Dear Diary Lights the Tires and Kicks the Fires

Dear Diary Lights the Tires and Kicks the Fires

Submitted by Seth on September 26th, 2014 at 1:56 PM


Devin, I'm sorry about Funchess. Everybody liked him. I'm sorry.

Red or Blue. A week after a program-shattering loss turns fandom into an election year, with wins taking the place of electoral votes. This year's ballot has close races in quarterback, head coach, and AD, as well as referendums on blocking style, tempo, and punt formations.

On Saturday night those races appeared decided when everybody departed with eight minutes left of a two-score game against an opponent Michigan was outgaining. They'd seen the jewel of Rich Rodriguez's recruiting wasting an NCAA gift of a senior year in a new offense that still treated him like Tom Brady, so shell-shocked by years of abuse that any peripheral motion triggered desperation.

Then Shane, and the interception came, followed by the rain, and you could count the Hoke supporters by picking out the few hundred dots of blue or yellow between the blob of red. Everybody else looked at the scoreboard, looked at the radar, and recalled Michigan huddling—huddling!!!!—and calculated the obvious move. The 98,000 empty seats were a consensus: Hoke probably has to go, and Dave Brandon absolutely has to go first. The moment was stark, but it couldn't last, because stupid hope and the will to support your team is stronger than your brain's ability to store information it doesn't want.

The fanbase needs to have this conversation, and the diaries did just that. ST3 posted a curtailed Inside the Boxscore wherein his kid's quotes provided the subheads:

"Another huddle? Really?"
* Seriously, my son actually said that. I don't think he reads MGoBlog, and I hadn't said anything about tempo or huddling. So if a 9-year old can watch Utah succeeding with pace, watch Michigan plodding along, and gets exasperated at the huddling, why can't Brady figure this out?

Jhackney got home and thought about spiritual cleansings and what kind of coach doesn't wear a headset:

Dave Brandon is a whiz at marketing and salesmanship and Hoke is a whiz at clapping his hands while keeping his ears the same color tan of his face and running a clean program. There needs to be a coach that is involved in at least one side of the ball. Saban would mutilate your skull with his championship rings if you tried taking his head set away.

Every coach has inherent flaws—Nick Saban is an offensive dinosaur and doesn't care about his players beyond what they can do for him. It's whether the good things overcome those flaws. Hoke makes his program worse by willfully ignoring fundamental developments like the spread offense, tempo, the shield punt, and game theory. He and Mattison make it better by running it clean, recruiting excellent players and people, and building a strong defense. Like with political candidates, everybody's flawed; it's whether their angels or demons will come out ahead.

Best and Worst saw the fruit of Hoke's demonic seeds:

No, what killed my optimism about this team and this staff, about this program as it is currently stumbling through another shitty year, is how absolutely true-to-form it is to the dreams of the men in charge.

[…lights out on the Titanic.gif]

Ron Utah made the obvious comparison: we are experiencing a reverse Rich Rod. I'll add Bill Martin reversed to Dave Brandon and liken it to the classic two-party problem. Martin and Rodriguez alienated the crucial top of the fan pyramid with their Whiggish football ways, an inability to commit to a defensive faith resulting in total bedlam. Brandon went the other way; his Tory pandering alienated the students (SaddestTailgateEver on another little hoarded thing) and entitled alumni (dnak438 on his noodle exchange with Brandon) while Hoke's offense and special teams have repeatedly been derailed by dogma trumping sense.

Given most of the week to calm down, jmdblue wrote that he'd rather give Brady one more term to work things out while the upstarts drown themselves in their own corruptions. Unless someone can convince Colin Powell to run.

Etc. Alum96 reviewed the 2012 recruiting class to see if there was a development issue. If you don't compare against other schools though it means nothing, since most recruits don't play to their star rankings. Average size of each B1G team's offensive line starters. GIF about punting. Regular stats make M look good (see: outgained ND and Utah).

Unverified Voracity Is Twitchy About 3-4

Unverified Voracity Is Twitchy About 3-4

Submitted by Brian on May 24th, 2011 at 11:47 AM


Internet: frighteningly comprehensive. Don't ask about Rule 54 here.

Update on a deceased fellow. I made some offhanded reference to Horace Prettyman, how ridiculous a name that was, and how it was obviously a few guys on the football team having a laugh a couple days ago, but a reader points out one Horace Greely Prettyman has his own extensively researched wikipedia article detailing a life full of accomplishments. Specifically, he scored the first-ever touchdown in Ann Arbor:

In 1883, Michigan resumed a schedule of intercollegiate football, and Prettyman played "forward" for the team. The team played its first ever home game at the Ann Arbor Fairgrounds in March 1883, a 40-5 win over the Detroit Independents. Prettyman scored the first touchdown at the Fairgrounds at the 14-minute mark of the "first inning" and went on to score a second touchdown before the end of the inning.

The team played its remaining games as part of an Eastern trip in November 1883. The trip consisted of four road games in eight days at Wesleyan and Yale in Connecticut, Harvard in Massachusetts, and Stevens Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The trip cost $3,000 and was arranged "to both represent and advertise the college among the Eastern cities and universities."Prettyman was placed in charge of the trip, and The Michigan Argonaut praised his management: "All the boys are most hearty in their commendation of Prettyman's excellent management of the financial interests of the trip and his success is seen by the fact that every expense of the trip has been paid to the last cent."

If Prettyman hadn't died in 1945 there's a good chance he would have tracked me down—he was the local postmaster for a long time—and strangled me.

And as long as we're looking up very old photographs of football players, here's Yost with a killer mustache in 1896:


Mustache Wednesday? Come on, baby.

Er, well then. Yesterday's post on Full Cost Of Attendance—apparently this year's conference expansion— made a large assumption: the change would be localizable to certain athletes. Adam Rittenberg says this is wrong:

If the proposal is adopted at the NCAA level (more on this later), it would affect every athlete on a full scholarship. A women's soccer goalie would have the same scholarship structure as a quarterback. "What we're talking about is not limited to football and men's basketball," Hawley said. The proposal wouldn't impact athletes on partial scholarships.

Or is it? The only "headcount" sports—no dividing scholarships—are basketball, football, women's tennis, women's gymnastics, and women's volleyball. Schools that don't wish to put the world on FCOA could just offer partial scholarships in sports that aren't the above.

But that still increases the burden of FCOA considerably, especially at football schools that almost universally feature volleyball for Title IX purposes. Jim Delany Machiavelli Rating: incremented.

Happening? Happening. Mike Slive is on board with this, by the way. SEC + Big Ten equals probably happening.

Good advice for anyone. Nate Silver is an interesting guy, and here's a speech he gave to a bunch of prospective journalists about what they should do in This Environment. The Big Lead contrasts this with Rick Reilly's "don't write for free" speech. The former is useful, the latter clueless.

This is good advice for anyone:

Learn how to make an argument. This is something that came naturally
to me as a former high school debater. One of the things that distinguishes (quote unquote) "new journalism" from some of its more traditional forms is that the reader is really going to be looking for analysis, meaning, context, argument. Unless you come across some really fresh and proprietary information ‐‐ it's great to get a scoop, but it won't happen very often ‐‐ it's not enough just to present the information verbatim.

One of the flaws of political journalism, in fact, is that a lot of what amounts to spin is given authority by being reported at face value.

Instead, the reader is going to be asking you to develop a hypothesis, weigh the evidence, and come to some conclusion about it ‐‐ it's really very much analogous to the scientific method. Good journalism has always done this ‐‐ but now it needs to be done more explicitly.

If you don't know how to make an argument you spend a large amount of time putting together statistics on how many college athletes get arrested only to find yourself widely ridiculed for not even bothering to provide context. In the past you could just say something and the worst that would happen would be a nasty letter to the editor from a crotchety old guy; now your arguments have to be bulletproof (or at least, you know, try a little) lest you get eviscerated.

Silver also suggests journalists learn what to do with numbers, which is something I harp on consistently.

APR bite. While football APR penalties have generally been restricted to the San Jose States of the world, small squad sizes and NBA departures have made the APR an actual toothy thing in college basketball. A couple years ago Indiana, Purdue, and Ohio State all got hit in the offseason. This year UConn feels the wrath:

The national champion Connecticut men's basketball program will lose two scholarships for the upcoming season as a result of a poor Academic Performance Rating from the NCAA. …

The rating puts the basketball program's four-year rating at 893, below the NCAA minimum score of 925. The score for the 2009-10 academic year is 826.

The NCAA's real minimum is 900 but it's interesting that UConn is failing where Kentucky is apparently succeeding. I wonder what they're doing differently in Lexington. The Huskies won't be getting off the mat any time soon, either: their score from last year is 844. Barring a miracle their APR is going to be under 900 for the next few years.

The full report is supposed to come out today; I'll get Michigan's scores up ASAP but probably not as quickly as the guy with the fastest trigger finger on the message board.

What's this oh those are my multiple defense hives welcome back hives I hate you I hate you I hate you aaaah. You may have noticed that Michigan has recruited a lot of linebackers. Farmington Hill Harrison's Mario Ojemudia, a high school defensive tackle who people are projecting as a WDE, wasn't supposed to be one of them but showed up at the recently completed Columbus Nike camp looking like a linebacker, and not one of those linebackers you can turn into a WDE. This may be the cause for another round of "are we moving to a 3-4" last featured in a mailbag here; this time it's a post at Maize N Brew detailing the various teams that moved to the 3-4 and how they mostly got a bunch better.

I don't think this is happening. As I mentioned in that mailbag post, moving to a 3-4 does not reduce your linebacker overage because a well-stocked spot—WDE—becomes a linebacker spot filled by—surprise—those WDEs. I think Mattison has explicitly stated he will run a 4-3 under at Michigan and only a 4-3 under even if I can't find the quote right now, and GOOD LORD LET'S JUST DO ONE THING FAIRLY WELL BEFORE WE START CHANGING AGAIN AAAAAAH—


Etc.: Yost Built profiles new defenseman Mike Chiasson, who does mean no Burlon next year. Unusually for Michigan, Chiasson is 20 now and will be one of those 24-year old seniors popular amongst teams that don't have a lot of NHL draft picks on their rosters. Chad Langlais was the most recent example at Michigan and that worked out well.

Never Bet Against Yahoo When Death Is On The Line

Never Bet Against Yahoo When Death Is On The Line

Submitted by Brian on March 9th, 2011 at 2:14 PM


Left: Yahoo's Charles Robinson. Right: Death.

The Colonel Klink scandal unfolding at Ohio State is interesting from a hur-hur rival perspective, obviously, but I'm also fascinated by the responses across the blogosphere in the 23 hours between Yahoo posting their story and Ohio State's ham-handed press conference*.

This includes mine, essentially "I'm not sure if there's any paper but Yahoo is serious business." Eleven Warriors echoed:

it is highly unlikely that either Charles Robinson or Dan Wetzel would risk their reputations on a piece of investigative journalism that they didn't believe was accurate and authentic. Yahoo! Sports is a legitimate reporting organization, and whatever you think about either Wetzel or Robinson, no editor with a shred of sanity or professionalism would allow such a damning story to go live without at least something behind it. Some OSU fans have pointed out that the story cites only one anonymous source, which is fair criticism, and if that source continues to be unnamed and the only supplier of information to this story, then its credibility should be put in doubt. But keep in mind that Yahoo's track record with regard to investigative sports journalism is anything but shaky, and that it is probable that Wetzel and Robinson have not played every card in their hand.

Dr. Saturday was in the same boat:

Presumably – considering we're working on the word of respected reporters with a pretty good track record when it comes to NCAA scandal – that's a solid source, and presumably there are others leading the reporters to the same conclusion without saying as much outright. Presumably, too, there's more evidence (circumstantial or otherwise) on the way.

EDSBS went farther, into open hostility to anyone who would point at the single anonymous source as a reason to discount the story:

The story by Dan Wetzel uses a single anonymous source, the red flag for stupid people who like to point and say "HURP WHY ANONAMOOSE MEDIA FURRP." An anonymous source is fine, especially because this is Wetzel, who knows his shit and has a long track record of solid reportage. Don't rely on this as a critique unless you're dumb, and if you are please, feel free to get your dumbness all over the place somewhere else.

Wetzel and Robinson's one anonymous source is the moment when the blogosphere's trust in the Yahoo military-investigative complex went from implicit to explicit**. Anywhere else, even most newspapers, and the skepticism would be between substantial and total. Here it was minor, mostly limited to the question of paper. Slow States FTW:

So the winner here is clearly Yahoo! and Wetzel, not only for getting their name all over this one but doing the impossible: proving to the Internet (!) that you can in fact trust them next time they come out with a report based on what would at any Kansas City radio station be hardly worth a retweet.

Yahoo has accomplished what the set out to when they hired Wetzel and Robinson and a few other guys and told them "be NCAA enforcement." Q: is it working financially? We've seen Fanhouse go the wide-and-shallow route and eventually give up, leaving TSN to fire everyone except some overpaid columnists. We've seen Deadspin's mix of terrific and awful work. Lord, have we heard the complaints from newspaper folk about how no one cares about quality and no one pays for investigative work. Yahoo seems to be an encouraging counterpoint to the narrative that says in ten years all newspapers will be TMZ and all restaurants Taco Bell.

I know two things:

  1. I'll be just as depressed as anyone at a newspaper if it turns out Wetzel and Robinson almost singlehandedly causing Bruce Feldman to title a post "Is College Football Falling Apart?"($) does not work financially. If you can't get paid doing what Yahoo is doing you can't get paid doing any substantive reporting.
  2. The reasonable response to a Yahoo article linking your school to NCAA wrongdoing is to wet yourself and hide in the corner.

BONUS: Interviewed on Chicago radio, Robinson says Yahoo will break two more stories before football season, one a 6-7 on a ten point scale on which Tressel is an 8, the other a 10. I've got Clemson in the pool.

*[With rhabdogate and the whole Legends/Leaders debacle, this appears to be a Big Ten specialty.]

**[There was one obvious exception of local interest that seemed kinder to ignore, but somehow I find myself called out for not responding to it. So, fine: of late MNB Dave has 1) declared moving The Game was not only not a big deal, but a good thing, 2) declared Michigan's most recent recruiting class "awesome", 3) been the only person on the planet other than Dave Brandon to defend Dave Brandon's process, and 4) called out Robinson and Wetzel as what's wrong with modern-day journalism.

He's either sustained a major brain injury or is—as emailers have taken to suggesting on the regular—started taking idiotic contrarian positions for the attention. Either way I'm past the point where a response would be anything constructive.  If you agree with any of the above points we are speaking a different language and interaction is pointless. Maybe if I was a better person I could gently explain the many specific ways in which the above positions are incorrect, but I'm sure halfway through I'd go HULK SMASH and start talking about how people look like horses and should be quarantined on the moon so their disease does not infect the rest of the planet. Since I prefer to restrict my vicious ad hominem attacks to people I haven't met I'm taking mom's advice and not saying anything at all… except when directly called out. So: MNB, for the love of God either get a coherent editorial position or fan out into a half-dozen different blogs so I can better distinguish which things to ts;dr.

You don't care, I know, which is why this is a footnote.]

Always The Same Mistake

Always The Same Mistake

Submitted by Brian on February 4th, 2011 at 5:48 PM

warning: internet/sports journalism/meta post. it's six on friday so no bitching.

A life preserver belt on blue water. 3D render with HDRI lighting and raytraced textures.

via press coverage

Way back in the mists of time when I'd just been fired from my engineering job for not doing much actual engineering I was wondering whether or not I actually wanted another one when Jamie Mottram emailed me. He asked if I'd be interested in being a "lead" for the college football section of this Fanhouse thing he'd convinced AOL to start*. I said yes and my career as a pants-optional blogger started.

A couple years later, Mottram was at Yahoo and I was on the phone with a guy who seemed to put "-ize" at the end of every verb trying to convince him that Adam Jacobi was a key asset even if he kept posting conversations with Joe Paterno in which he decried DIRTY IRISHMEN. This was the middle of the end, and a couple months later I was out, too.

By that point I didn't much care. I'd stopped posting much because headlines like "God Not A Big Fan Of Sam Maresh, Says Sam Maresh" were getting converted into things like "Sam Maresh Has Further Health Problems." The thing I owned was making sufficient money that I didn't have to put up with aggravation for ten bucks a post.

When I latched on with Sporting News a couple months later it was mostly so I could tell people I wrote for Company You've Heard Of X when that was convenient or lent credibility, and when that got shipped over to SB Nation I cut my workload there down to a couple things I do weekly. The business story of the blog is gradually in-sourcing all of the writing I do, even if it's about the World Cup.

"We're Not Bleacher Report"

Elsewhere, not so much. When AOL decided to blow Fanhouse up and give the Sporting News the brand for five million a year, I wasn't surprised. Ben Koo made a case that it was a stupid move, but we are talking about a company that's had a half-dozen people run Fanhouse in under five years, let Mottram walk out the door, immediately undermined his replacement with HAWT TITS, reversed course on that after 90 seconds, and then did another 180 to hire Jay Mariotti. It's not a surprise AOL has changed course wildly, hoping that doing the exact opposite of their last stupid idea will be the opposite of stupid.

What is something of a surprise is the naiveté shown by some of the outgoing. Dave Kindred interviewed a few of them for IU's National Sports Journalism Center and it's like they've never been part of an aging relic with a declining legacy business before:

"In December," Lisa Olson said, "we were told how great we were doing." Once a columnist at the New York Daily News, Olson remembered The National strutting on stage in 1990, a national sports newspaper hiring good people from everywhere. She thought of FanHouse that way, a gathering of veterans on a journalistic adventure. "We were all experienced and qualified, not some 25-year-old bloggers," she said. "The motto was, ‘Go, go, go. Grow, grow, grow.' And we did. Then, this. It's devastating."

This one in particular even referenced "The National," which lasted all of 18 months. Another complains "we had no idea this was coming," etc. More than one takes shots at bloggers. There's the one above, and then there's the EIC who ended up axing me** stating that when they arrived Fanhouse was nothing more than "a quirky blog."

The theme running through the piece all the way up to Kindred, who titles it "Waiting for the day readers march in and demand an end to the dreck," is journalists bemoaning the fact that their quality isn't recognized as they die by the thousands and Bleacher Report is getting eight-digit funding rounds. Kindred uses the recent press conference in which Jim Boeheim slammed the reporter who asked a question about point-shaving because the internet's been talking about it as a leaping-off point. You'd think they'd know by now.

You Are Bleacher Report

So… the column and those quoted in it are rife with misconceptions that speak to why AOL abandoned ship and why newspapers will slowly bleed readership until internet natives are at the helm in 20 years, at which point they'll just be another voice in the clamor.

They are:

Believing Bleacher Report is in the content business. Bleacher Report is not a content company any more than Demand or Associated Media. It is an SEO/marketing company that runs garbage through filters until it comes out with google/newsletter gold. The way they do this is clever, but their success—likely overstated anyway—has nothing to do with the success or failure of people who write for a living.

Believing Fanhouse content was functionally different than Bleacher Report's content. I only subscribed to the college football bit in my RSS reader, but it was a progression of boring AP-style articles, Clay Travis columns, the leftover guys who got in the door under Mottram who were cheap and non-controversial, and Brett McMurphy breaking stories about USF. Meanwhile the larger site had Marriotti.

You know what Mariotti and Travis are? They're trolls. They write controversial things they don't believe for attention. How much of the vaunted 50% non-AOL traffic—the same figure we were told, BTW—was either SEO or people stopping by to tell the various trolls why their stupid arguments were stupid? Mariotti is just a Bleacher Report writer with an editor, and he's the star attraction. This is not hyperbole.

A personal example from my time there: slideshows were pushed ever harder until people started editing posts to stick in random slideshows, hopefully vaguely sexy slideshows, whenever your post could be tangentially connected to one. Slideshows, man.

Fanhouse journalists complaining about how their quality is not appreciated aren't quite right. Anyone who reads above a third grade level can tell there's a vast gulf between it and BR, but when that gulf spans the gap between "offensive to the English language" and "newspaper stuff mostly about things I don't care about" it doesn't matter. Instead of widely loathed you're ignored unless you're breaking news, which is ephemeral.

It's no secret that I hate Deadspin. At least, I hate its bottom 20% and don't care about its middle 70%. But even though I don't read it much I still remember a dozen thingsgreat things—it's published in the past year. If there's anyone who understands making it in internet media it's Nick Denton, and he's decided on lots of dongs and lots of outstanding, smart, highbrow content that people will post on their Facebook wall. Minus the dongs, I try to do the same thing for my niche. That's quality that separates you from BR, not spelling "lose" correctly.

Believing a site that gathers metrics similar to Bleacher Report is long for this world. You can't out-troll Anonymous.


I'd love to know what Fanhouse's direct hit numbers were. Nobody went to Fanhouse from a bookmark. Fifty percent of this site's hits have no referrer; Fanhouse was probably under 10%. Again, that's Bleacher Report except BR has a legion of halfwits voting and commenting on each other's posts to get more RadPoints*** . And if you're like Bleacher Report except you're paying people—giving people benefits—you lose. How many BR halfwits can you vaguely curate for one Jay Mariotti salary? Thousands, and their content is no different except for the platform. Once that platform enjoys content-sharing deals with, oh, say, the Washington Post, the guy with the benefits is screwed.


Bleacher Report's secret is that it's awesome at being terrible. It hammers that dong demographic. Here I try to be really specifically awesome for a niche. Deadspin has it both ways. Fanhouse was just okay at the dong demo, okay at the boring stuff, and there wasn't one thing in the history of that site anyone would remember two days after they read it. That's the same mistake they always make.

When Mottram left for Yahoo he corrected the mistake he made with Fanhouse by creating a suite of independent single-source blogs that are run by a guy. You can tell because each of them comes with a picture.


Not all posts are by these guys, but they own the blog in a way no one owned Fanhouse. Each is "quirky" to some extent. The soccer one has regular posts in which an obscure Polish goalkeeper rants about corn and his neighbor and the week's events. Doctor Saturday annually embarks on a defense of the recruiting-industrial complex. Each one is a central part of its sports blogosphere, written extraordinarily well by people who may have worked in newspapers but didn't live them. Most of the contributors are just people who write well. They haven't been blown up, and Mottram ascended the ladder at Yahoo to do the same across the company.

I don't know what to do about the fading ability of people to pay responsible news-reporting types. Fanhouse was run by incompetents and destined to implode anyway. But I might miss it if it wasn't so goddamn boring.

*[I imagine him crashing through the window of a conference room holding dozens of high-level executives on a chandelier, sword in hand, rose in teeth.]

**[Not that he should have kept me and my two posts a week output.]

***[mwa ha ha. Seriously, though, points here are for troll control and have only incidentally grown into an e-peen contest.]