As has been chronicled on this site, UM football has been taking a beating recently both for its on-field performance (both past and presumed future) as well as the myriad of negative stories generated this off-season. Without rehashing or dwelling upon them, I want to address why they bug me (and I suspect others). Bear with me - this is more a cathartic rant than some eloquent point-by-point discussion.
I'm really pissed about the transfers, the expulsions, the APR hits, and the Feagin arrest; not because I am some naive fan who always thought UM was filled with "good guys" who bled maize and blue, but because this just reminds me more and more that nothing is really "pure" anymore. Now, I know that sounds somewhat whimsical and illogical, but hear me out.
My connection with UM didn't start when I entered the school back in '99. It started as a little kid growing up outside Detroit, knowing how good a school it was, how it was a "leader" and the "best", and most importantly, how every fall Saturday this whole state cared about how the Wolverines played that day. Sure, MSU had its fans, but in the 80's and 90's, the trials and triumphs of UM seemed to matter way too much to this state, and I couldn't help but be caught up. So I was bummed out when this team lost in the Rose Bowl to Washington, and I was ecstatic when UM returned the favor the following year. And to this day, I still remember walking down Hoover with my friend and his dad, who scored tickets to some meaningless early-season game against Miami (Not that Miami), awestruck by the beauty of the campus that crisp fall day. And to sit in that stadium, to hear the announcer welcome us all to the biggest stadium in America, the most people watching a football game anywhere, and to see those winged helmet rush onto the field and dominate - well, let's just say that it took Britney Spears dancing around in a schoolgirl outfit before I was that excited again.
So when junior year rolled around and college became the "thing" everyone worried about, I knew the beginning and end of my search. Then, to learn that UM had a world-renowned engineering program, I was sold. So I sweated through the ACTs, through the essays and the AP exams, and hoped that I could attend the school that captured my mind years ago. Then one rainy day my senior year, I sprinted to my jeep and found an envelope on the steering wheel - an envelope emblazoned with the UM Admissions seal (my mother, too nervous to open the letter when it arrived in the mail, had driven to school and left it in my car). I ripped it open, hoping for the best but fearing the worst, and in that first line I saw the word that means way too much to a 17-year-old kid - “congratulations.” I practically lost my mind, in a way that would have made me a worldwide sensation had youtube existed at that time.
But that was only the beginning of my connection with Michigan and, in particular, this football team. My freshman year, I sat with the greybeards while UM held on against Notre Dame, the snow and cold of the HC game against Purdue, and I cared way too much that Carr kept yanking Brady and Henson around at QB (I personally though Brady looked better out there than the hot-shot Henson, but maybe that's a bit of revisionist history). I lost my mind like everyone else in the stands when Phil Brabbs, the goofy guy who lived next to me freshman year in South Quad, booted the game winner against Washington, and then moped around like a jilted lover as the team was dominated by the likes of Iowa(!) and OSU later that year. And no matter what anyone says, I will remain the biggest Marquise Walker fan in the world, all because he blew me and my housemates' minds with his catch against Iowa. And sure, it wasn't all about football while at UM. I loved the Law Quad in the winter, the way the campus looked in the fall and spring, and how everyone on the bus up to North Campus looked close to death come December, wishing they had skipped class that day or become a psych major (no offense). Heck, I met my wife at UM, as well as some of my closest friends. But that football team, that winged helmet, is an essential element of my memories of UM.
So that's why all of this negative press kills me. Not because I care if we get a Fulmer Cup point or if guys like Boren and Wermers were right about this team, or that Rittenberg picks up to finish 9th in the Big 10 or that we are significantly worse than OSU – but because all of these hits dilute, though infinitesimally, my memories of UM. Now I know that sounds crazy – my four years at UM are in the past, and no matter what happens in the future, they should remain untouched. My friends didn't disappear, my degree still means the same, and those football memories still live on unmolested by the transgressions of subsequent years.
But they do, and I don't think you can help it. That is MY school that is being knocked on ESPN; it is MY school with the drug-dealing former player and the 3-9 season; it is MY school that gets run over my PSU, MSU, and OSU, that has to listen to people on the radio and online talk about how the UM mystique is dead and buried. Sure, the academics still are great, and the community and congeniality of UM and its alumni remains strong, but the fact remains that UM is partially defined by the football team, and this recent mediocre string leaves everyone with a taste in their mouth that you just can't spit out.
Perhaps worst of all, though, is that what has happened turns these dynamic memories into buzzwords and cliches. Appy St. Thugs. Rodriguezed. 3-9. It takes everything I've written, everything I lived before, during, and after my time at UM, and distills it down to some meaningless soundbite. And for any fanbase, that is the worst feeling – you see your memories, your ups and downs, your relationship with a team and school belittled by a few words. This happens everywhere – talk to MSU fans, and they have to live with “riots” and “safety school”; OSU fans, “Clarett” and “SEC”; Florida State, “Shoegate.” As a fan, you didn't ask for these black clouds, but that is part of the deal with being a fan – you take the good with the bad. But it still hurts, and it still gnaws at you more than you know it should, and that's why you write 1,000-word blog posts at night instead of doing something more productive.
So I welcome people's opinions and criticisms, their memories and their recommendations for dealing with the realities of this team. I guess I just needed to get this out, even if it makes me seem a little crazy. Part of me is bothered that I care this much about a football team and a school from my past, but part of me is happy that I still feel such a connection with this school and this team, even 5+ years after that envelope rested on my steering wheel.
The actual headline I guess is "Weis Feeling Better About Standing During Games"
Still, even with his knee injury I just laughed reading it. I wanted to say, "Wow, congratulations, you might be able to STAND UP during a football you're coaching? Will it be hard to carry the nachos AND the clipboard?"
To be honest I feel kind of bad for Jimmy Clausen just because he's like the QB in Rudy that "never lived up to his potential" or whatever and I don't think he's done anything douchey. Weis, on the other hand, is just huge.
I'm dying for Sept 5.
And for the record, I think U-M will go 8-4 or 9-3...
MSU will go 6-6 or 7-5...
Notre Dame will go 9-3 or 8-4 (weak schedule)
The first record is what I think will likely happen, and the record is what I think could easily be each team's record. All of them obviously before taking the bowl games into consideration.
I hope Michigan REALLY overachieves and manages a 10-2 for the sake of respect and recruits, but even if they go 8-4 I think people will still view them in better light and see that Rodriguez is indeed improving. People are dumb though, at least a lot of them, who don't see last year as a rebuilding year with a lot of square pieces for round holes. I live in Lansing though so I may see more of them then you who live in A2.
This year is different though. The solid foundation that the Michigan program has stood upon for generations is now eroded. It feels much less stable than we can seem to recall. Last August surely didn't have this feel. Despite the regime change, despite the player exodus, despite the complete overhaul of how our Wolverines would line up and play the game, we felt that talent and tradition would lead us again to glory. It was our right after all, what the past had taught us to expect. Now the situation is palpably different. The rug has been swept from beneath the Michigan fan base. We simply cannot view each game on the schedule as a better than even chance of victory. Western Michigan looms as a stiff test for these young Wolverines, and that feels very odd indeed to say. The season has more glaring questions than most of us were willing to admit going in to last season.
Remember how it felt in years past, when there would be a question mark at quarterback, running back, defensive line, etc, etc, etc? Maybe the replacement wouldn't completely fill the shoes of the star player they were replacing, but pretty much rest assured they would be solid. Now we have questions everywhere we look...
- Can a freshman quarterback really lead this team to a winning record and a bowl berth?
- Do we really have a great running back in the stable, or will the fumbles and injuries return to haunt us?
- Will one (or hopefully more) of the many talented wideouts or slot receivers step up and become the star target we need?
- Was it merely a mirage that the O-line seemed to gel in the second half of last season?
- Can the D-line pick up where the departed seniors left off?
- Will RVB or some platoon of underclassmen be enough of a threat to free B. Graham of constant double teams?
- Is Ezeh cut in the mold of great Michigan linebackers of the past?
- Will Warren take that next step, or are his perceived shortcomings of last season due to something more than injuries?
- Do we have any decent safties on the roster?
- What the heck is a Spinner supposed to be doing?
- Will a burnt crispy Stevie Brown haunt us each and every weekend?
- Most glaring of all, can a defense possibly come together when the system they run as well as the their coaching staff changes three times in three years?
Hail to the Victors.
(Now let's hear some answers to the questions raised above. Maybe through further intelligent discussion we can all feel more confident about the situation!)
“THE ABILITY TO DESTROY A PLANET IS INSIGNIFICANT
NEXT TO THE POWER OF… THE FORCIER!"
This is the first entry of the 2009 MGoShirt Alert , a design project that
will enable MgoBlog readers to vote for upcoming designs in the brand spankin’ new MGoBlogStore. To reach the store, click here. To read
more about exactly what MGoShirt Alert is and will be about, click here.
For our first entry, I simply HAD to go with the current tagline of MGoBlog—a shout-out to the poise and talent of our new quarterback, not to mention the nigh-insurmountable pressure that we’ve all placed on his young shoulders. While quite simple in style, this shirt actually evolved quite a bit before settling on this final design. This final rendition hopefully captures the essence of the joke while clearly identifying one single player on our team. Unless, of course, you presume that it’s Vlad Emilien… but that’s another story for another post.
So, time to vote! What do you guys think?
|pollcode.com free polls|
|What do you think of MgoShirt #1?|
|Five Stars Four Stars Three Stars Two Stars One Star|
***** Five Stars: I MUST OWN THIS SHIRT RIGHT NOW!
**** Four Stars: Looks good—you just missed touching the GO BLUE banner!
*** Three Stars: Not bad—but does it come in Zoltan?? (PS- NO, it doesn’t.)
** Two Stars: Meh.
* One Star: I wouldn’t wish this shirt on Mark Dantonio’s pet turtle. Yikes.
Keep in mind that the design will not actually appear this large on an actual shirt-- I made all designs occupy most of the shirt space just to give everyone as good a view of the art as possible. That shirt graphic is also probably not anatomically accurate in the first place.
So place your votes, ladies and gentlemen, and feel free to add any comments below. I’m not likely to change the design unless Brian himself steps in on behalf of the community, but certainly anyone can feel free to speak your mind. I’ll be revealing another shirt tomorrow, and one every day for the next three weeks (not counting the weekends), so I’ll see you all tomorrow for another exciting round of – MGoShirt Alert!!
- Is this a uniquely awful revelation that casts doubt on the ability of Rich Rodriguez to properly evaluate character? Yes.
- Will this serve as ammunition for fans of our rival schools to taunt Michigan? Yes.
- Have crimes of this magnitude been perpetrated by student-athletes at a high-profile university before? Damn straight.
- Did that unfortunate event prove to be the program's undoing? Not even close.
But here's the thing: No matter how true you might think that is, it's still big fat tough titties for you. This could have happened just as easily under Les Miles or Jeff Tedford or literally any other coach in America, save perhaps Lane Kiffin, who would have found a way to sneak a 9-year-old transsexual sweatshop worker into the coke deal.
Even Lloyd, whom we would like to believe incapable of such an oversight, could only sit with folded hands as opposing fanbases across the country laughed at the dismissal of defensive tackle Larry Harrison, who was charged with four counts of sexual delinquency and suspected in 16 more. Harrison endangered fewer people than Feagin, certainly, but the fact remains that Rich Rodriguez does not stand alone among Michigan coaches who have seen a felonious embarassment take place on his watch.
This paragraph originally had a comment concerning the extent of Rich Rodriguez's duties as head coach of Michigan football; the original statement was roughly that Rodriguez's only obligation to the team is to coach them, and that any mentorship or emotional growth that a player might gain from his relationship with Rodriguez would simply be a lucky exception to the rule. That is inaccurate and frankly, pretty cold. What I should have said, and will say now, is that I simply don't know what to expect from Rich Rodriguez's relationship with his players. I formerly insisted that Rodriguez was a saint, beloved by all the pure-hearted cherubim on his roster; now, I can't say that. I don't think anyone can.
I've been trying hard not to compare the young Rodriguez era to the Lloyd Carr era for so many reasons: the small sample size of the current regime, the difference in personality (neither good nor bad, just evident), and the fact that a man deserves to be judged on his own merits.
If you want to claim that the mystique of the Michigan Man is waning, and that Rich Rodriguez has ushered in a new era of filth and depravity where there was once class and dignity, just remember that football will never be anything more than a sport. If you truly feel as though your own reputation is reflected in the record--on and off the field--of Michigan's football team, you are, unfortunately, projecting your own identity onto an inanimate, abstract concept, and you desperately need to reconstruct your priorities.
With that in mind, let us all load up with good defenses for the inevitable bombardment of insults from our peers in East Lansing, Columbus, and South Bend, and prepare ourselves for the upcoming season.
(Note: This has been bothering me for some time; spending my time in college I find myself coming across this more and more.)
I was at a friend’s costume party in East Lansing about a month ago, surrounded by Sparties and the like, when a fellow UofM fan walked in wearing Michigan memorabilia. I naturally walked over and told her I was also a UofM fan much to the other Spartans’ chagrin.
This became an issue throughout the night, however, when we would talk smack and go back and forth with the other Sparties. Arguing with them was an easy task-- as it always is because they really have nothing on us except for one victory in over 7 years-- but then they pulled out a wildcard of sorts. Something so diabolical yet really stupid that it boils my blood and grinds my gears every time I hear a fan of another team use it: I was only a “Walmart Wolverine”.
Now I happen to be a Central Michigan University student (and the UofM fan-girl was a State student) but I was born and LIVED in Ann Arbor my entire 20 years of existence. I have more history in that town than most students of the actual school have. I could’ve gone to Michigan for my undergrad; I graduated with highest honors from high school and know plenty of people from my graduating class who did choose to go to Michigan, but because I am paying for my own schooling, I could not afford their tuition.
I bleed maize and blue, I have always had a passion for Michigan sports and it pains me that I cannot go to school there. That being said, for someone to have the nerve to come up to me and question my fan hood just because I don’t go to the school is just straight out bullshit.
It is by far the dumbest argument I have ever had to face: “You don’t go to school there, you’re not a student, so therefore you cannot be a fan!”
Fuck you!* Have you ever worked for the Detroit Tigers? You haven’t? Well you aren’t associated with them, therefore you can’t be a fan. I just can’t imagine what these morons say to other State fans (or other fans of other schools) who didn’t go to their school. Walmart Spartan? I mean the logical argument works for all teams spanning across all fans.
Didn’t play soccer or live in Europe? Can’t be a soccer fan.
Never been to a hockey game? Can’t be a hockey fan.
Did you ever play for the Detroit Pistons? No? Well can’t be a fan of them either.
Of course some people might try to say that the fallacy in my argument with other sports, such as professional sports, is that you can be a fan of the said team because you live in the region.
But then they just proved their own argument wrong that I can’t be a Michigan fan because I lived in Ann Arbor my entire life, thereby associating myself with the local team.
I apologize that I am not a Michigan student nor on my way to becoming an Alumnus to the school. I apologize that I lived near the campus my entire life and chose to follow them instead of some other school that I have no local/familiar ties to. I’m just straight up sorry that your best argument to try to deface my fan hood has no logic to it. But say what you have to say, I will always root for the maize and blue, even if it means being a “Walmart Wolverine”.
*I apologize for the profanity. It is there for emphasis and nothing more.