somehow we're only 124th
The 4 Deadly Sins
(Before anyone mentions it, I do understand that 4 is not the correct number of deadly sins, nor are any of these except wrath actual deadly sins. Oh, and booing. The Church's position on that is clear. )
WRATH Some people are pretty upset about Toledo, and some people are pretty upset about the people that are pretty upset about Toledo. I think it's way too early to say that RR should get fired like some people are, but can't we be just a little bit mad at him anyway? It's not a stretch at all to say that RR got outcoached in the Toledo game- even in our "rebuilding" state we should have way more talent than a team that isn't even good in the MAC. Anger at RR doesn't necessarily mean he should be fired (he shouldn't), and accepting the loss doesn't mean that we shouldn't be a little steamed up about it. I was mad at Tom Brady when he fumbled, it didn't mean I didn't like him or that I thought he wasn't still a great player. And it didn't mean that it didn't wear off. There is a difference between a passing disappointment at RR for losing to Toledo, a loss which should never, ever happen, and hating him for all time. I'm mad we lost to Toledo, I still think RR will be a good coach. Being mad at a coach you still like is not impossible.
DESPAIR I really don't think we can blame Michigan fans for a small measure of this. We have a bad team, and it is very likely that we have the worst Michigan team since at least 1967. Certainly that is cause for some despair whatever our prospects may be for the future. And since we haven't been so bad for so long, I don't really think it's that weird that fans would be charged up about this. Certainly, however, one can have a fair amount of bad feeling about this season without "giving up forever" or wanting RR's head or aything like that. But being mad that we have the worst team in (at least) 31 years doesn't mean you're a bad fan either. You can still support the team, and watch every minute of every game, like I will, and still be mad about it at the same time, like I will. There is a difference between being mad about it and hating everything for all time. Just a note here: last year I held for dear life to the hope that whatever happened "at least we weren't Notre Dame." I just don't see how we can say that anymore.
BOOING I have read all the People Against Booing at Michigan Stadium comments, and they've convicned me. It's college, we should just Cheer for Our Team and Be Happy About It. One thing that convinces me is the distinction between a college and pro ahlete. Whatever we may say about the underhandedness of some NCAA programs, pro athletes are being paid for their trouble, and so I don't feel at all sorry for them when they get fired, yelled at, booed, whatever. But I do think that college is different and we should just support our school. So I buy the No Booing argument for college. For the pros, though, I just want anyone that is thinking pros should be insulated from booing to think for a moment about Juan Gonzalez. When he came to Detroit he had every excuse in the book for not playing. He didn't even try. He didn't even PRETEND to try. I would boo Juan Gonzalez and never look back no matter where I saw him. I would boo him at RiteAid. If I saw Charles Stewart at RiteAid I would buy him some Gatorade and wish him good luck. I think the crux is that you expect criticism for your JOB, because you are getting paid for it. And when you get paid for something you receive that salary in exhange not only for services, but also for personal comforts and conveniences you may have to forego. No one expects never to be criticized at or about their job, no one expects their job to always be awesome and comfortable. For example, I work for the government, and not a day goes by that we don't get shelled by somebody in the newspaper, on TV, by random weird people outside the building protesting strange things we don't even do (which is really exactly the same as booing, all they do is make noise), or whatever else. Sometimes we deserve it, sometimes we don't. But I deal with it (because really, who cares?) for my paltry salary, so I feel no sympathy for pro athletes and their millions. If getting pulverized by a longhorn is an "occupational hazard" for ranchers, can we really defend pro athletes simply being booed? Somehow people defend Terrell Owens, but when a window washer falls of an 80 story building people say "man, dangerous job." But that's exactly why it doesn't work for college, it's not their job yet, no matter how high profile it may be. As long as we have the distinction between the NCAA and the NFL, then the college kids to me are different. The way I see it, if you are gettng paid for it, it's criticism, if you aren't then it's personal.
I will disagree with myself just long enough to offer one thought that goes against my argument to see what people think about it. In 1997 against Iowa, Tim Dwight returned a punt for a touchdown right before halftime, giving Iowa a solid lead going into the half. A distinctly uncomfortable crowd booed a bit as the team went off at half. But, when they ran back on the field for the 2nd half however, all you heard was cheering- and loud cheering at that. Not a soul grumbled. Maybe I am off base here, but it seemed to me that the rebuke of the crowd followed by "re"affirmation really affected the team. Can a slight rebuke, followed by reaffirmation serve as a reminder? Can a crowd collectively say "you've done badly but we still belive in you?" I think I've already put myself in the no camp (for college) but am curious what others think. I am not suggesting anything so silly as that a team doesn't realize that they are behind at halftime, or that Coach Carr wouldn't have lit into them in the locker room either way. It's not like the crowd is actually reminding the team of anything, but helping to reinforce what the team might know. But sometimes even if you know a situation you need a reminder. It's not like you don't know that your homework is due, but are you more likely to do your homework after your teacher yells at you? I think you are. The teacher isn't yelling at you because you didn't know it was due, the teacher is yelling at you to reinforce to you that you should do it.
HOPELESSNESS I'm getting less and less hopeful about next season. For the moment, I'm going to leave the offense out of it- I understand they're obviously a huge part of that but I think they can't help but be at least a bit better. At least there are some talented players- whether those players become good is of course a matter of question but at least there will be possibilities. What I am concerned about next year is the defense. We will be losing 3 (maybe 4) defensive line starters. This is the strongest unit on the team, and it will be all new people next year. It can't help but be a bit worse, even if it is talented. There is little suggestion our current starting linebackers are getting better, and so far the young linebackers have not forced their way into the lineup. I am very worried that the linebackers will not be any better next year, but it is certainly safe to say that they will not be better enough to make up for the loss of all of those linemen. You have to be good up front to win football games, and we just aren't going to be good up front on D next year. Just based on that alone, I think we have a very mediocre year next year, and even that assumes that other things actually go well.
non-Michigan note: I went to a Navy game recetly, which was cool for a variety of reasons, mostly that the left guard can drive an aircraft carrier, and that instead of championship years they post battlefields on the stadium facade, and that I had 10 seats to myself, but mostly it's the thunder chicken flyover: