"He's a hard worker, and he watched me and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) and Nik (Stauksas) put work in to become (first-round picks), and I'm just happy he's getting better," Burke said. "It's great for the program, too. It shows what type of program the University of Michigan is and the direction it continues to go in."
So this was something I wanted to do since about the first MSU game, but a combination of grad classes and not wanting to jinx anything conspired to delay me until today. But with an NCAA Tournament-clinching win against the Waffling Webers and [insert OSU results], I figured it was high time to recognize the magical run by the most inspiring UM team since 1997 in the only way I knew how – through a schmaltzy montage of posters from basketball movies and TV shows. Call it a retroactive .
After last season’s cosmic nad-kicking as the team well woefully short of expectations and lost both Manny Harris and Deshawn Sims to the professional ranks, hopes were not high for this year’s Wolverines as they embarked on an offseason European tour. Not only had the team lost approximately 99% of its scoring from last year, but the best most pundits could say about this club was that they might be able to “grit” and “hustle” their way to double-digit wins if they could steal a couple of wins against the likes of Harvard and Oakland over the pre-conference schedule. That’s right – credible thought was given to UM’s prospects being tied to the unlikely scenario of slaying both Tommy and the Fightin’ Amakers and the school I passed on my way to Meadow Brook to see “Weird Al” Yankovic in concert when I was in high school. So yeah, this was not expected to be a banner year for Beilein’s crew.
But a funny thing seemed to happen over the summer. and all the sights – this team figured out how to play together. Darius Morris emerged as a legitimate leader at the point, role players like Novak returned with 100% more gruis, coeur, and zähigkeit, and a faint buzz could be heard surrounding this ho-hum 3* freshman with the famous father who once made a cameo on .
Of course, there is a big difference between playing international ball in exhibition games and competing against legitimate NCAA teams, and after a couple of cupcakes to start the season UM battled a Syracuse team in the Legends Classic. UM played them tight throughout, ultimately falling 53-50 after leading 31-29 at halftime. While some saw this close loss as proof that the team was better than preseason expectations, others argued it was an aberration against a disinterested opponent, a characterization that gained support from a subsequent loss to “meh” UTEP in the consolation game. And to make matters worse, UM was going to travel to NCAA tourney-quality Clemson as part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge. The conditions were ripe for the wheels to come off, and yet they didn’t.
Displaying the type of mental toughness and, um, s that belied their experience, the team took care of Clemson and followed up that with a 7-game surge that put them at 10-2 entering league play. Sure, the wins weren’t against elite competition (though Oakland did make the tourney and Harvard probably should have), but considering how low expectations were coming in it was a pleasant surprise.
Of course, any optimism garnered from this hot start was extinguished by a 1-7 stretch to start the season, punctuated by shellackings at home to Purdue and at Wiscy. But those were top-10 teams the thinking went, so the losses were at least expected. But during this streak, there were also 19-point losses to the battling Jamie Macs…I mean and the Northwestern “Just as good as Brown” Wildcats. These were not juggernauts draining bucket after bucket against UM, and the general sentiment that the 10-2 start was a red herring and this was an NIT team if they could steal a couple of wins gained purchase with the UM faithful.
But part-and-parcel with all of this doom and gloom was a faint ember of hope kept alive by close losses to top-5 teams OSU and Kansas. A team like UM, playing without an established inside presence and streaky, young shooters, had no business taking the JayHawks to overtime or making OSU sweat for every bucket. And while the Wolverines shot pretty well against the Buckeyes, neither game would be thought of as a fluke in the classical sense – they were games where good teams find a way to stick around against elite squads and nearly steal a win. But as Jesse Ventura used to say “close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”, and 1-6 to start B10 play was close to the bottom of the B10 standings. If UM had any hope of postseason play, they needed to from this losing streak and right the ship immediately.
To do so, though, they would need to beat Tom Izzo’s MSU squad at the Breslin Center, a veritable house of horrors for UM since its opening. Even though the Spartans had failed to live up to their preseason #2 ranking, in East Lansing was still thick with anticipation, smugness, and AXE body spray of another MSU victory against the Wolverines.
It has often been said that you don’t see the true mettle of a team until it has overcome adversity, when it is has succeeded in the face of imposing odds, when it has emerged victorious of competition. On a day when nobody would have blamed the young Wolverines for folding in hostile territory, Darius Morris showed Sparty that to the tune of a 17-4-8 line while masterfully running the offense, and Zack Novak went all and scored a season-high 19 points to go along with 6 boards, in a 61-57 upset.
As UM basketball fans, we are all conditioned to be immensely reticent when it comes to the cagers; years of false starts and false hopes under Amaker and Ellerbe have conditioned us to remain stoic and, frankly, a little pessimistic regardless of the magnitude of the victory. Having lived through the car wreck that was the last few Ellerbe years and the growing pains of Amaker’s first two years, I had watched this team devolve from a consistent NCAA tourney team to a squad that lost to Western Michigan two years in a row. Two years ago, upsets against top-10 squads Duke and UCLA were met with a "let’s not blow it” mentality as the year progressed and the team slid into the NCAA tourney.
But it was impossible to underplay the importance of this win for both this season and this team. This might not have been a vintage MSU team, but UM still went into Breslin and beat MSU straight-up; no lucky bounces or last-minute tip-ins. UM was the better team that day, and gave a performance nobody expected coming off 6 straight losses. It was as if the Wolverines had pulled a on the Spartans, stealing the resolve and confidence that usually flowed from veteran squads and imbuing this team with it instead.
You know the rest of the story – UM went on a 7-3 tear, with two of those losses by a combined 3 points, and this team emerged as a legitimate NCAA-caliber team. Jordan Morgan showed he had the to compete down low against rugged competition, and the bench continued to evolve as Evan Smotrycz found a little bit of his shooting stroke. Novak, constantly undersized and outmuscled by PFs throughout the season, disproved the notion that by making the key defensive play against Minnesota and grabbing big rebounds amongst the trees every game. This was still a dangerously-shallow crew, but it played like a team and bought into Beilein’s system in a way no other team had. And nobody grew more as a player than Hardaway, who scored in double figures in every game and was the catalyst for wins over Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota, playing and being absolutely unconscious at times from beyond the arc.
Riding this wake of momentum, the Wolverines welcomed the Spartans to Crisler to end the regular season. Both teams were nursing legitimate NCAA hopes, and some viewed this matchup as a “bubble buster” for the loser. All the talk leading up to the game was the MSU that had been to two straight Final Fours would emerge, that the Wolverines had a nice run but that there was no way Sparty was going to lose twice to UM in the same season. Statistics, efficiency metrics, and even our own eyes be damned, the perception was that MSU would find a way to win this game.
Looking back, of course, all of this bluster and worry seemed foolish. UM raced out to a 33-25 lead, and while MSU made a couple of runs late in the second half, the Wolverines never relinquished the lead. Every time Kalin Lucas or Durrell Summers made a play, UM answered with a nice feed from Morris to Morgan for a dunk or Hardaway taking the ball into traffic and making MSU pay at the foul line. s Smotrycz and Vogrich provided a nice boost from the bench, and as the game wound down and Morris scored some nice
on a coast-to-coast layup as time expired, even the most jaded UM fans couldn’t deny that this team was special. That still might not translate to an NCAA bid, though, and that was why the BTT was essential.
In the first game of the tourney, UM was pitted against a far more experienced and taller Illinois team, with both teams knowing that a victory would punch their respective tickets to the tourney. At the half Illinois held an 11-point lead, and there were some (me included) that thought maybe the magic had run out on the season one game too soon. But as they had done all year long, this team just kept battling. Led by an always-underrated defense, the Wolverines stormed back in the second half, outscoring the Illini by 16(!) to win 60-55. In the immortal words of Rasheed Wallace, , and it was saying UM was going to be in the NCAA tournament. A close loss to #1 overall seed OSU did little to damper this optimism, and the only surprise on Selection Sunday was UM earning an 8 seed as opposed to the 10 or 11 seed most expected.
It has been an amazing season so far by the Wolverines, one made sweeter by the low expectations and the realization that this team is positioned to continue this resurgence well into the future. A masterful coaching job by Beilein, he guided a young squad through myriad of potential landmines and is recruiting the type of high-end recruits that will be needed to sustain this success going forward. Any doubts about his coaching ability were laid to rest this year, and hopefully for good.
But perhaps the most important product of this magical run is that it let a large portion of the UM faithful, those scarred by the Ed Martin scandal and the subsequent dark years, to believe again in this team. That might sound sappy, but even the tourney bid in 2009 felt like a tease after the team stumbled through a mediocre season last year. But this team is different, this coach is different, and this program is different than it was since Steve Fisher walked the sidelines; it is a healthy program with a bright future, free of the cancers that plagued it for over a decade. I don’t know how the team will fare against a schizophrenic Tennessee squad or a third-round clash with mighty Duke, but what I do know is that UM is back as a basketball school, and saying that after all these years is .
Over the past few weeks, the University of Michigan football team has undergone some rather significant changes at the top, with Rich Rodriguez relieved of his position as Head Coach and replaced by former San Diego State head man (and former UM assistant coach) Brady Hoke. Trying to wrap one’s head around the events and motivations behind this momentous shift can be daunting for a fully-functioning adult (or daytime sports-radio host), let alone the most impressionable and innocent amongst us – the children. Thus, here is a guide with some helpful answers for addressing the coaching change to your littlest of loved ones.
Why was Rich Rodriguez fired as Head Coach of the Wolverines?
Well, there are many reasons why – mostly because he didn’t win enough, especially against UM’s little brother (MSU), that old man who always wants you to mow his lawn but then pays you a nickel (PSU), the fat guy next door who is always working on his car in the driveway in only his undershirt and the music turned up very loud (Wiscy), and especially that kid at the playground who always beats you up the jungle gym but who also eats paste (OSU). He looked really fast and strong when he played against the smaller kids in the park, but when the bigger kids showed up he always was pushed around and didn’t look nearly as good. Also, his defenses were really bad, he didn’t always pick the best kids to be on his team before the season, and used bad words like “fudge”, “shoot”, “mother fiddler”, and “read option.” Some of the local kids got him in trouble by telling everyone that he was a cheater even though that wasn’t true and they were just being jerks, but he still got a bar of soap in his mouth and now everyone has to go to bed a half-hour earlier for the next 2-3 years. Finally, some people wanted him to look more like the Wolverine’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and creepy grass-eating uncle, even though none of them looked the same either.
Why didn’t the Wolverines give him more than 3 years? They gave that nice man who coached the basketball team 6 years.
Very good question. Mostly because, again, he didn’t win enough games. Also, people care more about football than basketball, and that nice man looked a little like a young Will Smith and dressed like a singer in the band Color Me Bad, a band your mother/father and I used to love listening to about 9 months before you were born.
So who decided to fire Rich Rodriguez?
David Brandon, the current Athletic Director and a former player for the Wolverines. He was also the former CEO of Dominos Pizza.
Can we have pizza for dinner?
Not tonight; I already made roast beef and broccoli. Maybe this weekend. Don’t make that face!
Is David Brandon a good guy? You said he should pull his head out of his a...
Don’t you say that! Yes, sometimes when a person gets really angry, he or she may use bad words to show how angry they are, but you shouldn’t.
David Brandon is a good person who maybe made a couple of mistakes. He’s only been on the job for a couple of months, and so it is hard to tell if he is really a good Director or maybe just good at being a boss as a company. We will know more in a couple of years.
And no, it is not possible physically possible to do what Mommy/Daddy said. Unless you are a writer for a local newspaper, in which case that is the only way they can do their job.
So who did David Brandon replace Rich Rodriguez with?
Brady Hoke, a former assistant coach at Michigan as well as Head Coach at San Diego State University and Ball State. Now stop laughing just because I said “ball.”
Doesn’t Brady Hoke play for the Patriots?
No, you are thinking of Tom Brady. He once played at Michigan, back way before you were born and when the coaches kept wanting a baseball player to play instead of him. They were dumb. Also, Brady Hoke was the guy who brought Tom Brady to Michigan from California.
Is Brady Hoke a good coach?
An important lesson you will learn as you grow up is that words don’t always mean the same thing depending on who or what you are talking about. For example, I “love” you (and your brother/sister/wife/husband where appropriate), but I also “love” Michigan football. When I say I love you, it means I’d do anything to keep you safe and healthy. When I say I love Michigan football, it means I like to watch them beat other teams and sometimes when they don’t I throw things around the house and call people “bassbowls.”
The same can be said about Brady Hoke being a “good” coach. He’s definitely not a bad one – he’s won 47 games and had recent success at both schools before leaving them. Also, he is well-respected by other coaches, has a reputation for being good at getting good players to play for his team, and has a plan about how he wants to run his team. Also, he really wants to coach the Wolverines.
But at the same time, he also lost 50 games and is really old, like older than mommy/daddy. He’s never played with the big kids before, so we don’t know if he’ll be able to keep up. He says he wants to play the game differently than how Rich Rodriguez played, but people aren’t sure if he’ll be able to right now, since the players he has on his team all wanted to play like Rodriguez. Finally, some people worry that he’ll be like the old guy that coached the Wolverines before Rich Rodriguez, only worse.
So I’m not sure if Brady Hoke is a good coach, but I do know that he is a different coach than Rich Rodriguez, and sometimes change is good.
Do people like Brady Hoke?
Oh yeah, lots of people like him. Everyone who writes for the newspapers like him, especially since he is not like Rich Rodriguez at all. Lots of people who like the Wolverines all like him because he reminds them of other coaches they liked, kind of like how our puppy reminds you of Bo, our other dog who went to that farm up north to live on. The one with all the rabbits and squirrels to chase.
Now, there are some people who don’t like him as much, but they are just grumpy people who sit in their parents’ basements all day and type on the computer. They complain about him being not that good at his job and something we call a “safety option”, a word you’ll hear when you are applying to colleges and I have you fill out applications to schools you don’t want to attend, like that school Uncle Murray attended in the middle of the state. None of them ever talk to girls, they smell because they don’t take baths, and only eat pizza and drink pop all day.
Can I be one those of people who doesn’t like Brady Hoke?
No, no matter how awesome that sounds. Almost all of them grow beards and like soccer, and unfortunately (pick one: we have a medical thing that doesn’t allow us to grow beards/you are a girl and facial hair doesn’t look right on girls).
Were they are any other people who coach have been the coach for the Wolverines?
Great question! According to Mr. Brandon, the only person he wanted was Brady Hoke, even though everyone knows he was fibbing and yes, fibbing is wrong and don’t you do it. But sometimes when you are older, you need to say stuff that isn’t totally true so that you don’t look dumb or mean in front of others. It’s like when Aunt Belinda asks me if she looks fat in her wedding pictures and I say she looked beautiful, even though I’ve told you before she looked like Shrek in a dress.
But no, I’ve heard that Brandon asked a couple of other people if they wanted to coach the Wolverines, but all of them said they already had play dates lined up. Jim Harbaugh, a former player for the Wolverines who is also a successful Head Coach at a school with a tree as its mascot, decided he wanted to coach in the National Football League. He may have told Brandon that he planned on coaching the Wolverines and then used this to get a better job, which is something we call “leverage.” It’s how daddy/mommy got that new flat-screen television after he/she stumbled on my Google search history.
Brandon also apparently asked Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern University, but he liked his job and didn’t want to move. He might have also asked Les Miles at LSU, but he’s even older than Brady Hoke and likes to chew grass like the cat does when she’s sick.
Did David Brandon do a good job looking for a Head Coach?
I always tell you that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Well, this is an exception. David Brandon royally screwed up this search, like how I forgot to pick you up after band practice a couple of years ago and Susie’s mom saw you walking alone in the rain and drove you home. Except, I don’t think David Brandon can take every Wolverine fan out for ice cream and then buy you tickets to see Space Chimps. Of course, he might be able to give everyone a free pizza.
Brandon said he was going to look everywhere for the best coach, but then he only looked at people in his Wolverine phone book plus the guy next door. People probably won’t care that much as long as Brady Hoke turns out to be a good coach, but people also don’t like being lied to when everyone knows you are doing it. That’s a good lesson for you know. Also, always wash your hands after you use the bathroom and don’t accept candy from stranger. Unless they give you Snickers – then they are just really nice people with great taste.
Will the Wolverines be better with Brady Hoke as the Head Coach?
Nobody knows for sure. They were REALLY good last year at scoring points and REALLY bad at stopping the other guys from scoring them. They should be better at stopping teams because all of the players on defense are older, and the really fast guy on offense with the dreads is coming back and should be good. So they should be at least as good as they were this year, and will probably win a couple more games next year.
In the future, though, I’m not sure if the team will be better. We’ll have to see, especially as Hoke brings in more players that he wants and play the way he wants. My guess is that they’ll win games but will disappoint me enough most years that I’ll be making many trips to the store to refill the bottles of adult drinks I keep in the dining room.
Note: Longish post – TL;DR – bad comedy; why no news on planes! - to save you the trouble. Also, probably won’t be relevant in 2 hours.
To say that the past couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the University of Michigan and its football team would be a massive understatement. After a disheartening loss to Mississippi State on New Years Eve, fans of the program were subjected to days of uncertainty and innuendo regarding the future of the program, culminating the in the firing of Rich Rodriguez after three rocky years. Since then, we have seen promising replacements turn down the program’s overtures and either remain where they are or move on to other opportunities. We witnessed a number of high-profile recruits switch allegiances in the wake of RR’s removal and the subsequent uncertainty of his replacement. And throughout these travails, we have heard about how the coaching carousel has affected the coaching staffs both here and at other schools, unsigned recruits, the athletic department, and most importantly, the fans.
But in the furor over this most public chapter in the storied history of Michigan football, true victims and their travails have fallen through the cracks. Their pain is as real and notable as anyone else’s these past months, and yet nobody has lent them a voice to be heard. What follows are their stories.
James Jackson, proprietor of Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork, Inc.
“We’ve actually been in Ann Arbor longer than people think; my dad opened up our first office on Packard after Gary Moeller’s 1993 season,” said Mr. Jackson, as he looked out over downtown Ann Arbor from his expansive new headquarters on Division St. Occupying office space in the building affectionately called “Goolge A2” (due to the search giant’s ubiquitous logo on the building’s façade), Jackson reminisces about his company’s genesis from a mom-and-pop location for disgruntled UM fans to obtain mob-specific weaponry to the thriving factory of fan angst that employs over 100 people in Michigan, including some notable alums in the Detroit newspaper industry, as well as satellite offices in other major college towns.
Mr. Jackson credits his father, Mike Jackson, for first realizing Ann Arbor Torch and Pitckfork’s (AAT&P) enduring mission: “When the going gets tough, the tough get fiery sticks and pointy farm equipment.” While this is clearly a metaphor, Mr. Jackson acknowledges that college football fans are generally both the most loyal and irrational people one will ever meet, at least when it comes to analyzing the current state of their favorite program. When the team is winning, fans can be expected to fill the stadium every Saturday, buy bushels of merchandise, and follow the team religiously to road and bowl games (except, Mr. Jackson noted, MSU’s fairweather football fans). But when the team struggles, even if only compared to the fans’ sometimes-irrational expectations, “it can be one huge ‘Critter Fritter’ of a situation,” borrowing a term from a bumper sticker sold by AAT&P “Who’s fault is this Critter Fritter?”.
For example, Mr. Jackson remembers sales tripling after Michigan started the 1998 season 0-2 following the 1997 National Championship. At the time, AAT&P was struggling to pay its suppliers due to extremely slow sales during that magical championship run, with most customers buying the bare essentials (single torch stick, single posterboard and black marker, a pocket-sized trident, etc.) “in case Carr does something stupid like throw on 3rd-and-4,” in Mr. Jackson’s words. That season had been so harmonious amongst the fanbase that Mr. Jackson feared a new era of logical appreciation and rationality was permeating the UM faithful would spell the end for his fledgling shop.
“I thought I’d have to go back to my first job, which was as an actor who dressed up like an affluent gentleman at parties,” Mr. Jackson said, with a hint of sadness in his eye. When asked if Mr. Jackson got the idea for that occupation from a Simpson’s episode, he responded “oh great, you’re one of those guys” and quickly changed the subject.
“We were able to weather that 1997 season by the skin of our teeth, but after that Syracuse loss we never really struggled to keep the lights on. No matter how good the team looked, there was always a steady stream of people who would stop by on Monday, even after a win, to pick through our famous Nits section.” Though the actual Nits change weekly, they typically embody the lifeblood of any irrational argument provided by the customers:
- Sheets with offensive and defensive play calls that should have been made instead of the ones actually run (helpfully broken down by quarter and situation)
- Obscure jerseys of players not receiving much playing time who “totally should instead of that stupid” S/RB/WR/QB currently occupying the position. Includes players whose eligibility expired in 1999
- Box scores from rivals highlighted with the results from players and/or coaches who should be at this school “except the dumb coach ran him off” or “dumb school didn’t let him in because of his grades/test scores/juvenile record.”
“We plugged along for most of the 00’s under Carr with few ripples, save for the Critter Fritter created by Henson’s arrival and subsequent benching behind Brady. After those consecutive losses in ‘99 to MSU and Illinois, we actually ran out of torches and had to resort to wrapping 2x4’s with the Sports Illustrated 1997 Championship Recap special.” But tension soon dissipated as UM went undefeated the rest of the year, and business remained steady until The Horror and the subsequent shellacking by Oregon in 2007. “That point,” Mr. Jackson said, with a barely-disguised twinkle in his eye, “is when things really took off for us. The Monday after the Appalachian State game, there was a line around the block. We actually had to hire additional help to service all of the customers. And when we debuted our Henne vs. Mallett reversible dartboard, we knew we had hit a nerve in terms of fan apathy.”
But the true motherlode came with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez, an “outsider” to the program who was clearly not the first choice of the fanbase or, for that matter, a portion of the Michigan athletic department. “This,” Mr. Jackson said as he thrust his arm about his expansive office with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen televisions, and mahogany furniture, “is all because of RR. When he arrived in Ann Arbor, sales went from steady to astronomical. Before the guy even coached a game on the UM sidelines, we were back-ordered 6 months on everything in the store – that includes the limited-edition pitchforks personally autographed in crayon by both Mike Valenti and UM’s own Drew Sharp.”
Mr. Jackson would not confirm specific sales numbers over RR’s three tumultuous years, but did acknowledge that the RR’s tenure coincided with dramatic growth for his company. One interesting trend Mr. Jackson noticed was that, unlike past years, business remained brisk regardless of the level of success on the field. “A vocal contingent of people clearly did not care whether or not RR’s team experienced success or failure on the football field – they wanted to march around in groups with flaming torches and pointy sticks, and to hell with reality.”
Top sellers during this time included “Make your own DC” kit with real recruiting violations and feathery GERG-style hairpiece, t-shirts emblazoned with “Start the other guy at QB”, a copy of “Family Matters” season 2 DVD signed by the entire Boren family, and framed copies of the Detroit Free Press’s expose on practice violations, player abuse, and baby-eating by RR and his staff.
Sales peaked following the Gator Bowl, but with the inevitability of RR’s firing “everybody wants to save their money until the next coach is selected,” lamented Jackson, who noted that his greatest fears were laid to rest when Jim Harbaugh decided to take the head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers. “I’m sure people would have grown tired of Jim once he lost a couple of games, but with all the talent that was returning next year it might not have happened as quickly as we liked. Plus, people love Jim around here, which probably would have allowed him to go 8-4 without a total meltdown.”
“I just hope Brandon hires the replacement coach soon, because the longer he waits the fewer shopping days people will have before National Signing Day, which is when our sales naturally drop off as people finally realize that there are other successful sports at UM. Rent isn’t cheap, and we were planning on making an IPO in 2011. We don’t need much; pitchforks are always in style.”
When asked who he’d like to see succeed Rodriguez, Mr. Jackson paused for a moment before saying “based on an order we have pending for a Mr. B. Cook, probably Brady Hoke. He’s just Lloyd enough to annoy the fans who liked the direction RR was taking the program, but still unproven enough to bug the fans who expect UM to go 13-0 every year. Les Miles would also work, but the whole grass thing kind of weirds me out.”
As for what the future holds for AAT&P, Jackson spoke of continued expansion in the SEC, where sales have skyrocketed in Gainesville, Baton Rouge, and Athens. Closer to home, he expects sales to grow in Happy Valley as news of Paterno’s quest to defeat the sun in terms of longevity shows no signs of ending, and he might even open another branch in Columbus of all places. “We’ve had brisk business down there for years, but with the Pryor era failing to live up to expectations, I expect sales to exceed even those in Ann Arbor soon.”
Vincent Torino - Novelty t-shirt seller at corner of State and Hoover
“I’ve been selling shirts at this corner for over 10 years,” says Mr. Torino, wearing a Michigan wool cap with two bluetooth headsets sticking out from each ear. “From ‘Rudy Sucks’ to ‘Wuck Fisconsin’ to our recent bestseller ‘Shoelace16’, I’ve been trying to meet the needs of drunk frat boys and ironic kids of alums since the beginning of the millennium.”
Mr. Torino, “but you can call me Vinnie”, comes from a long line of vendors capitalizing on the fervor surrounding the UM program. His grandfather was once the official pickle seller during games when Fielding Yost roamed the sidelines, and his father sold knockoff football jerseys out of the back of his 1975 Ford LTD station wagon near what is now Elbel Field.
Even Vinnie’s mother was involved in the family business in a tangential way; according to Mr. Torino, his father met his wife while selling merchandise at a road game in East Lansing. “Dad said Mom was the most beautiful woman he ever saw, but she also dressed like a woman who ‘wasn’t a stranger to the old end-around’ as he used to say. That’s where the idea for ‘East Lansing is a woman of ill repute’ shirt came from – a fun little jab at Mom, rest her soul.”
When I asked how business was during Rich Rodriguez’s tenure at Michigan as compared to Lloyd Carr’s reign, he noted the biggest difference was the shift in focus in the nature of his merchandise under both coaches. “With Carr, it was all about the players – ‘I’ve good a Woodley’, ‘Bow Down Little Brother!"’ and ‘Robot Henne Maximize!’ were huge. I tried to sell bumper stickers saying ‘My other vehicle is a Carr’, but they never really took off. Maybe a little too ironic.”
“But with RR, it was all ‘In Rod We Trust’ and a three-wolf moon spinoff with Mike Barwis’ head as the moon. Sure, we had brisk sales with Zoltan Mesko’s space emperor line as well as the iconic shirts for Tate’s ‘Behold the power of the Forcier’ and Denard’s ‘Shoelace16’, but everyone loved the fact that RR’s name could be spun into a genetalia reference. Again, my market is mostly drunk people; it doesn’t need to be particularly clever for them to fork over $20.”
This sales bump from the coach’s line was especially important because some of the cherished models were running on fumes. “Everyone has ’Muck the Fuckeyes’,” Mr. Torino noted, “but when you haven’t won the Game recently, fans aren’t inclined to keep spending money. Also, Notre Dame’s continued irrelevance has really hurt. Do you realize ‘Rudy’ came out in 1993? They haven’t done anything since, and so I haven’t been able to generate any new material”
But with Rich Rodriguez’s departure and the subsequent uncertainty surrounding the new coach, Mr. Torino has found himself in the unusual position of “hedging” on the new Wolverine leader with his designs. He noted that he originally had orders in for “I have a Hard-buagh!” shirts until Jim Harbaugh signed with the 49ers, and has since been printing “Got Grass?” and “Miles of fun” (with an outline of Les Miles’ face) in anticipation of the LSU coach being named to the top spot. “I also had a couple dozen ‘I’m Yoked for Hoke’ shirts drawn up, but they just looked dumb. They’ll be sent along with the Harbaugh shirts to the American Red Cross, where they’ll be given to people in developing countries like they do with the loser’s shirts from the Super Bowl.” When asked why he doesn’t just sell them as novelty shirts, Mr. Torino said, “I like the idea of an alternate universe where the Patriots went 19-0, Butler beat Duke for the NCAA title, and Brady Hoke was the head coach at the University of Michigan.”
“I just hope that whomever David Brandon selects as the new head coach is good for business,” noted Vinnie. “Hell, who am I kidding? I sell t-shirts to drunk kids. All I have to do is mess around with the word ‘fuck’ and they’ll fork over the cash. Man, this is the life.”
BRADYPET, the Mgoblog server
“I hope Brian knows how hard I’ve been working,” the words appeared in the terminal window as I sat down with BRADYPET, the Dell PowerEdge server that hosts the MGoBlog site, “and how bad I feel about not being able to support upvotes right now.”
BRADYPET is actually the second server to maintain the site since the Haloscan days; the first was HENNEBOT, which was irreparably harmed by the traffic influx following MSU’s overtime victory against UM in 2009. BRADYPET was brought in shortly thereafter because she featured 32 GB of RAM, 2 TB of hard-drive space, 8 hot-swap banks, advanced bandwidth throttling, and had a track record of “knowing her way around Drupal.”
“Brian and I don’t talk about HENNEBOT much anymore, except that their relationship was one of convenience, while ours is one of mutual respect and scalability,” noted BRADYPET, who trumpeted that she hadn’t needed anything more than a BIOS update in nearly 2 years, “though Brian did mention he was looking at adding another rack, but only if I felt comfortable with it.”
Traffic at MGoBlog has always been steady, BRADYPET noted, and though it spiked at times the past few years, she was always able to handle it with minimal downtime. Sure, the “lockdown” phases for the site after disheartening losses in the past helped, but BRADYPET noted that those were more content-based than usability. “I can handle anything the community throws at me. Brian does respect my sensibilities, though, so that is why he limits posts at times – I can’t un-see what everyone writes.”
Without naming names, BRADYPET noted that “the worst offenders pop up after rivalry games – rival fans sign up with their student e-mail addresses, post ignorant articles with so many grammatical flaws that my spellchecker throbs for hours, and then never come back.” And then there is the negging, which “really hurts my soul. So many posts, so many d-bags, so much anger. It makes me want to throw, to throw, to throw – 503 – Service Unavailable.”
Ten minutes later, I was finally able to get BRADYPET back online. “I’m so sorry – this is what the coaching search has done to me. I can not even maintain simple connectivity with web users.” BRADYPET stated that the sheer number of hits the site received after the Gator Bowl “scared me like a grandmother trying to use her webmail but instead stumbling onto porn site hottmail.com.”
And once RR was fired, “I just couldn’t keep up. Brian said he would protect me, but it was too late. He disabled logins, but that just made people angrier. They just hitting refresh, refresh, refresh – dear God, the number of packets being sent and lost. Just carnage; pure, sad carnage.”
While the the spike has dissipated somewhat, the near-constant stream of insider knowledge and updates about the future coach “has been a strain. Everyone is creating threads about the same topic, then responding to each of them with the same post. It is just madness at times. And then you have Brian’s posts with links to Twitter accounts – Twitter! Have you ever tried to communicate with Twitter? Bunch of ruffians!”
“And don’t get me started about flightaware.”
When asked if she had a preference about the future coach, BRADYPET responded that “I really could care less, because at least then the number of visitors would drop. I guess, standing on my ethernet cable, I’d say Brady Hoke. Not because I think he’d be a good coach, but because if Les Miles was signed those TigerDroppings visitors would flood over here as well, and those people are crazy! Have you seen their animated gifs – supporting those monstrosities would kill me with bandwidth demands.”
As for what the future holds, BRADYPET said she’s looking forward to a break once the new coach is selected, “maybe host a couple of Cover It Lives for the basketball team, maybe go shopping at newegg for some more RAM. I also wouldn’t mind viewing some more Japanese girl-band pop videos with Brian, but I’m saving those for a special occasion.”
Part of me just wants to wallow in despair and ice my soul dong, but at the same time I just can’t overcome the urge to post my thoughts about the past couple of months in UM football. And since I’m more an REM fan than a Smith’s, this post is sprinkled with a couple of my favorite tunes’ names.
**NOTE: Depending on your office culture, there might be a few NSFW-ish memes here. Nothing epic or pornish (sorry), but you’ve been warned.
Shiny Happy People
After the Purdue game, my feelings about the team were shared by a bulk of the UM community – namely, .
Or, in words, excited about being 7-3, dreaming of possibly splitting with Wiscy and OSU, and finally ending the constant speculation swirling around RR and the team’s coaching staff. Sure, it felt like a bit of a smokescreen – this team was still worked over by MSU-Iowa-PSU that left me with a bad case of the – but I definitely felt that with Robinson and co. putting up record-breaking offensive numbers the season had taken on a feeling.
Plus, the wins, the offensive resurgence, and the uptick in recruiting they brought pointed to something greater – a sense that UM fans no longer needed to worry about rogue newspapers flailing about with half-cooked exposes, of turning on your television and seeing some smug talking head on ESPN crow about the “fall of Michigan” and how Rich Rodriguez was “definitely” on the outs, of scrolling through the blogs and Twitter with baited breath lest another player on the 2-deep tears tendons in his knee, fails to make the grade, or simply wants to leave. For the first time in 3 years, fans could finally look in the mirror and say .
Losing My Religion
…er, Ann Arbor, reality did not mesh with this dream scenario of a return to normalcy for fans of the Maize and Blue. While the offense had made definite strides under RR, the defense under this dapper gentleman had badly regressed even from the historically-bad standards of the previous two years. By any metric, this was one of the worst defenses in college football, and watching them every week made me so….
Yeah, I conveniently overlooked the fact that in order for there to be an historic 67-65 win over the Illini UM had to give up 65 points (!!!111!!11!!) in the process, or the fact that the Purdue ’s were calling key screen passes between their 3rd and 4th QBs. And yeah, Wisconsin and OSU still outclassed UM from a talent standpoint and would provide the staunchest tests yet for this fledgling offense, but still, nobody had really shut down UM’s offense yet, and when the game gets up to the 30-40 point range anything can happen. So really, what was wrong with a little bit of homerish optimism in an upset?
What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
I don’t (and won’t) need to recap what happened in gory detail, but let’s just say that phrases like “ that was a horrible series for the offense” and “GERG, ” were frequently typed, tweeted, uttered and sworn over those last two weeks. At some point during the second half of the Wisconsin game, I thought that jewel thieves were breaking into my house and had simply ed a single run play and set it on a loop on my TV to distract me. And if that shellacking wasn’t enough of a wake-up call to the UM faithful that this team was not ready for prime-time, the demolition by OSU the following week drove the point home that if you are an above-average offense against UM’s defense. Fans were left feeling , though not so much because of the defense’s shortcomings (by that point, nobody expected anything from the unit), but because the offense suddenly went from to .
And despite the mountain of factors and valid arguments explaining why this team was going to struggle against elite competition, and in spite of the very positive fact that it was going to be playing a NYD bowl game against a legit SEC team for the first time since…well, the last time they played a NYD bowl game against a legit SEC team, one couldn’t ignore the reality that it was another year of against marque teams not named Notre Dame while the fanbase yearned for a season .
Despite the thumping at the end of the season, at least this season had an expiration date beyond Thanksgiving, and after the past two years that felt like a win. Of course, this was all overshadowed by the rumors surrounding RR’s potential termination and the deafening silence coming from AD David Brandon on the matter beyond “I’m evaluating the team as a whole.” This led to a clear distinction amongst fans – one side felt that and Brandon either relieve RR of his coaching duties or publicly support his continued employment, and the other side that felt rushing to a decision was too reactionary and that a more measured approach was necessary. All would acknowledge, though, that the uncertainty surrounding the program had an adverse effect on recruiting, as everyone was , hide your recruits from other schools poaching them. Committed kids like Dee Hart started to look elsewhere while recruits like Zettel chose other programs (at least in part) because they weren’t sure if RR was going to be there next year, and frankly it was hard to blame them.
Of course, this led to an unrelenting number of commentators and pundits creating
Even venerable MGoBlog, wasn’t immune, leading the creation of the CC tag for posts about a potential coaching change as a means of identifying at least some of the rampant speculation surrounding the head man for the Wolverines. And this level of confusion/misinformation wasn’t limited to traditional media sources; while bloggers called for their readers to , it was clear that nobody knew what was going to happen to the Michigan program, and that probably included Brandon. It was enough to make
What made the situation even worse was the poor planning that had seemingly been put toward a potential coaching search by those in the UM family, with the groupthink being that that Harbaugh was the guy and he would jump at the opportunity to coach his alma mater despite evidence that UM wasn’t the most attractive offer on the table. For all the UM fans had taken in recent years from Notre Dame’s schizophrenic coaching decisions, the botched handling of the situation so far by the AD left me wondering if this wasn’t that far off.
Hey, remember that bowl game UM was going to play? Remember how everyone was excited that the team would have 15 more practices to prepare, and how it would allow the coaching staff (especially GERG) to focus on a single team and really prepare for everything, possibly leading to the type of competent defensive effort this team hasn’t displayed since UConn to start the season (the only other time when the staff had over a month to prepare)? It wasn’t rocket-; you made the Bulldogs pay for blitzing on offense and brought the pressure on defense. Honestly, a brain-damaged Capuchin monkey with a smartphone could have figured that out. Yeah, about that…
. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too crude. It wasn’t quite prison-shower-scene style, but more like …. UM was dominated by the Bulldogs in a way that was more shocking than even what Wiscy and OSU had done in previous games because while those teams were a combined 22-2 and 2 of the best 7-8 teams in the country, MSU was a very beatable SEC team that (thanks in large part to MGoBlog’s obsessive analysis) had clearly defined faults that could be exploited.
Yeah, apparently this was all news to the coaching staff. After the first quarter the offense couldn’t score (thanks in no small part to the realization that even chip-shot FGs were full of ), and the defense was thrashed AGAIN with minimal resistance. It was the worst bowl loss in UM history, yet another chink in the once-impenetrable armor that surrounded the University of Michigan football program. And more than the just the numerical domination, watching this team being manhandled by the Bulldogs was just embarrassing – the team looked ill-prepared and lost at times out there, everyone waiting for Denard to just carry the team to a victory that wasn’t going to materialize. It was a fitting end to another season for the Wolverines, and to many signified the final nail in RR’s coffin.
It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
After the Gator Bowl debacle, everyone braced for the announcement concerning the future of the program and where RR fit in. Most expected him to be fired, though a few held out hope (the author included) that he would be retained for another year to see how this team would perform with all the returning players. Plus, given that it was now about a month from Signing Day, it would be incredibly trying on a new coach to assemble his assistants, reach out to current commits AND snag some blue-chippers in a couple of weeks.
Harbaugh still looked like the leader in the clubhouse, with Brady Hoke and a gaggle of longshot , and the sentiment remained that once the job opened up to lead the Wolverines, Harbaugh would welcome the opportunity. I mean, it’s not like this transition wasn’t hammered out between the OSU game and January 1st.
Maybe the first clue that the power of Brandon’s might have been overstated a bit came from the frequent reports that Harbaugh was not sold on returning to UM; that he was weighing options in the NFL and even returning to Stanford. Then came tweets and articles from Fox Detroit and Michael Rosenberg that RR was fired, even though there had been no official word and wouldn’t be for at least one more day. This was an obvious formality and not a stay of execution for the Rodriguez era, and on Wednesday Brandon officially announced the termination.
Bang and Blame
So now a “national coaching search” begins on January 5th - ಠ_ಠ – and we are left again wondering what went wrong under RR and if this program’s recent instability was a blip or if it will be forever.
Personally, I think the key factor in the coaching search needs to be less about bringing in a “Michigan Man” – that anachronistic alliteration that makes Brady Hoke a legitimate candidate – and more on finding a coach who can work with the talent already in place and who understands how to run a defense/hire a competent DC. RR’s inability to find a non-Casteel Castell at Michigan, or at least allow a competent DC run his system, was the main force behind his .
The next coach, whether it be Harbaugh, Miles, Patterson, or whomever, needs to step into this situation and adapt quickly, hopefully winning along the way. Because what this whole experience has taught me is that despite our claims to the contrary, the average UM fan isn’t ly different than fans at other elite schools – they expect to win and have incredibly thin skin when they don’t, are largely resistant to change except if it works immediately, and are only as patient as is necessary before a “better guy” pops up.
Brandon put himself in this predicament by removing RR before a replacement was in place, so the pressure is squarely on him to deliver. Whether he does is open for debate, though my pessimism should not be dismissed as mere. Until proven otherwise, I view Brandon as an unknown commodity as an AD, and how he handles the next couple of days and weeks will define his tenure for years to come. Based on his business acumen and UM’s historic success, I am confident that Brandon will bring in the and return this program to national prominence, but if I’ve learned anything these past two months it is that such logical arguments are
Due to a cornucopia of issues the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t post a recap of the Illinois or Purdue games until this week. But in honor of ending two-year losing streaks to programs and/or coaches that sorely were in need of some comeuppance, I bring you this weekend’s win in West Lafayette, plus other notable games, as told in movies all about desert best served cold.
The Little Engine That Couldn’t
Coming of an emotional and record-setting performance against Illinois that netted the Wolverines the all-important 6th win, all the talk was about UM’s prolific offense slicing through the Purdue defense like a through, um, a porous defense. Not only was Denard, Tate and co. riding a wave of momentum after dropping 67 on the Illini the week prior, but the sheer number of injuries suffered by Purdue’s defense over the year led most observers to conclude that only those with a (or at least a fond distaste for his ACL) would ever decide to line up in the Boilermaker’s secondary. On offense, Purdue’s once-competent stable of QBs had been reduced to one guy with a sliced finger throwing/hurling dump-offs to the 4th-string QB after UM Justin Siller limped off the field with a, you guessed it, lower-leg injury injury. Plus, Danny Hope and his Moostache was riding a two-game winning streak against RR and UM, highlighted by some infamous trash-talking/detachment from reality -ed from Roy Roundtree’s *shocking* decision to choose a team and school he liked (UM) over one he didn’t (Purdue), as well as RR’s gall to point out that players not wearing the Maize and Blue should be suspended for bad behavior on the field. Against that backdrop, it came as no surprise that UM was looking for against the Boilermakers, and more than a few UM faithful were hoping that the team left a or 40 on Purdue’s scoreboard in the process.
Justifying the fears of some that Purdue should not be for granted despite their glaring flaws, Purdue forced a Denard fumble on UM’s first drive and was poised to capitalize. UM fans, burned so often by this team’s penchant for playing down to the competition, were at the when the Craig Roh burst through the line and slapped the ball from Dan Dierking’s gritty grasp and Cam Gordon oh my go…oh my go…run! run you beautiful little freshman run! to the endzone for a defensive touchdown. UM quickly followed that up with another touchdown after a shanked punt and all seemed right in the world.
But then the skies opened up like a from the heavens, turning an already-cruddy field into soup and the ball into (apparently) the slipperiest pigskin ever used in organized football. The teams proceeded to combine for another 8 turnovers, 4 each, as neither offense was able to sustain any momentum. Denard returned the defensive TD favor with a 94-yard interception return by Ricardo Allen, and this prompted Chris Martin to ramble on incoherently for 5 minutes about stuff not related to the continuing play on the field. Ryan Kerrigan, pulling off his best Brandon Graham circa-2009 impression and sprinkled with the right amount of Tebow divinity, was a , continuously harassing UM’s QBs to the tune of 4 sacks and at least 1 forced fumble. Neither Tate nor Denard were overwhelmingly effective in the sloppy conditions, and the offense kept giving short fields to Purdue. And yet, the on the defense never gave in, holding Purdue to FGs and turnovers where even a single TD could have led to calamity. The teams kept trading possessions without much scoring, as UM maintained a healthy but certainly not safe lead late in the game.
In the 4th Quarter, Will Hagerup boomed a 72 yard punt deep into Purdue territory, which Purdue’s offense inside their own 10 yard line. After a couple of stalled drives, UM marched down the shortened field for a TD by Hopkins, making it a 2-score game that was effectively a for Purdue’s comeback hopes.
The immediate response to this game spoke volumes about the toll the last few seasons have taken on the fanbase’s psyche. Some fans, including one Rogaine-deficient writer, called for RR’s head after another 5-turnover affair, while others pointed to the team’s 7-3 record and the improved play of the offense as signs of life. Legitimate questions were raised about this team’s inability to HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL and Denard’s current passing ability, and a similar performance against Wisconsin or OSU will render swiftly RR’s offense from terrifying to . Still, while it took a to sit through this game, it was the type of game that UM used to always win under past regimes and yet was one that has eluded RR so far; a messy, field-position contest where the offense does just enough and the defense holds the fort. Yes, Purdue’s ineptitude on offense helped, but the game never felt in doubt and, for a fan who lived through the past couple of years, that is enough. The players, especially on defense, should be this week, and hopefully that confidence will translate to improved efforts the next two weeks.
Now having vanquished two of the more nagging thorns in UM’s recent history, fans may be left wondering to whom they should direct their pent-up anger and rage toward now? Should they re-double their focus on Tressel or Dantonio? Perhaps set out on a new crusade to (metaphorically) Plaschke for his idiotic tweeting about Denard? Personally, I’ve decided that with bowl eligibility assured and some stability finally being in place for my beloved but recently-maligned alma mater, it is time to enjoy college football in the fall, reconnect with friends and loved ones, and become a better person filled with love in his heart and a hop in his step. Oh yeah, and also keep hating on Cam Newton and the rest of the SEC. Those guys are still jerks.
And As For the Rest of the Weekend
* I can only presume that the Hoosier football team was holding Bret Bielema’s favorite windbreaker and/or Packer’s Cheesehead for , as he thoroughly demolished Indiana 83-20, including scoring 45 points in the second half (including one FG late in the 3rd quarter). Give me back my stuff! indeed.
* Texas, continuing its season-long hangover from last year’s MNC loss, were shellacked by Oklahoma St. 33-16 in a game that wasn’t even that close. At least Texas fans can take a in the fact that this loss won’t even break the top-5 worst losses for the season.
* Finally, the Wildcats of Northwestern scored another impressive win in its inexplicable rivalry with Iowa, taking the lead with a very late TD pass from resident Dan Persa who, as the gods demand, immediately tore approximately 1 million tendons in his ankle and is done for the season. It’s a major blow to Northwestern’s fortunes, yet proves that the Angry Purdue ACL Hating God is not afraid to turn its jaundiced eye to the rest of the Big 10 after it ran out of victims in West Lafayette.
Note: If you find this even marginally funny, please tell me and I will continue them for the rest of the season.
I was going to create a Choose Your Own Adventure for this whole season, but then I realized the team was 5-3 and trying to rewrite history is better left for crappy movie adaptations of good books and romantic comedies. So starting from last Saturday’s loss to Penn St., you and YOU ALONE are in charge of how this season ends!
(okay, not really, but this is totally epic sounding. In fact, the only impact I’ll have on this season is if UM loses to Purdue, at which point I will recreate the following clip, but with GERG in the role of Will Ferrell.)
You are standing in front of your TV, mouth agape as a walk-on QB playing in his first game for PSU helps to shred UM’s defense along the way to a 41-31 loss in Happy Valley. Your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband has gone into the other room to “check my e-mail” and “see about going out to brunch” with her/his parents on Sunday. Your dog, a loyal companion through it all, has spent the last hour trying to rest at your feet but is constantly interrupted by your loud and profanity-laced mood swings as the second half of the game played out. The chances that he will chew apart one your shoes while you sleep is approximately equal to the 3rd-down completion percentage by PSU this evening.
With the night still young, you have a couple of options. If you…
A) Give in to your growing ennui and curl up in the fetal position on the couch and watch reruns of Say Yes to the Dress with your wife/girlfriend, GOTO ENNUI.
B) Rage against the world by grabbing all of the alcohol from your refrigerator, including that novelty six-pack of Thanksgiving-style beer your uncle gave you in 2008, and dump it all into a bucket and chug away, GOTO BLINDER.
C) Fire up the laptop, jump on mgoblog.com, and go through every new Board and Diary post and blanket agree/disagree with the sentiment, GOTO ADDICT.
After watching the third straight episode with the “cliffhanger” about whether the girl will be able to afford her dream dress (hint: she can, even though it “totally” breaks her budget), you realize there is more to life. You look into your loved one’s eyes, see a bright and beautiful future filled with laughing children, romantic trips, and unicorns with rainbows for horns, and a hint of a smile slowly creases your lips. Then you remember J.T. Floyd giving a 15-yard cushion on 2nd-and-21 and scream out in agony “Why GERG why?” and fall into a quivering, whimpering heap.
12 hours later, you are wearing the same clothing as the night before and are sporting a very not George Michael 5 o’clock shadow while sitting across from your parents-in-law in a “cute” bistro in town. You chew on a piece of toast, and it tastes like sadness; your mimosa burns your throat like a million suns of despair; your eggs benedict are a little runny. GOTO WEEK-ILL.
Named after the effect it has on the imbiber, you guzzle this concoction until all you see are stars and that small purple elephant in a sweatervest that seems to pop up more the past few years. You then walk into the kitchen and proceed to have a nuanced and passionate discussion with your blender about how the 3-3-5 defense simply is not a suitable base formation for a defense with a below-average secondary and linebackers who have trouble maintaining their gap coverage and tackling in space. Later reports to the nursing staff at the hospital by your loved one characterize this conversation as “a bunch of grunts, cackling, and arm-waving like Steven Tyler during a live performance of ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’” followed by you head-butting the refrigerator and suffering a concussion. You are placed on the “physically unable to perform” list for home chores and the doctors suggest you turn to watching “something less stressful, like the UFC or dress shows” on the weekends for the rest of the season. THE END.
After dis/agreeing with every poster who calls for RR and/or GERG to be fired and questioning why you are still a fan for 4 hours, you go to YouTube and watch highlights of the New Math game against MSU until you pass out on your keyboard and begin to drool. At least that is your excuse you give the next morning for why this clip was playing in a loop when you were found in the morning. GOTO WEEK-ILL.
By Wednesday you are feeling better about the past weekend, as the cool fall air, left-over Halloween candy, and flood of rationalizations lead you to believe that the PSU game was an aberration of sorts.
- “Maybe McGolin is just a good QB. You know, he almost beat out Boldin to start the year. Plus, Martin was out for most of the game.”
- “It was a night game in Happy Valley, and there was some questionable officiating.”
- “The position changes are going to take time to fit in.”
- “JoePa just wins footbawwww Gameshesh at Penn STTAAAATTTTEEEE!!!”
The degree to which your mood has lifted is highlighted by your complete non-reaction to the news that JT Floyd will be out for the season due to injury. You think, “eh, I guess it doesn’t really matter who gives a 8-yard cushion to a receiver on 3rd-and-3. Might as well be a freshman.” Also, you take solace in the fact that the Angry Michigan Hating Secondary God is running out of victims, so it will hopefully move on to another team soon. Just to be safe, you stop by Bed, Bath, and Beyond on the way to work to pick up extra candles for your shrine to Charles Woodson, Leon Hall, and Ernest Shazor.
Your spirits are further lifted when the NCAA report is released on Thursday effectively eviscerating the Free Press’s hackneyed expose against the UM program and exonerating RR and the rest of the staff for what amounted to some extra stretching and someone watching practice who shouldn’t have been there. Against your better judgment, you visit the Freep website to see if they are printing a mea culpa. To nobody’s surprise, Rosenberg and the paper are sticking to their ridiculously misguided and hollowed-out guns.
This reminds you of the text-based adventure game Zork, in which Rosenberg is the troll standing in front of the bridge that you are trying to cross. After a number of syntactically-correct but apparently illogical commands such as “Show truth about non-countable hours” and “Question whether anonymous sources are disgruntled former players”, you would have simply turned off the game and went back to playing ColecoVision version of Frogger. Today, you just say “whatever” and figure you’ll never visit the site again unless Drew Sharp publishes something REALLY dumb. You expect to return in 3 days.
After sifting through the various Illinois previews that all point to UM losing the game, you realize that UM has been a favorite and lost, and upset as a dog, so you steel yourself for 400+ yards of rushing by the Illini and hope Denard and Co. can keep pace.
A) Believe that UM beats Illinois, GOTO ILL-WIN.
B) Believe that UM loses to Illinois, GOTO ILL-LOSS.
Scheelhaase throws only 8 passes all game (completing 6 for 150 yards and 2 TDs) and the Illini rushing attack eats up the UM defense. On the 8th missed tackle by Cam Gordon that lets a player get loose for another 10 yards, you yell to no one in particular that this game could not possibly get worse. Your significant other asks what quarter it is, and you realize there are 8 minutes left in the 1st half. Michigan keeps it close, but in an all-too-familiar script, UM falls behind early and the defense can never get off the field without giving up points. UM loses 44-30, and the pilot has definitely turned off the “Do NOT Panic” sign in the cabin. GOTO PUR-WEEK.
UM rushes out to a quick 14-0 lead as Denard houses runs on the first two drives after the defense records two (!) straight stops, one a punt and the other a fumble by Leshoure in the red zone. The Illini’s run defense, highly-ranked coming into the game, proves to be no match for the midline and the simple zone read as run by a Dilithium-infused QB. The Illini are also not helped by their head coach, who reminds people why he was fired by Florida and nearly canned by his current team by never throwing the ball even though UM puts 9 guys in the box. Illinois threatens throughout the game, though, and even ties it late at 31, but a 45-yard bomb to Junior Hemingway (!) gets the offense into the redzone, where Vincent Smith (!!) drives it home for the game-winning TD. UM fans across the globe let out a collective breath as the team becomes bowl eligible, making everyone a little sad when they realize how this used to be a foregone conclusion. GOTO PUR-WEEK.
Coming off an emotional home game against Illinois, all the talk turns to the Boilermakers and resident Village People Motorcycle Guy*stand-in Danny Hope’s decimation of a once-proud program. Coming off two straight losses to the Boilermakers (and unfortunate theme during RR’s term as head coach), UM will be looking for revenge in West Lafayette. As you guessed it last week but still is a shocker, but Drew Sharp AND Michael Rosenberg have disparaging things to say about the UM program and Rich Rodriguez. Combined, the articles include about 2.5 factually correct statements and/or opinions. Few people notice, though at least one brand-new MGoBlogger creates a post about it just so that people can rant. People scream “groupthink”, and we all tell them to shut up or else we’ll all neg-bang them.
All week fans hear about how bad Purdue is on offense and defense, how they have one of the worst offenses AND defenses in the conference. UM fans know that such stats mean nothing when playing UM’s defense, but spirits are still high. Based purely on the rate at which Purdue has been losing QBs this season, the starter for the game will be a true Sophomore Mechanical Engineering student named James Sampson who led his dorm team to the semi-finals of the Purdue Intramural Flag-Football playoffs. Despite the near-certainty that he will throw for over 250 yards and have a 3:1 TD:INT ratio and the game is on the road, this still looks like a near-certain win for UM. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, Danny Hope is still the coach.
A) Believe that UM beats Purdue, GOTO PUR-WIN.
B) Believe that UM loses to Purdue, GOTO PUR-LOSS.
Sampson does not disappoint, giving a shout-out to his ME peeps after his 3rd TD pass puts Purdue ahead to stay, despite a late UM drive to tie that ends with the incredibly predictable blocked 30-yard FG. All the custom-fitted cups in the world cannot protect you from the metaphysical dong punch that racks your body after this loss. Alcohol barely numbs the pain, but the dream of prehistoric otter-sized ennui setting in is the only release you seek. GOTO BLINDER.
Bowl hurdle overcome as well as a very rare road win, you are quietly content that UM will play beyond the OSU game. Beating Danny Hope 51-21, RR lets loose a trademark kinda-smile and GERG actually receives a complement in the press conference for “only making the walk-on look like an All-City QB out there.” Sunday is the most beautiful day of your life. Your breakfast tastes better than any meal you and I have ever tasted, members of the opposite sex seem particularly attracted to you. Your dog seems genuinely happy to see you when you walk into the room, not the faux interest-if-you-have-a-treat veneer it usually puts on. All is right in the world, and you prepare yourself for the next two games believing that UM is back on track, or at least no careening off the tracks into a school full of baby bunnies.
TO BE CONTINUED?
* Little known fact, his name is Glenn Hughes. Thanks Wikipedia!