this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Michigan football fans
It's in the final round for the "How do you Gameday" Cheez-it challenge between a good friend of mine (Michigan) and some lady. He's currently losing, and he personally asked me to help him out so he can win 4 tickets to the National Championship game. If you guys could please vote for him, that would be awesome. Thank you, and Go Blue!
All this talk recently about people leaving and the OMG Panic post reminded me of Bo's quote "Those who stay will be champions." In this case, however, it may take a little longer than we are used to. If McGuffie and Babb and Chambers don't want to stay, let them leave. And please, give Rich Rod a chance. He may not be Lloyd Carr in terms of integrity according to the media but what when your put in his situation with your family being threatened, what do you expect? (insert a-splode pic here) The guy knows how to win. He has proven that everywhere And in the winningest program in college football, shouldnn't that count for something, evne if it does take a little while? My message to everyone that has been preached by Brian over and over again, be patient. It is the guys first season and if you look at his track record this has happened everywhere he has gone. Just because we are Michigan means we should be able to walk over everyone? No. We have to work just like everyone else and I believe partially that sense of entitlement has gotten us here. I like what RR is doing with family values, especially the story with Brandon Harrison. Everyone that is buying into his system is becoming closer and closer together. Becoming a true team is the first step he is taking to bringing us back to the promise land. And remember, "Those who stay will be champions"...they just may have to wait 2 or 3 years.
Michigan fans suck. We're annoying and we don't care. All of our fans are old and stupid. We are all frontrunning, fairweather fans who know nothing about the game. The Big House is the quietest stadium on God's lovely earth.
I was reading the Maize N Brew recap (http://www.maizenbrew.com/2008/11/9/657410/a-trip-to-austin-puts-mich) of a Texas game and it reminded me about Michigan fans' depressive nature regarding our own game experiences. Time and time again, I've heard Michigan fans complain about, well, Michigan fans. And, honestly, I used to be the same way, constantly bitching about Big House noise.
But then, I started to get around the Big Ten (and a couple of bowl games, as well), started paying attention to teams from other parts of the country, started meeting other fans, and came to a very, very odd conclusion: compared to just about everyone else, Michigan fans are good. Seriously, we're all so self-conscious about it, but we're not that bad. Sure, some old people suck and god knows the "Fire RichRod" contigency annoys the bejesus out of me, but really, every fan base has a group of spoiled, annoying old people that never get up (see: Brian's Auburn post).
Now, before you start hyperventilating, I think we can all recognize that Michigan is a big time college football program, and, as such, will have a superior game day atmosphere and fan base excitement level than most teams right off the bat. Anyone that has been to Northwestern's high school stadium or Indiana's We're at 50% Capacity?! That's a New Record! Field, can say that Michigan is automatically in the top 25 of all college footballdom in terms of game day hype and fanbase loyalty/excitement/etc.
So of that 10 percent, which fanbase would you classify as superior to ours? Rank it how you'd like (go ahead and do it in the comments section right now!). You can emphasize crowd noise, stadium wow-factor, tailgating experience, general nuttiness, tradition, fan friendliness/intimidating meanness, etc.
As far as DEFINITELY 100% better than us, my list is probably this, give or take (in no order):
-Oregon (they are SO loud)
-Tennessee (?? Maybe?)
Not all of those are home runs. Oregon seriously lacks tradition. Bama fans are delusional. VT's tailgating is supposedly decentralized and lacking. I couldn't think of a reason to keep Tenn. off the list, yet, I kind of feel like they shouldn't be on there. But I think combining everything, those schools have a case to be better than us.
You may notice that Wisconsin is not on there. That is because Wisconsin fans don't show up until halfway through the game in both hockey and football. West Virginia? A little too Middle-of-nowhere-kind-of-irrelevant-program-y. I really thought about putting Oklahoma/Nebraska on there... but... I dunno, didn't feel right. Also, Notre Dame? I've heard they are exceedingly friendly to a creepy fault... plus... the whole paranoid attention whore thing...
So that puts us about 10th. If you really wanna be negative about it, how about 15th? That puts us ahead of 114 other schools in D-IA alone. Trips to Penn State and Ohio State (as well as interacting with Gator fans last year) showed me that other fans are just as easily taken out of the game as we are (I know it's not the best thing to watch, but check the #1-#2 OSU game and hear how quickly the crowd lost its edge during our first drive... this happened every time we started moving the ball until the very end of the game). Penn State seemed louder than us, but I have a friend on the cheerleading squad who swears on his life that Penn State was not louder than we were during, say, Wisconsin earlier this year. And that's with a stadium built straight up into the sky.
During this season that I have nicknamed "Michigan Hate 2008," let everyone else hate on us. Don't start hating yourself: we have an amazing tradition, a passionate/if somewhat crazed fan base, we're friendly to all non-OSU/non-MSU fans (and intimidatingly awful to those two), we have no creepy redneck racist undertones (see: Penn State), our stadium is impressive, in short, we're really not that bad. Well, at least our fans aren't.
Illogical, but okay. A 2-5 team lost to a 6-2 team; it's not logical to be outraged or to expect to win. Our team did about what it usually does; the only (somewhat) unusual problem that really came up were Threet's bad decisions, and he has been set up to fail all season with his injuries and inexperienced supporting cast.
But, it's still fine to be mad. You're probably mad because you saw the game, saw Michigan gain the lead with less than half of the game remaining (no pun intended), and saw Michigan hold its own for awhile. The team isn't as good as you hoped, and that sucks. But you can only be mad because you feel like this team has a chance. Teams like Washington are ghosts, appearing to exist but not really affecting anything real and just hoping for the end of the season. No one really cares about them. What's worst than anger is apathy. When people give up on their team, that's when it's over.
Vent because you have to, regret the mistakes and flaws throughout the game, and then keep watching until the (probably) bitter end. (Don't get all ad hominem on people though; calling Stevie Brown's job as a safety crappy is okay; calling Stevie Brown's mom a crackhead is racist and only proves that you're an idiot.) As long as you keep supporting the team, they'll have a chance to become the team you wanted. Probably not this year, but before too long, Michigan football will be back. And when it is, you'll want to be there watching.
(Before anyone mentions it, I do understand that 4 is not the correct number of deadly sins, nor are any of these except wrath actual deadly sins. Oh, and booing. The Church's position on that is clear. )
WRATH Some people are pretty upset about Toledo, and some people are pretty upset about the people that are pretty upset about Toledo. I think it's way too early to say that RR should get fired like some people are, but can't we be just a little bit mad at him anyway? It's not a stretch at all to say that RR got outcoached in the Toledo game- even in our "rebuilding" state we should have way more talent than a team that isn't even good in the MAC. Anger at RR doesn't necessarily mean he should be fired (he shouldn't), and accepting the loss doesn't mean that we shouldn't be a little steamed up about it. I was mad at Tom Brady when he fumbled, it didn't mean I didn't like him or that I thought he wasn't still a great player. And it didn't mean that it didn't wear off. There is a difference between a passing disappointment at RR for losing to Toledo, a loss which should never, ever happen, and hating him for all time. I'm mad we lost to Toledo, I still think RR will be a good coach. Being mad at a coach you still like is not impossible.
DESPAIR I really don't think we can blame Michigan fans for a small measure of this. We have a bad team, and it is very likely that we have the worst Michigan team since at least 1967. Certainly that is cause for some despair whatever our prospects may be for the future. And since we haven't been so bad for so long, I don't really think it's that weird that fans would be charged up about this. Certainly, however, one can have a fair amount of bad feeling about this season without "giving up forever" or wanting RR's head or aything like that. But being mad that we have the worst team in (at least) 31 years doesn't mean you're a bad fan either. You can still support the team, and watch every minute of every game, like I will, and still be mad about it at the same time, like I will. There is a difference between being mad about it and hating everything for all time. Just a note here: last year I held for dear life to the hope that whatever happened "at least we weren't Notre Dame." I just don't see how we can say that anymore.
BOOING I have read all the People Against Booing at Michigan Stadium comments, and they've convicned me. It's college, we should just Cheer for Our Team and Be Happy About It. One thing that convinces me is the distinction between a college and pro ahlete. Whatever we may say about the underhandedness of some NCAA programs, pro athletes are being paid for their trouble, and so I don't feel at all sorry for them when they get fired, yelled at, booed, whatever. But I do think that college is different and we should just support our school. So I buy the No Booing argument for college. For the pros, though, I just want anyone that is thinking pros should be insulated from booing to think for a moment about Juan Gonzalez. When he came to Detroit he had every excuse in the book for not playing. He didn't even try. He didn't even PRETEND to try. I would boo Juan Gonzalez and never look back no matter where I saw him. I would boo him at RiteAid. If I saw Charles Stewart at RiteAid I would buy him some Gatorade and wish him good luck. I think the crux is that you expect criticism for your JOB, because you are getting paid for it. And when you get paid for something you receive that salary in exhange not only for services, but also for personal comforts and conveniences you may have to forego. No one expects never to be criticized at or about their job, no one expects their job to always be awesome and comfortable. For example, I work for the government, and not a day goes by that we don't get shelled by somebody in the newspaper, on TV, by random weird people outside the building protesting strange things we don't even do (which is really exactly the same as booing, all they do is make noise), or whatever else. Sometimes we deserve it, sometimes we don't. But I deal with it (because really, who cares?) for my paltry salary, so I feel no sympathy for pro athletes and their millions. If getting pulverized by a longhorn is an "occupational hazard" for ranchers, can we really defend pro athletes simply being booed? Somehow people defend Terrell Owens, but when a window washer falls of an 80 story building people say "man, dangerous job." But that's exactly why it doesn't work for college, it's not their job yet, no matter how high profile it may be. As long as we have the distinction between the NCAA and the NFL, then the college kids to me are different. The way I see it, if you are gettng paid for it, it's criticism, if you aren't then it's personal.
I will disagree with myself just long enough to offer one thought that goes against my argument to see what people think about it. In 1997 against Iowa, Tim Dwight returned a punt for a touchdown right before halftime, giving Iowa a solid lead going into the half. A distinctly uncomfortable crowd booed a bit as the team went off at half. But, when they ran back on the field for the 2nd half however, all you heard was cheering- and loud cheering at that. Not a soul grumbled. Maybe I am off base here, but it seemed to me that the rebuke of the crowd followed by "re"affirmation really affected the team. Can a slight rebuke, followed by reaffirmation serve as a reminder? Can a crowd collectively say "you've done badly but we still belive in you?" I think I've already put myself in the no camp (for college) but am curious what others think. I am not suggesting anything so silly as that a team doesn't realize that they are behind at halftime, or that Coach Carr wouldn't have lit into them in the locker room either way. It's not like the crowd is actually reminding the team of anything, but helping to reinforce what the team might know. But sometimes even if you know a situation you need a reminder. It's not like you don't know that your homework is due, but are you more likely to do your homework after your teacher yells at you? I think you are. The teacher isn't yelling at you because you didn't know it was due, the teacher is yelling at you to reinforce to you that you should do it.
HOPELESSNESS I'm getting less and less hopeful about next season. For the moment, I'm going to leave the offense out of it- I understand they're obviously a huge part of that but I think they can't help but be at least a bit better. At least there are some talented players- whether those players become good is of course a matter of question but at least there will be possibilities. What I am concerned about next year is the defense. We will be losing 3 (maybe 4) defensive line starters. This is the strongest unit on the team, and it will be all new people next year. It can't help but be a bit worse, even if it is talented. There is little suggestion our current starting linebackers are getting better, and so far the young linebackers have not forced their way into the lineup. I am very worried that the linebackers will not be any better next year, but it is certainly safe to say that they will not be better enough to make up for the loss of all of those linemen. You have to be good up front to win football games, and we just aren't going to be good up front on D next year. Just based on that alone, I think we have a very mediocre year next year, and even that assumes that other things actually go well.
non-Michigan note: I went to a Navy game recetly, which was cool for a variety of reasons, mostly that the left guard can drive an aircraft carrier, and that instead of championship years they post battlefields on the stadium facade, and that I had 10 seats to myself, but mostly it's the thunder chicken flyover: