in town for free camps
1997 Michigan Football
A Historical Fiction piece i wrote for my Creative Writing course, it could only be five pages, but would have been around 8 if i could have done what i wanted.
Teammates, and Champions
Charles walked along Main Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a gloomy August day, there he saw the infamous Big House; 106,000 empty seats waiting eagerly for the 1997 season to start. He thought to himself, “I can’t wait for this season, man, they have no clue.” He started jogging back to his dorm to eat, then get ready for bed after a long day of lifting, class, practice, then film; the almost unbearable life of a college football star. His roommate and teammate, Andre Weathers, was watching film on his vintage TV that his mother bought him the year before. Last season Andre struggled learning the new defense and his confidence was a little shook. He would always turn to Charles for advice, whether he could act on that advice would be up to him though. During the 1996 season CB Charles Woodson was finishing up his second year as Michigan’s starting defensive back. He was considered one of the best in the country at the position his Freshman and Sophomore years and many analyst docked him as an All-American, multiple award-winning, first round draft pick.
The opponent they faced first was the Colorado Buffaloes, a team who was large, experienced, and extremely well coached. The weekend was four days away. Michigan was in Schembechler Hall, named after the beloved Bo Schembechler. The team meeting was held there every Tuesday and was ran by Coach Car, a handsome and very intriguing older man who seemed to knew every button to push on every player. A motivator is the simplest way to put it, but to people who knew him he’s much more. Halfway through the meeting as Car is explaining the motto of the season “Trust, Leadership, Willpower”
which was engrained in every player as if it was their very favorite childhood memory, Charles Woodson stood up on his older broken desk and shouted to his teammates,
“This is OUR year, and this is MY year, this YOUR year, and together WE will make history!” Teammates cheered “Yeah Woodson!” “Hell yeah boys! Let’s win this for Michigan.”
The team rallied around coach Car and sang the notorious fight song “Hail to the Victors” as they jousted their venerated Coach into the air. The night ended on a great note and the feeling was in the air. It was their year.
That same night Charles was lying in his bed when he heard the fuzzy TV on out in their small living room. He was confused as to why it was playing and clearly remembered turning it off right before he went to bed. He went to check, and what he saw filled him with a great sense of pride. At 2 A.M. Andre was watching film on Colorado.
Andre and Charles went to bed, with visions of a National Championship dancing in their heads.
The week went by at a rapid pace and it was game day. The noon kickoff was approaching fast and the fans had been tailgating since 6 in the morning. The whole campus was buzzing as the 17
th ranked Wolverines faced the 8th ranked Buffaloes from the beautiful city of Boulder. ESPN was talking about the game the whole week, as it was one of the premier matchups of opening day. People were football hungry and it showed. Every game that was played that week had very detailed write-ups and predictions of the score. The Michigan-Colorado write-up was very one sided with the 5 analyst predicting the Buff’s to win easily in Ann Arbor. A quote from E. Jackson, who was the Ann Arbor Free Press sportswriter, was being read aloud by Charles in the locker room just 5 minutes before kickoff, “Colorado stomps Michigan, 38-12.” The players were pissed and rallied up together. Quarterback Brian Griese was giving a very emotional, heart-felt speech. The team was fired up, and ready to tap the “M Club Supports You” banner, a tradition held for many years. As the Maize-and-Blue clad ran out of the tunnel you could hear 106,000 fans cheering for what seemed like miles. Kick off was here.
Michigan jumped out to a 10-0 lead at the half, and the energy in the stadium was appreciable. The defense was relying on the tough man-to-man defense from Charles and Andre. They had locked down the Buff’s receivers all half with only 3 receptions total. In the locker room, Coach Car applauded the team and inspired them to fight on, and win the second half as well. The Wolverines did just that as they cruised to a 27-3 stomping of Colorado. The Michigan defense didn’t give up a touchdown thanks to the great play of the veteran secondary. The hard work of both Charles and Andre paid off. In a post-game interview, E. Jackson caught up with Woodson just before he ran into the tunnel.
Jackson asked Woodson, “What did the defense do today to stump the highly potent Colorado offense?
Woodson responded briefly and quickly “It’s our year. Thanks for doubting us.” Charles then ran off into the tunnel with his winged helmet held high.
The Wolverines went on to win their next 5 games. 6-0 heading in to State week Charles thought to himself, halfway there. Woodson was excelling on the field, with 32 tackles, and 4
interceptions. As a defense they hadn’t gave up more than 24 points in a single game. That score coming from the always tough Iowa Hawkeyes. Notre Dame was the next closest, with only 14 points. Michigan was ranked in the top 8 and people started giving them a close look, as a possible contender in not only the Big Ten, but in the National picture as well.
Andre Weathers was also playing extremely well, and posted a respectable 22 tackles with 2 interceptions. The Junior corner was no longer struggling; instead, strutting himself around campus. They felt like kings, and in some aspects, were treated as such.
Michigan was prepared to play the in-state rival Spartans. Some viewed the Michigan St Spartans as the Wolverines “little brother” in terms of results on the field, and academically. The Spartans came into the game with a 2-4 record, something the Wolverines shouldn’t have scoffed at. To MSU players this was their National Championship.
Charles Woodson was a target for the Spartans as he told the local news, “Michigan St is formed up of players that Michigan didn’t want, that Ohio didn’t want. Classless, dirty players, they go against everything we stand for.” Coach Car heard these comments on the News and was pissed, calling the young Woodson on the phone.
“What the hell were you thinking Charles? You can’t go around talking to the news like you have no repercussions! Are you trying to get us killed Saturday?” Charles started to respond, but Coach told him to shut up, “I’m sorry but I’m going to have to sit you for the first half.”
Coach Car hung up the phone. Charles was sitting on his small bed in his apartment, Andre asked him what was going on and he told him the he was sitting the first half of the State game. Andre went on thinking in his head… You’ve got to be kidding me...
Prentavious Jones-Darbo would be taking his spot, the highly touted Freshman from Santa-
Monica, California. Half-way through the second quarter, Jones-Darbo was completely toasted by the State receiver and the Wolverines ran into halftime trailing 7-0 to the rival Spartans.
Michigan started the third quarter with the ball, driving 78 yards on just 6 plays for a quick score tying it all up. The Spartans next drive was ended shortly, as Woodson jumped nearly four feet into the air and snagged the ball with one hand, tip-toeing his foot down right before it hit the sideline. The Wolverine crowd erupted and the momentum shifted. The Wolverines went on effortlessly to shut the Spartans out the second half going on to win the Paul Bunyan Trophy, 23-7. Wolverine players ran onto midfield with the Olde Paul Bunyan Trophy, and sang “Hail to the Victors” as loud as their voices could raise, Michigan had triumphed Little Brother again.
Michigan was 8-0. Charles Woodson was in the running for one of the most prestigious awards known to man, and Ann Arbor was now the place to be. Michigan went on to win their next four games which included a drubbing over 8th ranked Penn St 34-8 in State College. The Wolverine faithful was rocking and the college football world was in awe of the 2nd ranked Wolverines.
December 17th, 1996. “Standing on that podium, hoisting the Heisman trophy was a dream of mine, a dream turned reality, congratulations to the guys that were up there with me.”
Charles won the Heisman trophy, and was the first defensive player to ever do so. He truly was in a class of his own. Michigan had Washington St in the Rose bowl, which would determine if Michigan won the National Championship.
The Wolverines and Charles were unstoppable. Michigan was the team everyone wanted to be, everyone wished their season had turned out like the beloved Wolverines. Coach Car was AP coach of the year, an honor that was highly respected. Michigan beat Washington St in that Rose Bowl. They were the undefeated National Champions.
Running into the locker room the Wolverines sang “Hail to the Victors” one last time.
Charles spoke to the team, “Before this season started I knew we were going to win it all. Thank you guys for allowing me to win the Heisman and a National Championship!” the team broke out in cheers.
Coach Car proceeded to tell his athletes, “I am so gracious for this team. I have NEVER, and I mean NEVER, been more proud to coach the men in this room.” Coach Car started crying and gave the crystal ball, the trophy of the champions, to Andre Weathers. Andre shook his head in disbelief.
“Hey Charles, get your fancy ass over here.” Andre said. Charles and Andre held the crystal ball over their heads in a way only a champion could do.
Anyone who tried straight downhill running against us was going into the teeth of our defense. Our front four and rotating subs were some of the best that M has ever had. Very seldomly did we ever have to blitz with our linebackers because the front got so much pressure. It allowed us to sit back in tight coverage and ball hawk all day.
Defensively, the only issue I ponder is how our defense would have stacked up against today's spread offenses. The closest thing we faced to a spread that year was Washington State but their offense was more predicated on the pass. Today's spread is more geared towards the run so it would have been interesting to see how we would have faired.
Our offense was adequet enough to make up for the lack of major explosiveness. Griese was as competenta QB as anyone could ask for. His pin-point accuracy that year was deadly and although he didn't have a plethora of deep threats, he selectively used Streets, Shaw and Tuman very well. He was also very well at spreading the ball around that year and when the opportunity presented itself he wasn't afraid to take a shot downfield. The strength was obviously the running game as we had three highly capable backs that year including a young A-Train. We also had arguably the best offensive line in our history and one of the most unsung heroes in FB Chris "follow me" Floyd.
My issue with matching them up to today's defenses is zone schemes have evolved so much nowadays that I wonder how BG would have handled it. Our running game and play-action tricks still would have led the way but I wonder how our offense would fair when they're forced to throw the ball against a much more sound zone scheme that many teams employ today. Also, with the exception of Streets, we didn't really have any burners to stretch the field.
So let's take a look at the 97 squad going up against the 2014 schedule:
Applachian State - No contest. I doubt we would have put up 52 points like this year but I also doubt the 97 unit would have given up 14 to App. State. In fact, I have a hard time believing they would have crossed the 50-yard line. WIN 30-0
Notre Dame - This is where it gets interesting. Gholson created problems for us now and I'd have to imagine he would have created problems for us then. We didn't face anyone in 97 with quite his ability but in 1998 with many of the same defensive players, we squared up against Donovan McNabb and that didn't end too well for us. Our speed may have slowed ND's potent offense and Gholson down but they still would have put up some points. The advantage I see us having is that we didn't turn the ball over in 97 and turnovers were a huge problem in the 2014 contest. Although playing in South Bend would have been a challenge, I just don't see us giving them short fields like we did this year. Our offense controls the clock and produces just enough 1st downs to sneak out of the dance with the chic. WIN 24-20
Miami - No challenge, no let down from this physically imposing and confident team. Surprisingly was a decent game in the 1st half this year but the 97 squad would have worn them down very quickly. Miami would have had a ton of early 3-and-outs and M would have grinded away at the heart of their defense. I could see all three of our backs going for 100 yards each. WIN 34-0
Utah - This is what separates the 97 squad from any Wolverine team in the past 7 years - their resiliency. They were the toughest sons of bitches on the football field. They would never have allowed a semi-quasi hurricane to deviate them from a severe beat down of an opponent like this year's team did. The 97 squad would have been itching to get back out on the field after a lengthy two-hour rain delay and showcase their ability. The Utes would never have been able to sustain any of their drives like they did this year be ause we were so good at getting off the field on 3rd downs in 1997. Turnovers were a major issue with us in this 2014 game, something we just didn't do in 97. And even if all else failed and the Utes somehow managed to stay with our beloved NC team, if our 97 squad would have witnessed someone else striking the Heisman pose in our stadium, the red in Utah's uniforms would have quickly began to look like the Scarlett from OSU and it would have been go-time. WIN 27-9
Minnesota/Rutgers/Penn State - this is where it gets a bit jokey as none of these team's offenses would have been able to move the ball against our front 7. For as solid as the Gophers have been under Jerry Kill, you can't expect to run roughshod over the 97 squad's run defense. It just wouldn't happen. For as great as Gary Nova looked against our 2014 defense, guys like Woodson, Ray, Weathers, Hendricks, Peterson, Whitley (holy shit we were loaded) would have picked off any ball that somehow made it out the backfield as Nova would have been throwing from his ass from the amount of heat he would have felt. We probably would have picked off anywhere from six to twenty passes of his. Penn State would have been laughable because I'm not sure they would gained a yard with their offense against our defense.
Minny - WIN 31-13
New Jerz - WIN 40 -3
PSU - WIN 34 - negative 5
Michigan State - the 97 team would have found out quickly that this ain't your Grandmomma's Spartans as this probably would have been something as close to WW3 as you can find. There would have been body blows, uppercuts and right hooks back and forth for 60 minutes, possibly more. The team that compares to the 2014 Spartans in 1997 isIowa. That Hawkeye team had similar components - tough run game, capable QB, disciplined, in your face attitude, but probably not as good a defense as today's Sparty.That Iowa team gave us fits as so would have this year's MSU team. Griese would have had to come up big against a formidable D-line so check downs to his running backs and his play action deception would have came in big here. Our D would certainly be tested with one of the best RB's in Langford. I think our depth would have helped us a lot in this game as we had many moving parts that season on the defensive side of the ball. We probably would have bent a bit but I don't think we would have broke. WIN 20-17
Indiana/Northwestern/Maryland - this stretch would give the 97 team its first real life look at some type of spread offenses just without the personnel or talent. I can see our 97 squad coming away with one question from each game:
Indy - They lead the B1G in total offense? WIN 37-6
NW - If this is Northwestern then why do they have 5 WR's on the field? WIN 33-3
Maryland - Who is this team? WIN 39-7
Ohio State - Interesting. Challenging. 97 defense meet Urban Meyer. The brawn of the Wolverines verse the brains of a great coach. Uncharted territory for us back then as we never faced a more calculating mastermind. The zone read would have been an issue for us because quite frankly it didn't exist back then. We were a very disciplined team so I have to imagine we would have maintained good gap integrity and our DB's wouldn't have bought on any play actions off of the zone read options. I'd have to say that this would have been our greatest challenge. Our offense would have A.) controlled the clock like no other and play keep away or B.) keep pace by throwing the ball downfield. We would have given up points to the genius coach but for shits and giggles let's say WIN 31-30
Wisconsin (B1G Championship) - Ummmmm yeah. I have a feeling that the Badgers circa 1997 is EXACTLY the same as 2014. I wouldn't be surprised if the average height, weight and 40-yard dash times of their roster is exactly the same as it is now. Beefy guys up front, solid but unspectacular QB, and an electric RB. They gave us a game in 97 and I imagine they'd give us a game in 2014. We beat them back then and we'd beat them now. WIN 24-13
That brings us to the final four of ALABAMA, OREGON, FLORIDA STATE and MICHIGAN. The SEC wasn't as overhyped and as blown as it is today but it certainly is more talented and advanced. Oregon would have been a major issue for us simply because of Marcus Marriotta and Florida State well.....is....Florida State. As much as I am in love with the 1997 National Champs, I think their magical climb up the mountain ends in the semi-final to the Crimson Tide. Too much size, too much speed and too many playmakers for us to handle. Although how fun would it have been to see Amari Cooper going up against Charles Woodson??? The game would be an absolute dog-fight and by no means so I think we would be over-matched but I see us losing something like 27-21.
Happy Holidays and yes I was bored!
A little late in the day, but good Michigan content on BTN.
Michigan - Indiana basketball (2014 in Ann Arbor) is currently on.
Big Ten Icons - Charles Woodson is next (9:30 EST)
Perseverance: The Story of Dr. Billy Taylor (10:00 EST)
1997 Michigan - Ohio State, with the Woodson punt return and interception (11:00 EST)
Slow day got me to thinking about the aftermath of the 1997 National Championship season.
I was an undecided LSA sophomore that glorious year and my memories of most of the games are vivid, but much less vivid are my memories of the "official" celebration when students returned to campus. Quite frankly, the night of the rally at Crisler I remember being so blitzed on Aftershock (yes, I know, not very masculine of me....but I WAS just a sophomore and the rock candy in the bottle was pretty damn good) that my ONLY memory of the actual event was walking there with a group of my buddies and being incredulous that a guy was selling unofficial national championship tee-shirts at the corner of Hoover and Greene for the price of 3 shirts for 5 dollars. "How could that man have been turning a profit", I asked....nobody answered.
From that point on I think I was awake but incoherent. Anyone have any memories from the rally to help allow me to patch in that gap in my fanhood?
The online sources are fairly weak:
The Fab Five,
1997 Football Season and
2013 Championship Pre-Game
The Fab Five:
debuted at now destroyed Cobo Arena against the University of Detroit. Seating under 12,000, Cobo was still a bigger venue than U of D's home court, Calihan Hall.
I decided to go to see the show. I believe they were on the floor together for less than two minutes. I remember lots of turnovers, but we won easily.
Most of the Fab Five games were on TV, and they were great, and fun to watch, back to back Final Fours, off to the NBA.
And then. The scandal. Ed Martin, somehow identifed as a UM "booster," had given money to Michigan players.
A rally for Steve Fisher was held at the Michigan Theatre featuring Jim Brandstatter, among others.
Two days later, he was fired.
So, I tell my daughter, here is my recollection suffused with what I was told by reliable, or maybe not so reliable, sources.
Ed Martin was supposedly a UAW retiree who just liked to be nice to the kids in the hood, though, the better you were at basketball, the nicer he was.
He was never a guy who said, if you go to such and such school, I will reward you. He also gave some kids, like Mr. Webber, money before they were even in high school.
He gave money to kids who went to other schools, like Missouri.
But he was on the Michigan coaches list for comp tickets to some games.
The feds were after him for running a numbers game, an illegal lottery. Turns out gambling profites were the real source of his largesse.
That investigation took forever.
Pure hearsay, as they say in my business, is that the U. S. Attorney in charge of the investigation was a Notre Dame grad who hated Michigan, and so dragged things out on purpose.
Martin himself even died before he could be tried.
It seems to me that, at some point, the focus of his gift giving changed from buying big man on the street status, to laundering his gambling gains. The Webber and post-Webber beneficiaries are alleged to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of Webber's problems was that Martin was trying to get his money back, and Webber said, what money?
Grand juries are one of the least democratic institutions still allowed in our democracy. There is no right to have your attorney present while you are being questioned as a witness. You can be subpoenad, that is, forced under the contempt power, to appear as a witness. If you decline, you can be jailed for contempt until you do testify.
Now, the first rule of practicing criminal law is, get your fee up front. The second rule is, never let your client testify before a grand jury until he is granted immunity for prosecution for anything he testifies about. If the government balks at immunity; your client invokes his 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refuses to testify.
Alas, Mr. Webber's attorney botched this simple rule and allowed him to testify without immunity, and, for reasons still unknown, he lied about getting money from Martin.
Now, there is NCAA law/rules, whatever, which readers of this blog know to be Byzantine, archaic, unfair, unevenly applied, et cetera, and, there is criminal law.
It is perjury to lie to a grand jury, and Mr. Webber copped a plea to that.
Jalen Rose did testify, and freely stated that Martin gave him a few dollars here and there on many occasions. Far as I know, he did so without immunity, but told the truth, so no criminal issue.
However, NCAA issues remained.
There is nothing illegal, or, even immoral, about accepting a gift of money from, anyone. The other three of the Fab Five were not from the Detroit area, and outside the influence of Mr. Martin.
So, the ten year ban on contact from Michigan with the Fab Five ended May, 2013.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon has said Webber has to come forward and take responsibility for his actions. Jalen Rose has intimated the same. Who knows how it will turn out.
Like many others, I have had enough of the Webber drama.
Now, team 84 of Michigan basketball said they welcomed the support of the Fab Five, even donning haircuts honoring them before one game. I believe the Maize hoodies they wore for the Indiana home pre-game were a sort of tribute. So, I yield to the team's wishes on their attendance at the title game.
But this Webber drama, will he or won't he? In our seats before the game, tweets from everyone that Webber was there with his girl friend, but, NOT sitting with the rest of his former teammates.
To whom, according to King and Rose, he has not spoken in over 20 years.
Message to Chris: get over your bad self.
* * * * *
Fortunately, Erin did not fall asleep during this fascinating factual recital from her father.
The weather was great. At one gas stop, I bought a sub and posed with it in front of my face while wearing my "We had subs It was crazy" M Go Blog shirt.
Erin switched from listening to me to her preferred young country music on the radio.
No calls or emails on tickets.
I texted Matt, host of our football tailgate, that I planned on meeting him at his hotel. I figured if I scored some tickets off Craig's list, I would need to print them out somewhere, and I could get that done at the hotel.
My oldest, Janell, could not make this trip, but she saw the 1998 Rose Bowl with me, so she said she had her championship, and this would be Erin's turn.
* * * * *
That game was a BIG ticket issue. I wanted to set up the Rose Bowl trip before the Ohio game, but my wife said oh, no, remember that one year, you got tickets for me and my cousin, and Iowa ended up going. Bad luck to count your chickens before they hatch.
So, we end up with flights that routed through Philadelphia. Whatever. We get there, free lodging at my aunt's house in Arcadia, home of the Santa Anita racetrack.
We left with both girls and without any game tickets.
On arriving at my aunt's, we discover that my dentist's son has a pair we could have. Alleluia!
Turns out he bought two as a Michigan employee, for his brother to use, as he had a conflict because of a wedding to attend. The brother already had tickets from another source, and the dentist, a long time family friend, knew we were looking. Cool.
Erin was not yet 7 at the time, but I still looked for two more tickets, so that we all could go.
Staying out over night on the street on Colorado Boulevard to have front row seats for the parade was part of our plan. I had done this on all three of my prior Rose Bowl trips, and my wife was with me the last time, the loss to UCLA.
I made a sign that said "Need Rose Bowl Tickets" and walked up and down the middle of Colorado Boulevard, a couple of hours before the parade, in front of, literally, tens of thousands of people.
I had two offers, for single tickets, $300 each. I declined.
Should have taken them, turns out they were going for $1,000 a piece before kickoff.
Anyway, my wife said too much money, I will just stay with Erin, you and Janell go.
And lifetime memories were made as we won an exciting game and rejoiced in a perfect season and national championship, and the end of my 0 and 5 personal bowl record.
A Michigan fan sitting next to us thought to offer to take our picture, and it sits proudly on the shelf, each of us smiling broadly and holding up a finger signifying Michigan: #1.
* * * * *
So, we make it to the Atlanta hotel, which is the team hotel, crammed with Michigan fans. The whole interior is an open atrium to the top floor. From the 5th floor, Matt points out where the Robinson family hung out, where the Hardaway family gathered, where the band studied, and so on.
Still no tickets.
So I call my friend back in Ann Arbor, hey, don't have any yet, does your friend still have two?
Let me check, he says.
Back and forth on cell phones, leaving messages, eventually hook up, yes, still available, you can have them, meet us at 8:30 at a specified spot at the stadium.
Matt says hey, we are on the first bus, which, for some reason, leaves before the team, but you can stay and watch them board the bus.
Cool, says Erin.
There is an L shaped line, cordoned off, with some of the band inside, playing our favorite tunes. Maybe 70 or 80 Michigan fans press around the edge. The players and staff enter from the long end of the L, and walk to the corner turning left along the short section of the L that leads outside to the bus. Applause and camera clicks greet each personage. Horford picks up a 3 year old girl from the front row and hoists her above his head, much to her delight.
Of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I notice Mr. Brandon, decked out in a striped blue power suit, just behind me to my left, wearing a puzzled expression as he looks around at the folks in front of him.
My first thought is, he must know how to get on the bus, he would have been on it Saturday, what is the deal?
So I say: May I help you, sir?
We have spoken at events before but I am sure he will not remember me.
And he says, well, I am trying to figure out, how to, -
Then he realizes there is no restraint, just people standing along the short side of the L, and he works his way through.
Damn. I was going to jump in and part the sea for him. Oh, well.
The fan to my left, pushing age 70, says Who was that.
Dave Brandon, says I.
Who is that?
The athletic director for the University of Michigan.
Excited utterance: "He just brushed my clothes!"
* * * * *
The team is off and so should we be. Let's stop and eat, save money over stadium concession prices, and we have enough time.
As I am buying, Erin's agreement is readily secured.
Turns out I got half of a free salad at Wendy's; I stopped eating after pulling a six inch hair out of my meal. No time to order another.
Vehicles multiplying as I approach our parking lot goal when the phone rings.
My ticket connection says: Hey, traffic was not bad for us, we are here early. I look at the clock. Yeah, I think, over half an hour early.
She starts giving directions after I state my location. I am being spoken to as if I were a lifetime Atlanta resident familiar with each street instead of someone who stopped here once for a few hours in 1972.
I see an open lane and veer into it while trying to explain no, I do not know the northeast corner of whatever, when I realize the lane was free because the oncoming traffic was stopped on the other side of the light.
I yell that I have to get off as I am going the wrong way on a one way street and drop my phone on the floor.
Ahh. Calm restored as I am allowed back to the correct side of the thoroughfare, and we proceed to our destination, which looks full already.
No problem, says the parking lot attendant, just follow my directions, leave enough room for the car in the corner next to the entrance to get around you, and you will be fine. OK, spatially challenged as I am, I figure it out, I will be unblocked, in front of the other car, next to the driveway. A perfect location for the quick getaway we need.
One of the great things about Michigan is the extended twilight at our latitude, and, that we are on the edge of the Eastern time zone, so the sun sets later.
Conversely, in Atlanta, it is getting dark much earlier, as we try to locate the folks who still have our tickets, or so I think, having been told only that it is "complicated."
We eventually find each other in the increasingly massive throng pressing into the cordoned off lanes that lead into the stadium.
I am told by one of the four, two couples, that we have to get to the gate before the tickets can even be printed. Yes, that qualifies as complicated.
Even though these tickets were purchased a year ago, they can ONLY be printed when the charge card used to buy them is scanned through a contraption on the belt of the usher, which then prints out four tickets, each the size of a business card. Cool.
We are inside the stadium with the tickets in hand, having yet to be told the price. I am hoping I have enough cash to cover it; Stub Hub prices were not below $245 when I landed these.
Let's see, one of the women says to her husband. They cost $270, and there were two games Saturday, so three games in all, is $90 OK?
Uh. Yes. I pay the $180 and, so far, everything is breaking our way.
Many of you are familiar with the 1997 season and the "shared championship" controversy. In the years since, especially the recent ones, I've often thought about how much talent Michigan had that year. This is partly because several guys from the roster are still high-profile NFL players.
When 1997 has come up in my conversations with college football fans outside the Midwest, I've noticed that the majority of them assume that Nebraska would have beaten Michigan if (say) the BCS had existed that year. I could speculate as to why that's the case, but that's not my main point here.
We'll obviously never know how that game might have turned out, but I've long believed that Michigan had more talent that year than Nebraska. How could that be measured?
I decided to look at the '97 rosters for both teams and the NFL database (http://www.databasefootball.com/). Here are my findings (specifically, lists of the future pros from each team):
Michigan wins easily.
* Michigan has more players, 33 to 24.
* Michigan has more "NFL" years, 200 to 152.
* Michigan's players appear to be distributed more evenly through the classes. Notice how many more 4th-/5th-year guys they have. So, more mature talent, right?
* NFL careers (and length thereof) are obviously not a perfect measure of talent at the college level, but I'll bet the correlation is significantly positive.
* On the other side (so to speak) plenty of college stars, including some Michigan Men over the years, have never played a game in the NFL. That doesn't mean they weren't significant contributors at the NCAA level.
* On the database site, classes were clearly assigned based on years in the program. Tom Brady was a junior to them but a redshirt sophomore to Michigan.
* Data goes to only 2009. You'll see that number next to players who were still active that year.
* The presence of a future pro in a given year might not be important. For example, Michigan gets all of Tom Brady's years, but he made a minimal contribution to the '97 team (on the field, at least). I would have looked at that more closely and filtered the non-contributors, but I didn't have enough information for the task.
* Compare '97 to '08. So far, there are only seven guys from that team (Trent, Jamison, Graham, Mesko, Brown, and probably Schilling and Mouton). Martin and possibly others (Hemingway, Molk, RVB, Woolfolk, Koger, Omameh, Roundtree, and Stonum ... too early to tell for the rest, I think) should join them eventually.