At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
I remember my first outdoor hockey game. It was some fellow 2nd grader's birthday party, I had to borrow skates from the kid across the street (all my equipment was for roller hockey), and we spent the first half hour freezing on the banks of Quarton Lake while paranoid parents checked the ice. By the time it was deemed game-safe the snow had grown thick enough to drown out sounds and generate enough fog so that parents and annoying little sisters sitting lakeside were totally ignorable. I remember the clack of sticks and skates, and shouts of hustling 2nd graders pillowed by the snow and cold gray. I remember sweating through layers of sweaters and the neighbor's well-used gloves, and my first whiff of the scent I would forever thereafter call "hockey."
I remember my first game at Yost. When I got to Michigan the hockey team was coming off of a national championship season and the basketball team was in the midst of the Webber scandal so: hockey. It was Michigan vs. Michigan State, and at the time M and MSU were to the CCHA what M and Ohio State used to be to the Big Ten and Miami (YTM) and FSU were supposed to be to the ACC. Hockey was that rivalry in its extreme: Michigan in its classic barn belting out cheers that said more about the cleverness of the fans than the game on the ice, the dour MSU fans from sterile Munn countering with a bevy of sub-pith about how overrated they found Yost. Michigan was famous for Brendan Morrison, and like B-Mo, Comrie and co. played like a pack of lost boys who'd just discovered faerie dust; State was Ron Mason's band of pirates (Adam Hall, Shawn Horcuff), terrestrial, slow-witted, and not much for good form, but holding a distinct size advantage.
I remember late-season Michigan football games. I remember being bundled up and trying to warm fingers by rubbing them against my jeans, which had the bonus effect of itching the long-johns beneath them (the jeans). I remember the line for Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, the warming effect of getting bustled along by the thick throngs of Greene Street and chanting "It's Great! To Be! A Michigan Wolverine!" I remember stripping off layers of sweatshirts that had begun to take on the unmistakable scent of hockey, throwing them into the corner of a booth at Arbor Brewing Company, and talking about whatever the hell felt like the most fun to talk about, feeling like the only bitterness in the world was the type that's on draft.
I remember because I had forgotten. The greatest moment I've had in Michigan Stadium over the last…what is it 7 years?…was being jubilantly relieved the 2010 team isn't really bad enough to lose to Illinois. Before that it was 2003, when it was cold, and there were roses.
Covering hockey, blogging about football, these things are fun, but they have also changed the experience of my two of my most favorite forms of entertainment, allowing adult cynicism to penetrate. The Big Chill was a pitch perfect combination: the entire Game Day experience mixed with just the right amount of Yost Ice Arena and Quarton Lake. Like Hook, it shouldn't be taken as a serious football game, or even a representative hockey game – larger surface, strange conditions, and all that – just familiar material brought back together for a few hours of raucously good show. I was enjoying it like a kid, and I wasn't the only one. Said Michigan State's Torey Krug:
“Ten years from now, I’m probably going to remember the most fun I’ve ever had on the ice,” Michigan State’s Torey Krug said. “Look at these 22-year-old men and they’re like little kids.”
For what was probably the 3rd but felt like the 20th time, Michigan forward Matt Rust made some Datsyukian pass that Merrill or Hagelin buried, the band blared "The Victors" into the December night, and then I was doing the Goal Count! cheer…in Michigan Stadium! For the first time since becoming a grownup and discovering I'm actually really good at cynical in-game quipping the only response I could think of was to put my big, potchy, grownup nose in Tink's clockhouse and say "I like this game!"
I figured porting Yost into the House that Yost Built would lose something in the translation, that the clever cheers and the likelihood that the person sitting in front of you is a player's relative would be perceptively absent. Except when we changed seats to get away from the increasingly souring Spartan fans, I then found myself right back on the shore of Quarton Lake, listening to pillowed hockey sounds beside the players' parents, and Matt Rust's sister,* hooting away the end of the waning moments of the third period and checking the time so I wouldn't miss (again) the "how much time is left?" thing, just as if I was back in a barn with 6,000 close friends.
In these few dark years of defenseless football and hoops meh-laise, hockey has provided the in-state rivalry's sweetest moments. One was last year's Usual Suspects twist, the second was inviting an irritatingly uppity-as-of-late Spartan fanbase over to our house, and then getting to ignore their un-clever attempts at sourpuss-ing** the moment while our pretty good team of passing stars utterly demoralized their hopelessly mediocre band of towering thugs. The best part of last night was the return to Never Never Land. It's not going to re-set any counters, but the second-best part of last night was taking Little Brother back to grade school.
** Big Schadenfreude thank-you to the State fan behind me for hating everything from the word "sieve," to Blues Brothers, to the theme song to Rocky & Bullwinkle. He didn't stay, but I'm pretty sure he hates fireworks too.
I missed the morning of tailgating, since Misopogal's sister was graduating from MSU, but I did manage to catch some career advice from Michigan State's latest doctor of business:
Yes, that is MSU's 2010 Winter graduating class being told by Magic Johnson that it should be their goal to be named Employee of the Month and achieve mention in their companies' newsletters, fitting advice if your future's at McDonalds. Bonus: guess what the second "S" in "Spartans" stands for?
"And then 's' stands for 'Special.' Because everybody that comes from this campus, that goes to Michigan State University, they're special."
In case you're wondering, the person rudely giggling his ass off in the background is me. As Misopogal summarily compared:
"President Obama….Magic Johnson."
Double bonus: their gift to the school is $19,000 to get Sparty a new uniform because "the old one has been starting to smell," presumably from all the Axe body spray and burned upholstery.
The above is a play from Mississippi State's game against Georgia, where MSU ran its triple-option to the left and Georgia's version of Jonas Mouton Obi Ezeh is yelling for mushrooms when he sees three potential ball carriers and a downfield blocker have all gotten playside of him. The scene is taken from BlueSeoul's ongoing series of scouting Michigan's Gator Bowl opponent.
This much is obvious: Mullen is a great offensive coach, and BlueSeoul is a fantastic diarist, a Diarist of the Week, even.
Also in bowl games, I did a few comparisons using (now outdated) FEI ratings to determine things like how to fill in my confidence office bowl squares, which bowl games are likely to be close or blowouts, which will be high-scoring affairs, and which really have the most talent on the field, using all three to figure out a bowl watchability index for spending my precious 2.4 wife-allocated football games per week over vacation. Plus some other stuff.
The data gave up some other interesting bowl tidbits:
USC (28th, with an FEI of 0.113) is the best team that's not going to a bowl game.
The best team not going due to things other than NCAA sanctions: Arizona State (41st, 0.061), those unlucky bastards.
Miami (Not THAT Miami) is the worst team going to a bowl; their -0.198 is 110th out of 120.
I meant to update this today, but spent the day doing anti-Virus and anti-snow activities. Look for it this week.
Erik_in_Dayton took on a very relevant question: does the 3-3-5 have a structural deficiency against power running teams? To answer this he used WVU's numbers against the run from 2005 to 2009 (this year's left out because WVU was far better than average defensively).
Lost, lost, lost, lost.
Lost what? Your marbles again?
No, no. My offensive possessions. Lost, lost, lost.
Conclusion #4: Positive TOMs Helped Michigan Win As Many Games This Year As Negative TOMs Contributed To M Losing Games. M had 2 games with a positive TOM and the TOs helped win both games (UConn & ND). Michigan had 6 games with a TOM of –0- and won 4 of those games (UMass, BGSU, Indiana, Purdue) while losing 2 (Penn State, Wisconsin). M had 4 games with a negative TOM and actually won one of those (Illinois with a TOM of –4). Of the other 3, TOs were a primary factor in 2 losses (MSU and Iowa) but in one (osu) it is doubtful TOs were a significant factor in the loss. Therefore, if all games had ended with a TOM of –0-, it is likely M would still be 7-5 but with losses to UConn & ND and wins against MSU and Iowa. (And, yeah, that would be a lot better.)
There's a lot of other neat graphics in there that break down the results. The poll results even break it down by political, age, and ethnic groups.
Lastly in statistication, NOLA Blue asked the question that everyone some guy on a TCU blog is asking: "were Sagarin's rankings rigged to keep TCU out of the BCS Championship?" No, Wimple.
Two-Toned Zebra-Headed, Slime-Coated, Pimple-Farmin' Paramecium Brain, Munchin' On Your Own Mucus, Suffering From Peter Pan Envy
Your new wallpaper, courtesy of monuMental. I'm starting to doubt my decision to use the Peter/Rufio duel of schoolbus insults for section heads here; alas we forge on.
Substitute Chemistry Teacher
Last week I told you about user jhackney, who exploded onto the board scene of late by responding to coaching change speculation with atomic irreverence. Our resident iconoclast this week stepped out of the boards to take us on a savage journey to the heart of the Wolverine dream. His Fear and Loathing in Ann Arbor series (Part I,Part II) is a Thomson-esque retelling of the 2010 season:
They were all laughing at me. I grabbed some whiskey off my leather-covered icebox and went outside to be alone with my thoughts and humiliation. My worst fears came true. I was a public Dupe, soon to be jailed for crimes of cruelty to myself for investing so much damn emotion and confidence into a game that ended with me stone drunk and stone naked on my porch. How had it happened? Had I finally loved Michigan too much?
For the uninitiated, or those who only know HST's work as a bit of cult film for drug users, his Gonzo style journalism was the spirit predecessor of sports blogging, particularly in that the author makes himself part of the story. J sticks a bit too closely to the movie script but such magnificent highs and crashes of modern Michigan football fandom can perhaps only be told by someone used to riding these types of roller coasters.
And you know probably how Section 1 (the blogger, not the blue hair brigade of the 50 yard line) feels about the Freep, but that shouldn't discredit his comparison of Rosenberg's speech to Dave Brandon's a year later to the same suburban Detroit alumni group.
Till next week, diarists, you know that place between sleep and staying awake to write stuff on the internet? That's where we'll be waiting. Bangarang!
I keep thinking about yesterday, and the only thing I can come up with is "fun." It was just fun. I can't explain it any better than that. Went to the Cold War, went to Madison last year, and this one was just... So much different, and not just because we finally won the damn thing. This is what outdoor hockey should be if you're going to try to do it.
I'm glad you had a blast. Even through our blizzard chaos and following bitter brutal cold (+2.3F right now, yo!), I am SO DAMNED EXCITED for the first Gopher hockey game at TCF, which is assuredly only a matter of time. It won't set any attendance records, but 50,000 Minnesotans (or, heretically, 35,000 Minnesotans and 15,000 Wisconsinites) at a hockey game is going to be a special experience.
Nothing can top the Prez, but I don't approve of hating on Magic Johnson. I mean, he's Magic freaking Johnson! Winner of 5 NBA titles! Bedder of thousands of women! Owner of 116 Starbucks and 31 Burger Kings! You can do better, M.
Really, my point was that while I appreciate a graduation speech that doesn't assume the be-robed audience will all go on to start their own businesses or organizations, I was honestly pissed that he was out there assuming my sister-in-law is going to use her business degree* to become a bottom-rung worker bee. He very clunkily brought out the box metaphor, but the speech was largely geared toward telling his listeners how to be the best box person in the boxed row. I took his ill prepared speech and ill conceived message as an insult to my family, and put it on a rival fans' blog because I want Magic's school to get maximum embarrassment from his lack of effort and conscience.
* Yes, it included Golf.
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The pedantic asshole in me insists on pointing out that the creature whose googily eyes are so prominant in the new wallpaper thingy is actually a gharial and is about the furthest thing from a 'gator in the Order Crocodilia...
in the original bowl game wallpaper post, when prompted (perhaps by you?). And a comparison of the two pix above shows the wisdom of his artistic license. This new-to-most-of-us gharial is definitely art-worthy. (That thing on the tip of its snout looks like the knob on my bathtub drain. Curious about the evolutionary background.)
But thank you for reposting to a new audience. We Michiganders came/come here for a well-rounded education.