a terrible blight on our fine country
I was standing in front of a big group of people in a bar in midtown New York City, and I knew that the year before I had wandered in in a suit and told them that this would be an off year for Michigan football because the quarterbacks were probably bad and the offensive line probably worse. That sounds right from 10,000 feet, but I'd splashed an Alamo Bowl logo up at the end of the presentation when I should have put up a map of Tajikistan underneath the title MOVE HERE IMMEDIATELY.
So I had a slide at the beginning that noted some of the things I'd been very wrong about the year before, and I noted my errors, asked for forgiveness, suggested that football was a crazy game, and promised them less than I'd promised the year before but more than they'd gotten. That seemed to go okay.
Around here, I asked Paul to splice together a bunch of highlights and set it to a song that seemed particularly apropos and posted it on the eve of the season. To call it hopeful sells it short. A bunch of good plays strung together that ignores last year's woe is hopeful. One that acknowledges them and then flashes to color when the good stuff kicks in is closer to an explicit promise.
It's not a surprise that as the season has dragged along, the team an increasingly unrecognizable piece of roadkill grinding away the remnants of a jaw along the highway of the Big Ten, that more than the occasional comment or email references "Sometimes When You're On" as a source of gallows humor. Sometimes there's no humor and the emailer is just lamenting the hope that has transubstantiated into misery. That's considerably worse.
Kennedy is dead and I'm sitting here telling anyone who will ask "things are going to be all right" and now, finally, it's not working. And deservedly so.
In 2002, I was in Ireland for the summer. I'd graduated from undergrad and had a chunk of money saved up from summers spent interning at engineering firms and my girlfriend of over a year had broken up with me in slow motion and I thought I'd have an adventure. I planned on working. A friend of mine had spent a chunk of time in Ireland working IT when jobs were available for anyone with working knowledge of a screwdriver, but the Celtic Tiger had imploded dramatically with the rest of the tech world in 2001 and I was reduced to wandering around wondering why the hell I needed a resume to pick plates up and put them other places. Surely there was some sort of spatial reasoning test that could be done on the fly.
So I didn't work. I rented a room in a Galway house shared by a bunch of marine biology students—when The Abyss was on TV, the rig-envy was palpable—and screwed around. One of the things I did was watch every game of the World Cup, because why the hell not? Ireland was in it after a famous upset of Holland, not that I knew about this, or how infrequent Irish World Cup appearances are, at the time. I got up at eight in the morning—impressive to me, at least—to watch them tie Cameroon in their first match.
The second match day was a huge, nerve-wracking one with the US taking on Portugal and Ireland staring down the Germans and freaking Oliver Kahn, the robot goalie. Kahn would become a personal sporting bête noire over the course of the tournament, a man worthy of his last name. He would win the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player, the only time in World Cup history that the award has gone to a goalie. And his team didn't even win. He was good.
The USA could really use a win in their first match; Ireland just needed a draw with Saudi Arabia the last game on the schedule.
I debated heading down to the pub at eight in the morning, but eventually decided against it mostly because it was a twenty minute walk. But the US scored, and scored again, and scored again, and with the game 3-1 at halftime and my house abandoned I said "screw it" and spent halftime scurrying downtown. I watched Jeff Agoos score a spectacular own goal while nursing a pint of cider* in a moderately full pub. The USA won and that was well and good. For everyone else, it was a small moment of schadenfreude in before the main event.
So here's the main event: Ireland goes toe-to-toe with the Germans, putting more shots on goal but unable to crack Kahn. In the 19th minute enormous robot striker Miroslav Klose puts the Germans up, but from that moment on they're on the back foot. Ireland presses to no avail. Kahn seems everywhere. He makes three insane saves to keep Ireland off the board. I loathe him. I hate his incredibly German hair, and his insane excellence.
Then it's gone. Ninety minutes are over and they're just kicking it around in stoppage time. Ireland has made their desperate substitutions, sticking creaky old Niall Quinn, a 6'4" battleship of a target forward, out there in the vague hope he can get his head to the ball. In the 92nd minute some defender boots the ball upfield as people do at the end of the game when there's no time and no hope. Quinn finds this ball and flicks it down to an onrushing Robbie Keane. That bastard Kahn is out, though, out fast and in position and Keane has to shoot after one touch and the shot actually deflects off that fucking bastard Kahn…
You have no doubt experienced some variety of sports pandemonium in your life, but you probably haven't watched an entire country take the day off to drink next to the river. In the immediate aftermath I remember hugging some guy who looked like he was from Pakistan. I was instantly recognizable as an American, so maybe that made sense. Ever since, I've rooted for Kahn in his losing battle against preening Jens Lehman, and maybe that makes sense, too.
On Wednesday, Ireland missed the World Cup on the most flagrant handball since Diego Maradona.
It has not been a good fall. Since Michigan scraped by Indiana, the team they are vying with for outright possession of the Big Ten cellar, I haven't watched Michigan beat any team that plays at scholarship parity with them in two different sports. Football hasn't beaten a I-A team since September 26th. Hockey is currently languishing at 4-6 after consecutive sweeps at the hands of Miami and, of all teams, Michigan State. In that series, Corey Tropp scored in a game that finished 3-2. Hell, the one hockey game I've listened to on the radio this year was the dismal 2-0 defeat against Fairbanks to open the year.
It's been hard for me. In the past my strategy when sports were more pain than they're worth has been to disconnect as much as possible, but that's obviously not possible any more. So I've seen everything that's happened the last two years somewhere between four and eight times.
But it's been hard on everyone else, too. Johnny emerged from his slumber to write something beautiful about Brandon Minor…
On Saturday he will be there. Maybe not on Thursday or on Friday, but you don’t prepare for the deranged violence.
…and this is how life repays him:
David Molk (knee)
Brandon Minor (shoulder)
He sent me one of the semi-annual IMs we exchange to ask me what percent chance I put on Minor playing. I said "I don't know," and that was that. This is life at the bottom.
Everyone who's joked or not joked about "Sometimes When You're On" is hurt because their expectations have not been met, because they hoped for more. I've played a role in that, and for that I'm sorry. There are days when two minnows come up against world powers and win, or tie their asses off, though. When I went to RBUAS I saw that Jake and Mike and Chad had given way to a new era, however brief it will be:
A beautifully futile gesture. Johnny had the old guys up there forever, and it wasn't hard to figure out why. But what I said after the Notre Dame game still holds, even if it's cast in a different light by the events that followed: this is Michigan now. Though they're still plainly deficient, they'll be there Saturday. I don't know if things are going to be all right anymore. But I'll be there, too, and God help anyone who talks about "heart" within earshot.
Saturday contains itself. For three hours, let hope bloom, and think about the consequences afterward.
*(Don't judge me. It was before noon and somehow Bulmers has this marvelous nutty tinge if you get it from the tap in Ireland. I've had the stuff stateside and it suffers far more than Guinness does.)
I still watch that video to Rilo Kiley, and still get chills every time it splashes to color. My heart is in the line this weekend, and I take solace knowing, next year, another video will only strengthen my hope and love for this team.
It perfectly encapsulates the emotions going into tomorrow. I don't really need to read the stats anymore, to what end?
Brandon Minor to pull a Willis Reed and lead the team out of the tunnel hitting the banner and getting one carry at the beginning just to set the tone???
Wouldn't pulling a Willis Reed mean OSU gets ahead in the 2nd half, and Minor goes in to lead us to a come-from-behind victory, saving us from a 2nd half collapse, major U-M nation meltdown, and getting us one more game?
Most cider you get in the US tastes pretty average so it is not too much of a sin. Guinness, on the other hand, is quite incredible straight from the mothership. You don't get the hangover and find interesting mixes with liquor (like Jager) or even champagne.
Just about every beverage I tried in Ireland was awesome, and the US counterparts just can't match them somehow.
Kilkenny was amazing...
Galway was a good time, I had more fun there than in Dublin. Yes the Guinness is much better in the UK, but my favorite had to be Murphy's. Of course it all tastes the same by the end of a long night drinking in Ireland. I really enjoyed destroying brain cells there!
I'm pretty sure all drinks taste better here in the UK. The pear ciders here are incredible... cant find them at all in the US
Amazing... and yes cider on this side of the world (UK) is a lot better than the US
don't be too hard on yourself.
Everyone ... is hurt because their expectations have not been met, because they hoped for more. I've played a role in that, and for that I'm sorry.
Speaking for myself: my expectations are my own, and I bear full responsibility for those expectations. It would be foolish for me to blame valuable information sources. So, no apology necessary, just hang in, and keep an eye out for the turnaround.
"Sometimes When You're On" was a kickass, get fired up for the season video. It managed to address the 2008 season while getting us all fired up for the 2009 season. Never, and I mean never, apologize for posting that ever again.
Play. Fight. Win. Please.
“To say that it is unlikely or improbable that the united states would be playing for the confederations cup title on sunday, is a gross understatement. But the U.S. stunned the #1 team in the World Spain two-nil.”
Look at me, son.
It's not your fault.
Posts like this one are what sets MGoBlog apart from other sports blogs with good analysis. Great work.
Yeah, but if someone had cut and pasted this and posted it on the message board, it would have get 15 negs within minutes for excessive negativity.
That's because no one cares what most of the people on the message board think. If they've built up as much credibility as Brian has, we'd all listen intently and appreciate the honesty.
I really don't even care what I think most of the time. Good post Brian. The victors will rise again, and many a prominant program will be forced to seek refuge from the storm. Go Blue. One time for old times sake. Beat the Buckeyes.
" Yeah, but if someone had cut
Yeah, but if someone had cut and pasted this and posted it on the message board, it would have get 15 negs within minutes for excessive negativity."
especially the part about oliver kahn.
Any song that has within its lines: "And it teases you for weeks in it's absence" is the perfect summary of Michigan football this season. You got it right, we just didn't know it then.
It should read months. (goes back to soft weeping)
Serious question: Does this depression mean no Wisco offense UFR?
Needs more Morrissey. Even Orson managed to squeeze it in his preview.
that expectations were wrong at the start of the year - I just think the team's let a couple get away that they shouldn't have. Alamo wasn't unreasonable even with this defense, we just didn't show up in the 2nd half against Purdue and Illinois. Everything else has been according to form and expectation, from my perspective.
Back to the title, though - the Hanging Ain't Today. That stadium had better be rocking and letting those Buckeyes know what they're in for tomorrow.
I will probably be watching this game alone. Partly because no one else is going to be home tomorrow, but partly because I don't want to have to explain to anyone else my extremely optimistic view throughout the game.
I don't expect us to win the game, but until the clock reads 0:00, I will refrain from complaining and look for the best in every play. Blown up run? Well, at least the receiver laid out that dude on the corner in case it got that far. Missed tackle on Pryor? At least he was forced out of the pocket by some decent pressure and adequate coverage in the secondary.
Bring on the Buckeyes. I'm not afraid.
Nice work, as always. The season has been rough, but I've liked some of the things I've seen. Michigan will be back.
I can still say I've had a blast this year watching the team grow. My consective game streak continues. And, the fourth quarters of the ND and IU games were special moments that I will take from this season as high moments of my michigan fan experience.
Go Blue. Boo on the Bucks. Party at your house after the win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Don't apologize for anything. You just totally encapsulated my emotions.
I just cried a little bit.
A++++ would read again
I feel so bad for Brandon Minor. I hope he gets to play tomorrow; one last time in the Big House.
I had fun cheering him on, even in the soulcrushing losses.
Thank you Brandon for all of your effort, and truly leaving everything on the field
I'm a little more depressed after reading this now. It's real easy to love the NY Yankee or Michigan Wolverines, particularly when they are winning.
It the great fans that love the Phillies (losingest franchise of all time, all sports - and I am a Phillies fan) or the Northwesterns or Indianas of the college world.
Yeah I want my teams to win - most of all Michigan's football team. But winning is not why I love Michigan football. I guess I am a heretic in that I don't think that winning is the only thing.
This year's team has been interesting to watch. I think that in the coming few years, seeing these players develop, and how the coaches handle them, is going to be a lot of fun.
But regardless, it is still Michigan football, still representing the University, Ann Arbor, and the state.
And to me, that is what matters.
"But winning is not why I love Michigan football."
Maybe this should be the motto below the banner for a while.
+1,000,000 to this. Michigan football went on an unprecedented run for 40 years. I cannot think of another team in any sport, save the Harlem Globetrotters, that has gone anywhere near that long without a losing season. That includes the Yankees, who sucked for more than a decade from the mid-80s to mid-90s. It includes Florida, USC, Alabama, Ohio State, the Red Wings, the Colts and the Patriots. They have all sucked, and sucked hard, for long periods of time relatively recently.
Losing is part of sports, and it is unavoidable. Anyone demanding our starters be benched, or our GOOD football coach be fired because they could not live up to their IMPOSSIBLY HIGH expectations needs to check themselves.
This is a new chapter. It may end badly. Who the hell knows? That's why we watch the games, and that's the whole point of all this. Time to embrace the horror - bad things happen to good people, politicians are all corrupt, we're all gonna die some day and the Michigan football does, on occasion, end a season with a losing record.
Now let's kick Ohio State's ass.
I am shouting for joy instead of spending the weekend explaining to my kids why it is wrong to say bad words and why they shouldn't be repeating them all day (like happened for Purdue and when the Bengals swept the Steelers last Sunday).
A win tomorrow would make my year (yes, it has been one of those years for me).
Winning and losing can be a close thing. If everything comes together Saturday who knows what can happen.
This is why I check this site 10 times a day.
My son said to me today, "Um, Mom, you've spent more time logged into MGoBlog this week than I've spent playing Xbox. It's scaring me".
You are today's Mgoblog hero.
Even after what happened this season, it is still an awesome video. Unfortunately, you could do pretty much the same video next year, except all of the color highlights will be from September and the black and white is everything after.
The video also underscores the beast that is Minor when healthy. Too bad for Minor, the team, and the fans.
I don't see how we pull it out tomorrow, but it sure would make the season if we did.
Thanks for this introspective and well thought preview to the emotions leading up to the game. All stats say Michigan will get crushed, but hope, tradition and toughness still give our boys a chance. Go Blue!
...Is that I will be there tomorrow. And we will win.
I never thought of that hype video as a prediction of this season. I thought of it more as encapsulating that feeling when things are working versus when they are just falling apart. I still think of that song whenever Michigan is doing well.
Sports wouldn't give us the enormous highs of victory if we didn't also take the terrible lows. I would never give up the elation of winning the Notre Dame game so I didn't have to feel like this every weekend during football season. I think that is what makes us all crazy - that we don't give up despite all evidence suggesting we should.
And as much as I've tried mentally tried to crush it, I still harbor the hope that we could win on Saturday. It still lives, a cursed seed in my heart. Hope - I hate you, but I can't live without you.
I was at the IR-GER game with all the Irish lads (one literally ditched his wife and kids for 3 weeks - he was supposed to return after one week - and another who carried a 5-ft tall stuffed Kermit the Frog with him around the world) and everyone hoping, praying, and singing to Niall Quinn, with his pants up to his chin, expecting disappointment but anxiously holding out, with the unexpected rush of exhilaration at Keane's goal. Good memories.
I hope for the same rush after an unexpected victory this weekend, as unlikely as that might be, and regret that I won't be in AA for the game.
I think for myself, and the reason I read this blog is because it resonates with me. This street-crack reinforces my beliefs more than it changes any perceptions.
pure gold. these are the types of post that have me hooked to mgoblog.
I have been suffering with the flu the past 7 days. Let me tell you, the Swine is nothing to joke about. So, when people say that you still have your health, that really, really means something. Relish that thought, let it fill you up:
You still have your health.
(Hey, it was either that or the little song from Dori in "Finding Nemo" - Just keep swimming.)
I attended the wedding of the son of a neighbor down in Savannah a month ago (Delaware State gameday). They chose as their colors brown and pink and their "theme" was pigs (yeah, I know, weird), which was on the invitation, napkins, etc.
The reception was at a friend of his house, and the groom and his friends, all serious foodies, had prepared a ton of great food, including the groom's famous pork BBQ (hence the theme), which was probably the best BBQ I've ever had.
The following day he was hospitalized with swine flu! Talk about taking the theme a little too seriously. And what a way to spend your honeymoon! Talk about a total FML moment.
Hope you get better real soon.
we came to party rock
Everybody its on
Shots shots shots shots shots shots
shots shots shots shots shots
shots shots shots shots shots
we came to party rock
Everybody its on
Shots shots shots shots shots shots
shots shots shots shots shots
shots shots shots shots shots
why? because the season, so hard on the psyche, is coming to an end. either mercifully or gloriously. either deserves alcohol in high quantities to celebrate. i might even wear Green Man tomorrow just because i'm THAT EXCITED
This puts alot of thoughts to words for me.
I fell down and out, and am struggling at the edge of remaining positive. After The Horror I told myself it couldn't' get worse.
But I'll be there(in person or in spirit), hoping like hell to see the beginnings of the miraculous turnaround of Michigan football.
Until it happens.
one quibble - this doesn't feel worse than The Horror to me. i had gone out with some sparty friends of mine the night before that game and said that i thought we'd be terrific, that we might even make a run at a national championship with that particular group of seniors. the expectations were so very high, and they were so thoroughly stomped. to death.
this...well, i think we all knew there'd be some adjustment and growing pains. if i thought this was the end, it would hurt more. but i don't, so it doesn't.