The Story, 2018: Lie Back And Think Of Iowa Comment Count

Brian August 27th, 2018 at 12:53 PM

Previously: Podcast 10.0A. Podcast 10.0B. Podcast 10.0C. The Story 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Preview 2017.

It's not rational to think football would be immune. When the world's decided that shame is for losers and the only rule is get paid, football will follow along too. Unless it's leading the way. And... uh... it's leading the way. The commissioner of this here league spearheaded the addition of two Eastern Seaboard schools with barely enough football tradition to scrape into a thimble because it would personally benefit himself and the class of parasitic grandees currently skimming off the top of college football to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

That decision paid off with a perfect tragedy. Jordan McNair's death was not only the result of deeply immoral approach to football and life but also incompetent. Stupid. Only a fucking idiot could have waited an hour before calling 911 when a very large man was having a seizure, unable to stand, on a blisteringly hot day. Maryland employed that fucking idiot. That's because their athletic department, shielded from the kinds of things that would do material harm to the parasitic grandees within, is by and for fucking idiots. They left the ACC, where they had many and several fun basketball rivalries, because a previous generation of fucking idiots managed to rack up so much debt that their continued existence in their home conference was no longer tenable.

Labor costs for their most valuable employees when they racked up this debt stayed steady. At zero.

[After THE JUMP: more of this, then some sort of corn-eagle-man]

And then there's Rutgers, which just paid disgraced idiot Julie Hermann a cool half-million dollars more than she was owed when the idiots that hired her decided they had to fire her after the football coach idiot she hired decided this was a good idea:

In the original email from Flood to the professor, who was unnamed in the report, Flood wrote: “I am sending it from my personal email to your personal email to ensure there will be no public vetting of the correspondence.” In the telephone conversation with the advisor, Flood was told, “Coach, you can’t have contact with the professor. You certainly can’t have contact with faculty regarding grades or eligibility. This is going to be a big problem.” Flood told the advisor, “This conversation stays between you and me,” to which the advisor responded, “We never had this conversation. … I want no part of this.”

This line is also in the report: “Coach Flood told the professor that he purposely didn’t wear any Rutgers apparel or insignia so he wouldn’t be recognized in public, meeting with the professor.”

It was just a matter of time before one of these institutions killed somebody. Anyway, football!

Actually, not just yet, because Michigan's primary and ancient rival just did the Urban Meyer thing, and its tertiary and old-ish rival continues to employ square-jawed crime-endorser Mark Dantonio, who also recently reinstated the author of this text:

“Honestly don’t know who for sure but probably [TEAMMATE] or another shitty fucking [N-word] with no morals.”

Unlike Maryland and Rutgers, these people win football games, making things even tougher to take. Not only is your favorite thing locked in an organization that has no greater purpose than making money and winning football games, it's not even winning the right football games. Immoral and un-fun. Woo!


So where do we go from here? I don't think it's any secret that I've had difficulty getting up for this season. While Michigan has a ton of promise the prospect of going 9-3 against a monster schedule, and all the TAEKS that will inspire me to throw all communication devices in the trash and grow a beard I can knit a house out of, rather looms. The prospect of staring down a smug Urban Meyer as he's worshipped by every trash person in Ohio as Michigan loses to Ohio State again doesn't really appeal.

The potential benefits feel pretty remote, as they must inevitably when the only football season since this blog's inception that ended well was Brady Hoke's first horseshoe-up-his-butt year, when Ohio State was running out Luke Fickell after another firing-worthy incident from their head coach and Michigan beat Virginia Tech in a bowl game despite having about six yards of offense thanks in part to a long snapper catching a pass.


[Patrick Barron]

So, Iowa, I guess? Going to Iowa two years ago was a window into another world. As I described it at the time:

Iowa football is great. It is a sneaky tentpole program of college football; it's the main locus of sporting passion in a state that doesn't have any pro teams but can cobble together enough people to make a D-I program work.

So you go there. The first thing you notice is that Kinnick is gorgeous. It's all brick, even on the interior, and if we're being totally honest it kind of feels like when Bill Martin added the luxury boxes he pointed at Kinnick and said "do that." Upon entering it was nigh-impossible to tell where the student section was because everyone was in black and standing the whole time. This is a very disappointing 5-4 (now 6-4) team that had its bloggers overreacting and predicting Rutgers-esque scores before the game but that stadium was packed to the gills 20 minutes before the kick.

At halftime I ducked back under the concourse because it was about ten degrees warmer underneath and hung out for a while. An Iowa fan engaged me and asked where I was from, how I was doing, that sort of thing; there was no animosity. He was checking on his fellow fans, mostly. I had only good things to report.

Afterwards the logistics of having working media and plain old fans driving in the same car caused us to wait outside one of the main exit points of Kinnick for about 20 minutes; probably half that stadium walked by us. Other than one or two guys who said things too dorky to actually be threatening, everyone was happy and polite. There was one guy out there the whole time just high-fiving everyone.

The existence of Iowa is one of the reasons I like college football so much better than the NFL.

College football gets away with so much because underlying it all are a bunch of college students that occasionally score 55 points on the local death star; it gets away with so much because football teams are the centers of real, living communities that you feel whenever you are at an alumni event. Or are in a stadium.

Iowa doesn't expect too much and is frequently rewarded by seeing their collection of rag-tag two-star recruits hit the bullseye with whatever the Iowa equivalent of photon torpedoes is. Probably corn on a stick. Iowa's vibe is not our sad bastard vibe, nor is it the awful amoral bro culture of the two rivals mentioned above. It's a bunch of people waving at a hospital. And maybe we could work our way back to that, eventually.

Probably not.

But I have been to deepest Iowa, in a geographically literal sense.


The town of Sheldon is about as far west and north as you can go in the state, located in such a manner as to defeat the purpose of air travel. So you drive to it, all those many hours of corn and livestock, livestock and corn, to go to a funeral for a person you never met. Eventually you are stunned by how Iowa City is now a suburb of Chicago. Sheldon has a small church surrounding a small town of literal pig farmers; it's the kind of place where the Subway logo is a huge relief. It's not exactly ugly but there's nothing pretty about it, and that goes for the great flat plains that stretch endlessly in any direction.

Driving home there is a snow storm, somewhere. It could be miles away to the west. Could be anywhere, because the wind blows across the plains and grabs the falling snow and pushes it across the road. Passing trucks impart it with intricate whorls; the only places any of it actually sticks is every mile or two where a copse of trees has been suffered to stand so it can provide a windbreak around a farmhouse.

The experience is ghostly, otherworldly. The kind of thing that burns itself into your brain and will not leave. The snow streaming across asphalt, beauty previously not only unseen but completely unthinkable. Literally unimaginable. The mind could not imagine having the feeling about the place it is currently having until it does. Somewhere out there is a high school quarterback with no chance of ever throwing a pass in college who will stamp his name on a state's heart. And so we carry on, just in case Keith Jackson isn't really dead.



August 27th, 2018 at 12:58 PM ^

I had a very similar experience at Iowa. At halftime I went to grab a bottled water from the concession stand (because I'd consumed copious amounts of a diuretic for pregame rituals) and an Iowa fan asked me, "are you being treated well?" This wasn't a middle aged man who probably had grandkids. This was a kid in his early twenties who would have probably asked me whether I actually went to Michigan had he been wearing green and white and in East Lansing. I said, "best road game experience I've ever had." He looked like he had tears in his eyes when he told me how much that meant to him. 

Honestly Iowa is my 2nd favorite college football team.


August 27th, 2018 at 1:28 PM ^

That was my experience as well. I stood there after the game and took in the scene of 30,000 people storming the field. I saw an older gentleman (late 60s, early 70s) in tears watching his team celebrate a huge victory. I shook his hand, told him congrats, and did the same to about 25 more fans on my way out. To a person, they all told me, "Beat Ohio State!"

I still don't like 'em, but it's hard to root against them.


August 27th, 2018 at 2:07 PM ^

I like them and I'm happy when we don't play them so I don't have to root against them.

I was personally offended with the way the Stanford band treated them in their recent Rose Bowl. 

Go ahead and dish out the mockery to the people that deserve it, Stanford.  Knock yourself out, there are plenty of people that deserve it.  But to do it against Iowa was an all time lazy cheap shot.

I hope every time a Stanford band member sees Iowa waving at a kids hospital, they cringe in shame. 

[email protected]

August 27th, 2018 at 1:48 PM ^

Funny, I had a similar experience from fans at ND in '98 (crazy to think it was the first start for the greatest QB in history in Tom Brady).  I hate the program and many that run it but I have a good deal of respect for their fans and alumni.

My dad and I went to that game on a charter bus put together through his work.  When exiting the bus, we were met by a few jeers from some drunks.  Within 30 seconds a group of students went to us, told us that those jeering us don't represent the University, thanked us for coming and hoped that our experience there will be great regardless of the outcome.  Many more were just as sincere that day.


August 27th, 2018 at 2:10 PM ^

We don't always want to admit it, but Notre Dame is a step above our other rivals.

Our other rivals are an accident of geography.  Notre Dame is actually more similar to us than they are.

They are not perfect, we are not perfect.  But like us, they appear to at least have a minimum standard that they will not go below to win games.  

So, we both live in the past so we can live with ourselves in the present.       It could be worse.


August 27th, 2018 at 1:51 PM ^

Well then I must have found the one drunk frat bro asshole Iowa fan because I had some enormous violent-looking slob come up to me and literally scream a chorus of "Fuck you!" and "Fuck off, bitch!" as I tried to make my way out of the visitor section concourse after the game.

Every other person I encountered was great, especially in downtown Iowa City before the game. But that fat piece of shit really tainted my recollection of the experience.


August 27th, 2018 at 2:12 PM ^

I'll echo all the statements above (except the drunk frat asshole one although I may have ignored the random I may have run into). I've been to Iowa twice and had great experiences (other than the result of the games) both times - the people, the food, the gameday experience. One of the guys I've gone with is from just outside Iowa City so it's nice to have someone familiar as a guide. I would not think twice about going back.

Late Bluemer

August 27th, 2018 at 6:29 PM ^

This is all interesting to me since I have not had the away game experience at Iowa.  What I have had is the home game experience against Iowa.  What is notable about that is that in 30 years of attending M home football games I have seen exactly 2 fights in the stands (not pushing and shoving but real fights involving some pretty vicious punching) and both involving Iowa fans mixing it up w/ M fans.  Not ND, not Sparty, not PSU, and not OSU, but rather Iowa.

Aero Wolverine

August 27th, 2018 at 1:10 PM ^

Julie Hermann made many mistakes, but hiring Kyle Flood wasn't one of them. He was hired by her predecessor. Maybe the best judgment call that Hermann made was trying to get rid of Flood during her first year so that she could make her own hire. 


August 27th, 2018 at 2:22 PM ^

I'm with you, but perhaps for different reasons. I don't understand Brian's ennui or feeling depressed about Meyer or college football in general because it has ALWAYS been sketchy about rules and cheating, paying players under the table, employing doofus people to run things, etc. Bear Bryant was cheating, his famous quote to his coaches was "pay them whatever the going rate is, I don't want to know about it." And in my moral universe of one, I could give two shits about whether players get paid under the table, and in fact don't think there's even anything wrong with that. I realize the post was about more than paying, but the point stands. This has been happening for 70 years, deaths and all. When Brian loved and was excited for football, there was literally no difference then from now. I'm not being critical, just saying I don't get it--everyone can have their feels on their own terms. 


August 27th, 2018 at 3:41 PM ^

I think what Brian is getting at, is that there is a difference between 1) employing or even turning a blind eye to bagmen and 2) creating and defending an exploitative culture that has no regards for players, students and families so long as a dollar is made (no hyperbole to say a culture of rape and death)

The former we can all shrug our shoulders and move on with life. The latter is a fucking problem


August 27th, 2018 at 4:53 PM ^

Thanks, that well may be it, in which case I'd move from saying I don't get it to I disagree. Maybe I'm naive, but IMO most people everywhere, on mgoblog, college football, business, are decent people. And the many many mistakes that get made are a function of decent people (and some bad ones) making mistakes. I think it's flat wrong and way too cynical to say that overall there is no care for the players. And yes, many people cover for abuses because their legacies are involved and that's flat wrong too. But that is still way, way in the minority. 


August 28th, 2018 at 2:21 AM ^

You are correct that most people are decent people in the sense that they work reasonably hard, are decent family members, don't break the law egregiously, etc.  But those people (of whom we are all amongst) go about their daily lives being distracted by their soma of choice (alcohol, football, porn, television, celebrity gossip, whatever).  They aren't usually in positions of power and aren't capable of impacting a disproportional number of people. 

The people in positions of power have an obsession with winning, and that is why they are in power.  Most people wouldn't sacrifice their morals and essentially their lives to get to a position of real power. Only the most ruthlessly obssessed get there. 

And to be fair, most people in power start out as decent people but their obsession with winning (in business, politics, sports, anything) overwhelms their decency.

They will ALL inevitably be presented with a trade-off between taking a moral high ground or increasing their chance of winning.  Few will be able to resist increasing their chance of winning because that is their obsession.  The stronger their obsession the more they are rewarded with more power.  It's a positive feedback loop. 

The tobacco executive will convince himself that his product isn't harmful and he'll rationalize it because his company employs a lot of people. The bishop will reassign a priest because he believes the reputation of the church and its ability to help people outweighs the negative.

The tough part about sports is that as fans, we enable the bad behavior for the DUMBEST of reasons.  This is our soma and it is totally meaningless.  18-22 year old strangers chasing after a ball.  So stupid. But the high profile basketball coach will accept the favoritism his players receive from local law enforcement and he'll rationalize it by thinking the kid just needs a second (or third or fourth) chance.  Just to win some dumb games.

In the last ten years, our rival decided that winning stupid sports games was more important than the safety of their athletes and students.  Because the "decent" fans of that program demanded it.  The money the fans provided and the donations the school was getting gave the people in power a taste of winning that turned them into monsters.  If fans didn't watch sports, if they didn't spend the money on stupid games, at least there would be a handful of fewer monsters created.

I actually thought about giving up M sports because I'm not all that confident our program is much different.  I think we've been more lucky than a superior AD.  We demand wins and we say that Lloyd Carr going perpetually 8-4 is UNACCEPTABLE and we literally pay millions and millions of dollars a year to pay for a program to not be UNACCEPTABLE such that we encourage some bad behaviors (lack of transparency being the biggest IMO).

But damnit I need my soma.  I was indoctrinated too young.  Became addicted.  Too many of my friends are doing it and you can't be the only sober one at the party.  Here's to football season. 



August 28th, 2018 at 7:06 AM ^

I respect this opinion, but disagree. I still think even the majority of people in power at the majority of schools are in fact decent people doing generally, the right thing. I maintain that it was just the same in the 70's as it is now, at OSU and elsewhere. Though I do concede that the money now involved does tempt people far more than it did in the 70's and previously. I wish there was less money involved. 


August 29th, 2018 at 3:52 PM ^

I'm with you in that I agree that this problem has existed since the dawn of football (at least), but I don't agree that it is worse now because of money.  It's never been about money per se; it's about winning.  The best-paid coaches 20 years ago got paid one-tenth what the best coaches get today, yet all the evidence suggests that cheating was just as rampant.  We know more about the cheating now because communications are much better, that's all.  Money is and was just the way of determining relative standing among coaches; doubling salaries doesn't double cheating.

And I'm astonished that Brian makes the claim that the labor cost of college football players is zero. He knows that that isn't true, no matter how well pretending that it is fits his current narrative.


August 27th, 2018 at 4:33 PM ^

In my opinion, and I could be wrong, the reasoning is this:

What some of these teams are doing is worthy of outrage. It was worthy of outrage before, too--Woody Hayes of all people got fired, for punching an opposing player right in the shoulder pads. Bobby Knight was defenestrated almost two decades ago. 

But what grinds the people who are having trouble with this isn't just the cheating or the abuse or the corruption, though that's all bad. They're legitimately upset about it.

What removes the passion is the fact that all of these programs continue to do these things, and it's deliberately overlooked and covered, and there is quite obvious cheating going on (remember how many games Cam Newton missed?)...

And the teams keep winning anyway.

OSU has had a total of one bad year since we ran John Cooper out of Columbus. It was the one year after Tressel lied to the NCAA; prior to Tressel's removal, they actually managed to rearrange suspensions of the players found responsible in the tattoogate event so that they could play in the BCS bowl game and then miss some meaningless game the next season.

Since our last win in Columbus in 2000, the following teams have beaten OSU in Columbus: Oklahoma, Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Penn State, USC, Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin. They've lost more games against Purdue, Florida, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Texas, Clemson, and Iowa since we beat them in 2003 than they've lost to us.

It's not just the corruption, and it's not just the losing. It's seeing so many programs deliberately flout both the rules we try to uphold and basic human decency and get away with it. 

OSU goes through life with every break. They win all the time. A coach lies to the NCAA? Replace him with one of the greatest coaches in the game. That coach employs a known scoundrel and conveniently forgets to even tell his boss that he knows he's a scoundrel? A toothless suspension. 

Their bad ADs joke about getting fired by their coaches. Our bad AD hires and micromanages a bad coach and our OL is still feeling the effects four years later (how nice would it be to have Mason Cole out left this season?).

It'll be discouraging for as long as OSU just skates.

Until we win.

Beat Ohio.


August 27th, 2018 at 9:25 PM ^

Yeah, but you want to know what makes it different, we aren’t them, so screw them.  I’m tired of Brian, and a lot of other posters giving us the “guilt by proximity” routine.  We, the University of Michigan, did not do any of this.  We, the Michigan fan, owe apologies to nobody.  Jim Harbaugh has not been accused of a thing.


That is all of their cross to bear, we have done nothing to suggest that we should carry it for them.  Michigan kicks off this weekend.  Those other schools can deal with their own shit, because we aren’t doing what they are doing, period.


August 27th, 2018 at 1:52 PM ^

Agree.  This is cathartic.  

While I agree with most (not all) of the stuff Brian mentions, there's certainly another way to approach it.  All this stuff has gone on for years, now, it's being brought into the public light.  Change takes time and is never as fast is people hope.  To think these are new problems plaguing college football is bit naive-sounding.  

I don't disagree with Brian's premise.  I just differ in tone.  


August 27th, 2018 at 2:24 PM ^

I don't think they're new problems, but what I think Brian is capturing is the general feeling that the old feeling of college football culture - maybe born of ignorance, but something that bound you closer to the players, coaches, and game you love - is slipping away, and what's left is scandal and exploitation. I think it gets to the core of the malaise I've seen around the board lately.

Trader Jack

August 27th, 2018 at 2:36 PM ^

Change does take time, but what happens when there isn't any incentive to change at all? Things remain the same, and the thought of that is depressing. Programs like Ohio State and Michigan State (as well as, to much lesser degrees, Alabama, Georgia, and most of the rest of the SEC) are allowed to operate without any moral standards as long as they keep winning. That won't change, which sucks. Michigan will continue to see no reward for operating in a mostly ethical manner while their morally abhorrent competitors continue to thrive on the field and it's hard not to let that dampen some of the enthusiasm one would normally feel this close to kickoff.


August 27th, 2018 at 4:06 PM ^

See, I read the tone as "This is depressing and embarrassing and everything.... and yet... and yet, there's Iowa.  There's beauty.  There IS still something to amatuer collegiate athletics.  There's a reason we love our alma maters and feel at home when we are with fellow alumni.  And Michigan is one of those places.  What can man do against such evil?  We continue on and don't give in, even when we know we are facing great odds."


August 28th, 2018 at 5:38 AM ^

Thank you for this, because that's how I read it, too. (Which is odd, because I'm usually a real Eeyore.) Yes, these examples of college athletics can be ugly, and maybe even evil, and after repeated examples it can seem that the horizon is nothing but black and gray storm clouds.

But every once in a while a trip to Iowa happens, and the sun breaks through those clouds. It doesn't mean the clouds are gone, or are less threatening. It just means they're not the only thing in the sky.


August 27th, 2018 at 1:16 PM ^

I don't know.

I am super excited that football is back. I can't wait to watch Michigan tee off against the Irish.

But yeah. This off season has exhausted me in a way that I haven't ever been the week before the season opener.

Good piece Brian.


August 29th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

We see it.  Iowa fans are tirelessly Internet searchers and desperately interested in the outside perception of our program.  It's an insecurity complex born of spending 20 years as a punching bag and always feeling like nobody thinks you belong even when you're good.  Thank you all for the kind words about our state and our program - and not because football, but because people. 

I'm probably in the minority but I'd rather have Iowa go 7-5 every year with a little class and dignity than find myself on the wrong end of a Twitterclown slapfest over the scandals that current plague about half of the conference.  Even Wisconsin, the only other program in the conference threatening Iowa's 8 year streak of winning the Most Boring Football Program On and Off the Field Trophy (which will be renamed the Ferentz Trophy after he retires in 2034), is having some issues now.


August 27th, 2018 at 1:20 PM ^

Time to take a seat and just try to enjoy the ride. We've been getting our hopes up, only to be let down most of the time, for, well, pretty much every year since 1997. We now have the most talented team since that season, a coach who is easily the most sought after in the NFL (and likely would be in the top 3 in cfb), and we aren't expecting a butt load of true freshmen in the two deep.

So we supposedly have a tough schedule. Look at '16 and how close we were then, and we have a better team now, I believe (or at least more upside).

Now is the time.

snake oilz

August 27th, 2018 at 1:20 PM ^

2016 Story: Fire and brimstone..."Now. No dress rehearsal. No "they're a year away." Now. This year is the year, and yeah, to some extent every year is the year. But this year is the year. Death and graduation are coming anyway, might as well get some glory in the interim."

2018 Story: CTRL+F "Michigan" vs "Iowa" word count: 7 vs 15. Meh.

C'mon Brian. This may not be the year. But it's Michigan. It's our team. I've been on this blog since PB&J time in 2008 and I may be stupid but I'm going to be all-in on Michigan again this year, like every year because 'hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies". I hope you come around as well.


August 27th, 2018 at 4:12 PM ^

He didn't claim he wasn't "all in." 

And so we carry on, just in case Keith Jackson isn't really dead.

Iowa exists.  In our naive assumptions of what the PG-version of college athletics is, Iowa is everyone.  Except in real-life nobody is Iowa.... except, except, yes, Iowa exists.  In the middle of all this bullshit and money and lack of morals, Iowa is there holding the moral hill.  Are they holding that hill on their own?  I think the unwritten point of the post is "no."  We're here and we'll carry on. We won't give in to the evil bullshit.  Because if freaking Iowa can exist and always shock the world in some manner, than Michigan - with all its history and pagentry and beauty and talent - can many, finally, slay the bastards to the north and south.



August 29th, 2018 at 11:02 AM ^

After last season, I was talking to a good friend of mine from Nebraska, and he said, quite sincerely, "Congratulations on that Ohio State win, I bet that was a blast to watch."  The season was over then, and I shrugged and said, "It's Iowa.  You get to watch that but you also have to sit through the Purdue game once a year and wonder why the program can't be more consistent."  He said, "I dream of the day the Nebraska wins games like that.  You've got it backwards, Iowa is very consistent and most programs would give anything to have that level of consistency, especially if means you get to upset a top-ranked team on national TV once a year. 49 states worth of people were Iowa fans that day and they were all jealous, thinking if Iowa can do this to Ohio State, why can't we?"