i post we are nd again
MORE THAN 8 YEARS IN THE NFL IS A LONG TIME
Boom: chart! by LSA on how long an NFL draftee is expected to last.
The blip is explainable by what's been going on with NFL rookie contracts. The maximum contract for a rookie used to be seven years (hence the peak), but since 2011 every rookie contract has been four years with a team option for a fifth on 1st rounders.
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That CBA made rookie contracts way less complicated and appreciably more team-friendly. An unintended side effect of this has been teams trying to rid themselves of those pre-2011 agreements while holding onto more recent draftees longer than they would otherwise.
Since the rough years in Ann Arbor have now stretched longer than what's typical for any NFL career, the Michigan guys still playing are particularly old. I remember making all-Michigan teams in early Playstation versions of Madden. Try that now and you can squeeze together a one-deep plus Henne, Fitz, Will Campbell, and Cam Gordon on the bench (I 'm using Mundy for now but if you figure Stevie Brown will sign somewhere you can swap them out).
SMART FOOTBALL ON HARBAUGH
It's scheme month on the Solid Verbal Podcast so Smart Football (Chris Brown) has been on. This already is relevant to your interests. But this week's show was on Harbaugh so…
Go to the 47 minute mark to get to the Harbaugh. Dnak at the link provided the bullets for "Bo Schembechler football with Jon Gruden's playbook." Dnak also questioned the suggestion that Fisch is going to be running the offense, a prospect Chris is down on. I do think Jedd's "passing game coordinator" title is legit but Drevno is calling plays, as he did well enough in San Diego, and it's still Harbaugh's scheme and Harbaugh's plans, and Harbaugh's metaphorical nose in the huddle.
Earlier they're talking about Mariota vs. Winston and Chris is asked "In 2015 what's a Pro Style offense and what's a Spread?" and he just rips apart the labels, before using them anyway because we still don't have better to describe two slider setting extremities.
Speaking to what you do with a quarterback, until you've got a Tom Brady/Peyton Manning who in Chris's words is "seeing the Matrix", you design a passing game you can teach and your quarterback can operate. Dials include footwork (shotgun, 3-, 5- and 7-step drops), pre-snap reads, post-snap decision trees, and of course whether his feet are going to be part of the offense. Start with the knobs he's good at, and slowly turn up others as the QB adjusts.
The biggest point is "it all works" as long as your offense puts stress on the defense. The classic example of exactly what you shouldn't do then hangs in the air like a wet Borges fart. It is annoying that Brown excitedly brings up our two chief rivals as examples of cutting edge while the commentary on Michigan's offense is "this stuff may be old but it still works." May it kick ass so the smart coach-y people have to explain why.
[After jump: Austin Davis, night games and the Freekbass Quotient of invitees, why we're all A's fans now]
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.
Brief position paper on hanging a banner on the other team's stadium. It's better than not doing it. It involves scaling a locked fence and risking a night in not just any jail, but a Northern Indiana jail. Judging from the billboards you pass to and from Chicago, the very bars of said jails are made from child molesters righteously imprisoned by the local sheriff.
So, like, what's up, SI? Not one but two of their CFB folks have dumped on the above. Aunt Stabby:
Son, I am disappoint. So here’s the thing: You travel from Ann Arbor to South Bend. You get close to the stadium, circumventing students guarding its iron and concrete honor or whatever. You hang what looks, from a distance at least, like a very well-made banner on a stadium gate. And that banner says … “BEAT THE IRISH”??
We'll discuss the changing fan culture at Notre Dame in more depth later, but Michigan may also want to embrace a new, snarkier age. How could the same fan base that gave us MGoBlog -- one of the best, most irreverent college football sites on the web -- embark on anOcean's Eleven-style caper to infiltrate Notre Dame Stadium only to hang a banner that says "Beat The Irish?" You're traditionalists? Fine. I get that. But in bygone days, college football fan bases also committed better pranks.
Flattery gets you nowhere, Staples. Yeah, okay, it would be a lot better if the sign said simply "RETURNING TO GLORY SINCE 1993" right under "University of Notre Dame. But did Clemson students scale something or other at Doak? Did Notre Dame students set Sparty's head aflame? Bah, bah on you and your bahing. Bah. I bah at you.
ATTENTION STUDENTS THINKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN THE FUTURE: I am now available for snarky consultations on these matters.
I can post this again, I think. If Special K hauls you-know-what out again this will be in error, but since I believe we have dumped you-know-what for good, it's Freekbass time on mgoblog again:
That feels amazing.
BONUS GRATIUTIOUS YOUTUBIN':
2010 from the field from Ryan Terpstra:
Unfortunately the original Yakety Sax went up in flames thanks to Thought Equity Motion.
Holy crap! Mike Rothstein profiles Roy Roundtree and drops a fact that I can't believe no one knew already:
The first major change in Roundtree's life might have set everything else in motion. When he was starting school, his maternal grandmother died and his mom, Sheila, took the Roundtrees from Pahokee, Fla., to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
Roundtree is originally from the Muck. Small world. Also read that, it's good and not paywalled.
Previewland! Hey, guess who forgot to link to everyone's previews in the preview post? This guy. Here you go:
- BWS: "Arbitrary percentage that Michigan wins: 43.79%"
- MNBN: "I have no earthly idea who is going to win this game. I don't even have any criteria in which to make an educated guess. I got nothing."
- M&GB: has an average score of 30-28 M. Also preview.
- TTB: not exactly out on a limb with "Denard Robinson has his worst career performance of the Notre Dame series," predicts 24-20 ND.
- HTR: "This is essentially a greatly scaled down version of the Alabama game," predicts 27-17 ND. Also Who Are You, Why Do We Care.
- Tremendous breaks down the ND defense.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone.
- Meinke predicts the spread, the crafty dog, with ND 31-27.
Auerbach on Mealers. Go:
"After all the bad things, it's been hard to push through that and continue to believe that good things are going to come our way," Brock said. "I just love being able to see him succeed in something he's worked so hard for. He's put in that time and effort for the last four years, and he inspires me the same way so many people tell me I inspire them."
I don't even want to know you. Bacon hears these people on the radio and has written about it in the News:
So, the day after Michigan slaughtered UMass, I was not surprised to hear fans complain about quarterback Denard Robinson's performance. Mind you, Denard ran for 106 yards and a touchdown, and passed for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns.
And that, to one caller, was the problem: "I'm tired of living and dying with Denard." In other words, Robinson was too good for that fan's taste.
hate you hate you hate
Etc.: Ugh, enforced know-nothing user content highlights plague Baumgardner's life. Let's all keep him in our hearts. Also from him are Michigan coaches' first trips to South Bend. Infante on the O'Bannon case documents.
HTTV delivery schedule. I've gotten a lot of emails about when your hands can wrap around a copy of Hail To The Victors, and the answer is "soon." The launch party was the first I'd seen of the magazines myself and we're having some teething problems when it comes to getting them in the mail in a cost-effective way. (Kickstarter's reporting mechanisms are not complicated enough to handle what we wanted to do so we did quite a bit of shoehorning.) I'm expecting this will happen very soon. If you filled out a kickstarter survey, you're good. (If you haven't: do so ASAP.)
UPDATE: Unless we don't have your shipping info, everything that doesnt get a specialty t-shirt will be going out this week. Everything with specialty shirts will be going out mid next week.
Van Bergen 2.0. That's DT commit Henry Poggi, man:
Tremendous: OK, so I have to ask if you've ever seen a picture of Ryan Van Bergen. You can't deny the resemblance.
Henry (laughs): Yes, yes I have seen a few. Actually, when my brother Jim heard that I was looking at Michigan and sent me a picture of Van Bergen on Facebook and told me I looked exactly like this guy.
Tremendous: When we first started doing the site, we did a breakdown on you and I remember Keith calling me going off about how much you looked like Van Bergen, especially with the long hair. What are the long term flow plans?
Henry: I will definitely be staying with the long hair.
Mascot model. He's got a bike, he's in a suit, he's a mascot apart.
Yeah, he's a jaguar, not a wolverine. If he's willing to be environmentally friendly and stand on the sideling clapping disinterestedly while talking about real estate, he's Michigan's man. Jaguar. Whatever.
That's all that's left. It's testament to the work Wolverine Historian has put in that he's just posted highlights of the 1995 Memphis game:
He notes you should keep an eye out for Charles Woodson's hair around the 2 minute mark.
New bowl order. In the long term, John Junker's Fiesta Bowl plunder may be a benefit for college football since it seems like it was a wakeup call to college football conferences. Slapped with a torrent of bad publicity, various commissioners descended to the war room to plan strategy, found that they had all the power, and proceeded using it. First the SEC and Big 12 decided they'd co-own a bowl, now the ACC(!) has made a power play with the Orange Bowl:
If there was any doubt that the bowls are the biggest losers in the new postseason arrangement, the new ACC-Orange Bowl deal should put that to rest. That’s because the most significant part of it is this:
Along with the announcement that it will be aligned with the Orange Bowl, the ACC also told ESPN that it now controls the broadcast rights to the bowl, meaning that it will be taking bids on who broadcasts it, and will be taking at least 50 percent of those broadcast rights for itself.
It’s evidence of a sea change in who’s calling the shots.
“It’s a de-centralization,” one BCS source said. “Conferences taking control of their bowl games and determining who participates in the games. It’s the conferences really loaning their bowl games to us to have semifinals.”
I wonder if the Big Ten and Pac 12 are exerting the same leverage under the table with the Rose Bowl. That seems 50-50: Delany has been pretty ruthless at acquiring the money but Grandaddy don't hear too well these days, sonny, lean in so I can hear you better…
What was that again?
In other bowl rejiggeration news, we've found out what happens when the Rose or whoever loses a team to the playoff:
So when you hear the term “contract bowl” to describe the Rose, Champions and Orange bowls, it literally means those games have their own contracts with individual conferences. Hence, if they lose one of their contracted champions to the playoff, they can replace that team with any other team from that partner conference, minimum ranking be damned. The BCS is not dictating which conferences get these contracts. There’s nothing stopping one of those bowls from signing the Big East or Mountain West, but realistically it’s not going to happen.
That's Stewart Mandel, who also says that this AQ/non-AQ business that was supposed to be going away actually isn't: if the Rose is hosting a semi and the Big Ten champ doesn't make it, they have a guaranteed slot in one of the three "access" bowls that will fill out the new six-bowl red carpet lineup. No such luck for the Big East, let alone anyone else. In practice, expanding the number to 12 and going strictly on the selection committee's rankings of who are the best teams will get remotely deserving minor conference champs in most of the time.
We must protect the Rose Bowl from the horror of hosting the Pac 12 and Big Ten champions. Meanwhile… what the hell?
At least? Big 12 consultant Chuck Neinas and BCS executive director Bill Hancock have told CBSSports.com it remains uncertain how many times the Rose and Champions bowls will host semifinals. Both bowls have reasons to host less than four semifinals each over the course of the 12-year agreement. (24 semifinals in 12 years divided by six bowls = four each.)
We all know the Rose would prefer to have its Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup as often as possible. A little known codicil at the end of the current BCS deal required the Rose to take a non-BCS school only once in an eight-year period. (That was TCU in 2011).
The Big 12 and SEC own the Champions Bowl, essentially a start-up whose valuation grows by the day. The two leagues could find more money playing outside the semifinal (more often than not) with a separate rightsholder.
Protecting the Rose Bowl was priority one for the Big Ten, but this system is not the "if you're in, Rose hosts" system. It's a random rotation that will expose the Rose Bowl to potentially non-sanctified games in some years and has the potential to make the Rose the Grandaddy of Conference Runners-Up when the semifinals rotate away.
That's nuts. By handing away semifinals the Big Ten and Pac 12 are putting their faith in the Rose Bowl's brand over the cachet of the national championship… which, okay, I guess isn't surprising since that's been the MO here since home games were abandoned.
I thought the plan then was to put any game featuring a #1 or #2 ranked Big Ten/Pac-12 team in the Rose, which would have preserved its importance. Now it's mostly a consolation prize in the same way it would have been if there were home games—and the powers that be are trying to make it even more so. We must destroy this tradition in order to save it.
Walton something something. Wiggle? Rod Beard profiles 2013 PG commit Derrick Walton in the News:
"He's a point guard in the pure sense," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Sam Webb. "He had always been a pass-first point guard, but he was a pass-first, pass-second and pass-third point guard. He really had the ability to take over games offensively but was overly concerned with getting his teammates involved.
"There were times when his dad would say to him, 'I need you to go out and get it done offensively.' On the AAU circuit, they told him the same thing with the (Michigan) Mustangs. I remember he responded with seven 3-pointers in a game after he had deferred a little too much."
He probably won't have the immediate impact of Trey Burke because that's a once-in-a-decade kind of thing for anyone outside the realm of obvious one-and-done sorts, but Michigan should be able to survive a Burke departure after this year.
Sure, why not? EDSBS posts "We Are ND" for no apparent reason, which is enough of a reason for me to post it.
This serves as a reminder that we are We Are ND until such time as a pile of "In The Big House" records are burned at midfield.
Brief EA NCAA rant. Their latest gimmick is putting former stars in the uniforms of top rivals—sorry, putting people wearing certain numbers who may or may not be Tebowing but certainly aren't representations of current or former college players—and putting it on the internet to horrify people. They started with Desmond Howard in an OSU jersey and have now put Tim Tebow in a Georgia uniform.
In a nutshell, this is why I quit buying NCAA a few years ago. Instead of making an edition of the game in which receivers catch a realistic number of balls instead of dropping half of them or making a 50-yard pass actually difficult to complete, EA has spent the last decade working on stupid gimmicks and letting their franchise stagnate on a treadmill. Damn you, exclusive licensing.
Etc.: John L Smith declares bankruptcy, confirming that he is the Most Interesting Coach In The World. Purdue blog Hammer and Rails previews Michigan, asserts Boilers will lose 31-20. Notre Dame would like to beat Michigan this year. Jerry Hinnen profiles Betsey Armstrong, who will start in goal for the women's water polo team and could probably tear your arm out of its socket. Apply to be an assistant cheerleading coach. This is where your money is going.
MHN runs down hockey players who never showed up. Amazing how Jack Campbell worked out for Michigan: they get the statistically-best goalie in program history, Campbell puts up a sub-.900 save percentage in the OHL. Western College Hockey blows up Kitchener's libel threat at Slovin.
It was the best time I'd ever had at a Chili's. Nothing whatsoever distinguished it from an average visit to Chili's. The beer was light American lager. The chicken was a bit dry, the cheese the usual half-step up from stuff you'd get in a great red-labeled cube. The waitress was a cheerful slab of the Midwest, and the bill was perfectly reasonable. I grinned and laughed and fought off bouts of body-encompassing tiredness.
An hour or so before I'd sat in Notre Dame Stadium as everyone else filed out. Once they were gone the next twenty minutes were filled with intermittent bursts of laughter. Those weren't enough, so I punched my friend in the arm. The punching and the laughing were good, as they forestalled a short circuit.
When the band marched out, we thought that was our cue. I grabbed one of the souvenir mugs as we exited. When I got home I crudely carved "28-24" on it with a steak knife. It's in the closet. Our walk back was half-accompanied by the band. We met a goodly chunk of my family walking the other way, exchanged excited greetings, and then went about the business of getting out of town. We got to the Chili's just as the adrenaline wore off and the stomach reasserted itself.
A few minutes before everyone filed out Denard Robinson zinged a skinny post to Roy Roundtree on third down and finished the job himself. In the first half Robinson had snuck through a crease in the line, found Patrick Omameh turning Manti Te'o into a safety-destroying weapon, and ran directly at me until he ran out of yards.
He knelt down to give thanks, and that felt inverted.
The next morning sun poured through huge windows in Goshen, Indiana, as I collected items for that week's Video of All Varieties. I'll usually watch some but rarely all unless I'm trying to suck the marrow out of a particularly savory victory. Notre Dame 2010 was one of those. I watched Martin and Van Bergen and others talk in the tunnel afterwards. I watched the highlights, watched the presser, got to Denard, and…
So this thing you dared not hope for starts to coalesce just from the things that happen on the field, and then yesterday morning I was struck by a sense of profound gratefulness when I watched the MGoBlue video of Denard's postgame presser:
I love how he smiles all the time and wears his heart on his sleeve and goes "AHHHH" when someone mentions Roundtree blocking for him and seems about as amazed as everyone else as what he's doing. I love how he drops to one knee after he scores in a way that seems genuine in a way I couldn't comprehend until I saw it. I love that if you ask him he'll sign your forehead. I was going to let my skepticism overwhelm, to wait until it was obvious that 2010 was not going to be 2009, but I lasted two games. I'm in the tank again.
Though Denard turned out to be human (somewhat, anyway) I am still in the tank for him. This offseason a small child in New York City wrote Denard about what it means to be a leader and Denard sent a letter back with a picture:
I need this person to be successful. This is such a relief.
It's no secret I've been one discontent blogger ever since the Mississippi State game transpired. In retrospect a lot of my criticisms don't make sense. I thought Michigan should keep Rodriguez after the Ohio State game and fire him after the bowl; I ripped David Brandon for not firing Rodriguez before the bowl if he was going to do the deed. I knew Denard Robinson was the most awesome dude ever and I still assumed he'd transfer. When I interviewed people for the Tim/Tom opening I asked each of them if they disagreed with something I'd written in the past year or so and asked them to argue about it with me; seven of the ten sought tactful ways to remind me that I'd posted "We Are ND*" above the press release announcing Hoke's hire. One just said I'd embarrassed myself with my pettiness. This turned out to be less useful of a question than I'd hoped since by that point I agreed.
That discontent is an overreaction to a real thing. We're going to get the last great Rodriguez blowup in about a month when John U Bacon's Three And Out hits shelves. It's going to put an inbred culture on display. If Michigan doesn't learn from these three years they'll eventually find themselves right back where they were in 2008, obviously behind their greatest rival with nowhere to turn.
Meanwhile, the athletic department has done an about face from the open Rodriguez days back to a culture of paranoia. I kind of liked it when Rodriguez reached out in a futile attempt to win hearts and minds; now it seems we've returned to the days when the fans were tolerated at best.
In place of openness we get marketing. I am increasingly worried that Michigan is drifting towards the bread-and-circus model you see not just in pro sports but at Michigan State, Ohio State, and especially Penn State where the allegiance of the diehards is taken for granted and the fringes are courted with fireworks and rawk music. I fear the day that Brandon unleashes the fandom bread bowl upon us.
I hate that I hate parts of the stadium experience now and fear those moments will expand rapidly. Never has Notre Dame fandom looked so rational. In this environment there's a risk you disconnect from the program in small or large ways. I've talked to a lot of people for whom that's the case. I don't know—maybe it's just getting older.
Denard overwhelms all reservations. He is pure. He grew up poor in a place infinitely far away from the manicured lawns and Whole Foods of Ann Arbor but came to Michigan because they said he could play quarterback. He says he never thought about leaving when Rodriguez was fired. Michigan is never going to recruit anyone like him ever again.
And there are so many guys like him on the team: Vincent Smith, who is 5'6" and is featured in every insider email I get as the scrappiest grittiest toughest guy the coaches love. He's from Pahokee, which may not exist in five years and will never, ever have another kid commit to Michigan. Roy Roundtree and his Donald Duck impression. Ricky Barnum, whose mom was really sick when he was a freshman and who thought about transferring but stayed. Ryan Van Bergen, who committed to Carr and stayed through Rodriguez and wondered where the alumni had been the last three years. Craig Roh, who runs up and down the stairs in Haven Hall if he gets to class early. David Molk, who drops f-bombs in press conferences that no one minds. Taylor Lewan, who has a mustache tattooed on his finger to impress the ladies. Troy Woolfolk and his werewolf alter-ego. Jordan Kovacs, student-body walk-on. Kevin Koger, twitter handle "KogerNotKroger."
Lewan, Van Bergen
There are no Pryors here. Each of these guys has endured the last three years of crap more gracefully than the university or I have and is still here, trying to set right what started going wrong a long time ago. Whatever reservations I have about the program and its direction are overwhelmed by a fierce desire to see these kids win. Rodriguez may not have been able to keep half the kids he recruited, but the ones who stuck around… man. Denard is their king.
In the course of doing this every year I look at the previous year's preview; last time around I linked to a couple of fantastic pieces. You should read Orson's again just because you should. The piece by Brian Phillips on Pele and David Foster Wallace's Federer essay, though, is relevant to our interests.
In the midst of describing one of these Federer Moments where sport allows us to transcend the limitations of our own bodies, if only vicariously, DFW circles round to the cancer-stricken nine-year-old ceremonial coin-tosser at Wimbledon, William Caines. This is going to be one long blockquote without a paragraph break. I think it's important, though:
I’ve always wondered what Wallace meant by circling back around to talk about William in the middle of what is for the most part a genuinely happy-seeming celebration of Federer. The image of the cancer-stricken child seems to have no part, that is, in the enthusiasm that motivates the essay, and yet the edge of unease it introduces brings a powerful and not unreligious strain of skepticism into the pseudo-theology of Federer. Clearly no athlete and no delight in sport can answer the “big, obvious” question about what could possibly justify a tiny child suffering a devastating physical illness. If Federer is there to reconcile us to the fact of having bodies, Wallace hints, then the reconciliation he offers has limits and outside those limits is a large and unanswerable despair. I called the awareness of this despair “not unreligious” because while it may seem like a mere challenge to belief, a sort of renegade anti-Federer atheism, the feeling that seems to follow it into the essay seems to me to have more in common with the longing for bodily mortification that is often a weird corollary of profound religious experience. That is, if we begin with a sense that something is intolerably wrong, and the power of Federer or Pelé is to make us feel that that thing is actually right (or at least tolerable), then William introduces a larger sphere of consciousness in which we realize that the reconciliation was flawed and the thing is actually wrong and intolerable after all. But that second, larger wrongness, as I read it in Wallace’s essay, and this may be unfair, because again, William is only a tiny grain of doubt within what is generally a really positive piece of writing—that second, larger wrongness doesn’t stem from an apprehension that the reconciliation Federer offers is false, it stems from an apprehension that the reconciliation Federer offers is incomplete, that it doesn’t go far enough, it doesn’t stick. It only lasts a moment, and then you’re left not knowing when God will take you up again, which is an anxiety that actually bubbles up at times in the writings of the saints. And that seems to be a condition in which a heightened consciousness of mortality, one that may well express itself as a yearning toward suffering and breakdown, is hard to escape.
If we are being very generous and very convincing, DFW-level, Brian-Phillips-level convincing, this is Denard Robinson in the Michigan zeitgeist. Something is intolerably wrong and the Denard reconciliation is incomplete and we are going to have to accept that, like the Hart reconciliation was incomplete, and just take the Denard Moments as they are—as parts of an imperfect whole. Our compensation for the things that have happened is just this, the last few words of the thesis statement of the Federer article:
…just look at him down there. Look at that.
Kill it with fire.Last year some horrible, horrible hip-hop artist whose songs should be titled "Making You Want To Die Part VII," "Making You Want To Die Part VIII," and so forth and so on, released some fake pump up video that momentarily panicked the fanbase into thinking we'd Freekbassed ourselves.
[By MGoLaw every mention of We Are ND must be accompanied by We Are ND:
We remain in full compliance.]
We had not. Nor have we this year when some horrible, horrible hard rock outfit attempted to pull the same trick with their song "Making You Want To Die Part IX". Should I even link this monstrosity? I will but only if everyone signs a blood oath to never support the people responsible for this.
/blood oath signing music
All right. It's here. The worst part about all of this is that someday the Assistant Vice Associate Athletic Director For Making Michigan Stadium Wicked Sweet is going to hear one of these things and think it is a good idea instead of a malformed baby we should leave on the mountain to die.
That last part is not a joke. Multiple people have sent Lucy Ann Lance's interview with the new chief marketing officer along because of an ominous passage towards the end of it.
The middle of the article has an extensive discussion of ads in Michigan Stadium and how they will never happen. While I'm grateful for that I wonder if the guys in charge of this stuff have any idea why that's important to the fanbase. I don't think they do:
Lucy Ann: Any other changes that you have coming out regarding branding of the University of Michigan?
Lochmann: Event presentation and how people experience the brand at our events is a big part of building the brand, and we are in the midst of hiring some event presentation folks to really focus on making it a wow experience for our fans who go to basketball, hockey, football, soccer. It’s not just a PA announcement.
Lucy Ann: More entertainment?
Lochmann: Exactly. We really want to make all Michigan Athletics a destination for sports fans.
"It's not just a PA announcement?" Do I have to refer a guy who actually works in the athletic department to the ten-year-old kid who blew his mind at last year's Illinois game? Shouldn't the person in charge of branding Michigan understand it? Michigan does not have "just PA announcements." It has one of the grand old men of the PA business, Carl Grapentine.
The primary reason Michigan fans don't want ads in the stadium is because they distract from the game. The chief marketing officer says he won't put ads in the stadium but looks to "really focus on making it a wow experience."
It already is a wow experience. There are a 110,000 people in a stadium watching Desmond Howard or Charles Woodson or Denard Robinson. Wow has been accomplished. Wow is also accomplished at Yost. Wow is not at Crisler, which is by far the chintziest Michigan sports venue. Make the connection. The chief marketing officer's primary duty should be to recognize and preserve the parts of the Michigan tradition that are unique, not turn everything into a February Knicks game.
I envy Notre Dame fans in this department. They have an iron grip on what they want their stadium experience to be like. It's a little weird that it does not include massive HD replays, but there is no threat someone will promise FREEEEEEE PIZZZZZAAA or play Let The Bodies Hit The Floor at Notre Dame Stadium. There would be a gentle, friendly riot.
Bo finishes. Via Wolverine Historian, a one-hour Michigan Replay special on Bo's last season:
Grimly grim under a steel-grim sky. So you're just skipping along in this article about Mike Hart's initial foray into coaching at Eastern Michigan when Ron English pops up and slaps you with this baby:
“Mike’s strengths were never his physical abilities, they were always his mental abilities, his emotional abilities, his character. That’s what I’ve always loved about him. He’s a no-brainer in this profession as long as he can deal with the hours, the commitment, the movement and the disappointment. There’s a lot of disappointment in this profession.”
English's perspective is informed by being head coach of a school where going 2-10 gets you a "keep up the good work," of course. Pair that with Eastern's gray concrete stadium and it's like being the head coach of North Korea's football team. Watch out for lightning.
And here's everything. Burnt Orange Nation has collected every nasty bit of PR to befall college football in the past year, getting up to 23 separate incidents (Michigan's major-ish violations are included). This is my favorite one:
13) Unranked UConn Cant Sell Fiesta Bowl tickets (December 2010)
In a further indictment of the current system, there were a flood of stories related to schools being unable to sell their allotment of tickets for bowl games. Most notably, UConn resorted to begging fans to buy Fiesta Bowl tickets. Not surprisingly, it didnt work. Later calculations placed their financial losses for the game at $1.66 million. Their actual losses were much higher, as OU kicked their ass and then their coach fled for Maryland. Good times.
The bowl system has successful shoved all the uncertainty onto the college programs they are parasites on, even up to the BCS level.
Etc.: Bleacher Report hires Dan Levy, Dan Rubenstein, Josh Zerkle, and Bethlehem Shoals? What is going on? Gary Danielson declares "landlocked" MSU and Purdue the toughest gigs in the Big Ten. Indiana? Or have people given up on them entirely? He's also a superconference believer, FWIW.