I received an autographed Michigan
jersey as a gift during the cold winter of 2007 from a family member that has
some connections to the team.
It immediately became my prized possession considering that going into the
fall of '07 the whole world was our oyster and a victory over the Buckeyes was
a foregone conclusion. The fact that it was a Manningham jersey was epic,
and it had all the signatures from the most important players, as if to say “this
jersey is ready to lead you to the national championship in 2008 with senior
leadership, experience and poise!” Best jersey ever!! Right?
Yeah, not so much. So now this jersey (which cost me $500 to frame
btw) hangs in my hallway, taunting me with its ironicalness (once you see the
signatures, you’ll understand). At one point after THE HORROR, I
considered destroying the jersey. After the loss to OSU, I almost did it.
But now I realize that would have been a catastrophic mistake. You see,
what I have in my possession is none other than the highly sought after, super
elusive… Lucky Cursed Jersey.
So I present it to you now for you to gaze upon and revere. Going into Saturday, I want you to be at ease;
because the Lucky Cursed Jersey’s magnificent power watches over us and
protects us. Frankly, victory is guaranteed.
But of course if we lose to Utah,
I’m going to burn the m#$#@#$er like it’s an East Lansing
I've recently caught wind of a great new Michigan bar in Chicago. I'm so f'in tired of Duffy's and have also begun to passionately hate the newest bar, Mad River. They both smell like puke and they're full of the idiots you've tried to forget after college.
Matilda, on the corner of Sheffield and Barry, has been a great bar in Lakeview for a long time. It attracts a great crowd of laid back fun people, has a great beer selection and has food that makes you second guess that you're in a bar. Just recently, though, the management decided to open it up exclusively to the Michigan crowd on Saturdays for some Ann Arbor nostalgia. I talked to the owner and he mentioned that Oberon will be served in mason jars ala Dominick's in the Summer. Pair that with a menu full of food that even your disinterested girlfriend will eat and I'd say we've found ourselves a a place that would make even Bo smile. He's also picked up a bunch of HD projectors that'll be locked on the Michigan game so no seat will be denied a view of the weekly U of M victories.
Next to football starting in less than a week, this amazing new place to drink away my football anxiety is the best news I've heard all year. GO BLUE!!! Hail to the Spread!!!
This is my first post on this blog in any form. I am, all things considered, a Newbie here…so go easy on me. My virgin post. :-)
I want to begin by saying, as I dip my toe in the water of diary posts, that MGoBlog is without a doubt the best UM sports blog on the web. Brian’s material is well researched, thoughtful and well written. And he posts daily. Which when you are an addict is a good thing.
Since it is my first post, a bit about me. My name is Steve and I live in London, ON. UM athletics, especially football, has been a growing obsession with me since the mid-90’s. I am not a UM alumnus. [Hopefully an EMBA or some such thing in the not too distant future will rectify that] I got hooked on UM football, its history, its tradition and its personages while doing a Masters of Divinity at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. As a Canadian boy raised on hockey, hockey, hockey, coming to Michigan was like being thrown in the deep end sports wise. Nobody cared about hockey, not the way we do in the frozen north. And so, lost and looking for sports friends, I pulled a Casper and took the college football plunge.
At first I spent a lot of time getting acclimatized to the sport. 120+ teams. All those different leagues [conferences], and the best part, the part that really ended up grabbing me was the voting on who was the best team. As I learned to tread water, this is what hooked me…a couple of beers and a group of buddies could argue endlessly over the best team, the best school, the best program, the best era. Ahh to be young and hot-headed again.
Then I fell in love with the game. Being in seminary [and the 10 years of active ministry after that before getting into real estate sales…my current profession] meant I was busy a lot on Sundays. No NFL for me. That meant that Saturday was a perfect day to immerse myself in football. I watched everything. [Oh how I miss ESPN here in the frozen north…by the by…this is what you get when you vote Democrat/Liberal/socialist/communist…no free market media access...our satellite providers are restricted in which networks they offer…so no ESPN]. I love the scale of the game. The players seem human still. They make mistakes. They play for a scholarship and the pride of their school. There are walk-ons and practice squad guys who pay their own way and work out hard just to don the uniform and be a part of the tradition. There are still scholar athletes. Think Rolle of FSU who may have to choose between going pro all and a Rhodes scholarship. There are the weird and wacky traditions. There are the rivalry games. The fight songs. Where in this modern world would the fight song survive if not for college football?
Eventually just being a fan of the game was not good enough for my buddies. Going to Calvin, a D-III school with no football program, meant that I had to pick some “other” school. Too many of my buddies were Domers, and being a contrarian, I picked the “local” [come on if you could pick any “other” school would you pick Western Michgan?] school with the cool helmets, that was on TV all the time and had a shoot-from-the-hip ex-coach with his own TV show and all his talk about tradition and the Michigan Way. I loved Bo. I read his stuff. I used his insights as sermon illustrations.
Then there was 1997. I learned about such things as Michigan Defense. There was Woodson. The anger that came when we got jobbed in the voting. Everyone knows that if we went against Nebraska that year we would have crushed them. But the beauty of it is we will argue it until the Lord comes again and clears up all mysteries concerning his game. Yes football is God’s game.
Ever since then, even though life has carried me to places where I have had to hole up in my home office and listen to radio broadcasts with a weak scratchy signal. I have had to read on the internet. And year after year my passion for this school and its football team has grown. And all this without seeing a game at Michigan Stadium. Obligations and finances have always conspired to keep me away. Now that my real estate business is growing that will soon change. [YEAH!!!] Fall in the life of the church is the busiest time of year and the hardest to get away. Real estate slows down in the fall. Working for a charitable organization does not mean there is a lot of disposable income. Real estate is steadily giving me the means to realize some dreams and once the debts accumulated in making the change to real estate have been paid off [seven months without making a dime…ouch], my deposit for seasons tickets will be sent out. Next year the plan is to come down to a couple of games…once with my boys and once with my buddies to tailgate like grown men who make serious coin and drive Suburbans.
It was wonderful to be in Ann Arbor this summer [we have friends in the area who work in the university health system] for the arts and crafts festival. It was great to be there and not have to worry about overdoing it with fan wear. My doorbell plays the Victors. I could dress seven days a week in Maize and Blue wear. I have a “dress” UM cap, my casual cap and my gardening cap. It is fun to be in London and proudly wear the Maize and Blue. It gives me many opportunities to talk football and hand out business cards.
I loved Lloyd Carr. I loved that he had a life and a disdain for the media. I loved that he read and had other interests than football. As a man, there are few finer than Coach Carr. But you could see his passion and his drive to win were diminishing these last few years. It was good that in spite of the Horror, he was able to go out on a high note. No JoPa here.
And with that introduction, I just want to say I am totally psyched about the Rich Rodrigues Era. I love the media access. I love all the press conferences. I love the little videos very morning getting us pumped and introduced to the team. I love the “Camp Confidential” puff pieces. I love his ability to play down expectations. I think this comes because he has high expectations for himself and for the young men in his program. I like hearing about how tight the guys on the team have become, how they have banded together [to survive Barwis???]. I am a Barwis porn addict. I have the sneaky suspicion, in spite of the sick feeling I get every time I think of the O-Line, that we will be…dare I say it…respectable and competitive. And when I think of the future and Coach Rodriguez being able to recruit ever better classes, that we will be the next USC, the next dynasty. A national championship? Back to back championships? Ruling a decade or more?
I AM TOTALLY PSYCHED!!!!
THE UTES ARE COMING TO TOWN THIS SATURDAY!!!!!
EVENTS ARE STARTING TO TRANSPIRE!!!!!
So last night I was watching the evening news here in Utah when sports came on. Of coarse the first thing they talked about was the Michigan-Utah game. The sportscaster made the comment that Michigan hasn't said anything bad about Utah and that Utah doesn't have any bulletin board material to get them pumped up. This got me thinking about how RR is preparing this team for Saturday. Just a couple of thoughts...
I think that RR has convinced the team that if they don't respect Utah, they will lose. When Utah is "on" they are a very good team and can play at a very high level. RR is mentally preparing Michigan for a tough game. I feel as if RR is trying to get them to believe in the "underdog" "us against the world" mentality that the Pistons usually have. I think this is a positive thing. How often has Michigan played with a chip on their shoulders, trying to prove to the world that they are good? Whether they are a good team or not is yet to be seen, but they are playing with a little extra motivation.
Secondly...how is Utah going to prepare for Michigan??? Listening to the Utah coach, he said they were watching WV film for offense and Stanford film for the D. Do they really know what Michigan is going to bring to the table? Yes and No. We all know that we will not be running the WV offense because we don't have a running QB. I predict our offense will only slightly resemble what WV could do with Pat White at QB. However Utah prepares for Michigan, Michigan has an advantage. Just like RR said in one of his press conferences there is no film out there of the QBs. There are no tendencies that they can pick up. How do they prepare for Michigan's passing attack??...Michigan has better WRs and passing QBs that WV has/had. All of this is an advantage for Michigan. We know exactly what Utah runs, they know very little about us. I'm not sure if this is a HUGE advantage, but any advantage right now makes a difference.
The last thing is that this team knows what it COULD accomplish. The believe in themselves. Once again it goes back to the "us against the world" mentality. The players know that they are young and inexperienced, but they also recognize that they can compensate for their lack of inexperience with their work ethic and talent. Now I know that only takes you so far and the bottom line comes down to executing, but they are going to be prepared for Saturday.
I can't wait to see how they perform on the field.
Everyone say it with me, and say it with feeling:
“I <insert your name>, will not overreact to the outcome of Saturday’s game.”
Let’s be honest, if we win in a blowout, we’re gonna feel pretty good about life, just as if we see “Oregon, Part II” we’re gonna feel pretty lousy. That’s fine. But take a deep breath before writing anything too out of bounds, step back from the ledge or come down from the clouds, because this is just one game. No whimpering. Whimpering is for Sparty.
What’s more, nobody really knows that much about Utah either. Yes, they look suspiciously like a good football team. But with no data points, we can’t say definitively. So who can say whether winning or losing Saturday is really that good or bad? It’s a small sample size. There’s lots of work left to put in on offense and defense. The team will improve (or come back to Earth and make some mistakes.)
Now, we can certainly get some ideas on whether some things are better or worse than expected. If the Threet/Sheridan Hydra Monster gets sacked less than 4 times, that’s probably a good thing. If the defense plays with a swagger we haven’t seen since Indiana 2006, that’s a good thing. My plea to you all is to not jump off a cliff in either direction with any of the following (in posts or in your very thoughts):
· ZOMG – NATIONAL CHAMPS!! REALLY!
· “We’re all gonna die”
· Look out University of Ohio State!!!
· Is Firerichrodriguez.com taken????
· Bow down little brother! (Wait, that one’s kinda funny. Feel free to keep thinking that.)
· Les Miles would’ve had this team ready!
I, for one, am delighted that I am probably going to see something this Saturday I’ve never seen before from Michigan football, in 25 years. Even better is I have no idea what that will be. I probably won’t be able to guess any plays for 5-6 games, how strange will that be? Very likely, it will be a couple of seasons before I really get that spidey-sense back about this team.
Bottom line is I’ve seen the movie from last year for about 25 years in a row. I’m ready for a different script, and I’m ready for a different director. Let’s hope it’s an awesome movie with a great ending, and let’s remember that the opening scene doesn’t necessarily show you where things will end up. (And that sequels can be better than the original.)
Intro: I normally rant about skiing, and realised after writing this that it has no place on my own site, so I've posted it here. Hopefully someone enjoys it.
Monday morning, I arrived at my office, as tired and bored as ever, and
began my week of pretending to work while whittling away minutes on the
internet. This routine normally sustains me through lunch time, when a
trip home with food provides a much needed break and I return
refreshed; ready to waste another 4 hours doing nothing on the
internet. Yet this Monday, as I flipped through the articles on my
news feed I was tossed into a real fright, not by tales of an avalanche
on Mt Blanc du Tacul, but by the equally frightening prospect that
Michigan plays Utah on Saturday (this Saturday!?!?!) which has taken me
completely by surprise.
parents made sure that Michigan football is an integral part of my
being. For me, a brief story of how I became attached is pointless,
since I was a Michigan fan before I was able to even choose to be one
myself, I'm simply incapable of remembering a time when I felt
differently, lucky enough to haven season ticket holders for parents I
can't even remember my first game. I'm a Michigan fan because I always
have been. Part of that existence is every summer for as long as I
can remember, urged on by the hope of a glorious season, I've counted
down the days to the first game of the season, longing for the days
when saturdays would seem less pointless. Which, is why I'm so shocked
I allowed this game of such deep personal significance to sneak up on
degree from the University of Utah, which, like the title to my
$500 Subaru, certifies my ability to wade through a bureaucratic
nightmare. The five years I spent in Utah were like an afternoon wasted
at the DMV, a state of perpetual limbo where you're badgered by the
announced passing of numbers and your only option is to wait it out or
flee, so you can wait in the same line, again, on a different day. I
chose to get out of line and go skiing nearly ever day. Which
collectively are the still the best choices I've ever made.
should I be surprised by the nearness of Saturday's game. Both habit
and circumstances should have had me ticking down the remaining days
since new years. Of all games, this is the last one that should be
sneaking up on me. But, after last year's Oregon game I retreated into
the world of european sports, mostly soccer. I'd been leaning that way
for years, and despite a history of absurd sporting optimism, that
double blow to open last season made me feel we were entering a long
dark chapter I didn't want to read. I found things familiar (that
gripping fear of impeding doom is as present in soccer as any other
sport) but much less personal (Michigan was never playing), everything
had a fresh novelty appeal (relegation) , and I learned things could
always have been worse, I could have been raised a Tottenham fan.
Still, addicted as always, I tuned in each Saturday for the Michigan
game, but retreated to my new sporting universe following each game.
kept up on the latest Michigan news, (usually through this site) but I
am now completely adrift of the American sports calender. I'm no
longer capable of forming opinions on baseball and basketball. ESPN,
once rivaling NPR as the background music of my house,
has disappeared from my TV. I've been extremely excited for
the beginning of the Rodriguez era, but it's always seemed as distant
in time as Michigan does physically, from my frosted home here in
Alaska. But no more, startled by, and admittedly ashamed of my near
neglect of the opening of football season I thought it necessary both
to get myself ready, and to pay for being ill-prepared I figured I'd
pen this little piece (that seems to have grown unmanageable) about why
Utah isn't just your generic opening opponent, but a team of the worst
kind, who should be despised as hated as more traditional rivals like
Notre Dame and Ohio State.
is a good place to start. Utah doesn't have any. Talk of the pre
Urban Meyer era is greeted about as kindly as questions regarding
the existence of certain gold plates. They'll tell you their
collective history, of both losing and being lost, doesn't matter, what
matters is that once you see the inside of Temple Square or Rice-Eccles
Stadium you'll see the truth. Unfortunately for them, the truth turns
out to be a seagull statue and a bunch of unenthusiastic plastic fans.
Oh, and a Boot, given to the winner of the BYU game each year.
applying for school I thought on two tracks, Alta and skiing. I didn't
even recognize that Utah had a football team. They hadn't played
Michigan, or any team we had played, or played in any game that had
affected Michigan in any way, or done anything of note for as long as I
could remember, and so to my mind they simply didn't exist. The Ute
football team never crossed my mind. I didn't even register
their existence until orientation, when, during the customary tour of
campus I remarked how the stadium seemed large for a small team, and a
snobby sorority girl with that your an idiot look that must a
qualification for membership sniped back, "small team, didn't you know,
we were like third in the Mountain West last year."
the time, I found her quip absolutely hysterical, and my attempts to suppress laughter for the duration of the tour made it,
as an exercise to learn my way around, completely worthless. It served
me well later on though when I attended my first game later that year.
It was mid season, and Utah was playing San Diego State. I hadn't
planned on going to the game, but when two friends stormed my room and
claimed they were going, I figured I might as well follow along, the
games were after all free. We wandered into the stadium, it was a
third full. Some people were wearing red, and there was a football
game going on, but no one really seemed to care. I hadn't been in my
seat for more then 10 minutes, before witnessing 4 interceptions. All
of them similar to Mallet's punt throw against Wisconsin. But despite
the ineptitude served up on the field, no one really seemed to care,
and everything progressed in the same cheery manner as before. The
events on the field were of no consequence to anyone. The game was
nothing more then a pageant to help pass the time before Sunday. I
valued my football Saturdays too much to waste on the Utes and left the
game midway through the second quarter to catch the Michigan - Purdue
kickoff, a game whose result people had an interest in. Which is
entirely the problem with Ute fans. They don't really care, any result
can be shrugged off. Gone is any semblance of drama, as the results
don't matter. The events aren't accompanied by any nervousness in the
stands, and the slow build up of tension between plays is completely
foreign to a Utah game. All that matters is that the team shows up
too provide the fans a few hours of pleasant distraction.
in Utah seem happy enough, but it's likely just the anti-depressants.
Deep down their all afflicted by the same issue, fear
of irrelevancy. They don't believe Utah is given the credit it
deserves, and feel snubbed. There is this odd belief, that despite
Salt Lake City's smog, the lack of booze, or the fact the the entire
Wasatch front is a numbing expanse of strip malls resembling a southern
California closed on Sundays and without an ocean, Utah really is the
greatest. The state harbors a deep bitter resentment, which manifests
itself into a strange belief that they're only an Olympics, a few
Thursday night shuffle passes or an unbeaten season, away from
acceptance. But when that all passes, and your still without any
recognition, or victories against solid opponents, you continue to
acting like a fool in search of attention.
like your neighbor from childhood, who devoid of any talent, jumps
around waving his hands, only to get picked last, again and again, for
every game and every sport before eventually growing up to
be delusional, bitter, and a cop. They share the myopia and disconnect
of the missionaries at your door who grow confused when you laugh, as
you urge them back out the door they may mumble how you just don't get
it, or you simply haven't seen it yet, but the problem is that you do,
you have and that no matter how it may have came to pass you're really
only two games in my first two years at the school I began attending
more games in my third year, when, with Urban Meyer coaching the team,
in a desperate bid for attention, they began playing every Thursday and
Friday nights. Not being a member of the MUSS (mormon/mighty Utah
student section) me and my drunken friends were forced to wander the
stadium nomadicaly from game to game. Drinking Pina Colladas with the
Cal fans being a particularly memorable game. Sitting in a family
section getting lectured for my language as I squirmed and yelled in
anger, wondering how Michigan could have lost to the horrible Oregon
team I was watching Utah dismantle is another particular fond memory.
The hype that grew through that first year and into the second season
of Urban revitalization was absurd. People were so defensive over the
teams questionable schedule that they began to feel like victims.
People didn't want to schedule them, because of the altitude. They
wanted to join the Pac-10, but they weren't wanted. It wasn't their
fault the Mountain West was so bad. All true, but stomping around in a
pout like a neglected skank was poor form. Instead of enjoying their
fluke season Ute fans spent the fall feeling slighted, and forgotten by
the second week of January. But fear not, Alex Smiths high draft
status and Meyer's success at Florida has since proven they were the
rightful MNC champs in 2004, despite not defeating a single decent team.
I've seen the Ute fans treat a modest victory against a .500 Pac Ten
team in some mid December bowl game as a title winning performance. In
2002 the Utah student paper treated scoring a touchdown against
Michigan as an amazing achievement. So have no doubt the Utes will
enter Saturday's game in a similar mood to Appalachian State last year,
pegging all their hopes on this singular chance to make an impression
on the national stage. But Appalachian State had 1-AA Championships to
occupy itself, Utah has none of that. The Michigan game will be the
sole game of interest they play in this year, before returning to the
usual Mountain West dross of TCU and UNLV. And Ute fans, with their
deep rooted sense of neglect, will treat a victory against a rebuilding
Michigan as the great conquest of a super power by the plucky
underdogs, and will forever use it as evidence of their team being
better then they're given credit for.
So please Michigan, put the Utes back in their place Saturday and allow
me to hope for a successful season for at least the first few weeks.
I'll understand if it all goes pear shaped later on, growing pains are
inevitable this season, but giving the Utes the taste of glory they
crave would be a horrible blow to us all.