The Story, 2018: Lie Back And Think Of Iowa

The Story, 2018: Lie Back And Think Of Iowa Comment Count

Brian August 27th, 2018 at 12:53 PM

Previously: Podcast 10.0A. Podcast 10.0B. Podcast 10.0C. The Story 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Preview 2017.

It's not rational to think football would be immune. When the world's decided that shame is for losers and the only rule is get paid, football will follow along too. Unless it's leading the way. And... uh... it's leading the way. The commissioner of this here league spearheaded the addition of two Eastern Seaboard schools with barely enough football tradition to scrape into a thimble because it would personally benefit himself and the class of parasitic grandees currently skimming off the top of college football to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

That decision paid off with a perfect tragedy. Jordan McNair's death was not only the result of deeply immoral approach to football and life but also incompetent. Stupid. Only a fucking idiot could have waited an hour before calling 911 when a very large man was having a seizure, unable to stand, on a blisteringly hot day. Maryland employed that fucking idiot. That's because their athletic department, shielded from the kinds of things that would do material harm to the parasitic grandees within, is by and for fucking idiots. They left the ACC, where they had many and several fun basketball rivalries, because a previous generation of fucking idiots managed to rack up so much debt that their continued existence in their home conference was no longer tenable.

Labor costs for their most valuable employees when they racked up this debt stayed steady. At zero.

[After THE JUMP: more of this, then some sort of corn-eagle-man]


My Left Hand

My Left Hand Comment Count

Ace May 21st, 2018 at 7:29 AM

mandatory soundtrack, support good music

I'm back to writing at unusual times (as I start this, 3:45 am) in unusual places (the basement again) about unusual things (I'm missing a non-essential internal organ!). I have no clue how to go about writing about this but it felt weird to start writing about basketball like I didn't just have a major life event so I'll attempt to start somewhere near the logical beginning.

During my first visit to my Alabama-based specialist in late February, we agreed I displayed a lot of symptoms consistent with a sick gall bladder and definitely had acid reflux problems. Both are common among ME/CFS patients. I also had a hiatal hernia discovered in a past test that could use fixing. All of these had bothered me in the past but were secondary to more pressing issues the vast majority of time and therefore went largely unaddressed. This, too, is common. I'll omit the list of others I've dealt with personally and my mother will thank me for doing so.

When I got back, the gall bladder stuff wasn't even among the high-priority health-related stuff I felt I had to address. There was the series of medication fiascos caused by pharmacies and insurance companies. I'll get on the full protocol with the correct prescriptions written out to me without relying on sample packets or filling gaps with saved-up old prescriptions sometime next week, should no further hiccups occur. (I'm not holding my breath.)  Again, I visited this doctor in late February, and had already begun much of his protocol before seeing him. It is late May. As you'll see, a lot can happen in that period of time.

After getting a couple other things squared away, including another insurance snafu that delayed this very test, I had a CCK HIDA scan on my gall bladder on March 27th, which you (and I) may better remember as the Tuesday of Final Four Week. There was a lot going on. (Like that short-lived Final Four poster, which got most of my attention that evening if Twitter is any indication.)

So I, uh, shoved my guts to the back of my mind until finding out sometime early the following week the scan revealed my gall bladder was in a gray area; sick but not urgently in need of surgery. I wanted to get my summer going as soon as I could, though, so I called my specialist—also a damn good surgeon specializing in performing these exact procedures on chronic illness patients, Roll Tide—and booked surgery for May 16th. I'd spend the 14th-19th in Tuscaloosa with my father overseeing, and accompanying me on, the entire trip.

I thought I was giving myself a reasonable amount of time to hit my Hail to the Victors deadline, already a lighter one than normal this year, and write a few outgoing player retrospectives.


My weight has always been a bellwether for my health. I'm 5'10" on the nose. (Trust me, I've been measured a lot lately.) It's generally been between 130 to 145 pounds during my adult life. When it's up, which for me has meant 145 to 155 pounds, I'm doing well. When it's down, which for me has been as low as 115 pounds, I'm in trouble. Over the past year, I've mostly been on the doing well end of things.

For reasons beyond my understanding, my left hand has always been my easiest way to judge my weight and health. After enough years with this illness, I could pretty much tell you how my entire day would go after looking at my hand for a few seconds. One night, after I'd moved back into my parents' house for the second time since my senior year of college, I took a picture of it. I didn't quite get the compulsion but I knew I wasn't in a good place.

Taken January 13th, 2014, 8:26 pm ET, with an iPhone 4s, in my childhood bedroom.

It'd feel how it looked. In this case, it was weak and/or numb. (That's one off the list. Sorry, Mom.)

The next day I wrote a recruiting roundup and a Penn State game preview, drove to Crisler to cover an easy win, and finished the recap a tick after midnight. Nik Stauskas scored 21 points and I got unreasonably upset about a backdoor KenPom cover.

I look at that picture a lot.


As Seth can attest, I may push deadlines a bit, but I rarely miss them, and almost never when it comes to our HTTV preview magazine, because finishing that is the unofficial start of my summer after what have lately been intense mid-August to mid-April seasons covering football and basketball. (No complaints, Mr. Beilein.)

With Seth's help, I'd already planned ahead for the surgery by cutting loose a few opponent previews for HTTV to other writers (Seth, to whom I'm indebted, included). Taking a week off writing for the site prior to leaving town felt like more than enough leeway to get six previews done. Being the procrastinator I often am, I didn't plan to write until Sunday, but a burst of unexpected productivity got me through two previews by Monday, May 7th, leaving a full week to write four on programs with which I'm much more familiar.

I'd had some mild morning nausea for the previous couple weeks, something I chalked up to stress—I broke up with my girlfriend of over a year during Final Four week, there was single-elimination basketball and hockey going on, it made sense—and adjusting to a medication regimen that now included a dose of tramadol, a relatively mild opioid that didn't always play nice with the gut-bomb of pills I take when I wake up. I felt good enough mentally and physically to set up an impromptu date for Tuesday evening, taking the usual precaution of requesting we meet at the coffee shop nearest to my place.

Within an hour of waking up the next morning, I vomited bile and some mostly disintegrated pills. I'd usually been able to ride out the wave. I weighed myself; 135 or so, not bad, not ideal. I had some discomfort in the upper right quadrant of my stomach area, where the gall bladder is located, but nothing that worried me too much. While I didn't get any writing done, I got some mandarin oranges and bread to settle in my stomach, part of an increasingly simple diet I'd taken to over the previous weeks to stay a little more comfortable. Nothing too out of the ordinary. I walked two blocks to the date, walked home six hours later—with a second date secured, I might add—and let the caffeine wear off for a few hours before going to bed content with my decision, even as I anticipated some physical blowback for the walking.

I've written one sentence for HTTV since.


yep, still mandatory

Thankfully, Seth is a patient and understanding editor even by editor standards, so I secured an extension to join the stragglers and turned my mind to surgery prep. My parents, who both were incredible this week, took care of everything they could ahead of time: travel, hotel, a decent amount of the communication with my doctor's office, food preparation/shopping/ideas (a necessity given the esophagus procedure), and so much more. I only needed to fill out a couple pages of paperwork and make a few phone calls.

The freed-up weekend heading into the trip gave me a short-lived boost as the stress of a looming and soon-to-be-missed deadline abated. The nausea and sad diet lingered but I didn't barf again. Most any discomfort I attributed to pre-surgery stress, which felt reasonable. Despite a bumpy landing and a finicky stomach, I made it through the flight to Birmingham and drive to Tuscaloosa without incident. (Admittedly with the help of dramamine but I'd learned about BHM's turbulence-prone alignment and the small planes they take from DTW a hard way the first time around.)

The next morning, however, I vomited bile and pills again before my pre-surgery appointment. The nurse didn't say anything when my weight showed up on the scale but I've been on enough to account for shoes, a wallet, and a phone: I'd dropped below 130. I don't remember much else except the bill (large!) and a woman from anesthesia with a fine-tuned sense of which questions/answers to read out loud when my dad was also in the room.*

For my final meal before having my gall bladder removed, on my second trip to the Deep South, I ate two small pre-packaged cups of mandarin oranges.

*(Thank you, I'm sorry I don't recall your name or title. It's been a long week. This goes for almost literally everyone I encountered in Alabama. I could go on for thousands more words on how kind and exceptional all the medical professionals were at Northport Medical Center and Tuscaloosa Surgical Associates and it wouldn't be remotely adequate. I've had three vials of blood drawn by the Hand of God—I swear I wasn't even aware the needle was in my arm and I'm ALWAYS aware—and an organ removed through an opening the size of a fingernail clipping.)


Taken May 21st, 2018, 4:12 am ET, with an iPhone 7 Plus, in my weird basement.

I went into surgery around 6:30 am CT the following day. Vague memories linger of tweeting a selfie with two words that took a very long time to spell correctly—my dad misinterpreted this as impressive typing speed—and my surgeon saying it was good we got it out when we did before informing me that smoking medical marijuana when I returned to a state where that's legal wouldn't harm my esophagus. I'm glad I had the presence of addled mind to ask that question, because my reaction to opiates is to shut down all digestive function and sweat everything out while I'm trying to sleep, which isn't very conducive to rest.

I'm now (kinda) resting, quite comfortably, at my place. My shoulders are sore, a weird quirk of the gall bladder surgery, and I'm a bit gassy, a product of my esophagus being pumped with air, but those concerns are nothing compared to those of last week; even the prospect of 2.5 more weeks on soft foods only (no meat, no bread, no carbonation for an extra two weeks) hasn't put me out. This sad diet hasn't even kept me from putting weight on. My mom is cooking up some not-sad ravioli that'll work with my current limitations. My dad is hopefully getting some hard-earned days away from stress. My brother is there if I need anything. I’ve gone 23.5 hours without ingesting an opiate and I don’t plan to turn back. My left hand feels, and looks, stronger.

It's time to knock out some previews.


The Shooter

The Shooter Comment Count

Ace May 4th, 2018 at 11:43 AM

[Top: Patrick Barron; Bottom: Bryan Fuller]

Nothing changed.

The pair of photos up top are from Duncan Robinson's first appearance in a Michigan uniform, an exhibition against Le Moyne in 2015. The picture below them is from the 2018 Final Four.

Robinson had perfect, invariant form. His puppies were always organized, if I may borrow a Rafteryism. No matter how he took off, he squared up to the basket. His release was swift and precise; his follow-through an immaculate gooseneck. It looked like he should never miss; quite often, it felt like he couldn't.

A couple months ago, that would've been the lens through which we viewed Robinson's entire Michigan career, for better and worse: a static image of a shooter.

Then he killed Lamar Stevens.


That Robinson even got to Michigan in the first place is a remarkable story, albeit one as familiar as "Charles Matthews transferred from Kentucky" and "John Beilein was never an assistant coach." It's still worth revisiting.

Even though Robinson's shooting acumen is quite apparent in his high school highlights, he chose to attend Williams College, a Division III school, because no Division I program came forth with a scholarship offer. He immediately made it evident he was too good for that setting. Robinson averaged 17 points per game, hit 45% of his threes, won D-III freshman of the year, and was the only underclassman All-American in the country.

That quickly earned Robinson the D-I attention he'd craved in high school. He garnered interest from some Big 12 and ACC programs. He ultimately chose to transfer to Michigan over Davidson, partly because his departing coach at Williams nudged him in the direction of John Beilein. You didn't have to be a basketball genius to realize Robinson's shot and Beilein's system were an ideal pairing.

[Hit THE JUMP for goosenecks, lineup shuffling, and a twist ending.]


Borges Disease And You

Borges Disease And You Comment Count

Brian May 2nd, 2018 at 12:35 PM


TOO MANY COOKS [Bryan Fuller]

Today's hot topic is a statement from President in waiting Grant Newsome on last year's offense:

The offensive line? Players talked about how much new position coach Ed Warinner made simplifications this spring, mainly because he had no other choice. Grant Newsome told reporters Tuesday that Warinner stripped down the complex language and overall concept because it was overwhelming.

"He said he was even confused by the amount of terminology and different plays we had in the playbook," Newsome said.

The internet's talked a lot about the excessive complexity of Michigan's offense in the aftermath, and I feel like I have to interject. Michigan's OSU gameplan wins the game if it doesn't draw the worst QB performance in living memory. Michigan's ability to tweak and screw with people's heads has been a trademark of Harbaugh's best offenses. It can and should be Michigan's approaching going forward for the same reason RichRod shouldn't have run a pro-style offense in his first year in Ann Arbor.

I'd like to separate out the offensive approach in general from a particular problem on the offensive line that Newsome highlights above. Michigan's 2017 OL, and by extension the team, suffered from a terminal case of…

borges disease



Borges disease is when you try to do everything without doing one thing well and everything falls apart in a morass of beautiful-on-paper plays that are executed with the balletic grace of a drunken donkey crashing his ex-wife's wedding.

Borges's special power was containing all bad-idea multitudes within himself. Michigan created their own version of this by importing former Indiana and RichRod OL coach Greg Frey for a single disastrous year. This wasn't Frey's fault; he remains a well-regarded OL coach and jumped to his alma mater FSU before a serious inquest could result. Because Frey's hire was a half-measure on Harbaugh's part, it blew up in his face.

Publicly, Michigan split OL duties between Frey and a still-extant Drevno, handing Frey the tackles and TEs while Drevno coached the interior line. I'm not sure that's the way it actually worked, because Michigan went from a power-based run offense in Harbaugh's first two years to an inside zone team with some power sprinkled in. Then they went to a 50/50 split, and finally they returned zone to an occasional constraint play, because they were immensely bad at running zone.

So not only did Michigan spend a bunch of time trying to get good at IZ and burn a bunch of snaps grabbing two yards a pop, they retarded their growth as the mashing power team their personnel certainly pointed to. Post-MSU UFR, which was in the 50-50 phase:

Michigan ran 11 zone plays versus 14 gap-blocked plays. (FB dives, crack sweeps, and the reverse are excluded from this analysis.) That is a significant shift away from zone. That still remains a part of the playbook, obviously... but a crappy one. Those 11 plays gained just 25 yards. Michigan suuuucks at zone.

There were costs to the returning diversity. Michigan had a couple of plays on which it looked like someone busted an assignment. Onwenu appeared to be running a trap on a play that was not a trap, and either Hill or McKeon busted on this Isaac TFL. Michigan blocks a big cavern in the middle that has an unblocked LB, and then Hill runs outside. Isaac follows him, because follow your fullback:

I gave that to Hill but that could be what he's supposed to do; in that case McKeon needs to be doubling on Cole's guy and leaving the force player for Hill. YMMV. Either way it's a mental mistake that turns a promising play into a TFL.

When Michigan focused on becoming the mashing team they were always supposed to be, the results were good. Despite wasting a bunch of time, their S&P+ breakdown stats paint the picture of a bunch of maulers:

  • Power success rate: 7th
  • Adjusted line yards: 20th
  • Rushing explosiveness: 29th
  • Overall rushing S&P+: 14th

A #47 stuff rate, #79 success rate, and #90 opportunity rate look like a lot of missed assignments in that context, missed assignments created by Michigan's failed attempt to adopt Frey's approach on the ground.

That is dysfunction. Michigan masked it fairly well by pushing the abort button halfway through the season and having a couple good running backs and some Large Adult Sons. But since those Large Adult Sons came coupled with serious pass protection issues, there was no Plan B for the other half of the offense.

There the disconnect between Drevno and Frey was easily seen every time Michigan failed to pick up a stunt, which was about every other stunt. Michigan looked like the worst-coached offensive line in the country last year. I started wondering if Patrick Kugler's inability to get on the field until his redshirt senior year was because he couldn't make a line call to save his life. And here's where the Newsome quote comes in. Michigan clearly couldn't execute their pass protection system.

An outsider can't know whether that's because two different guys were teaching it, or it was an unholy combination of two different approaches, or it was just plain bad because Drevno is bad and should feel bad. But it all goes back to Michigan importing an offensive coordinator (Pep Hamilton) and an OL coach without telling the guy who thought he was both to hit the bricks.


Unearth of the Cool

Unearth of the Cool Comment Count

Ace April 20th, 2018 at 1:30 PM

Accessorized logo pose. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

In the bridge of the ubiquitous hit Hey Ya!, Andre 3000 asks the audience a question: What's cooler than being cool?

The answer, evidently, is "ice cold." That's presumably because Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was just nine years old when The Love Below came out.

mandatory soundtrack

I've spent two weeks trying to come up with a better, deeper premise than "cool guy is cool" but sometimes a thing is so obvious it must be acknowledged. Before he ever stepped on the court at Michigan, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman was cool. He was a local high school basketball legend with no high-major offers until John Beilein came along at the eleventh hour. Being the overlooked two-star suited him well. Oh, you haven't heard of MAAR? Caught 'm at Allentown. Remember the name. You'll hear it again.

There's the name itself. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, aka Rahk, aka Ham (pronounced haam), the man containing four names, two hyphens, and the GOAT. In retrospect, our site's decision to mostly go with the MAAR acronym is unsatisfying. Rahk deserved better than Mawr.

Then there's the intro. When his name came over the speakers, Abdur-Rahkman would dap up his teammates, reach the designated leader of the bench mob, and bow. Understated? Sure. Undeniably cool? Indeed.

Young Rahk with Dak. [Paul Sherman]

There are the accessories. Oh, the accessories. While we didn't really notice until the pink shoes, Abdur-Rahkman has always accessorized. From the beginning, he wore leggings that came down well past his shorts, usually with just enough space above the sock to flash a little calf, like Philly legend Kobe Bryant. He layered a matching T-shirt under his jersey. Later, he'd add an elbow sleeve, but just the one, like Philly legend Allen Iverson. For a brief, glorious couple games, he also rocked rec specs, like Cupertino legend Kurt Rambis.



The FBI Investigation Is Actually Good

The FBI Investigation Is Actually Good Comment Count

Brian February 27th, 2018 at 1:25 PM


don't feel bad for these vampires plz

There is a predictable set of bins people fling themselves in whenever it's revealed that someone playing college sports got money to do so.

"DAY OF GREAT SHAME" BIN: A rapidly dwindling category mostly filled by NCAA administrators who are literally paid to misunderstand economics. Also includes revanchist portions of NCAA fanbases, the sizes of which directly correspond to perceived cleanliness. Michigan and Notre Dame have tons of these fans; Memphis not so much.

"BUT THE DETAILS" BIN: A slightly woke-r segment of the populace, this group is hypothetically okay with paying players as long as you have a 100-page congressional bill that covers every last eventuality. Like to bring up Title IX as if that disqualifies the Olympic option. Frequently baffled by capitalism despite participating in it daily. Extremely concerned that some people might get paid more than other people. Like positing the status quo as a potential dystopia. NIMBYs for college sports. They are in favor of buildings, just not this building or that building. Or that other building.

"WHO CARES" BIN: The woke and cynical. See bagmen as folk heroes, more or less. Advocate burning down the system but fight and/or downplay anyone who would talk about the hidden details as a "cop." Sometimes right about this. Hate the status quo. Wish to preserve the status quo, at least as far as the under-the-table aspects go. Doesn't correlate a willingness to ignore mutually-agreed upon rules with, say, screwing around on your wife with every prostitute you can find. Or having a fraudulent department in your university. Or ignoring a rape.

At this late date, the first group is hopeless. The second is irritating and largely arguing in bad faith when they bring up things like "what if boosters gave players a lot of cash?!?!?!" I fell into the Andy Staples hole a few days ago by quote-tweeting these uniquely infuriating  takes on why making the current system more equitable is impossible. I refer you to Twitter if you'd like to relive this dark period.

I'd like to talk to the third group, though. The Who Cares bin frequently overlooks any potential upsides to the underground enterprise coming to light. Deadspin's Barry Petchesky:

What is the purpose of any straight college-scandal reporting, other than shaming players for trying to earn a tiny fraction of the money they’re earning for their schools and the NCAA? (I actually have an answer for this! The only reason fans and readers really care about recruiting scandals is because they’re hoping to see their rivals punished, and to be able to hold it over their heads for all eternity. Everything is fandom.)

That is certainly a reason but it's far from the only one. Without intervention there is no way the NCAA's system changes. Revenues have skyrocketed for twenty years and the only concessions the players have gotten have been either court-enforced or attempts to head off a PR disaster.

Without someone coming in and ripping the top off the anthill* this will continue in perpetuity. And while college basketball players are currently recouping some of their value under the table, it's nowhere near what they would in an open system. Patrick Hruby explains at... uh... Deadspin:

It’s no secret that the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s amateurism rules suppress above-board athlete compensation. Bowen’s supposed price tag shows that players are being shortchanged under the table, too. Let’s do the napkin math. First, compare NCAA basketball to the National Basketball Association—or any major sport where athletes enjoy their full rights and protections under antitrust and labor law, instead of being treated like second-class American citizens. ...

For schools at the highest level of the sport—that is, top 10-caliber programs that need the very best recruits to remain elite both in terms of winning lots of games and reaping the financial rewards that come with winning lots of games—the same NCPA study estimates that the average player is actually worth about $900,000 a year. And even that amount may be selling Bowen short, because if Louisville’s players received 50 percent of their school’s basketball revenues, they’d each be worth $1.72 million annually.

This money is instead going to worthless things like waterfalls and football locker rooms with VR headsets and Jim Delany. It will continue going to these things until such time as it is obvious to all that the NCAA's rules are not only unjust but entirely unenforceable, save the unlikely intervention of a subpoena-bearing organization. It will continue until and unless the NCAA is faced with a choice between its rules and money. An NCAA tournament in which no one gets to see Duke or a half-dozen other blue-bloods lose takes money out of CBS's pockets and therefore the NCAA's pockets. And we know what the NCAA will do: it will bend as much as it needs to maximize the amount of money entering the pockets of its executives.

That is at the very least the restoration of name and image rights to players and the expansion of the Olympic model to all sports, because that doesn't cost the NCAA anything. The FBI's investigation speeds up that day—and if it's big enough it might prompt it directly. Therefore it is good, sports tribalism aside.

*[Or a player strike at a key moment. See my annual plea for a basketball team in the national title game to go on strike for 15 no-commercial minutes at the scheduled tip time.]


Same Chair, New Day, Let's Fire The Money Cannon

Same Chair, New Day, Let's Fire The Money Cannon Comment Count

Ace January 11th, 2018 at 10:40 AM

I’m sitting in the same chair right now, but I'm in a different place. Since publishing the post about my experience with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome on Tuesday, I’ve received hundreds of messages of encouragement, heard from many others who shared their stories of success and struggle as a patient or caregiver, and connected with some remarkable people. I’ve tried to get back to as many as I can. The response has been overwhelming and uplifting and freeing. I’ve cried a dozen times since Tuesday and will cry a dozen more by tomorrow; each tear feels like letting go of a secret that had to be told.

I did something last night that I’ve never done before, though now I wish I had thought to do so. Before going to sleep, I sat on my bed, closed my eyes, and pictured the people who support me, so many of whom I only know through their Twitter or mgoblog avatars, filling a room around me. I was taken aback by the mental image I drew, the size of the crowd, and especially the way I found myself lifted off my feet and carried through waves of friends looking at me with love in their eyes. The last time I daydreamed so vividly I was listening to Giant Steps in a bus with no air conditioning on a 100-degree afternoon. I was 17, on a class trip, an ocean away.


Tuesday’s post was about my struggle, but it goes so far beyond me. As anyone with CFS can attest, it takes a village to get through this, or at least an incredibly tight-knit and tireless support system.

There are so many people I’ve befriended through work or Twitter, many of whom I’ve never met face-to-face yet I consider some of my closest confidantes. I started listing them all and realized sometime around the second Craig that I had too many people to thank in one space. Staying connected through social media helped me maintain my sanity(!) through some lonely, difficult times. I got needed distraction, helpful advice, delightful companionship, and a broader view of the world and the people in it than I ever thought imaginable from one’s own room.

I’ve mentioned this before and embarrassed my coworkers at MGoBlog but I cannot say it enough: not only is there nowhere else I’d rather work, I’m not sure there’s anywhere else I could work, certainly not all the way through these last six-plus years. The photographers have adapted when I’ve missed games on little to no notice, making sure we had a suitable setup for each recap. David drove me around the state to high school games for two seasons, and drove even more to film games for me to analyze at home when I wasn’t up to going out.

The other writers have never hesitated to cover for me, whether it’s Seth taking the time-consuming opponent film posts off my hands, Adam writing the special teams UFR early to fill a time slot, or Alex filling in for a hoops recap when I could no longer keep my eyes open. Brian had no idea what he was in for when he hired me, yet he’s never wavered in his support, and instead has gone above and beyond to make sure I have a comfortable present and future.

While I mostly keep my childhood and college friends out of it, because it’s nice to be related to as just another person, I keep a tight circle of people I cannot imagine being without. They provide a sense of normalcy in a life that often lacks it. I’ve had a friend drop everything on a weekday afternoon to drive over to my house when I felt potentially suicidal. It was nothing, he said, but in that moment it was everything. You all know who you are. Please forward this to the sane ones.

My girlfriend of over a year had no idea what she signed up for when we started dating, but she’s not only stayed by my side, she has a genuine curiosity in learning how my illness works and what she can do to help. On Tuesday, she came over just to sit with me while I worked and made a long-overdue grocery run for me. Again, it was a little thing, but for me it was like she’d moved a mountain out of my path.

I mentioned my housemates in Tuesday’s post and how they’ve kept the place livable while I’ve moved from bed to couch to chair and back. I’m much less effusive in person than in my writing, so I don’t thank them enough for what they do. That especially goes for my younger brother, who’s one of my closest friends and so much more generous than even he realizes. He’s cooked for me, picked up medication, driven me around; more importantly, he’s the only person I know with an innate sense of when I need to sit with someone in silence, having some companionship while I deal with whatever it is. He’s gone from my goofy little brother to someone I look to for advice and inspiration.

Finally, there are my parents. As I’ve mentioned, my dad suffered from CFS for nearly three decades, and over the last year he’s finally back to a point where he’s living a normal life. I cannot imagine going through this without him mapping out how to live with an illness so few, including doctors, know much about. As a child, I watched him build a business and support a family while seriously ill and fighting a protracted workman’s compensation battle because the legitimacy of his illness was in question. As an adult, I’ve learned from him how to take every twist and turn of CFS without losing hope, and he’s led the way in finding the doctors who can make me well again.

The significant others of those with serious illnesses so often get overlooked even though their battle is every bit as difficult, in no small part because it’d be so much easier, and so understandable, to walk away. My mom took care of everything in the house, and I mean everything. She shouldered the burden of raising two children while her husband couldn’t even get behind the wheel of the car. She put a home-cooked dinner on the table every night. She made it look so effortless I thought it was normal.

It’s not easy to live with someone with CFS; we don’t go out, we’re often hyper-sensitive, we’re definitely not helpful around the house, and there’s usually frustration and depression and even rage bubbling just below the surface. My mom moved heaven and earth to make it work, then tapped into something even deeper to care for two sick adults when twice, after college, CFS forced me back home.

I’m tremendously blessed. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. If there’s someone with more love in their life, they are truly rich. I learned long ago that one can live a fulfilling life while limited by illness.


Several of you have asked what you can do to help. Research and awareness for CFS lags far, far behind other illnesses with a comparable (or even much smaller) number of patients. So many people who deal with it aren’t as fortunate to have the resources at my disposal; believe it or not, I’m healthier than most CFS patients, part of a relatively small number able to work at all. I have access to world-class doctors and a community whose generosity seemingly knows no bounds.

I’d like to test that. Brian has given me the go-ahead to set up a Crowdrise fund for the Solve ME/CFS Initiative. I’m hoping we can raise $5,000, in honor of my parents, to support CFS research and push for a cure. I haven’t told my dad about this; I told my mom it was just in honor of my dad when running the idea by her. I’d love to surprise them. The link is here. Here's a widget:

In Honor Of The Anbenders, Let's Find A Cure For CFS on Crowdrise

If you have the time, I’d also appreciate if you watched the documentary that inspired me this week, Unrest. It’s airing on PBS (check your local listings) and free to stream for the next couple weeks. It’s a remarkable, raw, unfiltered look into the lives of those with CFS and those closest to them, made by a woman with CFS who created the film largely while working from bed.

Thank you all for being a community I’d even consider asking to do this. This has been a powerful and reaffirming couple of days. Let’s keep the good going.

UPDATE: Since we're already 60% of the way to the goal in the last two hours—thank you all so, so much—I figured I'd provide some incentive to keep going. If we hit $10K, I'll get the Wild Thing haircut when I return from Alabama next week. Quinn Nordin didn't get the chance to make it happen but perhaps your generosity will.


Dispatch From A Frigid Basement On Monday Afternoon, I'm Pretty Sure

Dispatch From A Frigid Basement On Monday Afternoon, I'm Pretty Sure Comment Count

Ace January 9th, 2018 at 11:58 AM

CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Ken Anbender. 1997.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m writing right now. Today [Monday] I went to my endocrinologist for an appointment I would’ve rescheduled if I hadn’t already done so three times in as many months. It was the second time I’d left the house in 2018. The first was six days ago for a podcast taping.

The fingers on my left hand won’t stay still. A burning sensation emanates from my lower back and sends sparks of pain to every reach of my body. I’ve smoked twice since returning from the doctor. It’s dulled the pain enough that I’m not entirely focused on it; it’s also made it difficult to concentrate on anything else for very long. I haven’t left the smoked-out basement; the cold keeps the sweating at bay and numbs me a little.

I’d have a hard time focusing regardless. I’ve swung between diurnal and nocturnal multiple times this week. I slept until 11 am on Saturday, stayed up until 10 am on Sunday, napped until 2 pm, when I needed to take a dose of two medications, crashed from 4-10 pm—even though my infinitely understanding girlfriend came over at 7—then managed a semi-normal 1-to-10 am sleep last night. I have no idea when, or if, I’ll sleep tonight.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been unable to do my job even though I can do it entirely from home. It takes a high level of effort and concentration to do something as simple as bringing the dishes down from my room. I work if I feel up to it. The more formulaic posts, like previews and recaps, are easier to wrap my head around than the analytical stuff I usually prefer.

If I don’t work, the most stimulating thing I’m capable of doing is play my PS4, and even then I often need to turn it off or only play parts of games with no bright lights or sudden movement. (Thank you, NBA2K franchise mode.) I often play with the sound off or calm music on instead of game sound. It’s a needed distraction that’s less passive, and therefore more effective, than watching TV. I wish I had the energy and focus to read a book instead. I spend most of the day somewhere short of conscious.

I lean—too hard, it feels—on my housemates and girlfriend and family to keep me from living in filth.* This isn’t an exaggeration. At my lowest point in college, when I lived alone in a basement apartment before I was diagnosed, I reached into a bag of chips I’d been eating out of and pulled out a maggot.** The guilt of not doing my share around the house nags at me. My housemates have lives and full-time jobs and problems of their own. Cleaning up after a 30-year-old wasn’t in the lease. I also feel guilty that people worry about me, though apparently not quite enough to not write this piece.



Sometimes Things Are Bad, And That's Okay

Sometimes Things Are Bad, And That's Okay Comment Count

Brian October 24th, 2017 at 12:16 PM


either it will work or it will not work [Eric Upchurch]

Hey guys! As you may have noticed, the theme of this week on the blog is "nah." When I thought to myself "I should start a Michigan blog" back in 2004 I did not anticipate that about every three years things would descend into a melee of recriminations and stupidity. Insofar as it's possible I am opting out of this edition.

I could point out various reasons that things aren't going well again, but what's the point? I've already said the things, and people willing to listen have already read them. What's the point in arguing with this guy who's all up in my inbox?

Brian, your mattress story ,while creative in another genre, makes michigan football fans look like a bunch of smoked out , entitled, arrogant assholes. How so? It puts an emphasis on quirky,smarter than the rest of football  fan bases,and takes away from the team of mostly working class players whom have little in common with you or most of your followers.

Its time to end this little money making with little to no sweat, blood,or tears called mgoblog while profitting off the Michigan athletes and get a real job...oh wait, that is not in your genetic makeup.

There isn't one. Nor is there a point in arguing with people who don't think Brady Hoke and his #37 and #20 2014-15 recruiting classes don't still have an impact on Michigan's performance. While assaulting previous regimes for failures has been somewhere between plausible and a holy quest, to do so after this start from Harbaugh...

In Harbaugh’s first season, Michigan doubled its win total from five to 10 and improved from 48th in S&P+ to fifth. The Wolverines won seven games by at least 21 points and lost to only three opponents (Utah, Michigan State, Ohio State) that combined to go 34-7. Against Utah, they lost because of a pick six. Against Michigan State, well, you remember that one. Not a bad debut.

In 2016, Michigan came within a spot of the Big Ten East title. If officials mark J.T. Barrett’s fourth-down conversion attempt slightly differently, the Wolverines go to the Big Ten title game and likely go to the College Football Playoff. As it stands, they merely backed up the previous season with another 10-3 record, another top-five S&P+ finish, and losses by a combined three points against Ohio State and Florida State teams that won 21 games. All this despite a late-season shoulder injury to quarterback Wilton Speight.

...given Harbaugh's track record is asinine. To do so after Michigan returned the fewest starters of any Power 5 team and lost their top quarterback, left tackle, and wide receiver to injury is brain dead. Yes, I thought things would be going better, but my preseason prediction didn't bake in injuries to Speight and Black; without those the chances that Michigan is headed towards 9-3 at worst are what, 90%? Have we already forgotten what a truly bad team looks like?

I get it if you're a rival and you're getting your yucks in. If you're a Michigan fan and your reaction isn't along the lines of "well, this is very disappointing but lets see what happens next year" I don't want to talk to you. Because what good would it do?


The Story, 2017: Kylie To Korn

The Story, 2017: Kylie To Korn Comment Count

Brian August 28th, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Previously: Podcast 9.0A. Podcast 9.0B. Podcast 9.0C. The Story 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Preview 2016.



This happened so long ago that I don't remember why this daft idea came into my head. But the thing the daft idea spawned still exists and reminds me every Monday that I need to take the trash out. It has been part of my life probably about as long as my wife has. Longer. We go back, this thing and I.

It is a Kylie Minogue-seeded Pandora station. Kylie Minogue is an Australian pop chanteuse who was massively popular in the UK and Ireland about 15 years ago, about when I spent a summer in Ireland because it seemed like a good idea at the time. (Spoiler: it was a good idea.)

I am trying to get the station to play Korn. Because they both start with K, get it? I call it Kylie To Korn because I am an admirably direct person, or uncreative. I have checked that Pandora will play Korn, because God how disappointing that would be if I found out it wouldn't.

At this point I urge the reader not to get all judgy about the destination. Hearing Korn is not, say, beating Ohio State and then winning the national title. Hearing Korn is a disappointing experience for everyone except a very select and shrinking subset of aging nu-metal enthusiasts. Korn is no longer a band. It is an abstract concept. I mean this literally and figuratively. When you think about Korn think about a quixotic, meaningless quest that has become deeply embedded in your very being by sheer dint of longevity, and how it would feel if you finally reached the promised land. You wouldn't even hear the Korn. You'd hear Handel's Messiah.

I will not make a Hanson To Handel Pandora station.

I will not.

I made promises to people.



you are and then you aren't [Patrick Barron]

Here's Michigan football a year after This Is The Year. Good news! It was pretty much the year, what with Michigan hogwalloping everyone they came across until a very weird, punter-focused night in Iowa City. If Kenny Allen hadn't gone on the fritz against Wisconsin, Michigan would have started the year by cruising to nine straight two-score-plus wins. Everyone got drafted. Multiple outlets have declared their 78-0 whomping of Rutgers one of the worst football games every played. Fancystats loved Michigan, and lo, they should have. 

Even after The Year ended with what can only be described as a wet fart, ludicrously optimistic predictions weren't actually far off. Their losses were by one point, three points (in double overtime), and one point, all more or less on the road, two of them with a severely damaged starting quarterback. Michigan went into Columbus and felt like the better team for 75 of the 60 minutes. Amidst this very cathartic feeling they suffered a cripplingly sad series of maximally-devastating setbacks that allowed OSU to escape their own stadium with a win, thereby obliterating the feeling. A few weeks earlier, Penn State blocked 75 different Ohio State kicks, punts, twitter accounts, cheerleaders, pieces of legislation, and novelty license plate holders to acquire a not-at-all dubious victory, because life is fair and everyone gets what they deserve.



What I'm trying to say here is that despite the brutal end to the season, Michigan was good as hell last year. They weren't good enough to survive their QB melting down or a referee rogering in Columbus or the absence of both Jabrill Peppers and the offensive line, but in a slightly different universe they were. One where Speight's a tiny bit more accurate or Darboh's a tiny bit better at catching passes a tiny bit behind him. And while it sucks so much that This Is The Year was a 10-3 jam—please see previous paragraph—if we can get past the, like, wins, man, we can see a deeper truth. Because wins are a social construction, man.

What's more important than wins, he said, sobbing softly onto his keyboard, is what Michigan looked and felt like once it became a Jim Harbaugh/Don Brown co-production. Harbaugh made the best possible hire at DC—college DC lifer with an insane track record and spread specialization—and followed that up by adding Greg Frey and Pep freakin' Hamilton at the same time he loaded Michigan to the gills with highly touted space cowboys who are not only highly touted recruits but also future astronaut doctors. Astrodocs. Whatever the technical term is.

This is a transition year between The Year and The Year, unless it isn't. They'll have to get lucky on a couple freshmen and one right tackle, but teams have been luckier. Just not Michigan.



the author the first time a Nirvana song was available [Bryan Fuller]

Kylie To Korn is actually great fun. Pandora stations alter themselves when you thumb a song up or down. Down means you never hear it again; up means you hear it more and the song insinuates itself into the DNA of the station, pushing it more towards the thing you just approved. This is how one gets from Kylie to Korn. I made rules: I could not downvote a Kylie song, and once I thumbed something up I couldn't take that back.

The station is thus a map of how I got from Australian pop chanteuse to what is now a near-comprehensive 90s grunge station. "Lovefool" is on there, because at one point anything that sounded vaguely indie was a priority. So is something called "Space Cowboy" by somebody named The Jonzon Crew. I mean. The hats. Hell yes this was a good idea.

The main problem now is that the station is very good at playing stuff somewhere between great and tolerable but now I have to thumb stuff like Staind up as we try to stumble our way to... some Korn song. I literally could not name one. (Again, Korn is a metaphor.)

So here's the 2017 football season. As we work away from the Hoke-era-type substance, desperately thumbing up anything that looks like a functional offensive lineman, we reach a pleasant, if probably unsatisfying, plateau. Michigan has eight games they're going to be double-digit favorites in and four that will determine their year. One of them is going to be Nickelback—the thing does occasionally play Nickelback. We may have to not only endure a Staind song but feel like that song is not just past but prologue.

29484405062_979e1d3529_z (1)

[Eric Upchurch]

Or maybe not. Look at that beautiful terror above. Michigan is still loaded in their front seven; they've got a Returning Harbaugh Quarterback. The roster is packed to the gills with blue chips. A freshman wide receiver might not suck. Capital-Y Years: there are going to be a lot of them coming up. It would be far from the weirdest thing in the history of college football if this was one of them.

Michigan test drives its new program in 2017. Flip on the radio. Every track could be the end of a journey that started with the Horror or a hot Australian lady, and ends with the most satisfying sports thing of your life. Or, yes okay, a Korn song.

It's a metaphor! Jeez!