W. P. Kinsella passed away last weekend at the age of eighty-one. During his lifetime, Kinsella published seven novels and over a dozen collections of short stories, but the work for which he will be most remembered is Shoeless Joe, the book on which the 1989 film Field of Dreams was based. Now familiar to sports fans and non-sports fans alike, the story hardly needs to be recounted: an Iowa man hears a spectral voice while standing in the middle of his cornfield, and by heeding its call, the man discovers a way back to the baseball heroes of his youth. Kinsella’s work was often assigned the label of magical realism, a term which suggests the blending of fact and fantasy into a tenuous equilibrium, but to the true devotee, Kinsella’s work may read more like a testament of faith. Kinsella’s lasting contribution may be the way in which he taught sports fans to believe in the voice from the sky.
For thirty-three years, until 2005, Howard King was the voice from the sky in Michigan Stadium, where he served as the public address announcer. Understated and level, King’s voice raised an entire generation of Michigan Football fans to appreciate the unique culture of the program: substance over style, consistency over conceit, tradition over all. This was not the culture of most other institutions, and certainly not of the businesses which constitute the NFL, all of whom sold their souls to the Devil in exchange for a few extra decibels of arousal. In fact, up until the last decade, Michigan Stadium crowds were frequently disparaged for behaving more like an audience at a symphony -- clapping at appropriate times, looking on in silence during the rest -- than a throng at a football game. Whether or not the criticism was fair mattered little (nor does the fact that King’s replacement, Carl Grapentine, is -- of all things -- a deejay for a classical music radio station). Michigan fans didn’t care. We didn’t need piped-in music or pleas for cheering. All we wanted was our beautiful metaphor, the steady drone of Howard King’s voice punctuating another methodical march down the field.
To those who watched carefully, King was once again present at The Big House this past Saturday afternoon, though this time, it was not his voice which greeted fans but, rather, his image. Since the arrival of coach Jim Harbaugh last season, Michigan’s game day field entrance has been preceded by a video montage -- narrated by another iconic Michigan voice, James Earl Jones -- featuring footage of Michigan greats from all walks of University life: astronauts, United States Presidents, professors, former athletes, television personalities, and olympians. Each week, the video changes ever so slightly, substituting a picture here or there so as to keep the cast in fresh rotation. In the most recent edition, someone in the athletic department had decided to slip in a black and white shot of King glancing at the camera from his regular perch, in front of a microphone in the old Michigan Stadium press box. How many other fanbases would recognize a mugshot of their former public address announcer? Yet it was unmistakable. For a split second, he was there.
The powers that be have not been kind to Michigan Football fans for much of the past decade, yet I’m not talking about phantom forces or the proverbial Big Man Upstairs. Most notably through the amalgam of quagmires brought on by former athletic director Dave Brandon, those who’ve stayed have felt the foundation of the community tested again and again by higher ups who’ve tried to reboot and rebrand Michigan Football for their warped, data-driven concept of the twenty-first century. Too often during that time, Michigan fans have been told their program is something that it isn’t: an alt-rock jam named “In The Big House”; a two-tickets-for-a-bottle-of-Co
It's hard to glean from this ARTICLE whether the move was voluntary or not, but Dave Brandon and Toys 'R' Us have severed ties so that Brandon can join the Washington Redskins as their new Senior Vice President - Marketing & Public Relations. Quotes? Quotes:
Joshua Bekenstein, Board of Directors, Toys 'R' Us: We appreciate all that Dave Brandon has done on behalf of Toys 'R' Us, coming in at a difficult time and righting the Toys 'R' Us ship. While we have had to work through employee and retail unit right-sizing, we believe that Dave's tireless efforts have increased the overall enterprise's value and we appreciate all he's done. While store closings and employee right-sizing will continue in his absence, Dave Brandon really jumpstarted that process, and the stakeholders appreciate his efforts.
Daniel M. Snyder, Owner, Washington Redskins Football Club: The entire Redskins organization is thrilled to welcome Dave Brandon into his new role directing the Redskins' marketing and community relations efforts. The Redskins play an outsize role in both the DC metropolitan community and across the nation, and we think that Dave is the perfect choice to solidify and maximize those relationships. Dave has a strong sports and PR background, and is the ideal man for the job. Dave helped to rebuild the University of Michigan sports programs, including hiring Jim Hackett, and has made each place he has worked a stronger, more familial environment.
Dave Brandon, SVP - Marketing & PR, Washington Redskins Football Club: I am thrilled to join the Redskins and assist Dan Snyder, Jay Gruden, and (Director of Football Operations) Paul Kelly in my new role. And I am especially excited to continue to cement the Redskins' nationwide brand, and find new and innovative ways to continue to honor Native American culture through the Redskins' brand. I also look forward to working with the club on public education of currently overstated CTE and concussion issues.
I have a penchant for stats, coincidences, anniversaries, and all other areas in which the chaos of life seems for a moment to be reducible to the numerically comprehensible. For this reason, occasions like today grab me & cause me to reflect. It was a year ago today that Brian & Ace posted their scathing report on Dave Brandon's bizarre & mean-spirited e-mails (http://mgoblog.com/content/david-brandon-i-suggest-you-find-new-team). As we now know for certain from "Brandon's Lasting Lessons", this was indeed the last straw. While Brandon did not resign that same day, his fate was sealed, making this day the consequential turning point in long, strange saga of Dave.
I know that "wow things sure feel different now with Harbaugh, etc." posts are a dime a dozen around these parts nowadays, but this struck me as one worth noting. That article was a seminal moment in the history of this blog, and remains one of the most consequential pieces of sports reporting produced in recent years across all sports. When it came out, Michigan athletics was at one of the lowest points in its 150 year history. And here we are today.
Perhaps the one thing Brandon did decently after losing the ND series was attempting to fill the void with good future opponents, including Florida (at JerryWorld, but better than nothing) U-Dub, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, UCLA, Texas and Oklahoma. But next year is hot garbage, aside from the return of Wisconsin to the schedule. Michigan may well be facing three new coaches (though I'd doubt CU makes a change and George O'Leary is his own boss at the moment). Does anyone recall if this is largely the result of the move the 9-game conference schedule or a lack of creativity in finidng a good Power-5 opponent, or a combination of the two?
Two of the teams currently have winning records (including Hawaii beating CU), but I'd imagine Brandon was counting on UCF to be the strongest of the three, and they just lost to Fuman. But hey, at least its a good way to break in a new quarterback and linebacking corps.And, it's rare for a schedule to have three past BCS selections, I suppose.
Having not seen any reports I thought the board might like one from John U.’s appearance last night in Grand Rapids.
His book tour appearance was held at the Grand Rapids Downtown Food Market, a high end foodie market with a number of high end butchers, fish mongers, etc. The room used was on the 2nd floor in a teaching kitchen type area. Lots of seating, nice sized room. It was packed, standing room only.
John U. began with a talk, discussing the backstory of why he wrote the book, the limited time to get it done, and amount of the story that he didn’t know.
Most of the talk after centered around information already released in the book snippets we’ve mostly already seen, Brandon alienating every group on campus, trying to always be the center of attention, etc.
Then came the question and answer period. One question dealt with the lack of control exercised by the board relative to the extension given to Brandon, by MSC. John U. noted that MSC had just been given a contract extension herself of two years. When it came to Brandon’s extension, MSC “pushed all of her chips in” to support it. If the regents had stood up to her, they would basically have made her a lame duck for two years. So, John U. said, they had nothing else to do but let it go.
However, I want to make clear, John U. has a great deal of respect for Brandon. He was a great regent. He was able to work across the aisle, do things for the betterment of the university without worrying about his own fame and fortune. MSC came to depend on him greatly. But, and this is the big but, when he became AD he lost his head. He wanted to become famous as being the AD. One example I was unaware of; when Michigan beat MSU in basketball one time, Brandon got in the handshake line. When Michigan won the national championship in Gymnastics, Brandon grabbed the trophy, before the coach, got his picture taken hoisting it aloft and then handed it back to the coach.
Also asked of John U.; is there a chance that Hackett stays on permanently. John U. said that he could provide only a little bit of info, but he believes that if Hackett was going to stay permanently the interim title would be gone by now.
Finally, one younger questioner asked if John U. had ever heard of a student body protesting an AD, and as a follow-up, “Did you ever consider titling the book Brandon’s Lasting Lessons?” John U. had a good laugh at that, noting “I read yesterday on MgoBlog that I’m offended at that name. I’m not.” He went on to note that it would be bad marketing (a theme in the talk) if he referred to a book as something other than the actual title. He also agreed that the student body protesting the AD was a big thing. People weren’t calling for the coach to be fired, they wanted the AD fired.
The line to get the book signed was long, but John U. was gracious. If you get a chance go on and attend one of his tour stops.
More revelations from Endzone via Land-Grant Holy Land:
Dave Brandon proposed that the Ohio State/Michigan game be occasionally moved to October, or in some cases, not played at all. He also proposed that Ohio State and Michigan be in different Big Ten divisions.
Yikes. Read the whole thing here: