The Story, 2009

Submitted by Brian on September 1st, 2009 at 1:20 PM

rodriguez-presser

Part one of the all-singing all-dancing season preview.

I'm tired.

This is literal and metaphorical. Yesterday I got up at eight and shut off at some point between at 3 or 4 AM. I've spent the last two days discussing probably nonexistent NCAA violations instead of putting the final touches—read "writing the last third of"—this year's season preview. In the last year and a half I've spent one summer rolling my eyes and beating back an incredible wave of idiocy about Rich Rodriguez shredding every last bit of information on the West Virginia program and another attempting to explain to pastors and civilians the odd circumstances that led to a 3-9 season at hallowed Michigan. In between, hallowed Michigan went 3-9. None of it was particularly enjoyable.

I'm tired of reading obvious bullshit and having to explode it. I'm tired of filing particularly annoying articles in the folder where I keep the stuff to unearth and laugh at later. I'm tired of explaining and debating and debunking never getting around to the statistical work I did the first couple years of the blog's existence. I'm tired of oscillating between anger and uncertainty, apathy and sadness. I wanted to become unmoored from the static existence that was late-era Schembechler football, but it turns out the current is mostly undertow.

Most of all, though, I'm tired of this backup laptop, its half-gig of RAM, erratic wifi, and maddening inability to understand that I've plugged it into the damn wall. Seriously. Hurry up, Malaysia.

Rich Rodriguez is tired, too. He stood in front of a room of cameras and reporters yesterday and the first thing he said was "I don't usually have notes, but…" and then he sort of trailed off and fumbled with some paper and for a moment it seemed like he forgot how to read or just had to stare at the paper and wonder what had happened after Pat White injured his hand against Pitt, how he had gotten here and what a mistake it had been.

There was nothing for it, though, so the words formed themselves and stumbled out. Time goes one direction, at a constant rate.

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As you might guess from the title, I write one of these every year. Last year's documents the whole sordid Rodriguez-defection-West-Virginia-hissyfit in elaborate detail—it comes complete with a Shot At Love With Tila Tequila reference—before wandering around to Michigan's prospects going into 2008 somewhere about 80% of the way through. It was that kind of offseason. This offseason was that kind of offseason, too.

Though the outlook was "grim," good God I had no idea how accurate this statement would turn out to be:

Michigan’s going to run out on the field and play like they’re one of those teams trying to make inferior talent work.

Yes, yes they did. Not so much with the working, and sometimes not even so much with the trying, but by God yes the running and the inferior talenting. "Great fun" it sounded like. Great fun it was not aside from a couple improbable plays against Wisconsin and an impossible afternoon against Minnesota.

The final paragraph was half-right:

It’s going to be a fiasco. It’s going to be ugly and tantalizing and dispiriting and awesome. I can’t wait.

Fiasco, ugly, dispiriting: check. Those other two qualities are pending.

A brief tour of the depths my mind sunk to when it wasn't turning in 200-word game columns featuring Henri, The Otter of Ennui:

DESPAIRING ASSERTIONS ABOUT THE STUPIDITY OF INFORMATION FLOW

"Get A Life"

Rich Rodriguez takes some time to talk about the internet's depressing tendency towards mocking and anger in some depth. The media takes the three sentences sure to generate the most outrage and create the dumbest image of Rodriguez, and the internet responds with mocking and anger.

I mean… what can you even say here?

IMAGINED CONVERSATIONS IN THE STYLE OF THE BIG LEBOWSKI

"The Big Rodriguez"

lebowski_simour_1

We've been frantically trying to reach you, EBay.

 

 

bill-martin

  Where are my goddamn wins, you bum?

 

 

brian_cook

Well… we, I don't…

 

 

bill-martin

They did not receive the wins, you nitwit! They did not receive the goddamn wins. OUR STREAK WAS IN YOUR HANDS.

 

 

lebowski_simour_1

This is our concern, EBay.

 

EXTREMELY LOW-GRADE ASSAULT BEEFS

"Fort Sumter": 

A couple rows above me, a middle-aged man stood on a bench and booed and booed.

He was angry. I was angry.

I stooped to pick up whatever flingable bit of detritus I could find, seized upon an empty water bottle, and chucked it at the booer. I missed,* lightly damaging an older man a row behind him. But I did get his attention. And the old guy looked like he was on The Other Side, so eff him. 

WHATEVER THIS WAS

"Preview: Penn State":

Fear/Paranoia Level: 0 out of 10. (Fear is the mindkiller. Fear nothing anymore; in your despair you find the freedom only the forsaken can experience.).

Desperate need to win level: 0 out of 10. (Needs lash the soul to the rack of imperfection. You need nothing. You experience all things, and all things experience you.)

-----------------------------------------

It was a tough, apathetic year in which the main goal of the blog was to yell at people I thought were stupid or shortsighted, which is, I imagine, like getting in a knife fights against an endless army of Skip Bayless clones. There is a certain grim satisfaction to the work that must be done, but eventually you end up covered in viscera and no closer to making the world a less annoying place.

The team, meanwhile, left or sucked or sucked and left with a few notable exceptions. They looked lost, caused my brain to fritz out as per above, and drove poor Johnny into a malaise that saw him pop up infrequently and then only to level a complaint we all felt at some level: this isn't my team anymore.

This, as did everything last year, caused a small internet war to break out. People were booers or bottle-tossers, skeptics or believers. Michigan fans probably put more time into flaming the hell out of each other than any fanbase has in history. But nothing is good for unity like a war.

----------------------------------------

I had a hard time parsing out the emotion I felt yesterday, a melange of anger, skepticism, selfish pathos, scorn, more anger, and something strange. And then I'm on the radio yesterday and I think of something. I signal to John Bacon that I have something to say and once Wayne Drehs finishes up his thought I say it. I don't remember it exactly what I said but I remember the thought.

Rich Rodriguez is a fundamentally artless person.

I have winced at many a Rodriguez press conference. Corny jokes about the Lion King, awkward phrasing, distinct lingering unflattering accent, typical coaching banalities, etc etc etc. Basically all the cultural things that differentiate Rodriguez from Carr are negative to me except insofar as he doesn't tolerate 350-pound starting offensive linemen who just quit the team a few weeks ago. That I'm with. It's just all the peripherals that I'm leery of.

This is some part of why portions of the local media have gone bats lately and a major source of ammunition for the little guy with a pitchfork who sits on your shoulder and whispers "doooooooooooom… doooooooooooooom" into your ear. But it was incredibly helpful yesterday when Rodriguez was trying to work through his statement. Because not for a moment did it cross my mind, or apparently the minds of even the most cynical observers, that Rodriguez's emotion was not genuine. The Free Press folk immediately scurried back to their cave to write an editorial that opened with "The issue is not how much Rich Rodriguez and his fellow University of Michigan coaches care about the young men who play football for the Wolverines."

Lloyd Carr might have handled that differently, been snappy or angry or more aggressive but one of the things that became clear as his tenure lengthened is that a journalist that unfairly attacked one of his players would find himself between a grizzly cub and his mother. The most important thing to Carr was the making the kids under him happy and successful. Though Rich Rodriguez has different ideas about what qualifies, yesterday it appeared that went for him too. For the first time (and possibly the last time), Rodriguez reminded me of Lloyd Carr. I want the head coach at Michigan to react like that when his reputation is threatened.

So this is bizarre after everything. But this year one of the many, many reasons I want Michigan to win—you try hitching a career to your favorite team—will be a new one. I'll be rooting on a personal level for Rich so he can have a press conference during which he can make an awkward comment about all this with a smile on his face, and I can wince inwardly at it.

Comments

fatbastard

September 1st, 2009 at 1:49 PM ^

"Lloyd Carr might have handled that differently, been snappy or angry or more aggressive but one of the things that became clear as his tenure lengthened is that a journalist that unfairly attacked one of his players would find himself between a grizzly cub and his mother. The most important thing to Carr was the making the kids under him happy and successful. Though Rich Rodriguez has different ideas about what qualifies, yesterday it appeared that went for him too. For the first time (and possibly the last time), Rodriguez reminded me of Lloyd Carr. I want the head coach at Michigan to react like that when his reputation is threatened"

Rod came in without a full appreciation for why the Fort was the Fort. This ain't your grandfather's WVU program, ya know.

The thing that I haven't like about Rod is that at times he plays the "victim" role. Well, here, as far as the Rosenberg article is concerned he appears to legitimately be the victim. Instead of playing that card, he gave a statement in which he was unapolgetic for the way that he is dealing with the kids. Running the program. That he knows the rules and played by them.

So, going forward, it is my expectation that we see more of this type of protective, aggressive tact with those members of the media that have not developed trust with the program --much like Lloyd did, albeit in his own style. At least that is my hope . . .

sundaybluedysunday

September 1st, 2009 at 1:41 PM ^

That was a joy to read. You manage to encapsulate everything a Michigan fan is feeling and say it with the usual candor and articulation. It is great to have you as a steady and rational voice on Michigan football.

InterM

September 1st, 2009 at 1:42 PM ^

If I stick with MGoBlog long enough, I hope to achieve the Zen-like state where I can follow each and every one of the twists and turns on the Brian coaster. In the meantime, I still enjoy it even when I occasionally get tossed off the ride and have to hang on for dear life.

learmanj

September 1st, 2009 at 1:43 PM ^

This is what i love about this site...it is written by a true fan of Michigan and is read by true fans of Michigan. This is all we need to be successfull......And a win vs. Western

oldblue

September 1st, 2009 at 1:44 PM ^

We all feel the same emotions you do, but, thankfully, we have you to help us through them. Hopefully, you can get the energy needed to keep doing what you are doing from the thanks of all of us who so appreciate your work. Please, don't let the a**holes get you too far down. In these past couple of days, your site has been the only place to go for so many of us to retain (or try to regain) our sanity. Your combination of passion, intellect, morals, and knowledge of the Michigan fan base has made you absolutely irreplaceable in a very short period of time. Hang in there and keep it coming.

SoCal Blue

September 1st, 2009 at 1:45 PM ^

This will make or break the team, if you can't come together now, then it may never happen. I just hope he isn't second guessing his decision to take the job in the first place..

99bobcats

September 1st, 2009 at 1:51 PM ^

"Because not for a moment did it cross my mind, or apparently the minds of even the most cynical observers, that Rodriguez's emotion was not genuine."

Mike Valenti railed on him yesterday for faking his emotion. He also went on to say "now West Virginia players are coming out to confirm the story" without providing the actual detail.

MAKE PLAYS!!

Cosmic Blue

September 1st, 2009 at 1:53 PM ^

As much as it is the high road to take all this abuse and not lower ourselves to the level of rosenberg and the lot, it gets old. i really want to strike back somehow. it would be nice if lloyd or some other well respected michigan person would step up and just lay into the freep.

matty blue

September 1st, 2009 at 2:06 PM ^

brian, you captured so much in so little space.

very rbuas-like. i don't know if i can give a higher compliment when it comes to this stuff. well done.

by the way - where IS johnny? anybody know?

Alkaline

September 1st, 2009 at 2:01 PM ^

It is as if some of the Michigan community--press, fans, pundits--have wanted to humble Rich Rod. He is a proud man and has accomplished much in life.

Many have opined that he is too unpolished for urbane Michigan. But what has happened to him is unfair--a real blind-side attack that shows little regard for accuracy and scant knowledge of the actual rules. Brian's comments capture the feelings of many who may have had doubts about Rich Rod but resent the unfairness of the attack on him and on Michigan. Now is the time to rally around a man who has shown us in his tears that he does care. And rally around a school and its traditions of hard work and decency.

Remember what Bluto said -- let's do it:

D-Day: War's over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
Bluto: Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Otter: Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he's rolling.
Bluto: And it ain't over now. 'Cause when the goin' gets tough...
[thinks hard]
Bluto: the tough get goin'! Who's with me? Let's go!
[runs out, alone; then returns]
Bluto: What the fuck happened to the Delta I used to know? Where's the spirit? Where's the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you're gonna let it be the worst. "Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble." Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I'm not gonna take this. Wormer, he's a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer...
Otter: Dead! Bluto's right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.
Bluto: We're just the guys to do it.
D-Day: Let's do it.
Bluto: *Let’s do it*!

RichRodFollower

September 1st, 2009 at 2:01 PM ^

The YouTube video from "14 years ago" thats starts out with Lloyd saying to the media something like "You have no idea the pressure involved with being the coach of the University of Michigan." struck me. RR, after 18 months, probably fully understands that pressure now.
I was a half-hearted fan until M hired RR and I don't think its wrong to hope for his success.
I've been All-in for Michigan for 18 months and MGoBlog has done more to educate me on the program than any other source I could have found.
Thank you Brian, et al.

Don

September 1st, 2009 at 2:40 PM ^

In what instance?

Shredding the docs - turns out to be a complete crock of shit
Boren/Family values - turns out to be a complete crock of shit, says nothing
Mallett leaves - no comment other than I want to talk about Michigan
Wermers leaves, smears RR and teammates - RR says nothing
Feagin booted, Freep smears RR - turns out to be complete crock of shit
Snydenberg smears RR - turning out to be crock of shit, RR defends himself and players.

I've lived and voted as a Democrat in liberal Ann Arbor for over 30 years, and believe me, I recognize when someone's playing the victim card. RR ain't it.

Further, if the feisty, cantankerous, obnoxious Bo Schembechler who came to Ann Arbor in 1969—with no internet, no talk sports radio, no ESPN, and miniscule media coverage in general—was the guy who'd been hired in late 2007, Snydenberg would have had a field day ripping him, his brusque manners, his imperious, demanding personality on the field, and his dripping contempt for the media in general. And there's no doubt in my mind that Bo would have personally, physically confronted Snydenberg for the crap they wrote, especially wrt to Stokes and Hawthorne. It's just par for the course that fat slobs like Valenti can't see genuine, artless emotion for what it is.

Now if it had been Dantonio up there on the dias struggling to hold his emotions in check, then Valenti and Snydenberg would be elbowing each other to be first in line for the fellating interview afterwards.

Wolverine In Exile

September 1st, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

from this week. At first I was mad, then disappointed, then I don't know... at this point today, how I feel can only be summed up by quoting from the seminal sports movie of our lifetime, "Major League":

Locker Room Scene, after the owner comes in and says that all she wanted was for the team to suck so bad that they could move out of Cleveland:

Jake Talor: "Well I guess there's one left to do then"

Willie Mays Hayes: "Yeah, what's that"

Jake Taylor: "Win the whole fucking thing."

GO BLUE!

marcsumus

September 1st, 2009 at 2:11 PM ^

Great post brian! May the robots in Malaysia work quickly to bring you a laptop!

I must say I love that you are out there fighting the good fight, but be carefull. There is a saying (that I cannot find right now) that the more you fight the enemy, the more like them you become. It's ok to take the high road sometimes and just let stupidity go.

I personally am ignoring the freep and their attention whoring ways for now.

notYOURmom

September 1st, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

...and, now, BACK TO FOOTBALL.

Edited to say: Dang boys can't you hear the maternal concern in my voice? I'll restate: I feel the same pain, but I *especially* agree with the part that there are things I'd rather talk and think about this week than the &*@fREEP.

Sven_Da_M

September 1st, 2009 at 2:12 PM ^

... and well played; perhaps the Big Lebowski tells all about the cub reporter's Pulitzer gambit:

>>The Dude: God damn you Walter! You fuckin' asshole! Everything's a fuckin' travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Vietnam? What the FUCK, has anything got to do with Vietnam? What the fuck are you talking about?

Enjoy Life

September 1st, 2009 at 2:15 PM ^

We will all look back on this after RR wins his first MNC at M and wonder "what the hell were the detractors thinking".

"Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

stubob

September 1st, 2009 at 2:20 PM ^

We have an organization that prides itself of publishing outrageous and/or partially true articles purely for the sake of ratings and money.

In the other corner, we have an organization that prides itself on publishing well-researched, well-written, funny, timely, balanced articles for the love of it. Profit is second.

Final score: MGoBlog 1,000, MSM 0. Keep up the good work, I intend to buy a "In Rod We Trust" shirt this weekend to support you and our new coach.

BS-Computer Science, UMich class of '98.

mabrsu

September 1st, 2009 at 2:32 PM ^

The end is what I believe the most. I felt for the first time he showed the true Michigan Values that we all had been looking for so badly. I am rooting for him so much, and I want a t-shirt saying "I'm All In for Rich Rodriguez". He deserves some freaking support because his resume should be enough to generate some faith. The only thing not proven was that he has the character of a michigan man, which is a very high standard in my mind. He truly has it and GO BLUE!

harmon98

September 1st, 2009 at 2:38 PM ^

not a sprint. that said, I'm exhausted. never answered more mundane questions asked by curious minds about the program. fringe minds at that. I don't have any more answers to these folk. we're losers and cheaters until we prove otherwise I guess. so be it. due process. blood alone moves the wheels of history.

BigBum

September 1st, 2009 at 2:39 PM ^

I thank you for your comments.

Shit like this only makes me love this program more. I love being booed and I love the pressure. For the first time in a long time we (Michigan football community) are under the gun to produce. You don't like Michigan? Fine, fuck you and get out of my face.

Some of you hated (still hate) Carr? Get behind RR! Now we have to fight for our respect. Step up! I love it and I accept the challenge. Now it's up to RR to powder 'em up, throw 'em over his shoulder and head into battle!