Firestarters

Submitted by Brian on March 20th, 2009 at 12:17 PM

3/19/2009 – Michigan 62, Clemson 59 – 21-13, 9-9 Big Ten

manny-harris-clemson boat-aflame

burning boat via falling sky @ flickr

RT @jbrons

"Ships, shoes, basketballs, whatever," Lucas-Perry said. "We're burning ours first, because we're coming to take theirs. We want it bad."

The most famous possibly-effective, possibly-useless motivational ploy in recent Michigan history remains Lloyd Carr's distribution of climbing picks and Into Thin Air to members of the soon-to-be 1997 national championship team, but "Queme los Barcos"—"burn the boats"—is rapidly gaining.

Motivation is a weird thing, and the popular conception of it is weirder. In the popular imagination these things act as functions or enzymes that take ordinary men and transform them in to something greater. Out the other end of these motivational processes come a national championship and Michigan's first NCAA tournament win since 1998.

But what strange items to function as motivation. Here we have 1) a book about people taking an insane risk and dying in the process of it and 2) an apocryphal motivational tactic by one of history's greatest bastards. Judged on the merits, these stories say "don't climb Mount Everest" and "don't get in a boat with one of history's greatest bastards." (Which latter might seem obvious.) Together they kind of say adventure—risk—is stupid, unless you like frostbite or malaria and definitely death.

So go get 'em, kids!

On the other hand we have a bunch of kids who love basketball—as walk-on lionizing story after walk-on lionizing story demonstrate—and are living through one of the most nerve-wracking times of their lives. Chances are they're plenty motivated.

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They're also at risk. During the American-Villanova game, the camera lingered on Kermit Washington for a while. I had no idea Kermit Washington went to American, but I sure as hell knew he cold-cocked Rudy Tomjanovich in 1977. Even Washington's wikipedia page says "he's best remembered for" that incident. When it's on your wikipedia page your public image is well and truly screwed.

Meanwhile, Terrence Oglesby was 1 of 8 from the floor with a half-dozen stupid turnovers and fouls when he clocked Stu Douglass and got ejected. During Clemson's brief excursion into last year's NCAA tourney he was 1 of 11.

You can be nice and say he's a young kid with plenty of chances to make up for it and will have a fine life and etc etc etc, but he's got at most two chances to unbrand himself a choker in the hearts of Clemson fans, to turn future bar conversations from uncomfortable things like…

Oglesby: I used to play a little ball.

Random Albanian: Yeah, I was trying not to bring that up.

…into uncomfortable things where you probably won't get asked to sign a body part or a child. The latter seem preferable.

If you're being honest with yourself, Michigan fan, who is Todd Howard to you? Billy Sauer? Brian Ellerbe? Hell, Shawn Crable and Chris Webber? Pretty much everyone feels the same way about these guys, modulated by how much kindness and perspective they possess. The scale ranges from disgust to pity, which isn't much of a scale at all.

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The popular conception is backwards: the actions of a select group of kids who accomplish something immortalize whatever story is behind it. Manny Harris' terrifying decision to punish Clemson for their press and the resultant and-one bucket that would force Clemson into fouling the game away work to heighten the fame of "Queme los Barcos." Flaming boats don't help shots go down.

And the popular conception is backwards: these stories aren't motivational. Motivation is not necessary. They're calming. They're stories about people who found themselves in positions they did not expect with more at stake than they had imagined, and dealt with it.

The boats have been burned. The mountain has been summited. The deranged hearts of people who clamor for risk by proxy have been engaged. Lives hang in the balance, and the only way to go is forward.

BURNING BULLETS

  • Harris was obviously the MVP even if a large number of those threes caused me to cringe as they arced towards the basket, but a couple of supporting cast members deserve a shout out:
  • Zack Gibson(!) was outstanding defensively, altering shots and causing a number of easy buckets to miss.
  • Stu Douglass had 12 points on eight shots, and even had a drive to the hoop.
  • Man, if Michigan managed to blow that the Grady debate would have been a permanent feature of offseason conversation. I have to say that with a lead and the clock running down the biggest risk is that you won't get to blow 35 seconds off the clock and whatever difference there was between Grady and Lee or Merritt in other aspects could not have made up for Grady's ability to get the ball across halfcourt without chucking it out of bounds.
  • While I'm complaining: ohmygod foul when you're up three and there's like eight seconds left. Instead Michigan played outstanding D and Clemson had to chuck an airball prayer, but oh the horrible trajectory.
  • Was anyone else hoping Oglesby wouldn't get ejected? I couldn't have been the only one.
  • Given what Clemson did to us on the boards—they rebounded almost half of their misses—Blake Griffin is going to eat us alive unless Todd Bozeman comes out with his heel tag team and gives him a flying elbow drop.
  • Seriously: everyone saw the Griffin suplex, but with about eight seconds left and Oklahoma in transition another Morgan State player set up like he was going to try to take a charge, then gave the Oklahoma guy a flying body block. Todd Bozeman, keep it classy.
  • Day's biggest disappointment was American blowing a 14-point lead against Villanova, as that robbed everyone of the chance to chant "U-S-A! U-S-A!" some more.
  • Second biggest: VCU not getting a real shot off in the dying seconds against UCLA.

Comments

Yostal

March 20th, 2009 at 12:52 PM ^

Was I alone in thinking I heard the Michigan fans in Kansas City cheering "AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW C-Ya" when Oglesby headed off for the evening? It was a nice bit of cooperative crossover action there.

TomW09

March 20th, 2009 at 4:03 PM ^

The Michigan section(s) were on the same side as the cameras, so you probably just didn't see us. Clemson had no semblence of a "student section" whatsoever. In the main Michigan section, there was about 7 rows of students (many core Maize Ragers) at the very top of the section and there was a group of students at the bottom of the section as well. It was pretty amazing how much it seemed we outnumbered Clemson fans.

Yes, there was a CYA chant, and several people did include the profanities ;)

SpartanDan

March 20th, 2009 at 12:54 PM ^

"While I'm complaining: ohmygod foul when you're up three and there's like eight seconds left."

Eight seconds, I'm not so sure. All they'll do is sink the free throws, hack you, and make you do it again (if you make the two free throws; if not, now they only need a two to tie). If you're talking two or three seconds, sure. But anything much over five, you're probably better off playing solid defense.

WolverBean

March 20th, 2009 at 1:12 PM ^

Agreed about the Oglesby ejection. I understand the league trying to make a strong statement about elbows, but I think the call was a little harsh. Also, I was actually worried about it firing up Clemson and helping them to rally. Luckily that didn't happen (they seemed even more lost in the immediate aftermath), and in the end, having him out probably helped us win (he'd probably have finished at better than a 9% rate; regression to the mean and all that), but I still feel bad for the kid. You could just see in his face the transition from frustration to shock to devastation as he realized he'd let his team down.
I suppose in the end it's cosmic justice for the Purdue game.

buckstachehater

March 20th, 2009 at 1:31 PM ^

When I saw the elbow, the first thing I thought was here comes another ridiculous ejection (like Manny's). Unlike Manny's elbow, this one was intentional but it was a bang-bang play and Stu was holding his jersey. I probably would have taken a swing too. You can't help but feel for the kid. He worked hard all season to get to this point and then he loses his cool for a split second and its all over for him.

jamiemac

March 20th, 2009 at 1:33 PM ^

This was a good read; as were your other hoop writings this week!

I really enjoyed the pregame one last night.

As for last night.....john beilein.....enough said.

I think all the memes discussed about JB have been proven in recent weeks. On paper, they dont look good. But on the court, the were the better coached team.....having the best player does not hurt either.

Go Blue!

Blue boy johnson

March 20th, 2009 at 1:36 PM ^

Nice reading, I would just take exception to putting Chris Weber on that list. What the Fab Five and Chris Weber accomplished in his two years was unprecedented and also a lot of fun to watch.

M-Dog

March 20th, 2009 at 1:50 PM ^

Critics keep saying they never won anything.

Um, they cut down Final Four nets 2 years in a row, first as Freshmen then as Sophmores.

EVERY team would take that in a heartbeat. You think Gene Keady wouldn't have traded some of his monotonous B10 regular season championships for that?

mad magician

March 20th, 2009 at 1:42 PM ^

The Michigan crowd in KC were great. And I'm with Brian, Oglesby leaving the game was the best thing that happened to Clemson. I don't pretend to know anything about Clemson basketball, but he did not get a lot of support from his teammates. Like everyone else, when it was 9-3 in the first five minutes and Clemson already had, like, double digit offensive boards, I thought it looked like a bad matchup for us. But you can't discount chemistry in collegiate athletics-- we have it, Clemson clearly does not. The Tigers rough finish down the stretch of the regular season carried over into the Tournament as soon as Michigan started to hit some shots. And man, how many layups did Clemson miss?

Sgt. Wolverine

March 20th, 2009 at 1:44 PM ^

Manny's hitting a bunch of threes when he had a hand in his face but missing open threes reminded me of Braylon making circus catches but dropping the easy ones. I actually felt better when he was shooting with a hand in his face.

Gus_possessive…

March 20th, 2009 at 1:51 PM ^

I will never doubt Beilein's rotations again after the Merritt/Lee substitution before the final defensive possession.

Merritt handled the screen masterfully and then stayed on his feet during the shot. You know Beilein knew what play Clemson was going to run the moment it became a 3-point game.

Gus_possessive…

March 20th, 2009 at 4:38 PM ^

Just read it; now kicking self for missing your expertise BEFORE I filled my bracket.

Keep up the good work. Glad we're on the same page.

Oh yea, thanks for the Gus Johnson clips as well. His status elevated from "the man" to "the legend" when he chatted with me, then autographed and gave his game notes to me after the Wisconsin game in Madison this season. He also keeps a Tigers hat under his announcers' table that he donned for some pictures since I was also wearing my Tigers hat.

SyracuseWolvrine

March 20th, 2009 at 1:54 PM ^

so, if my quick glance at the fastcompany article, and your commentary on it is correct, you're essentially saying "don't get on a boat with Barry Melrose"?

Which, to be fair, is really good advice ... I mean, his hair is scary enough on TV ... i can only imagine the damage it could inflict at close proximity, like, for example, being on a boat.

I also wouldn't be entirely surprised if there was a nice C YA chant when Oglesby was ejected ... I'm sure some basketball fans are also hockey fans. Plus, a good loud C YA chant is the best possible way to annoy Paula Weston.

the_white_tiger

March 20th, 2009 at 7:22 PM ^

He's fading somewhat as are the Sooners. Hypothetically if Michigan doubles Blake on the entry pass, if Harris stays tight on Warren, and if Taylor can be contained by the zone somewhat, UM has an idealistic shot.

I've watched so many OU games this year... they aren't getting better. Rumors are actually circulating that Capel has lost control... maybe....

Seth

March 20th, 2009 at 4:44 PM ^

I'm sick and tired of everyone else claiming to use ship-burning as a motivational tactic for their troops, when in reality, I'm* the only** guy to ever really employ the tactic.

See, I had the Western army behind me, but my throne was pretty shaky and the Eastern army didn't trust me one iota. So I got this idea in my head to lead them to a major victory in Persia over the Sassanids.***

To show everyone that I was one of those guys -- like Marcus Aurelius, but don't get me started on a panegyric of that guy -- I thought I'd take a page from Alexander the Great (we all know he showed those Persians) and burn my ships behind me. Get the troops in a frenzy, y'know?

'Course, it didn't work. The troops performed all right at first, but then I got knocked out in a 2nd round skirmish. The troops tried to get out of there but .. the ships.

It was then that someone told me that Alexander hadn't really burned his ships for the motivational thing, but because they weren't that good anyway, and the Persian navy was so much stronger, any ships in his possession could easily become theirs anyway. Oh well, too late for my apostate ass.

Still, give credit where credit is due. I lost my life, the Eastern Roman Legion, and the last chance the Western world had of keeping those accursed Galileans from turning their cult into a vast, independent power that would ever after direct the course of European history, all thanks to this stupid ship-burning idea.

-Jules

* "I" being "Misopogon" ... You know, Emperor Julian... Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about.

** "Only" meaning the sole person not including Chinese history, because, though nobody really mentions it, the Chinese did everything that Western Society did only five centuries earlier.)

*** My father always told me, he told me, "son, if you want an army to like you, start a land war in Asia." Then again, my father was a drunk under house arrest.

El Jeffe

March 20th, 2009 at 3:39 PM ^

What on earth could have been Morgan St.'s rationale for hiring Bozeman? What was that meeting like?

AD: So who's this Bozeman fella?

Headhunter: Well, he's the youngest coach to take a team to the sweet 16, and Cal beat Duke under him in the early 90s.

AD: Impressive! What's he done since then?

Headhunter: Well, he was blackballed for 10 years for paying recruits.

(long pause)

AD: Go back to that part about him beating Duke?

DC Dave

March 20th, 2009 at 7:21 PM ^

My dart team, the Doo Dads, was in trouble a few years ago. We'd started strong but were getting rolled as the evening and our respective blood-alcohol levels progressed. Needing to sweep the final round in order to get the win, I went to a gas station next door and purchased a package of Mentos for each of the Dads. Emulating the actors in those cheesy commercials, my team used the power of "The Freshmaker" to make the best of a difficult situation, getting the sweep and a much-needed victory.

mth822

March 21st, 2009 at 11:08 AM ^

Now I know this board is all about promoting MI confidence. Which is good. But before the Clemson game I was telling Ohio and Michigan State fans that I really just hoped we gave a very, very good Clemson team a game. Or we were a good opponent for them. I am taking the same approach today.

Also, and I know this may sound really weird. But the tendency fro sports fans is to be,"caught up in the drama."But try positive transmitting remote intentionality when you watch the game today. Literally I mean when you watch it, focus on a player from MI on every play and reinforce positive statements. When you see a guy at the free throw line just say in your head,"we love big fella just do your best." Intention is everything!

It may sound hokie but it beats getting yourself overly angered, which feeds into just a negative vibe. I think one of the reasons why Siena beat tOSU was because of this. Your playing tOSU in Ohio. I mean that's like drawing MSU in Grand Rapids, MI for a round one game. You are in their arena basically. And basically they all said we just positively reinforced each other and didn't buy into hating on Ohio. I found that cool because Ohio loves it when you hate them, which feeds back into their need to hate you and beat you.