the season has truly begun now
This is my first blog entry ever. I feel strongly enough about things this year that I had to put some of this down. If you do make it all the way through, thanks for reading. It starts with general thoughts, many of which have been in other posts on this site. It ends with questions for the future. As a fan, I hope they all have positive answers. As a realist, I just don’t know.
It’s been mentioned on several other posts, but is this season the burning that must occur before the Phoenix can rise from the ashes?
Got a fortune cookie on Friday that said “You must taste the bitter to appreciate the sweet.” (or something like that) Is that what’s happening now? Is this Angry Michigan Hating God’s way of showing us how spoiled we’ve been? A lot of fan’s think we’re entitled to 8-10 wins per season just because we’re Michigan. They get pissed when we don’t win the Big 10, or the national championship, or go undefeated. Maybe they needed to be shown that it takes a LOT to have the kind of success Michigan has had over the last 30 (or even 129) years. I know that seeing how the other half lives really does make you appreciate what you have. I joined the army after college (enlisted infantry early 2001, I was in basic during 9/11) and spent some time in Afghanistan and Iraq. And being there did more to make me appreciate life here in the USA than anything that I could have possibly experienced here. So, yeah, maybe you do have to be down before you can truly appreciate how great it is to be up.
On a related note, this season has made me a better fan. During the previous years, I’d casually watch games, and not know much more about the team than whatever ESPN or the News or Free Press would tell me. But ever since about mid way through 2007 I’ve been listening to sports talk radio (not necessarily a good source of info, but they sometimes get good stuff, plus hearing what other “fans” have to say is always interesting), reading any scrap of news I can about Michigan online (Rivals (whatever they have for free), newspapers, ESPN, CBS, Yahoo, MLive, and my new favorite MGoBlog). I think I’m doing this mostly because things are changing so much, and I want to know whatever I can. The knowledge that Michigan may take a while to return to glory helps temper my expectations, and dull some of the pain of losing.
Typical Michigan fans – I know a few people that are what most people would call a “typical” Michigan fan. They expect to win, no excuses. They have said that they expect RR to be fired after this year. They said he’s brought the program down. After the OSU game, they said “there’s another bad record he just achieved.” They think recruiting is going to fall apart because of 1 bad year. They don’t know enough about the program and the players to understand that this year was going to be bad no matter who the coach was. I try to explain it to them, but they just won’t listen. If Michigan is less than 8-4 next year, they’re going to be a pain to deal with (even more so than now). Hell, even if RR wins multiple national championships, they may never forget or forgive this year.
On a related note, those “typical” Michigan fans are kind of delusional anyway. Yes, Michigan has been THE model of consistency for any college football program. 33 straight bowl games, etc. However, we’ve won only 1 national championship in the last 50 years. We’ve always been on the cusp, but never (except once) reached the peak (and had to share that, so sparty and bucknuts won’t give us credit for it). Over 50 years. And over the past 10 years, we’ve only been close once (2006). Did we want to continue that trend? (be really good-great, but only occasionally elite, and never “the best”) Or did we want to do what it takes to get over the hump? Do what it takes to win it all? Finally get the “living in the past” monkey off our backs?
Expecting the loss – (I know jfs52 did a whole diary entry on this, but it’s been on my mind, so I’m putting my own thought on it here)This is another thing I’m hoping will be in the past soon. Even when Michigan was good-great, I (any many/most fans) expected the loss. To anyone, especially the underdogs. Michigan favored by 20? Yeah, they’ll blow it. Michigan ranked #2 in the preseason? They’ll probably lose to Northwestern. Or Indiana. Or Illinois. Or anybody else that they have no business losing to. I was a freshman at Michigan in 1997. As great as we were that year, I was expecting something to happen every game. I was waiting for the collapse. Thankfully it never came (at least until the first 2 games of the 1998 season). But I’ve lived with that fear every game that Michigan was favored. I hope to let go of that soon.
What could realistically be called “success” next year? (6-6 may be realistic, but nobody would consider that “success”. 12-0 would be success, but nobody would call that “realistic”)
How good will the offense be next year? (Debated ad nauseum, I know.)
How much can you rely on a coach’s history when he goes from a mid level conference to a big time conference? (Remember the offensive genius of John L. Smith at Louisville?)
How good will the defense be next year? (Losing the best part of the defense. The returning players are mostly “meh”)
Does this team have the mental toughness necessary to win big? Have they been damaged by this year, and will there always be some doubt in their minds? (I ask because they’ve been up in most games, but blew it most of the time. They looked good in the 1st half against the top teams, but got blown away at the end.)
Is EEEEE Barwis not as good as advertised? If they’ve been up and blown it, is it because they’re not as conditioned as we thought? (For the record, my hope is that he tore them down so much at the beginning of the year that they never fully recovered, and next year they’re going to be fully recovered and blow the doors off the place)
Is RR still an “innovator?” (He invented the spread years ago, and he’s taught it to every coach willing to listen. Does he have something new in the pipe? His play calling has been even more predictable that Lloyd. Hopefully just because the team was learning a new system.)
What recruits step in and play next year?
How much does not having the extra bowl game practices hurt?
How does the rest of the Big 10 shake out next year? (MSU=overrated, look good because conference is down. They’ll drop some next year. OSU=??? When they’re supposed to be up, they fall (08) when they’re supposed to be down, they go to BCS title games (07). Illinois = supposed to be on the rise, but they stumbled this year, does it continue. NW and Minn = ?? lucky this year? Improving?)
Ok, that season sucked.
Bill Martin hit the reboot button and RichRod performed like Windows ME.
How do we define success going forward?
Martin's goal (as I divine the tea leaves) was to reinvigorate Michigan football and set it on track for another period of extended success. In other words, he needs better results than he would have gotten by staying within the tree and hiring Ron English or (the much-maligned at this time last year) Brady Hoke.
So far, his plan has gone in the wrong direction.
Rodriguez's goals (again, as I divine the tea leaves) were 1) to get out of the loonie bin that is WVU football politics and then 2) be a winning football coach at Michigan. Mission accomplished on item #1. With regard to #2, I give him credit for being what he says he is, a guy who's a football coach, without the megalomania that seems to be an occupational hazard.
Now, we have to add a third goal for RichRod, which is to restore his reputation. (Unless he gets it together, Mike Brown is not going to be putting together any shakedown packages.)
So getting down to brass tacks: given this definition of Martin's and Rodriguez's goals, what constitutes success and what constitutes failure? We talked about this in another thread. Some candidate reference points:
Average 9 wins per game over 6 year contract period = 54 wins, 51 to go, that's 10.2/year for the next 5
Average 8 wins per game over 6 year contract period = 48 wins, 45 to go, that's 9/year for the next 5
Hit the 10 wins/year mark and stay there with either no or very few deviations.
Win a national championship. Does we forgive all if he is @ .500 for years 2-5 and then wins a NC in year 6? If he averages 8 wins/year and gets one NC, is that any better than Lloyd Carr?
Added: Beat OSU at least twice in the contract term (that's improvement).
Added: Beat MSU 4 times out of 6.
Added: Beat Notre Dame 3 out of 6. (I personally don't really care that much about the ND rivalry.)
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.