he grew a beard
Some things shouldn’t be written about. They deserve far more than words could ever accomplish, regardless of how eloquent those words are or the sophistication of their arrangement. Then there are things that exceed even that. Things that make you want go, “screw it, I have to at least try and write something. If I don’t my brain is going to explode. Also, if I write about it, maybe I can make sure it’s true and actually happened. I don’t ever remember writing something down in a dream.”
That’s how last night is for me. I need to do write about it and hope that I can do it 100th of the justice it deserves, so that maybe one day I can look back and remember just the amount and consistency of the emotions I felt. This will probably be disorganized and random; a kind of mind drain that doesn’t care how it all comes out, as long as it comes out. I just need to get as much down as possible, hoping these thoughts don’t escape me before I can write them down. On with the show.
The day itself deserves its own diary, but that’s for another time or another person. Suffice it to say, Ann Arbor was flooded with excitement, from the first moments of College Gameday to the opening of The Big House’s gates, the city glowed. Walking up Hoover towards the woman about to be taken to her first night time ball and showed off for all of the nation to see, the sun silhouetted the crowds as it set over Main Street.
Fast forward to the pregame, and the excitement was reaching a fever pitch. When Desmond got Legended (kind of like being knighted), it made you wish there was something you could do besides cheer, that there was some other way to honor a great player and great man. Yelling at the top of your lungs just wasn’t enough. A few months ago when the whole “I should have my number retired” (not a direct quote) stuff was going around, I was a little disappointed. I knew Desmond loved him some Desmond, but I also knew he was a team player who loved our great university, and I felt disheartened that he would ask for such a thing. Yesterday, as he did his best Lou Gehrig impression during his speech, all was forgiven. He was a man truly grateful, acknowledging how blessed he was for every opportunity the team and, perhaps more importantly, university, gave him. A very rough paraphrase from what I remember is:
Every experience I had at this university, from the Diag to Schembechler to (5 or 6 more campus locations) has made...me....the man....I am....today.
His pearly whites glowed as he couldn’t hold back tears of joy and gratitude. What a fantastic start.
Then, in remembrance of the horrific tragedies from a decade ago, the whole crowd joined in a chorus of God Bless America. I’m pretty sure the band was playing the song on heartstrings, or cutting up onions, or releasing a massive dust cloud into the stands. A beautiful moment for a terrible tragedy.
When the game started, my biggest fears seemed to be coming true. Throughout this week, when asked about my predictions, I always cited a nervous feeling that ND would go up a couple scores while Borges tried to get a feel for the gameplan and our offense tried to settle in. That’s exactly what happened. The pom-pom I held had its handle slowly reduced in size as I slowly bent it and broke off pieces in frustration. Some girl behind me kept yelling “Oh no! He’s going to throw again,” every time Denard dropped back. I wanted to yell at her or just show her some highlights from our 2008 offense, but refrained. In truth there were times where I felt similarly, the dreadlocked, dilithium-powered powder keg of a big play looked very human at times. This did not feel like 2010 ND. All was not right.
Then Hemingway said, “pardon me, sir, but I have a ball to catch and a touchdown to score. It would be easier if you weren’t in the way, but instead I’ll have to jump through Michigan Stadium’s non-existant roof.” Adrenaline spike. 114,000 strong came alive again, individual maize plastic strings tied together rocking in unison to a chorus of The Victors.
Halftime was weird. There were people in costumes from a horror movie covered in flashing lights, some of which worked, some of which didn’t. I sat down and tried to relax, hoping my pounding headache would subside, because it every time I yelled on a defensive series, it got worse. A long day of drinking things that, while they contain water, make it their job to deprive your body of every drop of it apparently does awful things to the front part of your brain and makes it feel like it’s trying to escape out your forehead. Who knew? Yelling apparently doesn’t help, but dammit, I had a job to do. And that job was to be fan number 114 thousand-something who believed that an extra yell from me would make Tommy Rees stop correctly checking out of plays when reading blitzes or make Michael Floyd want to just sit down and take a break for a minute. Jesus Tapdancing Christ, Michael Floyd. But, I digress.
Normally I’m very good at remembering the exact sequence of plays and all major events in a football game, but I think I blew a couple fuses. The next thing I really remember was Jeremy Gallon pretending he was in fact, a gallon rather than a pint. We were clapping, screaming, jumping up and down on a surface small and slippery; the biggest 5 foot nothing player you’ll ever see had given us hope. Also, Jeremy Gallon, I know you’re not reading this, but I owe you an apology. Whenever ND punted I did my best Smalls from The Sandlot impression when he sticks his glove in the air and Benny the Jet bats a fly ball right into it. “Please catch it, please catch it,” I would implore in your direction. I’m done with that. That was last year. You’re a different player, and you showed an incredible amount of heart. No more finger crossing from me. Apology to imaginary reader over.
Somewhere in the fourth quarter, during a TV timeout, I remember turning to my alum friend who was in town visiting, telling him to break out his cowbell again. He of course kept it after he graduated, its large dent still there from when I shoved him over in last year’s Illinois game in celebration. He picked up his drumstick, striped in alternate maize and blue tape and rapped out a “Go Blue.” He went through the appropriate number of verses, but I wanted more. “GIVE IT TO ME AGAIN!” I yelled, doing my best Dan LeBetard impression. The mood was right and I watched as people around me nodded emphatically when he struck it up again; they wanted more too.
Writing this is a lot more difficult than I anticipated - my thoughts are just so scattered. In truth, I’m not even going to touch the breakdown of Roundtree’s Braylon impression or Vincent Smith going HAM or any of that. What I will say now is that the next time anyone ever tells you that the Big House is a “wine and cheese” crowd, tell them to kindly shut the hell up. When Seven Nation Army came on, that place absolutely erupted. I’ve been to my fair share of college football games, including big time SEC matchups, and while I won’t say it was louder last night, I will say I don’t remember anywhere else being louder. I had goosebumps on my goosebumps. Anyone in a 10 foot radius of me got repeatedly throttled or hugged or high fived throughout every glorious or disheartening or breathtaking moment, and nobody cared. Why? Because they were all doing the same thing. Controlled, glorious, fantastic chaos. Want to say something negative about our crowd? How many stadiums stay brimming with tens of thousands for what, an hour after the game?
As I walked home, I just kept thinking about how people years from now will still talk about the 2011 Notre Dame game the way that talk about the most legendary of moments. The walk home could’ve been for 5 miles, for all I cared. I floated back. As I hydrated at my apartment to go celebrate fully, someone across the street was playing House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” On loop. For at least a half hour. And the only reason someone would’ve called the cops to complain was if they turned it off. I’ll never watch a Wisconsin game the same after that.
Trying to end this feels like trying to wrap up that game, which is an impossible task. It’s futile. Describe colors to someone who can’t see. Read every book ever written. Capture a unicorn. All pale in comparison to the difficulty I’m finding trying to write this. I guess there’s really only one thing to say. It’s great. To be. A Mich-i-gan Wol-ve-rine.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
Learn from yesterday...
I am a lucky SOB and I know it. Anybody that has ever known me well will tell you the same. I also have a lucky number that I believe in with near-religious devotion, a number that I was informed was lucky on my very first day living at the Bur-Lodge. That number is 72.
This is a number that gives me a real and most reliable count of how my luck is running. When I see it everywhere I can count on good luck in general. When it comes into play directly related to specific events that hold importance to me it is right on the money. Case in point: Once my brother-in-law and my cousin were driving me out to Fort Dodge, IA to start my short lived existence as an Iowan microbiologist (think 4000L of tetanus, yuck...), and we found ourselves short on funds for the partying we were plotting upon our arrival. We were in far western Illinois when we decided this after pooling our funds to come up with $172 exactly. My cousin suggested we hit up the riverboat casino at the next exit and I noted that it was exit 27 (backwards 72) - and off we went.
We put the whole $172 on black at the roulette table. This was all the money we had in the world being poor college students, but we didn't hesitate. Of course it would be black; the stars had aligned. And it was so, and a great time was had by all.
I learned many years later how powerful the bad luck can be when 72 is conspicuously absent. It was at The Horror, which I attended with my wife sans sunscreen and was forced to leave at halftime lest skin cancer strike us both down then and there. As we left the stadium and headed to Frasier's we took note of the Michigan team busses lined up on Stadium, all in numerical, though not sequential order. There sat bus #71 nose to ass with bus #73. I told my wife "Michigan is doomed." I knew it in my heart. When Mike Hart scored and then we got the interception we left to go meet friends. In my head the result was a W for sure. The actual result did not surprise me.
Yesterday was just the opposite. I was seeing 72 everywhere all week, on licence plates, work documents, you name it. Then on ESPN's Gameday I saw that 72% of the country had picked Michigan to win at the bottom of the screen. The stars were aligning again and I could feel it. Then the first quarter happened and I was suprised, but felt in my heart that Michigan would come back. I watched the rest of the game with nervous tension muted by a strange calm confidence, and when Vincent Smith scored to put Michigan ahead I looked at the game clock. 1:12 remained.
Even when the Irish came roaring back down the field to score I never really doubted that Michigan and Denard Robinson would answer.* That is simply the power of 72.
Live for Today…
Several Michigan players should bask in the glow of their accomplishments:
1. Denard Robinson – Holy jeebus. When > 95% of the Michigan offense is generated by one guy, should we sit in awe of his accomplishment (yes) or pray to whatever gods we can think of that he stays healthy (also yes)? Denard Robinson is love for all mankind. His interview after the game was awesome as well, especially his reaction to his own stat line.
2. Jordan Kovacs – Kovac's interception was the turning point in the game. Notre Dame had its foot on Michigan's throat, and the fearless leader of the defense came up big again. I shudder to think how Michigan would have fared the past 2+ seasons without him.
3. Brandin Hawthorn – I think we may have found a true player in the second half. Much like Kovacs last week, Hawthorn almost single-handedly killed a ND drive at a crucial part of the game. He showed great quickness and insticts and may be the answer we need to solidify the linebacking crew.
4. Roy Roundtree – Calling for the ball and delivering in the most clutch of situations, it just doesn't get any better. Especially remarkable as his only catch of the evening.
5. Jeremy Gallon and Junior Hemingway – Clutch grab after clutch grab. Hemingway showed once and for all that he should be playing on Sundays. Gallon looked like mini-Hemingway on his TD grab and finally got to show off his elusiveness both on the late punt return and on the second to last play of the game-winning drive.
Also of note was the play of Jake Ryan, Mike Martin, and Courtney Avery (Ever see better karmic retribution than when Rees fumbled after Avery's BS interference call? Why was the ball on the 7 when the ref clearly stated it should be placed on the two?). Oh, and Woolfolk again – hope that nose is still on straight.
Hope for Tomorrow
2-0 again and the bankwagon is officially hitched to a star for the third year in a row. I swore I wouldn't get swept up again but there it is. With Eastern next up maybe Mattison can work out some of the very serious kinks in the defense and set a course for improvement instead of the backward slides of the past two years. Nine wins looks very doable considering the rest of the B10 doesn't look like as stiff a test as in recent years. At the very least Denard should be able to keep his health and maybe we can even see a bit out of his understudy.
Go Blue and stay safe.
*Though I figured it would be a fieldgoal and overtime.
When the Under the Lights jersey design was released earlier this year, the hullabaloo, brouhaha, and hubbub was palpable and furious from one end of MGoBlog to the other. It even was quite MGoChic for a time to line up in rank and file on board post after board post as a running attendance of those that "Get It," vehemently opposing any alteration to the sacred home uniform. Granted, not everyone fell into this category. Yours truly and several other courageous souls braved this onslaught by staring straight down the barrel of banishment and mockery from the community simply to throw our voices into the fray- not for the smallest hope of prevailing glory or rationality- but rather because it was right. It was at this time too, friends, that the arrows of rebuke aimed at our Commander in Chief, David Brandon, began to reach a fever pitch with skepticism and paranoia reaching levels that had not been seen since Joseph McCarthy had been pacing the halls of this nations capital. The, well, mutiny of sorts, saw its escalation with endorsements from this blogs highest ranking officials including most notably, Brian (peace be upon him), while trickling down from there and eventually into the masses where it became a fundamental ideological principle and core tenet of those fighting to preserve the dignity and tradition of Michigan Football while halting the erosion of our identity by ravenous exploitationists that are literally scheming the corporatization of our very souls as we speak.
The outlook was dire, indeed, in those days. Our great general, Coach Hoke, had not yet led his troops into our hallowed battlefield where the ghosts of legends dwell and the smell of victory floats confidently in the air. We were reeling from 3 long years of famine and were anxiously awaiting our Michigan Moses to free us from bondage and lead us into Canaan. The Michigan we grew up knowing and loving was evaporating before our very eyes, and those dastardly jerseys (and night games to some) were the face of our eroding ideals and traditions.
Nevermind that Michigan has gone through dozens of uniforms in it's distinguished history, those damn jerseys with the ugly stripes and that phony looking old block M is taking it just too far dammit! My lawn. Get off it.
On September 10th 2011, at approximately 8 o'clock PM, our good old boys with their cotton' pickin' maize and blue hearts screamed out of that tunnel as they have so many times before, touched the banner, and prepared for battle all the while wearing that ghastly abomination in place of the sacred home uniforms. I don't need to bore you with the details here because you know what transpired. Michigan was pummeled by Notre Dame 50-0 and immediately released a statement after the game stating emphatically that from hence forth we, Michigan, shalt not wear legacy jerseys or participate in night games forever because it's always been better with out them and this was a huge mistake and we're sorry k thx bye.
The End. Things go back to normal and the Michigan of old is the Michigan of new again. Right?
Here friends, is where I humbly pose a question: What if?
What if our leadership isn't set on destroying us from the inside out?
What if they want to see the best for Michigan, even if that means making changes to Michigan?
What if they do actually care how we, the fans, students, and alumni, feel?
What if it was possible to respect traditions while also modernizing?
What if every change that's made wasn't contextualized as going to the heart of what it means to be Michigan? And isn't that a terribly confined view of what Michigan even is?
What if in being ambitious and thinking progressively we could still create moments that 50 years from now would be remembered as some of the greatest that ever happened?
And what if it looked something like this?: ***
Now, what if you never forget what happened on September 10, 2011? Was it worth it? Is Michigan any less Michigan-y now that we've played a night game with legacy jerseys?
OR what if in doing something like this, from the jerseys and the atmosphere to the actual play and coaching on the field, we saw an even truer picture of what Michigan is?
What I saw was that Michigan is unafraid to be the best. Michigan is unafraid to make history. Michigan sets the bar. Michigan isnt defined by it's past- but rather Michigan is defined by it's gall in conquering the present and it's aspiration to the future. Michigan might not always win, but Michigan doesn't back down to a challenge.
Friends, in my humble opinion that game could not have been more perfect. From the pageantry to the stadium renovations, to the uniforms, to unforgettable moments and to ripping out Notre Dame's heart yet again. Michigan put on one hell of a show and I'm damn proud to be a Michigan Wolverine today.
BUT: What if it never happened?
What if your no doubt cherished memories from that game were replaced with memories form a typical ND- UM game with an afternoon kickoff?
Would you be any worse off? Probably not. You wouldn't know any better and UM beats Notre Dame in alternate universes as well- but I do know this, you wouldn't be better for it. You wouldn't have the once in a lifetime experience and the memories to take. You wouldn't be able to tell everyone about it until the day you die. You wouldn't have been a part of this unique moment in history- a moment where history is made. Is that worth it? I guess that's up to you.
Finally: What if we do it again?
What if Michigan makes bold decisions in the future?
What if they're controversial and go against what you've come to know as your beloved Michigan?
Will you approach them with negativity and skepticism or will you look at them with eyes to see the possible good that may come from them? Will you reevaluate your rigid constructs of what Michigan is to you and realize that Michigan is bigger than you can comprehend and means different things to different people around the world and that no attempt to quantify or define it can be successful? I think you should and I hope you do. To keep Michigan the best sometimes means thinking outside the box and moving forward with thought and sense. Last night proved that it can be done well and it can be done right.
*** These moments brought to you by Dave Brandon pissing on Michigan tradition.
It was late and I was in a bar surrounded by new friends. My old friends couldn’t meet up with me. They were all sick or they had something else they needed to do – one excuse or another – and so there I was by myself in Chicago, sitting in a little bar packed full of blue.
I hugged a man I didn’t know, shook hands with his friend and hugged his girlfriend and then I high fived another man and his wife. I didn’t know them before. I didn't give a damn. None of us did. We were all out of our minds. We shouted until we had all lost our voices. We jumped and cheered and freaked out together, convulsing with the physical manifestations of so many strange emotions. I was in a daze. In the course of thirty seconds the world as I knew it had gone from abject despair to pure, unadulterated, unashamed euphoria. And that was only in Chicago. I can’t fathom what it must have been like in the House.
My hand is bruised this morning from pounding on the bar. I can’t think of anything I could do in thirty seconds that can turn the world upside down like that. Not like that. I mean God, I don’t know if I can brush my teeth in thirty seconds.
But there, in that House I loved so much, a bunch of kids wearing my colors had just pulled off something that not even a quarter and a half ago would have been inconceivable. They had denied the stats, the completion percentages, the yards given up by their defense; it mattered only so far as it set us all up for one of the best endings we’ve ever seen. Denard needed eleven completed passes, and that’s exactly what he got.
After that game, I wandered my neighborhood like a roving lunatic. I laughed and shook my head and couldn’t believe what I had just seen. I collected ‘good game’ comments from so many random people on the street; even State fans. I ended up at a hotdog place, a little hole in the wall run by a guy whose dad used to play for Irish. A sign that read ‘Play Like a Champion’ hangs on the wall there. He was cleaning the glass door as I walked up, took a look at me, opened the door and said, “Holy shit.”
That’s about all I could say back. ‘Holy shit.’
I went in and we talked about football and the things we had just seen. It was that kind of game; where a Michigan man and the Irish fan can both respect the fact that they had just witnessed something purely amazing.
And to think, eleven years ago I was a kid who didn’t like sports, didn’t particularly like football, didn’t care one way or the other about how many people fit in a stadium. Sports were the opiate of the masses, or some other nonsense I have since learned to recognize at nonsense. At the time, though, I was ‘too smart’ for that.
But when my application for student season tickets came in the mail, my father sat me down and told me I was getting them. There would be no discussion. I could sell the tickets. I could sell the tickets to him if I wanted, but I was getting them. And I’m so happy I did.
Because, a little over a decade later, I was hugging grown people I had never met before, celebrating fleet footed miracles with my new friends and fellow fans.
How about you, blog friends? Tell us where you were.
Like about everybody else here, I'm still basking in the afterglow of the win over ND, but I still wanted to get this done before the next batch of Picture Pages comes out. In other news, I finally figured out how to slow down video, which some people have asked for.
Setup: (Brian's original post is http://mgoblog.com/content/picture-pages-how-not-defend-power-part-ii) In Part I (http://mgoblog.com/content/picture-pages-how-not-defend-power-part-i), we see that Brennen Beyer overran a counter play Western ran to the left, losing contain and opening the door to a 25-yard gain (to be fair, he just opened the door; bad linebacker play exacerbated the lack of contain and escorted the Western RB through it). He was undoubtedly coached about said overpursuit afterwards (without, I am assuming, the use of stuffed animals) and returned determined to not repeat that mistake.
Wha'hoppon: Naturally, Beyer made the opposite mistake this time by engaging the pulling guard inside, proving there's more than one way to lose outside contain. A cut block on the MLB took out both him and the backside LB, and Herron steps up into the pile instead of out to force the play back inside, completing the loss of contain. Once again, Kovacs comes across from his deep safety position to make the tackle far downfield.
Non-embedded version at http://youtu.be/9asASKuFZ-I?hd=1
Regression to the Mean
What do you get when you have a game between two crappy conferences, one which comes into the game posting an 8-0 record and the top CPR among all conferences, and another that comes in as the only conference not to log a non-conference win over the opening weekend?
Yaaay, law of averages.
The Big East lost their clean sheet on Friday night, as Louisville fell to the mighty Golden Panthers of Florida International. To the Panthers' credit they have started the season 2-0, even though the Sun Belt had yet to win an interconference game. Their opening game was against conference foe, North Texas - the Texas team which is least likely to start talking about how pretty it is.
The last conference to post a perfect resume for 2011 fell only hours later. The Big 12 fought hard for their perfect record, with Arizona State needing overtime to beat Mizzou and break the streak of 11-0. This is not a big deal for the Big 12, though, as it is not like they're going to disintegrate the conference because of the loss...
|Conf.||Wk 1||Wk 2||Season||CPR||+ / -|
From the Top
The red-headed stepchild of the BCS. The ACC comes in below both the MWC and CUSA in this weeks table. Talks of the ACC poaching from the Big East should cease, as the Big East actually looks like a stronger conference.
What happens to your CPR when you go 7-5? Nothing, apparently. The B1G stays at number 3 even after developing a subpar record this week. I was tempted to give them +1,000,000 for Michigan's efforts, but that would skew my numbers a bit. Instead, the Big 10 stays at three and watches the top two conferences put some distance between themselves and the pack.
Well, this is kinda akward. The Big 12 this year is like a boyfriend who saw the light a little too late. Yes, they are on their best behavior, but she's totally over you, Big 12. The B12 is leading our CPR at this point, but they're still going to come home at some point and find all their shit on the lawn.
The Big East took a nosedive this week, after leading the FBS in the CPR last week. They drop four spots to number 5 due to a 'meh' 4-4 effort which saw losses to teams such as Vanderbilt and FIU.
CUSA can lay claim to the title 'Best of the Rest'. Their 8-9 record is good enough as 11 of their 17 OOC games have been against BCS conferences. They have posted three wins in those games, with two more coming to other FBS schools.
Don't look now, but EMU is 2-0! Largely due to the Hart influence, no doubt. A heartbreaker in Columbus was very nearly the biggest win the MAC has seen in years. Northern Illinois also lost a close game to Kansas while CMU kept it close throughout most of their game against Kentucky, only to lose 27-13.
A lukewarm 3-2 record which included two wins against FCS schools saw the MWC drop a spot. Their lone win was a 3 point SDSU win over Army.
The Pac 12 rebounded nicely from a disasterous opening week to climb six points in the CPR. They did so with a 6-2 week that saw them become the only conference which has beaten the Big 12.
Undefeated. 8-0. The AFC Southwest. God's gift to ESPN. God's gift to God. The reason I couldn't watch the opening kickoff of the greatest game in the history of the word 'game'. The SEC shot up as the only potential challenger for the CPR crown. At this point, it appears to be a two horse race with the Big 12 narrowly beating the SEC.
The Sun Belt didn't wait until Saturday to post their first win, with FIU beating Louisville on Friday night. The Sun Belt went 4-4 with wins over the MAC, CUSA, Mountain West, and an FCS school. For their part, the Sun Belt has beaten up the fewest cupcakes (sounds like innuendo?), having only played one FCS school.
The WAC has brought up the rear among FBS conferences for the second week in a row. That's what happens when you post a 5-10 record, with only two of those wins over other FBS schools.
Navy posted the only vistory this week as they rolled over Western Kentucky. BYU gave Texas a run, but came up short by a point. Notre Dame was apparently involved in some sort of 'night game' thing.
The FCS was picked on less this week, as they only played 20 games against FBS schools, compared to 36 the week before. They posted as many wins this week as Notre Dame.