A man who knew how to live.
RIP Terry Pratchett. British author Terry Pratchett died on Thursday at 66, eight years after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.
Occasionally, people ask me about how to be a successful writer. This is kind of like asking a football player about his rad interception after the game—I don't really know, it just happened. But no one likes that answer. So my second-best guess is that I read many different things over a long period of time, and written various things for public consumption all along. Eventually I'd cribbed my style from so many different people that the pastiche seems like something its own. Voila: writer with Voice.
Pratchett was the first and most painfully obvious theft of the Big Four. (The others: Bloom County author Berke Breathed, David Foster Wallace, and SI's Paul Zimmerman.) He had not yet made a successful transition to this side of the Atlantic, but I had a friend in high school whose aunt was in British publishing. She passed Pratchett along to him, and he doled the books out to me one at a time. I lost one once and was terrified that I would not be entrusted with additional precious objects. But my friend kept giving them to me. For a time afterwards my prose was littered with jaunty footnotes and anthropomorphizations of natural forces. A pale imitation of the real thing.
I kept some of that, toning it down, and as I was reading the internet's obituary of the man I found this, in his own words:
There is a term that readers have been known to apply to fantasy that is sometimes an unquestioning echo of better work gone before, with a static society, conveniently ugly “bad” races, magic that works like electricity, and horses that work like cars. It’s EFP, or Extruded Fantasy Product. It can be recognized by the fact that you can’t tell it apart from all the other EFP.
Do not write it, and try not to read it. Read widely outside the genre. Read about the Old West (a fantasy in itself) or Georgian London or how Nelson’s navy was victualled or the history of alchemy or clock making or the mail coach system. Read with the mind-set of a carpenter looking at trees.
This is what I've done. I barely read sports books. I get a lot of them in the mail, or at least I used to before people cottoned onto the fact that a review was not likely to be forthcoming. I read fiction, right now mostly science fiction, and I think it serves the site well.
Pratchett was endlessly creative and subversive, often taking hallowed but trope-laden fantasy novels apart then reassembling them into a half-parodic, half-genuine whole far better than the source material. He found a platform, then found that he'd rather make his own characters than repackage the frustrating ones he found elsewhere. He was excellent at this as well. He always maintained a healthy fear of hollow marketing—Pratchett elves are twisted creatures who live in a neighboring dimension that project an aura of glamour that iron disrupts. His most prominent and probably favorite character was DEATH, yes with the bones and the scythe and everything. He was simultaneously very weird and very kind and very upset, and I'll miss him.
If you're interested in trying him out, I recommend Good Omens, a book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, Guards! Guards!, and Small Gods.
YES OKAY. I did think to myself "by dang, Dave Brandon was selling Extruded Michigan Product" when I read that.
Leach + Ufer. Via Dr. Sap:
Enter the 30 second shot clock. The NIT is experimenting with that and an NBA-size restricted circle, both of which are changes I can get behind as a COLLEGE BASKETBALL CRISIS skeptic. Kenpom notes that the Vegas over/unders for opening-round NIT games differ from his numbers by…
Predicted total score of Tuesday’s NIT gamesMe Market Ala/Ill 126 136 GW/Pitt 125 136 NCC/Miami 117 129 UTEP/Murray 144 151 Mont/TAMU 125 134 UCD/Stan 140 148 Iona/URI 144 152
The difference here is an average of seven percent. Apply that to the average scoring this season of 66.85 points per game and you’d get 71.5. That’s over a point higher than last season when the scoring average was propped up by an increase in free throws early in the season. And it’s higher than any season since 1996.
…seven percent, which in fact precisely offsets the drop in possessions from 2002 (the first year for which Kenpom has data) to 2015. Kenpom also points out that the drop from 45 seconds to 35 resulted in just a two percent increase in pace.
If this year's NIT doesn't show a large negative impact on efficiency, I would expect the 30 second clock to become standard in the near future.
Miller says adios. Already covered by Ace when it happened; Miller releases his own reasoning on twitter. It sounds like he was just done with football. This kind of thing happens when you have a transition, and if Miller didn't have much of an NFL career in the wings (he didn't) it makes sense to just go be in the world… if the alternative you most closely associate with continuing is the last two years of Michigan football followed by a jarring change.
I don't think this is a major issue since Michigan finally has a lot of depth that is not any variety of freshman. It is an indication that the team spirit was worn down extensively over the past couple years. It's one thing to walk away from an NFL job—it's a job. It's another, or at least should be another, to do so when you could be a senior at Michigan. Hopefully Harbaugh can restore that difference.
But it could be a problem because… Graham Glasgow violated the terms of his probation and is suspended as a result. The nature of his violation is worrying:
Michigan offensive lineman Graham Glasgow has been suspended from the program, according to a UM spokesman, after testing .086 on a Breathalyzer given on Sunday and violating his probation.
Testing barely over the legal limit to drive is not a big deal if you are not driving… except this test was done at ten in the morning. That is a red flag.
If Glasgow comes through this okay and gets a handle on things, the OL can sustain Miller's departure by sliding him back to center and inserting Erik Magnuson with little loss of efficacy. If Glasgow flames out, then things start to look a bit thin.
Harbaugh is hands on. Knuckle placement.
Hearing about it is one thing.
But seeing your head coach lying on the ground during practice to demonstrate the proper center-quarterback exchange technique?
Well, things get real at that point.
"He's really hands on with everything," the Michigan junior running back said with a smile Thursday. "When I first saw him (on the ground like that), I was like 'why is he doing this?' But I asked the centers the next day if that helped them and they said it did, they said that was the first time anyone had showed them something like that.
"So, I enjoyed it."
"…and barely avoided bursting into laughter like Derrick. RIP Derrick."
More people. Erik Campbell returns to staff as a… guy… who does… things. Probably works with film, breaks down opponent tendencies, that sort of thing. Michigan also added Cleveland St. Ed's head coach Jim Finotti as their Ops guy.
Obligatory. John Oliver on the NCAA:
It's a racket. Related: here's Andy Schwarz on Purdue's "internal services" sleight of hand. Long story short, Purdue takes profit from the athletic department and pretends it's an expense they are paying for. In this way it appears like the Boilermakers are not in the black, helping the NCAA cry poverty.
Finally. Bill Raftery, at 73, gets to call the Final Four. Raftery manages to bring the enthusiasm Dick Vitale does without being a braying nonsense merchant; he is one of the chosen few media people who can be utterly himself without getting in trouble for it and still be awesome. (Another: Scott Van Pelt.)
On long practices. Joe Bolden:
“I would say it’s probably the longest I’ve ever been on the football field, other than a game with a rain delay like Utah last year,” said senior linebacker Joe Bolden. “To me it flies by. If you tell a high school or college kid that they’re going to have a four-hour practice in pads they’ll think you’re a bit crazy. But at the same time, you don’t think about it when you’re out there. Your body can take a lot more than you think it can. If he wants to practice six hours, and it’s (within the practice time cap), then we’ll practice six hours.”
This man was not one of the Big Four influences. A nation realizes that those rabid anti-Rosenberg Michigan fans were probably right all along.
— cuppycup (@cuppycup) March 17, 2015
Etc.: Engineering your bracket. MGoGirl basketball post mortem. Jordan Morgan has a foundation now. John Harbaugh talking to the team. Enter another Glasgow. A comprehensive look at when to foul late in basketball games.
[file because today was a suit day]
Your brother told us that you threw people out of practice yesterday.
That's what he said. Rick Leach too?
“No, you'd never kick Rick Leach out of a Michigan practice.”
Who won the last time-
“That was exaggerated.”
Who won the last time you two played golf?
“I don't know. He won the last big one.”
He said he won nine holes and then you too played two extra holes that you won.
“I don't recall.”
You had five practices. Are you getting a better feel for the personnel and what you have to work with?
“Yes, yes. You get a better feel for – you get to know people as you go. You learn a little more about someone every day.”
Can you talk a little bit about personnel at the center position? I know you've had some attrition.
“Uh huh. Yes.”
I was just wondering who's filling in.
“Glasgow's doing a real nice job. He's been a tough, steady player. We will need others at that position as well.”
Were you disappointed to see Jack [Miller] leave or did you understand it?
“Yeah, and I appreciated the honesty and I have a level of respect for what he had to say and continuing his education. There is some job opportunities that he has and he's going to pursue that, so you always appreciate the honesty.”
In terms of quarterbacks is there maybe one thing that you want a little bit more of right now? How's that all going?
“It's going good. We're making strides every day, like I said earlier. They're doing a lot of little things better and better each day and they're all really – it means a lot to them, each guy that we have. That's all you can ask for as a coach.”
[I purposely didn’t do bullets because you’re going to want to read everything after THE JUMP]
FORMATION NOTES: I didn't find anything particularly unusual from Michigan but I need something visual so here's a gopher annoying a rich incompetent person.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Aside from Morris, the usual. Magnuson was out for this FWIW, and Green was still available.
[After THE JUMP: nothing you want to see.]
FORMATION NOTES: Hello tiny TEs. Michigan used a lot of formations where they would bring a wide receiver tight to the line to act as a blocker. Here's Chesson in what I called "pistol biggish," because it's only big-ish.
For its part, Miami ran an under front whenever presented with seven blockers for the opposition, and about 90% of the time brought a safety down late or just lined him up in the box.
This press look was not common.
Miami would roll that safety down before this snap, FWIW.
Michigan used a lot more under center stuff in this game. Under center stuff was approximately 55% of the offense after being maybe 20% against ND, and there were a lot of tight ends. Only about 40% of Michigan's snaps had 3 WRs, again way down from ND.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Line static: Cole/Magnuson/Miller/Glasgow/Braden. I saw Kalis in for the last drive, and I thought I saw him earlier in the game live but either I missed it in the film review or my mind was playing tricks on me. 61/67 are not easy to distinguish. Burzynski got in at the tail end at left guard.
Gardner QB; RB mostly Green, with less Smith and Hayes relegated to third down duties and some late stuff. Johnson did not appear. Mo Hurst(!) got a goal line FB snap. Showy, but a dollar says Kerridge is more effective. At TE, Butt got a little bit more time but it was still mostly Williams and Hill, with Heitzman again appearing sporadically.
Without Funchess, Darboh and Chesson were the main guys at WR, with Norfleet marginalized with a ton of 2TE sets. Damario Jones got about as much playing time than Canteen, making the first catch of the game.
[After THE JUMP: yards, eventually, and yet more infinite RB discussion.]
News bullets and other items:
- Hoke will tell us if someone is out for the year. That’s about all you can expect as far as injury updates go.
- Graham Glasgow is taking snaps at center and right guard.
- Hoke thought the team prepared well last week.
- He emphasized red zone defense and finishing drives as the two areas that most need to improve.
- Matt Wile and Kenny Allen will compete for kicking duties.
“Thanks for coming. You know, as far as where we’re at as a team, we went back to work yesterday and the attitude and how our guys have stayed together, the leadership throughout the team has been awfully positive. I like the work ethic and I still like the work ethic from a physical and mental standpoint. You always evaluate where you're at and what you need to do and what could you have done differently and we've done that. We've talked about it from coaching staff-wise, from player-wise. Preparation was awesome throughout the week. It was as good as I've been around. Preparation in Michigan City at the hotel was awesome. Feel very good about our football team in a lot of ways. We've got to prepare. We got to execute a little better but as far as where this team's at I'm excited. We understand that our goals are still out there and now we've got to turn to Miami and be back at home with our students and the Michigan fans and go back to work."
How does the defensive approach have to change when you lose some key people like out of the secondary? I think you talked about when you can press man and when you had to back off of that.
“Well, I do think you've got to know your personnel. Number one, you want to make sure you put your personnel in positions so that they can be successful. In the second half we played more zone and from a defensive standpoint there were some things that we need to be tighter on. Some technique issues that we've got to clean up. Sometimes that happens when guys gets in certain environments where your fundamentals and techniques are everything. I thought we lost that and some of that is the environment that you're in. You either speed up – and I think we did that a little bit because of that or you just lose your fundamentals and techniques. So to answer your question yeah, you look at it and you change it a little bit."
Talk about having Jake Butt back and what his ceiling is. You look at his tools and where his ceiling is; where might he go?
"Well, you know, Jake was kind of a gametime decision in some ways and didn't play a lot of snaps but we'll see how he progresses. I think we’re going to be very cognizant of where he is from a physical standpoint and what's too much. We do the same thing in practice, what's too much and what's not. The technology today with some of the GPS things we’re into teaches a lot and you learn a lot. Health and wellness issues are part of that and talking about Jake is making sure we are doing the right things with him."
Talk about his…
"Well, we think he’s a very good football player. He ended up last year very well. I think he's learned a lot and he's one of those guys who is on the leadership council that isn't afraid to, even though he's a young guy, speak his mind and give his true reactions and feelings."
Talk about some of the positives and the improvement in the run defense.
"Well, the front seven I thought he did a pretty good job from that standpoint. Guys that we rotated throughout in the middle of the defense, I think they were aggressive. I thought they were gaps sound. I think Willie [Henry] may have had the most production of all of them but he and Ryan [Glasgow] as a group in there, I thought they did a nice job. That was a physical offensive line and so we got to take from what they did last week into this week and improve upon that."
Devin Funchess- we saw him leave the game and come back in. How’s he doing?
"He's fine. I'm not going to talk about any injuries but he's fine."
Did he workout and everything yesterday?
"He was in the building yesterday, yeah."
[After THE JUMP: pointed words about a lack of faith in the Big Ten, Hoke’s message for Michigan fans, and more player-specific non-injury-related questions]
file because I need to remember to shoot landscape next time
News bullets and other items:
- Jabrill Peppers was held out of the second half to immediately receive treatment
- Yet it was not classified as a boo-boo
- Delano Hill, Graham Glasgow, and Peppers are all expected to be available against Notre Dame
- Kyle Kalis’ back is fine
- Hoke said Ray Taylor may have played his best game at Michigan against Appalachian State
- Hoke took Devin Funchess off special teams. Funchess got mad, so Hoke put him back on
- Hoke said there’s a plan for how to use Glasgow
- All of the coaches mentioned a plan. Hoke said it’ll be a good one. No one cared to share what it was.
“Number one, thanks for coming out. It was good to get the win last week. I think one thing was, part of that was that the crowd was into it. I think there was a lot of energy. The students, I know our guys feed off that so it was a great energy throughout the whole game. That always helps you as a football team.
“We need to build off of what we did on Saturday and continue to get better and improve offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game. Offensively, we have to be more precise in the precision in our passing game. That’s one thing that coming out that the offensive coaches and Doug [Nussmeier] really felt that the precision needed to be better. That’s mechanics, route running, the spacing that you need to have.
“The interior of the defensive front needs to be better. They got some yardage in there as far as through the middle of the defense. Some of it’s just fits, some of it’s not getting off blocks. That’s going to be a real emphasis and needs to be. And then winning the fourth quarter’s always huge and we didn’t do that as a team when you look at points in the fourth quarter. Those things we’ve got to do a better job. Turnover battle- we turned the one over, didn’t get any turnovers. You know, you don’t want to play football that way. You want to be on the plus side of that if you’ve got a chance to win so that being said those are things we need to do. We’ve moved to a new opponent, obviously. It’s one of the great rivalries in football and we’re excited about it.”
Can you talk about how the offensive line graded out on film and will we see any changes this week?
“Well, the guys up front all did some real good things and did some things they’ve got to do a better job of. We’ll have a plan for what we want to do this week.”
With Jabrill [Peppers], it didn’t look like he came out in the second half. What was the reason for that and this week are you going to limit him at all?
“He’s been in there all morning getting treatment. We haven’t started school yet. We decided- I made a decision at half time because they could start treating it right then not to come out in the second half. You know, [instead of being] in a boot on the sideline start the process of healing. So we’re excited and we’ll evaluate every day but he’s working hard to get better.”
You mentioned interior defense. Have you guys had a chance to look at Notre Dame’s running backs at all?
“Yeah. We started that yesterday, yeah. I think that they rushed the ball pretty well against Utah State. I think that have two backs that are a little bit similar and one that’s a bigger bruiser guy and they ran the ball pretty well.”
So with Jabrill would you say he’s a question mark for Saturday?
“I don’t think it’ll be a question mark. I think he’ll be ready to play.”
Did he go yesterday with you guys?
You mentioned the offensive line. Where does Graham [Glasgow] settle in here?
“Well, we’ve got a plan for it and we’ll go through the week.”
Do you want to divulge what that is?
[After THE JUMP: evaluating the defense, scouting Notre Dame, and the inevitable Nussmeier-on-the-sidelines questions]