I thought that myself when I read that article that talked about a Data Scientist(tm)
John Bird and [best name ever for a Southern blogger] Winfield Tufts of the Georgia Tech blog From the Rumble Seat have been publishing an ongoing series comparing the sports teams and fans of various cities. The series has been linked on MGoBlog, which was how I found it. Apparently, my commentary on there (most of which is repeated below) was enough that John and [I love it!] Winfield offered me an opportunity to reply with some thoughts as to the rivalries and traditions of Detroit area sports, to which I dutifully applied the Misopogonal treatment.
You can find the article here (as well as learn my real name). Below is the entirety of my response to John.
Hey, John. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this. Any time you're on a To: line with the likes of Cook and Kurt you're like one step short of Fu-Te Ni in this town.
Well, there's um THE GAME. The one ESPN called the greatest rivalry in sports. The one where 100,000+ people pack into some 90-year-old stadium or other in late November and the hits rattle the whole country. Michigan has a history of taking its greatest players (Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, et al.) out of Ohio State's backyard, then using them to beat the best Buckeye teams. The Buckeyes have a history of deserving it.
Key moments: Two Heisman Trophies were won on long returns, a guy named Tshimanga Biakabutuka had so many yards that everyone in both states learned how to spell his name correctly, and in 2006 the teams came in ranked No. 1 and 2 a day after Bo Schembechler died, and no less than three universes were born.
Michigan also has a "we respect you, now die" rivalry with Notre Dame, a sibling rivalry with Michigan State that's as heated in-state as it isn't outside of it, and the Little Brown Jug game with Minnesota, which I guess is significant if only because we were trading a goofy object as a trophy long before it was cool to do so.
Like Michigan, the Red Wings' consistent historical success has created strong enmities among the detritus left in our wake. Some, like Colorado, Chicago and Toronto, are returned to sender (after packing the envelope with cast-off car parts), though there are others who call themselves our rivals whom we have to be reminded of, like St. Louis, or Anaheim, which I think is in Switzerland or something.
Key moments: A vicious, face-rearranging hit from behind, by Colorado forward Claude Lemieux on Wings speedster Kris Draper in the 1996 playoffs, set up a game that got its own name. "Fight Night at the Joe," March 26, 1997, one of the most legendary nights of hockey in NHL history, featured 11 goals, a goalie fight, and revenge served cold as Red Wing grinder (and Draper's best buddy) Darren McCarty turned Lemieux into a turtle, and then later scored the game-winner on an overtime breakaway.
Though no one rivalry really stands out, Tigers/White Sox is the on-again, off-again hate-hate relationship for baseball [added: which as of June 9, 2010 stands at 1,000 to 999 in favor of Detroit]. It was on-again until we traded South Chicagoan Curtis Granderson and the "Wrong Sox" went into a Darrell Evans-in-Atlanta Era "let's pick up every washout veteran on the market" mode.
Historically, we were very early Yankee-haters, and also had a short but epic late-'90s us-or-them thing going with Toronto. When we do make it to the World Series (eight times), the Cubs or Cardinals have a knack for being there waiting. Oh, and we hate losing to Cleveland. Do they know we hate losing to Cleveland?
Key moment: You guys in Atlanta like pitchers' duels, right? Game 7 of the 1968 World Series, St. Louis: the Tigers send out Mickey Lolich, on two days rest after pitching twice already in the Series, to face Bob Gibson, who was coming off a World Series record 17-strikeout outing. Victor....Lolich, who took the game 4-1.
When the Pistons have our 'fros up, we're the Crassus of the NBA's First Triumvirate, the Smoltz (Warren, MI) to Boston and LA's Glavine/Maddux, the Zeke to their Magic and Bird. When not, we're content to play foil for whatever bull they're peddling in the Cut-Windy City.
Key moments: The late-'80s Pistons earned their nickname "Bad Boys" in the 1987 series with Boston, a 7-game dogfight so gritty it might have made hockey players blush. In '88, Isiah Thomas, playing on a severely sprained ankle, scored 25 points in the 4th quarter of Game 6 against the Lakers, and might have won the Championship right then and there, but for a questionable call that gave L.A. a pair of game-ending free throws.
The Lions' biggest rivalry has been no less intense despite being wholly one-sided for the last 53 years. That rivalry is with their fans, who continue to fill the stadium every Sunday as the Lions have continued to find ways to torture us for it.
Key moment: After definitively proving himself the worst GM in the history of sports, in 2005, the Lions re-signed Matt Millen to a five-year contract extension that made Millen, at the time, the highest-paid executive in the NFL.
The nice part about being the most Jake, bee’s knees, barney-mugging, cat’s pajamas town this side of the Atlantic during the decade that major sports shaped themselves (1920s) is that Detroit has had a long time to come up with traditions (kind of like how we Jews have accumulated 3,000 years worth of holidays).
The list of traditions starts like this: “Hail to the Victors,” the opening salvo to Michigan's acclaimed fight song which we like to think of as the second-most popular diddy in the United States behind the one written by Francis Scott Key.* The Victors is best enjoyed while leaping to touch the “M Club Supports You” banner before home games.
* Key's lesser-known hits from the same night include Can I Have My Doctor Back? You Can Stop Firing, It's Been 25 Hours -- I Think You Got It, and Get Me the Fuck Off This Ship.
No list of Detroit traditions can be complete without flying mollusks, i.e. our penchant for hurling octopi on the ice during Red Wings playoff games. The ‘Legend of the Octopus’ dates back to the 1952 playoffs, when eight legs symbolized the eight wins needed to win the Stanley Cup. The tradition has remained unique to the Red Wings due to two remarkable features: 1) we have our own closely guarded code for when it is appropriate to toss an octopus, something copycat tossers have yet to figure out, and 2) they are actually really slimy and gross and smelly and nobody would touch those things if it wasn’t already a 50-year-old tradition.
Less famous is the tradition of Red Wing lady fans tying a red string in their hair for each playoff win, and a white for each playoff loss (due to the playoffs often lasting two or three months, the ribbons are now usually tied to a hat or wrist).
A relatively recent tradition has been the dressing up of the city’s signature sculpture, “The Spirit of Detroit.” The iconic sitting man by the late Detroit-area sculptor Marshall Fredericks (our resident Michelangelo) tends to rock a giant jersey of whichever local team seems to be making a championship run.
The non-big sports have been pretty big in Detroit for long enough to have their own established traditions. One is “The Monster,” a Links series golf course at Oakland Hills Country Club that hosted the 2004 Ryder Cup and 2008 PGAChampionship, its name stemming from being a really hard course before the big courses started Tiger-proofing. Sailing is a big thing here, too, as much as sailboat racing can be a thing outside of the British Empire. The Port Huron-Mackinac sailboat race, organized by Detroit-based Bayview Yacht Club, is one of the largest freshwater races in the world (the other being the Chicago-Mackinac).
If there’s anything redeeming about Lions football it’s this: when your wife and mother-in-law are arguing over the proper temperature to cook stuffing, you are not in the kitchen, because you are in the living room, because since 1934, the Detroit Lions have been playing Thanksgiving Football. We give thanks.
The Tigers' traditions, like their rivalries, seem to be fleeting, though old ones start back up from time to time (like rookies getting washed with champagne after their first MLB homer, started by Lance Parrish in the ’80s and brought back this year). The longest tenured that is currently active is the chant, “Eat ’em up Tigers, eat ’em up!” which originated with a local panhandler. A more entertaining street entertainer around Detroit-area home games is a rhyming drummer who makes disparaging quips, quite intelligently, about passers-by who decline to give him change.
“Gum Time,” mostly a feature of 2006, was the Tigers’ version of the rally cap, stemming from starting pitcher Nate Robertson’s (now with the Marlins) stuffing of lots of Big League Chew in his mouth to spur comebacks (this worked).
There is one Tiger tradition that has lasted the ages, and like the city, it is simple yet classic. It’s a D. It’s in an Olde English font. We wear it. Always.
The Pistons’ most prominent traditions have a strong whiff of annoyance: an announcer with a jeering way of claiming Detroithas possession, and giving the opening introductions to Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” We know this does not speak well of us, but we enjoy are comfortable with that.
A few Detroit traditions have died but are still remembered fondly. One was an annual just-before-Opening Day exhibition against AAA Toledo. Another – this one ruined by an uncaring Roger Stern – was family-friendly MLK Day basketball with the Pistons. Other dead traditions are best left to history, such as drunken brawls at the Silverdome during Lions losses.
Michigan’s marching band also has a neat tradition of playing “Temptation” followed by “The Hawaiian War Chant,” because, according to
tradition state law Hammurabic code “You can’t have one without the other.”
Ultimately, Detroit’s greatest tradition is probably its fans (our announcers always say so), and, with certain very big exceptions, our media. The two are connected. Allow for elaboration:
From the late, great Ernie Harwell to the passionate Bob Ufer, fatherly Jim Brandstatter, and friendly team of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond, we have been singularly lucky in broadcast voices.
We boasted several nationally renowned sportswriters throughout the 20th century (the last being the pre-sappy-period Mitch Albom), and these in turn gave way to probably the most robust and intellectual blogging base in the country, from Pride of SB Nation Bless You Boys, to the NHL blogging clearinghouse Kukla’s Korner, and of course the preeminent MGoBlog.
Yet our most cherished blogging treasure is a slightly unstable woman named Samara Pearlstein who dies inside with every Tigers out, and whose mix of self-drawn artwork and effervescent writing creates perhaps the most poignant sports commentary on the Internet.
Make no mistake: our major newspaper columnists are generally utter crap, and our talk radio (now down to one station) trades almost solely in polemics. Yet the blogosphere over Southeast Michiganhas been strong enough that when a Brazilian guy said he had never seen a Red Wings game, the fanbase raised enough money to fly him to Detroitand rectify that five times over (donating the rest to charity). And just this week, not 24 hours after his call blew the first perfect game by a Tiger in our century-plus history, Tigers fans cheered Jim Joyce for owning up to his mistake. That kind of mercy doesn’t come from Yahoo boards.
Also (shameless appeal) this once came off the line in Detroit:
(the car, not the passengers. We wish we could produce those passengers)
That's it. That's my case for Motown. We are not the most populous city anymore, but we fill our stadiums, and since half of Detroit's population has split to the four winds, when our teams are in town we tend to fill everyone else's stadiums as well. That is why, when your poll closes, I believe it will end like this: "Michigan, the Champions of the West."
What a great ending.
I've been looking at the expansion scenario and all the different scenarios of 12, 14, 16, and all of the different candidates, and I just wanted to put my two cents in;
My first thought is that I have no desire to obtain any big east team at all. None of them will bring a powerful football program to add a perenial strength to the conference, and I have concerns about any of them adding any value to the TV markets. I lived in New England for three years (and by New England I mean all of New England Boston, Connecticut, and Rhode Island) and college football is not anywhere on the map. They don't follow it, don't care about it, and adding some local team will do nothing to sway them. I feel the same is true for the NY market, as I believe there are probably more Michigan and Penn State fans than any Rutgers fans.
My second thought is that 16 is too big. I've seen a lot of talk about 4 pods and whatnot, but I am big on rivalries and the mini rivalries that occur from two teams who happen to play some close or controversial games and want to have a chance at retribution. A 16 team super conference seemd to large to keep these types of rivalries and help create new ones.
So with that said, I move west for three teams to make a 14 team conference. And I feel the best 3 for the big ten would be Nebraska, Missouri, and Notre Dame. This allows for an easy geographical split with east and west conferences of 7 teams with 2 cross division games every year. The Divisions would be as follows;
East: Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana, and Notre Dame
West: Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Missouri
This keeps the majority of the rivalries in-tact, and allows for some cross division games and makes sense geographically to help create new rivalries. Michigan and Ohio State would still play the last game of the year in the division, with the winner (Michigan) playing in the championship game, and the loser not having to worry about an extra loss keeping them out of the BCS.
There are two major complaints that I can see in my conference.
1. What the hell, are you an idiot, where's Texas?
2. Notre Dame is playing coy, thinking its fine for them to roll stag to this dance.
So, my response is as follows; Texas seems like a dream to any conference, with golden ticket like money, academics in-line, and it puts the big ten in some prime recruiting ground. The problem is, I feel like there is way to much baggage. Texas is used to getting its way and getting special treatment, and that just ain't gonna fly in the big ten. The other baggage is the texas schools that might be forced in as well, and I don't want the Big Ten to have to make concessions like adding schools that don't make sense to land the big fish.
The ND problem I really don't have an answer for. They make sense geographically, they are the team that I think could get us that NY market, they play 3 teams already, but we have no real leg to stand on to make them go. My only hope would be that we mae our move for Neb and MS, Pac-10 makes their 16 team conference and ND sees the writing on the wall and caves in.
Alright, I just had to get my thoughts out, and I needed the proper forum to do so, as noone I know in the non-virtual world cares or thinks about this stuff as much as I do. My hope is that fellow Mgobloggers can stomach the long read and my reasoning, and provide their feedback.
Finally, THE KNOWLEDGE has come back to MGoBlog
THE KNOWLEDGE hasn't visited these pages in a while, but there have been many interesting developments on late that have led to uncertainty about the future
As everyone knows, whenever a topic of great interest to Michigan fans arises, THE KNOWLEDGE arrives to provide concrete information about the future
THE KNOWLEDGE has hence made his appearance now
the first question THE KNOWLEDGE will tackle is regarding the expected sanctions from the NCAA
many people believe that the NCAA will add on minor penalties to those self-imposed by Michigan, and that will be end of it
however, these people are wrong
THE KNOWLEDGE guarantees that NCAA will reply stating that the self-imposed sanctions are too much, and will recommend easing on these
the first question THE KNOWLEDGE will tackle is regarding the conference expansion plans
what the vast majority of folks do not know is that Texas, Oklahoma and ATM have already agreed to join the Big Ten
The Big Ten is now deciding on who the 15th and 16th teams must be. the choices are between Nebraska+Missouri Vs Pitt+Rutgers
in all likelihood, it will be the former. this decision will be made in the next few days
Pac 10 officials do not know this, and are stupidly trying to woo half the Big 12
The Big Ten conference will be re-named as well. THE KNOWLEDGE shall soon reveal this info as well
as usual, there will always be some folks that do not believe what THE KNOWLEDGE has to say, but they just need to wait and watch these predictions come true
THE KNOWLEDGE shall soar
and leave all doubters in a trail of dust
PS: in the previous post or two by THE KNOWLEDGE, some people have wondered if THE KNOWLEDGE is a different person because there is an underscore involved
these people are idiots, and do not understand THE KNOWLEDGE. all they need to do is read the posts of THE KNOWLEDGE
The posts similar to this one will become a regular weekly update, as they've received positive feedback. Monday will most likely be the day that they come out, unless I figure out a better day during the season. Anyway, on with the show:
6'5", 260 lbs.
As everyone knows, Andre is a former teammate of Craig Roh and Taylor Lewan. Andre told me recently that he would like to make it up to Michigan for his official visit for the Michigan State game. This isn't set in stone, and needs to be discussed with his parents and coach since it's during the season. But if all goes as planned, that's the weekend he'll be up.
Andre was recently in California, and got the chance to stop by USC, which is one of his top schools. Nothing will be known as far his decision, or top school, until he takes his visits. I will admit that the distance to Michigan makes me nervous. All the other schools in his list (Oregon—his dad lives close by—and USC) are closer to home or family.
6'1", 310 lbs.
When I spoke with Mickey recently he told me that he has enough interest in Michigan to consider them for an official visit. He didn't want to say that he would 100% use one of his five visits on the Wolverines, but he's giving Michigan serious consideration. Officials can't happen until September, so he'll have plenty of time to figure it out. An interesting note on Mickey: he's not originally from Louisiana, so he doesn't have the deep-rooted interest in LSU that most kids from his area have.
At this point I believe he ends up at a school outside of Louisiana.
6'4", 215 lbs.
Ed has been on Michigan's radar for awhile now, and he thought he had a great showing at this weekend's one-day camp. Not only did he perform well on the field, but he also got a chance to have a good conversation with the coaches afterwards. He's really hoping he gets an offer sometime soon. The coaches will review the tape from the camp and go from there. This could go either way, as far as an offer being extended. Linebacker recruiting is going well for Michigan. It's not completely necessary to get the offer out right away, assuming that Davis would commit to Michigan with the offer in hand.
6'0", 200 lbs.
Speaking of linebackers, here's a new name to add to the list. Temple plays for Warren Central, in Indiana, and was recently nominated to the Army All American game. Warren Central has quite a few D1 recruits, amongst them Kris Harley and Kiaro Holts, and sent Chris Graham to Michigan a few years ago.
Nick is really hoping for a Michigan offer and said they are is definitely high on his list. He's been in contact with Coach Tall. The coaches are currently reviewing his film. Temple believes the Michigan coaches will extend an offer soon. Take a look at his highlight video:
6'6", 315 lbs.
Tony plays for the powerhouse Plant team in Florida and is one of the better offensive line recruits in the country. He still maintains that Michigan is high on his list after backing off an early statement that they were his outright leader, and will be coming up to Ann Arbor sometime this summer. He's not sure of the exact date, but he's shooting for a commitment by the end of the summer so it needs to be soon. Tony has already seen Florida and USF, but is unsure of what other stops he'll make before his decision.
Despite the distance, Michigan has a really good shot here. He's quiet, and doesn't like to tell too much, but he always speaks highly of Michigan. A Florida offer would change that.
Pulling the content a little closer to home this week in an effort to keep a higher R squared value with the MGoBlog readers!
As always, this analysis only considers games between two D1 opponents and takes only plays during competitive game situations into account.
Not all great offenses are created equally
If we are going to know what it takes to become a great offense under Rich Rodriguez, we must first know what it will look like, because great offenses can take on many different appearances. Below is a play success distribution for my top rated offense last year (Georgia Tech, option baby), the top passing offense (Captain Leach Texas Tech) and a look at West Virginia from 2007, Rodriguez’s last year at the helm. I went ahead and threw in the BCS’s worst, Washington St, just for comparison.
The Paul Johnson option is working with big plays, rather they are taking out the bad plays. Over three-quarters of Georgia Tech’s plays go for positive yardage. This balances out no strong tendency towards big plays. The end result is old school football: lots of long drives and moving the chains.
At the Captain’s helm, Texas Tech had nearly a quarter of all of their plays go for no gain. As always, there are tradeoffs. For Tech they came in the form of the 10-20 yard gain.
Under Rodriguez, West Virginia saw something different than either of those two. Even with a run-pass split close to Georgia Tech, the distribution of the spread 'n' shred was much different than the Option. Where the Yellowjackets saw a heavy dose of positive but small gains, the Mountaineers had a solid lead in everything from 4-20 yards. The end results where similar with both teams producing touchdown drives with regularity, but the path was much longer for Georgia Tech. West Virginia’s ability to get the somewhat big play allowed them to shorten drives, add possessions to the game and eliminate some of the variance through an increase in scoring chances.
How close are we?
As everyone knows, we are much closer coming in to this year than we were last year. Here is another chart to support that notion.
There are many charts to look at that show the dreadfulness of 2008, so we won’t dwell on that. What is becoming clear is that the shape of 2009 is becoming quite similar to West Virginia 2007. The big difference, and its a big one, is that Michigan still has a lot of plays going for no gain, where West Virginia was able to get 5+ yards out of those same plays.
If Michigan is going to mirror the West Virginia offensive success, it appears to have a made very clear first step last season.
How does this compare to previous years?
The biggest difference between the Carr era and the Rodriguez era in terms of yardage gained distribution is the passing game bump from the Carr era in the 10-20 yard gain range. The Rodriguez system is more geared towards to the 4-9 yard gains where the Carr offense excelled in the 0-3 and 10-20 yard ranges.
What does this mean for 2010?
The cliché: Take the Next Step.
It looks like framework of what Rodriguez wants to do is in place after two rough years, but the execution is still behind his days at West Virginia. The offensive line now has two years in the system and for the first time there is a quarterback (in fact two!) who have both experience and talent. As I noted in a previous diary, a jump from average in 2009 to good in 2010 is certainly a good possibility and with a break or two and improved quarterback play, it could go from average to great.
I just got off the phone with DeAnthony Arnett's brother, Ralph, who helps DeAnthony with his recruitment. They have a solid group of schools that make up his top six, and there will only be one school that could be added.
The top six is (in no order), USC, Cal, Oklahoma, MSU, Tennessee, and Iowa. The wildcard that could be thrown in, if they offer, is Miami.
Apparently, the recent quarterback commit to Miami, Teddy Bridgewater, really likes DeAnthony, and wants him at Miami. The only reason Miami hasn't offered yet is because their recruiting coordinator left, and coach Shannon never got to finish watching his film. It seems like they might be a big player, if the offer comes.
Ralph told me his take on everything with Michigan and DeAnthony is that at the end of the day, he has to do what's best for him, and he doesn't feel that offense will get him to the next level. He dropped Notre Dame for the same reasons, and said the only spread he would want to play in is Oklahoma's. It has nothing to do with the coaches at Michigan, who they think very highly of, or any other reason. Both Ralph and DeAnthony think that Rich Rod will have a lot of success at Michigan, it's just not the place for him to be a big time receiver, like he wants to be.