in town for free camps
Michigan baseball received, to my knowledge, their second commitment from the freshman class of 2011-12 in Fairfield, OH centerfielder Will Drake. Drake picked Michigan over Cincinnati and UNC-Asheville.
Drake, a 6-foot-1, 165-pound speedy center fielder, verbally committed to the University of Michigan on Monday, June 28, a day after he visited the campus […]
“When I got to Michigan it was a no-brainer for me,” Drake said. “They’re the fourth winningest program in college baseball history. I was surrounded by great coaches and a great facility. I really loved it up there.”
Drake called Michigan coach Rich Maloney on Monday and accepted a 50 percent scholarship offer. […]
Drake was a first-team, All-Greater Miami Conference selection as a junior after hitting .379 with a home run and 23 RBIs. He also had 13 stolen bases.
Drake is another speed outfielder, and may be looking to take over for current Michigan centerfielder Patrick Biondi if Biondi is a 3-and-done, a reasonable assumption based on his freshman year.
Drake is the second commitment in this class that I've seen, and he's also the second outfielder of the class with Zach Fish. Michigan is VERY light in outfielders right now, with only Biondi being a true outfielder returning from last year's team. The remaining two outfield slots next year are up for grabs between Kevin Krantz (former short stop), Garrett Stephens (former first baseman and likely DH/1B next season), Tyler Mills (pitcher), and two true freshmen in Adam Robinson and Michael O'Neill.
Drake will add immediate depth his freshman year, but at this point, I'm not sure he'll be a contributor until at least his red shirt freshman season. His overall numbers appear behind Zach Fish, but Drake still has time to grow and develop.
(HT: TomVH for the tip)
The weekly update is a little slim today, with two commits dropping last week, and the holiday weekend. Here's the latest on this week's happenings.
6'4, 285 lbs.
Cyrus is a big offensive line prospect with major offers to his name. Hobbi currently holds around 17 offers including Michigan, Alabama, ASU, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and USC. As we've found out with other prospects in Arizona, it's sometimes hard to get them out for a visit, especially when it's an unofficial on their own dime. Well, the Hobbi family just happens to be taking a cross country trip to New York, and they will be stopping by Ann Arbor on the way:
We're coming up next week, on Tuesday (July 13th). We're just coming for the day on our way to New York. I don't know a lot about Michigan, so this visit will help me decide if I'm really interested, or not.
That seems fair. Cyrus told me he played against Taylor Lewan and Craig Roh as a sophomore, but doesn't know them well enough to call them up and talk about Michigan. Craig actually tried his patented spin move on Hobbi and was shut down. He's also planning on stopping by Notre Dame. Those plans have changed:
I'm not going to Notre Dame anymore, they haven't returned any of my calls. I guess they filled up, but they won't call me back, either. I'll just enjoy myself at Michigan instead.
Take that! This visit is big for Michigan, who otherwise probably wouldn't have been able to get him on campus before the season. This will give him and his family a chance to see everything without a group of other recruits there, without any distractions.
6'6", 315 lbs.
Tony Posada recently named Michigan his leader after his visit up to Ann Arbor. That still holds true, and it may just be a matter of time before he ends his recruitment:
We're working out a date with my family and coaches to make a decision. I'd like to do it as soon as possible, it could be next week, it could be longer; we're not sure yet. Michigan is still my leader, though.
So... ya know, there's that. It seems like Michigan should be getting the call soon. I hate making predictions off of information that seems obvious, but an upcoming decision with a declared leader is almost always a decision that's already been made privately.
5'11", 184 lbs.
I spoke with Walls recently about his interest in Michigan. He played it close to the vest, but let out a little insight on how this will play out.
Michigan is a team that I am considering very highly. I will be paying close attention to the beginning of their season.
As we've seen with a number of other recruits. If Michigan wins early, they'll get real shot him. If they get off to a slow start, then it will be an uphill battle. Those first six or seven games are going to be CRUCIAL to Michigan's recruiting efforts.
- PA DB Kyshoen Jarrett will have his narrowed down list today, once he clears it with his coach. He told me that Michigan was on it, and he's very interested.
- Instate OL Jake Fisher says he wants to make his decision in the next few weeks. It's between Michigan and MSU at this point. I think Michigan has the slight edge. He does plan on going back up to MSU soon. and things can change quickly, but we look to be in the driver seat.
- PA safety Dondi Kirby tore his ACL, and will be out for the season. It's an unfortunate time to have that happen, as a football recruit. Not that there's a good time for it to happen, but you know what I mean.
Inspired by all of the great statisticatin’ done by such MGoUsers as Misopogon, the Mathlete, and, most recently (and in the past), MCalibur, I decided to look into something I’ve been wondering about for a while. Well, four somethings really, all related to the importance of yards on first down in determining eventual success at getting first downs and sustaining drives:
How much do varying numbers of yards on first down affect the probability of getting a first down (or a touchdown) in that series?
Here I was simply wondering about the “how much?” question. It goes without saying that losing 10 yards on first down (or starting first and 20) reduces the probability that you will get a first down, but by how much? Similarly, obviously the more yards you get on first down, the better your chances are of getting a first down on the series, but by how much? Are there thresholds beyond which your probability of getting a first down increases appreciably, or is it more or less a linear relationship, where every additional yard on first down increases your probability of getting a first down by the same amount?
How much variation is there between teams in their ability to recover from bad first down plays?
My assumption here was that with principally running teams like the RR-era WVU, it is harder to overcome a bad first down play than with more balanced teams like the Lloyd-era UM or the Vest’s OSU teams. Conversely, I assumed that when the RR-era WVU or UM teams got at least four yards on first down, a first down on the series was virtually a lead pipe cinch. But, as these were only assumptions, I was interested in doing some analysis to check this out.
How much variation is there across games in the ease with which first downs are gotten, and in the effects of various numbers of yards on the probability of getting a first down?
For example, you would think that statistically it would be easier to get a first down on any given series in a home game, other things equal, right? Or, it would be harder to get a first down on any given series in a game against an opponent with a better defense, right?
Based on my data, the answer to both of these questions is NSFMF. I’ll explain later.
How much do things other than the focus of the analysis, like field position and penalties, affect first down probabilities?
When I started, I knew I wanted to compare Lloyd-UM with RR-UM and RR-WVU, since I wanted to see how the spread n’ shred in its mature form would compare with the more anemic version (UM 2008-2009) and with the DeBordian “rock, rock, rock, rock, rock, ICBM, rock, rock, rock (also rock)” approach. In compiling the sample, I made several choices:
- I did not look at UM in 2008 because I thought it would unfairly penalize Michigan and/or RR, and also I’m pretty sure we invaded Grenada that year and they called off the season.
- I added another comparison team, the 2006-2009 OSU juggernaut. Damn, those guys won a lot of games in those years. Fuckers…
- I omitted all Baby Seal U games (e.g., OSU vs. Youngstown State, UM vs. Delaware State, and WVU vs. Eastern Washington) except
- which I included. I debated about this latter non-omission because I didn’t want to unfairly stack the deck against Lloyd, but I figured (1) omitting Baby Seal U from the other coaches actually (slightly) stacked the deck in favor of Lloyd, and (2) there are Baby Seal Us and then there are Appy State Us.
This is a picture of an actual baby seal.
As for the unit of analysis (or “record” or “case,” depending on your disciplinary background), you may or may not know that ESPN.com publishes the play by play for each game, with pretty detailed information on each play.
At the game level, the sample consists of 122 games played from 2005 to 2009 by three schools (OSU, WVU, UM) and three coaches (Tressel, Rodriguez, Carr). For each game, I recorded:
- the game number in the season (i.e., first, second, …, thirteenth);
- the opponent’s total defense ranking (from NCAA.org); and
- whether it was a home game or not (away- and neutral-field games were coded the same. In retrospect I probably should have distinguished between these, but it didn’t end up mattering anyway).
At the play/series level, the sample consists of 3,529 first down plays and the series these plays began. For the teams of interest (i.e., not the opponents), I recorded the following data for each first down play:
The dependent variable was whether the series ended in a first down.
The primary independent variable was the number of yards gained on first down.
The control variables were:
- the field position on first down;
- the yards to go on first down;
- whether there was an offensive or defensive penalty (or both) on the series (penalties on first down, where first down was repeated, figured into the “yards to go” variable);
- whether there was a turnover on the series;
- whether there was low time (less than a minute) in the second or fourth quarters;
- whether there was a pass or run on first down;
- the quarter the series took place in; and
- the number of previous first downs for the drive in which the first down took place (so, if it is the first first down play in a drive, this variable would be scored 0; if a team makes a first down, this variable would be scored 1 for the second first down play in the same drive).
Table 1 below shows the sample by season and team.
Hierarchical Linear Models
My initial plan was to run two-level hierarchical linear models (HLM), in which first-down plays/series are nested within games. Briefly, HLM allows you to calculate how much of the variation in the dependent variable is due to level-1 (play/series-level) factors like yards on first down, field position, etc., and how much is due to level-2 (game-level) factors like opponent defensive strength, home/away game, etc.
Essentially, HLM would calculate the average probability of getting a first down, as well as the effect of the level-one independent variables on that probability, for each of the 122 games, and then those parameters would be the dependent variables to be predicted as a function of level-2 (game-level) variables.
Fortunately for those of you who are about to stop reading, one of the things I discovered is that there is not significant variation from game to game either in the probability of getting a first down, nor in the effects of the level-1 independent variables, to support an HLM analysis.
This does not mean that, for example, UM had exactly the same average success in getting a first down against OSU as they did against Eastern Michigan. What it does mean is that there is not so much variation from game to game in this average probability that it makes sense to predict that scant amount of variation with game-level factors.
The Probit Binary Response Model
Hence, the following is just a play/series-level analysis, which is probably more intuitive for the reader anyway. Because the dependent variable is dichotomous (0 if no first down on the series, 1 if first down or touchdown), I used the probit binary response model (PBRM). For those of you not steeped in this method, the PBRM is one of several regression-like methods for binary dependent variables.
Probit coefficients are in the metric of the standard normal cumulative distribution function (CDF), also known as z-scores. When you evaluate the standard normal CDF at a given value, it tells you the probability of scoring a “1” on the dependent variable.
The sign and magnitude of probit coefficients are interpreted in the standard way: a negative effect means that the variable lowers the probability of scoring a “1” on the dependent variable, positive coefficients mean that the variable increases the probability, and larger coefficients (in absolute value terms) mean stronger effects.
Except for Table 3 below, I have transformed all coefficients into probabilities, so you don’t have to worry about the metric of the coefficients.
Several Words on Sampling Error
You may remember from some statistics course that it is generally good practice to report not just the point estimates from any statistical analysis, but also an estimate of sampling error. This is why when networks report polling data, they usually say something like “Candidate X is leading Candidate Y by 5 points [the point estimate], with a margin of error plus or minus 3 points [the sampling error estimate].”
Virtually all statistical software packages (I used Stata/SE 10) assume that the data were gathered via a simple random sample, in which all samples of a given size have an equal probability of selection. Clearly, my choice to non-randomly sample three teams and five seasons, and then take a census of all games (except for Baby Seal U games) and first down plays violates this assumption. Hence, this analysis isn’t necessarily representative of the nation-wide effects of first down yards (and other variables) on first-down probabilities. You should interpret all of these findings as merely relating to UM, OSU, and WVU for the years specified.
Figures 1 and 2 below show, respectively, the number of yards gained on first down and the starting field position for any particular series. Recall that there can be multiple series within a drive, so Figure 2 should not be interpreted as the starting field position for the drive.
Note from Figure 1 that the modal number of yards gained on first down is zero. Obviously, this can occur via an incomplete pass, a completed pass for no gain, or a rush for no gain. The distribution is right-skewed, although fairly normally distributed (excluding the zero yards bar) within a range of about a loss of 10 yards and a gain of about 20 yards.
Note from Figure 2 that the modal starting field position is 80 yards from the opponent’s goal line (or the offensive team’s 20). This is largely due to touchbacks on punts or kickoffs, of course.
Table 2 below shows the descriptive statistics by team for the variables used in the analysis. Note that the percentage of first down plays where the series ended in a first down or touchdown ranges from 66% for the 2009 UM team to about 76% for the 2006-2007 WVU teams. This should explain in part the 5-7 record of the former team and the shredding of opponents achieved by the mature WVU teams. Interestingly, OSU and Lloyd-era UM had about the same overall probability of getting a first down.
Time will tell if the RR UM teams can recapture that glory, or whether the spread n’ shred was simply more effective (1) in the Big East, (2) with Pat White/Steve Slaton, or (3) both (1) and (2).
One bit of hopeful evidence comes from the opponent total defense rank (near the bottom of Table 2). It doesn’t appear as though WVU played an appreciably easier average schedule than OSU, and if anything, WVU’s opponents finished their seasons with, on average, better-ranked defenses than either Lloyd-era or RR-era UM.
In terms of the primary independent variable of interest, Figure 3 shows the distribution of yards gained on first down, by team. Note that RR-UM was more likely than the other teams to lose from 1 to 4 yards on first down, less likely to gain from 3 to 5 yards, more likely to gain 6 or 7 yards (there may be a small sample size problem here), and less likely to hit a big play on first down (10 or more yards) than OSU or WVU.
Interestingly, RR’s WVU teams were less likely to gain 0 to 2 yards on first down, which is probably largely due to the lower percentage of passing plays on first down for WVU (17% vs. about 32-34% for the other three teams. This should demonstrate that RR/Magee understand that when you have Pat White, you run the ball on first down (and most downs thereafter). When you have Tate, you have to be more balanced. Say, maybe these guys do know about football…
Other points of interest from Table 2:
- Lloyd’s teams were more disciplined on offense with respect to penalties than the Vest’s teams--about 4.7% of OSU’s series had at least one post-first down offensive penalty (recall that the first down penalties were folded into the “yards to go” variable), compared to 2.8% for Lloyd-UM. RR’s teams fall in between.
- On the other hand, the Vest’s teams drew more post-first down defensive penalties than RR’s teams. Perhaps the passing attack invites more encroachment/pass interference calls than a more ground-based attack?
- Turnovers! About 7.6% of RR-UM’s series ended in turnovers, compared to 4.0 to 4.7% for the other teams. Yikes.
Figures 4-6 show some results from the regression analysis. First, Figure 4 shows the probability of getting a first down after selected numbers of yards on each first down play, assuming (1) it was first and 10, and (2) there was no penalty on the series.
Note that losing five or more yards on first down gives you about a 0.25-0.30 probability of getting a first down, whereas, obviously, gaining 10 or more yards is by definition a first down (on first and 10 at least).
In between these extremes, the first down returns to yards on first down is basically linear, though there are fairly noticeably inflection points between losing 5 or more and losing 1 to 4 yards (the first two points in the curves) and between gaining 3 to 5 and gaining 6 or 7 yards. By the way, I chose these categories based on exploratory analyses that showed that there was no statistically significant difference between gaining, say, 0, 1, or 2 yards.
Finally, notice the similarity between the OSU and Lloyd-UM curves. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising, since those teams pursued fairly similar offensive strategies--lots of off tackle to Hart/Wells interspersed with daggers to Manningham/Ginn.
I was interested to see that WVU dominated the story, at all categories of yards gained on first down. That is, it isn’t true that the WVU offense bogged down especially on small losses or gains on first down. A great offense will overcome.
Figure 5 shows the probability of getting a first down by field position on first down, in 10-yard increments. There are basically four points here:
- Being inside your own 20 reduces your probability of getting a first down, probably because of more conservative play calling;
- There is basically no difference between the 20 and the 50;
- Probabilities go up between the 50 and field goal range (a field goal attempt was coded 0 on the dependent variable, since there was no first down or touchdown);
- The probability goes way down in field goal range, probably because coaches elect to take the 3 points instead of going for it on 4th (see the Mathlete’s excellent diary on this).
Figure 6 shows basically the same trends, broken down by teams. There isn’t much to see here, except that WVU was awesome, RR-UM sucked, and OSU/Lloyd-UM were basically indistinguishable. It looks like a good rule of thumb is that WVU had a 10-percentage point better probability of getting a first down than RR-UM and a 5-percentage point advantage over the Vest and Lloyd.
Table 3 shows the full regression results. There isn’t much new here, but just to recap:
- Yards on first down matters a lot (duh I);
- WVU kicked ass;
- It’s harder to get a first down on first and 20 than first and 5 (duh II);
- Field position doesn’t matter as much as you might think;
- Offensive penalties make it harder to get a first down; defensive penalties make it easier (duh III); and
- Ceteris paribus, passing on first down increases the probability of getting a first down on that series (though in analysis not shown here, I found that, not surprisingly, it increases the chances of a turnover [see Hayes, W.]).
One other thing: in the note to Table 3, it says that the “Pseudo R2” is .3008. This is a statistic calculated in the PBRM that is analogous to the R2 (r-squared) statistic in linear regression, which is interpreted as the percentage of the variation in the dependent variable that is explained by the model. It’s hard to say whether 30% is a lot or a little; all I know from the coding is that there were lots of series in which a team would lose 10 on first down and still get a first down, and others where they would gain 9 on first down and fail to get a first down. So, there is still a large stochastic component to the process.
Stuff You’d Think Might Matter but Didn’t, Statistically
Statistically, variables that had no significant (but see “Several Words on Sampling Error” above) effect on the probability of getting a first down (net of the other variables included in the model shown in Table 3) included:
- Home vs. not home game;
- Which game of the season it was;
- The quarter of the game;
- The drive number (these last two suggest that there is not a robust effect of either “bursting out of the gate,” nor of “starting sluggishly.” Sometimes teams start strong and finish weak, other times the reverse happens);
- Number of previous first downs on a drive. This was interesting to me, because one often thinks, I think, that teams get “hot” on a drive. In other words, each first down makes it successively easier to get the next first down. My analysis suggests this is not true, at least in these data. There are a couple of explanations for this: one is that it does get slightly easier to get a first down the closer you get to your opponent’s goal line (though not in the field goal zone), so the two effects are collinear--the more first downs you get on a drive, the better your field position is, and it is that latter issue that affects first down probabilities. The second goes back to the stochastic component--there are just as many drives where a team will gain 3 first downs and then stall as ones where they will gain 3 first downs and then 2 more.
I have few beyond the things I’ve already mentioned. Basically, yards on first down are incredibly important, but not in any surprising way. The more yards you get, the better your chances are of getting a first down. However, there is a large random component to getting first downs, so yards aren’t everything.
In terms of UM football, it is clear that the mature spread n’ shred is lethal. But you already knew that. The question is whether UM can recapture that WVU magic. I guess I’m optimistic, for several reasons:
- The RR offense requires experienced, athletic players, really at all offensive positions. This we now have, and/or are quickly cultivating.
- A heavily run-based offense is slightly less likely to turn the ball over and much less likely to suffer no gain on first down (due to the lack of incomplete passes). This bodes well for sustained drives.
- WVU played, on average, slightly better defenses (at least if you think total defense rank at the end of the season is a good indicator of defensive strength) than UM on average, and defenses that were as good as those played by OSU, on average. So, at least by this figuring, there is no reason to think that UM’s current schedule is too good for us to be successful.
Obviously, the $1M unanswered question is whether the RR offense will be as successful at UM as it was at WVU. The analysis I have done can’t really speak to this question, but neither does it suggest obvious reasons why it won’t be successful. It does show how powerful the WVU version was, and I for one support giving RR enough time to have a reasonable chance to put that offense into place.
Comments, suggestions, critiques? Let's have ‘em.
In the loosely adapted ways of Dante, I present to you the second canto of Formerly's Football Inferno. I promise nothing when it comes to grammar, punctuation, logical plots, or anything that normally goes into story writing.
For those of you unfamiliar, Dante walks through each region of hell to learn the sins and punishment by talking to those souls trapped. In the second circle of Dante's hell, home to those committing Lust, the souls that blurred the line between love and sexual desire are tortured until their desires are purged.
Time flies by strangely here. For what seems like endless hours of walking, there is no sun to point my direction. When I look up to the sky, the only thing you can make out is a godzillatron reaching endlessly with small screens of Michigan updates being played.
There is a problem with these updates. It appears those damned to hell can't see them or make them out. Only I, the living, can see them. As we walk, I can see that Rich Rodriguez has signed a top ten recruiting class in his first year. That's welcome news. There's some crazy looking kids as I peak up at the big screen to see that varsityblue.blogspot.com is highlighting the class. It's a definitely a different air coming into Michigan, and that somehow comforts me as I cross down the cliff and trek across the plain of the damned in the second circle of hell.
As we hike forward, the weather becomes torrential. Great wind storms, like infinite tornadoes plague this level of hell. As we seek shelter in a path that runs through a ditch, I notice souls being thrown around in the wind, being held restless.
"Who are these people, tormented by the endless storm?" I asked Crockett.
He replied, "These are the pundits that either set aside their fandom in order to be objective journalists. These few men, and a couple women, mostly covered other teams, but some of them even covered Michigan. Like that guy there, that's Grantland Rice."
"Wow, he's one of the most quoted sportswriters of all time!" I exclaim.
"Sure is. I remember reading him as a ki… I mean, I remember hearing about his writing long after I had died."
"So you are John W-" I started.
Crockett cut me off, proclaiming, "Watch your tongue kiddo or I'll up and leave you here!"
"Yes, sir," I unleash remorsefully. What's with this guy?
"Anyway," Crockett says, "you want to talk with Rice? As a mortal, you have the ability to call on souls here, as long as you don't distract too many."
"Mr. Rice!" I call as his soul fades slowly out of the wind, as if all of a sudden it's not affected by the howling winds at all.
"Good day to you, sir. I'm Grantland Rice. I was once a great sportswriter covering the Four Horseman of Notre Dame. Now I am but a simple soul, ravaged by famine, pestilence, destruction, and this savage wind. I'm stuck in the blue-gray October sky, in a crest of the cyclone before the second circle of hell, peering down upon the bewildered panorama spread out upon the green plain below."
"That sounds vaguely familiar. Did you just rip off yourself?"
"Yes, I am he who penned the story of the four horsemen of Notre Dame."
"I thought so," I say. "So here's a question for you, why was Michigan the team that you never seemed to cover? It was always Notre Dame, Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Jack Dempsey. It seemed like you never covered Fielding Yost and the point a minute offenses."
"You see, I was one of a dying breed. Despite my lifting of athletes up to the level of demigods, I always wanted to be objective in my poetic tales. It just so happened that I was snatched up by Notre Dame during their glory filled years. You know, the ones they keep claiming are bound to echo back. Ha, unlikely."
"Yeah, ha. I've noticed that most of the spirits down here don't know what's happened recently in the mortal world. Did you hear about their yakety-sax 3-9 season? What a bunch of losers!"
Rice let out a sigh and responded, "No, I hadn't heard, but that doesn't surprise me either. I heard that Tyrone Willingham guy really did a number on them though. Or that's at least what I heard when Holth entered hell a few years back."
The intentional inclusion of Holtz's lisp made me laugh. "But Holtz isn't dead?" I ask. "I saw him on game day before I left."
"Souls can leave the earth before the body dies. It's not uncommon. The body is left without a soul to drift until it expires."
"That explains a lot, actually."
"Indeed it does… Alright, well, I feel I must return to punishment. I have been here with you long enough. May you have safe travels, and may you overcome the despair that you have not even seen yet."
Rice slowly backed away out of the ditch, and before I could even question the cryptic fortune, he was whisked away in the fury of the wind. Davy looked at me solemnly, with a look that I knew meant don't lust after the answer. So I didn't, and we continued on our way.
In the loosely adapted ways of Dante, I present to you the second canto of Formerly's Football Inferno. I promise nothing when it comes to grammar, punctuation, logical plots, or anything that normally goes into story writing.
For those of you unfamiliar, Dante walks through each region of hell to learn the sins and punishment by talking to those souls trapped. In the first circle of Dante's hell, Limbo, the souls that lived without knowing "God" were trapped, unable to reach heaven for praising "God", but not punished severely for they knew no better.
So following Davy Crockett into the burrow lead us down a tunnel. After a few hours, we reached a large opening, a vestibule, we had reached the outer limits of hell. As we entered, Davy explained that hell was a lot like how Dante described it in whatever the hell that book was. It's not important. Apparently there's 9 circles of hell, each holding certain groups of people based on their sins against Michigan football.
After crossing the river Acheron, I walked through the barren land and noticed several large groups of spirits in the distance. Crockett saw me eyeing the groups and broke the silence of the last few hours, "Here in the first circle of hell, you got all your non-fans. All those that lived before Michigan football, all those that never were exposed to Michigan are cast to this circle. This circle is the one that I call home. Ain't much torturing or anything here. We souls in these parts aren't punished for not knowing Michigan football because it just wasn't available. But since we weren't able to experience it, we can't ever make it to the Big House in the sky. It's not so bad, we just gotta put up with jerks like Thomas Jefferson. The man never shuts up about hooking up with a servant girl. Always gloating."
"Umm… alright?" I respond, trying to reassure myself that John Wayne, and even Davy Crockett was born in an era when talking like that was considered politically correct, then pondering on the repercussions of not being politically correct when I now know that heaven and hell aren't based on religious morals but instead, your life as a fan of Michigan. Damn, my head hurts.
As we walked along, we would hear the occasional crowd of spirits explode in excitement. Crockett just walked along as if all was normal, so I just subdued my interest the best I could. That didn't last long though, as when we passed close to one group, I stopped and walked closer to them to take a look.
The sound of my boots on the dirt alerted the spirits to my presence before I could get within twenty-five feet of the group. They immediately became hushed and turned to me. This was the first time I realized that the spirits didn't actually walk on the ground. Being ghostly, they have no mass, and therefore move no dirt when they walk.
I stared blankly at the ghostly figures and they stared back at myself. I broke the silence after a good 30 seconds of awkward, "Hi, I'm formerlyanonymous."
"No you're not. We don't know your name. You're still anonymous," said one of the spirits as he stepped out in front of the crowd.
"No, that's my name. My name is formerlyanonymous."
"Well that's just silly. Clever, but silly. I'm Rudyard. I was once a poet. I am the leader of this group of souls."
With excitement in my voice, "You mean you're Rudyard Kipling? You once said For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. Michigan football used to use that as a major motivational tool."
"Indeed young man. While I may never reach Michigan Stadium in the afterlife, I am lucky enough to be enshrined in its lore."
"Yeah, I really love how we've moved from your wolf pack to Barwis's wolves. I really liked that we are able to keep the wolf theme when it comes to attacking on defense," I replied.
Kipling looked stunned. "You mean my quote is no longer the driving force behind Michigan football? The last time Bo came down here to heckle Woody, he told me that my quote was a centerpiece of Michigan lore?"
"Yeah, with the coaching change, Rich Rodriguez is now the coach. He's not sophisticated to know the likes of you, sir. He quotes things like the Lion King. Now we've got this weight coach, Mike Barwis. He owns wolves as pets. It's AWESOME!"
"Damn you Mr. Mike Barwis! You've taken my connection to Michigan football!" exclaimed Kipling.
"Uh oh, you better duck kid,"announced Crockett as he motioned to get down.
All of a sudden, a fiery whip flew down from the dark sky above as if it came out of the clouds. The whip lashed down and wrapped up Kipling, lighting him on fire. Kipling was then wrapped up, circled nine times by the rope, and lifted through the sky in the dark clouds.
Crockett got back up, dusted off his pants despite there being no dust on him as he's a ghost. "Ya see kid, those who turn on the program belong to a different level of hell. Mr. Kipling here just turned on a member of the staff. The keeper of the gates to the city inside the depths of hell just reassigned Rudyard to a place much deeper."
Alright, all you guys who just lost your leader, go ahead and get yourself reorganized. Get back to your games, I'm taking this boy and headin' down the dusty trail."
I turned to start walking, when it dawned on me that I never figured out what the group was cheering about in the first place. So I went to ask Crockett.
"They play this game down here," he started. "They call it limbo. Two guys hold up a stick and you have to walk underneath it. If you knock the stick over, you lose. It's been all the rage since skee-ball finally got played out."
As I walk dumbfounded forward, I ponder just how crazy this hell really could be. I've made it through one circle of hell and I've already seen Rudyard Kipling flung to a deeper circle of hell and a bunch of ghosts playing limbo. I must continue.
Before baseball season was started, I began to write an mgofiction. I've made it about 10 posts before being distracted for the last 6 months. Now, it's a rush to get it done before the season starts. So in the loosely adapted ways of Dante, I present to you the first canto of Formerly's Football Inferno. I promise nothing when it comes to grammar, punctuation, logical plots, or anything that normally goes into story writing.
I, formerlyanonymous, have been on a epic adventure over the last few seasons. I've been subjected to the worst back-to-back seasons of Michigan football in history, deep into the hell of Michigan football. Along my way through this agony, I made note of what exactly I saw. So here is my account.
It all began on a horror filled afternoon in September. I was at a game in Ann Arbor on a warm, picturesque day. I remember going into it hoping Michigan wouldn't be embarrassed by playing a close game against an inferior opponent, albeit an opponent featuring a type of offense Michigan had often flailed and failed wildly against. My worst fears were more than realized – rather than that 3 point high scoring game I expected, Michigan lost in devastating fashion. Crable blocked the outside guy instead of the inside, and the Wolverine's desperation field goal as time expired was blocked.
I found myself walking out of Michigan Stadium stunned. I left out the southwest gates and walked. I don't know how long I was walking, but after several hours, days, weeks, I don't even know. The time just passed, yet I found myself knowing how the season ended, how the new coaching search ended. Days just past unhappily.
When I awoke from my trance, I found myself lost in the woods. It was no longer that picturesque Saturday in Ann Arbor. It was a gray, misty-rain day, somewhat cool. There was no sun in the sky to point my directions home.
As I started to panic that I might be in the hell hole known as northwest Ohio, I could hear something creeping in the woods. I tried to stay quiet, hoping whatever the animal was would pass, but it grew closer, louder.
All of a sudden, it was upon me. Out from the brush came a wolverine. I was scared because I had heard of the ferociousness of the species. This one however, seemed beaten, as if it had escaped one of those giant bear traps. It's leg was heavily scarred. The wolverine look fat and slow, maybe one too many large pizzas. His claws were still sharp, ready to strike, but the rest of its body looked unkempt and weak.
Being the less than intelligent person I am, I approached the poor thing. That set it off. It growled a high pitch sound you would expect from a smaller dog. Before it could pounce on me and send me to my doom, a flash of light blinded both myself and the wolverine. A spirit emerged from a burrow in the ground. The spirit caught the wolverine in mid air, and held it as if it were a common house cat.
"Well howdy there," Mr. Wayne started, as if the fact that a ghostly spirit in a movie costume sparing my life from destruction by a wild wolverine hadn't put me into enough shock. "I'm Davy Crockett. What are you doing in this forsaken forest?"
I replied, "Wait, aren't you John Wayne, but just dressed up as Davy Crockett?"
"Don't get smart with me son, I'm the one that can throw this here critter right back on you," he retorted quickly.
"Noted… And thanks," I answered somewhat embarrassed. "Actually, I'm lost. Michigan football left me wandering and pondering my addiction to football. It's like mgoblog isn't even important to me after spending all of my free time there the last two years."
"Michigan, huh? I heard of 'em. Solid bunch of winners right there."
"Yeah, but today was bad. It's left me lost not only as a fan, but hell, now I'm god damn lost in the middle of nowhere talking to the spirit of a guy who wants to be Davy Crockett – no offense or anything. I just don't know what to do next."
"Well, partner, I think I can help you out a bit. Ya see, I'm a spirit that resides in the underworld. It's a pretty special underworld at that, it's the hell of Michigan football. You see, when men and women die, they don't go to none of that Christian heaven or hell. Heck, there ain't no such thing as God, Satan, or Jesus. Well, there's this Jesus character, but he's damned pretty deep in hell – real gueer. He loves him some Irish men. Me I've never liked the Irish. Ah, heck, you got me ramblin'. Anyway, you're pretty lost out here in these woods. I can't lead you out of here, but if you want to follow me, I can show you just how far down this rabbit hole goes. I promise you, on the other side, you'll find happiness not only by reaching home, but you'll also find yourself an answer about Michigan football."
"Well, Mr. Wayn – Mr. Crockett, I don't see much else of a choice."
And we were off on a journey through the Hell of Michigan Football.