The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
An unknown young man walks into a nondescript one story building. He introduces himself to the secretary.
Young Man: I'm here for my appointment.
Secretary: Yes. Wait right over there please.
The young man strides over to a line of plastic chairs against the wall. The beige cinderblocks are cold against his back as he sits. Searching for something to keep his fidgeting hands busy he picks up a magazine and begins to page through. Realizing it is a Sports Illustrated he pauses and places it back on the end table.
Secretary: You can head on in, sir. He is waiting for you in his office.
Without saying a word, the young man heads through the waiting room door and into what is becoming a familiar place. "There is no reason I need to be here; this is ridiculous," he thinks as he greets a older gentleman.
Young Man: This is supposed to be my last appointment. You had better not go back on that promise. What's that?
The young man points at a manila envelope in the elder's hand.
Older Man: Oh, this? It's your file. Any interest in reading it?
Young Man: Nah. You got any experience with that kind of thing?
Older Man: Twenty years of counseling... yeah, I've seen some pretty awful shit.
Young Man: No, I mean do you have any experience with that?
Older Man: Personally... yeah, I have.
Young Man: Sure ain't good.
Older Man: I grew up in the late fifties, early sixties. I saw beatings like you wouldn't believe. Entire years of my life thrown down the drain. Those teams would almost make me choose how I wanted to lose. I could pick between turnovers or injuries, botched special teams or bad angles in the secondary. I'd usually prefer injuries. Easier to justify.
Young Man: I usually go with the bad secondary.
Older Man: Why's that.
Young Man: Because f*#k them, that's why.
Older Man: Your team?
Young Man: Yeah. So what is it, I've got an attachment disorder? Fear of 5-7 again? Something like that? Is that why I disowned my team?
Older Man: I didn't know you had.
Young Man: Yeah, I have.
Older Man: You wanna talk about it?
Young Man: No.
Older Man: Hey kid, I don't know a lot... but you see this? All this shit. It's not your fault.
The older man steps toward the young man and opens the manila envelope. It's full of freep articles and newspaper clippings. The one on top declares the 3-9 season to be the worst of all time. Another can be seen proclaiming the exact number of hours since Michigan beat Ohio State.
Young Man: Yeah, I know that. It's all those stupid injuries.
Older Man: Look at me son. It's not your fault.
Young Man: I know, the recruiting has been bad.
Older Man: It's not your fault.
Young Man: I know that. Seniors aren't playing up to their potential, and the young kids aren't learning as fast as we need them to.
Older Man: It's not your fault.
Young Man: I know.
Older Man: No, no. You don't. It's NOT your fault.
The young man is getting uncomfortable now. His strong demeanor is fading and he begins to show fear in his eyes.
Young Man: Don't mess with me.
Older Man: It's NOT YOUR FAULT.
The young man starts to turn red and tears appear and cling to his eyelashes as he fights them back.
Young Man: B-b-b-ut, it's just so bad, and I should have been more supportive!
Older Man: IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.
The young man is now sobbing uncontrollably and grasps for the older man and embraces him. The older man continues to offer consolation as the young man begins to believe him.
*** Two weeks later ***
As the older man gets ready for work he hears his mailbox clang shut. Confused, he hurries to the window to try to catch a glimpse of what might be happening. He sees no one and only finds a small trail of dust leading down the road when he opens the door to go outside. He opens his mailbox to find a hand-written note:
"Gone to Ann Arbor, I need to go see about a team."
I don't know if you've noticed, I know it snuck up on me, but the Michigan football season is only nine days away. Nine days isn't that long, but it depends on how you look at it I suppose. Using simple math, Usain Bolt could run approximately 9,000 kilometers in that amount of time (neglecting fatigue). Maybe ten days is an eternity.
It seems there must be a single word in the English language that completely describes the feeling in my, and every other Michigan fan's gut leading up to this first gameday of the 2009 season, but maybe not. If it does exist, it could be found by way of triangulation from the words anticipation, desperation, and ecstasy. I'm sure Horatio Caine could run that through some sort of futuristic literary tracking system and come up with the term.
This season isn't like the others I've experienced though. While I've been a fan since the first time I watched my normally reserved father scream like a little girl after a touchdown in our basement, dancing as well as any pale skinny dutch man can, it has never meant as much to me as it does this time around. The Wolverine faithful have been forced into the undesirable position of being apologists for a team that most love to hate. There has been conflict. Fans argue with other fans. Boos still echo within the Big House, rattling restlessly among the bleachers. Michigan has been brought to a knee, and now it gazes at us with a proposal.
All that is asked of us is our undying commitment. We are not asked to follow blindly and unquestioningly, but we must be patient.
I haven't decided where I'll be next Saturday yet. If some ticket options pan out I may be sitting on a bleacher seat in the Big House, otherwise I may watch the game with family, or by myself. Wherever I am, I'll be nervous. My knees will bounce, and my teeth will serve as an interim nail-clipper. I'll be silent, mostly. Breaths will be short and seldom, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I will cheer in the same way I have always cheered: without words, except for the occasional "GO GO GO GO GO!" (I'm a Wolverine Shia LeBouf, obviously...) Beyond that, it's all going to be guttural noises signifying disgust and yelps of pleasure, sprinkled with a (hopefully more than) occasional joyful scream.
I wouldn't have it any other way. Each and every week during the season, we collectively remove our hearts and offer them to the team for protection. Occasionally they are dropped and trodden over, but we do not pull them back to ourselves even in the event of cardiac arrest because we know there will always be one play, one moment, one image that will rub the paddles together and scream "CLEAR!" bringing our pulse back in a single adrenaline fueled instant.
So stand by me Michigan fans, and bravely sing The Victors in the face of our adversaries. More importantly, stand by our team, as they attempt to bring back what we have all fallen in love with using only their bare hands and fatigued bodies. Join me as I pound the air with my fist, proclaiming on behalf of these players, the keepers of our dreams, "HAIL! HAIL! To Michigan, the Leaders and the Best."
While perusing the site I began to wonder if there was some sort of UFR database that could be queried in order to research different trends, etc. I'm a computer engineering major with a math minor and statistics are not exactly my cup of tea, but I would at least like to poke through that information if it was all in one place.
After emailing Brian and finding that there was no such database, I found myself pondering how one might go about making such a database. I started writing an application in C++ that would take the HTML table and convert it into XML that could be imported into Access. I was relatively close to getting that to work, but it was a bit of a hassle, so I decided to try something else.
I decided to write a Perl script that would parse the HTML, clean out all the tags (<table>, <tr>, <td>, etc), and put in their place more useful XML tags (<line>, <player>, <analysis>, etc). The result was a pretty nifty script that does almost all the work for me. After converting each UFR table into XML, I needed to add some extra information like drive IDs, play IDs, and things of that nature so that the database would be easily queryable. I did some of this by hand (lots of search and replace), and wrote another script to take care of a bunch of the nit-picky stuff that would have taken hours. I didn't really want to spend the rest of the day adding <PLAYID>some number</PLAYID> to over a thousand plays... I decided to be an engineer because I'm lazy and there's ALWAYS an easier way to do something.
If you're interested in seeing the Perl scripts, especially if you're proficient in Perl, let me know and I'll send them to you. This was my first useful Perl script (I taught myself, and hadn't ever done anything more significant than Hello World!) and a lot of my techniques came straight off a Google search and probably aren't following best practices. Suggestions/critiques would be greatly appreciated.
After some trial and error, I ended up with what I think is a pretty nifty database that includes information about every game, drive, and play that was charted over the course of last season. OSU is missing because Brian didn't do a UFR, along with halves of some games (a couple were only charted for offense or defense, but not both), and some drives (I believe a couple games were so painful that the final drives were non-UFR-able).
I've hosted the database file on FileFactory, along with the final XML file for the complete season. Hopefully that works...
If I get really bored in the future, I'd ideally like to find a way to parse the text to record all the +/- information for each player, but I haven't thought about that much... seems like it would be quite a bit of work, and I might not have time for it now that my boss and my manager are back from vacation.
So anyway, feel free to download and look through that. Do whatever you'd like with it. I didn't really do this for any reason other than I wanted something to do, and it seemed more useful than Facebooking all of our potential recruits for the next five years. Sorry about all the parentheses... no idea how they've become so prevalent in my writing over the years, but everything sounds choppy when I write without them.
EDIT: As was mentioned in the comments, the Miami game, the Northwestern game, and the other half of the PSU and Illinois games were actually available. These have been added to the database and the final file is located HERE. (The corresponding XML has been updated as well.)