to a possible offer. He said that the guys they were recruiting are no longer interested in Michigan, and they have opened it up again as far as looking for a QB.
Should he receive that Michigan offer, don't forget he's said it would be hard to turn down in the past. He did tell Tom that he would visit Ann Arbor before making a decision for the Wolverines, but he may have that opportunity soon. He's roadtripping with his coach to several midwest schools, and if a Michigan offer is imminent, that schedule could probably be adjusted for a stop in Ann Arbor.
I've made it no secret that I think Sousa would be a great pickup for the QB in this class. If you want a little more on him, he has a variety of highlight videos available, including one from his spring game back in May:
Michigan, Pitt, and Florida are the leaders for NJ TE/DE Taques Franklin.
“My top schools that I’m looking at right now are Florida, Cincinnati, Michigan, Pittsburgh and North Carolina. Those are the top ones I’m looking at. I know a little bit about each one of them. From talking to college scouts I like what those (schools) have had to say. They’ve been telling me how good their school is for sports and education.
He may visit Ann Arbor sometime this summer.
Michigan, USC, and Oregon had been a pseudo-top 3 for AZ OL Andre Yruretagoyena, but the sanctions against the Trojans may have affected that. He talked to Tom:
I asked him what his reaction was, and he said, "I want to say it doesn't affect me, but it does. It's two years, which would end after my first year, so I would be there for it. I don't know if there's anything more, but if the NCAA finds more, then who knows what else they'll do. You never know with the NCAA."
Yruretagoyena recently released a top 7, including all three of those schools, along with Arizona, Arkansas, Oregon State, and Washington. It may be notable (and discouraging) that Michigan is one of only two non-PAC10 schools on the list.
FL OL James Elliott has received a Michigan offer.
PA OL Paul Gaughan has also received the Michigan offer ($, info in header) that he's been waiting for.
LA DT Mickey Johnson tells Tom that UCLA and Nebraska lead Michigan, Tennessee, and LSU for his services.
Coach Rodriguez is a cool guy. They're going through some things right now, but I believe that they're going to get through it. Coach Fred (Jackson) is good friends with my dad now, too. They've developed a good friendship through this recruiting process, so that's pretty cool. Plus, they play in the Big House. I've seen pictures of the stadium, and campus online, and I just can't wait to see all that.
If (when?) Michigan gets him on campus, it could be a huge boon to Michigan's chances to land him.
Shortly after Michigan offered, they were the heavy favorite for MI LB Ed Davis. However, the Wolverines have fallen off slightly, thanks to some new offers and negative recruiting.
Added SC LB Dexter Staley, who includes Michigan in his top 5.
Michigan is showing renewed interest in OH LB Antonio Poole ($, info in header).
Tom talked to MI CB Valdez Showers, who recently received a Florida offer. Michigan is in his top group, and his friendship with MI WR Commit Shawn Conway could help the Wolverines recruit him.
2012 Note: Michigan is "courting" OH RB Warren Ball ($, info in header).