Before we start, do me this favor: Make a fist, then straighten your arm at about a 45 degree angle from your body. All set? Now say this with me:
It came out earlier this week that HC Carol Hutchins, along with Jenny Brundage and Bonnie Tholl, helped save a recruit's father's life in late April. Then on Friday and Saturday softball twice made Little Sister cry uncle (ie 8-0 mercy rule). Friday it took 6 innings in Ann Arbor; on Saturday it was a 5-inning no-hitter in East Lansing to take the Big Ten title outright. They're on to the NCAA Regionals starting Friday with a 51-4 record, 16-0 on the road, and feel like a team headed for the Golden Palace.
Aside: Unfortunately for Mark Dantonio, there's no mercy rule for in-state recruiting. Onward and upward!
I've been kicking this entry around ever since the stupid logo with the stupid names came out. As Six Zero noted at the time, there's a lot more that goes into a branding job than drawing something on Photoshop. However it's not the 20-page booklet explaining proper branding uses and sizes and colors that caused a region-wide facepalm.
Ever since the moment about 20 minutes after the unveiling when we realized this wasn't Delany et al. pulling a DeAnthony Arnett commitment hat dance, the Internet has taken it upon ourselves to propose something better. Brian suggested East-West as a throw-up-hands consensus just so we don't have to use the official ones – and since this is his blog you are instructed to do the same – but personally I hate the cardinal direction convention almost as much. Herein are a handful of those collected, plus a few of my own:
Leaders / Legends:
Reason to Like: None if you have a soul.
Reason to Hate: That such an idea ever got past an ESPN message board.
Awkwardness ensues when: National reaction to unveiling of names was "Ha ha; no really…"
What's the catch: Keyword is "surprising."
"I think we have enough experience with names, and expansion and development of divisions, to know that you never, rarely, get 90 percent approval rating," Delany said during the interview. "But to get a 90 percent non-approval rating was, you know, really surprising."
Now remember the people who were surprised by this reaction later said they're not going to make any changes this year in the hopes that the divisional names grow on us. Where have I heard this reasoning before? Oh yeah, that's exactly how I ended up playing clarinet for 5 years instead of 5 minutes.
West / East:
Reason to Like: It's simple and neutral, I guess. "Champions of the West" in the song means something again. Deep thought: While we're fixing fight songs, wouldn't MSU's be more accurate if "vim" meant "D.U.I.?"
Reason to Hate: Trite, boring, and inaccurate.
Awkwardness ensues when: I am Funnybot. Where can you get from Michigan to Wisconsin by going East? In the Big Ten! Awkwaaaaard.
What's the catch: Thankfully this is off the table.
Griffith / Palmer:
Reason to Like: History of the Big Ten 101: Griffith was the first commissioner, Palmer House was the venue in Chicago where the conference was founded.
Reason to Hate: History of the Big Ten 101 is a prerequisite
Awkwardness ensues when: Could have honored James H. Smart (the "brains" behind the formation of the original Western Conference) but whoever's not in the "Smart" division would raise hell.
What's the catch: The Gary Bettman-itude of the shirts who decide this means there's close to zero chance of division names that your typical Ohio State fan won't recognize. Meijer & Wal-Mart Divisions are more likely.
Great Lakes / Heartland (or Great Plains):
Reason to Like: Neutral and highlights regional nicks.
Reason to Hate: Completely interchangeable. Favored by Lynn Henning.
Awkwardness ensues when: Generations of young Big~Ten fans grow up sucking just as much at Geography as counting.
What's the catch: Either Nebraska and Iowa are not "Heartland," or Michigan and Michigan State are not "Great Lakes."
Black / Blue:
Reason to Like: Because the region is mostly in the footprint of the NFL's black & blue division. Or because we tend to have entire positional depth charts wiped out by injury by the time the conference season starts.
Reason to Hate: Think how tired this will get after the umpteenth headline featuring the conference getting bruised.
Awkwardness ensues when: In the conf. championship game, (Black Division Champ) Michigan fans take up the "Let's Go Blue" chant.
What's the catch: This isn't a trait the conference really wants to focus on.
Lakes / River:
Reason to Like: Best shot at a geographic split. Mich&MSU are surrounded by the Great Lakes, Minn, Neb, & Iowa have 1,000s of Lakes, and Northwestern's on the Lake; the other division's schools are in states (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania) either along the Ohio or Mississippi Rivers. Okay, it's a stretch.
Reason to Hate: Like we're the only place in the world that has lakes and rivers.
Awkwardness ensues when: The rule of silly recruit names means we'll eventually have a kid named Lakes representing a Rivers school playing a kid named Rivers representing the Lakes Division.
What's the catch: Like "Lake Michigan" somebody will get offended when something's named after the Ohio river.
Bo / Woody:*
Reason to Like: Is perfect.
Reason to Hate: If you're Michigan or Ohio State: none. If you are not Michigan or Ohio State: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!
Awkwardness ensues when: Michigan State wins the Bo Division, burns the trophy, and replaces it with another piece of schlock from Forwards in West Branch.
What's the catch: The newer members won't care as much – Penn State and Nebraska are two proud programs with history and tradition that rival M/OSU - but the years and years of being one of the "Little Eight" are not fond memories for the rest.
Where's Wisconsin? / Why Do We Have Wisconsin?:
Reason to Like: ha ha, yer funny.
Reason to Hate: Hey, these division names recognize a school that isn't mine! WAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!! (just kidding, guys. Could you imagine if we were like that?)
Awkwardness ensues when: Wisconsin thinks we're playing peek-a-boo and keeps yelling "I'm right heeeeeeere!"
What's the catch: Levity is underappreciated in formal settings.
Like one more than the other? Take the poll.
The minute the Big Ten announced it would have divisions, fans of 9 other schools* immediately screamed "Don't call them Bo and Woody!" This is because the most obvious binary convention in the conference are two iconic coaches who for a tenth of the conference's history were the Big Ten. When people talk about the Big Ten it's not how Randy Walker and Joe Tiller revolutionized passing from the Spread, but how Hayes, Schembechler and their acolytes did things that are manly. The two schools account for over 45% of the conference's football championships, and that number's over 50% when you stop counting the Purdue and Iowa's with 2 losses in the early 1900s who claimed one anyway in those Wild Western Conference days.
Without intervention, this would be the organic standard. Obviously Michigan and Ohio State fans (of which we are many) are leading this charge, but Nebraska fans and non-Big Ten followers seem to also be coming around to a split of "The one with Michigan & its rivals" and "The one with Ohio State & its rivals" since that's the most natural way to remember it. As for placating the other schools, I recommend we rename all the trophies:
- Champion: Paterno Trophy
- MVP: Red (Grange) Award (can certainly have some fun pouring red paint on the MVP each year, right?)
- Coach of the Year: Osborne Award
- Kinnick Award: To the Big Ten player who shows the greatest combination of outstanding athletic performance, sportsmanship, academic achievement, and service to his community, as embodied by Nile Kinnick
- Amos Alonzo Stagg Award: To the player or coach who makes the greatest contribution to Big Ten football (through outstanding innovation, service, or play).
- Offensive POY: Randle El Trophy
- Defensive POY: The Bucking Bronco (Unfortunately Nagurski's taken by the NFL for the same thing)
- Special Teams POY: Biggie Munn Award (so we can tell both Minnesota & Michigan State they got two)
- Best Passer: Griese Trophy (highlights them as Cradle of QBs)
- Best Back (QB/RB/FB/WR/TE): Paddy Driscoll Trophy
- Best Lineman (Offense or Defense): Big Joe's Slab of Bacon (Since they play for an Axe now, we could repatriate the old Slab for the best lineman. Big Joe is Joe Thomas)
- Best Defensive Back or Linebacker: Webster Trophy (I totally had to Wikipedia this one -- you try to find a Spartan football player other than Kirk Gibson or Plaxico whom anyone outside of Michigan can name!)
- Bo Div Champ: Schembechler Trophy
- Woody Div Champ: Hayes Trophy
* Nebraska was still too giddily checking out the house like Little Orphan Annie to care. Plus their online community is, for the internet, pretty level.
Above, that's Michigan's Solar Car Team's 2010 build, which won the U.S. solar car race thing. Below: that's Michigan State's entry in the same race. These are from Bronco648's (short) must-read diary UMsolar and the FSGP, which includes pics of M's even sleeker 2011 car apparently en route to Australia for the international competition. Before you rip on Sparty just remember which one you'd rather find in your basement years later when you're desperate for a beer pong table.
NOLA Blue did a comparison of Michigan's 2011 opponents and returning starters. The concept's there but then he kind of inexplicably ignores backfields and how good the players are, just listing number of returners at OL, TE, DL and LB as his basis for predicting games. This is the classic Charlie Weis-era Notre Dame mistake: Returning Sam Young again doesn't make you better.
As for the Diary of the Week, it's Part I of one man's journey from Pee Wee Hockey in Ontario to (hopefully) Yost Ice Arena.
"This is the biggest game of your career so far, their captain, like you, is also one of the best players in Ontario. If we win, people will say you're better than him. We always support you, but if we lose, people are going to blame you and say that he's better than you. Do you want that? Get to sleep early tonight, make sure you eat lots of carbs, protein tomorrow, and drink water all day. When I talk to your teacher, I want to hear from her that you were asking to go to the bathroom all day."
I was 8 years old.
Part I tracks JimLahey's journey from top Ontario prospect to waiting for a scholarship to Michigan or heading to the OHL. FTR he's not Caporusso so stop guessing he's Caporusso. Caporusso Mention Rule still applies: