The Story 2012: The Real William Carlos Williams Comment Count

Brian August 27th, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Previously: The Story 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Preview 2011.

Sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man … and I'm talkin' about the Dude here… sometimes there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.

-The Stranger, The Big Lebowksi

I construct the preview every year from the bones of the previous one, and when I took my first stabs at organizing what I was going to say about the secondary I ran across this, because obviously:


How long ago was that? A hundred years.

Joe Paterno was still Penn State's coach, and wonderful. JT Floyd was unable to stay within ten yards of a receiver. Michigan's football program was riven with factionalism. Craig Roh was some sort of linebacker and Kenny Demens was lining up an inch from the nose tackle. Rich Rodriguez had hired Greg Robinson, and this was Greg Robinson burning the world in response.

How long ago was this?


Bathrooms had not yet been invented. Top hats were all the rage. Punting was a good idea. Pterodactyls were the hot new species. It was a long, long time ago, October of 2010. A long time ago.


It was college, so we did ridiculous things. In my sophomore year one of those was having a fight about who the "real William Carlos Williams" was. William Carlos Williams was obviously the real William Carlos Williams but somehow Kit and Sunil contrived to have a dispute about which one of them really was the real William Carlos Williams anyway. This was settled the way these things always are: with a poetry-off.

We met with great solemnity in Ryan's dorm room. One of us had found a recipe for a drink that supposedly tasted like apple pie. I was still in the phase where changing my state of mind with alcohol was something beneath me and did not partake. I do remember there being whipped cream from a can. It was drinking in a dorm room. Of course there was whipped cream.

Embarrassingly sweet drinks were consumed as the festivities progressed until the poetry-off. Kit and Sunil would be given a topic and asked to compose a poem on that theme in the style of William Carlos Williams. The topic—revealed with the allez cuisine flourish of an Iron Chef ingredient—was red-haired women.

When the allotted minutes had passed and time was called, Kit went first. Kit had prepared. His poem was a mélange of repurposed WCW lines that he'd memorized and crammed together into a surprisingly coherent Frankenstein of a poem.

Sunil was next. He'd had far too much to drink and was showing it. Sitting on Ryan's bed slumped over, he roused himself. He looked down at what he'd written, and started.

"I love red haired bitches
they say 'whatever' and 'like'
how easily we imbibe their terminology

At this juncture Sunil toppled over backward on the bed and said no more. The panel of judges unanimously declared him the Real William Carlos Williams. Sunil celebrated by throwing up into the trash.


I think about Sunil's poem whenever someone other than Brady Hoke calls the Great Eye of Columbus "Ohio." This is all the time. Kit assembled a frankenpoem from someone's else's mouth; Sunil just said stuff. One of these things stuck. There's an "imbibe this terminology" tag on this blog.

hokesmugBrady Hoke dropped the "State" from Ohio and drove the Buckeyes to distraction to the point where the program—not just the fans—celebrated the return of "that school up north" like Terrelle Pryor welcoming an auto dealer into his tattoo-artist-sponsored apartment. Hoke dropped "This is Michigan" in his introductory press conference and tacked on the "fergodsakes" that made it immortal. He called last year's outfit Team 132, and now this year's outfit is team 133 and the ridiculous recruiting class that will enroll next year is shooting #team134 hashtags back and forth across twitter.

Hoke didn't seem to mean anything by any of it. He just talked, and though he tried to press-conference it things slipped out sideways. We imbibed them.

That's marketing. The rest is just repetition.

A year ago—or a hundred, whatever, I can't tell anymore—I wrote a story about the 2011 season that focused on how it was a damn good thing that Denard and Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen and Kevin Koger were around because I'd been in the stands when they were losing to Purdue and some guy kept screaming "they don't have any HEART" and heard tale after tale of shameful behavior directed at Rich Rodriguez—if you can't recall, he was the head coach at the time—by program alums.

A year later, Brady Hoke has every last Michigan fan marching behind him, not to mention Greg Mattison and a heaping handful of the country's best high school football players. This has just happened, you know? It is of course planned and difficult and meticulousness is required, but on one level Hoke just vacuumed everyone up because he is who he is.

Last February I was in a hotel in Grand Rapids where people had gathered to talk about football. I'm in the very corner of this room and I've got longer hair than any five other people in it put together and a goatee and I look like I do, you know. Like a guy who has trouble crossing borders sometimes. I could have been wearing a sequined dress and heels and not have looked less like a football coach than I did.

Hoke is standing two feet in front of me.

I have this completely insane fear that somehow Hoke will recognize me even though he knows nothing about me. He may not even know what the internet is. But this is an insane fear, remember. I don't want to make eye contact in case he says "you're the one who wrote a post called 'Profiles In Cronyism' about me, and several other uncomplimentary things besides" and this will spur the rest of the room to toss me bodily out of this hotel. But I'm staring at him all the same.

Borges is there, too. He's talking a couple rooms down but has stopped in for a visit. In an hour I'll sneak over to his talk and listen, enraptured, for an hour as he describes Michigan's passing concepts, and feel embittered when he has to stop instead of continuing on for another four. Before he gets into it he'll tell the room that it is great working for "Brady" because he trusts you to do your job, unlike some coaches he's worked under. When he says it, it sounds like he's saying no one will ever leave him, because why would you?

Right now Borges is surveying a room packed from stem to stern for Hoke and making a self-depreciating comment about the lack of people in his much smaller room. Brady grins, and says "Nobody cares about offense, Al. Who cares about offense?" He says it again. He laughs, and is completely at ease as myself and a half-dozen other star-struck folk file this interaction away in our brains. He walks away and we fall into line behind him, like so many others.



August 27th, 2012 at 11:35 AM ^

...about this is, "Thank, God."

Wait, one more thing. Even Hunter Lochmann knows that "That's marketing." He and DAB appear to believe they can leverage the organic marketing that Hoke does so well. The argument stems from the degree to which one is comfortable with the chosen level of leveraging.   


August 27th, 2012 at 11:43 AM ^

It's writing like this that brought me to this blog in the first place and separates MGoBlog from the rest. Well done, and game week couldn't have come sooner!


August 27th, 2012 at 11:49 AM ^

It takes courage to link to "Profiles in Cronyism." As proprietor of this site, Brian could delete or hide or change to "access denied." To leave up things where you were wrong speaks well of mgoblog.

This post by Brian, in conjunction with today's Meincke article on family values at Michigan, give a great sense that Michigan football will be in good hands for many, many years. I'm looking forward to this year, regardless of the wins and losses. More than that, I'm looking forward to many years under Hoke et al with many more wins than losses.

His Dudeness

August 27th, 2012 at 11:55 AM ^

I wouldn't call the post "wrong." The hiring of Brady Hoke was a shocker to be sure and it did smell of cronyism. Hoke has proven to be a much better hire than he was thought to be, but contextually you owuld be hard pressed to call the post "wrong."

I can't wait for Saturday.

snarling wolverine

August 27th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

Hiring Hoke in 2007 would have been shocking, but in 2011 it was not. By then he was an emerging name in the coaching field. Auburn had him on its shortlist before it hired Chizik. Even the ranting Auburn fan at the airport was aware of his candidacy (listen about 55 seconds in):  


Two years later, Minnesota wanted him after firing Brewster, but Hoke declined an interview opportunity there (the only job he wanted to leave SDSU for was Michigan) and they settled for Kill. Then we came calling and the rest is history.


August 27th, 2012 at 11:59 AM ^

It takes courage to link to "Profiles in Cronyism." As proprietor of this site, Brian could delete or hide or change to "access denied." To leave up things where you were wrong speaks well of mgoblog.

Was he wrong though? We're not talking about hiring Brady Hoke, we're talking about hiring Brady Hoke of 2007, with no Greg Mattison and likely no Al Borges either. I doubt if Brady took over right after Lloyd that he would have been as successful as he has been


August 27th, 2012 at 12:35 PM ^

I think it's almost assured that Hoke would have been less successful if he had been brought in to succeed Lloyd.  Would he have been able to get that 2008 team to perform better than 3-9?  Probably, maybe even get them to 6 or 7 wins, but the spin from the media would still have been Michigan being a slowing decaying dynasty, unable to get out of the way of it's own traditions, and the Hoke hire being another example of that.  I don't see the fanbase lining up behind him like they are now regardless of how popular his folksy enthusiasm is with people.

Wisconsin Wolverine

August 27th, 2012 at 1:52 PM ^

  • I agree, Brian is never short on opinions, & when that happens, you're bound to have your track record examined as time passes.  Brian is realistic enough to not ignore or deny anything he previously felt - it's all part of where we're at now.  He examines his own history as much as anyone else does, I reckon.
  • Again, I agree.  It's a different feeling this year - I don't feel the desperate need to win everything immediately in order to bring me out of a pit of despair.  I'm already out of the pit, I have had something to feel good about.  It's like not having any debt.  Now I can stomach a bit of adversity (I still hate bad losses), as long as I feel like the program is moving forward.  Which I think it is.  Anyway, the optimism is back.


August 27th, 2012 at 12:36 PM ^

Something Happens.

Also, someday, when Hoke retires into a sort of semi-retirement where he's always in the building coaching the D-Line but is officially just an assistant AD, his personal magnetism will cause whoever is our Then-Coach (Funk, anyone?) to absorb his Hoke-ness and become Hoke 2.0.


August 27th, 2012 at 12:43 PM ^

I think you may have stumbled on to something, and someone may have had this idea before, but his "Hoke-ness" I think could become a thing.  Comparable to, "your majesty.

"Would his Hoke-ness like to run some drills, now?"

You know you've arrived when your name becomes a proper noun, a verb or some other term of endearment.


August 27th, 2012 at 12:00 PM ^

Was Robin Williams your professor at Michigan? Shame about how that one kids Dad was such a dick and he killed himself. Condolences.

But seriously, excellent work Brian.



August 27th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

As always, Brian seems to sum it up so well. This is, I believe, what many of us are thinking and admire so much about our head football coach. I will also never forget the post where you made the point that Hoke is not just "the old Michigan," he's so much better than the "old ways." He is a natural leader who is excelling in his first 2 years at Michigan. I hope the best is yet to come!


August 27th, 2012 at 12:16 PM ^

I totally forgot that you went all "Sigourney Weaver's Penis" in that post. That's good stuff right therrr. What would Hoke's biggest issue be with that post? Awfulor "not better than Debord"?



August 27th, 2012 at 12:27 PM ^

our DC brought out a stuffed animal to celebrate a LB intercepting a pass down 24-7 in the 3rd quarter.





today, i don't really care about the history of the team, or the future of the team. the present of the team is now and that feels pretty f**king good.

matty blue

August 27th, 2012 at 12:53 PM ^

if i'm not mistaken, at that moment, we had just taken the opening drive of the 3rd quarter right down the field and forced a quick turnover around the wisconsin 40...we'd follow it up with another quick touchdown, and the game actually appeared to be on.  it was over quickly, but for about three minutes there the team and the fans were hopping.

not defending the worst coordinator in michigan history, certainly, but he wasn't the only one who got excited for a few minutes.


August 27th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

as excited as when i have all 6 pie pieces in trivial pursuit, get to the center and then my opponent chooses a string of neverending brown questions from genus I edition. (don't ask how i got the brown pie, just go with it.)

matty blue

August 27th, 2012 at 4:16 PM ^

this stuff all looks terrible in retrospect.  if greg robinson had been a good coordinator - hell, if he'd shown even sporadic competency at the job - the stuffed beaver would have been viewed differently.  sorta like the mountain climbing gear (or whatever it was) that lloyd handed out in 1997...silly and stupid but ultimately harmless, just something with obscure origins that was used for motivation during team meetings or whatever.

in this case, however, we operate under the (obviously true) assumption that robinson was a toxic waste dump, so everything he did was stupid and wrong.  probably not true, but that's how it felt, and how we react today, looking back on it.

again.  not defending robinson, etc.


August 27th, 2012 at 12:29 PM ^

There is no shame in admiting you were wrong. I think you were correct at the time (2008) that he was not the candidate we needed...not yet. He needed a bit more seasoning and he found it. Michigan also found it was in need of a Michigan man, more than they knew.

Go Blue.