We've seen some interesting things with the arrival of the Brady Hoke Era. Perhaps the most interesting things have occurred in the intersection of Coach Hoke and the local media that had declared War on Rich Rodriguez at the end of 2010.
The year began with Michael Rosenberg declaring on January 4 that he had "zero doubt that he [Jim Harbaugh] wants the Michigan job." Those were the days when Rosenberg had long since ceased answering questions about his vendetta against Rodriguez, and was openly campaigning for Harbaugh to be Michigan's next head football coach. A couple of months before, Rosenberg had written a worshipful puff-piece on the Harbaugh brothers for Sports Illustrated. Rosenberg's big concern appeared to be whether or not David Brandon would do a satisfactory job of courting Jim Harbaugh.
Rosenberg was all wrong, of course; Harbaugh didn't want the Michigan job.
Brady Hoke was hired, and the pivot on the part of the Free Press was so dramatic that it gave its critics many more months of good reason to laugh at the corruption of the newspaper's sports editors. Hoke-worship became as obvious as the Rodriguez-hatred of just a few weeks earlier. All of it, naturally, continued to sell newspapers and page-hits for the Freep.
The high level of enthusiastic cheerleading for Hoke has continued, for the past seven months. Plenty of time, in campaign terms, to set up the narrative; that Michigan is back to being tough and tremendous and all of those things. Which is fine, until expectations run into reality, head-on.
The expectations game is big in campaigns, and so now the question becomes, will we see yet another pivot, to "reduced expectations" for Michigan's 2011 season from our friends Rosenberg, Snyder and Sharp at the Detroit Fish Wrapper? I say yes, and that in the next two weeks, as the preseason punditry begins to spill out, that is exactly what we will get. Time will tell. Very soon. Like a countdown clock.
In the meantime, it has already started. Rosenberg's latest is to declare that Michigan "will struggle early" this season, and then will end the season with a win over Nebraska or Ohio State. He doesn't say which one, which sort of makes it sound like flipping a coin, and then writing your coulmn before picking up your check from the Gannett Company. Except that Rosenberg didn't even bother to flip the coin. He's just saying that Michigan will beat one or the other because, well, it sounds sort of good to say it that way. Give the folks a little Hoke, er, hope, and don't get anybody too excited because then people might start thinking about the fact that Michigan was 7-5 in last year's regular season and went to a bowl game and hey what's the difference?
Rosenberg's latest column is so completely devoid of any real information it is something that any blog-reader could have phoned in from the comfort of their own toilet seat at home. There is literally not a single item of news, not a single original thought, not one thing that isn't the sort of routine garbage that you might hear two guys discussing at a bar. In fact, if the bar was Fraser's Pub, you'd probably get a lot better news and information than from a Free Press sports columnist. It really poses the question; now that Michael Rosenberg has cut himself off from the Athletic Department and all personal interviews with anyone who isn't already doing the run of the mill press conferences for Mark Snyder to cover, what does Rosenberg even have to do with Michigan athletics anymore?
Nothing, I'd say, other than what he seems to be doing now. Managing expectations. Keeping it real, so that no one gets agitated or disappointed if the 2011 Michigan Wolverines look like the 2010 Wolverines with a slightly more sluggish and sloppy offense, and an improved defense.