that is nice bonus change
100% worst thing ever
We found out why the first Michigan State hockey series was "TBA" yesterday, when it was announced that the two teams would play an outdoor game in Chicago. There are about 50,000 reasons that's a questionable decision—as in the number of people who won't be at this who would if it was on either campus.
Michigan is due to get two home games against State this year, Michigan and MSU have a contract to play at the Joe annually, and the other MSU game is still ominously "TBA":
I just called the ticket office, and they said they were told that the January 30th game is at the Joe.
I, like a lot of season ticket holders, have already renewed my season tickets, and now I am informed that a game against Michigan's biggest rival is going to be in Chicago. This is how you lose people forever, Dave Brandon. But I'm sure the one-time benefit from playing in Chicago is more important than not making your season ticket holders feel like saps. Clueless. This athletic department is clueless.
I'm sitting with my mother and her three sisters, and we're watching the rockets attacking Israel. One aunt is on Skype with her daughter who just picked a really bad week to move to Tel Aviv. My cousin has a tendency toward fearlessness—when living in Sendai, Japan, during that earthquake/tidal wave/nuclear plant disaster she passed up offers from the U.S. consulate to get her out of there, instead organizing the evacuation of her schoolchildren. Now she's brushing aside her mother's terror: we have an Iron Dome; can I show you the floor of the apartment?
The American TV news is showing people fleeing the beach and she jokes that all those moving at a walking pace are the Israelis. The aunts don't see the humor; these are minutes carefully constructed—including the Skype call—to properly experience the horror of warfare. And when it's interrupted by the news shifting to Wimbledon the women lament, and complain of Western Civilization's warped priorities: here's civilians being shot at with rockets; now let's go to sport.
Here's sport. The reason that TV news can seamlessly shift from Hamas lobbing rockets to Roger Federer smashing lobs is because TV news turned news coverage into sports coverage. Here's the teams, here's the scores, here's a highlight reel, here's the day's-end results. You are welcome to lament this development; my point here is there's something so innately gratifying about sports that they turned news into it.
Getting in. I can't remember my first interactions with sports. There's a photo of me as an infant between my dad and my grandpas on a couch, and given the setup and the expressions (sleeping, discussing something else, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?) it's a good bet a game was on. I was just four months old the first time I was on a sailboat—my dad was a serious racer back then and had use of his captain's boat because he was the only crewman who knew how to fix it. I've been told I went to an '84 Tigers playoff game but I don't remember it. I don't remember my first Michigan game either—just the familiarity of going to Michigan games in later memories.
I remember going hours early to my great aunt's house for Thanksgiving, and sitting on the floor of the living room for the Lions game. I remember at the end of a morning ski lesson at Nub's Nob my dad coming to pick us up and all afternoon us showing him what we'd learned of pizza pies and french fries. I remember wearing space pajamas while watching March Madness on my parents' bed, and my dad getting in trouble for me being up. And I remember my dad instructing me on the proper breaking-in technique of my first baseball glove, and unwrapping the greasy twine early because I meant to take the glove to tailgate, and that my dad fished his out of the chaos of his garage shelves, and that I spent the drive to Ann Arbor admiring the old leather, the Rocky Colavito signature, and the bull's head brand in the palm that matched my own glove.
I don't remember when I started liking sports. I just remember my Dad was there.
From left: WWII vet, blogger, WWII vet, draft dodger
Distraction. My favorite MGoBlog piece is "Eleven Swans," when Brian felt, in the hours leading up to Football Armageddon (The Game 2006), that he needed to justify how such a thing could have importance in a world with an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in it:
And then you try to figure out why the stakes are so high in the first place. Why this entire week you haven't been able to concentrate on anything by war by proxy. Fake war by proxy. Meaningless war by proxy. You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area. It's ridiculous. Intelligent people do not spend a goodly swath of their life pouring emotion and precious time into a contest that affects no one and changes nothing except some inky scribbles in media guides.
The analogy that Kellen Winslow Jr. badly articulated in reference to a brutal injury he inflicted that one time is, in fact, true: sports is warfare. Our regional tribe shall fight theirs, and will do so in the manner that we all wish war was conducted: hardfast rules, individual heroics, minimal casualties, clear victories, and done by somebody else on our behalf.
My father was the first in his paternal lineage not to go to war. The first Fisher, according to the family history, deserted a British ship for an American one near Sault Ste. Marie in 1813. There was a Harry Fisher who distinguished himself in the Civil War. And there was Great Grandpa Prenzlauer, who for a drunken promise named a son for his war buddy Colonel Leonard Wood, whom everyone called "Colonel." Both of my grandpas fought against real Nazis in The War, as did my dad's great uncle Colonel Leonard Wood Prenzlauer, a corporal (family members, almost certainly apocryphally, claim he was Joseph Heller's inspiration for Major-Major). The horrors of it made them old men before their thirties; Colonel died only a few years afterward.
Because you're supposed to name kids for a loved one who recently passed, my dad's name was to be Colonel, until my grandma awoke from the drugs they used back then and promptly changed it to Robert Leonard. He played football at Cass Tech and his coach—perhaps every coach in the mid-'60s—was a vet who coached like it was a war.
My dad's distaste for warfare started a rift with him and his father that wouldn't be repaired until I was born. My dad spent the bulk of his twenties avoiding Vietnam by any means. He had a low draft number and after his first two years at MSU they got rid of student deferments. He and his best friend, who'd been at Michigan, transferred to Oakland University to keep their parents mollified while really doing nothing but play handball and researching ways of getting around the draft. Eventually they came upon agricultural deferments, which is how two Jewish city boys became farmers. The New Deal system of the federal government buying up unplanted crops to keep food prices high enough to support farming was still in effect, so the years they were not-growing corn were able to offset the years they were growing corn badly.
(For many reasons I read Catch 22 at an early age)
The way the WWII generation watched sports was different from my dad's generation, and different from mine. My grandpa treated it like an intense escape. He and his brothers-in-law went to the 1950 game—the one with all the snow—and he said ever after it was his favorite because it was too cold for anybody to interrupt the game with talking. He wouldn't talk about the war much, except to bring up the fact that he fought it so that he could watch the damn game in peace.
My dad watched Michigan games in the stands, or at his best friend's house, or if neither were available from his bed; either way it was a background piece to a conversation that alternated between mutterings over the incompetence of the coaches and the other things in life.
He had little of the seriousness for sports that I developed. I'd complain to him of battles with the internet Nazis and the relativity of program goodness, and he'd shrug at these things then go back to the two great questions of our age: Why haven't they pulled this pitcher?, and Why are they running left again?. A few things were important and everything else was irrelevant, and nobody could bring irreverence to bear like my father. He was off-the-charts intelligent. He was unflinchingly ethical. He could mock anything because he had the mind and the desire to understand everything.
The things that are important. My aunts were all in town last week because on July 4th my dad suddenly passed away. He'd been a little sick with that cold everyone had that turned into mild bronchitis and pneumonia, but the antibiotics and pills had him feeling better by that Friday. He was gardening, and planning to sail in the afternoon, and when he collapsed I was on the phone with my Mom to invite them, conditional on my dad's state of health after sailing, to barbecue at our new house with all the kids and his two grandkids.
When I was 16 I got fired from a summer camp—I accidentally ran into a kid while refereeing ultimate frisbee and it just happened to be the kid who had a lawsuit going against the camp for the last time he and his parents imagined he was damaged, and rather than compound their situation they let me go. Then my car wouldn't start and I was stranded at the bus depot at Lahser and 11-mile, and I called my dad and said it was the worst day of my life, and he said "No, the worst day of your life is the day I die."
I've never a fought a war, never been in a position where I'd been expected to, or had to face the prospect of one. Lacking something so serious I developed a tendency—as I'm sure many of my generation did—to stage pitched battles over less relevant things. You've witnessed this as I've railed on this blog and in HTTV etc. about the Superbowlization of Michigan sports.
Today is my first official day "back" to blogging since July 4, and there's fireworks to mock, new plays to scribble, and an interview with former Michigan cornerbacks in re: what to expect from Peppers that are coming up. But I couldn't bring myself to put any of those together because the worst day of my life still envelopes all the thoughts.
So I want to say for the record, in lieu of all the complaints and nitpicks and devastations and hypocrisies that I typically point out, that these things are of just a relative importance to a thing of actual little importance. If it costs way more than it should to sit in a stadium that's become way too chintzy for a team that isn't nearly as good as it ought to be, that's 5% of an experience that's 95% spending some of a truly finite amount of breaths with the person you came with. I can't remember how sports became such a part of my life any more than I remember how my dad entered it. Sports were just something that my dad and I did with the 34 years of peace and good life afforded to us. And it was the most important thing in the world.
OR: LESSONS FROM A LIFE HARD LIVED
2/16/2014 – Michigan 62, Wisconsin 75 – 18-7, 10-3 Big Ten
Michigan was one bounce away from a Big Ten title last year and went to the Final Four. This year they're tied at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State. And still there are multiple games per year that I am immediately sick about because Michigan gets down by one billion immediately.
Maybe they cut the deficit to a million and then eventually lose. Point stands. I don't think they've actually won a one billion point deficit game; the closest they've come is the most recent outing against Ohio State that reached a maximum deficit of ten. The four in the last two years:
- Michigan goes down 29-8 in the first half at Ohio State, eventually ties game, loses 56-53.
- Michigan goes down 31-15 in first half at MSU, rest of game proceeds like that.
- Iowa leads 27-11 at Iowa, rest of game proceeds like that.
- I dunno, pick a first-half point against Wisconsin: 14-4, 26-11, 34-16. Michigan narrows it to five before Wisconsin ends the game on a sealing run.
Does this happen to other very good basketball teams? I assume it must. There are two types of people: those who are suspicious of their own brains and those who assume they have no biases. I'm in the former group and therefore assume that other teams headed for Sweet 16 seeds regularly get their ass handed them in appalling fashion.
Let's just head over to Kenpom and…
I've got Kansas's game against Texas, wherein the Jayhawks ended up down 17 near the end of the first half and never really closed that deficit. Villanova will run screaming from the room if you so much as use a word that begins with C after their two outings against Creighton. And… and that's about it. I didn't check every single loss in the KP top 25, but I did do a lot of them and it does appear that getting smacked upside the head with a giant ham in the first 15 minutes is a notable rarity amongst teams that purport to be as good as Michigan does.
This is no fun. I can deal with losing to Arizona or even grumbling through that Indiana game much better than I can the series of increasingly agitated expletives followed by dismal silence that has resulted from these… things. Games they are not. Games are competitive contests of sporting intent. These are flayings, followed by an excruciating period of bleeding out.
The Ohio State one was okay, I guess. That was the first hamblast game and Michigan recovered from it to acquire a moral victory. (Tedious person about to let me know that he doesn't believe in moral victories: you're a fan, you certainly do, please stop parroting press conferences, both teams played hard.) The three since have been solid platforms of misery.
You can't turn them off because you remember that Ohio State game—it was a trap!—and you can't watch them without removing all emotion from your life, gazing dumbly ahead like a cow on a conveyor belt, bleating in directionless anguish every once in a while. The comeback trail is only satisfying in retrospect if the comeback is completed. Teasing contact and then letting go is just the cherry on top of the cow-conveyor-belt sundae.
I may have tortured that metaphor until it died. I have no regrets. It knew the risks, coming into this column after that game. It'll get an MGoState funeral; its wife, a jaunty comparison between Zak Irvin and a modern piece of kitchen technology, gets full benefits.
For my part, I'm spending the next week assembling a couch fort in the living room and testing out colanders for protective potential. I plan to peer out my viewport, Super Soaker in hand, until it feels safe to come out. If it feels safe to come out. I'm bringing a lot of soup.
Thanks, Increasingly Dangerous Nebraska™! Really did us a solid there, winning at the Breslin. Michigan retains its virtual one-game lead over the Spartans based largely on the fact that Michigan's next game is at home.
Is Nebraska headed for the bubble? Yeah, but probably the wrong side. They've got zero good nonconference wins and a bad loss versus UAB. I don't wins over OSU, Miinnesota, and @ MSU get you in with, say, an 18-12 record and 10-8 in conference. They'd have to either go 5-1 down the stretch (doable, but not probable: PSU, Purdue, @ Illinois, NW, @ Indiana, Wisconsin) or notch another big scalp in the BTT to get in.
But hey, that's quite a turnaround from last year, when Nebraska was dismal and senior-heavy. The Cornhuskers get everyone except Ray Gallegos back next year and will be projected to grab a bid.
Sound all available alarms. The Stauskas crisis is reaching peak levels. 11 points on 13 shot attempts, 2 assists, and 3 TOs lead to a single-game ORTG of 78 and, worse, is reflective of his past five or six games. Asking Stauskas to be more aggressive has just caused him to take a lot of bad shots. Sometimes they go in because Stauskas, but bad shots are bad shots no matter who takes them. Michigan really has to figure out something to combat the point guard gambit here. This is trouble.
At least this one was a tough runner from an angle. GRIII possessions not so much. [Bryan Fuller]
Why was the 6'6" guy on the 7-foot guy again? Michigan inexplicably singled GRIII up against Kaminsky so often that it became clear this was on purpose when Hayes was in the game. This was nuts. Kaminsky abused the much shorter Robinson for a series of easy buckets and four OREBs; Hayes just stood in front of Morgan/Horford and launched 15-footers. If switching those matchups ends up with Hayes posting GRIII, okay. That's going to work out better than Kaminsky. Even if you thought Kaminsky couldn't post up—no idea why that would be the case—after his first extremely easy bucket over GRIII it was time to put the biggest dude available on him.
Not like GRIII was much better against Dekker. Pro: he somehow acquired 5/8 from two in this game—seriously, look at the box score and you'll be like "wha?"
So, so passive. Michigan's disruption stats in this game were pathetic: 0 blocks, 0 steals, 2 Wisconsin turnovers. TWO. Yeah, yeah, HORSE, but that's so far out of bounds that you can't keep up. Wisconsin had 8 more FGAs and 3 more FTAs. The shooting wasn't that different; it was largely on shot advantage.
Michigan's defense has now farted down to 89th on Kenpom, which is 50 spots below last year. McGary only played 20 minutes a game; is that really the entire difference? I mean, I don't remember either Burke or Hardaway as the kind of players who made you think that they would be missed on the defensive end, Burkesteal excepted.
Irvin: nope. The Irvin giveth and the Irvin taketh away: 1/7 in this game. None were exceptional looks, but most looked plausible as he shot them. I guess in this game he was The Dutch Oven, because it took him a long time to get warmed up. Are you quitting this blog yet? Because of the Irvin stuff? I don't really blame you.
Also nope: Walton, 0/6 from the floor.
Caris! Caris jacked up some horrible-idea threes, which went in. Then he got some good looks, that went in. He was only 2/7 from two but with 6/6 FTAs on drives he was really 5/10 from there. He still dribbles around too much for my tastes but when Stauskas is in a funk he's picked Michigan up multiple times.
Credit to the bug man. Wisconsin nailed it down after getting blown up by Michigan the last time out. M did scrape over the 1 PPP mark at 1.03 mostly thanks to blazing FT shooting, 89%. But the whole tenor of the game was different. The wide open twos Wisconsin gave up in the first game were way less open. Michigan did get some, but more often those twos were at least semi-contested.
Meanwhile, Michigan didn't even attempt a three until they were down by a bunch. Getting up to 16 was kind of desperation.
Lament, for 2013 is not done with you, human being with a Michigan soul dong. Per everybody, last night one of those awesome things you were hanging your hat on when the universe was all like "I'm going to put you in a Copper Bowl that doesn't even call itself the Copper Bowl" is also no longer happening:
No. 2 ranked WR George Campbell has decommitted from Michigan. He decommitted Friday, didn't want it out for awhile but that happens.
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) December 18, 2013
Campbell (hello post) is a top ten overall sort of recruit and like Peppers, is one of the guys Michigan could use as leverage to convince other top recruits that the program's on the upswing. He's teammates with 2014 OL commit Mason Cole, who is probably hiding in a bunker right now.
Hope? Tim Sullivan wrote last night that his status is "no longer a solid commitment" and that he's yet to call the coaches (not paywalled), postulating this could be a ploy to take in the visitation process. Lorenz notes that Michigan is "still being considered" before mentioning another receiver M may look at. Hope is nice, but I think it's a formality.
I don't have to remind you to be nice on Twitter, or ruthless with those who aren't.
Go now and die in what way seems best to you.
THIS POST IS NOT FUN, SO HERE IS A SMALL CHILD ENJOYING THE BUBBLE HOCKEY TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS [Bill Rapai]
HEARTBREAKER, LOVE TAKER
Is this the most heartbreaking year in the history of Michigan sports?
Along with other painful experiences, we have lost by one play, one shot or one call the following four things of real consequence:
The Big Ten regular season hoops championship
The hoops national championship
Defeating undefeated Ohio State
Defeating #1 Arizona
And hell, let's just throw in the Tigers losing on a grand slam in the 9th inning to let the ALCS slip away.
I'm not sure I can watch this bowl game. I fully expect it to go to five overtimes, whereupon Gibbons shanks a kick, decapitates Hoke and Borges is made head coach.
Oh man. It is bad when I see this list and immediately think not "wow, that's pretty grim" but "don't forget losing the Outback Bowl on the last play of the game." Oh and also "don't forget losing to Notre Dame in the CCHA championship game to break a 22-year tournament streak in hockey." Oh and "Wisconsin." Jesus. If I was a Lions fan…
But I'm not, so let's self high-five on that one. /self high five
My one quibble with your list is that Michigan was probably two or three plays away from beating Louisville. But with your things and my things we can create an Arbitrary Heartbreak Point Amalgam (AHPA) and compare it to previous years. I'm including hockey because I like hockey and you can eat your own face if you don't.
Outback Bowl outcome. 1 point. It's never too much of a heartbreak to lose the Outback Bowl. The way it went down was very frustrating, as Floyd's suspension came back to bite Michigan at the worst time. Did want Denard and Kovacs to go out with wins.
THAT GODDAMNED WISCONSIN GAME. 6 points. Championship not as obviously on the line (and even if they win that game they would still finish one game adrift of Indiana) but seriously, Wisconsin is the vanguard of the bug people.
Losing Big Ten hoops championship on missed Morgan putback. 15 points. This is a lot of points, because Michigan flat-out blew that game and then had it back in the palm of their hand not once but twice with Burke flying down court and then the putback. Winning that game means Michigan gets a banner from the best year of Big Ten basketball in decades. That one still hurts.
Losing tourney streak in hockey. 4 points. That game was always tilted towards Notre Dame and you just wanted them to get in for the streak's sake, but that streak was pretty great. Frustration factor high. Heartbreak factor not so much.
Outcome of national title game. 8 points. Conflicted. Michigan was on borrowed time after the Kansas game, played great, everything was terrific and fun, and just lost. Probably my favorite loss ever. But… so close.
Penn State outcome. 5 points. I was super mad about this, and the game did feature missed 40 and 33 yard field goals to win plus that game-tying drive. Though it meant little in retrospect, at the time it felt like Michigan had just given up a lot of ground in the division title race. Which lol, of course.
Ohio State outcome. 15 points. 11 of 13 feels bad; would be more points but by that point Michigan had outplayed expectations significantly.
Arizona outcome. 1 point. Probably a seed difference in March.
Professional baseball. 0 points, but I feel for anyone who is a fan of both Michigan and Detroit pro sports teams, as on top of all the crap listed above they've had to deal with Joe Dumars passing on Trey Burke for a guy who was so good at basketball that he led Georgia to a .500 SEC record and first round conference tourney exit, baseball happenings described above, and the continued existence of the Detroit Lions. This year the flavor is hilariously heartbreaking instead of hilariously incompetent.
I don't even know what I would do if I truly cared about those teams and Michigan. "Psychotic break" is a prime contender.
I have 55 points. This is offset by things like Michigan's tourney run and the Northwestern game, but I've built a lot of the offset into points given for the Louisville loss and seriously nobody cares about beating Northwestern as part of their overall happiness level, especially in that game.
I am all but certain that this total cannot be matched, as it requires investiture in all three sports and major things on the line. If anything is going to give it a run, though it's…
This is all based on your opinion of how much Football Armageddon was worth. The worst thing in the last 20 years of Michigan football is without question the Crable helmet-to-helmet call, and while there was still a lot of work to do even if that flag is not thrown, losing that game gets ever more heartbreaking in retrospect as it set the stage for Ohio State's dominion of the series and represents the last moment that Michigan could claim its place amongst the college football firmament. Some things fade as time goes on… next year the Arizona outcome probably wouldn't register in a post like this. Football Armageddon just looms ever larger. How many points is that worth? 40? I don't know, entirely, but it's in that ballpark.
As a bonus, that year's basketball team was 16-3 with a win against MSU on February 1st only to lose 7 of their last 9 games, including a 14(!) point loss to a miserable Purdue outfit that would finish 3-13 in the league and a 2-point home loss on the final day of the regular season against Indiana. Even then Michigan probably makes the tournament except for an opening-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Minnesota, which finished 5-11 in the Big Ten.
The hockey team was pretty bad that year and got a three-seed in Denver against North Dakota; North Dakota ran them out of the building. Frustration there, but not heartbreak.
Is that worse? I don't think so. Any other candidates are before my time, but if you want to make a case, uh, go ahead. 2005 was called the Year of Infinite Pain around here, but that was pure naiveté.