By Heiko Yang
This is going to be my last punt column. Assuming I match into residency (20 days until urology match day ahhhh /vomits), I won’t have much time next fall to do this anymore. I’m bad enough with deadlines as is, and I’m the kind of the writer who likes to type three words at a time and then delete two, i.e. slow. Not really compatible with the 80-hour workweek.
A Michigan-Florida Citrus Bowl is a weirdly poetic last game for me. The same matchup in the same bowl game in 2008 was my introduction to Michigan football. I had just been accepted to medical school at Michigan that year. For my second-look visit they showed us highlights of that game, and they even had Lloyd Carr speak to us about leadership and teamwork and a lot of other stuff I can’t really remember. I wasn’t even a college football fan back then, but meeting the legendary national title-winning coach of college football’s winningest program was still a pretty cool experience.
Whatever impression of the football team I got that day, the next eight years were anything but. Yeah we all know this. Woe is me, you, and everyone else. I’ll try to spare you the Daily Sports column redux that people have been writing every year for the last half-decade or so. On the bright side there was that one good season in 2011, and I did get to see (on the sideline, no less) exhilarating wins against Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan State, and in a BCS bowl. Beyond that, I am thankful that I’ve gotten so much more than entertainment value and school spirit out of this experience. How do you win and do the right thing when the odds are stacked against both? It seems like the Michigan football program has been running daily experiments to explore this question ever since I got here, and there’s an endless number of lessons, good and bad, to be drawn from the data.
At least the answer seems clear now, finally: wear khakis. No, but really. Winning the Michigan way is a lot like crowd surfing at a rock concert. The program can be buoyed only by the uninterrupted arm strength of the people in it, so the less everyone worries about their pants, the more time and energy they have to making sure it doesn’t tumble to the ground the way it has done so often in recent years. Also because they are the quintessential business casual pant material. Jake from State Farm agrees.
For poetry’s sake I’m going to predict the same score and outcome as that of the 2008 bowl game. Like Michigan, Florida has also spent a lot of time wandering the desert only to find itself recently. (One could say that their string of personnel issues is an indication that they’ve found a little too much of their former selves.) Both teams now have great defenses hamstrung by up-and-down offenses. In Michigan’s case, it’s been mostly down to up; Florida not so much. The Gators will score their points early and late, but the Wolverines will control the game, much like they did when Carr coached his last game.
But there will be something very, very different about this one. Rather than a sentimental elegy for the good ol’ times of the past, today’s victory will be a harbinger of amazing things to come in the future. We’ve got a monster recruiting class. Our roster won’t be decimated over the next month. And our head coach is here to stay – oh, and his name is Jim Harbaugh.
It’s an exciting new era for Michigan football, and wherever I end up, I can’t wait to see it.
Michigan 41, Florida 35
By Nick RoUMel
COUNTERPUNT – Citrus Bowl – Florida vs. Michigan 1/1/16
By Nick RoUMel
Just before Christmas, on Main Street, Ann Arbor, I was out for “Midnight Madness.” Among the shoppers and merchants were UM Medical students with buckets, collecting for the annual “Galen’s Tag” charity fundraiser. I said hello to a young man I knew, working on his Medical School Ph.D., when he motioned towards the student next to him. “I believe you know Heiko?” he asked.
Heiko Yang, Off-hour Postdoc
(full time M3 at Medical School)
I glanced over. Heiko looked just as he does in the photo above (from his Med School lab’s web page), perhaps taller than I’d remembered. But I didn’t immediately recognize him, since it was only the second time we’d ever met.
We talked for a long while, about football and residency search. He told me then he was leaving this column, due to his anticipated workload. Still, Heiko’s official announcement today leaves me with inexplicable sadness. I have enjoyed our friendship, mainly consisting of peppy email exchanges for our column, and occasionally during games. I have come to appreciate Heiko’s enthusiasm, humor, intellect, and above all, his mastery of creative syllogisms. This is a guy who can start out talking about being concussed in a softball game collision, and draw an analogy to forgetting the bad stuff about UM football; and today, he manages to connect crowdsurfing with football fan support. And here I thought I was the one who more easily –
“Look! A squirrel!”
Ahem. Well, that went off-topic quickly.
Heiko’s only flaw, as Punt, has been his wrongness. Counterpunt, channeling Nostradamus, has consistently been on the right side of these picks, while Punt predicts the result about as often as a blind squirrel finds a nut.
Today Heiko has chosen the safe choice. He knows, as Einstein never once said (despite memes to the contrary), that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” In this context, the usual result of a January Florida bowl game, at least in the last 30 years, is a high-scoring Michigan victory:
Jan. 2, 1988 Hall of Fame (Tampa) Michigan 28, Alabama 24
Jan. 1, 1991 Gator (Jacksonville) Michigan 28, Ol’ Miss 3
Jan. 1, 1994 Hall of Fame Michigan 42, NC State 7
Jan. 1, 1997 Outback (Tampa) Alabama 17, Michigan 14
Jan. 1, 1999 Citrus (Orlando) Michigan 45, Arkansas 31
Jan. 1, 2000 Orange (Miami) Michigan 35, Alabama 34
Jan. 1, 2001 Citrus Michigan 31, Auburn 28
Jan. 2, 2002 Citrus Tennessee 42, Michigan 17
Jan. 1, 2003 Outback Michigan 38, Florida 30
Jan. 1, 2008 Capital One/Citrus Michigan 41, Florida 35
Jan. 1, 2011 Gator Mississippi State 52, Michigan 14
Jan. 1, 2013 Outback S. Carolina 33, Michigan 28
That’s an 8-4 record, and 3-1 in Citri Bowls, with at least 4 touchdowns in each win. Not bad - and better if you don’t count 2011 (when that thing happened); and 2013 (when that other thing happened). Oh, and another thing happened in ‘13: a fortuitous angle on a tackle helped make Jadeveon Clowney the #1 NFL draft pick in 2014.
So my hat is off to Heiko. He’s not insane, he’s just wisely foreseeing the odds-on result.
But my friend, here is where our friendship departs. In contrast to Punt’s La-Z-Boy bravado, not daring more than to changing channels in the dark, Counterpunt opts for the bold and the reckless path - nay, the insane choice – like motorcycle daredevil Evel Kneivel, who once attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon (seen here thrashing bravely at E.T.):
Yes Heiko, this is my parting gift to you. Because you are leaving and I am passive aggressive about it, my gift is not very nice. I give you a loss, from a banged-up Michigan team, fighting hard but losing by the skin of their teeth.
But there’s one more gift, and more important – it is my best wishes to you for a successful career. Go Heiko, and we’ll always be back here at this URL when you miss us.
FLORIDA 24, MICHIGAN 21