I swear I saw it. I watched very closely, and even with my crappy internet feed of the game, I am 100% sure it was there. From the smoldering wreckage of Saturday, November 22, 2008, from the still-warm ashes, from the wanton destruction contained with the walls of Ohio Stadium, I saw a phoenix rise from the charred remains of this Wolverine football team. Amidst headlines proclaiming the death (or at least great fall) of this once-proud program, long-bitter ill-wishers reveling in the moment, and close friends protecting themselves under a sheet of sarcasm, this phoenix rose, unnoticed. And as the hate poured in regarding the "lost" season, its will grew stronger.
This was not the first time it had risen, after a passing. Previous occurrences took place in 1901, 1938, 1968. Each time, this phoenix has brought years of success and prosperity to the Wolverine program.
Once again, shall the Wolverines rise from the ashes. Once again, from the wrong end of jibes and ridicule, from idiot sportscasters and moronic rivals, shall the Wolverines shine again.
Patience and hope. Keep them close. A reward awaits from those who stay.
Michigan might be down, but she is not out.
Well, the 2008 campaign is finally/thankfully over. I watched or listened to all the games this year and the list of things that caused my blood pressure to soar would make for a very long blog entry. So I will just say that fumbles, more than anything else moved me to apoplectic rage. I do not feel angry anymore. In fact since I left the hospital people say my gurgling laughter and obscene smile more than offset the spit bubbles I blow from the good side of my mouth.
But I digress.
What I would really like to say, more than anything else, is, Thank you Brian. Thank you for creating a blogsite that is not populated with enemy combatants, trolls, flamers, and haters. I cannot comprehend the psyche of someone who would antagonize a large group of people. Their thought processes are completely foreign to me. To me they make about as much sense as a suicide bomber. I just don't get it. If you hate Michigan, all you have to do is drop by your local buckeye website and flame out loud about, Michigan this and Michigan that, and instant fame is sure to follow. Cult hero status awaits the spartan poster who forecasts 10 losing seasons for Michigan. Prophecy against Michigan in a notre dame blogsite and you will be carried off to South Bend, be annointed with crisco and served to Charlie Weis as a living sacrifice. o.k. I made the last one up. But you get the point. Why go out of your way to be despised when you could be universally loved? I don't get it. I never will.
But this site. This wonderful site. When I read anothers critical opinion about players or coaching, I can at least read it with an open mind. I don't have to wonder if what the person is saying is just another hatchet job by someone posing as a Michigan fan. Even some of the fans who do a little ranting do not bother me in the least. As long as I have faith that you are a true blue fan I can at least relate to your pain, even if I don't agree with your rationale.
I know how you feel. This season hurt. It hurt alot. Especially for people like me who operate only on an emotional level while the game is on. It is only after the game is over that I can rationalize WTF just happened. That is where MgoBlog is so helpful. Here I can find objective analysis. Here I can find reason to be optimistic. Here I can find wit and humor sure to make me smile. (however crookedly) Here I can find what I want. Conversations about Michigan football, with fans of Michigan football. It is a simple concept. But it seems yours is the only website that has the oversight needed to make this happen. Thank you.
It's been over a year since I last posted anything bigger than a 1 sentence comment; indeed, what was really to be said about the ridiculous losses to schools like Toledo?
Like most of you, I'm fairly sick of the mainstream media and the cheesy fairweather fans in my section piling on the carcas of the Michigan football program. Then again, a bit of context would tell us that the media have to hate us as even in losing we are the measuring stick...what else is there for Kirk Herbstreit etc. and what else for the old, tired and annoying fans who never cheer, yell at those who do and just come for the "occasion".
When I read the diaries and comments I notice too many of the same people piling on RR who piled on Lloyd at the end of his tenure. It seems RR has changed much of the culture in the team and the recruiting (apparently we mostly recruited kickers from Florida in past), has modernized the S&C (eee...Barwis), has limited pizza consumption by linemen and somehow made Canada's own Renaldo Segasse moderately relevant (if only by default).
I don't see national championship next year...but I see a return to success in the Big 10. Unlike ND we actually have a good coach who is capable of recruiting. I'm going to remember these days in a couple years when RR hangs 60 on tOSU.
Best wishes all...
Is there such a thing as off season bulletin board material? If so this ought to motivate the players and coaches as they work at building this program. Bob Hunter in the Columbus Dispatch (http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2008/11/23/osufb_hun...):
Put it this way: Ohio State-Michigan has suddenly begun masquerading as an OSU-Toledo game, a switch not without a touch of irony considering the Wolverines lost to Toledo this season.
But the rivalry is tottering not simply because Michigan has had an embarrassment or two, or because of an unprecedented five consecutive OSU wins in the series, or because Michigan has just finished the season 3-9, or even because the Buckeyes hammered their hapless rivals 42-7 yesterday in Ohio Stadium.
It is tottering because the Wolverines looked so weak yesterday that it's hard to imagine they're looking at a quick fix. This is a team so bad that even the rivalry couldn't lift it up, and this is a rivalry that injects so much emotion in the game that it sometimes makes mediocre teams look pretty good.
Rich Rodriguez is a good coach, but he's not Moses. After Michigan's woeful performance in the Horseshoe, it seems clear that for Rodriguez to lead his team out of the Big Ten's second division -- not even one of college football's lower-middle-class neighborhoods these days - it's going to take more than a few top recruits.
Hunter goes on to all but predict that Ohio State wins the next two meetings. And then gets in a litte dig:
Some rivalry, eh?
If this keeps up, those little gold pants Ohio State players receive for winning the Michigan game may eventually become worthless trinkets around here. They used be rare as a gold doubloon. Now they're like loose change. Fifth-year seniors have five pairs.
The Buckeyes fans are clearly enjoying things. But you have to think this kind of talk will serve as good motivation for Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines as they work to regain their winning ways and the respect that comes with it.
File this away for the future.
With the end of Michigan's 2008 season upon us, we should all take some time to remember those most affected by this season's travails and its unceremonious end: the seniors who had to struggle through two consecutive down years, the fans, many of whom had to experience a true rebuilding year for the first time in their lives and will not be able to book a trip to San Antonio or Orlando for a bowl game, and even the typical college football fan, whose self-inflicted trauma watching ND/UM 2008 was akin to walking in on one's mother in bed with Mr. Belding dressed up like Ronald McDonald – unspeakably disturbing, yet still strangely familiar. These victims, though, will have their stories written, and all will have some sense of closure as a result.
One group that people will forget, though, are the ones most affected by the end of this most depressing of Michigan seasons, those whose hearts sank as that last Zoltan punt sailed through the cold Columbus air – ESPN and Drew Sharp. Throughout this year, while Maize and Blue fans across America tried to make sense of it all, they were there to hammer home the same talking points, the same reactionary dribble, the same “Oh my gawd” hyperbole that filled 3-minute spots on Sportscenter and College Gameday and led to a million drunken arguments in bars across America. Yet with the end of the season upon us, no one has spoken about the dark winter that lay before them, the months of yearning for a new pariah to pillar and new storylines to regurgitate like a group of friends who took part in the Ipecac challenge.
So, as a loyal reader and first-time poster here at MgoBlog, I feel that it is my duty to tell their story, or at least one that I imagine would take place in the weeks and months ahead.
Chris Fowler: I would like to welcome you all to today's meeting. I know that you all arrive with a heavy heart after Saturday's game, but rest assured that this meeting will help bring both closure for you as well as some direction on how to refocus your creative urges now that Michigan's season is over. I do want to apologize for the lack of food at today's meeting – Justin Boren stopped by to get my opinion on values in today's collegiate athletics and walked out with two of the pizzas after scarfing down the other four-
Kirk Herbstreit: Sorry to interrupt you Chris, but I just received a confirmed report that Zoltan Mesko is going to transfer to Ohio State next year, but he will first travel on the next space mission to Mars so that he can both practice punting in a completely new atmosphere, but also help in Earth's colonization of that alien-infested planet.
CF: Thanks Kirk. Since your sources are always spot-on, I just hope that Coach Mil- I mean Rodriguez can somehow find a way to fill the massive hole this transfer leaves behind.
Now back to the issue at hand. I know many of you deeply are concerned about what the end of this season will mean for you going forward. Yes, many of you can still pontificate on how great the Big 12 is provided they only play against other Big 12 teams, how the ACC is still filled with a lot of scrappy teams that can win on any Saturday, and how Florida is clearly the best team in America because they ran the score up on a bunch of teams that have a combined conference record of 16-15, but that still leaves at least 5 minutes/5,000 words that need to be filled every week. And with Michigan no longer playing, the question on everyone's mind is “What do we do next?”
Drew Sharp: Well, the advantage I have is that my employer, the Free Press, is so hard-up for column fillers that they'll let me basically write whatever I want provided that it drives some traffic to its site and antagonize its readership. Hell, UM could have gone undefeated this season, RR could have healed a blind child by simply placing his hand over the child's eyes, and strength and conditioning coach Barwis could have physically torn down and rebuilt Crisler Auditorium with one hand tied behind his back and I could still have written about how this season was a waste because UM paid Rodriguez's buyout. God my job is easy.
Lou Holtz: I know what you mean, Drew. Since I won a national championship back in the 80s and look and sound like Burgess Meredith from Rocky, I'm basically allowed to say whatever I want on television without any repercussions, no matter how crazy it may actually be. I mean, I compared a first-year football coach to a facist dictator who killed millions of people, and the only thing that happened was they took away my Metamucil for a day. So I know how it feels, Drew, to be abov- Drew? Hey, where did Drew go?
KH: He must have walked out...There's a note on his chair. It says “Off to shoot a segment for Jim Rome is Burning.” Huh, that's still on the air? Who knew?
LH: Well, anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that the higher-ups at ESPN couldn't care less about the substance of my rants, provided that I mention how horrible UM is this year and never, EVER point out that my old team Notre Dame was just beaten by Syracuse.
Beano Cook: What! (choking on a piece of roast beef) Notre Dame lost yesterday?!? Was Ron Powlus unavailable at QB because he was saving a bus full of schoolchildren from falling off a cliff? That has to be the reason. This loss is going to be a big hit to Powlus's chances at a 16th-straight Heisman Trophy. Well, sometimes it's just not your year.
CF: Okay people, we're getting a little off-track here. What we need to do is figure out a new storyline that will keep UM in the news while we should ostensibly be talking about teams that still have games to play. Now, we already drove the buyout “controversy” into the ground, and that has been paid up for months. We had something with Rodriguez's “get a life” quote until the damn Internet allowed people to see the whole statement in context and not the 2-second sound bite we blasted.
KH: Well, how about I look deeply into the camera and opine the fall of Michigan from the nation's elite and how I fully expect them to be back? I'm a former Buckeye and a TV heartthrob, so that gives me words extra gravitas.
CF: That works once or twice Kirk, but we don't want to go to that well too often. Plus, that really isn't a story – it's just a way to fill 30 seconds while Corso is fumbling through his costume chest.
Lee Corso: (Looking up from under the desk) I heard my name...
CF: Nothing, Lee. Go back to looking for that Alabama elephant... Speaking of elephants, maybe we are looking at this the wrong way. I mean, there are other 800-pound elephants in the room here, like Tennessee and Nebraska's continued mediocrity, Notre Dame's struggles under Charlie Weiss, just how bad the Pac-10 is after USC...
LC and Mark May: No!!!!!!!
MM: The focus has to stay on Michigan and, more generally, just how bad the Big 10 is! Sure, Penn State has a victory over the potential champion of the Pac-10 in Oregon State, but people must never forget that OSU lost to USC on the road without their best player 35-3. Repeat with me Chris – the Big 10 sucks, and every team in that conference would lose to the 10th-best high school team in Florida, Texas, or California. Got it.
Pat Forde: Yeah. Everyone needs to stay consistently on point with the message that the Big 10 is the worst conference in Amer-- hey, who's that? She's cute.
CF: Oh, that's one of our interns. She's a freshman at Uconn and wants to be a television producer. Figured she could shadow us during this meeting to see how the show comes together.
PF: Hey, do you think she'd like to be one of my Dashettes? I always need pictures of attractive women to make my columns look longer and take away from the fact that my knowledge of college football begins and ends with the weekend sports section of USA Today.
CF: Maybe later, Pat. Come on people! We need a new narrative. There has to be a storyline that we haven't driven into dust yet. The attrition? Sam McGuffie is potentially transferring back to somewhere in Texas, and we could always make it less about a kid being homesick and more about Rodriguez's lack of ethics or soul.
KH: Nah. We've already done that with Mallet and Boren, and it didn't seem to resonate with the viewers because they are used to seeing players leave when a new regime takes over. Plus, McGuffie may still come back after he spends some time with his family.
Brad Nessler: (poking his head from the doorway) Hey, wasn't McGuffie a youtube sensation?
Everyone in the room: Drink! (everyone takes a shot of coffee except Holtz, who yells out “Listen Mirer, you're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!”)
KH: Maybe we should just focus on other teams in college football. This was a down year for the Wolverines, but the fact remains that they have been one of the most consistent teams in the history of organized sport. They were playing a billion first-year players, were trying to install a completely new offensive system, and had to deal with a million distractions ranging from whiny fans to overzealous reporters. We are talking about 17 and 18-year-old kids here, and in spite of it all they were still within a handful of plays of finishing with a .500 record and going to a bowl game. Maybe we should reserve judgment on Rodriguez and his staff, as well as the future of this team, until we see how next year's team fares and how solid the recruiting class is both this year and in 2010. We've given the kid glove treatment to lots of teams before, whether they be USC, Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, etc. What do you say?
Bill Simmons: Hey guys. I know I'm not part of this meeting, but I was stumbling around the offices looking for my old copy of Karate Kid and couldn't help overhearing your conundrum. I know how hard it is to keep coming up with fresh ideas about the same topic – heck, I've been writing about Boston sports for almost 15 years now, and I've only had 5 legitimately unique column formats in that timeframe. In this instance, I would suggest you guys not focus on the now or the future, but instead focus on the past. You guys know how I always talk about how great the NBA was in the 70s and 80s, especially Larry Bird?
Everyone: Yeah. (Except Beano Cook, who is desperately scanning through the “P” portion in the index of Notre Dame's 2008 media guide).
BS: Well, the reason I do that is because most of my readers weren't alive back then, and those that do were only little kids like myself. They either have an extremely murky memory of that time in sports, or none at all. Thus, whenever I talk about how pure the game was back then, how unstoppable the players were, and how the game is so inferior now than when Magic, Dr. J., Larry, and McHale played, my readers gobble that up because they don't know any better. Plus, by throwing in some pop culture references about shows and movies like White Shadow and Hoosiers, I bring up cherished (or non-existent) memories that add extra weight to my somewhat-true claims.
What you guys need to do is stop focusing on how bad this team was in the current context, but compare it to seasons' past. Not just 5 or 6 years ago, but decades. Talk about how today's team could never match up with earlier teams, and harp on the fact that the game was played so much better back in the 70s and 80s. Go on and on about Bo, about how defense wins championships and how this spread offense may work for teams like Purdue or Utah, but how teams like Michigan are selling their souls by ushering in any type of change. Since good football movies are less common than ones about basketball, you may have to use allusions to Varsity Blues and Rudy to make your point, but I have faith that you guys can figure that out. So from now until the beginning of next season, spend a few minutes every day talking about how this season was so tumultuous because UM turned its back on tradition and, more importantly, are playing the game worse than in years past. Plus, by condemning how UM plays, you also effectively condemn college football in general, which will help to fill even more air time as you argue amongst each other whether that statement is even true.
Oh yeah, and if nothing else fails talk about how UM would be undefeated if either Rajon Rondo or Terrelle Pryor played quarterback.
CF: Okay everyone, that's what I wanted to hear! So everybody knows the new storyline – Michigan football struggled this year because they turned their back on tradition and, more generally, the game is worse today than it was years ago.
KH: And don't forget, uncorroborated reports and rumors passed off as sage opinions, especially as they pertain to Rodriguez's comings or goings, are always a gold mine.
PF: And don't forget blogs from MSU, WVU, and OSU fans. You couldn't make up some of the stuff people say in there even if you did 5 lines of coke off the body of that intern over there...
DS: (Rushing back into the room, a faint trail of smug wafting behind him) What did I miss?
KH: Nothing much Drew. Just keep doing what you are doing.
DS: Great! Hey, while I was doing another guest spot on Jim Rome is Burning, on Monday thru Friday at 4:30 PM ET, I just thought about how my next column is going to focus on how Rich Rodriguez doesn't understand the history of UM, how Bo is turning over in his grave right now, and how I vastly underrated Carr's greatness as a coach now that he has retired. It's great, since I don't believe a single word I write but everyone spends hours posting in the comments section about how crazy I am. New Alexa traffic record here I come!
CF: This was a great meeting. Now everyone go home and start writing/talking about UM again. And don't afraid to expand on what we've talked about here today. The goal is to keep knocking UM down until they inevitably rise again, at which point we can trumpet their return with nary a mention of what we say now. Okay, any questions?
LC: Not so fast my frie.... Ah, nevermind. I forgot what I was going to say. I'm just going to put on this Boomer Sooner's hat and make another Gameday commercial.
KF: That's fine Lee. I'll see you in five minutes. Now, if there is nothing else...
Chris Spielman: (busting through wall) MINOR RAGE NO MATCH FOR SPIELMAN SMASH!
There were many things missing this season of Michigan Football in 2008. Maybe not all at once, but they were missing. The details have been drilled upon ad nauseum on this and other sites. From consistency to talent, from speed to fundamentals, from execution to skill. Yes this has been a season of holes and the inability to fill them.
One of the most defining absences of the season has been harped on in many ways, by many factions. The media and fans jumped on the ‘captains for each game’ theory of the coach. No captaincy voting until the season ends. And as a result, or maybe some strange almost concocted by-product, leadership, seemed to be lacking, if not non-existent.
So many times during the season, many of us seemed to be thinking, if only we had a leader in the lockerroom. Someone to call a players-only meeting to right the ship. It never happened. At times the team looked like a rudderless ship being tossed around by the waves of a storm. And make no mistake, this season was a storm, a perfect storm, if you will. It was a perfect storm of transition, inexperience, injuries and lack of leadership. (No, not coaching leadership).
The final crushing wave of that storm hit Saturday in Columbus, as the disciplined, talented, and upperclass-laden Buckeyes did what others had done this season, but with a much more resounding wallup than the Wolverines had faced all year. As the cold winds of November blustered over the boys in blue after the final whistle sounded, and the inevitable questions of what happened and what will happen in the future came again and again. The first piece of the puzzle, one of the most important pieces of a championship building foundation, was laid in the lockerroom of the beaten abd battered Wolverines.
A leader was born. A tough, undaunted leader that leads by example. A leader that has one of the most important qualities that all leaders MUST have. HEART! A leader doesn’t have to bark obscenities or be the loudest in the room. A leader has to have heart and be willing to lay it all on the line every play, every game.
Brandon Minor has been the first to emerge as one of those leaders.
“You can’t really blame Rich Rod because everybody on the team did not buy in like they’re supposed to. We have a couple of guys not going hard,” he said. “We’ll correct that most definitely. That ain’t going to happen on my watch as a senior.”
Someone has finally stepped up and is willing to take responsibility for this team from the inside. This is what Rich Rodriguez has been talking about when he refers to building a program. He wasn’t knocking Lloyd Carr or the Michigan Tradition. He knew in the Spring there was no foundation for this team. He knew there needed to be leadership from the inside that could rally the troops when the inexperience and immaturity of 18 and 19-year old kids showed in the heat of battle. Rodriguez knew he needed a leader on the sideline to keep the players in the game when things went badly, to right the ship.
That lack of leadership was all to often exposed as the team admittedly ‘relaxed’ when it got a lead or didn’t know how to come together when things started to unravel. Maybe, just maybe, Brandon Minor will be the start of that internal leadership. His comments after the game, after the worst loss to OSU since Dr. Strange Hayes put 50 on Michigan, weren’t sadness, or lamenting about what could have been. They were about the future, about what WILL happen in Ann Arbor.
Let 2009 start today. Minor is the first leader and there will be more and with Rich’s first recruiting class, more will come. Let’s look to the bright future with endless possibilities for this team and this storied program. Let it begin today! Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.