The Problem With Season Previews
They all basically say the same thing. X is gone, Y impressed in the spring, check out A, B, and C to step up. Y, A, B, and C generally change from preview to preview as various writers throw darts at the team's roster.
Unfortunately, I've found that I can't avoid that formula. There's not much to write about if I don't. And, like basically everyone else, I haven't watched Indiana's practices or gone over Iowa's games from last year or put the time in to really understand what Wisconsin is trying to do and how likely they are to be successful. So this is something of an exercise in futility.
What I've tried to do to reduce the futility is something like what I did with the top 50 hockey recruits list... listen to the wisdom of crowds. I take input from the school's media guides, CFN and USA Today previews, and, importantly, I actually ask fans of the team for input and listen carefully to it--after nudging their expectations down a notch or two to dampen homerism. Why do I do this? Because I know damn well that every time a Michigan preview gets posted anywhere it immediately gets its errors torn to shreds by Michigan fans. A fan collective on any message board knows far more about its particular focus than any sportswriter does. The problem is separating out the over-optimistic rah-rah poofery from the legitimate information.
Another thing I've tried to do is not fall into the traps I commonly see others do. To wit:
- I won't focus on who's gone. Braylon Edwards won't be catching bombs from Chad Henne any more but what's more important is that Michigan returns Steve Breaston and Jason Avant. They'll hardly miss a beat.
- I'll try to provide a range of expectations and point out the things I believe a team has to do to reach the upper end of the range.
- I will revise. After each preview is posted I'll post it on the appropriate team's board and let the rip-fest begin. Anything of value I'll incorporate.
I rank each team's units (QB, RBs/FBs, WRs/TEs, OL, DL, LB, DB, Ret, K) on a five point scale like so:
1 - A unit with no experience at all or one that has been proven to be awful. Will probably be one of the worst in the conference. A glaring weakness.
2 - A unit that was shaky last year and doesn't look to improve much, or a lightly experienced group that could hold up if given a lot of support.
3 - Basically average.
4 - A good group of experienced players or a mix of experience and excellent potential, or a great group that's dangerously thin.
5 - Should be a top two unit in the conference. This unit returns a number of players who have proven themselves to be quality Big Ten players and has the depth to withstand an injury or two without a large dropoff in the quality of play.
I'm busy today writing up a detailed preview of Indiana Football, 2005. Particularly useful? No. But it's got to be done.
In lieu of fantastic content from me, then, check out some fantastic content from iBlog For Cookies. If you can stand it, that is. IBFC tackles the nasty subject of the linebackers failing to do much of anything good during the Rose Bowl. There is also more evidence that Ryan Mundy has never met an angle that he can't screw up.
Hopefully this Indiana thing will get done today, but I ain't promisin'.
Update 5/20: Removed IL WR Chris James after he committed to Illinois. Good get for Zook. Added note that AJ Wallace will attend summer camp. Added OH WR Robby Paris, OK QB Sam Bradford, GA DE Jermaine Cunningham.
I've had a fondness for the Bentley Historical Library ever since someone employed by it emailed the Every Three Weekly to request a copy of an issue they had somehow missed. We had never informed the Bentley of our existence, but that did not deter them from finding and salting away copies of our ridiculous little magazine for posterity's sake. I envisioned that millenia from now, after the inevitable nuclear holocaust caused by an Ohio State grad pushing a button he shouldn't and saying "duh-uh-uh want a cookie," the Bentley Library would stand alone in the post-apocalyptic horror show with things like "70 Laser Wielding Robots Not Loose On North Campus" encased safely behind plexiglass. I immediatey put the sword to about six "Bentley Library Found Useful By Useless Persons" articles, as it never pays to offend anybody with the good sense to archive your writings.
I had forgotten about my love for the Bentley until recently. I was searching for images of Desmond Howard to splice into the logo you see above and encountered a weird black and white headshot that I followed to the Bentley Image Bank, which I soon discovered was fantastic. You can see Fielding Yost buy a Liberty Bond, Tom Harmon doing his best Zoltan the Inconceivable impression, a panoramic view of the 1902 Rose Bowl (which was about as well attended as an MSU hockey game), or Michigan Stadium's first ever OSU game (note all the people wearing hats).
Red looks a little less cranky than usual.
This cover wins the prize for most inexplicable:
Why is a giant chicken skateboarding on the edge of the stadium? It is the mystery.
Giant Skateboarding Chicken excepted, I prefer the idiosyncratic drawings from the early years of Michigan football:
My favorite part of this one is the Michigan State players fleeing in terror. Second favorite is the World War I soldiers on the bottom with the silly hats and socks. Trench warfare is horrific, but that's no excuse to be badly dressed, gentlemen.
This man is definitely saying "I'm a plane! A great big plane with wings!" to himself.
Several of the covers during the 20s gloried in the art of the punt... no doubt something that warms the cockles of Carr's heart.
What's that? You're complaining about another image-heavy, content-light post? Fair enough, but that was a chicken on a skateboard on the cover of a Michigan football program. You should need a lie-down and perhaps some smelling salts.
Update: Commenters point out that the Chicken is the "San Diego Chicken," who was brought in to boost attendance for the Wayne State-Slippery Rock Band day, and that the Michigan Stadium picture pointed out isn't the first game but rather the dedication game during the stadium's first year.
Like I said earlier, it never ends. You're Ohio State. Defensive lineman Tim Schafer was arrested for brawling in the wee hours of the morning today. My favoirte detail: "Police say both men were bloody and had bite marks." Dude.
Also, USA Today cries foul about the OSU investigation turning up nothing of significance behind Maurice Clarett's allegations. Summer shaping up rather nasty for the Buckeyes.
While I'm out scouring the internet for goofy pictures of NBA players, The Blue-Gray Sky is putting me to shame. They've posted an awesome rundown of the top 50 recruits from the 2002 class. They classify players as injured, MIA (due to academics or bashin' people in the head), overrated, or basically correct. Only one Michigan recruit checks in on the list, #35 Gabe Watson. He gets a "correct" rating.
I had to double-check that, thinking that surely mighty Michigan reeled in more than one top-fifty player, but they're right. Watson was around #35 in the country. Matt Gutierrez checked in at #98. Those were the only two players Michigan landed in the top 100. Michigan's class that year ended up pretty ugly. Watson, Jason Avant, Steve Breaston, and Ruben Riley are the only guys who have contributed significantly up to this point. Jeremy Van Alystyne, David Harris, Carl Tabb, and Mike Kolodziej have been fringe contributors and will probably be useful players, perhaps starters, if they can stay healthy. The rest? Bupkis.
I wish they had classified players with a little more detail. Both Florida's Deshawn Wynn and Virginia's Kai Parham get dinged with "overrated," but Wynn has been a complete bust and Parham has been a steady performer. Maybe the gurus overrated Parham a bit but he's no waste of space. A minor quibble... the professionalism of BGS is astounding. Every post is a mechanically perfect brick of enlightenment. But has BGS ever shown you this:
(decided to write something formal on the occasion of Reggie Miller's going-away party. don't worry, it won't last.)
One of the All-Time, uh, Goods
by totally awesome me
In the end, Ben Wallace's arms were just long enough. Reggie Miller's three-point attemptâ€”launched from the hand of a man who for one last night was the Reggie Miller of old instead of old Reggie Millerâ€”just grazed his outstretched hand. The shot went straight up, and when it came down Miller's career was for all intents and purposes over.
That was it. Eighteen years of Reggie Miller and the Pacers, over. The Pistons had snuffed out the Pacers behind a dramatic, improbable block once again. The rest of the game was a series of hugs and a strategically placed Larry Brown timeout that let an entire arena, Pistons included, give Miller a rousing send-off.
It was appropriate that Wallace was the man to put the final nail in Miller's coffin. Both men are emblematic of their franchises. Wallace is the very embodiment of the blue-collar player, a man no one in the league appreciated until it was too late and the Larry O'Brien trophy was raised in exultation over his head. Miller has been consistently excellent for an extend period of time... just never excellent enough.
Reggie Miller only found himself in one NBA Finals, and that was a perfunctory six-game washout against Shaq and Kobe's Lakers. Miller battled them and lost. He battled the Bad Boys and lost. He battled Jordan and lost. He battled the Knicks and lost, though he did waste Spike Lee. The unpleasant truth is that Miller and the Pacers never really had a chance over the course of a seven game series or an eighteen year career.
There's something sad in the championship-less end of an illustrious career, but Miller went out the right way. He was a Pacer, and he went out a Pacer instead of hitching his fading star to a heavy favorite in a desperate attempt to win a ring. Ray Borque, a twenty-year Bruin, never looked right in Avalanche silks. The cup he lifted was made of tin, bittersweet at best.
And though Reggie Miller came to a bitter end there was something sweet in it, too. He had the right uniform on, the right crowd chanted his name, and he seemed content talking to ABC's Michele Tafoya after the game.
As content as anyone whose 18-year NBA career had just come to an end could be, anyway. Right before Miller talked to ABC, the network managed to pick up part of a private conversation between Miller and Richard Hamilton, his heir apparent, and we got to hear something far more honest and revealing than anything Miller said to Tafoya.
"You do it as long as you can, man," Miller told Hamilton. That's a beautiful, tragic sentence that summarizes a large swath of the human experience.
Miller offered it as encouragement to his mirror image. That couldn't have been particularly pleasant for Miller. His mirror image happens to be decade or two younger than him and sports a fat championship ring he'll never, ever get himself.
That says more about the Pistons than Miller, because Hamilton's side of the mirror has Ben Wallaceâ€”and Ben Wallace has arms that are just long enough.
Update: I was so dedicated to being Rob Parker that I made a factual error. The Lakers series went to six games instead of five as I originally claimed.
You know that scene in a television drama wherein a new father exits the maternity ward, sits in a chair completely stunned, and contemplates on how his life is forever changed and it's just all so wonderful?
Yeah. That's how I feel except better. GO! Pistons has done that to me, especially because there are sites just like it out there that are even more gloriously bizarre.
First, GO! Pistons itself. I am indebted to reader Jessica Bailey for acquiring the translations of the text that accompanies the amigofriends. She is wonderful. Here we go....
The Pistons signboard player and the NBA rebound king. His trademark is his hair. If you wear a specially made wig, you can be like Ben too!
Came onto the team before the 2004 playoffs. A cheerful person, he is known as the king of vulgarities (cursing?) when he takes a penalty. I would love to put a mike on him and hear his conversation during the game!
The Pistons commanding tower. His index finger decides the movements of the players. A player that I like.
His best weapon is his long arms. The length of his arms when extended (together) is longer than 206cm. He is looking to be the king of his dunk shots.
Breathe-"ton-ton-tan (sound of dribbling)" (2x down, 1x side dribble)?shoot. This is his free-throw style. He is the central piece in the offense. The braids in his hair are great.
The great commander of the NBA and and extremely popular person/coach. His is pulled by teams from all over the U.S. He leads the Pistons to victory with a bold strategy and carefully thought out strategy.
What it says around his face is: To every corner of the U.S.--to the north, to the south, to the east, to the west.
This appears to be a Phantom of the Opera version of the Pistons-Pacers series from last year. Hamilton is about to ravish an unwilling Reggie Miller. One more thing: this is the website of a Pacer fan!
Here's babelfish's translation of the accompanying text:
2004 eastern conference final. It is good to the GAME 5 lip which the series 2-2 receives in opposite, the sea urchin being done, with the foam/home the painful 3 defeat/miss eyes ãƒšã‚¤ã‚µãƒ¼ã‚º å–«. This season, you do not draw and that to thinking whether also the ã¦ is good, in the setting which again draws the cliff ã£ ã· ã¡series the fool and the ã‚ of the... lip - -! ! However the ã© - with it is good, the ã‚Œ ã˜ - the ã£ ã¦, the dress matching too much... (crying laughing)
From the sublimely bizarre to the just plain freaky:
That's from the same site and is definitely the scariest damn bobblehead I've ever set eyes on.
This is unbelievable. Phantom Rip is back along with a Frankenstein Ben and a Dracula Billups (I always thought his teeth were pointy), plus some sort of cat-thing Rasheed and a really depressed version of Tayshaun in his bathrobe looking like he hasn't washed for about three weeks. O'Neal is probably thinking "why is my head so big?"
And... this is indescribable...
Fantastic, especially because the rightmost bunny is definitely Vince Carter. Don't let Jackie Christie see this, though, otherwise he won't be able to play against the T-Wolves, Lakers, Sixers, Pacers, or Nets any more.
What? WHY? Why do you have such bizarre precious memories, Mark Jackson? There's Reggie Miller yet again. At least this time he's pissed off and not, you know, dressed up like a Playboy Bunny or about to lose his innocence to The Diabolical Rip Hamilton. That glow on your cheek looks an awful lot like a sniper rifle homing in on its target. You should have replied to that bizarre Japanese letter written entirely in blood, Mark! Wake up! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD MARK JACKSON, WAKE UP!
Finally, we have an image of a very... surprised Mike Bibby.
Maybe next time you'll stay out of prison, Mike.
Okay, one last FBF item... are you interested in perhaps attending the "Meeting of the Nash friend"? Well, you'd better bring it and meet these strict requirements:
* Meeting qualification of the Nash friend *
* Liking the Nash play, there is no ginger.
* Liking the Nash hair type, there is no ginger.
* Liking the Nash FT style, there is no ginger
Seriously. There is no ginger. No goddamn ginger.
Finally, for Michigan fans... there is "Exhaustion Michigan sight," which proudly declares the Wolverinese to be the "2004 NIT CHAMPIONS!!!"
I'm done. I look at the world with newfound wonder, as if I was a child blinking in the light of day for the very first time. Thank you, weird little Japanese girls... thank you so much.
Update 5/19: Removed Jamie Cumbie after referenced article said he was down to ND and Clemson. Changed Cobrani Mixon's status again after free Scout article. Linked to Micah Johnson article in which he does not list Michigan among his top 7(!) schools. Bother.
A note... I have begun accumulating updates and only announcing them every few days or so or when something significant occurs. The first two updates here, for instance, occurred a couple days ago. Probably doesn't matter but if anyone wants to know, now you do.
That Micah Johnson article is very unpleasant. He names seven schools, five in the SEC, Louisville, and Penn State(!)... no Michigan. Not writing him off entirely yet but that's a blow.
Link is here.
Update: Yes, the entire purpose of this post was to get the "Skeete Skeete" joke off my chest.
Update II: BuckeyePlanet is having a collective coronary. My favorite: "Things are not good right now. It's just one thing after another for the last three years. When does it end?"
When does it end? You're Ohio State! It never ends.