"It's not about last year or who's here or who's isn't here," says your head coach. "It's about getting out here and competing and seeing who is here, and that's where we're gonna go."
9/4/2008 – Michigan 20, Illinois 45 – 2-3, 1-1 Big Ten
Any attempt to list the full dossier of Michigan errors over the past few weeks would provoke a cascade of emotions from the reader starting with rage and ending with full-bore ennui. Along the way we'd touch grim sarcasm, depression, contempt, fatalism, resignation, dread, and a whole host of other things that in no way relate to happiness.
So let's skip it and just say there have been a lot.
It seemed like youthful nerves or inexperience in the first couple games. Against Notre Dame it seemed like the usual screwing over by Angry Michigan Ball-Oiling God. And, hey, we beat Wisconsin and the negative events therein were supplanted in our minds by the Thompson return and the unlikely Threet gallop and so on.
All of it could have been unfortunate randomness. The true abilities of Michigan's team would be unleashed as soon as they stopped turning the ball over every ten seconds or busting coverages that left, say, a guy running wide open downfield on fourth and ten. If they don't put themselves in a 21-0 hole against Notre Dame, if they just complete those bubble screens, if they don't suck on this play or that play &c &c &c.
As more evidence piled up it became harder and harder to justify the vague hope Michigan was a competent team stuck in Charlie Weis's body (it's like Innerspace except there's no machine to shrink you), but we endured. We are fans. Until such time as you declare EVERYTHING TO BE BROKEN because THIS IS THE WORST TEAM EVER and EVERYONE MUST BE FIRED NOW NOW NOW, people strive to find whatever hope they can. And also: how can kick returners just flat dropping the ball be a replicable event? Seriously. I want to know this.
But now it's pretty hard to come to any conclusion other than "they just suck." The last straw on my pet camel's back was Steven Threet dropping back to pass with Michigan down 45-20. Untouched, he cocked his arm to throw and fumbled backwards for the fifth time in approximately four games of play. This, like Ryan Mallett's mystifying inability to receive a snap, is now an event that will happen on a depressingly regular basis. There are similar events scheduled all over the field—especially in the secondary, where someone (Charles Stewart) has miraculously supplanted Stevie Brown as the whipping safety du jour.
We've passed the point where these things could be random chance. It's just a bad team. This revelation will probably be met with "duh" from everyone who's not a Michigan fan, what with skill positions that usually read junior, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman and a coaching transition and, oh, I don't know, the nation's 110th best turnover margin. But, hey, we beat Wisconsin and for sports fans even lead balloons float when filled with hope.
My balloon is now filled with a sticky gray-green substance that smells like sewage and glows when the moon is gibbous. Saturday's event was tough to watch. While the long term outlook isn't affected much by the pratfalls to date, it's still no fun to watch 25-point beatings. Sadly, I just want to fast forward to 2010.
- I think Juice Williams may have the greatest ball fakes I've ever seen live. You know that thing where the cameraman follows someone who ends up not having the ball and freaks out when this becomes clear? I did that on like half of Illinois' runs. It was really annoying when I'd be watching the running back get tackled for no gain only for Williams to have the ball and run for a first down.
- Missing Hemingway and Stonum was a big deal, since it's obvious why Savoy can't get off the bench. Apparently the TV guys criticized the coaching on his long-bomb drop; I think the more plausible explanation is that a redshirt junior who hasn't seen any time is probably not very good.
- Holy Lord did Michigan get jacked on at least three different pass interference calls. Greg Mathews was obviously hit early on an unsuccessful third down conversion. Illinois got bailed out on third down by a PI call on a ball yards behind the receiver. Donovan Warren got shoved not once but twice on a downfield jump ball and drew no flag. The first two either ended Michigan or extended Illinois drives. The latter set up a third and two instead of a second and seventeen; the next play was the dagger Williams scramble.
- Michigan again used that goofy formation where Greg Mathews is 1) split out and 2) covered up by a receiver outside of him. They ran twice for minimal yardage. WTF?
- Despite Odoms' fumble he should definitely keep the return job. He consistently broke through the first wave of defenders and acquired Michigan excellent field position. The fumble just appeared to be a guy putting his helmet on the ball, which usually can't be helped.
- Perhaps the most disturbing event on the day was Illinois dominating the Michigan offensive line. The Illini had been shredded by all previous opponents. The offensive line is going to be an anchor around this team's neck for the remainder of the year.
9/6/2008 – Michigan 16, Miami (Not That Miami) 6 – 1-1
Could you maybe throw it at the receivers? No? Well, I tried.
Michigan fans have had a lot of ominous signs presented to them in the first two weeks of the season. There is a walk-on at quarterback. When Mark Ortmann was injured last week, a walk-on replaced him at left tackle. At one point during last week’s game the skill players went like this: sophomore, freshman, freshman, freshman, freshman. Steve Brown is reminding folks of the sucky version of Ryan Mundy. There has been much to fret over.
But nothing has struck fear in me like what occurred late in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s ten-point win over a MAC team: the students burst into a chorus of “It’s great to be a Michigan Wolverine.”
On the one hand, get it in while you can, kids. On the other: you have got to be kidding me. Why stop there? Let’s rush the damn field.
Game two was a virtual replay of game one minus some opponent competence, and does little to reassure that Michigan isn’t going to struggle its way towards a rinky-dink bowl that won’t actually be in Shreveport but might as well be.
Outside of two Actual Touchdown Drives, the offense was more of the same minus even one downfield completion. The defense was pretty good but Miami’s receivers did them a whole host of favors; it does not look as dominant as it needs to be given the Yakety Sax on the other side of the ball.
Which, like, okay. It kind of sucks that this season is going to be rough but given the cards Rodriguez was dealt it’s understandable. If this was Carr and the future stretched out like tapioca pudding, I would understand it and perhaps participate. But it’s not.
The discontent from some quarters is as obvious as it is petulant. When Michigan got the ball back after their second touchdown drive, the case for Lloydball could not have been more obvious. Every pass you throw is an invitation to disaster. You’re up two scores with around 6-7 minutes left in the game. Your defense has given up six points. You can’t lose unless you do something disastrously stupid, which happens to be your offense’s speciality.
So you do the obvious, boring thing: run-run-run-punt. And then some guy in the stands turns to me and says “not even one pass?” and I die a little bit inside because this man has no idea about game theory and no patience for a transition and was probably one of those guys posting spleen on the internet you may have run across if you’re a glutton for punishment or it’s kind of your job.
That’s an extreme example of a guy who seemed to seize an opportunity to sarcastically grumble about TINYFMF*, but I see lesser examples criticizing Rodriguez for “not adapting his offense” or “sacrificing this season” and all that, and I just think “what are you supposed to do when not even Tacopants can catch any pass thrown more than ten yards downfield?” There is no offense you can adapt to when your quarterbacks are slow white guys who can’t throw and your offensive line is a patchwork melange of who-dats, freshmen, and walk-ons.
Everyone’s permitted their immediate “#&$*!” when Steven Threet launches a pass into the troposphere or McGuffie is swarmed in the backfield or Steve Brown demonstrates his mastery of non-Euclidean geometry. Outside of that your best course of action is patience, tolerance, and whiskey.
*(This Is Not Your Father’s Michigan Football)
Bullets of crank:
- I just want to note this for the record: you can’t find a Michigan blog out there that has leveled anything resembling criticism of the new regime. Meanwhile, there are plenty of You Shouldn’t Extrapolate But HA HA HA columns in the newspapers. This will be ignored in two years when papers are filled with stories about how Rodriguez is triumphant over the eBays, message blogs, internets, and assorted other insane rabble.
- The students started a wave when Michigan was up four points in the third quarter. This is unacceptable. Waves require at least a two-score lead. We need some senior leadership in the stands, too.
- Also unacceptable: the RAWK MUSIC backing to the highlights shown at the end of the third quarter. What is this, Michigan State? After the band takes the field, the only music in the stadium comes from them. Someone find the guy who made that decision and put him in stocks on the diag.
- WHERE IS MY CRANBERRY JUICE?
- I’ll be the last man on earth to say it: Donovan Warren’s audition for the punt return job should be over. He’s not good at it, he’s too valuable to risk, and he refuses to make a fair catch. Boubacar Cissoko had some promising kickoff returns; let him have a crack.
- Michigan’s problems with underneath coverage continued; the little dreads guy on Miami must have caught 4 or 5 little hitch routes that he managed to turn upfield because a late-arriving linebacker—usually Thompson—did not tackle immediately.
- I’m worried about Troy Woolfolk, who the coaches seem deathly afraid to put on the field. I’m dying for a 4-2-5 nickel package against these spread teams.
- I LOLed at the Miami coach’s clock management. Actually, that’s not true. Despite the fact that it was helping Michigan win I was livid because for some reason clock malfeasance drives me crazy, but: Miami was running, huddling, and watching the clock wind down when they were down two scores with six minutes left, and they didn’t even use all their timeouts on Michigan’s final run-run-run-punt drive. What a maroon.
- Who’s excited for the worst Michigan-Notre Dame game ever?
8/30/2008 – Michigan 23, Utah 25 – 0-1
Every rational thought in your head suggests that the whole walk-on or freshman-the-coaches-are-panicked-about at quarterback, the line of baling wire and the occasional confused chicken, and freshmen everywhere at the skill positions will combine to yield an offense worthy of Yakety Sax, but until you actual see the damn thing in action you can hold out hope it will be otherwise.
We have seen it in action. It could have gone better. At least we have an incredibly direct metaphor all around us:
This program is under construction with a completion date around 2010. This is going to be a tough year. If you’re prone to hysterics you should do everyone a favor, watch something else, and annoy everyone on the Project Runway message boards with your all-caps posts. Get over it.
If you’d told me the final score before the game I would have been disappointed but not particularly surprised and wouldn’t have budged much from the preseason prediction. Unfortunately, a raft of unusual events obscured a much grimmer picture, especially in the first half. That was a near-worst case scenario. The offense was as bad as everyone feared; the defense was far worse than anyone expected in the first half. Without the latter unit’s second-half turnaround, I would be halfway to the Yukon and my new life as a gold prospector this morning. As it is, I think a bowl game is unlikely since it will probably require a 7-5 record.
But I’m here and we can talk about the game some. The best part was the warmups, and I mean that only somewhat sarcastically. Seeing the 100-some men in winged helmets go “HOO HOO HOO” whilst pivoting was a weird kind of thrill, as was the Barwis-led Circle of Death. This is not your father’s Michigan football, (TINYFMF) etc.
The second best part was Rodriguez’s inability to cope with the idea his team sucked. I also mean that only somewhat sarcastically. TINYFMF was best displayed on Michigan’s last play of the first half, when Nick Sheridan dropped back on third and long and lofted a ball on an ICBM trajectory. Everyone in the stadium knew it would be intercepted the moment it left his hand.
Lloyd Carr would have called a fullback dive and punted. Michigan would probably have escaped the first half with a manageable five-point deficit, and the defense and special teams excellence in the second half would have been enough to pull it out. The entirety of halftime that “22” for Utah rankled. That touchdown looked completely decisive.
So maybe that was a stupid call. Having your walk-on hurl a ball skyward is asking for it. But I vastly prefer the expectation your player can come through in an important situation to the fear he won’t. That tendency is probably going to hurt this year, when expecting any quarterback to do anything except soil himself is a bad bet, but when Michigan is good they’ll go through each series with a mind to score points; they should blow the doors off opponents who can’t cope. Carr’s formula was a recipe for 9-3, 9-3, 9-3, 9-3. Rodriguez will go through more swings based on how much talent he has at his disposal. Eventually, this will be a good thing.
There’s not much more to say: they kind of suck. I don’t know who any of them are. I hope they get better.
- Boy, did I hate the 4-3 Michigan started out in during the first half. That’s a guarantee of zone coverage or a hideous mismatch between first-time starters at linebacker and slot receivers. For the most part it was the former, which the first-time starters at linebacker were terrible at, and Michigan got shredded on a wide array of routes designed test the weakest part of the Michigan defense. It failed.
- Do you ever get the feeling people are prepared to criticize in a particular way even if reality conflicts with them? I’ve seen a lot of rabble rabble about “Rodriguez needs to adapt the offense to his players” in the aftermath of a game in which Michigan threw 60% of the time.
- I bet you could have gotten good odds on “boy, I wish Rodriguez had run more” as a common complaint before the game. That was perhaps the most disturbing development, as it speaks to a total lack of faith in the offensive line.
- Stevie Brown was victimized repeatedly, giving up the 50-yard pass on third and twenty that led to Utah’s first touchdown. I think he was responsible for the coverage on the score right before the half. He did jump another endzone route and bat the ball to Ezeh.
- Feagin? I mean… he couldn’t have been worse.
- The holding and pass interference penalties should be set aside in a description of Utah mistakes, as Michigan forced those errors out of the Utes with a torrent of pressure and wild hopeful downfield jump balls. One of these will serve Michigan in good stead for the rest of the season.
- This would be the point during a game coached by Carr where I would bemoan the zone-tipping, ineffective 4-3 Shafer came out in for the first half; this is considerably more difficult when you have scarcely less information about the football team than the actual coaches do. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to get a grip on whether your defense can handle a spread offense in its base set when you’re going up against that in practice every day. Or how you’re supposed to figure out what you can do on offense when everyone’s a freshman and even the folks who aren’t played in a totally different system.
If ever a coaching staff could be forgiven for flailing about with the wrong players, it was Saturday. The halftime adjustments were encouraging.
In less than a week, Michigan will run under the banner a team directed by Rich Rodriguez and the Bo Schembechler era will finally, permanently belong to the past.
It’s a change that most Michigan fans feel was too long coming after the tribulations in recent years: losses to Ohio State, Rose Bowls that end the wrong way, national embarrassment and the infamous picture that will stand as one half of the Carr era denouement:
It lived in the past and now it is of the past and it can stay there, to be memorialized in song and commemorative DVD. Amen.
But this is the other half of the Carr era denouement.
This picture makes me happy.
Over the past three years on this blog I’ve chronicled my endless frustration with Michigan football; I’ve also chronicled just how important it is to me. Carr is at least partially responsible for both these things. It has been a deeply schizophrenic existence, and the Citrus Bowl was everything about that existence wrapped into one three-hour summary.
You can check the UFR after most games for an explanation of the first. The second has something to do with Carr’s tireless scorn for those who deserved it, primarily the money-changers cramming into the temple of the game, his obvious devotion to his players, his desire to read things more stimulating than a playbook.
This latter item about reading is weird and useless—who cares if the football coach knows who Keats is?—but it’s also indisputably true. Former Daily sportswriter J Brady McCullough indirectly touches on it in his excellent article on the changeover:
“I’m studying up on it,” Rodriguez says. “Reading books. I got 500 books sent to me. I got four or five of the same book, ‘Bo’s Lasting Lessons,’ and it gave me some perspective on things.”
Rodriguez has realized Michigan is unique. Fans and former players who want their football coach to spend his time reading?
Yes. When I was editing Hail to the Victors 2008, space requirements forced me to cut down Craig Ross’s article about his experience at a Scot Loeffler quarterbacks meeting, and when I had to cut a small but telling paragraph about Lloyd Carr it lingered with me. This is it:
After a few minutes Carr appeared. He was relaxed and fresh, even though it was mid-evening and he had worked for the entire day. We chatted for a few moments about a book, The Long Walk, the story of a WWII prisoner of war who escaped from a Gulag and then trekked across Siberia, through the Gobi desert and then through the Himalayas to India.
I didn’t want to cut it but it was either that or something directly relevant to Ross’s odyssey so out it went. I wanted people to see it, to get the little glimpse into how odd Lloyd Carr—football coach, friend of Russell Crowe, strident Democrat—is. He reads books! About things! This is important.
There is something to the sometimes annoying “Michigan Man” thing. There is a mindset, an attitude, some characteristics that are shared by enough people that they characterize a program and a fanbase. (The annoying part is when people pretend all these things are positive.) Carr was of this and in more than a decade came to define some of it. Kipling and Into Thin Air and The Long Walk were part of the fabric of the program.
Few outside of Michigan fandom understood this or anything about Carr. How could they? Opposing fans took the opportunity provided by Carr’s cantankerousness at press conferences and one inopportune photo after a loss against Oregon to label him classless. Neutrals just thought he was a crab, because they experienced him as a crab. A month after the Bo memorial service at which Carr spoke, I found myself in a conversation with Orson Swindle of EDSBS fame. At some point I forwarded the video (part one; part two) of Carr’s speech to him. The response: “It's enthralling, actually. Lloyd is downright eloquent.”
The surprise was evident.
It was November when they memorialized Bo but it was nice enough out, I thought, and I thought the thing to wear was a suit so I did but I left the coat at home and this was fine for a while. But when the sun started setting the warmth leached out of the air and people kept talking and it was cold. And I wrapped my arms around myself as Bo’s son talked and kept talking and God bless him, I know he just lost his father but it’s cold and I’ve been here for hours. And he kept going.
So I’m cold and in a suit and my mind is wandering back to what Carr said to wrap up his speech. I recorded it with my MP3 player but old obscure-brand MP3 players being what they are and having no external mic the recording was nigh useless and when I discovered this later I was a little shattered but still posted the nigh useless thing on the blog.
Carr said this: “Bo will be remembered as the Michigan Man.”
No, not quite, I don’t think. Not “the.”
I’m happy that the empire of the fallen has finished its long slide into the sea. I’m happy it’s been replaced with something young and vivacious and very likely successful. But on Saturday something that lived for forty years sees the last shovelful of dirt on its grave, and I wish it hadn’t come to this.
People wish for a lot of things, though, and entropy always tells them to go to hell.
Note to poll voters: if you did not receive an email from me, please let me know. The first poll comes out Monday and you must be apprised of URLs and such.
SB Nation's excellent Missouri blog Rock M Nation will be joining the BlogPoll this fall, and they've thrown out a question to their readers: how the hell should we put together our ballots? This shows seriousness, which is an admirable quality in a voter, but a lack of deference to the poll's President For Life, which is neither admirable nor uncommon.
I've learned over time that I can't tell people what philosophy they should follow when compiling a top 25 poll. Or, rather, I've learned I can tell people what philosophy to follow and they'll just do what they want to anyway. There's only so much control you can pretend to have when the most respected college football blogger around thumbs his nose at some of the poll's published guidelines and the funniest one slaps up haphazard ballots 30 minutes after the deadline, usually after IMing me something like "oh crap give me a few minutes."
So vote how you like, with one exception. This is the exception: ballots designed to call attention to themselves are verboten. The lone spiked ballot in poll history came from Notre Dame uber-blog Blue Gray Sky after the first week of the season. Because I am stupid I deleted it, but by BGS's own admission it was designed to highlight how silly releasing a college football poll after one week of play is. This is a perfectly fine argument to make, and one I might even agree with, but your ballot is not the place to make it. Some voters tend to call attention to their ballots by their voting patterns, whether it's Straight Bangin's sadly prescient Michigan pessimism or SMQ's resume-only first week ballot or Double Extra Point's uncanny ability to have the most boring ballot; these are okay because their notability is a side effect of the voter's habits, not the entire point.
Other than that, feel free to be stupid -- because you will be stupid, iron law of polling, that -- in whatever way you want to. But I do think a unified philosophy benefits polling. SMQ highlights how goofy this polling enterprise can be:
But no one involved with any of the mainstream polls, despite their all-too-frequent use of the term, has ever defined exactly what they mean by the concept of the best team, or how they reach that judgment in comparison with that team's peers. Most of the time, the terms are described in an abstract way, as a mental sum of perceived parts, as if there existed a secret rating system, EA Sports-style, that could settle the issue once and for all.
The BlogPoll's concept of the best team in a sentence: the BlogPoll attempts to rank teams in order of season quality. This is impossible to do before the season and silly to do in the first few weeks, and at these times the poll should be regarded as an approximate guess of which teams will end the year with the highest season quality.
Suggestions to effect this ideal follow.
Once you have enough information, vote by resume only. What qualifies as "enough information" will vary from voter to voter, but I'm sure most will agree once teams are eight or so games into their schedules there's plenty of evidence to go on. Personally, by week five I try to excise everything except results. At that point there's no reason to look at future schedules, no reason to look at preaseason expectations or shiny offensive baubles. Just the facts, m'am.
When you don't have enough information, vote by your guess at team strength, not schedule. In an ideal world everyone would play an identically difficult schedule and this wouldn't be an issue. This is far from an ideal world, and some team just have nummy soft schedules. This is often cited as a reason to rank them high -- SMQ explicitly calls it out as a factor in his preseason ballot -- and drives me crazy.
Place great importance on schedule strength. The poll's greatest development in three years of existence was its continued, extreme skepticism of a Hawaii team that barely eked out victories against poor WAC teams and found itself in the top ten of most major polls and in the BCS against Georgia. That ended with Warrior limbs flung across most of New Orleans and everyone hurredly pretending like that never happened. You should take schedules into account more than it seems the other polls do, IMO.
Style counts. This is really tricky. If a team has three fluke plays go against them and loses a game it statistically dominated, what do you do? Dan Steinberg's pet Vegas Top 25 virtually ignores fluky results and thus can claim to be a better predictive device for upcoming games. The BlogPoll aims to be descriptive, not predictive.
The sad reality of college football these days is that schedules are so watered down and multiple teams will have the same records or nearly identical records at the end of the year but they'll have taken different routes to get there. So, yeah, team A had a better season if it crushed all comers and were under serious threat only a few times while team B squeezed by by the skin of its teeth, assuming schedules are approximately constant.
Back to SMQ for a pithy summary:
That is, assumptions about "the best" are frequently proven wrong by actual events. The best system, then, is not a rigid assessment of perceived strength, but an extremely fluid, strictly achievement-based approach that systematically rejects assumptions and accounts for chaos -- the inevitable black swan -- as the natural order. If South Florida's resumé is the second-best in the country in late October, then yes, it's the second-best team at that point. But probably not for long.
Co-sign. Man the ballot stations.
7/25/2008 - Dienhart 1, MGoBlog 0 - Pwned
So I'm sitting in the "media workroom" here at Big Ten Media days after the two hour-period this morning when all the coaches and players sit at different tables and answer questions posted by print and radio media. Some guy in his late twenties with close-cropped hair sat at the next table, prompting the bearded old hand next to me to ask: "totally overwhelmed yet?"
"Not really," he responded.
"Just so much information" was the reply, and then the old hand lapsed into thoughtful silence.
These are the fruits of my labors, the sum total of information I have to bring to you based on my penetrating questions that I envisioned would stun the people I questioned into mute appreciation of my knowledge before offering clear, concise descriptions of exactly what I wanted to know:
"I'm not going to tell you."
"I'm not going to answer that question."
"We strive for balance."
Other people did manage to get off queries that were answered interestingly, but very few. For a prolonged period, I sat at the table Rich Rodriguez was condemned to and tried to get one of the above-mentioned Penetrating Questions in but was constantly cut off by two adversaries I began referring to in my head (and notes) as Enormous Forehead Guy and Smarmy Young Journo, who would leap in at the perfect moment with a question of incredible uselessness like "who do you think has more pressure on them, the players or the coaches?" and then nod sagely as Rodriguez spun out his answer. In this case: "it's equal" was followed by few meandering sentences that served to completely rebuke the very idea of the question in the politest way possible.
This did not occur to the adversaries. I am communing with football, Enormous Forehead appeared to think. This is great stuff. SYJ looked on very seriously indeed, as if Rodriguez's answer to this purposeless question was a papal edict on an ethical matter of exceeding complexity. The force at which my eyes rolled back into my head threatened whiplash; fortunately everyone was fixated on Rodriguez and my lack of professionalism went unremarked upon. (And what better way to get away with it than post it on your blog? Mooohahaha!)
It was at this point my tolerance snapped. I'd like to say I stood and gave a thunderous edict that completely changed journalism forever. I didn't. Instead I typed this into my notes:
"who has more pressure, the players or the coaches?" I WANT TO DIE. I AM SITTING TWO FEET FROM RICH RODRIGUEZ AND CAN'T GET A QUESTION IN AND MORONS OF MORONLAND ARE MORONING MY TIME AWAY FUUUUUUCK
I was stressed! I felt much better, though.
It was at this point that Tom Dienhart, who I've considered a dolt ever since he penned a really awful column that chastized an imaginary avatar of Michigan fandom he dubbed "Boy Blue" or "Blue Boy" or something like that, [turns out it was "Big Blue Boy" -- even worse -ed] asked a simple question about how Scott Shafer came to the attention of Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez said "hey, Tom," shook Deinhart's hand, commented negatively upon his Spartan green Rivals.com polo, and spoke. Thus spake the pope (the following is a paraphrase, not a quote):
I first looked into Scott when he was at I was at West Virginia and we were playing Maryland; Shafer was at Northern Illinois when they beat Maryland and Alabama, which is a big accomplishment when you're Northern Illinois. It wasn't necessarily just the schemes but how hard and aggressive they played. Then I saw what he did at Stanford, beating USC. He's a good fit for what we want to do.
This is pretty interesting, and it led into an entertaining anecdote about Shafer talking to his wife Missy, who asked "you aren't going to be changing jobs again, are you?" (Shafer had, at this point, been at three schools in four years.) Shafer downplayed the idea, headed off to a coaching convention, and immediately got a phone call from Rich Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, I'm just sitting around fuming. My notes before the paraphrase above: "Scott Shafer. Dienhart just asks my question." I have been owned.
Why am I here? Have I gotten anything useful out of this at all, or would my time have been better spent in the Batcave (read: mother's basement) pounding out a preview of Minnesota or something? I have absolutely no better handle on how Michigan will do this year. I don't even have the barest smidge of news to bring you: the two pieces of actual news I've heard have been common knowledge on the internet for a month. I couldn't get anyone to say anything even remotely interesting. I'm pretty sure Travis Beckum thinks I have Down's Syndrome. A rousing success, this is not.
The one saving grace is going back to that Dienhart piece, though, which remains as putrescent as it was when I hammered it a couple years ago. It's really bad: shallow thinking, lame jokes, no justification for any of its premises. Theory: being a good beatwriter/interviewer-guy and being a good opinion merchant are not just unrelated skills but are somewhere near mutually exclusive. I spend my time combing the internet for any piece of novel information I can find, reviewing games and compiling stats, reasoning out things I think about football and compiling evidence to justify my beliefs.
Beatwriters try to eke out interesting responses from interview adversaries. They're believers in the holy grail of access, which necessitates thinking on an entirely different level. It's not real unless it comes from your access, so only things that people say are real. (And often they're deliberately not saying anything.) Take just about any newspaper article or radio piece or anything, really, reported in the objective style favored by the media these past 50 years:
- THING is controversial.
- "THING is great, I love thing" says person X.
- But group Y says THING has PROPERTY OR EFFECT that is negative.
- "I hate THING, think of the children" says person Z from Group Y.
- But person X of group W disagrees.
- "I disagree," says person X.
- Ain't it a funny old world?
This is just about the complete opposite of critical thinking. There is a skill in it; it is not my skill, and my skill is not theirs.
I did transcribe some stuff of debatable utility; that's coming up.