When he was doing his summer interview series, Six Zero asked how I became a Michigan fan. My answer (short version):
…when I was 11, I was invited to spend a long weekend with my cousin, then an engineering student in Ann Arbor. We had the best pancakes I ever tasted at this place just west of the Nickels Arcade, then went to watch Desmond Howard singlehandedly demolish Indiana. After the game we bought a used copy of Alice in Wonderland from that book dude on State St., then warmed up over hot cider at the Brown Jug. After, I splayed out on a sleeping bag next to the couch in his apartment watching his two female roommates walk around naked. And I was like "This is it; I wanna go to Michigan."
That cousin is still in Ann Arbor. His wife, who must be one of the 90 kindest people in the world, is a pediatrician and huge Michigan fan who spent the morning preparing her house for an invasion of some 25 family members, aged 14 to 70, all of whom were to have parking, tickets, and passes either to the new box, or at least the Crisler bathrooms. Their two kids, girl 11, and boy 9, had helped Mom by taping a large paper banner across the kitchen door that read "Hello Cousins! M Club Welcomes You!"
Adorable children have a way of appearing when Brian's about to hurl profanities, so I marched to Michigan's last home game of 2010 with an army of them. It does help with the profanity –- the worst thing I did at a game full of perfect exclamatory moments was to face the sky after the batted interception and yell "I thought you hated Wisconsin!"
The 14-year-old loved that one. He also loved his first view of MGoBlog, which I had him pull up at half-time on his smart phone (yes, 14-year-olds come with smart phones now). When Denard whooped a guy about to kill him then sauntered into the end-zone, 14-year-old was the one telling me the record had been broken.
The serendipitous presence of a kid is great for writers trying to capture something too profound to be believable from a cynical adult. Sometime MGoCommenter Glen Masons Hot Wife has a little tradition now of (kind of dickishly) telling me I can't write as well as Brian (or Johnny of RBUAS) after these posts. Don't think I don't know I can't (triple-negative!) use a rhetorical moppet with the aplomb of Cook; I wish I could. To be fair, Brian said he wishes he could moppet like DFW.
My actual recollection of childhood was that by the time I cared about sports I wasn't that innocent anymore. My world-test wasn't necessarily "is this awesome?" but "is this cool?" with the latter being something I didn't actually get to determine. I thought Desmond Howard was awesome, but I was almost as happy again when I learned that Desmond Howard fandom was really cool.
Much of my adult life has been about trying to recapture that which is genuine and awesome (I would argue that David Foster Wallace's magnum opus Infinite Jest, is about this too) after years of pursuing cool. The cynic who blamed God when a 6'0 quarterback kept having his passes batted right to defenders became so because when we're being honest, watching Michigan get crushed by Wisconsin just hurts.
What makes it easier is knowing things will get better. For me, Greg Robinson will probably be gone, and hopefully the 3rd time will be the charm (if it's not, well…), and other than the few guys who walked with their parents under the banner this afternoon, almost all of the starters will be back next year.
Those kids: Greg Banks, James Rogers, Steve Schilling, Adam Patterson, Renaldo Sagesse, Jonas Mouton, Obi Ezeh, et al., moppets themselves when I was in school, stayed when most of their classmates bailed. Some were redshirting for '06, but their first day of eligibility was The Horror. A coach whom they might never have signed up for changed the program to something that's about trying harder, and they did it. They lost to Wisconsin today, and all those other times, not because of effort but because they simply weren't as good as Mark Messner, Charles Woodson, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Branch, Glen Steele, Jarrett Irons and Larry Foote. They never grew cynical because there was always another chance, an opportunity for something awesome to happen.
The injuries sustained today – Roh, Rodgers, Stonum, Smith – may make it impossible, but there's still a chance for awesome. That's why playing for Michigan is different than for every other school, because no matter how the season goes, that chance for awesome is always going to be right there at the end of it. For the seniors, it's the last one. For my 14-year-old cousin, there will be so many more that one loss to Wisconsin is nothing next to years of Denard Robinson and whatever amazing things are ahead.
But here's this kid who's 14 years old, knows what "Ndamukong" means, pulls up rushing stats on SportsTap more than I do, and he doesn't remember Chris Perry because he was fucking SEVEN the last time we beat Ohio State. I don't expect the 2010 Michigan team to play defense like '97, because they're not that good, the same way that this column will never be written as well as the Brian's post-game the next day, and that post-game won't be as good as DFW's tennis coverage was, and DFW's genius was not that of the bard.
For him, for the moppets who made the banner, for the seniors, for the fans, for the coach, for the team, to go into Columbus this year and beat Ohio State, well, that would just be awesome.
Much Ado About Nothing
The Grid of Expectation:
|Wisconsin Preview||The Mathlete||PAN-fried||Wis, 38-37|
|Post Week 11: Yardage Analysis and Predictions + Score Predictor||tpilews||Weighted YPG||M, 42-38|
|Week #11 National Statistics and Predictions for Wisconsin||Enjoy Life||Sagarin, Fremeau||Wis, 41-30 (FEI) or W-4.5|
|Preview: Wisconsin 2010||Brian||fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms||Wis, 34-27||
The Taming of the Overgrown Shrew
In the last week of the normal Big Ten season the Diarists had to dig deep (get it?) to get up for a visit from the 10-1 Badgers. First, the Shred Dude, and his remake of Shakespeare's section title-referenced play: 10 Things I Hate About The F-ing Badgers.
Whats that shit on your face?
2. James Kamoku- You son of a bitch! You think you can put your god damn hands on Steve Breaston and get away with it? DO YOU!? This amateur during a 2006 UM vs UW punt return decided to try and rip Steve's ankle off. It was caught on TV. Karma is a bitch since last I saw you played for some fake football team called the "Wolf Pac". Guess what happened to this dirt ball for his bush league act? NOTHING!
Other things Shredder hates: suffocatingly boring, anti-points white-guy basketball, green giants, band camp, dirty campgrounds, letter people, candy canes, trucks, and the cast of That '70s Show except Red. Also: guys who switch positions mid-Paint:
Meanwhile, Coach Schiano visualized a motivational post-Wisconsin speech by Rich Rod. Denard, Kelvin Grady, et al. respond in a telling reminiscent of the random heroism of football.
Alls Well That Ends Well
The funny thing about accomplishing something in sleety driving rain: you are miserable when you're in it, but afterwards you just love talking about it. True to form, the MGoStatisticians took to the spreadsheets to test all sorts of wild theories that indirectly might maybe possibly suggest we beat Wisconsin and Ohio State:
Hypothosis: The Defense is Approaching Average, by matt D.
Observations: Michigan is kind of but not quite comparable to Penn State, which is an average defense:
3 & Out %
Conclusion: You can judge for yourself. Matt says the defense is put in bad situations. Irish brings the sanity:
75th in rush defense and tackles for loss
86th in pass efficiency defense
91st in sacks
93rd in scoring defense
100th in total defense
103rd in turnover margin
114th in pass defense
Hypothesis: 'Tis better to play at home, by The Mathlete.
Observations: Teams seem to perform better against expectations when at home. And whoa last year:
Conclusion: Over these years Michigan is on the low end of home field advantage, in the Big Ten above only the polite and purpled few of Evanston, and Illinois, but it's still worth almost 2 points a game in PAN. Poor Notre Dame is worse at home than on the road.
Hypothesis: Michigan makes a difference, by TennBlue.
Observations: If you normalize our schizophrenic team (SCORE! INTERCEPTION! FUMBLE! SCORE! SCORE! MISS FG! SCORE! INTERCEPTION!) our opponents look a little different than the final score may indicate.
M's affect on Total D Rank
M's affect on Total O rank
|Connecticut||-10||1||W, Good O, OK D|
|Notre Dame||-10||19||W, Good O, Terrible D|
|Bowling Green||-17||0||W, Awesome O, OK D|
|Indiana||-11||14||W, Good O, Terrible D|
|Michigan State||-1||16||L, OK O, Terrible D|
|Iowa||-10||-2||L, Good O, OK D|
|Penn State||-8||4||L, Good O, Bad D|
|Illinois||-20||14||W, Awesome O, Terrible D|
|Purdue||-4||-2||W, OK O, OK D|
Conclusion: Yeah, it kind of does. We underrated Penn State a bit, and maybe overrated Michigan State.
Hypothesis: Michigan is so good we can turn it over and suck at special teams and still win at football, by Enjoy Life
Observations: With a turnover margin of minus-7, a bad return team, a worse coverage team, and no chance of making a field goal, Michigan is amazingly unscathed.
HOLD ON TO THE GOD DAMN BALL AND THROW THE GOD DAMN BALL TO OUR RECEIVERS!!
Also it seems the reason we can get away with this is that our offense is so radically good, and our defense is so generally bad unless we're facing an offense that's radically bad, that what's a few more radicals thrown into the mix.
Hypothesis: All you need to know you can learn from Revenge Movies, by bronxblue
Hypothesis: Michigan could win another Big Ten game this year, by the Mathlete
Observations: We beat Purdue, and the PAN before the Wisconsin game said we were at 46% to finish at the 7-5 we expected, and the rest…well, nowhere to go but up, right?
Conclusion: Three excellent diaries this week again. Dylan can write songs, Gretzky can play hockey, Mathlete can write diaries.
Conclusion: The Mathlete is your Diarist of the Week.
As You Like It (Etc.)
Yes, another Moving Picture Pages of Chris, by Danger of Dangerous Logic. That one's the earlier throwing of rock. He has another from Friday night in which even more rock is thrown. Somewhere, DeBord is coaching in a city that doesn't have internet and thus missing this opportunity to nod in solemn approval.
For those (like me) who have to look more than once to comprehend what "Michigan+4" means, Blazefire and his bolded subconscious multiple personality* put on a little clinic to explain what the line actually means:
The line is not a means of picking a winner of a game, nor is it intended to do so.
The line is a form of handicap, suggesting that under given circumstances, adjusting the final score by X points (subtracting for the team expected to win or adding for the team expected to lose) would create a tie score. It is an attempt to put the teams "on par" with each other.
The line is a betting tool, and is not intended to predict the score of the game.
Betting with or against the line is an agreement or disagreement with Vegas, not a belief or disbelief in one of the teams.
* How many people on this blog have bolded subconscious multiple personality disorder anyhow?
You try watching the last decade of Michigan football and staying sane, putz.
Finally, oriental andrew's Opponent Press Conferences returned this week to interview "that big meathead … and his meaty Badgers."
That's enough of weeks past and Big Ten seasons concluded. It's Ohio State week.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit.
The game's afoot: follow that spirit t'ward dark Ohio
Cry "hail" for Michigan! For Rod! And Saint Bo!