that makes one of us
On ignorance. Due to a personal obligation or two I missed most of this weekend's action, and since the only thing I did catch was the Friday night hockey game wherein Michigan was Bowling Green first CCHA win in seven attempts I rather wish I had missed the whole thing.
So I can't offer much other than a "WTF?" about said hockey game, which was just horrible to watch. No matter what happens the rest of the way out, Michigan is going to look back at this game and that 2-1 loss against Western ruefully. Yost Built has a recap of the Saturday game.
Meanwhile, the basketball team had a two point lead when I checked in with the internet and then proceeded to score once more before the game was totally out of hand, dropping M to 3-3 in the league and reviving panicked talk about the NIT. The Ace of Sports and UMHoops have a glimpse at what went down.
Also, I'm about to be in a car for an extended period of time so this and the TomVH interview I'll frontpage shortly are the sum of the day's content. On and popping, as the kids say, tomorrow, with Tuesday Recruitin' and all that jazz.
Return of the mack. The advent of the season had many, many deleterious effects on morale around these parts. One of the more underrated ones the discontinuation of articles about Mike Barwis making you vomit and then turning you into Teen Wolf. I guess the media decided to focus on things like "humiliating losses" and "the second worst season in eighty years" instead, because they hate Michigan.
It's now the offseason, though. What better time for a reprise?
One thing they’re not used to … Barwis Beach, a new sand pit in Oosterbaan Field House. They like it now, said Barwis, adding they won’t when they find out throwing up in sand is just as unpleasant as vomiting on a hard surface.
“It’s utilized for speed and explosive training,” said Barwis. “Forces dissipate more on sand than they do on a hard surface, a rigorous surface, so by doing explosive drills in there with extension we can make sure we really get triple extension from the ankle to the knee and hip to allow for the body to be its most effective running position. Doing acceleration drills in sand will allow them to do more things they can’t do on hard surfaces.”
Vomit, Teen Wolf, extremely reassuring mumbo-jumbo about explosive triple extension acceleration: it's good to have you back, Barwis Porn. I missed you.
Tangentially related. Rodriguez was invited to speak at the high school coaching convention and spent a lot of time attempting to explain that he's not Satan McRecruitsOnlyFlorida. The Battle Creek Enquirer has a brief story on and some video of the event—no embed possible, sorry—if you're interested.
This is the tangent: at the end of it, Rodriguez has finished his speech and is answering a couple questions from a reporter as someone else speaks to the coaches in the background. Someone very loud. Someone very distracting. Someone who sounds like he's gargling gravel. So I'm listening to this and getting sort of annoyed that it's hard to hear Rodriguez when I have an epiphany: holy pants, that's Barwis.
Meetings of doom(!). The NCAA's having one of their many annual meetings in which various ways to shorten football games without enraging the public are discussed. Other topics of interest this year include academics:
Two committees are looking into potentially startling remedies — a fifth year of playing eligibility, a non-playing "year of readiness" for junior college transfers and others with academic deficiencies, scheduling constraints in basketball — and will brief the Division I board of directors during the four-day gathering that ends Saturday.
Another, more radical measure being weighed by the football academic enhancement panel headed by Oklahoma athletics director Joe Castiglione: earmarking a portion of revenues from non-conference "guarantee games" to cover summer school costs, add academic staff or provide other academic support. "We're certainly not trying to make institutional decisions," Castiglione says. "But we think people have to move away from the excuse of not having the necessary academic resources.
…and what to do with the coaches poll, including this horrible idea:
As for possibly going back to having every vote anonymous, Teaff said professional pollsters have told the AFCA there will be a more honest vote if the balloting is done without being attached to a name, as the final December vote is that helps determine the teams who play in the BCS title game. He said coaches might feel pressure to cover themselves with their conference teams.
The only thing worse than having a group of people suffused with naked self-interest vote on who should be in the national championship game is having that group of people do so anonymously. The coaches poll shouldn't be allowed to participate in the selection process unless it's willing to publicize their ballots, period. If that causes coaches to cover themselves with conference mates, the issue is not the open ballot, it's having vast conflicts of interest in your pollsters.
If Mack Brown or any other coach is serious about killing the BCS as quickly as possible he'll take the opportunity provided by the final ballot of the year and, for example, vote Texas #1 and not vote for Oklahoma at all. Coaches poll = dead. BCS = some wack computer rankings and a bunch of ancient men who don't even watch football.
As for the academic stuff: the fifth year of eligibility is academic reform? We have a situation now where a lot of schools are shuffling marginal players onto medical scholarships or encouraging them to transfer or outright cutting them (in Ray Ray McElrathbey's case) so they can cram more guys aboard the SS Sketchy; adding a fifth year of eligibility will only exacerbate this trend.
If you want real academic reform, remove the motivation to ever have a kid leave the program: once a player is signed or enrolled, his scholarship counts against your total for four years even if he fails out or transfers or shoots up a Dairy Queen or is lost to injury. Naturally, you'll have to increase the number of scholarships available to account for average attrition. This will never happen, obviously, but I'd encourage any portion of it: a two or three year commitment from a school for signing a LOI would be a step in the right direction, too.
Missed one. I mentioned the midterm Central Scouting rankings from the NHL last week, hitting on the whole of the 2009 class but missing one of Michigan's 2010 recruits: Mac Bennett. Bennett is a defenseman from Rhode Island ranked #63—third or fourth round—by Central Scouting. Also his hockey coach might have literary ambitions:
"I first saw Mac as an eighth grader competing in a bantam tournament at the Berkshire School and you could tell right away that he was the smartest player on the ice," White told NHL.com. "He had terrific vision, could pass the puck very well and made very good decisions. He's a tough kid in the sense that he never shies away. He's not afraid to go into the corner with anybody; he's comfortable in dark places."
That's part of an extensive article on Bennett from NHL.com. Michigan beat out Boston College for Bennett's services and he should be a fixture on the blueline upon arrival.
Cowherd: still stupid. Not that anyone needed confirmation of this, but to set the record straight on the Great Cowherd Douchebaggery of 2007:
Earlier this week Colin Cowherd was talking about the necessary separation of communication between fans and folks like owners and the media. The ESPN radio host discussed his own experience and loosely mentions the incident years back between he and the now defunct M Zone. He tells his listeners, “that guy, at the M Zone, is the reason you guys can send me emails all day and I can’t send them back.”
This is a warped version of reality. When you are an ESPN "personality" and you respond to a curt but basically correct email with this:
WE WERE SENT IT....WE HAD NO IDEA..BUT THE INCESSANT WHINING...MEANS I WON'T GIVE YOU CREDIT NOW..GET OVER IT
The reason you can't send emails to your readers is because you're a douchebag.
Etc.: This Bill James essay is 20 years old but remarkably prescient about "insiders" and "outsiders." MVictors has an interview with Pete Tiernan of bracketscience.com. Rumeal Robinson is not a fan of Steve Fisher. College hockey realignment seems to be coming, but UNO won't be a part of it.
The novelty of the national championship game in 3-D drew in a couple bloggers whose opinions I respect, and their reviews were pretty much the same: the 3-D effect is cool but most prominent when you're on a sideline shot, which is a crappy angle to watch a game from. Both Dr. Saturday and Bill Harris of Dubious Quality seemed disappointed with the direction, which is to be expected when you're testing out a system FROM THE FUTURE.
But what struck me was the way in which the spare production values seemed a benefit, not a drawback. Dr. Saturday:
I don't know that the "feel" had as much to do with the 3-D, though, as it did with the shockingly spare production. The broadcast usually lingered on the field during TV timeouts, stealing shots of players huddling on the sideline, cheerleaders (who look great, although they kept showing the Florida cheerleaders in much longer takes than necessary, and never made it around to Oklahoma's squad) and the crowd. Sometimes they caught coaches arguing with the refs or doing something interesting. You can see 3-D Tim Tebow hovering at the edge of the offensive huddle, waiting until the last possible second to take his headset off. There were no wooshing graphics or promos to fill empty space, only the announcers, Kenny Albert and Tim Ryan, who were often silent for long stretches during these timeouts. The feeling was exactly what you'd experience during a TV timeout if you were actually in the stadium, which may not sound like much fun. But compared to the usual cacophony of commercials, I really appreciated the broadcast remaining almost entirely on the scene without the usual bells and whistles.
(Also, that post's comments have one of the best descriptions of a blog I've ever seen: EDSBS is "college football smashed through a Decemberists song.")
And Bill Harris:
The biggest difference, and this is what surprised me most, was in the presentation. No scoreboard overlay. Almost no statistical overlays. In other words, we didn't see a bunch of useless crap and network pimping on the screen. No American Idol overlays. No website whoring. No stupid-ass, giant arrows on the field telling us down and distance, just like the scoreboard overlay is already telling us. All we saw was football.
That was absolutely great.
Harris sums up pithily: "there is zero respect for content these days."
Maybe the revolutionary aspect of this 3D experience isn't Captain EO in helmets but an alternative broadcast that diehards can access in exchange for money. If you were a Florida or Oklahoma fan, how much would you have paid to exchange the Fox broadcast with something pitched at your interests instead of people who watch college football once a year?
I've mentioned this before: the problem with sports broadcasting is that people who already care have to watch. They have no alternative. So broadcasters are free to wholly ignore their wishes and cater their coverage to people who don't care, with a heavy slice of corporate whoredom. QED: Monday Night Football's weekly 15-minute interview with a celebrity totally unrelated to football.
But we're entering an age where virtually anyone can broadcast in real time over the internet, when television bandwidth and sophistication can easily provide for alternative views on the game. How long will it take before someone creates an alternative broadcast a little more sophisticated than "Orson and Peter get drunk during a bowl game"? (Which is great but probably not something you can monetize.)
I hope the answer to this is "not long." Someone, anyone, create a pilot program, a PPV version of a game available for free except with, like, Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman and no ads and no Tebotheosis and no impulse for me to put the TV on mute. This equals cash money for you.
Accidental news. Buried in a local-kid-does-good article on Junior Hemingway was this significant piece of news:
Hemingway, who was red-shirted this past season after suffering an acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprain in his shoulder and then getting sick is looking forward to helping Michigan overcome a dismal 3-9 campaign this past season.
A month or so ago I noted a change in the redshirting rules that would allow Hemingway to claim a his; without that change he would have been SOL.
Yes, please. Rich Rodriguez is probably in favor of this piece of legislation coming to college football conferences around the country:
The American Football Coaches Association has forwarded a proposal for an early signing day for college football recruits and it wil [sic] be reviewed by conference commissioners this Thursday.
"We're looking for an early signing day in the third week of December," Rob Ianello, Notre Dame assistant and head of the AFCA FBS Assistant Coaches Committee, said at the coaches convention in Nashville. "There are more than 1,000 verbal committments [sic] right now, and about 15 per school. Why not sign them? Is it a reservation or a committment [sic]? What we're seeing is oversigning and late switches. An earlier signing day would also be cost effective."
Not sure what an early signing period would do to stem oversigning, which South Carolina and North Carolina are now enthusiastically participating in, but Ianello's point on some "commitments" being more like reservations and not, you know, mutual is well made. I don't think there can be a whole lot of complaint about the date proposed, as it's not all that early: virtually all coaching switches will have taken place by that time.
Also, Joe Schad needs one of those red-squiggly spell-check things.
Mid-CSB. The NHL Central Scouting Bureau's midseason rankings are out and a number of future Wolverines are listed:
- NTDP forward Chris Brown is #29
- NTDP forward Kevin Lynch is #83
- NTDP forward AJ Treais is #205
- USHL defenseman Lee Moffie is #210 (last).
The CSB produces separate lists for North American and European skaters, so mentally add about 50% to everyone's ranking for their projected draft slot. Brown looks like a solid second-rounder, Lynch should go in the middle rounds, and Treais and Moffie are likely to go undrafted.
Departures of note. A host of early departures and transfers have gone down; these have been noted on the sidebar, but a recap of the departed:
- Draft: Wisconsin RB PJ Hill, Ohio State RB Beanie Wells, PSU DE Aaron Maybin (maybe)
- Transfer: Iowa QB Jake Christensen
A few more Penn State and Ohio State players are expected to declare before the January 15th deadline.
There is also everyone's favorite: a Notre Dame player leaving school for "personal reasons" but expected to return after those personal reasons get some flimsy grades at a JUCO. This time it's sophomore CB Gary Gray.
Juxtaposition. I've always thought of Gregg Doyel as a Christopher Hitchens for sports, except with severe brain damage where Hitchens keeps his cigarettes and vast hatred of the Catholic church. This is a pretty awesome demonstration of that idea:
This game will be sensational, that’s all I know. But the arrogant assumption that Florida’s defense will be the difference makes me giggle.
Because the truth is, the difference really could be Florida’s defense.
After it gets its ass kicked by the best offense in college football history.
Florida, of course, got its ass kicked to the tune of 14 points.
Is Doyel stupid enough deploy those one-sentence paragraphs following that shot at an "arrogant assumption" without it being an attention-getting schtick? Eh… no. Doyel, more than any other sportswriter I've had the misfortune to stumble across, seems to glory in the hatred of all things.
So, yeah, Boston College fans should cower at this bad boy:
So stop the bellyaching about civil liberties and Boston College's intolerance and poor little Jagodzinski's rights and boo and hoo. Stop it right now. If you've already bitched to someone, you sound ridiculous. Shut your mouth and don't make that mistake again. If you've not bitched about it, consider yourself fortunate. It's not too late to change your mind, or in lieu of that, it's not too late to just sit this one out. Shut up. Keep your opinion to yourself.
Because you're wrong.
Jagodzinski was wrong.
This is the problem with legacy media on the internet: when you attack a ridiculous strawman like "people are whining about Jeff Jagodzinski's civil rights" without so much as a single link an example, you look like an idiot. You confirm that by following your ridiculous strawman with those two beauty one-sentence paragraphs, and you chisel it in stone if you marshal these two examples as evidence:
Florida bent over while Billy Donovan flirted with NBA jobs, took the Orlando Magic job, and then changed his mind and came back to school. Apparently he had it pretty good in a beautiful college town where he had won back-to-back national championships. Who knew?
Florida is… uh… 14-2 at the moment.
Louisville bent over while Bobby Petrino batted eyes at every school that could find his phone number -- and then, after redoing his contract and giving him every little thing his heart could desire, Louisville watched him leave for the Atlanta Falcons.
…and Agrokrag, his replacement, is 11-13. In Petrino's final season at Louisville—which AD Gregg Doyel would never have given him—the Cardinals were… uh… 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. Not so much on the good examples there.
There's no simple explanation for anything important any of us do. Rob Parker has been fired, and a nation says "what took so long?"
I actually met Parker once. One of the producers at WDIV's Sports Final Edition liked the blog and wanted to maybe have me on for a weekly segment that would break down a play or two in an attempt to explain why Michigan had won on Saturday and why State had lost. (Ah, the hubris of 2006.)
The segment never happened, but I did head down to the studio to do a test run. Said test run coincided with Parker's weekly segment. Like everyone else who's read a Parker column, I didn't think much of him, but he seemed like an exceptionally nice guy. Maybe he's not that bad, I thought.
Fifteen minutes later I was watching him declare that his "moles" were saying Mario Manningham would be suspended for the entire 2007 season, and all that went away. I actually had some killer inside info on the situation and knew that Manningham had been in the car when a traffic stop turned up some marijuana and vicodin. At worst Manningham would get a possession rap; as it turned out he was charged with absolutely nothing. Parker was taking a shred of a rumor and intentionally blowing it up into something sensational.
It's not like this was unusual. Parker's moles are a running joke around Detroit. Earlier this year he incorrectly identified State quarterback Kirk Cousins as a participant in the melee that laid up Spartan hockey player AJ Sturges. Dantonio duly blew up and, for once, it was justified. Parker has a track record.
So, congratulations, Detroit News. It only took you years of inane columns, weekly bouts of irresponsible, inaccurate rumormongering, and one jerk move at a press conference to get rid of Rob Parker. The courage overwhelms.
We build. We build. We build we build we build. Michigan's construction boom is such that the New York Times mentions it:
An army of ironworkers, masons, carpenters and laborers are swarming the campus of the University of Michigan these days, as the university undertakes a construction campaign budgeted at $2.5 billion, ranking it among the largest university building programs in the United States.
A dossier of projects follow: the biomedical center, the Ford School, the new business school, North Quad, and, yes, the stadium renovation. In context, the rumors of faculty OUTRAGE that Michigan was spending all of 10% of their construction campaign on a self-funding, overdue revamp of the football stadium seem a little silly, don't they?
A side note: that link comes courtesy the Ann Arbor Chronicle, a budding, professional, and transparent online news source that's an interesting look at what might pass for a local paper in a post-newspaper world. They've got some crowdsourcing going on—a twitter feed that aggregates readers' information about local traffic issues—a fairly robust set of local advertisers, and interesting content. Like, hey, did you know the TCF bank building on South U has the word "tit"—rumored to be a tribute to Michigan coeds—bricked into it?
Recursive hockey recruiting. Yost Built linked to the hockey recruiting bit from Friday and in doing so posted something I'll link here, which may break the internet. We'll see. The item is on the chances of forward commit Luke Moffatt donning the winged helmet, and it's nice:
The Kelowna Daily Courier had an article about some of the Kelowna Rockets prospects who are playing in the World Under 17s at the moment. If you'll recall, Luke Moffatt was drafted by the Rockets in the WHL Draft. Their Assistant GM said that this is as good of a US team as he's ever seen in that tournament. He's very complimentary of Moffatt, though he says it's a wait and see thing on if he'll end up in Kelowna.
I recently received a very positive email about the chances of him ending up in Maize and Blue. Things can change, but right now I'm not starting a Luke Moffatt DEFCON like I did with Jack Johnson. I like the odds of him ending up in a Michigan jersey.
Ver' nice. Insert disclaimer with mention of Jared Knight, an erstwhile Michigan commit now plying his trade in the OHL, here.
Come on. A message boarder pointed out this in Rosenberg's delicious fluffy num-num on Michigan State's Citrus loss. State has a fourth and five from Georgia's 39 and calls for a fake punt:
MSU coaches had studied Georgia film intently — 12 games’ worth of film in the interminable wait for the bowl. They knew the Bulldogs always spread their defense against a punt. Naturally, the coaches figured they could fake a punt and run up the middle for a first down.
And what happened when the Spartans lined up?
Georgia’s defense was bunched up in the middle of the field. The Bulldogs had apparently used their interminable wait for a bowl to tinker with their punt defense. Maddening.
Maddening! Except this is a punt on fourth-and-makeable from the opponent's 39. Every program in the country is in a punt safe there; Dantonio's fooling no one. It was an idiotic call and punished appropriately. Then, later, Dantonio punts on fourth and one from the Georgia 44. People keep falling all over themselves to praise Dantonio even when he displays a grasp of game theory Nixian in its incompetence.
I am annoyed, and unsurprised.
Very cool. UMHoops now has a man on the scene in Los Angeles, and said man has a video camera and the intent to scout Darius Morris. Dylan says "this isn’t exactly a highlight film," which it's not. It's actually more useful. Highlight films are just "this guy hit a three this guy hit a shot this guy hit a shot ooh dunk"; only Zack Gibson does nothing but put dunk on your face.*
Oops. ESPN's having a bunch of people make random predictions, because random predictions are incredibly valuable content. This one is particularly valuable:
4. Combined with 2008 QB signee Justin Feagin, the Michigan Wolverines will play two true freshmen in a QB rotation until one comes to the forefront and takes the reigns of Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. Shavodrick Beaver (Wichita Falls, Texas/Rider) and Tate Forcier (San Diego/Scripps Ranch) will battle with Feagin.
Tate Forcier is apparently a slot receiver at Tulsa now. (Update: the Beaver mention has been excised.)
*(HT: Club Trillion, which is the only good thing to come out of Ohio State ever.)
The last couple days have seen a minor internet hubbub about Rich Rodriguez's statement that Michigan fans should "get a life," or something like that. That's all 95% of the people who have seen this story have comprehended. In their minds, Rich Rodriguez sat down at a press conference and said "everyone who's upset about 3-8 needs to get a life."
He did not.
On Saturday someone posted this on Rivals:
"Way to tough it out McGuffie. Maybe his little fingers were cold?"
Someone else posted this on Scout:
"I've never been more excited for senior day
goodbye and good riddance."
No links, as both are locked behind paywalls (and the Rivals one is probably lost in the ether by now) but it's not like anyone familiar with the depravity you can find on any message board more confrontational than Hello Kitty Forever is surprised by this genre of comment. You could dig them up on most message boards after a horrific loss. I do it on a weekly basis.
The men who said these things are in need of anger management or a kitten or something to do after a loss other than get so angry steam comes out their ears and they post stuff about amateurs their mother would slap them for. You might describe this something as a "life."
Rich Rodriguez was asked about them because all years of struggle must be followed by stock question #49: "Do you read the horrible things written about you on the internet?" Rodriguez responds:
This is a public position. It's not like a politician, I'm not running for office. I mean, God bless them. They choose to have that public scrutiny. As coaches, we know it's part of the job, but we don't choose to have it. Most of us would rather not.
But the biggest thing that is disappointing is when somebody, not necessarily the media, but when a fan or somebody would make it personal to your coach or to your players. Especially to the players, because those guys are amateurs. When they would make a personal comment or say something that's not related to coaching or not related to playing.
I don't get on message boards. I don't think anybody, any of our players or family should. But it's amazing some of the things that people would say or amazing things people will yell at you of a personal nature. You almost want to tell them get a life. I mean, there's a whole lot bigger problems. You lose a ballgame, and then you look at the economy or after every game I usually get to meet one of our veterans or somebody. You know, to take it personal on a coach or player to me, I don't think it's ever right.
But I'm glad fans have passion, but it's still kind of I guess a lot more bolder. You all would know. It's a lot more bolder what people would say and write. Not you all, but bloggers or whatever, than it used to be. We've seen it coming for a few years.
Absolutely, right? The saddest thing about the internet is this sort of anonymous hatred. I love the internet. It gave me a writing outlet and a job and online scrabble. But, man, trawling through message boards after a loss in search of some scrap of useful news and/or analysis is depressing. It kills my productivity. It makes me want to do something else. And it's because of these little hate factories that just lose their head and spew.*
Here Rodriguez talks about this, gives a reasonable answer across four paragraphs, and even manages to conclude it with "but I'm glad fans have passion." He is obviously talking about that small segment of the fanbase that runs to post bile on the internet and almost seems happier when the team loses. Guess which part of this four-paragraph response got put in an AP story?
“It’s amazing some of the things that people would say (on a message board) or yell at you of a personal nature,” Rodriguez said Monday. “You almost want to tell them, `Get a life.’
“There’s a whole lot bigger problems. Look at the economy.”
Cue sarcastic responses from around the internet. Here's one from increasingly retarded Deadspin:
He's right. The economy is dreadful in the Great Lakes State right now. That's probably why your fans don't like paying $60 a pop to watch your comically inept offense destroy everything they hold dear. Or that their school had to pay $2.5 million to West Virginia University just to get you out of the contract you bailed on. Or that you're earning another $2.5M to deliver the most losses in school history. (And they have a lot of history.) One fan even has to sell his allegiance to pay the rent.
That guy's a Michigan State fan, so fine. I get that I have to think Mark Dantonio is a ridiculous insecure hothead who is just so perfectly Sparty No(!)* and this guy has to think Rich Rodriguez is a heartless mercenary cheerleader-nailing guy.
Then there's this from Kevin Donahue (emphasis mine):
I have just four letters for Coach Rod: STFU.
Is it unthinkable to this college football fan that the one guy who cashed in more than anyone else in this sport in the last twelve months would dare question the passion of fans. Hey d-face, you are where you are today BECAUSE fans care about this game.
I'm not even a Michigan fan... and this pisses me off BIG TIME.
Rich Rodriguez takes some time to talk about the internet's depressing tendency towards mocking and anger in some depth. The media takes the three sentences sure to generate the most outrage and create the dumbest image of Rodriguez, and the internet responds with mocking and anger.
I mean… what can you even say here? The way information spreads is messed up. Thanks to the restrictions of newshole the AP writer has to snip out 90% of what Rodriguez says. He picks the lines sure to cause commotion when taken out of context. Thanks to the epic fail of the newspaper industry, everyone with the story headlines it as sensationally as possible in order to get their OMG hits. Given the opportunity to whack the piñata, the internet does so. The whole thing is depressing from stem to stern.
You know, the media complained for 13 years about how gruff and inaccessible Lloyd Carr was. Then they get a guy like Rodriguez who's far more open and they heap crap on him. The net impact of this will be to make Rodriguez gruff and inaccessible.
I don't understand. Unless you assume that the people running newspapers cannot model the future beyond tomorrow's newspaper, it makes no sense. Oh. Ohhhhh. It appears I do understand.
*(The comments here can be vicious at times because there is a cabal of people committed to relentlessly policing stupidity. Sometimes I wish it didn't have to be like that, but when I go read comments other places I am swiftly disabused of that notion. The cost in lack of civility to people outside the tribe is far outweighed by the maintenance of a coherent identity. No regular here would dare post the things that lead off this post and if they did they would be ridiculed by a dozen people before I had the opportunity to deploy the banhammer. This has happened multiple times. Everything I delete already has several responses asking the poster to FOAD.)
**(Okay, seriously: seriously. No, seriously: if Michigan wins on Saturday Michigan State plays Penn State for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Which is THE ROSE BOWL. Dantonio's response to the question "are you rooting for Michigan?"
"I'm not rooting for Michigan… I have too many good friends and too many people that wouldn't let me back into their house to let me do that. So Go Bucks."
Seriously. Sparty, man. Sparty.)
11/8/08 – Michigan 29, Minnesota 6 – 3-7, 2-4 Big Ten
Football is the strangest sport.
Baseball and basketball and hockey are too transparently random to be strange. Sometimes you just lose despite largely outplaying the other team; that's not strange, it's just puck luck or hot shooting or whatever baseball equivalent you'd like to offer. You hit the ball hard and it goes into someone's mitt. You toss rubber at the goalie and hope. You engage in a series of independent random trials worth two or three points. In all these activities the chance is right on the surface.
Football, though… in football inexplicable things happen on a regular basis and they're all gussied up to look like Flat Out Heart. You might think that, eventually, close observers would figure out this tendency and start saying things like "watch for the inexplicable thing!" but no, not really.
This is of some comfort to me in a season where the only thing more reliable than Michigan's ineptitude is this blog's ability to incorrectly forecast future events.
To be fair, if you had collected everyone on the planet who thought Nick Sheridan would lead Michigan to victory over a 7-2 team, no matter how fraudulent, and put them in a room that room would contain Nick Sheridan's mother, that one guy on the message board with the annoying, unkillable optimism, and a bushman who speaks one of those clicky languages and erroneously believes there to be free sandwiches because of a mindboggling linguistic coincidence.
Then at some point during Michigan's opening field goal fiesta Sheridan scrambled out of the pocket and threw across his body. I guarantee you every single Michigan fan watching the game thought this was a horrible idea and that in approximately two seconds Minnesota would be running the other way with the ball. Somewhere, a Michigan fan stuck at a wedding had an eerie feeling of deep foreboding as the Michigan fanbase's collective brainwave screamed "nooooooooo" in slow-motion.
Complete, first down, eventual scoring drive, final yardage for 435, final yardage against 188, 29-6 victory.
Back in the day when computer cases came bolted on with a dozen tiny screws and floppy disks were floppy, if you wanted to have decent sound you had to buy your sound card separately. My friends did this, and it was there they met Dr. Sbaitso. Dr. Sbaitso was a weird little AI program that would converse with you that Creative Labs shipped with their soundcards to show off their speech software. It was the early '90s. It was free software. If you swore at it, it would complain that that kind of talk would give it a parity error. You can imagine the hilarity.
Though I never interacted with him myself, for years after conversations would occasionally take abrupt detours into Sbaitso lingo. The thing that lingers in my head to this day is this:
NOT ENOUGH DATA SO I MAKE BIG
This was inevitably followed by some sort of fooshing noise that indicated great expansion.
Over the past five weeks as Michigan slid from 2-2 to 2-7 and victory became a thing once remembered, everybody wanted someone's blood. It didn't matter who you are, you wanted to bash someone with a brick. For some, it's Rodriguez or Martin or Shafer. For others (Wolverine Liberation Army most prominently), it's anyone who would come on the internet and say something rashly dumb. For me, it's the media that took the opportunity to lay the foundation for Rodriguez's premature firing.
Scorn, condescension, and mockery are the only things coming from Detroit columnists not named Wojo these days, as they rush to be the first to pile dirt on Rich Rodriguez's grave (but, of course, only after telling you that's it's far too early judge).
Look at this from the Detroit News in the aftermath of the Purdue game:
But what should be as distressing to Michigan's football camp as this incomprehensible string of losses -- five in a row -- is Rodriguez's attitude.
"I know what's going on," he said Saturday, as if he is aware of deficiencies no one else seems to recognize
Does he really believe that?
I find it amazing that Lynn Henning finds it possible to condescend to someone who's proven over the last twenty-five years that he's one of the best football coaches in the profession. After all, Lynn Henning has proven over the past twenty five years that he is Lynn Henning.
And then, of course, the Worst Columnist On The Planet*:
They're [Michigan fans] spoiled. They're arrogant. They feel entitled. They took 9-3 seasons with annual losses to Ohio State for granted, lusting for their program's rightful destiny. And they will demand significant improvement from Rodriguez in his second season or he will face a BCS-or-else ultimatum in his third year.
Saban's quick Alabama transformation just made it harder for every other coach.
This is so obviously retarded in a thousand different ways (for one: Saban has a senior multi-year starter at QB) that it hardly warrants a response. But there is one thing that is dangerous here: the suggestion that Rodriguez should be on a short leash.
In a word, no.
Rocky Top Talk, a fine Tennessee blog, was kind enough to have me on their latest podcast, whereupon we talked about coaching changes and the creepy similarity of the two programs* and, uh, how Alabama fans hate me. At some point Joel asked for advice, which was kind of odd but he asked. In response, I asked what the talent level looked like and he said the general opinion was that next year would actually be a step back. Then I noted that last year Tennessee had one of the most disappointing recruiting classes in the nation and that this year's class would likely be substandard what with the coaching change and all and advised patience. Sustained, gritted-teeth patience.
Because without patience you acquire unreasonable demands like "take a 3-7 team to the BCS in two years with a (probably) true sophomore quarterback or we fire you, confirm every stupid thing the media has incorrectly said about the Michigan fanbase, and start all over with someone definitely less proven as a successful head coach than Rich Rodriguez."
Screw that. Screw Sharp and all his ilk at the Detroit papers ready to leap upon the carcass of Michigan football because they're too stupid and shortsighted to do anything else.
Nick Sheridan was nicknamed DEATH up until the moment he threw that "nooooo" pass across his body. I had too little data, but I made big.
Michigan fans assumed this all-singing-all-dancing-all-freshman offense would be basically as effective as other crappy offenses from Michigan teams past. They had too little data, and they made big.
The Detroit media would like to assure you that it's way too early to judge Rich Rodriguez but my god what a horrible coach who is mostly at fault for Michigan's failure to acquire a chintzy bowl bid. They had too little data, and they made big. (They will continue to do this.)
Now Tennessee and Washington and Clemson and maybe Auburn and a bunch of other teams will be scouring the nation for coaches upon there is precious little data, because the ones on which there is much data are already out of reach. If Michigan goes searching again prematurely they will not find a guy with a proven record of success like Rodriguez. They will not find a coach with two BCS bowl wins to his name. They are wishing and hoping.
We got extraordinarily lucky; there is enough data to justify Rodriguez the five years coaches all used to get, and we should give it to him.
*(if you absolutely must see the entire thing I will link it (nofollowed) but I urge you to not click here: .)
**(No, seriously. I always thought Tennessee, a traditional power with an awesome fight song that operates at a recruiting disadvantage because its home state is talent-deficient relative to its peers and has a national championship from about a decade ago, was pretty similar to Michigan. Then Joel from RTT was talking with me and mentioned that Tennessee had been coached by a total of two guys over the last 32 years (16 years each for Majors and Fulmer) and I was like… whoah.)
- This is already way too long!