chance of bowl: 13.6%
[ED: Ken Walker will be playing the role of Nick Roumel this week.]
By Ken "Sky" Walker
October 25, 2014
I’m sure none of this column’s readers expected to see that by line again – I certainly didn’t. When Nick proposed that I might be a guest columnist at some point in the future, I believe my response was ‘I suppose that could be a possibility.’ Funny how a lukewarm response to a question posed this summer can lead to Nick telling me “I’m going on vacation, you’re writing ‘Punt’ next week.” And that this guest appearance should come for the Michigan/Michigan State game, during one of the worst periods in UM’s football history, well that’s just a bonus.
I’ve got to admit, I haven’t read a single PUNT/COUNTER PUNT since I stopped writing for it. Believe me, it’s been a blessing. The mess that Michigan football has become is heartbreaking. Even the initial Rich Rod season wasn’t this bad. There are so many empty seats in my section I’ve had plenty of room to stretch out nearly every game. My buddy Jim has been to one game this year.
This is a Michigan alumnus, who has on game day, driven from the Ohio–Pennsylvania border to almost every game for the last 25 years! You can hardly give away tickets these days. No long waiting lists now. Television and radio spots advertising game packages are just an embarrassment. And don’t get me started on the ‘Coke’ promotion. This is “Michigan Football”?!
Fact of the matter is, the athletic department has sold its soul to the devil, that devil being the almighty dollar. We’ve got a bunch of marketing guys running this program and all they seem to be concerned with is how much profit they can wring out of the fans. They’ve gotten totally focused on promoting the game day experience. I‘ve got news for you fellas, the game day experience starts on the field. The “Michigan brand” is winning football games. That is what matters above all else.
Alright, I’m done venting. There’s a game to be played in East Lansing (again) and the Wolverines have to find a way to win it. How we feel about the A.D., the coach or the quarterback doesn’t matter Saturday. As Michigan fans, we have to back our team no matter what.
While I doubt that even with two weeks prep, this coaching staff can scheme a winning game plan, here’s hoping they do. Because these repeated loses to the Spartans just suck. But as I have no interest in traveling up I-96 to see the game, maybe I’ll just play a round of golf and catch the second half. It’s supposed to be a great fall day – might as well enjoy some of it.
MICHIGAN - 17 MICHIGAN STATE - 31
By Heiko "My Name Does Not Lend Itself To Nicknames" Yang
Hello, old Punt. Hope retirement has been treating you well. Don’t worry, I’m not completely devastated or anything to know that you haven’t been reading my work. Yeah man, it’s great to see you. I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING.
I HAD A DREAM -- excuse me. Sniff. Ahem. I had a dream last night that Michigan ran power to the left on its first play against MSU. Fitz Toussaint bounced outside and outran the defense 75 yards for a score. It was wonderful. And never mind the surrealism here -- do you know how long it’s been since I’ve had a happy dream about Michigan football? 2011. I started having nightmares in 2012, when I had a dream a few days before the Alabama game that Stephen Hopkins got tackled and exploded into a million bloody bits. It was gross, and I woke up feeling pretty strongly that football is too violent and we should stop playing it. All of my subsequent dreams have been similarly horrific.
Until last night, which is why I think today may be a good day. I’m not saying Michigan is going to win … but I’m saying there’s a chance.
Having a bye week was important. You know your team isn’t doing well when the bye week is the highlight of the season, but I think it was particularly positive for Michigan for several reasons: the wounded got a chance to heal, the shamed got a chance to hide, and there’s still no sign of ebola in Ann Arbor, which helps everything.
Most importantly the bye week was a chance for the team to reflect and reset. Michigan’s problem over the past couple of years has never been a lack of talent or toughness or whatever silly buzzword (“hunger”) people are throwing around these days. It’s a fundamental flaw in philosophy, which isn’t something you fix with more practice. You fix it by taking a break and realizing that you’ve been doing things that are fundamentally idiotic.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not expecting Brady Hoke to suddenly have an epiphany about offensive tempo or spread punting, which is why I don’t expect that he’ll be coaching here much longer. But I do hope that someone like Doug Nussmeier, who has experience with a variety of offensive styles, would take a little more ownership of his position and assert his expertise a little more. And I also hope that the players would be able to identify things they can do within the framework of the game plan to minimize the disadvantages inherent in the game plan. I don’t know if this kind of thinking has happened before, but a bye week before a rivalry game seems like a good time to start.
For the past few seasons Hoke has been captaining a ship that’s drifting towards imminent disaster. Short of outright mutiny, it’s going to take a lot of creativity from the crew to right the course. If the hurricane looming in the horizon doesn’t inspire some sort of change, then nothing will.
So should we all batten down the hatches to be safe? Absolutely.
But I’m saying there’s a chance.
Michigan 21, Michigan State 17
remember when pepper spray felt bad?
By Heiko Yang
Both teams are in their locker rooms discussing how they can win this game in the second half. James Franklin is apologizing for not having watched film this week even though he acted like he had. Brady Hoke is clapping his hands.
It’s halftime for Dave Brandon, too. There are empty seats in the stadium and he’s hurting. People can only believe that attendance is above 100,000 for so long before they notice that half the students are missing. He’s wondering whether he should force his entire staff to wear maize and sit in the empty seats in the student section. And they’re all scared, because young people are frightening and they sing “Temptation” all wrong. What is the meaning of “you suck” and to whom does it refer?
The people of Ann Arbor know a little something about sucking. We got used to losing to Ohio State during the late Lloyd Carr years, and then we got used to losing in general under Rich Rod. We thought we hired the right guy to pull the program out of mediocrity, but now we’re sucking again.
We’ve seen too many tough games, disappointing play calls, and times when we didn’t know WTF was going on. At times it seems like the coaches have lost their minds, like when they don’t know how to defend the spread, when they play Cam Gordon at free safety, or when there are only 10 men on the field to cover punts.
But after those trials, we all rallied around what went wrong, got on the internet, and complained all at once. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times by posting on the message board. If we get negged, we neg back. If we get banned, we head over to Scout.
All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we fix the offense? How do we fix the defense? How do we cover punts? How does Devin Gardner survive going back to East Lansing?
The basketball program is showing us it can be done. What’s true about them is true about the football program: the University of Michigan can’t be knocked out with one punch. It takes crippling NCAA sanctions, terrible recruiting, and a decade of mediocrity, but even then we get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of Trey Burke after he hits a game-tying three against Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen.
Yeah, it’s halftime, Ann Arbor. Basketball season is about to begin.
(... In a month.)
Michigan 13, Penn state 14
By Nick RoUMel
For every sports fan, there comes an iconic moment when you realize: Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen.
For my dad, it was a baseball game, many years ago. The Pirates were hosting the Dodgers. A man who would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame, for his storied career, was due to bat. But the PA announcer intoned, “Now pinch-hitting for Duke Snider …. Gordon Windhorn!”
How could my father ever forget that name? How could I? Gordon Windhorn, who batted 108 times in the Bigs and managed to hit .176, was sent to bat for the Silver Fox, the Duke of Flatbush, the future Hall of Famer. Oh how the mighty had fallen, and my father never felt the same way about baseball again.
The Duke. Gordy.
My own Gordon Windhorn moment was about Michigan football. Lloyd Carr had retired, and Bill Martin was doing his level best to bungle the search for a successor. He offered the job to Greg Schiano, the coach of Rutgers.
Michigan was, and is, the winningest program in college football history. It should be a dream destination job for any coach. But Schiano - the coach of Rutgers fergodsakes! – turned us down.
Since then, the list of coaches who have rejected Michigan has grown like hair on Nick Jonas’ back. Depending on what source you want to believe, the following have all told our AD’s, “Sorry, I have to go to a quilting bee with my mother” (actual Counterpunt date turndown quote): Les Miles, Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Pat Fitzgerald, Gerry Faust … OK not Faust. He sold his soul to check out the quilting bee:
For Penn State fans, their Gordon Windhorn moment had to be the firing of Joe Paterno. His stunning fall, after half a century of gridiron success, is something many fans are still struggling to comprehend. The Jerry Sandusky scandal captured the nation’s headlines for many months, and as NCAA sanctions loomed, there were questions whether their football program would ever recover.
Although for very different reasons, and by no means morally equivalent, Michigan and Penn State are two programs that have endured crises. It was once taken for granted that certain football powers were forever secure, but schools as iconic as Notre Dame, USC, and Florida State, among others, have weathered storms.
Michigan too will be back. It is now a dark time, but just as the lights will illuminate the chilly October evening sky for our first ever Big Ten night game, they will once again shine over The Team.
It starts tonight, as two old fighters square off for a return to glory. I believe the one with 110,000 fans in his corner will survive a split decision. Gordon Windhorn, you can return to the dugout. We’re not done yet.
MICHIGAN 16, PENN STATE 13
darling, I'm sure you misinterpreted my jest
By Heiko Yang
I’m too tired to form an opinion about all the wonderful things that have been happening in Michigan football this past week. However, since we are on the subject of concussions, I do have a fabulous story about the time I got a concussion. Want to hear it? It’s a good one!
It was July of 2011. I was in a summer tackle football league. (Ahem. Just kidding it was softball. Tackle softball.) … I was in a summer tackle softball league, and I was playing center field. I think. Actually I can’t remember, because this story ends in a concussion, and it’s hard to tell a story in the first person about a concussion. Most of this is reconstructed from hearsay and/or imagination.
So let’s just say I was somewhere in the outfield. Dude stepped up to the plate and hit this bomb that sort of split the difference between me and one of my teammates whose name is Owen, as I would find out afterwards, not that it’s important. Owen and I both ran to the ball without taking our eyes off the ball and then boom! We collided. I did some sort of kickass ninja flip and landed on my head. I am told that I got up pretty quickly, was “out of it” for a few seconds, but then acted pretty normally. I didn’t feel injured or hurt. In fact I played the rest of the game.
The only thing anyone noticed was that I kept asking how I hit my head. I guess its because my head hurt, but I couldn’t remember why it hurt, and my brain couldn’t hold onto anything for more than 30 seconds. Clinical pearl: this is called perseveration! And anterograde amnesia! Most of my friends -- all med students, by the way -- thought I was just trying to be funny, because apparently confusion is hilarious, but none of them recognized that I was showing signs of a whopping concussion. Genuine concern arose only when I started asking how I had driven myself and where my car was, at which point I was brought to the emergency department.
Yes, some of this was caught on camera:
I was admitted to the hospital overnight to monitor for intracranial bleeding (which I did not have, thank goodness), and I began to recover the next day. Slowly I started remembering what people were telling me, and I developed a dull headache that subsided by evening. I’m fortunate that I never experienced any neurologic or psychiatric sequelae such as recurrent headaches, irritability, or sleep disturbances despite the severity of the concussion, although I did join mgoblog about a month afterwards, so I’ll have to check if “impulsive blogging” is an official symptom of post-concussion syndrome.
Anyway, I do think it’s kind of interesting to think that there will always be an 18-hour segment of my life during which I was conscious and sober that I have zero recollection of. Now if only someone could find a way to accomplish that to erase only negative memories, such as the last two weeks of Michigan football, that would be great.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, am I right?
Michigan 34, Miami 10
By Nick RoUMel
In tribute to Heiko’s brilliant deployment of his specialty, medicine, allow me to analyze the program in light of mine, employment law. Our once storied athletic department has all the hallmarks of a dysfunctional workplace.
When David Brandon took over, he cleaned house. He fired an alarming number of athletic department coaches and staff, including long term employees going back to the Don Canham years. He did this with little tolerance; employees were fired for minor and subjective offenses—or, significantly, for failure to exercise appropriate supervision over subordinate employees. I know because I and our firm represented a few of them. Sure, any new boss has the right to have his own minions, but this purging seemed to be done with little regard for employees’ loyalty, nor their valuable institutional memory.
Double standards are another feature of the dysfunctional workplace. In contrast to the scrutiny afforded lower level employees, management is free to commit a multitude of boners with no consequences. Examples are easy to tick off. Botched coaching searches resulting in the inability to land candidates that wanted to come here. Assaults on the game day tradition also turned off the fan base, like the well-documented student seating fiasco. Game day blunders ranging from the advertising noodle, to bans on water and seat cushions, the Coca-Cola ticket giveaway, to overdone productions, and unnecessary, meaningless old rock songs played ad nauseum.
Our coach, who is hired to win with integrity, doesn't win. And now the integrity part is in question. Not only does Brady Hoke’s team perform worse than the sum of its parts, but the man seemingly lied to us about Brendan Gibbons. Lying, meanwhile, is the best case scenario regarding Shane Morris. Brandon fired former star and loyal athletic department staffer Jamie Morris for allegedly lying. But maybe Brandon needs to keep Hoke around, because a classic boss is always happy to let his subordinate managers twist in the wind to take the heat.
Another classic sign of a dysfunctional workplace is micromanagement. Why does the Athletic Director attend practices, and hover during locker room meetings? Why is he the one hiring the coordinators, and not his head coach?
Ignoring customers is another symptom. Good leaders solicit input before making changes, and learn from constructive feedback. This administration plugs its ears and goes “Nyah, nyah, nyah.” To its partial credit they reversed decision on smaller issues like the noodle and seat cushions – but only after fan outcry. But why aren’t they seeking feedback before making these changes?
Retaliating against critics on the inside can be done in secret. But how do you explain such actions as taking away the press pass of John U. Bacon, who bleeds Maize and Blue, in apparent reaction to Three And Out? If they’re doing this petty garbage to journalists, imagine what they might do to anybody who dares speak against them from within.
For the most part, nothing can be done about a dysfunctional workplace. But at a public university, we have a trump card - at least theoretically. The athletic department is answerable to the President of the University and the Regents. The question will be whether they will have the courage to do the right thing and clean house, or whether they will bury their heads in the sand and do nothing.
Uncertain. Our new President, Mark Schlissel had no experience with a high profile athletic department while at Rhode Island. As such, the risk is that his ears will be bent by a select few with access. Former Texas coach Mack Brown explained that at his University, a cadre of four to five influential donors had the leaders’ ears and were able to accomplish their agendas. At Michigan, I don’t believe the power structure is that linear, but do worry whether anyone can be the change agent that is so badly needed, especially with powerful and generous donors like Stephen Ross backing Brandon.
The bottom line is that the Michigan Regents are government officials. Raise your hand if you still have faith that government officials will ever do the right thing. ... Anyone?
Fans who feel helpless can only vote with their feet. An under-100,000 attendance threatens this administration. But they believe last week’s crisis has blown over, and that the Penn State night game will provide a solid attendance figure, and then all will shortly return to normal.
Do Michigan fans have the guts to boycott? I believe that the public outcry, culminating in the impromptu rally against Dave Brandon this week, shows that people who care about Michigan football still have collective power.
With all this, the result of today’s game against the Scarlet Knights is almost superfluous. While it would be nice to win, it should not divert from the legitimate criticism that lies at Brandon’s feet. It is our duty to speak out and do what we can to end this dysfunction. That does not make us fair weather fans. When one party to any relationship is treated with such disrespect, they have the right to rise up and resist. That does not make you disloyal, or a fair weather fan – it means you care.
I for one cannot take this anymore. Yes, I wrote earlier this season that I was past the point of having a Michigan loss ruin my week. But when the entire department is showing signs of being rotten to the core, it hurts - as a fan, an alumnus, and a writer who tries every week to bring a light hearted approach to this sport.
Today, my heart is not light. I ache for the players who try their damndest and those of us who support them. And I will not bear this dysfunction without dissent.
MICHIGAN ALUMNI FANS - HALF A MILLION STRONG,
ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT – 0
By Heiko "My Name Does Not Lend Itself To Nicknames" Yang
Hello. So sorry about last week. From the feedback that we received, Mr. RoUMel and I realized that we needed a change in tactics after we both predicted a loss and negatively influenced the outcome of the game. You may not know this, but here at Punt-Counterpunt our number one priority is balance. Accuracy, while valued, is secondary. Last week we violated our first principle in favor of the second, so to atone for our error, we have decided that both of us will predict Michigan wins.
I assure you this is not disingenuous in any way whatsoever. I have been following the developments regarding the football team over the past week and analyzed them critically. My conclusion is that Michigan will be victorious today for the following reasons:
1. Changing quarterbacks is the appropriate remedy. Although this kind of move typically results in less favorable outcomes among most programs and we have no evidence to support that Shane Morris is in any way better than Devin Gardner, it is better than doing nothing. As we say in medicine when we take the Hippocratic Oath, “first do something,” because we all know that you can’t cure someone of a deadly illness by standing around.
Think about it like this: if Michigan had Ebola and the experimental drug were unavailable because he’s in San Francisco coaching the 49ers, what would you do? Brady Hoke’s expert recommendation is to give antibiotics, and I concur. No, it does not make sense because Ebola is a virus and antibiotics are for bacteria, but at least you would be doing something. And really, what’s the worse that could happen? If an Ebola patient lives long enough to develop C. diff diarrhea, you congratulate them for surviving Ebola.
2. Attendance will be kept above 100,000 at all costs. Yes, even if it means bundling tickets with Coke products or flat-out giving them away. Sure, there may be negative consequences of this in the long term, but at this juncture Michigan cannot afford to think about the long term. There is an immediate need for resuscitation. If your patient is bleeding out and you can’t stop it, you give them blood immediately, end of discussion. Try to match their blood type? No time. The only blood available was obtained from the black market? Don’t care, give it! But this is Michigan, fergodsa—? No, this is West Africa, and if the patient lives long enough to discover they have viral hepatitis or HIV, you congratulate them for surviving Ebola.
3. We have no idea what’s going on inside Schembechler Hall. Michigan is still abiding by its policy of keeping secrets and providing non-information regarding their personnel and game plan. This is highly advantageous because it allows the staff the freedom to focus and do whatever they want without daily criticism from fans and outsiders. It’s like admitting a patient and then not updating the family about anything until the patient is either cured or dead. If dead, you cite HIPAA as a reason for not divulging the fact that you gave antibiotics and unmatched blood. If cured, you congratulate them for surviving Ebola.
Michigan 5, Minnesota 4
By Nick RouMel
I have never felt this low, nor sensed this much despair. Even the RichRod years felt like a temporary blip, and hope for the future remained alive. But now … Wolverine Nation is in disarray, mean, ugly, and divided.
I was astounded last week at the comments Punt/Counterpunt generated. Heiko and I each picked a home loss. The reaction was swift and negative. “Disgusting.” “Yellow.” “Fire both of these idiots for these predictions.” “Fucking awful.” “Dong punch.”
Although I snickered at that last one, the feedback did sting. I don’t usually get such negative reaction to my writing, except in my day job from opposing counsel and judges - but I digress.
One comment in particular stuck with me: “What a fucking copout.......that's a coward's way to look at this game. So, if we lose then you can say "We told you so."”
Well, yeah, that’s the point of predictions. And despite what many readers may surmise, by and large our columns reflect our true feelings. Nor do I ever root against the Wolverines just for the satisfaction of an accurate call, nor get any joy if it comes true. But lately it has been very difficult to be optimistic.
That all changes this week. No, I don’t think our sick team is out of the woods, but I do feel we’re well enough to beat the Gophers. Forget how bad I may feel about criticism – if you’re a player or coach, it has to be a thousand times more brutal. Every time you pick up the paper, turn on the radio, or browse the internet, the inescapable message is that you’re all worthless bums.
I think this criticism has fired up the team. While I don’t generally ascribe to the philosophy illustrated below…
… there is something about the “us against the world” attitude that sometimes inspires extraordinary effort and motivation.
I am also hoping for a little personnel change to make things interesting. From the beginning of the season, I had advocated for Shane Morris to play quarterback. This is not to say anything against Devin Gardner. He is a gamer and a real talent, and I don’t think Morris is necessarily better. But my thinking has been, if you have two talented players, why keep one on the bench? Can you imagine a pro set with Morris at QB, Funchess and Gardner spread wide, the fast little guys in the slot, and a healthy Jake “One of the Butt Sisters” busting yards in the middle?
Not to mention Green, Smith and Hayes churning out those gaudy 6-plus yard averages behind a good offensive line. With the solid defense that we have, all we have to do is minimize mistakes and bonehead plays to be competitive in every game.
As such, Minnesota doesn’t stand a chance, regardless of who is behind center. I have to believe that we have done hit bottom – and that we start climbing out today.
Yes sports fans, my name is Counterpunt, and I make predictions. Dong punch this, suckas:
MICHIGAN 24, MINNESOTA 10
expect PLANES today apparently
By Nick RouMel
This weekend is already a success! I sold my tickets for $30 each, a significant improvement over the $20 I obtained for my Miami ducats. This does not include the cut taken by my friendly neighborhood protection racket.
Truth is, I cannot bear to be present during the Utah game. I fear a terrible result. I base this on several important factors.
One is Utah’s all time record vs. the Wolverines. It is just as good as that of several other formidable opponents, such as Alabama, Appalachian State, Auburn, Florida State, and Iowa Pre-Flight. The last time Utah played Michigan, they beat us in the Big House 25-23 en route to an undefeated 2008 season.
Reason number two is the disrespect afforded us by today’s opponent. Heed this from the Salt Lake City Tribune, contrasting the 2008 contest to this year’s game: “Back then, beating Michigan was a sign. It indicated the Utes … were ready for prime time. By contrast, this Michigan team might not be among Utah’s top five toughest.”
“Back then?” Ouch. Has it been that long since anyone considered Michigan a signature win?
Reason three is Brady Hoke’s all-time record against Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. It’s 0-2, both losses coming when Hoke coached San Diego State. This is conclusive evidence that Whittingham is in Hoke’s head, just as surely as that box of Little Debbies sits on Hoke’s desk.
Reason four is that the official attendance will be less than 100,000. In fact the stadium will be so empty that the best Carl Grapentine will be able to muster is “the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in Washtenaw County today.” For the most part, I expect the fans who do attend to spectate with marked indifference.
And reason five, for my fear that Michigan will not prevail over Utah, is that I cannot overcome my overwhelming lack of confidence to predict a victory for this team - at least at this point in the 2014 season.
Sports fans, this may be a Punt-Counterpunt first – two picks for a home loss. Definitely not a milestone worth celebrating. Please accept the following with my apologies:
UTAH 24, MICHIGAN 21
By Heiko Yang
This is less Punt-Counterpunt than it is Delay of Game-Punt from the 37. What better to follow up disappointment than with more disappointment?
I agree with Mr. RouMel’s reasons for why Michigan is going to lose today, but I believe he’s thinking and feeling too hard. I prefer much simpler explanations.
1. Utah wears red. Over the last two seasons, Michigan’s record against teams wearing red is 3-6. That’s not good. It’s 4-6 if you include CMU last year because you think maroon is the same as red, in which case you probably also think corn is a vegetable.
2. I don’t know what the capital of Utah is. Does anyone? It’s probably obscure like “Cheyenne” or something. Wait, the internet says it’s Salt Lake City. That’s stupid, and I don’t believe. That’s like saying Detroit is the capital of Michigan, or New York City is the capital of New York, because having your biggest city be your capital is completely un-American. Stop being so un-American, Utah. Here in America we play with 11 players – not 12! -- and our wide receivers are not allowed to sprint toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, so don’t even think about it.
3. The entire Utah team went to see Maze Runner last night.
Michigan’s running backs feel like they’re in Maze Runner every other play.
4. There’s a guy on their team whose last name is Amaama, pronounced “ah-mah-ah-mah.” That reminds me pleasantly of that muppets song called “mahna mahna.” Please, Special K. Please play the muppets during the game. If you don’t, Michigan Stadium will be awash in my radiant disappointment while I will cheer loudly for Amaama if he plays, which he probably won’t, because he’s a freshman OL, and only at Michigan do we play freshman OL.
5. Today is September 20. The last time Michigan had a football game on September 20 was in 2003 when they played Oregon. And lost.
Utah 35, Michigan 21
[Editor's note: yes I know someone is supposed to predict a win against a middling Pac-12 team. Depression! Ennui!]
Yeah, it sure does hurt.
By Heiko Yang
Well that sucked. Not sure what more I can say about last week other than I can’t believe my pessimistic prediction (ND 21, UM 16) wasn’t pessimistic enough. I actually thought at halftime that Michigan could shut out Notre Dame in the second half and score a couple touchdowns, but of course that didn’t happen because why would anyone make any halftime adjustments.
One of the nice things about not covering the team anymore is I can choose to stop thinking about Michigan football during the week. I don’t have to go to depressing press conferences and ask inconsequential questions about game plans and then have to listen to it all over again while transcribing. I don’t have to open the mgoblog app or Twitter to read about how crappy Michigan played against Notre Dame and why the season is over. None of this is in my face anymore like it has been the last three years.
Except I still spend my free time scrutinizing postgame pressers, looking for the game column Monday around noon, waiting patiently for the UFRs, and scanning Twitter daily for developments. No matter how disappointing the result, I’m finding it impossible to mentally or emotionally distance myself from Michigan football.
Win or lose, following Michigan football is important for my happiness. I don’t know why. It’s an obsession that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and it’s a weird feeling I’ve been trying to figure out for more than a year now. It’s counterintuitive that I can feel better by thinking about the very thing that makes me feel miserable.
So far I’ve concluded that the underlying reason for all of this might be -- idunno, hope? Certainly not hope in the cure-for-cancer sense, but more like hope as a coping mechanism. I think most you get what I’m talking about. No matter how badly a game goes, there’s always a degree to which every fan will rationalize the results and pick out the tiny glimmers of hope indicating that things weren’t as bad as they seem and that there might be a better outcome next time.
As Michigan fans, we’re lucky to have this blog to do the rationalizing for us. The weekly UFR is the ultimate tool with which to say, “Yeah, we scored zero points, but because of X, Y, and Z, we may be more likely to score more than zero points in the future.” Even when Michigan is losing, like it was the entire second half of 2013, there are individual performances we can follow week to week in order to find tiny victories, like Frank Clark’s emergence and Devin Gardner’s heroic performances in spite of staggering adversity. It’s always a thrill when these tiny victories come together in unison to give you that one perfect game or that one badly needed victory over a rival. Last game, it was good to know that there was improvement by defensive front and offensive line. Even though getting blanked by an absconding rival always sucks, it’s nice to believe that the team is taking a step forward from last season’s ineptitude.
I don’t think this tendency will ever change, and I don’t want it to. Michigan might be mediocre for the next five seasons, but many of us will continue to watch because we will always have hope that things will be better next game.
It isn’t a bad addiction by any means. It’s a weekly exercise in optimism, and there’s nothing weird or maladaptive about a way of thinking that someday might actually help lead to a cure for cancer.
Michigan 52, Miami 10
By Nick RouMel
Welcome, Heiko, to Wolverines Anonymous. Have a cup of coffee and take a seat.
We too used to live and die on the outcome. A bad loss would ruin our day, if not our week. Look at my friend Jim over there, sitting in the folding chair, with a half eaten powdered sugar doughnut. In 1980, he was driving, listening to the Notre Dame game, when Harry Oliver’s 51 yard field goal barely cleared the crossbar to beat Michigan, just as the fierce crosswinds that had been blowing all afternoon miraculously stopped.
Jim stopped his car on Washtenaw Avenue, got out, banged on the hood for a few miserable moments, and then presumably drove straight to the nearest bar. He still hasn’t recovered.
Today, Heiko, we are on the road to recovery. It has been a long, arduous trip. But we are no longer emotionally beholden to the fate of the football team. We have stopped tailgating. We put our tickets on StubHub and hope they sell. We do crazy things on Saturday, like spend time with our families. Heiko, for the rest of us in this room, it’s over.
Oh, sure, we do our share of cyberstalking. We check the score, furtively. In meetings, we scan MGoBlog, and nod knowingly at the sage insights, while our co-workers think we’re agreeing with the boss. Our hearts still leap a little bit when we score a recruit, like Jabrill Peppers.
And when the opening drive is hitting on all cylinders, that familiar longing returns. We dare hope. But reality intrudes, rudely. Like when you’re in a hotel bar in Toronto, watching the game with your wife, and it turns ugly. And you don’t even realize your wallet was stolen while you were hammering down Rusty Nails and yelling at the screen. Thank you, Hilton security. But I digress.
It’s not, Heiko. It’s not important for your happiness. It’s not a five year bump in the road. It’s not what it once was. It’s a diversion. That’s why you’re here. Have a coffee and doughnut, and pull up a chair. We can help you.
Yes, my name is Counterpunt and I’m a cranky old S.O.B. I haven’t cared in …
Whoa, what’s this report on my IPhone? John Harbaugh is tired of the Ray Rice mess in Baltimore and might be enticed to Ann Arbor? That would be a great fit! It could bring us back to glory!
Enjoy your doughnut, Heiko. I’m going to the game.
MICHIGAN 27, MIAMI 19