The Story, 2010: Step Forth

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2010 at 10:26 AM

Part one of the season preview. Previous editions: 2008, 2009.

About a month ago the series of posts about the last decade of Michigan football struck upon the worst 11 plays the program suffered through since everyone started wearing those sunglasses with zeroes in them on New Year's Eve. The commenters were united in their opinion of these posts:

face-meltI was with them. But it seemed not only wrong but impossible to evaluate the last decade of Michigan football without enumerating the many offenses we have suffered. The story of the aughts was Roman decline. Skipping straight to Mario Manningham with one second on the clock would have been fiddling in the ruins.


It's about seven AM on the first game week of the 2010 season. Since I am a blogger and was an engineer before that, the last time I was up this early I was 19, in the second and last of the nepotistic internships I spent the first couple summers in college fiddling away at. My mom did the driving, so she set the schedule, and I spent a couple summers groggily pawing for an alarm clock with an "6" in the hour column and sulkily resenting how useless caffeine was for me. Mornings make me stabby.

But I'm up and the feed reader's here. This is what it provides around 7 AM on August 30th, 2010:

  • Yost from the M-Zone unearths himself after two years of retirement to photoshop Jim Delany, David Brandon, Gene Smith, and Gordon Gee onto the horsemen of the apocalypse.
  • UM Tailgate commemorates ten(!) years on the internet by reminiscing about old times when there were bowl streaks existed and no one wondered if the coach would get fired.
  • Maize and Go Blue emerges from long hibernation itself to survey the state of the program, addressing the "constant ridicule" he is "bombarded with."
  • In the aftermath of last night's Mad Men, GIF PARTY deploys this, in which we are Ken Cosgrove and Pete Campbell is the universe:


  • The AP has another story on the one thing that seems to generate good press about the program: a Christmas Eve car crash in 2007 that killed people near and dear to Elliott Mealer, tore his rotator cuff, and paralyzed his brother.

It's been a ragged, weary summer, one that followed a frustrating collapse and a false but panicky NCAA apocalypse and the crater of '08 and I feel like I've been talking about how tired and frustrated and burned out I am for years now—the first sentence of last year's Story was "I'm tired"—which only makes the conversing about how it's tough out there for a Michigan fan more tedious and wearying and makes you want to go idle your time away on anything other than, say, the Ohio State UFR, missing for the second consecutive year. What felt like diagnosis and honesty last year now just feels like whining.

A brief survey of themes from last year's game columns:



Get Out Of My Cab

I've got no real analysis of either team other than they're both worse than I thought. I'm burning out after two years of almost unrelenting misery, and looking forward to football season being over for the third straight year. I mean, when Michigan was down to Purdue in the second half, some fan ten or twenty rows behind me kept shouting "they've got no heart" over and over again as the guy in the row in front of me called for Rodriguez's firing. Having a conversation about Michigan football right now is trying to remember that episode of GI Joe where Destro finds a secret ninja manual in a volcano*** that allows him to kill people with precisely-applied touches: if you can just remember where the red dots are you can spare everyone a lot of pain.


The Sea Wants To Take Me

A serious thematic analysis of the Wisconsin game is pointless. Michigan's defense is exactly as horrifying as it's been all year. Everyone wants to fight each other in the liveblog. When the MGoPosse assembled to record this week's podcast, Paul said "at least we didn't muff a punt" and I responded "they didn't punt." (It turns out they did punt once in the first half, and Junior Hemingway misjudged a short one, almost fumbling it.)


October Spawned A Monster

Love, that November October
Is a time
Which I must
Put out of my mind

092609_SPT_UN v IU_MRM

Oh, one fine day
Let it be soon
She won't be rich or beautiful
But she'll be walking your streets
In the clothes that she went out
And chose for herself


The Only Thing Corey Liuget And I Will Ever Have In Common

To paint with broad strokes, I probably don't have much in common with 6'3", 290 pound black guys from Miami who think it's a good idea to play for Ron Zook. Our worlds are unlikely to intersect at a Lil Wayne show or the Ann Arbor Film Festival. Cory Liuget has probably never thought to himself "that reminds me of a Morrissey song." Of late, I think that all the time.

But at around 6:30 on October 31st, 2009, we both felt like we had been punched in the dong. In Liuget's case, this is because he had been punched in the dong:

In my case, and probably in yours, you had not actually been punched in the dong unless you had decided at some point that going outside with your buddies and punching each other in the dongs was preferable to watching the metaphorical dong-punching that started when Roy Roundtree's knee hit the ground at the one yard line and has not, to my knowledge, stopped. If you managed to miss this play and its aftermath because you were outside getting punched in the dong, congratulations: this is the one and only time when your decision-making skills will ever be regarded above average. Punch yourself in the dong in celebration.


It is evidently my opinion that Morrissey sums up Michigan football of late better than anything else, and, well, yeah. Fey, petulant, wildly schizophrenic, once part of something great and now stuck in a self-loathing rut, extremely likely to fumble anything it's carrying if hit by a 250-pound linebacker, Michigan is Southpaw Grammar/Malajusted-era Morrissey to atomic precision.

But then there are the Mealers, who don't so much put the above rending of fishnet shirts in perspective as obliterate the petty concerns of everyone who pays into the fandom industry just so their boring lives can sometimes feel titanic. Elliott's mother from that AP article above:

"I questioned why I missed my opportunity to go to heaven," Shelly Mealer said Sunday night in a telephone interview as her voice cracked with emotion. "Still, I have my moments wondering if I can do this. But I know I'm here to take care of the boys because my husband always was the one who led us in his positive and optimistic way."

Elliott himself:

Elliott Mealer still feels a sense of regret and guilt for offering his girlfriend the outside seat in the back the car because she was feeling ill.

"It could've been prevented, I guess, and it could've been me," he said softly. "It's kind of a difficult thing to think about."

Elliott's brother Brock was told he'd never walk again and the "best he could hope for" was for the pain to go away in time.

Right now it's easy to be the world's most cynical man ("I don't always drink beer, but when I do I make sure to remind everyone it's made from rice and by Belgians"). This site's already thrown up Henri the Otter of Ennui and packed it in with the site slogan, until recently "nevermind, PANIC aaaaeeieieie," and every hot seat list has Rich Rodriguez foremost on the chopping block. The secondary preview begins with "what's the point of anything?" Penn State fans with short memories are making each other's dangly bits tingle by speculating about whether Michigan will ever come back. I just told that New York audience that I don't think Rodriguez is going to make it.

Brock Mealer's going to walk, though. On Saturday he's going to get up and walk under the MGoBlue banner in an act of defiance aimed at no one in particular. From the outside, what happened to Elliott Mealer and his family looks like an event that would physically and emotionally cripple anyone it happened to. It's orders of magnitude beyond any of the things I—we—have felt sorry for ourselves about over the past couple years. Something in them was resilient, though, and with the aid of this staff they'll reclaim a small part something they thought lost on Saturday.

They can—probably already have—transfer this to the people around them. As I said about Manningham :01:

In the end, the game served as a reminder that bitterness is no fun, faith is rewarded, the kids on the field are more resilient than we are, and sometimes they can let us borrow some of that.

For both us and the team it's time to put away the eyeliner and walk.

running-into-wallsnewspaper blackout poems



August 30th, 2010 at 10:46 AM ^

I think we can all agree that despair and melancholy have gotten us nowhere. Let's pick ourselves off the floor and WIN SOME FREAKIN' GAMES THIS FALL. I'm hopeful, excited, and can't wait for Saturday. If the Bad News Bears can do it, so the heck can we.




August 30th, 2010 at 10:47 AM ^

Brian, you've done it again.  Wonderfully written and oh so true.  The story about the Mealers is what it is all about and the support the U-M program/community has shown the whole family is a big reason I am proud to say I am a Michigan Man. 

There is a quote by William Ward that I absolutely love - "Adversity causes some men to break, others to break records."  Records don't have to be statistical, but just doing what others think cannot be accomplished.  Here is to Brock breaking some records this Saturday.    



August 30th, 2010 at 10:47 AM ^

I think Brock's truimph will overshadow any outcome from this game. His is a victory that should inspire soo much more then any fourth quarter come back. I'll train even harder just knowing I'm lucky for being abe too.

Enjoy Life

August 30th, 2010 at 10:49 AM ^

"I just told that New York audience that I don't think Rodriguez is going to make it."

Man, I hope you are wrong. That means 2-3 more years of dispair (RR will not be fired after this year).


August 30th, 2010 at 10:50 AM ^

...Brian.  Yes, hope is a many-dreaded thing.  But without it, you don't get Brock Mealer leading the team onto the field on Saturday.  How ironic that an Ohio State student is showing the Michigan faithful what is truly important.   


August 30th, 2010 at 10:51 AM ^

As RichRod would say, "Let's stop all the drama."  We have something like 18 starters back from last year.  Vegas has UM as a 3 point favorite over UConn.  That means people who get paid to make predictions think we should beat one of the best teams in the Big East.  Go Blue!


August 30th, 2010 at 10:52 AM ^

Walk away from the keyboard...take a deep breath. Blogging shouldn't be a suicide watch. (Though listening to that much Morrissey, who could blame you).
<br>Would have loved to hear your New York talk, but there's a difference between being pessimistic and feels a lot longer than 9 months (which ideally should be 8), but we're here, and there's way over a hundred years of happiness to offset a few bad ones.
<br>But the Horsemen were hilarious. Now I gave to go look up which rode which horse, to see who is who.


August 30th, 2010 at 12:14 PM ^

UP and spread this post. It seems the future of RR at Michigan is in some sort of trouble. Time to get the info out there. Show your support or otherwise. This season could very well decide whether we end up with a power spread offense and a disruptive dynamic defense or begin searching for another hire. Your thoughts on the matter DO matter. There is collective thought and it does change outcomes. If you don't believe me do some research on it. A collective group working towards a goal is significantly more successful than individuals. The last few seasons have been tough to watch as a fan, especially when you are used to winning at least 8 games a season. I have met some of the staff from the team, In my opinion they are some of the hardest working and dedicated coaches I have ever seen. They are making this team an icon of college football again. Like I said just my opinion though.


August 30th, 2010 at 10:57 AM ^

When he writes shit like this:


"Right now it's easy to be the world's most cynical man ("I don't always drink beer, but when I do I make sure to remind everyone it's made from rice and by Belgians"). This site's already thrown up Henri the Otter of Ennui and packed it in with the site slogan, until recently "nevermind, PANIC aaaaeeieieie," and every hot seat list has Rich Rodriguez foremost on the chopping block. The secondary preview begins with "what's the point of anything?" Penn State fans with short memories are making each other's dangly bits tingle by speculating about whether Michigan will ever come back. I just told that New York audience that I don't think Rodriguez is going to make it."


Way to give up on the season before it even starts.  If the Mealer's have shown us anything it's that "impossible is nothing"


August 30th, 2010 at 11:14 AM ^

To hope.  To irrationally have love for our team and to love every minute of it. 


To believe that RR will not make it is completely against everything that it is to be a fan of this team.  To believe is to be a fan. 


I just hope that BC is there at the games helping this team win instead of pouting on the sidelines like a school girl. 


August 30th, 2010 at 12:16 PM ^

In fact, I think he's absolutely correct in his view of fandom. Being a fan is SO much easier and more fun if you're 100% behind the coach, and optimistic. Rich Rod still hasn't done anything to piss me off or lose faith in him, and until he does (sincerely hope he doesn't) he'll have my full support.

I think (hope) Brian's just playing around - last year or two he's been optimistic in NY, and look what happened.


August 30th, 2010 at 11:40 AM ^

Is, in my opinoin, about supporting and rooting for your team. There is no belief necessary. Being realistic and trying to make accurate predictions help us judge success. If we lose to a team that is better but play well, I won't be that disappointed because you can only do so much with what we have. There is no contradiction between predicting demise and hoping for success, at least from a fans perspective.

You might have a point if Brian was a coach or a player. Then you have to believe you will succeed or it becomes a self fulfilling profecy. But when it comes to being a fan, all you owe is your loyalty and a loud voice.


August 30th, 2010 at 12:26 PM ^

I just think it's funny bouje, you've been on this site for a long time.  How can you really question Brian's fandom?  He has proven to be a devoted RR supporter and believer in THIS team.  My take on that paragraph is his, maybe not so clear, attempt at showing different adversity in the media, national opinion, etc.


August 30th, 2010 at 12:40 PM ^

Agreed.  Writing off the season before it begins is absolutely being a shitty fan.  HOWEVA, I am so pumped for this season that I take BC's depressing, rekindling of shit memories in the same way that certain movies, shows, and books build momentum for a final battle by showcasing all that the characters have gone through until that point. 

Does anyone see where I'm getting this?  I'll try to find some clips to show what I mean if I'm being confusing.

Trader Jack

August 30th, 2010 at 12:46 PM ^

I know you're smarter than that (or at least I think you are)

go back & read it again. Brian starts off by telling you where the last 2 years have left him, what place he's in now, how hard it is to keep believing and stay optimistic right now. But then he tells you about the Mealer family and how risilient they've been. Then he shows you a newspaper blackout poem that pretty much says instead of feeling sorry for ourselves it's time to go to work & fix things. Even his last sentence, "for both us and the team it's time to put away the eyeliner and walk," is saying that it's time to stop moping, stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and go take care of business. People aren't "fawning over Brian's writing" like you said, they're just not being as narrow-minded and stupid as you are. On September 4th, you know Brian will be there cheering for the team with everything he has, so Bouje why don't you just leave this alone. Because you're very, very wrong.

Trader Jack

August 30th, 2010 at 1:01 PM ^

there's nothing to explain. In his opinion, RR isn't going to make it. In his opinion, that's a realistic prediction for the season. Part of his job is making predictions that he thinks are accurate, and so he made one. But it doesn't mean he's hoping it happens, it doesn't mean he's giving up on the season, it doesn't mean he won't be there for every home game, it doesn't mean he loves the team any less, it doesn't mean he's not gonna cheer his heart out, and it certainly doesn't mean you should just disregard the rest of what he wrote.


August 30th, 2010 at 2:08 PM ^

To believe that RR will not make it is completely against everything that it is to be a fan of this team.  To believe is to be a fan.

Brian is not only a fan, he's a blogger/writer and one of the most knowledgable sources on Michigan football.  If someone asked him if he thought RR would make it and he honostly answered 'no', how does that make him less of a fan?  It's not like he said he wanted RR to fail.


August 30th, 2010 at 2:17 PM ^

Or more mindless, or child-like. Our job as fans is to SUPPORT the team. It is mindless groupthink and a ridiculous totalitarian mindset to say our job is to believe in them, or anything for that matter. If I think we will only win 6 games then that is what I believe, and no idiot is going to tell me I'm not a huge fan because of it. I hope and support to the end but Brian's beliefs, or anyone else's, are as legit as yours. and judging from your post, way more legit.


August 30th, 2010 at 1:49 PM ^

Just teasing, mostly. While I don't agree with the combative nature of the post, I don't disagree with the point, really. The Emo thing is a bit played. Reprising it all was a bit lazy, not inspired. The season opener last year will go down in the annals of great things ever written about Michigan Football. This...the woe is me thing is getting old. I'm not falsely optimistic, but the dark lighting and sad music motif might work in his apartment, but doesn't sound all that great on the page. It's ok. He might write something great as early as this afternoon. No worries.