Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
This is your editor speaking. As we prepped for the 2013 season, Punt decided that he wanted to hang up his spurs. This week he says goodbye to years of Michigan-related snark. As a kid growing up, I would eagerly seek out the free programs and flip to the back to take it in. Punt/Counterpunt opened my eyes to the fact that there was a different way to go about things than the one you found in the newspaper. They were an undeniable influence here. Thanks, Ken.
By Ken “Sky” Walker
August 31, 2013
I don’t remember exactly when I was first asked to write this column. I do know that I’ve been “Punt” for parts of three decades. During that time, I’ve been lucky enough to have covered the winning of a national championship in 1997. I was even more fortunate to not have written the column during the Rich Rodriguez era of Michigan football. Calling his hiring as the Wolverine’s coach a ‘misfit’ doesn’t begin to describe that debacle. However, Rich Rod did give Michigan fans the chance to be a part of The Denard Robinson Experience, so I guess we have to at least thank him for that.
Being able to experience college football from a journalist’s point of view has been a lot of fun. (Though calling myself a “journalist” is like calling Nicki Minaj a “conservative dresser”.) Over the years, this column has given me the opportunity to sit at the same table with any number of the Big Ten’s best players and coaches. While some have lived up to their greatness both on and off the field like Charles Woodson, others like Joe Paterno sadly weren’t the men we thought they were.
Being “Punt” has even brought me tiny taste of what being a celebrity must be like. From strangers calling out “Punt!” as I cross a street in town, to the guy at the rental car place giving me an upgrade because he was a fan of the column, it is at times a bit strange. Conversely, there was the guy who bent my ear for a whole half at an away game; convinced I could give him the heads up on getting into journalism (I made Counterpunt sit next to him for the second half).
Speaking of Counterpunt, this would be the point at which I should get in a few jibes at him. I don’t have it in me to truly trash the guy. There have been times when I read his column and didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. It’s as if the basic concept that this column should be in some way connected to football was beyond his grasp. But when the opportunity to write the column came along, he asked me to join him and for that I’ll always be grateful.
If it hasn’t become apparent by now, this will be my last column as “Punt”. I’ll be turning over the moniker to someone who has a younger, fresher viewpoint. I hope they have even more fun with it than I did. I want to thank Dave DeVarti for publishing “Punt/Counterpunt” originally and Brian Cook for resurrecting it. I hope that everyone who has read the column over the years has at least found it interesting, if not gotten some enjoyment from it. And since it’s my last prediction, why not go out big:
Michigan – 2013 Big Ten Champions – GO BLUE!
ACTUALLY, STILL PUNT
By Nick RoUMel
I’ll say it.
Nicki Minaj is a conservative dresser.
I say that with only a dim awareness that Nicki Minaj is an entertainer, and without full knowledge of said Nicki’s gender.
I say that because despite his modesty, Punt has indeed been a true journalist.
In a day where mainstream media of coverage often focuses on misdeeds, and sports writers go out of their way to put down the young men who play this game, Punt has covered the game. Since 1994, my friend, as you have forgotten.
In his first column predicting a 31-17 Michigan victory over MSU (actual score UM 40-MSU 20), Punt wrote about the rivalry:
Webster defines a rival as “a person or tries to get or do the same thing as another or to equal or surpass another; a competitor.” Having read this, I have to ask the question – does the series with MSU constitute a true rivalry? Well, it surely must be considered one by Spartan fans. After all, haven’t they been trying to "get or do the same thing" as the Wolverines on the gridiron for nearly a generation?”
While Punt has been a true Blue Michigan fan over the years, he was not afraid to go out on a limb, like his prediction that Ohio State would crush Michigan’s national championship hopes in our storied 1997 season:
“The Wolverine watched the scarlet and grey bandit soar off. He could only gnash his teeth, a scream choking in his throat. "It can’t end this way," he cried. "Is there no justice?"
I will always give credit to Punt for his ardent (and prescient) support of Tom Brady in 1999, when golden boy Drew Henson was job sharing. From October 2, 1999:
“Please, please, please just give the job to Brady! What else does the "San Mateo Matador" have to do to prove he’s worthy?”
One of the frustrating things in working with Punt was his refusal to pick against Michigan, leaving it to me to play the bad guy. He wrote in 2004:
“Counterpunt has accused me of being a "homer." He thinks I won’t pick against Michigan if I obviously think they’re going to win. Which, to a certain extent, is true.”
Referring years later to his 1997 pick of OSU to ruin Michigan’s undefeated season, Punt wrote:
“Would you have liked to be the one to pick against Michigan during the 1997 dream season? … Despite wrapping my column in the blanket of a fairy tale, I remained the object of scorn from many acquaintances, to the extent of it impacting on my enjoyment of the best season of Michigan football in my lifetime.”
The Michigan Football Guide stopped publishing in 2007, which was fitting as it was the season of the Appalachian State loss and some lean years thereafter. As Punt noted, we were mercifully spared the RichRod years. That would have been a difficult time to keep up our enthusiasm.
Writing for MGoBlog last year was been a welcome resurrection, and a fitting way for Punt to go out on top. We are grateful to Brian & Co. for giving us an opportunity to share this space with true students of the game. I am looking forward to working with my new partner, whose inside knowledge of Michigan football is far greater than my own, and who probably can even tell us Nicki Minaj’s gender.
As I now move into Punt formation, Ken “Sky” Walker, I salute you. Go Blue, my friend.
Michigan 42, Central Michigan 13
By Heiko Yang
Hello. If you enjoy reading big walls of ungrammatical text, you may be familiar with me as the guy who badgers the Michigan coaches about all the neat things they are reluctant to do. As Punt’s successor, you can call me “Spread Punt.”
I am deeply honored to be entrusted with upholding Punt’s journalistic excellence going forward. Free rental car upgrades are not truly free, after all. They are earned, and the humbling fact of the matter is that when Ken started earning his, I was still in ESL. Never mind that misinformed prejudices put me there in the first place and then subsequently kept me there for two more years. It was worth it. Becoming the new Punt is the end achievement in my quest to master the English language. Dr. McPherson (my second grade teacher had a PhD) would be so proud.
With this new great power comes great responsibility. Right now it is my responsibility to inform Counterpunt that Nicki Minaj is indeed a lovely young lady. So lovely you should probably turn SafeSearch on if you are at work, which I totally forgot to do just now.
Michigan 50, Central Michigan 9.
[ED: One of you is supposed to be negative! Argh. We'll work on this.]