How Michigan fans have dealt with losses through the ages:
- 1900’s – Michigan didn’t lose in this decade, I checked.
- 1910’s – We lost once. People shrugged at that game and said, “hey, Yost had to lose sometime.” They went back to building Model T’s.
- 1920’s – Losing became something Michigan did once in awhile, and most people simply read the score in the paper on Monday, shrugged, and started drinking moonshine to drown their sorrows. Not about the Michigan game, but about living in Prohibition. Then Red Grange happened, and people took notice by selling every stock they had. Which was none, really.
- 1930’s – The first actual losing season (!) forces one forward looking gentleman to write an underground newspaper called www.firekipke.com. Someone responds with www.geraldfordcantblockandwillneverbepresident.com. Just kidding, actually the Great Depression meant the average fan was trying to do basic things like eat and survive and such; that really took the edge off Michigan losing a football game.
- 1940’s – “This newspaper’s like 3 weeks old, but it says Michigan lost to Ohio State. That is not swell at all and… hey, that looks like a crapload of Japanese planes.”
- 1950’s – After many, many losses in this decade, men in dinner jackets write strongly worded letters to the Michigan Athletic Department decrying such bizarre notions as “double-platooning” and “the forward pass.” They do not approve!
- 1960’s – Losses were dealt with like so in the Sixties: Leave the stadium, get a little high from the haze of pot fumes hanging over Ann Arbor, feel instantly better, go home and get seriously tore up. Say a little thank you prayer to whoever made The Pill. This was also the same as if Michigan had won.
- 1970’s – People would catch big games on television, and generally tell Bo he’s supposed to blow the game in the 4th quarter. (There’s direct evidence of this, see The Big Chill. Or don’t, it’s not Kasdan’s best work.) Then they would calm down for a few days, go to work on Monday and commiserate with coworkers, as everyone had seen the big game.
- 1980’s – Because people could see most games on television, everyone began to assume they could do better than the actual coaching staff. I mean, they’re just glorified gym teachers, right? Plus, on TV I can see everything but the pass coverages. How complex can those be? So after losses, everyone says the same things. Michigan should pass more. Michigan defense isn’t aggressive enough. The program is too stodgy. Bo is too attached to the past. He’ll never get better than winning 80% of his games if he sticks to this crap. If I were in charge, things would be different! Of course, you mostly say this stuff to yourself, but on the occasion you say it to family and friends they agree with you because they have to live with you.
- 1990’s – People notice that better players tend to do better on the field, plus they are mesmerized with Mel Kiper’s hair. Losses in this era tend to get blamed more and more on “poor recruiting.” Television now covers virtually every game, so people tend to get very, very invested in Michigan Football. We used to see half wins, half losses because only the bigger games were covered on television. You’d read the box score in the paper while Michigan crushed some scrub school. Now watching every game means you get used to seeing wins a lot more often. Weird schools not named Notre Dame, Alabama and Oklahoma are winning National Championships, and you start to get a “why not us?” mentality. In the latter half of the decade, after a loss, you’d just think about Charles Woodson, smile, and go about your business.
- 2000’s – That National Championship poster is fading a little bit. Losses start stacking up. HD allows you to see pass coverages when the cameraman isn’t a $%^#& idiot. The internet comes of age. It allows you to rant and rave in full anonymity about anything and everything, and also raises your investment in this pastime even further. Recruiting coverage specifically and coverage generally increases tenfold. Everything is analyzed to the nth degree. Nothing is too minute. If the coach doesn’t get the right kind of doughnuts before a game, three different comments are titled “Doughnutgate!” within ten minutes. Ticket prices grow to the point of needing a cosigner, making you feel even more entitled to winning. Mental investment has become literal $ investment. Then Appalachian State happens, which clearly would NOT have if you were in charge. Parity be damned, this is Michigan! You morph into the Colonel from Top Gun, “I WANT SOMEONE’S BUTT! I WANT IT NOW! I WANT SOME BUTTS!” Lloyd offers up his butt. The new coach, who you read approximately 64 billion articles on prior to the season, looks to have a losing season, which all of those 64 billion articles indirectly pointed toward. You go back to the little script you wrote about how this season should go, and find reality has definitely not matched the script! At this point, you realize how close you are to a Notre Dame fan, and come to your damn senses.
(at a closed door meeting with boosters and other highly placed supporters of the University of Michigan, RR gave the following speech which I transcribed. With all honor and respect to Abraham Lincoln because even a jaded, cynical Gen Xer like myself felt unclean bastardizing the sublime prose of Lincoln's second innagural address--especially the last bit about 'the headman's axe.')
AT this second appearing to speak before the Michigan Victors' Club there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of the offensive system to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of six games, during which public declarations have been largely limited to booing every point and phase of the offense which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the football team, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our offensive line, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, totally unacceptable to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
|On the occasion corresponding to six games ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to the impending season. All dreaded it, all sought to avert missing a bowl game. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to making a bowl game, urgent agents were in Ann Arbor seeking to have a losing season—seeking to dissolve my coaching staff and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated losing, but one of them would hope for losses rather than let the my administration survive, and the other would accept missed blocks rather than let the bowl streak perish, and the war came.|
|One-eighth of the offensive starters, not distributed generally over the offensive line, but localized in the WR/RB portion of it, are decent players. These good players constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that the offense was interested in getting these guys the ball somehow in space. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend drives was the object for which the play calling was geared, while the coaches claimed no ability to do more than call good plays. Neither party expected for the losing streak the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the blocking might cease with or even before the fumbling should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph against Toledo, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same rule book and pray to the same God, and each invokes Michigan tradition against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to invoke Bo’s name while undermining Michigan’s rightfully chosen head football coach, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto Michigan because of no offense; for it must needs be that an offensive line come, but woe to that QB who waits while the offensive line recruits cometh." If we shall suppose that the spread offense is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, requires blocking, and that He gives to both Michigan Men and the WLA this terrible season as the woe due to those by whom the lack of decent offensive line coaching, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in Bo always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of losing may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the bowl streak compiled by the 33 years of winning teams shall be sunk, and until every missed block shall be paid by another busted play, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Football gods are true and righteous altogether."|
|With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right Bo gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the season we are in, to bind up the team's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the ball and for his blocker and his QB, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and all Michigan Men.|
Hello, since the internets are burning with flame wars and talks of firings, I don’t want to waste your time. This post is a recap of my Michigan Football experiences in my life and my opinion about being a student the past four years. It contains ideas on what the future holds for our team. It is also long. If you don’t want to read about this, stop now. Therefore no one will waste their time, have to tell everyone they don’t care what I think, or tell everyone that Coach Rodriguez is not the answer. I am fine with the fact that most won’t care what I think and have to say or agree with me.
It started a really long time ago, before I can remember. Fall days in Saturday either meant waking up and driving to Ann Arbor to watch football or watching the Maize and Blue on TV because we were on the road or I couldn’t go that week. Mom and Dad both went to Michigan and had season tickets so it was natural for me to cheer for them. I grew to love the Wolverines and there were some great memories over the years. Some of these included a lifetime hatred for Kordell Stewart, attending the parade after we won the National Championship, getting my picture taken with Woodson, Griese, the Heisman, and the national championship trophy, knowing that Jeff Smoker did not spike the ball in time, burning plastic gators on our January trip to Florida,triple overtime, and the 100th game.
All of that happened and the next year was different. It was senior year of high school and I wasn’t sure if I’d get into Michigan. I had applications to a bunch of schools, but I was specifically hoping for one response. Well on November 20th, 2004 I got a call at about 11 AM that I needed to get home as soon as possible to open a large envelope. Sure enough, I got into Michigan just in time to watch our 7th rankedteam fall to the Buckeyes. I wore that Michigan shirt to school Monday with pride, I got ridiculed of course, but man it felt good, I was going to attend the University of Michigan.
That’s where the article above comes in. It describes the next four years as the most torturous for a fan base of any school in college football. It made me think, have my four years here been the worst four years for a University of Michigan football fan to be a student?
So I had to think back to my memories over the past four years.
- First game against MSU is at MSU, I go to the game, overtime win. Awesome.
- #8 Penn State touchdown with 53 seconds left. Silence. 0 seconds left. Bedlam.
- 5losses. Wisconsin, scores TD with 24 ticks on the clock. Last second tie breaking field goal to Minnesota. 24 seconds left again, this time Ohio State.Nebraska debacle.
- 11 Straight wins, which included a visit to Notre Dame in my favorite away game. Hot Damn!
- Seniors last home game, Balls out for Ball State (3-7), in which was the closest win of the year, unless you look solely at points (Penn State).
- The loss of Bo. Honestly the eeriest feeling I’ve ever experienced was felt on campus that day. Candlelight vigil on the Diag.
- 1 vs. 2
- A plundering in Pasadena
- Watching the remake of the Longest Yard’s most infamous scene for Michigan Fans and Hot! Hot! Hot! several times. The horror. The statue of liberty.
- 8 wins, 2 more losses
- Overcoming all the adversity, beating the speedy gators of the SEC, and watching Lloyd go out the way he deserved to go out.
- The coaching fiasco, and excitement in a good coach, a good offense, a new sponsor, a new stadium, a new quarterback, and the departure of pretty much everything I ever knew about Michigan Football, just in time for senior year.
- We don’t need a breakdown, as we all know what happened so far this year.
Wisconsin was the best game I’ve ever experienced in the Big House, although the win will probably mean nothing by the end of the season. And now with two home games left in my college career, I wonder if this will be the only savior of the season. In my opinion we will win two more games. But the last three years have taught me that anything can happen. We could lose all six or we could win all six. If we don’t make a bowl and all of our streaks and records are broken, it will be a true restart for our team. 2008 will be the ultimate restart of a year. Our team that consists of mostly freshman; they will have a new coach, new offense, new defense, new sponsor, new stadium on the way, new recruiting style, new records to set, and a new outlook on Michigan Football. It is weird to be a senior right now. We could be the first class in 40 years to see a losing season and 33 years to not make it to a bowl. Plus we are the first class of only three that will have experienced the old and the new. A full system reboot will take longer than 6 games, but it will happen so everyone will have to be patient. I believe Coach Rodriguez can take us there, with the raw talent he has this year and with the upcoming recruits Coach Rod is building the kind of foundation that we will grow from. With patience in our coach and our players, Michigan will return. As you may have heard, those who stay will be champions.
So are the past four years the most torturous for any college fan base? Depends on how you look at it. For me, 3 wins over MSU so far, Mario in the Penn State game, winning 11 straight games, being on campus to say goodbye to Bo, the Florida win and what it meant for Lloyd, and watching the beginning of the new era with the Wisconsin win have been plenty of ups to the many number of downs that I have experienced. Am I setting my standards too low, you may think so, I don’t, although beating Ohio State would be nice. Being a part of the University of Michigan and optimistically supporting every aspect of their football team is enough for me. Do the same if you can, support Rich Rodriguez, support Nick Sheridan, support Morgan Trent.
PS. The last four years were not a picnic, so here are few favors (last wishes as a student) I ask,
- Try the best you can to not sell your tickets to MSU fans. Be as loud as possible during this game. Wear maize.
- Don’t be a Negative Nancy. Don’t leave the game early. Don’t ever think like the guy that posted the above article. Asking if it is time to switch to soccer is not a joke, as that is not funny. Never give up on Michigan Football.
- Cut the student section a little slack. We got flamed for the wave last time because somehow a group of kids in the 30th row got it started. I hope we get to do it all the way through one last time for the seniors regardless of the score of the Northwestern game, plus the freshman still need to learn the correct thing all the way through. We will at least do it in the third quarter.
- I’d love to see someone organize something for the seniors. Whether it be the one time return of hot dog man, marshmallows, the 1,2,3 HIT HIM IN THE FACE on the kickoff cheer, etc. or something else. Ideas are appreciated.
This Michigan team reminds me of a team on which I played my senior year of college. The circumstances were a little different. It was our coaches fourth year, and had already produced an undefeated regular season and a trip to the Div 3 national quarter finals. However, the senior class that led us to that point in my sophomore year was one of the most talented group in the history of the program. The junior class was also very good, but by the time I was a senior there were only 13 players left in my class. Of those 13, only about half saw significant playing time. We started 5-0 against some weak competition. We played the eventual conference champion in week 6 and lost 33-31 after we missed a 40 yard field goal on the last play of the game. This is where the comparison really starts. The rest of the year we really struggled. Everything was a grind. We thought we had put bad moments behind us, but they obviously lingered. I do not remember having a bad week of practice, but we just could not seem to get it going in games. Our QB was inconsistent and struggled with his confidence. Over the last 5 games, we went 1-4. Occasionally, I think about that season and try to figure out what happened, because we had the players to win the conference. I think it came down to two things:
- We never got over the missed field goal. I think it lingered with many of our younger players, and we just could not pull ourselves out of it. We would have good weeks of practice, but when games came around, there was just couldn't put together any consistency especially on offense.
- We did not have many seniors on the field. It has been my experience that seniors play with a sense of urgency that younger players sometimes lack. When there are a good number of seniors on the field, this rubs off on everybody else.
I think Michigan is in a similar spot right now. They are in a grind offensively, and are struggling to find a rhythm. Threet has been inconsistent, and at least to me, does not look like he is throwing the ball with confidence right now. In fact, the whole offense lacks confidence right now. There seems to be indecision from the O-Line on who to block on zone plays, Threet doesn't seem to pull the trigger quick enough, and the backs don't seem to be finding the hole. I actually think the D has been ok.
The point of the story is that the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen from my senior went on to win or share the next 3 conference titles. The QB who struggled that year was Gagliardi Trophy finalist his senior year. (Div 3 Heisman) Those underclassmen did not give up on the system, they only became more determined. Was it bad coaching that led to that one bad season? I don't think so. Should those underclassmen have given up on our coach? Obviously not. All these things that look wrong on Saturdays are being drilled every day in practice. They are running the zone over and over again, because its what they practice. The coaches, who all have a track record of success, believe its what will work on Saturdays. Eventually, it will start working. It may not be this year. I think the offense will probably look good in spurts the way it has most of the season. But every time you think about the struggles of this Michigan team, you think about those young players that are getting experience, and not ever wanting to go through a Toledo loss ever again in their Michigan football career.
I hope some people find my experience relevant. I'd like to finish the post with a passage from Bo's Lasting Lessons.
"Hey. You can take any coach you want - I don't care if it's Woody Hayes or Ara Parseghian or Joe Paterno, all giants - and you can pick apart their career and find that, sure, they lost some games, probably a few they shouldn't have. Every one of those three guys won a national title, but every one of them had losing seasons, too - usually when I was on their staff, it occurs to me! And these are some of the best coaches the game has ever seen. What does that mean?
I'll tell you what it means: Nothing!
Everyone's got critics. And if you're in charge, you're going to have more than the people working for you. Well, I had 101,001 critics every Saturday, and millions more watching on TV - screaming at me to pass more, to blitz more, to go for it on fourth-and-one more from our own 40-yard line. Let me tell you something: I fundamentally did not give a damn what the press, the administration or the alumni thought about my coaching. Fritz Crisler said it best. "If you're winning," he said, "you don't need them. And if you're losing, they can't help you."
So, you block them out!"
Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to a number of people
who’ve been wanting to place blame on the success – or lack thereof – of Michigan’s football team
this season. Those who are casual football fans or network pundits blame Rich
Rodriguez – his spread offense is too big of a change for a pro-style team.
Those who know a bit more about Michigan football blame Lloyd Carr – he left
the cabinet dry with only two starters returning on offense and plenty of
out-of-shape players. But who is really to
blame? To take a logical look at the situation, let’s start from a novel place.
Check who exactly makes up the Michigan
offense, and then let’s start looking at blame.
Capital One Bowl Starting Line-Up:
Skilled Positions: Mario Manningham(jr); Carson
Butler(jr); Chad Henne(sr); Mike Hart(sr); Mike
Massey(sr*); Adrian Arrington(sr*)
Line: Jake Long(sr); Adam Kraus(sr); Justin Boren(so); Steve
Schilling(so); Alex Mitchell(sr*)
* Still had remaining eligibility
Initial 2008 Starting Line-Up Before Transfers and Early
Departures (accounting for 3-receiver set):
Skilled Positions: Mario Manningham(sr); Carson
Butler(sr); Ryan Mallett(so); Brandon Minor(jr); Greg Matthews(jr); Adrian
Line: Jeremy Ciulla(sr); Mark Ortmann(sr*); Justin
Boren(jr); Steven Schilling(jr); Alex Mitchell(sr)
Actual Starting Line-Up For Toledo (Using 3-receiver set):
Skilled Positions: Greg Matthews(jr); Kevin Koger(fr);
Steven Threet(fr); Sam McGuffie(fr); Toney Clemons(so); LaTerryal Savoy(jr)
Line: Perry Dorrestein(so); Mark Ortmann(sr*); David
Molk(fr); David Moosman(jr); Steve Schilling(so).
Okay. So screw “returning starters” – of which we only
started one. Let’s look at “projected starters” – players who were in the
pipeline to start but never ended up starting. Three. Three. That’s it. Yes, those who aren’t here all have their
reasons, but the fact of the matter is that we had one returning starter on offense in the Toledo game, and three people starting who would have started the day after the
Capital One bowl.
So who's to blame? You can't fault Rodriguez and his staff for coming into a program which has a roster looking like that of a low-tier Mountain West team. He's doing his best with what he has - which, as we can see, isn't much. You can't fault Lloyd Carr because although we wouldn't have had the Hart, Henne, and Longs of the world returning, we would have had a blue chip QB, a decent (read: non-sieve) offensive line, and some legit playmakers at the skilled positions. It would have been a down-ish year anyway. You can't fault the players - they didn't ask to get put in a starting position without the experience, skill, or surrounding talent to succeed. They're getting their asses busted by Barwis as the toll to merely strap on the winged helmet.
So who's to blame? Blame yourself. If you're looking to place blame here, blame yourself for taking your school's football prowess for granted, for having out-of-this-world expectations for the first year of a regime change, and for not studying your team enough to know that your expectations were out-of-this-world. We have a starting quarterback who backed up Reggie Ball at Georgia Tech (who had a 44% completion percentage in his senior year). Half of our skilled players were playing in their high school homecoming games at this time last year.Our line... it's porous at best, filled with inexperience and a lack of top-notch skill.
I've quoted Bo before in this space, but I'll do it again, "When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing." Stop being soft. Take some lumps. Keep wearing your Michigan apparel. Keep loving our tradition, our University, and our team. If you want to jump ship, I'll pack your bags for you, but don't come back when this team - and this program - rights itself. Don't boo this week when you were cheering after the Wisconsin game.
To sum things up, I turn to Mike Hart on how it feels to represent a team during tough times:
"I don't regret anything at all. I'm glad I'm on this team. This is my team. I'm the leader of this team. It's crazy to say, but deep down at the end of the [Oregon]
game, I was telling myself, 'I wouldn't rather be on any team right
now. I wouldn't rather be getting paid.' It's going to test me as a
person, a player and a leader. I've never been a part of something like this in my life. It's going to test me, and it's going to make me a better
person. I know we can turn this around. At the end of the season,
when I look back and we come out with a great record, I'm going to say, 'Don't ever quit."'
Mike Hart is the leading rusher in Michigan football history. This is quite an achievement considering how storied a program Michigan is. In his career, Hart rushed 1,015 times for 5,040 yards. In 2004, he set a record for most yards ever by a Freshman with 1,455 yards. These are rediculous numbers. Mike Hart is and will always be an icon to Michigan Football. This season has been hard for Michigan, expecially coming off a stunning upset loss to Toledo. Who? What? It is at times like this the Mike Hart must be rememberd. A day after Michigan got beat by Toledo, Mike Hart got his second touch as an NFL football player (first touch since week 1) on the Indianapolis Colts. Be it that it only went for 2 yards and he actually fumbled on the play, it was still a large step in Mike Harts profesional football career. Don’t worry about the fumble the Colts recovered. The Colts went on to crush the Baltimore Ravens 31–3. I have been following Mike Hart on his journy from the college ranks to the NFL. I have been reading his blog. He has been fighting hard on special teams for 5 weeks now and it is good to see him get another touch, no matter the situation it was in (being that Jo Addai went down). He is still searching for his first special teams tackle. I know Michigan fans take pride in their history and their players and Mike Hart is certaintly someone worth taking pride in. So, on this weekend when Michigan is down in the dumps because they lost to some team from Toledo, lets give a shout out to Mike Hart. I am encouraging all of you to give him a shout out on his blog and tell him how much you appreicated his time at Michigan and that on weekends like this he is missed. Here is to Mike! Cheers!