somehow we're only 124th
In my first or second season at Yost we sat maybe a section over from a guy who really wanted to be funny but mostly yelled things like "I want a piece of you, Ham." You see, it's funny because his last name is "Ham," and ham is also a lunchmeat so you could take a piece of him because he would be salty and delicious. And then you would put him in your mouth. Do you like where this is going? Check Y or N.
A few years later there was this lady in the endzone with a cowbell. She rang it with a ruthless military efficiency at the appropriate times. She was perhaps the best person with cowbell I have experienced, but she played with such intensity she came off as slightly insane. Someone once told me she had failed when she tried out for the hockey band. Ah: she had spent her time at Chateau d'If pounding out the insistent rhythm of "Go Blue" on the dungeon wall.
Maybe around the same time, maybe earlier, there was a generation of supremely vile screamers who sat in the heart of the student section and launched largely incomprehensible rants at whoever was an opportune target. I know they were supremely vile because at that point the visiting parents were seated right behind the visitor's bench—right in front of the vile generation—and screaming matches between them were a common occurrence. Meatheaded fathers trundling up the aisle in search of someone to fight weren't common occurrences, but they weren't exactly uncommon. I remember one particular UNO parent climbing the stairs with death in his eyes.
A few years after that they'd moved the parents and a couple guys who wore costumes to the game closest to Halloween decided they'd just start wearing them all the time, so you'd look over in the student section and see a penguin or Frankenberry or guys dressed up like knights for no apparent reason. This year there's a guy in a dog costume who screams so loud I can hear him across the ice.
There is a man who wears a "666" jersey that says "heckler from hell" on the back. He has always been there.
Hockey crowds invented "can't read, can't write" and, when Bobby Williams was running things into the ground and virtually everyone on Michigan State's team had been arrested or rumored to be having serious life problems with drugs, "snort green, smoke white." When Boston U and future NHLer Brandon Yip came to town someone started going "yip yip yip yip" like the aliens on Sesame Street and soon everyone was doing it and that's probably where the bizarre penalty kill hooting comes from. We used to chant "goalie, sieve" fairly generically until some guy came up with the version that goes from slow to fast to slow again, and now everyone does that.
At some point in the middle of the last decade there was a weird old man who started showing up in the student section. Whenever there was the vaguest impression of a penalty on the other team he would exclaim "HEY!" When the penalty impression was fairly strong he would continue saying "HEY!" for a solid minute. He did this flatly, without affect, just "HEY" repeated over and over with the same intonation. After a few games of this it was a little annoying but when someone started doing it with him to mock him everyone started doing it and it was just this mass of people screaming "HEY" like they are endeavoring to be a hockey metronome. Once it lasted for five solid minutes after a particularly egregious no call.
The student section's favorite name ever was "Cockburn," even though it was pronounced "coburn." This did not matter to them in the slightest.
There was also a comically long edition of If You Can't Get Into College Go To Blank directed at… oh, I don't know… Western or LSSU or Northern or something. Before each verse Superfan's sidekick would call out the next school you should apply to before Western or Lake State or wherever—"Schoolcraft!"
The band director used to dance. When Michigan was winning people would start screaming "dance" at him. There was specific dancing song, and often it was preceded by false starts that would draw boos and chants of "overrated." When the students were baying at their peak the director would finally relent and the dancing music would play and the director would dance and everyone would point at him and chant "Disco Nix," or other appropriate naming device that follows "Disco." Afterwards the noun-sieve cheer was "dancer, sieve."
At some point in the awkward transition period between Jack Johnson's dad dances to everyone dances there were three or four competing dancers, many of whom were just… wow. One of them was the spiritual descendent of Ham Guy and would not be dissuaded from dancing no matter how much you told him he should not do so. He probably had Asperger's even if that doesn't exist anymore.
There is one guy in my fogey section who is awesome. He is a big dude who brings the paper and when he is incensed he does not care he is around very many people who do not care quite as much as he does, he stands and bellows something or other I can't hear because I'm behind him. A few years ago when I was on the other side of the ice there was a guy who got so mad he'd leap up in his seat and lean over the boards so he could scream at the refs good and loud. I don't think he ever got booted out because he looked like an accountant.
Every time I go to the Joe I see one of the ushers from the student section there in civilian clothes, looking so happy he can face the ice the whole time and not kick anyone out for saying something naughty.
Some kid got his mom to make a giant Swedish flag so whenever Carl Hagelin scores it can cover an entire section, and everyone signed it and gave it to him on Senior Night and everyone hopes it's not an NCAA violation so he can keep it. There was a group of guys with vuvuzelas last year who were not annoying.
I was there the first time a kid on the zamboni took his shoe off, and the first time the kid on the zamboni who'd taken his shoe off threw it into the student section. The kid looked delighted he'd done this.
Bring the Payne. MI CB LEVITICUS PAYNE has just achieved more than most of us will over the course of our lives: he's made the Name of the Year bracket.
[click for big.]
He's a 12 seed in the Bulltron regional against a "Silverberry Mouhon," which is mellifluous but is no LEVITICUS PAYNE. The Mercedes Bunz/Col. Many-Bears Grinder winner in the second round might be tough.
College football is also represented by South Carolina uber-recruit Jadeveon Clowney and former Michigan recruit Quinta Funderburke, who ended up signing with Arkansas. 2013 Purdue basketball commit Basil Smotherman Jr. also makes it. I'm pulling for Smotherman because for the duration of his career I'm going to pretend everything he says on the court is a Fawlty Towers quote.
Also everything Matt Painter says is going to be "BASIL!" I might watch every Purdue game during this era.
Schedule bits. The Big Ten released conference schedules for 2013 and 2014. Illinois and Purdue rotate off; Penn State and Indiana rotate on. Michigan won't see Wisconsin until 2015. That's why the Big Ten will add a ninth conference game sometime in the near future—four years off is a bit much.
At least that's good in terms of schedule strength… unless that thing where any team that doesn't play Michigan is guaranteed to collapse keeps happening. If Illinois and Purdue are insanely good next year our curse continues. Illinois could actually… naw, nevermind.
Monocle follow-up. Women's basketball is out of control:
Some schools paid their coaching staffs many times what their teams earned, the data show. The Texas A&M staff received $1.36 million, or 114 percent of operating revenue of $1.19 million, and Michigan State paid out $833,931, or 87 percent of operating revenue of $954,779.
At Auburn University, salaries and benefits cost $1.14 million, or 1,783 percent of the Tigers’ operating revenue of $64,225, and the program posted a $3.16 million operating loss.
Auburn continues to live by the motto "go big or go home." The 53 BCS schools vulnerable to FOIAs collectively lost over two million dollars each.
Those numbers are insane. Money is being transferred directly from football and basketball players to women's basketball coaches. At least with revenue sports there's some justification for paying the head of your program a lot of money—he's in charge of something that makes money and might stop doing so if you suck. There's no reason any women's basketball coach not at UConn or Tennessee should be making more than 100k. What's going to happen? Are the empty seats going to stop coming?
There's a lot of blather in that article from administrators talking about "the market," but that market is shaped by all the extra cash sloshing around because revenue athletes get the same scholarship as everyone else. Even UConn lost nearly a million dollars last year because it paid its head coach nearly two. There's an easy way to close that gap.
Do it or I'll burn you with my eye lasers. Outstanding find from MVictors, as he runs across a wire photo showing what Yost used to look like in the days of Cazzie Russell:
Greg advocates putting the old man back up—"Extend the Yost brand," he exhorts—and this is obviously the most fantastic idea ever.
BONUS: it reminded me of the Martin Van Buren alert system, wherein Old Man Murray put up a picture of MVB on their page and would change it to a "dramatic approximation of Martin Van Buren as he would appear if he were alive today" in the event some random person important to misanthropic gaming nerds* in 1999 updated her "page":
MVB, devil MVB
Michigan could do the same whenever Michigan State came to town or something. Best idea ever? Best idea ever.
*[so, so guilty as charged.]
Exit Fiesta. The NCAA's going to meet about the Fiesta Bowl whatnot soon and could pull the licenses from both the Fiesta (which would be a big deal) and the Insight (which would be a big deal to Minnesota). The shocking, shocking abuses uncovered have caused at least a few guys within the ivory tower to grumble about a playoff:
“The bowls ought to be put under the control of the N.C.A.A.,” said William E. Kirwan, the chancellor of Maryland’s university system and co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which discusses and sometimes makes recommendations on the major issues of college sports.
“One way to accomplish that is to go to a playoff and let it be an N.C.A.A. championship. That would be one way of breaking the back of the B.C.S. I’ve never been in favor of a playoff, but given what I see going on, I think it’s time to press that issue.”
He's got a point. Money currently being spent on strippers and golf by bowl executives could instead be used on strippers and golf by women's basketball coaches.
Nervous yet? In an article heavily laden with moody pictures of confetti, Luke Winn drops the bomb you've been bracing for in a way-too-early top 32(?):
13. Michigan John Beilein is on the verge of a breakthrough in Ann Arbor — that is, if point guard Darius Morris returns for his junior season. Tim Hardaway Jr. was perhaps the nation’s most underrated freshman in ’10-11, and the Wolverines showed flashes of their potential by nearly knocking off Duke in the “third” round. They could make an outside run at the Big Ten title.
Deliciously, Michigan State does not feature. Draymond Green's reaction to this:
As for the Wolverines, that 13 is uncomfortably close to the #15 ranking they got in the preseason AP poll before they imploded two years ago. It's also ridiculous to make these lists before the NBA draft deadline, not that it stops CBS (16) or ESPN (also 16).
Etc.: Corn Nation covers Bo's final season as part of their countdown to joining the Big Ten. Via On The Banks, here's an academic economist who actually seems to have a clue about college athletics. Polynomial efficiency margins from Maize Colored Glasses.
Michigan lacks that one pure dirty scorer. There's no Cammalleri or Comrie or Hensick on this team, nor is there a senior duo like Kolarik and Porter. The best player on the team is probably Carl Hagelin, a guy who dumps in his share of goals but gets them via dint of hard work and speed more than stickhandling through a phone booth and roofing it in close. Caporusso (right) is probably going to end up being the top scorer, and while he's talented he seems a step down from the Hobey types mentioned above. His main skills are getting himself open in dangerous positions and a deadly accurate close-range wrister that allows him to take advantage of the opportunities he gets from there.
The best guys in terms of stickhandling might actually be a pair of defensemen. According to the Daily, Berenson would like to get his freewheeling defense corps more involved in the offense this year. Yost saw signs of that last weekend,with both Langlais and Burlon putting on the pirate hats and sallying forth into the offensive zone. Langlais's ability to zip through traffic and set up the power play was reminiscent of the last guy to wear #7—Hensick—at certain points, and he was clearly looking to yo-ho-ho into the offensive zone when the opportunity presented itself. I've probably made this comparison before, but Langlais is a near clone of Eric Werner, another undersized swashbuckling defenseman who thrilled Yost with his offensive abilities.
Burlon, meanwhile, isn't quite as flashy but is ultra-composed on the puck and has an excellent shot. With those two in the lineup, Michigan will probably deploy two defenders on the top power play unit for the first time in a very long while. BONUS: the offensive dropoff from those two to Kampfer and Summers isn't particularly steep, either. What Michigan lacks in pure death scoring from the forwards they can probably make up for with defensive contributions.
Freshmen. Bullets on the new kids:
- Everyone's been calling AJ Treais a less dynamic version of TJ Hensick and that was borne out. In Hensick's debut as a Michigan player he zipped all over the ice and lit a pair of exhibition opponents up for something like five points; Treais didn't quite get that and he wasn't as dynamic but displayed hints of that kind of ability. He'll probably be stuck on the third line this year, but second power-play unit time awaits and he could hit 20 points.
- Chris Brown is a big, physical dude who needs polish. He tried the old trick where you get position on the defender and then ride in front of him across the net for a scoring chance, but instead of going across the net he went directly into the back of it. He was a second-round pick, but that's way less exciting for the college team in question when you're 6'2"; NHL guys go for size over immediate impact with regularity. Brown was good about putting the body on folks and had some flashes of offensive competence; tough to tell this early but a Ryznar or a Nystrom might be a good comparable.
- Kevin Lynch didn't do much I observed. Judgement withheld.
- I didn't notice Lee Moffie much, either, except for a few instances where he showed good poise with the puck. Another Kampfer? He's a bit bigger. He'll probably see a fair amount of healthy scratches this year, as he's the seventh defenseman.
- The two walk-ons, Jeff Rohkemper and Lindsay Sparks, didn't do a whole lot. I liked Sparks better, he seems quick and eminently capable of being an annoyance on the forecheck. He had some pop in junior, too.
Lines? The official hockey twitter threw out the following lines for Sunday's game against Windsor:
- Wohlberg, Caporusso, Czarnik
- Lebler, Treais, Winnett
- Hagelin, Lynch, Brown
- Rohrkemper, Ciraulo, Vaughan
During the season, Rust will draw into the lineup somewhere, bumping someone on the top three lines onto the fourth. Before the weekend I would have assumed this was a lock to be Lebler, but Lebler looked surprisingly good for a guy who's mostly been an end-of-roster grinder thus far.
The fourth line will be whoever the top-nine refugee is plus a blender of Glendening, Ciraulo, Vaughn, Sparks, and Rohrkemper. I'm betting on Glendening to play most of the games and everyone else to rotate, drawing in when injuries and whatnot happen.
That is a lot of depth. The nominal second line here is really the third line; a top line like that above backed up with something like Hagelin/Rust/Brown and a third line of Winnett/Lynch/Treais is a lot of scoring depth, and that's not even considering the defense, which was scratching an NHL draft pick last year and is currently Summers-Kampfer-Langlais-Burlon-Llewellyn-Pateryn. I am confident in all of those guys, though I'm not a big fan of Llewellyn's tendency towards unnecessary roughing penalties, and then you've got a scholarship kid on the bench. In all places except goal, this is the deepest Michigan team in a while.
The Blues Brothers. Okay. Okay: seriously. Okay. Remember that one guy who was really, really into Kid A in college and whenever you'd go over to his room, Kid A would be on and at first it was cool and then eventually you just dreaded it because God who wants to listen to Kid A again? I, sadly, am at that point with "Can't Turn You Loose." Ever since Jack Johnson left and Superfan sold out and there was no alpha dancing dog, the second period dancing thing has been a chaotic mess**. Then at the end of the season two years ago the entire student section started dancing, which would have made for a really cool end-of-year tradition. Instead, it happens every second period and then the students demand more and the band is playing "Can't Turn You Loose" for like ten minutes straight.
Sure, everybody loves Kid A*. But sometimes it's a little too much, proto-emo kid. You make me want to go hang out with that guy who's always watching The Breakfast Club and mouthing the lines.
*(Except me. Never got the whole Radiohead thing.)
**(In the long long ago, there was just one guy who danced. Usually it was Superfan. When Superfan was not there it fell to either 1) guy in a ridiculous costume or 2) most humorously fat guy in the section. Then Jack Johnson came along and his dad did it to the delight of all other than Jack Johnson; after Johnson left about eight different people tried to take the mantle, one of whom was just a complete failure and would not listen to reason, thus causing the long descent into Unapproved Behavior. The unwritten law, now discarded, of Can't Turn You Loose is this order:
- Jack Johnson Sr
- Frankenberry costume or penguin costume guy.
- Other humorously attired student.
- Guys dressed up like Blues Brothers
- Biggest, most ungainly guy in the section is drafted.
At no point should anyone who has ever worked for WOLV dance. YES I TAKE THIS VERY SERIOUSLY.)
Other band note. Major plus points for playing Temptation—all of Temptation—and Hawaiian War Chant in the first intermission. The You Can't Have One Without The Other duo is criminally underused across all Michigan sports and should be implemented whenever and wherever possible. Hopefully they continue that all season.
Minor ding: probably shouldn't play the Victors right before the team comes out, because then you're just going to have to play the Victors again.
2011 Recruitin'. High-end forward commit Lucas Lessio's playing at St. Mike's—the program that provided Cogliano, Caporusso, and Burlon to Michigan—in the OPJHL, but saw his OHL rights traded to another team that might have a better shot at him. The Wolverine's Bob Miller points out an interview with Lessio conducted after that trade. He's not headed for the OHL:
"I just love it there; I fell in love with it when I went to watch a game three years ago," said Lessio. "My heart's been set there probably ever since." …
"I try not to see these two seasons as an opportunity to relax knowing where I will be in two years," Lessio informed. "I always try to work hard at everything I do because if you work hard, even in practice, that's how you'll get better. Working hard should be your number one priority and then the rest of the things will fall into place so that's my number one priority when I go out there every game."
Rest of the article is worth a read; apparently Lessio just pulled out a version of this baby:
Miller also suggests that Austin Czarnik, the Michigan State decommit and last year's NTDP U-17 points leader, could be headed to an arena near you in the not particularly near future:
Heard this evening that a certain forward may who recently de-committed from wearing green and white may just wind up wearing maize and blue in the end. Cough...Austin Czarnik...cough. Info was second hand, but from a knowledgeable source.
Czarnik is one of those 5'8" puck wizards Michigan has a rich history of deploying to entertaining effect, and would be a great pickup to go with Lessio in the burgeoning 2011 class.