"(I) think about 'The Lion King,' Simba gets hit over the head and (he's told) 'the past can hurt,' " Harbaugh said Monday afternoon. "'You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it.'
I don't know how many times I have exited Michigan Stadium. I've never counted. I know that I've crossed the threshold with my hands defiantly pushed into my hoodie's front pocket in silent protest at the insanity of trading a quarter of Michigan football for less traffic. I've left the Big House with those same hands expressively communicating an important point about The Fellowship of the Ring to a fraternity brother. I've left with them running through my rain-soaked hair, left with them clutching my temples for fear my skull might come apart at the seams, and left with them pumping "It's Great to Be a Michigan Wolverine!" into the night. I have at different times in my life, walked out of that edifice gripping a smart phone, a new set of cupware, my father's farm-calloused hand, and a degree. But not once when I came to that threshold, did I ever need those hands for expressing "Farewell."
Last November Jamie Mac did, because he thought he was going to die:
As halftime approached, we had had enough. The weather was cold. The football was miserable. Most of the rest of our crew was at a bar. It was time to join them. I was fine with that until we were actually about to leave the stadium grounds. While my friends hustled out to flag a cab on Stadium Boulevard, I froze, not wanting to pass through the exit gates the way Archie Moonlight Graham didn't want to cross over the first baseline in the movie Field Of Dreams. Moonlight knew he would not be able to play ball on the Field of Dreams anymore once he crossed over that baseline. And I was afraid that once I left Michigan Stadium, I would never return.
The author of Just Cover Blog, regular contributor to this site and the podcast, and nicest Michigan fan you'll ever meet, had what happened to Michigan happen to his body. If you passed his tailgate at the end of Fingerle or had a beer with him at Football Eve, you already know that things turned out pretty Harbaugh for him too. But as I crossed beneath a brick arch for the uncountable time, I found my hand was on my cheek, using the center finger to plug a tear duct, because after reading that diary all I could think about while walking out of the Big House was what a wonderful thing it is that Jamie still gets to.
[Deep breath, then jump for the rest of the best in reader-contributed content in the other tone]
So this week a group of a certain kind of idiot students tried to get the student body to fund a Frankenstein-ian effort to
replace compete with the best fight song ever composed. Once the entirety of the soul-possessing Michigan fanbase wanted to slap them in the face, they withdrew this petition to make way for an amended version that makes it clear they'll keep The Victors alongside their proposed abomination.
Today they're still fighting—one made a radio appearance to complain that his talking points were getting all scrambled in the mad rush to explain to him just what a bad idea this is. In the show he clarified a number of things, like that they've gone to "many" student groups to get more spoons into the kitchen, and addressed important things like the song's branding and a documentary film about how it was made, but haven't actually, you know, written any song. He also emphasized that they don't want to get rid of the The Victors (just have it compete with their self-aggrandizing golem), and expressed hope that it would get picked up around the country, like how Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind became a sort of anthem for the Yankees.
Ace and Brian already addressed how the thing and the guy proposing the thing are ridiculous (and Brian had to explain his tongue was in his cheek afterwards). Since the offseason generates user content at a slower pace, in lieu of Dear Diary* this morning I wanted to talk about what's so irreplaceable about The Victors, and provide a little deeper discussion on the topic than the prima facie "ungh that's horrible."
Change? Michigan has, in fact, changed its fight song several times in its history. Most notably, they replaced The Victors with Varsity for a time, because once Michigan had rage-quit the Western Conference, "Champions of the West" no longer made any sense.
An early favorite, and still the opening of any glee club concert, was Laudes Atque Carmina (Praises and Songs), written by Charles M. Gayley, class of 1878, and arranged by Albert Stanley. Here's the line I love:
Oohhh decus omnium
O salve Universitas Michiganesium
What a perfect description of the Michigan zeitgeist: "Glory and Victory—oh, and be virtuous in everything while you're at it please kthx."
|Apparently we have to explain why this is worth keeping around.|
This is probably a more applicable sentiment today than hailing long-dead heroes for conquering Maroons and Fighting Methodists.** But it's also in Latin, and dated, and pedantic, and most importantly nobody knows the words unless they've done glee.
The anthems of Michigan's songbook† range in tenor from bawdy drinking songs to, well, pretentious drinking songs. The majority of them come from before World War II, and for a very good reason: that's when people used to sing a lot.
In the time before recording/playback devices, the way a hit song spread was by printing the sheet music. The way they got music into a bar was to get everyone in the bar to sing it. Michigan students would bring their songbooks to dinner, or dorm meetings, and certainly the game. As many students knew the verses to The Victors as could name the quarterback. The most typical extra-curricular activity was to cross Division‡ to their favorite pubs, fill a mug, and join the chorus.#
For thousands of years, getting drunk and singing together was one of the best parts of a human existence. Psychologists even found that most peoples' brains are wired to fire off the same happy feelings you get from love or a massive success when belting out a song surrounded by friendly people doing the same (no matter how it comes out). Biologically, we sing our fight song for the same reason we gather with 113,000-odd people to watch college football: The Natural High.
These things are not manufacturable; they are eruptions from abnormally articulate ids that by astronomical odds came out both cogent and catchy. The chance of finding one is the same likelihood that whatever just escaped from this guy…
…just happened to be organized into a comprehensible language that both rhymes and fits a Souza meter. Mankind's best effort to R&D this phenomenon resulted in heroin.
This stuff has to come from a random and deep subconscious because the brain cannot devise its own distraction.‖ Football came out of some students with a field and a ball who wanted to get their rrraaaarrrgh out. The Victors came out of Louis Elbel in the following state:
My spirits were so uplifted that I was clear off the earth, and that is when “The Victors” was inspired. To my thinking, Michigan Spirit needed a fitting paean, a clarion call — something simple but grand and heroic, something to let out on. Very shortly the strain of “Hail to the Victors” came to mind, and gradually the entire march. I am interested in the psychology of composing, but never have been able to answer satisfactorily just how a “tune” originates in my head. It is easy enough to make tunes, but sweeping, inspiring strains are not made — they flash unawares. And so it was with “The Victors.”
The Victors, like college football, is a weird configuration that happened to bring out a mass, biological, positive feel. Finding a thing like that is like capturing a moon: if it's a little un-genuine it'll crash, and if it's a little unpopular it'll shoot off into space, and if it's not awesome nobody will notice it.
Hail and Unite, then, is the equivalent of Disney suggesting we add a 1,000-mile radius Mickey Mouse (or maybe a Jar Jar Binks—we don't know—but we are talking to lots of interest groups and might have it designed by Bill Watterson and Matt Groening, and our marketing program uses lots of power words) to Earth's orbit, then saying it's okay because you still plan to leave good ol' Luna in the sky for the sake of the traditionalists.§ Even suggesting this shows a staggering misunderstanding of where moons come from, the physics involved, or why people like the one we have. You should not be involved in anything having to do with moons.
Could there ever be another song added to the pantheon? Yes, absolutely! It's a very big bowl; there is room for more than The Victors, and Varsity, and the alma mater, and Let's Go Blue, and the cowbell, and Hawaiian War Chant, and Temptation, and the shortened version of Temptation we sing to rub in the fact they have to give us the ball back now. Most of the glee club's lineup is pre-1940 for the reason above, but every half century or so one of the many new arrangements is canonized.¶ There could be a young savant sitting in the Music School right now who, in the course of a jubilant, all-maize bus ride from Columbus to Ann Arbor late next fall, will gurgitate a timeless thing that'll trick all future generations of Michigan fanbrains into releasing their jealously guarded serotonin.
There's a reason only a handful of schools have found their "Hail!", their "Ramblin' Wreck", their "Rocky Top" or their "Echoes." If you need Eminem (or the version of him you can get for $1,000) to make it cool, you're doing it this way:
the internet never forgets.
And if you're ever talking about how to market a work of art before it's even created, you are doing it exactly wrong.
* Dear Diary in Latin is "Carus Commentarius" and I am highly tempted to change the name of the column to that.
** Chicago and Northwestern
† One claims Ann Arbor should rank with Socratic Greece and Newton's Oxford. There's another called "Michigan Men" that begins with the line "Rum pum pum pum! Rum pum pum pum! Yiddy yiddy iddy yiddy Um pum, Um, pum, Um pum um." Another you might have heard is I Want to Go Back to Michigan.
‡ Division Street is named such because it was literally the division between the city and campus, which was dry.
# Little Brown Jug was one of the most popular bar songs of the early 20th century, if you ever wondered how an oversized, half-blue/half-maroon cask that used to be white got termed as such. If some local bar wants to start a 1910s-style drink-and-sing night I am so there.
‖ You can't hypnotize yourself, for example.
§ And the Michigan Alumni Association on it.
¶ The last was Michigan Remember, a poem from 1963 and set to music in 1993.
So a business school student and his LSA buddy had a spectacularly bad idea. No, we don't need a new fight song to pair with The Victors, the best fight song in the long and storied history of fight songs. That suggestion alone is enough to make an idea very bad indeed, but what sets this bad idea apart is the details. Lord almighty, is this just the worst of ideas. Why?
WE ALREADY DID THIS. Remember "In The Big House"? Dave Brandon already tried this. When Dave Brandon tries something, it means you should never, ever try to do that thing again.
WHY IS THIS EVEN A GOAL?
“This project is meant to be, number one, extremely unique,” Weiss said. “The goal of this song is to get a lot of big names that are associated with the University.”
I'll try to ignore that the kid called his unoriginal and terrible idea "extremely unique" and address the idea that the University of Michigan needs "big names" associated with it.
I think we're good, thanks.
FINE, LET'S HEAR YOUR BIG NAMES.
While the song’s lyrics and tune are still undetermined, Weiss said it is the organization’s aim to involve big names in the music business and University alumni to contribute to the song. For example, he said Weinberg wants to get Eminem involved.
Weiss also said that David Banner, a rapper and music producer, has already agreed to produce the final product.
I'd laugh if not for the overwhelming feeling this guy is serious, which makes me quite sad. Let's start with Eminem.
- Not an alum! You probably knew that.
- In fact, his daughter goes to Michigan State.
- Peaked in 1999, hasn't made good music since 2002. His new music is basically the old music with more yelling, less novelty, worse production, and an unfortunate amount of auto-tune.
- Is gleefully misogynistic and homophobic in his music, which probably isn't the ideal way to represent the University.
- Charges in the neighborhood of $30-40K per verse, so not only is he a bad idea, he's an expensive bad idea.
In the other corner, we've got David Banner, who's from Jackson, Mississippi, and is inextricably associated with Southern rap. His solo career peaked in 2005 with the club single "Play" and he hasn't released a major label album since 2008. It's a little shocking that a current college student would suggest David Banner, because I feel old playing "Cadillac on 22's" in my car. I can't imagine most students associate the name David Banner with anything outside of the Incredible Hulk.
HERE'S WHAT AN EMINEM/DAVID BANNER COLLABORATION WOULD PROBABLY SOUND LIKE IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2015.
“The Victors” could soon have a modernistic younger sibling.
If a resolution presented to the Central Student Government on Tuesday night passes, the body will provide funding to a group of students looking to develop an additional thematic song to play at University athletics events.
Central Student Government.
I don't know who you are. If you're looking for jobs I can tell you I don't have any. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired from the internet. Skills that make me a nightmare for people who will be in job interviews with people who have googled you. If you vote this down unanimously, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for your facebook photos. I will not scour your instagram. But if you vote for this, I will find your linkedin. I will find your whole internet. And I will kill your search results.
dude annihilated his twitter page two seconds after I found it
The patient zeroes:
Business sophomore Adam Weiss, a representative on the CSG Assembly, spoke on behalf of the song campaign, which he called “Hail and Unite.” He said his friend, LSA senior Mike Weinberg, conceptualized the project.
“This project is meant to be, number one, extremely unique,” Weiss said. “The goal of this song is to get a lot of big names that are associated with the University.”
"Extremely unique." #expelAdamWeiss
"That was the finest beating I ever took."
Define the scope of the problem. After the Bama game I texted with my best friend Tres. Tres lives deep in SEC country, where the only conversation anyone ever has about college football is about how the SEC is better at it. So of course big Michigan—the Michigan that tripped up Tebow and outscored Shawn Alexander—getting gutted by the Crimson Tide has made his life oh so pleasant the last two weeks. Tres suggested that game was like when Amsterdam first tries to kill the Butcher. Walking into Bill's great big Dallas party and chucking it long to Devin Gardner while not getting Denard lit up was always doomed to fail, and in such a way that not even a moral victory might be claimed. So was going toe to toe and talent for talent with Saban the Butcher. But it's also that point in the movie when you learn what it takes to beat Bill: recruit your own army and come at him from the front.
Here's Ball State's old head coach talking to his players—among them mgouser IncrediblyBLUE—after "quieting the Big House" and losing…
He told us we needed to build on the positives, that we needed to use the energy we had taken with us to Ann Arbor and move forward to the rest of the season. This my friends, is when Coach Hoke told us that "a moral victory is still a .... loss."
This is how far you need to get, and if you don't get there you lose. Let it be a lesson.
I've almost exhausted the amount of times I can be like "I met this football player once" but there's one last important nugget from when I chatted up MSU LB Chris Norman for an hour at an airport. This is about when they played Alabama in that Citrus Bowl a few years ago. It was a blowout but according to Norman it was the most important game they ever played. Paraphrasing, facing Bama showed them exactly how far they needed to get. Players don't care who was a 3-star and who in the Rivals 100—they get on the field with guys like Dont'a Hightower or Courtney Upshaw and see linebacking done right.
We now know how far Michigan needs to get to win Hoke a championship.
More problem solving after the jump
A guy who gets it slightly more than the first commenter on the post.
In re: the sabotage version of Special K for a Day:
This is pretty obscure, so you're totally excused for having missed this, but I think all institutional destroying from the inside pretty much begins and ends with this deep cut: mid-70s Ann Arbor art-noise collective Destroy All Monsters reuniting in 2002 (with the late Mike Kelley on vocals) and disemboweling "The Victors" (begins about 0:47).
This is it:
I still like it better than "In The Big House."
Obviously Hoke and Co. are killing it on recruiting now and things couldn't be better. One thing my friends and I were talking about is how come there are so few good lefty quarterbacks historically. I'm only 29 so my football references are limited, but beyond Steve Young, Vick, Mark Brunell, Esiason, and Tebow can you think of any other top lefty quarterbacks that panned out? Should we be worried about Sugar Shane? Any idea why this is the case? Do high school coaches see strong lefty quarterbacks and immediately focus them on pitching?
I was initially going to dismiss this as paranoia but here's a blog post listing every lefthanded QB in NFL history as of this year. There have been 39 total, and the list of current lefty starters is Vick and Matt Leinart. Since Young retired in '99, the only lefties to have anything resembling a career are Scott Mitchell, Brunell, Vick, and Leinart with Tebow pending and Chris Simms carving out a modern-day-Todd-Collins ramblin' backup sort of career. Lefties are only 10% of the population but that's a period of 22 years with four(!) lefty QBs of any significance, one of them (Vick) a guy whose amazing physical gifts bought him chances he otherwise would not have gotten. Young was a scrambler, too.
The baseball explanation is plausible. The google leads you to the wikipedia and shows you an extensive discussion of the over-representation of lefthanded players in a lot of sports, including baseball, and when you think about the profile of a potential NFL quarterback and a potential MLB pitcher there's not a whole lot of difference. It's nice if they're tall, they don't really have to run much, and they have to be able to throw a ball through a brick wall. The baseball players don't have to be able to take a helmet to the ribs without folding in half. Football players don't seem to have that kind of restriction. A Venn diagram of the two groups has the NFL prospects as a subset of those for MLB.
The main difference between the two groups is their reaction to left-handedness. MLB says "yes please, with a cherry." The NFL says "this is inconvenient, now I have to reconfigure the offensive line. " So the guys in the NFL subset are much more likely to be sucked out of football, and voila: your population of 6'4" lefty riflemen who enjoy getting crushed is even more depressed relative to righties.
That's a long way of saying that I don't think Michigan has much to worry about in re: Shane Morris. The forces that make lefty NFL quarterbacks rare aren't likely to apply to individual quarterbacks who happen to be lefthanded.
addendum to most embarrassing Michigan items
probably should be slotted in just under the flying squirrel sleeping bag:
the name is incredible. Where is thematic gnome 1?
I think I may know the answer to this since I stumbled across a thematic gnome in my perusal of the official site:
I didn't put it on the list despite its ridiculousness because it's a mean gnome wearing a Michigan hat, what looks sort of like jean shorts, and fake wolverine-like shoes that I doubt exist in real life. It's almost so ridiculous it's defensible? I don't know.
The comment thread on that post turned into a confessional about which users had which items—no one confessed to the chili powder—so these things are obviously subjective. That is, they're subjective unless you're the other variety of person on that thread: the ones who were incensed that the product they perceived as most ludicrous was not higher.
brian, discussing superconferences today got me thinking. if the standards of a conference are 1 crossover game (as in a 16 team superconference) and a post season championship game, then doesn't the big ten and pac 12's future scheduling agreement of 1 game per year and champions playing in the rose bowl create something of a 24 team superconference between the big ten and pac 12?
why should either conference accept any more lower rung schools to dilute their tv money and bowl payouts to get to 16 teams when they already act in the equivalent capacity of a superconference?
I'm like… whoah. The chatter about the Big Ten-Pac-12 pact giving the conferences the advantages of a "superconference" without the drawbacks didn't make much sense to me when it happened, but putting it in that perspective is close to sense.
The way it makes things make sense is by making superconferences seem inexplicable. The ACC went to 14 in a panicked attempt to stave off poaching, or at least preserve a semblance of quality in its aftermath. The SEC went to 14 because Mike Slive screwed up his television negotiations. Absent those motivators why would anyone make a move like that? There is a clear motivation to get to 12—championship game—and none to go to 14 or 16. The superconference meme relies on the idea that the champions of the 16-team Death Stars will meet in a playoff, but how do you get there? You can't have a playoff without the Pac-12 and Big Ten, and neither of those conferences has any motivation to expand.
Hell, if you're Texas or Oklahoma the same logic applies to your ten-team conference. Right now those two teams have the easiest glide path to a playoff. They seem uninterested in getting the conference up to even 12 now that they've stabilized things.
The reasons you usually hear about the motivations to expand are hand-waving about footprints and stuff, unexamined Commisioner's New Clothes assumptions. Opposed to that are very obvious concerns about scheduling and keeping the pie slices the same size when you add teams. 16 team contraptions aren't a stable state. The rumbling in the ACC suggests even 14 is going to be awkward.