So... how did that happen? Ohio State lost to Penn State over the weekend. You may not be aware of this so I will pause for your chortling.
All right. Done? No?
how bout now nvm
Okay. Now we can proceed. While OSU losing to Penn State, a team Michigan beat 49-10, has caused no end of merriment in the Michigan fan base*, there was an awful lot of flukiness in the PSU win. OSU outgained PSU by a wide margin, held them to under 300 yards of offense, and had a 64% win expectancy per S&P+. PSU made up the deficit with two huge special teams plays, the first a blocked punt that set up a field goal to pull them within four, the second a kick-six that turned an potential 7-point OSU lead into the three point deficit they'd lose by.
Normally I'd write those off as flukes not applicable to the Game, but Michigan has already blocked six kicks this year and has Jabrill Peppers sitting back there for any teams who want to get overly concerned about getting the punt off. Advantage: Michigan.
Meanwhile, PFF's evaluation contains some shocking stats about the OSU OL:
...the entire unit struggled in pass protection, surrendering a staggering 34 pressures between them, with RT Isaiah Prince accounting for almost half of those by himself. The spark of Curtis Samuel’s untouched 74-yard touchdown run and Marcus Baugh’s tackle-breaking exploits in the first quarter weren’t repeated in the final 25 minutes of the game.
And it could have been worse for OSU. Star Nittany Lion DE Garrett Sickels sat out the first half. This did not prevent him from racking up 2.5 sacks. A different PFF article has a different pressure number but it's still boggling: 28 pressures on 53 dropbacks. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley are likely to do similar work. PSU's 28th in adjusted sack rate. Michigan is 4th.
A second major issue was an inability to get to Saquon Barkley near the line of scrimmage:
the Penn State offensive line set up Barkley with 41 of his 99 rushing yards before contact, and Barkley didn’t have to break any tackles while coming up just a yard shy of a 100-yard game. The star on the offensive line for the third straight week was RT Brendan Mahon, who dominated the Ohio State front on the ground, combining particularly well on double teams to blow the Buckeyes’ defensive tackles out of the middle of the play and disrupt the linebackers behind them.
Later in that piece PFF will advocate for OSU's backup DTs to play over the starters after PSU and Wisconsin gashed OSU up the gut repeatedly. I will repeat: PSU—THE Penn State University—gashed Ohio State up the gut. Penn State. That one. That team. The one with Paris Palmer in the starting lineup again. They got 8.2 yards per carry between the tackles. (Why on Earth they only gave Barkley 12 carries is completely inexplic—oh right James Franklin.)
OSU's run D looks fine statistically, but that's largely due to 4 TEAM rushes for a total of –43 yards. Those were three kneels from the gun and a yakety snap over the punter's head. Remove those and Penn State rushed for an even 5 yards a carry without a single broken tackle from Barkley.
Michigan looks like they have a significant advantage on both lines. I can't believe I'm saying that but here we are.
*[My favorite thing is OSU fans saying it was a ROAD NIGHT GAME since Vegas is now offering 40 points for home field advantage.]
In other OSU issues. Land Grant Holy Land notes that OSU doesn't get many explosive plays. It's Curtis Samuel and that's it. In a very James Franklin twist, Samuel had two carries for 71 yards against PSU. And as always, I recommend Ross Fulton's OSU breakdown.
Meanwhile in this week's matchup. It doesn't look good for MSU:
How is Michigan State going to move the football?
I'm not sure how else to headline this bullet point. If you look at the numbers -- what Michigan's done on defense and what Michigan State's done on offense -- you get a pretty simple result. Michigan State will have to completely change the way it runs offense, overnight, and Michigan's defense will have to take a massive step backward for the Spartans to move the ball with consistency.
For the year, 22.2 percent of MSU's offensive possession have reached the red zone (No. 117 nationally). Michigan's defense, meanwhile, has allowed offenses to reach the red zone on just 6.7 percent of their possessions. That's No. 1 nationally. Michigan State also ranks near the bottom nationally in number of possessions per game at 12.6 and near the bottom in average field position. MSU is No. 91 nationally in rush yards per game, Michigan's No. 4 nationally in rush defense. If numbers hold, this could be a great day for Michigan's defense and a long one for MSU's offense.
MSU's gotta hope that some long bombs get completed and LJ Scott can conjure something up himself.
Bill Connelly gets to talk about his numbers too. We've been doing it all year, and he joins the "holy crap, Michigan's defense in S&P+" brigade:
Def. S&P+ is presented in an adjusted points-per-game figure and is created from an opponent-adjusted mix of efficiency, explosiveness, finishing drives, turnover factors, and field position factors. Here are its top five defenses in the country:
5. Wisconsin (12.4 Adj. PPG)
4. Alabama (11.9)
3. Florida (11.3)
2. Clemson (11.0)
1. Michigan (0.8)
Yes, these numbers are adjusted for garbage time, so Jim Harbaugh’s general ruthlessnessisn’t giving the Wolverines an added statistical advantage.
Yes, these numbers are adjusted for opponent, though while Michigan’s schedule was supposedto be awful, it really hasn’t been; among Wolverine victims, Wisconsin is 10th in overall S&P+, Penn State is 16th, and Colorado is 17th.
Jim Harbaugh is crazy part infinity. SBN notes that Harbaugh does things without knowing what the score is. Deadspin gets into Harbaugh's inability to let that fourth-quarter spot go, and I make note of the latter mostly to highlight a couple of comments. One:
When Tomsula wouldn’t let anything go, you called him a hoarder and impounded his car.
He was my daughter’s micro-soccer coach when she and his kid were 4 years old. He couldn’t have been nicer, more mellow, or better liked by the kids. He adapts to every situation to be great at whatever it is.
I almost don't want to believe the latter.
Baumgardner pokes the bear. Cumong man:
No disrespect, Michigan State, but Michigan's focused on bigger things for 2016
That's probably worth a field goal, that headline.
Harbaugh is worth it. Financially, things are going swimmingly:
U-M's overall revenue in spectator admissions increased to $45.1 million during the 2016 fiscal year, compared to $41.9 million in 2015. The $3.2 million increase was primarily due to an increase in football ticket demand, according to the financial analysis, which was approved by the U-M Board of Regents on Thursday, Oct. 20.
In comparison, spectator admissions decreased $8.3 million in 2015 due to a decrease in football, men's basketball and ice hockey admissions.
Overall, the athletic department saw an increase of $7.8 million to its net position for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, which is up from 2015's $1 million overall increase.
He literally pays for himself, and that's before various other application/donation things get factored in.
RIP Drew Sharp, troll. People should memorialize the dead as they knew them. Much of the Detroit media has done so in the case of Drew Sharp, who passed away at 56 this Friday. Those who knew him say he was a great and funny guy whose button-pushing writing shouldn't define the man, and I won't dispute that.
However, much of the memorializing has bothered me because it skips straight over the lasting fact of Drew Sharp's career: he was an unrepentant troll. There is a certain genre of newspaper columnist or radio talking head that is relentlessly negative because that's the only thing he can do that gets a reaction, and Sharp was Detroit's version. (There's one in every city.) He didn't have readers. He had marks.
His cynicism was breathtaking, and this was never more clear than in the immediate aftermath of Michigan signing Demar Dorsey. Sharp correctly diagnosed that circus as desperation on the part of Rich Rodriguez, but for the wrong reason. Dorsey was nowhere close to qualifying and never came close, spending his career at various vagabond stops en route to a brief Arena League career. It's a sad story about kids who come up rough and can't make it out.
Or, if you're Drew Sharp, it's an opportunity to bash a teenager who ended up in trouble:
MATT SHEPARD: "He was timed with a 4.4—"
SHARP: "Avoiding police."
SHEPARD: "That happened when he was 16 and he was acquitted.
SHARP: "I wonder if that was because he was a high profile recruit. Hmm. I wonder. … OJ got acquitted. Being acquitted doesn't mean you're innocent."
That's the only thing he ever did that made me legitimately angry; the rest of it was eye-rolling at his transparent attempts to troll people. I only knew his writing, so I knew him as a man with contempt for everything and an utter lack of empathy.
Meanwhile his writing level and banter was barely above every message board's worst poster. Deadspin got its hands on a couple of his Brandon-esque emails some years back, and since those come through without the benefit of seven layers of editing they're the clearest picture of his talent as a writer.
Does the little baby need a pacifier?
Yeah, Detroit needs writers that makes excuses for the city and simply tell the idiots in this town just want to hear.
They've been doing that for 30 years in this town and that's a big reason why Detroit is swirling down the toilet.
Oh, I'm sorry...that's not a "happy feel good story" is it?
He had none. Drew Sharp's death is a loss to those who knew him. His career is his career, though, and shouldn't be viewed through sepia-tinged glasses. It says something that most of the newspaper obits start with "if you look past the thing he did every day for the last 30 years, he was a great guy." Mmmhmm.
Etc.: Nebraska regent reacts to players' kneeling protest badly. Nobody on the NTDP is a first round lock this year but two Michigan commits are candidates. Hockey also picked up a commit from D Mike Vukojevic, a potential first round OHL draft pick. Brendan Quinn on Xavier Simpson. Kill 'em with kindness. Also your DL.
Oblig coach obit. Don't get on my case, man.
I mean, he gave Penn State a free shot at the endzone by taking a timeout with three seconds left in the first half.
What do you do with that? How do you put that into your ongoing calculations? Add that datum to the rickety mess that is your ever-shifting, often-hypocritical, prone-to-explode model of your favorite thing in the world, and what happens? I don't know. The brain elects not to travel down that path. The future ceases to exist, replaced by only the ever more nonsensical present. All series diverge. Projection is impossible.
Let's jam that thing in anyway.
Not an improvement, but not any worse either. At that point such a thing was almost expected, after the previous year's offensive line roulette and 27 for 27 and two minute drills that usually took five minutes. Time for some maniacal giggling, then.
On the bright side, even three-and-a-half years deep into a coaching tenure that resembled nothing so much as Wile E. Coyote sauntering off a cliff Brady Hoke still had ways to surprise you.
Brady Hoke should never have been Michigan's football coach. This was apparent from the start, as at the time of his hire he had two assets: the fool's gold of an undefeated MAC regular season and a reasonable, if truncated, turnaround job at San Diego State. Aside from that he had five seasons of average MAC ball and zero years as a coordinator. Even the breakout year at Ball State ended with consecutive blowout losses to Buffalo and Tulsa.
When you stake your program to a resume like that you're as likely as not to come out the other end with Tim Beckman or Tim Brewster or Darrell Hazell. An infinite number of nondescript gentleman have had the ball bounce the right way during the furball that is a season in the Mid-American. Some of them populate the lower rungs of the Big Ten when Purdue can't think of anything better.
And then there's Bo.
Bo was on another level, having gone 27-8-1 in league play in six years with Miami. Even he was widely derided. Here is that picture again.
In the center is a man who has made a Decision. It's no exaggeration to say that Michigan's best and… most recent athletic directors staked their careers on whether they could separate coaching talent from noise.
All these years later, you get why Canham rolled the dice on Bo. Bo was a legendary hardass who took nothing from anyone and comfortably existed atop the roiling mass of chaos that is any football program, successful or not. He chewed out players on the sidelines, sent them back in the game, and cracked impish smiles at the reaming he'd just handed to the young man. He has a gravitas that stays with the program—veritably looms—a decade after his death. Bo had the proverbial It, and you can understand how he communicated that to Canham in whatever passed for a job interview between them.
That understanding will permanently elude historians attempting to discern what comparable force of personality Brady Hoke brought to a press conference in the Junge Center in January 2011.
There was a moment, though. Now it's hard to remember that Brady Hoke had two years in which it seemed he was indeed gold that does not glitter. Hoke gruffly intoned "This Is Michigan, fergodsakes" in response to a question nobody remembers. He wore short sleeves in weather ranging from torrid to frozen. His matter-of-fact declarations and tough toughness were his tentpoles. We hung a great edifice of hope on it; Hoke going to and winning a BCS game in year one provided buttresses and filigree and whatnot to the structure.
At a few years remove it's clear that Hoke stumbled ass-backwards into that success. Few 11-2 seasons have been jankier than Michigan's 2011. The Notre Dame game that kicked things off was a deranged exercise in winning against double coverage; Michigan threw 41 times for 2.8 YPA against Michigan State; they had 166 yards of offense before chuck-and-pray time against Iowa; they were one overthrown Braxton Miller pass away from losing to a .500 OSU team; they won that bowl game with 184 yards of total offense.
The signs were all there, even in the moment ("lucky as hell," quoth this space in the aftermath of the Denard After Dentist game). I alternated between excitement at the idea of a head coach who had an innate aggressiveness on fourth down and wondering why the hell they thought Denard Robinson could be Tom Brady.
But the games were won, and the recruits rolled in. Hoke seemed to stroll through a garden of four-stars gathering what he would. For a year or two, everything seemed just fine. In 2013, Michigan beat Notre Dame rather easily. Michigan fans were walking on air. Then someone looked down.
Rarely in the history of college football has a fanbase been jerked so rudely to attention as already beleaguered Michigan fans were in 2013. The relatively straight line that was the Hoke era turned into a harrowing plunge straight into the bowels of second-and-eleven-play-action hell. Save for an inexplicable Ohio State game, Michigan became the most brutally unwatchable team in the country the instant they left the field against Notre Dame.
Hoke was the same person through the good bits and the bad. He was gruffly nonsensical to start and gruffly nonsensical to end. As success turned to failure, the things we liked about him became the things we hated about him. Remember when this was hilarious?
That joke isn't funny anymore.
Despite the fact that people will still swear up and down that Brady Hoke is a great dude, I have less charity in my heart for him than I did Rich Rodriguez when it came to write his obit. A slice from that piece:
Coaches aren't humans. They are walking soundbites wrapped in great swirling cloaks of mythology. Rap on one of their chests. You will get a hollow clang and a statement about senior leadership. Kick sand in one of their faces. You will get a lecture from Peter the Great. Peter the Great will be confused and incensed that he cannot sentence you to hang. Tell one his aunt has been dismembered by bikers on PCP and you will get a statement about senior leadership. Seniors don't do PCP and rip aunts limb from limb, because they have leadership.
Rodriguez was human. He was just this guy. He wasn't supernatural or metallic. If you rapped his chest he would probably get a little weepy. He did not seem like a great leader of men, or a colossus astride anything, or even a dude fully in control of his shit.
Hoke was that coachbot even in impossible circumstances. By the end so many indignities had piled up that I was waiting for him to snap.
It never came. He endured the brutally painful press conference following last year's Minnesota game as a coachbot. He released a statement apologizing to Michigan State for Joe Bolden putting a small piece of metal in their field. At no point did he bite the head off a reporter, or say that his boss had sold him down the river, or do anything at all other than repeat the same goddamn things he'd been repeating for two straight years.
I liked Rodriguez because he seemed like a person who reacted to stimuli. He reacted too much, but at least you could see that he was processing information and coming to conclusions about what it meant.
Hoke did not do this. Whether Hoke was stoic or insensate is in the eye of the beholder; given the chaos around the program my vote is the latter. He seemed to shut down in terror when his dream job turned to a nightmare.
As the competence of his team deteriorated, Hoke shuffled his coaching staff nonsensically instead of making real changes. He stuck with his terrible punt formation and a style of offense unsuited for his quarterbacks. Even after it was clear his disastrous program could not be allowed to continue—the financial ruin it would cause must have been apparent to even Michigan's most recent athletic director—nothing changed. If Hoke thought he had a chance, well, he also called timeout to give Penn State a free Hail Mary.
At least Nero fiddled. Brady Hoke stood there in the rain without so much as shaking a fist at the heavens.
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.
"In the world of branding, you build what's called brand equity"
-Dave Brandon, Michigan Athletic Director, 2010-2014
I'm pretty mad about Dave Brandon on the internet, but in real life social cues prevent you from ranting for two thousand words at a time; mostly they argue for nodding silence. I kept the wild-eyed revolutionary on the internet. So it was crazy how Brandon angst followed me around.
One day during my ACL rehab, I was doing my various stretching things when one of the therapists came in steamed. He started relating to one of his buddies that he'd been booted from his position with Michigan football in favor of a kid who had literally just graduated from college, because that kid would worship Brandon as a god.
When we bought our house, one of the seemingly infinite signing ceremony things involved a conversation with someone who had been an assistant with a nonrevenue sport. My job came up, she had never heard of MGoBlog, she proceeded to sigh and say that the department was really something and then… not that any more.
A woman who Brandon tried to get fired from the alumni association because she had the temerity to disagree with him. Her friendship with Jamie Morris was demonstration enough that she "had no character."
One day, two staffers sent home for insufficiently ironed khakis, and then berated because their blazers were "from JC Penney."
Report after report that the regents couldn't stand him and he had a year, tops, left. For three years.
And of course, email after email in my inbox, all from the same insulting man prone to exclamation points and misused ellipses.
As a kid I was really good at memorizing things and had no friends. A large part of why, I would find out in retrospect, is that I was an annoying person. I was convinced I was the smartest person in the room, something that was often true for a given definition of smartest that stopped once the tests were turned in. It was never true when it came to interacting with something other than a piece of paper.
My attempt to be an adult centers around that fact: I'm an idiot when it comes to a lot of things. Faltering progress has been made. I hired Tom VanHaaren back in the day when he was just a guy with an idea to use social media to get information about recruits (this was controversial at the time). Tom proceeded to get his own bat signal. To this day he gets requests from people on the internet to hold him.
Tom's prose was rough at the time, prone to sentence after sentence with the same structure. A lot of adverbs. (I measure my progress as a writer by how many adverbs I edit out of my own stuff.) Twelve year old me would have been too annoying about it to deal. But by the time I made that decision I had realized that there were a lot of skills. zTalking to people you don't know and making them come out of that experience feeling like something good had just happened was emphatically not one I possessed. Tom is now at ESPN because of that skill.
Everyone has peaks and valleys in their intelligences, which is why I can do this for a job and still get pwned by Tom Dienhart whenever I try to act like an Actual Journalist.
That is how a guy can be in charge of three different things and still be an idiot: Dave Brandon's skill is for creating personal leverage for Dave Brandon. And there end the skills. There is that sub-genre of successful person that achieves seemingly without any reason to. They are nature's bullshitters. Charlie Weis is their treasurer. Dave Brandon is their king.
[After THE JUMP: a sordid history and the lessons learned: none]
I met Teddy after he'd had a double lung transplant. I only have one fuzzy memory of this being a thing that impacted my senses directly. We probably watched an Amaker-era game against Illinois at his apartment; I remember Teddy lugging around a canister of oxygen, like he was a 90-year-old smoker. He was not. He had cystic fibrosis.
The thing I do remember vividly is Dave's inability to shut up and solemnly take in an Amaker-era game against Illinois, which… yeah. First terrifying indicator of mortality in a kid who was barely 20 or annoyance at someone talking during a basketball game, and I remember one of these things clearly, the other dimly. I even think Michigan was way ahead for most of the game.
After that, Teddy got better, mostly. When they do a transplant they have to shut off sections of your immune system, so every once in a while I'd hear that Teddy had been in the hospital for a week fighting off something or other that would have been a couple of days of mucus for someone with an immune system at full capacity. You hear those things and have a tremor, and then you file it away because the first intermission is ending.
We went to the Joe once for a Michigan hockey game. I met his brother, a maniac extrovert, and drove home his car because it was something with three letters like Geo or Ion or something and apparently cars with really short names also come with front-wheel drive and bicycle tires. Teddy didn't feel comfortable driving that thing home, so I did it. Guys in the back seat yelled at me to do things other than I was doing, because only Teddy and I knew the special terror of trying to maneuver that thing through anything other than a velodrome. When we got home, haggard and spent, I drove my Jeep home from his apartment and rolled my eyes at myself.
Events like that eventually solidified a picture of Teddy in my head: he was one of life's Donnys.
He had a hangdog way of saying "no" that stretched and depressed that single syllable, which he usually deployed after someone took a shot at him. His friends called him "ladylungs." He was a sweet, calm person who was stepped on by his friends for humor value. Many groups end up with a version of this person. A Donny.
Teddy died Sunday.
Apparently, lung transplants just up and get rejected even after you've had them for years. I know this now. I've read all the relevant wikipedia articles. I didn't then, but when he went into the hospital six weeks ago I heard he wasn't coming out until he'd had a second transplant. That combined with a second fact—there was one place that had done a second transplant in the US—to paint a clear picture. He was on and off lists, got pneumonia, was heavily sedated as his lungs once again betrayed him, and finally there was no way out.
Like the rest of my interaction with his disease, it happened away from me. I was insulated and relied on second-hand reports. I don't know if that's good or bad. The funeral will be a shock.
I had a phase a few months ago where I thought boxing was really interesting all of a sudden. I didn't really know why then. I just watched some boxing, and found it interesting.
I think I figured it out thanks to two images from the recent Pacquiao-Marquez fight. The first is this shot of Filipinos reacting to the Marquez knockout:
Twitter blew up with GIFs immediately after the knockout so I'd already seen what happened but this shot and the accompanying article made me feel like an idiot for forgetting about boxing and not finding some way to watch the fight.
And then I noticed Marquez had a beer's name on his genitals. Maybe you have just done this as well. When it happened to me the photograph reconfigured itself into a splash of corporate logos covering literally every available surface in the shot save the ref and the boxers' skin itself—and anyone who had a passing familiarity with the idea of boxers in the mid-aughts knows that Golden Palace made even that a billboard for a time.
Marquez is still there, damaged. A guy in a suit is craning his neck to see Pacquaio. A ringside photographer in red is too shocked to do his job even though that would also consist of looking at what has happened. Rows further back every mouth is agape. The sea of logos recedes again. A real, archipelago-crushing thing is still there.
I understand my temporary boxing fascination better today. Eventually it comes down to two men in a ring. Despite the legendary loathsomeness of everything surrounding those two guys, they can overcome it. Judging outrages are at least evidence that what happened inside the ring was worthy of getting mad about, and people get mad and fume about the things that are so deranged and greedy about this thing they love and then they sulk for a bit and then go on and get on with it because sometimes it's worth it anyway, and when else has anyone in the background of those pictures felt like that?
The core of the thing is still there, whether it's boxing or football. Before there were hundreds of thousands of people who were obsessed with men running into each other, they still ran into each other. The answer to "why?" is always "tribalism" or "I don't know, some people are strange." They didn't have much motivation. Life was short and could have been spent in a mine, I guess.
Anthony left, Teddy right
Here is the thing that caused me to combine Teddy's obituary with an already-developing post on trying to focus on the core of the sporting activity that has made said activity a worldwide thing people do or watch.
We went to open skate at Yost one day with some other people. At Yost, I discovered that ice skating is not quite entirely unlike rollerblading. Since I can do the latter, that was unfortunate. While I had the ability to stay upright, it was only just. Never in the history of gliding has there been a less elegant demonstration of it. There have been uncontrolled bathtubs sent down ski hills who made a better show of it. I was not good.
Teddy was, and this was a shock to me. I don't know. I must of assumed he'd spent the 20 years before the transplant in a bubble. He had evidently spent many of them on skates, and here was the second shock: placed in an environment of comfort and advantage, Teddy was no Donny. He was a dick, in that way you are to your friends. People must think that way about me outside the context in which I am worse than an unguided bathtub. I smiled tightly, and took it, and filed that one away nice and clear.
I related this story on Sunday and found that Anthony, who'd played on various teams with him for the last few years, had stories about misconducts Teddy had acquired—plural. And that the normally serene, "no"-deploying Teddy would on occasion (just on occasion) curse blue streaks at refs. He remained fundamentally Teddy, so the fact that he of all people was the one to acquire misconduct was a never-live-it-down-type situation.
Anthony told us that late, when Teddy's lungs had started going, he remembers a phase in which he couldn't get to pucks he used to—his game was always speed—and how he was downhearted after the game, apologizing to the team for something grim and outside of his control.
That's the thing, though. When we take something as plainly artificial as putting metal on your feet to skate around a perfectly manicured ice sheet so we can put a rubber disk in the right place, things are or are not. Ambiguities are ruthlessly hewed away and people do or do not. And it is unfair that when college kid under extreme duress does something bad that there is a hot flash of anger and wonderment that anyone could be such a holistic-complete-total failure, just like it was unfair that Teddy blamed himself for his lungs. When I heard that I thought about Marquez, and Manny Pacquiao, and if Pacquiao would had the same inevitable/bizarre reaction when he came to.
It is real no matter how many barnacles attach themselves. The thing does this to you. Watch or play and it transforms you. I'll avail myself of that for as long as I can.
I mean, I just realized every interaction in this post is about sports. I heard Teddy was in the hospital as I walked to Yost. And when Anthony asked a heavily-sedated Teddy if he was going to listen to the hockey game Friday, Teddy's eyes un-rolled and got real big and he solemnly shook his head "no" and I laughed when I heard that because I saw that South Park too and I knew what that "no" sounded like even if his lungs wouldn't let him speak.