same [Marc-Gregor Campredon]

The Most Uniquely Unsatisfying Sporting Experience In The World Comment Count

Brian January 2nd, 2019 at 11:18 AM

12/29/2018 – Michigan 15, Florida 41 – 10-3, 7-1 Big Ten

I probably shouldn't have started the season with a dissertation on the Black Pit of Negative Expectations, because now what? I'm sure I've repeated myself in this space quite a bit, but I feel like I'm completely out of reactions to games that aren't so much deflating as imploding. I've talked about the Black Pit, mattresses, message boards, and Hell over little more than a calendar year. When I start writing something usually there's a kernel of something I've been thinking about to expand upon. Not so much right now.

This is mostly because I stopped thinking about Michigan's bowl game during the game. Like many people, some of them in pads and a helmet. Everyone knew that Michigan's season ended with the debacle in Columbus. This add-on exhibition was less an opportunity to accomplish something than an unwelcome reminder of college football's existence.

[After the JUMP: a humorous name for one's billy-berries]

I dunno, man. There's been one season that ended well during the existence of this blog, and that was the fool's gold 2011 season when a lurching .500 Ohio State team under Luke Fickell nearly beat Michigan with a freshman Braxton Miller and then Michigan won the Sugar Bowl with approximately three yards of total offense.

Every other season has featured a loss to Ohio State and usually a bowl dorf. Even when Michigan is legitimately good the season ends in a kick to the ol' yimble-yamble. This year's pratfall was exquisitely designed to turn you into a nihilist: first the 700-yard game by OSU, then the team Michigan always beats turns them into leather and bones.

It wears on you. It wears worse when Michigan has literally replicated Michigan State's in-stadium experience and games are the same fucking Buick commercial repeated 15 times with one play in between.


So: on the one hand this was a game in which Michigan's defense didn't have Rashan Gary, Aubrey Solomon, Devin Bush, Kwity Paye, and Devin Gil for most of the game, the former three for the whole of it. Jordan Glasgow played inside linebacker for a half. Those who did play didn't seem to care very much, which is a thing that happens. A deflated Georgia just got trucked by a Texas team that didn't seem on their level all season.

On the other, Michigan had 50 seconds and two timeouts on the clock, ran for three yards, and called timeout with under 20 seconds on the clock. Michigan's buffoonery before the half isn't a motivation issue. It's something that's plagued Michigan since Harbaugh's arrival. There is no tempo package, in 2018. Down 17 with the end of the third quarter approaching Michigan was still huddling and snapping the ball with under five seconds on the game clock. They had a ten-play, five-minute drive on which the average play stripped 31.4 seconds off the clock. At the end of it they were still down two touchdowns.

Michigan is 124th in S&P+'s pace metric, and the surprising bit of that is that they're not dead last. This is year four. In year four you've got a pretty good idea of what the final product is going to look like. This isn't a bug for Harbaugh, it's a feature.

The last two years Michigan has seemingly scrapped their preseason plan a few games in. There's a ton of coaching turnover, with guys coming in for one year and then bailing. Recruiting has gone in fits and starts; even this year when Michigan's class is the best in the league they still had some baffling in-state failures seemingly brought about by disorganization. The pace of play also speaks to that disorganization.

All of this is probably permanent, and it'll stop Michigan from being an actual power. There will be a breakthrough at some point… probably. I hope I'll be able to appreciate it; I wonder if the whole thing where I look dead-eyed upon another set of hopes going up in the same flames may mute any response I might have to actually winning any damn thing:

The flaw in BPONE operations is of course the impossibility of mining any enjoyment out of your experience. BPONE sufferers assume a football game is a negative emotional event and spread those negative emotions out more broadly. Only if the team should actually come back and win will any regret be felt, and pffffffffft. I'm in the pit, baby! I know for a stone cold fact that a punt snap will somehow lodge itself in the facemask of the punter. I feel it in my bones that the one time we jump a route in this game the ensuing interception will bang off the defensive back's hands and lodge itself in the facemask of the opposition 50 yards downfield.

For now: relief that I don't have to think about this nearly as much for seven months. Basketball school: activate. 



January 2nd, 2019 at 3:34 PM ^

For me it was earlier...the jet sweep TD that was just an 8 yard gain, followed by two absolutely futile attempts to convert with Mason, which did nothing but amp up Florida. Told me what mattered: Florida cared far more than Michigan did. It was a 3-point game by half but honestly it felt lucky to even be there, even after the end of half time debacle.



January 2nd, 2019 at 3:18 PM ^

I’m glad Brian made the link between clock management and systemic disorganization in things like recruiting. Sure, we had an outstanding class this year, but the reason for the misses are strange and disconcerting.

Back in year one, I remember reading insider reports raising red flags about how disorganized recruiting was… no one wanted to hear it at the time,  and it was easy to ignore because things were heading in the right direction. 

Less so now.  I love the guy, but doubts about Harbaugh are growing like vines up a once grand edifice. He seems too normal now. I want the batshit crazy OCD motherfucker we all thought we got in 2015. 


January 2nd, 2019 at 7:21 PM ^

Yeah, it's confusing. What I'm thinking with the OCD is that such people tend to be detail-obsessed to the point of mania, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing, but it usually leads to something polished at the end of the day. The team doesn't look remotely polished out there. They look like they haven't been practicing.

My fear is that while JH is unquestionably the right guy to take you from bad-to-good, he might not be the right guy for good-to-great. Sometimes those are the same people. Sometimes not. 


January 2nd, 2019 at 11:59 AM ^

I'm pretty convinced that anyone who says "I wear the same thing every day to save time in the morning picking what to wear" - e.g. Mark Zuckerberg - is full of shit.  It's just a conceit that fast-moving type-As tell themselves to feel separate from the masses.  I've accumulated around 20 button-down office shirts over the years and choosing one in the morning takes all of like four seconds.


January 2nd, 2019 at 1:51 PM ^

One really smart guy (Einstein I think?) did it, and then other smart guy and/or guys who aspire to  be like Einstein started doing the same thing because it became known to be a thing.  


That said, I do know friends/family who spend a huge amount of time agonizing over clothes in the morning, so maybe if you know you're that kind of person, it will make sense as a way of reducing stress and decision fatigue. 


January 2nd, 2019 at 6:34 PM ^

They aren't saving time picking what to wear, they're saving time picking what to buy, which does take time if you're trying to be fashionable.  And that's the whole point.  They think clothing is trivial and treat it as such.

And for the record, you wearing a button down shirt every day to the office is the same thing as them wearing a hoodie or turtleneck.  You wear the same kind of shirt to put no thought into it.

People have just made a story out of the Zuckerburg hoodie and the Jobs turtleneck because they're different from the standard polo/button down shirt that 80% of American men wear to work - and also because those guys run/ran some of the biggest and most influential companies in world so people are interested in whatever lame story might be told about them.


January 2nd, 2019 at 5:17 PM ^

Hope is what has to drive sports fans.  Only one team gets to win it all so everyone else has to hope.

So you're correct, my hope is that Harbaugh does some introspection, hires a good OC and fully hands over the keys.

What gives me hope is that for 30+ years mediocre-to-poor defense was a feature of John Beilein basketball teams.

His best defense in the kenpom era required a roster full of NBA players and was still only 37th in the country and a bottom tier 7th (out of 12) in the conference.  His best defense!

He ran 1-3-1 for years at lower tier schools as a quirky way to get turnovers because opposing teams weren't familiar with it to make up for the lack of athleticism his preferred players (skilled on offense, good shooters) tended to have.  That zone was a feature of his teams.  It got torched in the Big Ten, he scrapped it for man defense and that helped some but he didn't coach it all that well and he admitted he barely paid attention to that side of the ball because he's always thinking about the next offensive possession while the team is on defense.

We accepted it to be truth that his defenses wouldn't be great.  We made statements exactly like those made here about the ceiling under Beilein and never being an actual power and we are what we are, blah, blah, blah. We tried to accept that we're a second tier program and to just be happy with it.

Then somehow he had a late career epiphany and hired defensive-minded experts that have completely transformed the team and program.  He's now had two top 5 (in the country!!) defenses in consecutive years such that it's been a top 10, maybe even top 5 program and national title contender for what will be the third NCAA tournament in a row.

I realize changing large features of one's coaching method/philosophy is a pretty rare thing to do late in one's career, but I hold onto hope that Harbaugh is pragmatic enough and humble enough to realize his features don't work and makes the necessary changes.


January 2nd, 2019 at 11:41 AM ^

College football needs to take a hard look at itself. Crap fan experience (both stadium and TV), lack of meaningful games and absurdly random season success conditions.


On the other hand, vast numbers of people continue to line up for the same shit sandwich, so maybe not.


January 2nd, 2019 at 11:51 AM ^

I've seen almost zero randomness in season success

Rutgers - always total shit

Illinois - always total shit


Michigan - almost always middling success

MSU - almost always middling success

PSU - almost always middling success

Iowa, etc.


OSU - almost always high success

Alabama - almost always high success

Clemson, etc. 

Everyone's problem with "college football" is that Michigan is a second tier program under Harbaugh, and the on field product isn't usually all that fun to watch. 


January 2nd, 2019 at 12:01 PM ^

"the on field product isn't usually all that fun to watch"

Honestly you are full of crap.  Yes, The Game sucked.  And my six hour drive back to Chicago afterwards wasn't a highlight of the season.  Any game the team played following The Game was going to be an exercise in futility.  The kids were effectively in mourning.   

But if you were at the Wisconsin game or the Penn State game or any of the other home games this year, you can't honestly make the statement you made above.

I've been a season ticket holder since 1990.  The 2018 Penn State game was the best game experience in Michigan Stadium since The Game in 1997. If you didn't enjoy the experience of attending games this season, your heart is just cold.

I came really close to not renewing my tickets during the 2014 season.  If it wasn't for the Harbaugh hire, I would have let the tickets go.  Going to games was no longer fun.  Games are fun now.  Yes there are too many media timeouts, but games are fun.  


January 2nd, 2019 at 12:19 PM ^

Yes.  The Denard/ND UTL game was an incredible finish (among the best I've ever witnessed).  But the game was a mess for 3 quarters.  And ultimately, I left that game feeling we just got insanely lucky that Tommy Rees was a turnover machine.

The PSU game this year was a total performance.  And the Stadium was joyous and loud -- it was a 3 1/2 hour celebration.


January 2nd, 2019 at 3:21 PM ^

There are a lot of posters here who are full of crap. We are a sanctimonious, narcissistic society that thrives on angst, fake outrage and drama. I truly hope future generations can crawl out of the mirror, throw away their selfie-sticks and get back to common sense and logical thinking.


January 2nd, 2019 at 12:22 PM ^

Excellent analysis by JPC, the user who has been on the board for 3 weeks is a wealth of knowledge.  I will ask this, should an OSU fan be proud of Urban's tenure? Is on field results the only thing that matters?

Michigan is excellent. I are clean-er than most top programs. Furbush is going to be an rocket scientist.  Countless others have learned great lessons while at Michigan. Michigan is a great school with a football program. Not the other inverse.

Michigan will be in the top 15 out of 117 schools (give or take). I disagree that that is a middling success.  

UM in NC

January 2nd, 2019 at 3:41 PM ^

Everyone's problem with "college football" is that Michigan is a second tier program under Harbaugh

This is exactly right.  Michigan is typically the 10th-20th best team in the country every year and every 3-5 years the stars will align and they will have a shot at the CFP (either with 'luck' like Notre Dame this year or be a legitimate top 5 team with a recruiting/development/chemistry perfect storm)


January 2nd, 2019 at 5:30 PM ^

College Football is the least random sport in America save maybe NBA basketball and after those two sports it isn't even close.

We're about to watch a Bama-Clemson title game for the third time in four years (fourth time they've played in the playoffs in that span) and that was the exact matchup that was heavily favored to occur before the season even started.


matty blue

January 2nd, 2019 at 11:59 AM ^

i don't know, do they?  michigan stadium was packed this season when we were winning.  not so much late last year, or during the last strangled gasp of the hoke years.

i've been around for a long, long time, and it used to be i'd snap at a chance at michigan tix even during disappointing seasons.  now? at $100+ a pop, unending tv timeouts, shitty pop music drowning out the band...i've declined opportunities lately.  part of that is youth vs age, but part of it is 1080p and the ability to turn off the clanging when i'm at home.

Indiana Blue

January 2nd, 2019 at 12:48 PM ^

$100 for seat ?  evidently you need to sit somewhere near the 50.   I believe my season tickets were roughly $70 per game (yes the face value changes for various games).  I couldn't give away tickets to 2 games and other game tickets were going for well under $50 via scaplers.  

I want to have the "gameday experience" ... have a tailgate and be in the stadium at ALL games.  There are others that for whatever reason they have, will avoid crowds, weather, traffic, or whatever and NOT attend the games.  However, the stadium "experience" this season was great, but I understand that it is just not for everyone.  If you don't like it fine, but since Michigan once again led the nation in attendance this season, I would suggest that your opinion is the minority view.

Go Blue!  

matty blue

January 2nd, 2019 at 1:12 PM ^

yeah, the "$100 a seat" thing was, admittedly a throwaway line...i would only say that if you count parking, concessions, etc, you're probably leaning against it for most games, even the crappy ones.

i love michigan stadium - there are very few places i'd rather be.   that said, there are some things that make for a less-great experience, and i wish they'd stop.