It was the Minnesota game. Our family had decided to see this one in person, as it wasn't too far away. Good choice, as it turned out: a rare win. One reason I will remember it: my little daughter, barely old enough to understand what was going on around her, was offered a Golden Gopher necklace by some nice old Minnesota fan. The girl wouldn't touch the thing. "Wrong colors!" she yelled at the befuddled old dude. My heart swelled.
The game went about as well as a game could go last year. The offense was moving the ball, chewing up yardage with one long run after the other. The defense looked competent, aggressive, even good (a new twist for the year: a good defense!). On the day the team would rack up over 400 yards of offense. We celebrated loudly with all the other Michigan fans tucked away in the corner of the Metrodome. That's another thing I'll remember: the camaraderie of the Wolverine fans. Even in that down year (perhaps because of that down year?), there was a palpable sense of togetherness. One guy even complimented my ratty old M hat, weather-worn and falling apart from too many years of outdoor usage. "Awesome hat," he said. I was pretty sure he wasn't being facetious.
There was a single play that stood out for me to this day. In this season full of mediocrity, what I saw filled me with a kind of hope, perhaps not for now, but for the future. It was on one of the longest runs of the day, by Minor (I actually don't even recall, it may have been Shaw). As he sprinted downfield and all eyes were on him, somehow I found myself watching what the other players were doing during this small miracle of a play.
My eyes came to rest on Martavious Odoms. 5' 8" if that, all of 170 lbs. But here was this little man, sprinting downfield, actually ahead of the play, blocking one Gopher after the other, creating more room, hustling, working, trying. In this miserable season, in this one exception of a game, here was a player who was putting all of himself out there, who at least for that one singular moment exemplified what Michigan football was trying to become. In a year, for him, that was mired by fumble after fumble, loss upon loss, along came something that I had been looking for the entire year.
A Michigan Man.
Go Martavious, and Go Blue.
p.s. that video is goddamn awesome.
On to today's game ... I have no f*cking clue what's going to happen. I believe the team will look waaaaaay better than at any time last year, and the offense is sure to look pretty capable against the WMU defense.
On the other hand .... the defense (*gulp*). I really thought that the "Weapon of Choice" video was awesome. Great music, a freshman QB who looked like Heisman material before he'd even played his first official game, hot-handed receivers ... wow. But, am I the only one who saw the elephant in the room, i.e. the defense (or complete lack thereof)?
Those guys didn't look like they could catch a cold. I know, I know ... Not necessarily starters, and it was spring, and the sun was in their eyes, etc., etc.. But, you'd think that more than one of them had seen playing time in the '08 season. If, on balance, they're really THAT bad .... yikes.
What does this portend for today's game? It means that the front seven had better be able to spend so much time in the WMU backfield that they can count the threads on Hiller's jersey by the end of the day. Otherwise, Hiller will shred the DBs. That could be the deciding factor of the game. Fortunately, if there is a strength on UM's defense, its a couple of guys on the D-line and maybe one or two at LB. We'll see.
It also means that the offense had better
HANG ONTO THE GODDAMNED BALL
(Sorry, Brian, that was a stroke of genius and I felt compelled to borrow it)
What worries me is that if WMU's D is as bad as everyone says, UM will be able to move the ball at will, opening the possibility of quick scoring drives that don't eat time off the clock. That puts the ball back into Hiller's hands, which scares the $hit out of me. It's pretty likely that the WMU game plan will count on possession passing and plenty of rushing ... In order to keep the ball out of Tate's mitts. You can bet that WMU is as nervous about its possible lack of a competent defense as we are.
So, if I net it all out: all the other analysis I've read, my own paranoia, the number of days since I got lucky, (I'm married -- easy guess on your part) ..... UM 31, WMU 28.
One is Desmond’s tsumani comment during the ESPN Tulsa/Tulane half time show. Take away: While Desmond may be honest, Desmond is not doing Michigan any favors. Like mom said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Second is Reese Davis’s comments during the same half time show. Davis pissed me off at first talking about the workouts, the controversies and how RR was not a popular choice. Davis then flipped it on me and pointed out it is primarily a faction, specifically in the M Club, who do not like RR and mostly because he wasn’t from inside the program. Like one of the earlier Mgoblog entries, Davis pointed out Alabama’s problems the infighting caused as factions tried to get ‘their right man’ in place. After all the strife, Alabama finally got it through their heads the infighting wasn’t helping and the Alabama program got the right man period in Nick Saban. Then Davis pointed out RR’s pedigree suggests he is the right man period. He just needs the opportunity. Hat tip to Mr. Davis with a heartfelt thanks.
Third, I wonder the real reason why the M Club faction does not support RR. Is it because he came from a different background and does not fit into their society (smoking jackets anyone and is this the Michigan arrogance I’ve been hearing about?)? Is it because some of the wives do not like Mrs. RR? Don’t underestimate the power of the wife. Or is it simply because he is not an insider? I ask them, who, from inside the program, should Mr. Martin have hired? Les Miles was unavailable and, as I understand it, did not have Carr’s support. Was there anyone else worthy?
Fourth, if RR would be fired at the end of the season, who should be hired? Carrol? Saban? Meyer? What top tier coach is available? What coach from within the program is top tier?
I’m an M grad, BSE (Aerospace) 80. I’m over 50 and support RR (I point out my age as there seems to be an assumption in some of the other entries that only the ‘young’ support RR). Maybe because I was an RR fan before the hire and liked watching WVU play. Maybe because I remember attending ruthless Bo games in the late 70s (3 years with Leach and 2 years of Wangler&co). Bo did not hesitate to run up the score and use it to intimidate the next opponents. Maybe because I’d grown tired of gentleman Lloyd’s more conservative approach and attempts to not humiliate an opponent…which came back to bite us on several occasions.
I get tired of hearing about RR changing the culture along with how he is not from within the program. Yes, RR has changed the culture, but from Carr not Bo. While from Bo’s lineage, Carr was hugely different from Bo. Yet Bo is the one who has been nearly deified by the M faithful. Does the M Club faction remember Bo from the 70’s or just the Bo after coaching, after the Tigers, after the semi retirement in the Athletic Department? RR is an aggressive competitor and, I feel, is the Bo of this era. RR is like the refreshing change Bo was after Bump Elliot.
So, finally, my bottle is empty (tasty by the way) and the last thing I am contemplating is tomorrow’s game. For those able to attend, I’m envious. Do us proud! And here is to RR opening up a can of whoop-ass on Western forcing the penises-with-ears in the M Club faction to just shut up and support our current program.
To borrow a phrase that has jumped the shark in the last year: I loves me some Michigan Football.
Anyhoo, there's been plenty said about the anti-RR crowd among the alumni, AD, fans, etc. Maybe I'm paranoid, but might it not be possible that Lloyd Carr is among the most virulent of the lot? After all, he and Roseypalm were "close" (probably not in the Biblical sense). Someone must have given the Life cereal kid the story idea. I'm sure he didn't just dream it up out of whole cloth. Mikey isn't that clever -- he even borrowed an email I sent him once as the origin of a column he wrote about the Lions last season, (though he gave me proper credit in his story -- I guess he gets a minor prop for not plagiarizing).
Even if Lloyd didn't commit a cardinal sin in this case, I still have a commodious problem with him: he had a golden opportunity to say, "If you claim to be a fan of Michigan Athletics, then its time to put away the sour, grinchy frowns and cheer for the Maize and Blue with every ounce of your being. Your team needs you." He didn't. Deafening silence. Now, I'll allow (for the moment) that UM's lawyers put the lid on most any statements not made by the Bill and Mary Sue, but c'mon -- not a PEEP? That doesn't sound like the characteristic of a "Michigan Man" to me.
He, and the rest of the Grinches, need to remember a few historical facts about "their" program. Consider:
- One Fielding Yost hailed from the "hollers" of West Virginia. His accent was so thick that he couldn't say, "Michigan" ... That's right, comrades, he is the origin of the beloved malapropism, "Meechigan!"
- Michigan's greatest dynasties happened when the program broke with "tradition". Starting with Yost, then Crisler, then Schembechler. Each new era heralded key innovations in the game and some of the greatest teams in school history.
- Even Bo had an inauspicious start. The headline in the Detroit papers was, "BO WHO?" Alumni howled. No matter that the first and second choices said, "No". Nor that it was Joe Paterno who suggested to Don Canham, (after flatly turning the job down) about an unknown coach at the University of Miami (OH).
- Bo didn't give a shit whether people - who had little to no knowledge of what it took to build a championship program - liked his approach to the program. He had helped Woody build the program at Ohio State, and had no intention of doing it any other way. That half of the squad quit from the roster in his first year made no difference, either.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was not a particular fan of Coach Rod until Monday. Though I still believe his complete dismissal of everything and everyone that had come before (save Fred Jackson) was over-kill, and is probably a big part of why he struggles to be supported by some "fans", its really not materially different than what Bo did, nor Crisler before him.
Win or lose tomorrow, I will remain a fan of the Michigan Wolverines, and cheer my heart out for that team until my last breath. I will also cheer for Rich Rodriguez until he is the coach no longer, no matter if it is next season or the next decade. This is Our Team. And, in the spirit of what every Head Football Coach of the University of Michigan has believed, including Coach Rod:
This is about the TEAM, the TEAM, the TEAM.
In a closet somewhere in my childhood home sits a ragged
plush football eaten away by time and tosses that should be long since
discarded. It was once a vibrant pattern of yellows and blues with
"MICHIGAN" printed elegantly on its thin fabric skin. The ball, many
unknown years older than I, has seen countless Michigan football games from
Michigan Stadium and a Washington, DC living room. The ball remains firmly and
invariably in the possession of either my father or me until Michigan scores a
touchdown, at which time we throw the ball back and forth as many times as we
can until Michigan kicks the extra point.
That ball has seen a lot, obviously. It's been hurled aimlessly in frustration and squeezed just a little too hard in terror and forgotten altogether in those wonderful moments of blissful pandemonium. It's also seen me. I've held it as a toddler without responsibilities, as a mushroom-haired adolescent trying to fart joke his way through middle school, as a skinny high schooler desperately waiting for the big envelope, and lately, as a suave, sophisticated student at the University of Michigan. The next time I hold that ball it will be because I'm living at home again, looking for a job. It will mean my time at Michigan has run out.
Everyone shipping off to college knows--in the logical part of his brain, anyway--that the ride doesn't last forever. It's certainly crossed my mind before. I knew that someday I would no longer be able to eat fourteen hard boiled eggs for breakfast or walk to Kroger twice in one day just to buy an apple and a pack of gum or wear shirts with pictures of pizza on them to class. I guess I just didn't know that someday would be so soon.
This is my last year here, and I'm going to miss it. During the past week I’ve watched a wave of freshmen pour into their dorm rooms and kiss their teary mothers goodbye and smile that dumb smile of which only a freshman is capable. I knew I was going to miss these people and the buildings through which we walked and talked and laughed together. And I thought I was going to miss Michigan Football above all other things. I thought I was never going to stand in the student section again or sing The Victors or get in fistfights with Michigan students who insist on booing Chad Henne when his shoulder is injured.
But I realize something now. The man with whom I’ve played that superstitious game of catch for 21 years graduated from Michigan 37 years ago. He doesn’t go to the Jug or Pizza Bob’s anymore. He hasn’t stepped inside Angell Hall since Richard Nixon was President. But he holds that ratty old ball just as tight and sings The Victors just as clearly and dances to touchdowns just as badly as when he was 20. Though his days in Ann Arbor are long behind him, my father has never left the University of Michigan.
To cheer for Michigan requires no admission process. It has no expiration date and no union dues. Everyone who comes to this website does so with the common interest of following Michigan athletics with bizarre precision in an effort to make ourselves better, more knowledgeable fans. There are Eastern Michigan graduates on this site. There are current Central Michigan students on this site. There are high schoolers on this site. But we're all here for the same reason.
I understand now that when I am a stiff, crotchety blue hair sitting slumped in a nursing home rocking chair because I’m too weak to sit in the 90th row of Michigan Stadium and poke the people in front of me with my cane, I’ll still be able to roar in approval and curse in dissatisfaction and throw broccoli at the Ohio State graduate sitting at the table next to mine, and I will feel just as excited, just as happy, just as good as I will tomorrow.
Certainly, the day upon which I pack my bags and leave Ann Arbor for good will be a sad one. But my joy for having been here at all far exceeds my sorrow for the necessity of my departure. I thank God every day for the blessings I’ve been given, chiefly among them the opportunity to grow up with the University of Michigan. I thank God for my parents and my friends who have grown and cheered right beside me even when there was no enthusiasm to be found. And I thank all of you for sharing this team with me for the past 21 years. The controversies that have plagued this team in the past nine months are scarcely worth consideration; our bond is unbreakable and our pride is only beginning to swell. This is my Michigan, this is your Michigan, this is our Michigan, now and forever.
Tomorrow's game can be said to be merely that: a game. An arbitrary contest of
physicality and luck and preparation and little scribbles in a playbook between
two schools. It can also, in a stretch, be said to be a dawn, a life preserver,
a battle for the survival of a good man's reputation. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in
Wherever its proper place may be, it drains the blood from our faces and punches us in our stomachs and leaves us wondering why we continue to pour our hearts into it. On Monday we'll all go back to work or class and maybe by Thursday we will have more pressing matters on our minds, but we’ll be back on Saturday. Maybe you’ll stand beside me in Michigan Stadium; maybe you’ll watch from your home somewhere in the vast American Midwest; maybe you’ll be watching on a ten-year-old computer at 4 am local time because you live in Singapore. But we’ll all be there together.
Go Blue. And whatever your dirty, beaten toy football talisman may be, hold it tight and hold it fast, and don’t ever let it go.
Men, gather round, take a knee. I understand last week and this week has not been fun or comfortable for any of us. It's been tough, it's been harsh and it's been trying. But all of you have done an amazing job overcoming this situation. You have had a wonderful mindset on this Saturday. You have been practicing for it all summer and you have all dreamed of running under that banner again and charging the field. Well boy's that time is back. That time is now. This is a new year with new chances and the opportunities are endless. We have a clean slate, 2008 is dead and burried 2009 is here and it's our chance to turn everything around and get back on the winning path once again. This program that was established in 1817, gave birth to the most winningest, most successful and most privileged university in the nation. Ledgend's were born here, great moment's were made here and history makers began here. This is our chance to send the world a message that Michigan football is back and ready then it has ever been. That 126 maize and blue bred warriors will walk on to that field ready, hand in hand ready to fight through whatever this saturday throws at us. That this is our stadium, our Big House, that these screaming 110,000 fans will be cheering for one team and one team only. Us. Michigan. When they sing the Victors they are Hailing one team. Michigan. When they all scream GO BLUE they are screaming for one team. Michigan. This is our Saturday boys, this is our chance to give this season the start that we want, a home opening victory. Let's give all of these frehsmen, sophmores, juniors and seniors and fans alike a home opening they will never forget. Let's go out there and let them know that they are playing in Michigan Stadium today and the team that they have to beat isn't leaving this stadium without a win. Let's show these people that Michigan football is back let's go get em boys!