extremely well said sir. Agree 100%
this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
(Posted on behalf of MGoUser Blue Ribbon, who lacked the points but not the effort.)
These are some thoughts I had after the PSU game, prompted partly by MBB’s recent stretch of blah and partly by MGoUser Erik_in_Dayton’s excellent diary about the pitfalls of being a Kansas-style fan. First off, I have to admit I didn’t actually watch the game. I recorded it and then went to the gym, and stupidly left my TV on BTN when I left. When I got home I realized my mistake, but figured it was late enough that the game would have ended. I was right about that; I turned on the tube and saw the aftermath of a court-rushing in Happy Valley. So, I checked the score online, saw the ugly truth, and decided not only to spare myself the pain, but to delete the recording, because teams beating Michigan are not welcome on my DVR.
It occurred to me that some people might say that my decision to forgo the pain of watching PSU earn their first conference win makes me less of a Michigan fan. My initial reaction to that hypothetical suggestion was vociferous disagreement, but after further consideration, I thought about the word from which ‘fan’ is abbreviated, and I realized that maybe being less fanatical about something so far beyond my control as MBB is not necessarily a bad thing. So, if you’re one of those people who consider me less of a fan, or a fair-weather fan, or however you’d articulate it, then okay. I guess that’s easy for me, a lifelong Walmart Wolverine, to say, and for everyone who actually has a personal connection to UM, I hope the pain isn’t too unbearable and fades quickly.
The main point I got from Erik_in_Dayton’s diary was that expecting an easy win against anyone, no matter how lowly and downtrodden they may be, leads to satisfaction at best and anguish at worst, which seems to me a pretty badly skewed spectrum. On paper, PSU didn’t have a chance. But the game is played on hardwood, and the student-athletes of Penn State, despite a clear and significant talent disadvantage, played fearlessly and with complete confidence in their ability to win, even when it looked like the game was slipping away (at least I assume they did; I can’t imagine how else they overcame the talent gap). From the perspective of UM students, alumni, and fans, the game was a disaster of epic proportions, but the other side has a different outlook (Captain Obvious is obvious). For PSU players and supporters, Wednesday’s game was a triumph over adversity, a monumental breakthrough in a season of frustration, and a moment of well-deserved unadulterated joy*. I don’t want to be the kind of fan who can’t appreciate that side of reality. Leave that shit to Sparty, my couch remains at room temperature.
Furthermore, if Michigan played the way they’ve been playing in the recent games I have actually watched (please correct me if I’m wrong here), they played as if having more talented players and building a 15-point 2nd-half lead entitled them to win. I base the previous statement on the impression I’ve gotten from watching the last couple weeks’ worth of games, which is of players exuding the attitude, “We’re here, we’re obviously super-talented, what more could anyone expect from us?” Sometimes the first half has served as a wake-up call, sometimes not. And sdunfortunately for the team and their supporters Wednesday night, they found out the hard way that the only thing that entitles a victory is outscoring your opponent through 40 minutes of basketball.
Despite Erik_in_Dayton’s wise warning, I also learned about the pitfalls associated with a sense of entitlement the hard way, because apparently it affects fans just as much as players, if not more so. After checking the score and deciding not to watch PSU’s breakthrough victory (does that phrasing offend? Should it offend anyone with a sense of perspective?), I checked the box score, and the first thing that jumped out at me was how many FTs Penn State attempted. 27 FTAs?!? Refs must be related to Paterno!!! Then I decided to stop being absurd. Because seriously, is Michigan entitled to give their opponents no more than 15 FTA per game because That’s How They Play Defense, and if they give up more it must be referee bias? Again, absurd. I occasionally (okay, often) forget this as an unabashed maize’n’blue fanboy, but the refs’ job is to call the game as it happens, not to ensure Michigan’s opp. FTA remains within the bounds of statistical normalcy. Especially since, in this case, every postgame account I’ve seen indicates PSU legitimately earned all those trips to the line. So instead of blaming an easy scapegoat when things don’t go well, I’d rather thank the officials for calling the game as fairly as they humanly could (unless anyone has evidence that they did otherwise), and give credit to the opponent for a game well played.
Despite the recent struggles, In Beilein I Trust. And I hope his postgame message included something along the following lines: Talent means nothing without effort. Effort means nothing without execution. Execution means nothing without teamwork. All of these things together still do not guarantee victory, and even victory means nothing without respect: for yourselves, for your teammates, for your opponents, and for the game.
There’s still plenty of time for learning and growth before March Madness is upon us. Even if we only get to the Sweet 16, or (blasphemy alert) lose in an early round, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this has been the best regular season of MBB that anyone born after 1985 can legitimately claim to remember. They really are just kids; praise them when they do well, and encourage them when they fall short of our greedy expectations.
*I think this is especially true given what PSU and their fan base has been through recently. Yeah, in large part they brought that on themselves, but on the other hand, I don’t think ‘they’ includes the kids who I have to believe were thrilled to receive basketball scholarships from PSU, and have worked just as hard as any other basketball scholarship recipients in the B1G.
extremely well said sir. Agree 100%
He's a great older brother, and a good enough father that he doesn't have time to post as much as I wish he could.
Agreed, very well said. We must learn to have high expectations while at the same time appreciating every victory -- even over the worst of the conference. Basketball games are all losses until they've been won.
Kansas has been good at basketball since as long as I can remember and they've got their syndrome where every win is just expected, with a dash of satisfaction, but losses are soul-crushingly devastating. It's taken us less than a year to get to that point (IMO) and I think as fans, we do need to keep some perspective: this is the best bball season we've seen since the early 90s and 60-80% of our players on the floor at any given time are true freshman. That's pretty marvelous. And while Wednesday night was disappointing, and upsetting, the fact remains that this is very much a talented group of student-athletes that we have the pleasure (admittedly sometimes mispleasure *shrugs*) of watching.
We can absolutely beat State Sunday. What should we all do? We should watch the game, and cheer for our team. There's really nothing else to it. I hope everyone else is getting excited for a wild March, perhaps the wildest we've seen if the post-season continues to be as crazy as the regular season has been.
Michigan Football fans.
And there's a reason with great teams every loss is more mind-numbingly memorable; because they're so much rarer than matter of fact victories. Bet you don't remember any of the losses (or victories) from Beilein's first year. Getting to the point where you expect victory is the goal, not something to be ashamed of.
All that, and also, losing sucks.
Yes it seems that in sports the joy is distributed as a zero sum game. Their joy equals our misery. Yet, joy leans to the positive overall due to our appreciation of the beauty of the game. Mgoblog adds to my joy by helping me to have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the sports that I follow here with my fellow M fans.
PS I still would rather win.
Nicely put. My disgust at that loss was tempered by thinking of the Penn State players, coaches and fans: the players played harder and savvier, the coaches had them better prepared, and fans who showed up for a game that was a likely blowout all deserved that experience. I'm sorry it was at Michigan's expense but hey, hats off to the Nittanys.
I'll save unmitigated misery for a loss on Saturday – and hopefully won't need it at all.
Whether I'm watching Michigan football or Michigan basketball, or the Detroit Tigers, I don't ever get angry with the players and coaches, seeking to blame someone for the loss. On the contrary, I always feel bad for the players and coaches after the loss. Never anger. I've never watched sports that way. This doesn't mean I am a pleasant person to be around after a tough loss. I'm not. My frustration is channeled into the loss not the players and coaches who participated in the loss. In my eyes Bo Schembechler was never an idiot for losing the Rose Bowl, but Bo and Michigan losing the Rose Bowl was very very disappointing for me. I was with Bo, I was with the team, and I took the losses poorly. Thankfully fatherhood has lessened my frustration somewhat, but a game like the one in Wisconsin will cause impatient, rude, snarky Gordie to come out in full force. When impatient, rude, snarky Gordie rears his ugly head, the worst place to come for relief is Mgoblog.
Amen, Gordie. I never get the least bit angry at players – they are basically just kids. It is much harder to live with egregious-seeming coaching. I couldn't help some not very charitable thoughts about Borges this past season. Al knows exponentially more football than I ever will. But when I can predict certain plays with 99% accuracy, my teeth commence gnashing. I cry out, hire me Brady! I know I can do better!
Eventually I stop punching my pillow, calm down, and try to think about the next game. Because a great thing about sports is that no matter what happens, there's always a next game. Sometimes it's just a loooong wait…
I was admittedly furious after that loss. I've cooled down since. I'd rather have a ridiculous upset loss right now, before it's win or go home season. The loss can be a wake up call rather than an ugly end to the season. Let's hope it turns out that way.
I thought the blowout loss to MSU was the wake up call, this game was a disaster...
excusing the officiating when you did not watch the game.
I relaxes when we were up by 15, looking for a 20 plus point blowout. I think Penn State is used to trailing by 15 or more, so it had no effect on them. They kept playing hard.
We did not.
This Michigan team is a very good but not a great team. They have the physical tools to be great but not the confidence or mental ability, and much of that is based on (lack of) experience. Teams that overachieve are often full of juniors and seniors who have played together for 3 or 4 years and been through a lot of adversity together through those years. The cinderella teams are most often led by a core of senior players. They don't get too high when things go well, nor too low or panicky when the going gets difficult. They continue to play as a team through it all and don't have players standing around waiting for someone else to make a play, nor players taking it upon themselves to win games playing one-on-one ball. They also as often win games by playing great team defense as they do by scoring a lot of points. I will cheer this team on no matter what the results, but it is amazing how expectations by most (myslef included) on this board have fallen in the past few weeks. Perhaps our expectations were too high with such a young team, and yet I think most of us do believe that if this team plays to its potential it can beat any team in the nation.
The one point that starts to get muddy after MSU crushed us and lowly PSU nipped us is any unerring "In Beilein We Trust." He deserves credit for rebuilding the program and guiding us to a good season, but the real measure is finishing the conf strong and advancing to Sweet 16 or better.
Both losses were characterized by low energy and low competitiveness - which doom teams on the road in the B1G if the opposition is full of energy. Everyone wants to beat our young, talented, hyped team. We cannot play "soft" and expect the older home teams to play finesse Bball.
The low energy falls directly on the coaches' plate. If you want a contrast to KU, Self readily benches kids if they lack fire - particularly on D and rebounding. He rips kids on the sideline and even the team in the media if theyre "soft". Further, Self intentionally took a T in the 1st half of the OkSt game on the road to energize his team as he knows visiting teams need to show a combative nature.
We have enough depth to yank anyone for apathy. Beilein cannot accept "soft" play and must stoke the fire even if it means tough love.
Beilein certainly deserves some blame for allowing a sense of entitlement to creep in as much as it has. I should have been more clear about what I meant by "I Beilein I Trust." I do think he's a very good, albeit not perfect, coach, and this deep into the season, I don't see any better alternative than to trust that he is aware of the problem and is doing everything he can to rectify it. If 'soft' play continues to plague us, and Beilein continues to be ineffective in handling it, then we should absolutely consider alternatives during the offseason. However, Beilein is good enough, and Bill Self's are rare enough, that I would advise caution against dumping Beilein without a reasonable level of certainty that we can land a better option.
And things getting away from the coaches, and saying they have to go. I think we have to adjust to having teams with talent, but youth, and not scappy upperclassmen with limited talent Beilein might be used to. Because really talented senior teams don't exist anymore. But Coach K isn't walking through that door. And great coaches make mistakes. And sometimes have things get away fom them beyond their control. It's easy to say "coach them up" but sometimes it's on the players and team chemistry. They're adult human beings too. I just hate to see a team with the make-up of something special possibly waste a rare opportunity. Last year's team crashed with a thud in the Tournament, but they weren't going to the Final Four in any case. This team could if they get it together.
It's not "entitlement," but the fact that these kids have to get used to every single team they play treating Michigan like a "rivalry game."
If PSU played every game like they did the two against Michigan, they would be at least a .500 team in the Big Ten. If Ohio and Sparty played against the rest of the world like they do against Michigan, neither would have more than one or two losses.
It's a great place to be, and one for which Beilein should be credited. It's also something that freshmen, in particular, have a hard time with. It's hard to get up for twenty "rivalry games" in three months.
This team will be fine by the tournament, and their seeding should get them a decent chance of making it to the Elite Eight, where anything can happen.
thank you for sharing your thoughts here - great perspective and much appreciated.
Good post. Except for the part where you tried to say the refs called a good game. If you didn't actually watch the game, then you can't have an opinion on the refs.
The officiating was horrendous. Not because they had it out for Michigan...they were just poor. Officials that get caught up in the moment and the hype are just so amateurish to me.
Be a grown up and call what you see. If you're a ref, your heart shouldn't factor into anything during a game.
Nice wire reference