The 3 Most Horrifying Parallels between Michigan Football and the Soviet Space Program

Submitted by Njia on November 10th, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Like me, you were probably weaned on the odd and mildly creepy similarities between the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. To wit: Lincoln’s assassin did the deed in a theater and hid in a warehouse; Kennedy’s killer shot from a warehouse and hid in a theater. Lincoln had an aide named Kennedy; Kennedy had an aide named Lincoln. JFK was shtupping Marilyn Monroe; Marilyn Manson once had carnal knowledge of a woman named Lincoln (or something like that).

Other Mansons are equally stunned

The 50th anniversary of JFK’s death got me thinking about other parallels in history, and in particular, those related to Michigan Football (though it might have had more to do with the empty bottle of Bullitt 95 Rye in my trash can than anything on the History Channel last night). Last week, Civil War generals were on my mind. This week, it’s the Soviets and their bolloxed up Race to the Moon….

Spooky, isn’t it?

#3 Sergey “Bo” Korolyov’s Dodgy Heart

In 1965, no one was more important to the Soviet space program than Sergey Korolyov. Although his title was merely “Chief Designer” to hide his real importance and role (out of fear that the U.S. would target him for espionage, defection or assassination) he was, in fact, the visionary powering the early successes against NASA. He was the principle force behind the USSR’s ICBM, Sputnik, Vostok, Voshkod and Soyuz designs, and had a major role in the planning and execution of the first manned mission into space and the first spacewalk.

Unfortunately, his ticker’s sell-by date was January 1966. Korolyov’s first heart attack, in 1960, led to additional cardiovascular, intestinal and endocrinal problems over the years and a warning from his doctors that he needed to “slow down”. In a response that would have made many a Michigan Football coach proud, he simply responded, “To hell with Necro Dread.”

Unfortunately for the Soviets, their succession planning was about as successful as Fitz-up-the-middle when Korolyov’s bravado wrote one too many checks that his body couldn’t cash. For, waiting in the wings, was….

#2 Vasily “I’ll-Make-You-Forget-Whatshisname” Mishin

Upon Sergey Korolyov’s death, Vasily Mishin – by all accounts, a competent engineer – succeeded to the title of “Chief Designer.” But much like Lloyd’s final few and Rich Rodriguez’s three years, or even Brady’s tenure so far, it turned out that Mishin was no Korolyov. He lacked Korolyov’s political authority and found himself mired in competition from others within the Soviet program. Meanwhile, OSU MSU the Americans were quickly recovering from the disaster of John Cooper John L Smith the Apollo 1 fire and setting their sights on the B1G Championship Moon.

The final setback came during The Horror: four consecutive N-1 rocket launches ended in disaster, permanently ending the Soviets’ hope for a moon landing. In 1974, Mishin was finally relieved of his duties as Chief Designer by no other than Dave Brandon Leonid Brezhnev when it became clear that new program leadership was needed. By then, the U.S. had successfully landed and returned six manned missions to the Moon and three more entered and returned from lunar orbit (Apollo 8, 10 and 13). While the Soviets would later launch Low Earth Orbit programs including two space stations (Salyut and Mir) the lustre was gone.

Of course, that didn’t mean the Soviets weren’t above “borrowing” a few ideas from the U.S….

#1 The Buran “Any-Similarities-Are-Purely-Coincidental” Shuttle

File:Buran on An-225 (Le Bourget 1989) (cropped).JPEG

File:950318 STS67 Endeavour landing.jpg

The Soviet-U.S. shuttle doppelganger

By the 1980s, the U.S. Space Shuttle program was the shiny new toy among the world’s rocket scientists. Much like Michigan’s dabbling in dual-threat quarterbacks, the read-option, inverted veers and slot ninjas, the Soviets deigned to have their own. After a decade’s worth of development (advanced in no small measure by a little espionage) the USSR had its Buran shuttle. Like the U.S. orbiter, it rode into space on the back of a really big booster, landed like a glider, and was carried on the back of a massive jumbo jet between pit stops on Planet Earth.

One, unmanned mission into space was all it got. By the time it flew, the nature of the military and civilian missions it was designed to support had changed so that it no longer served a viable purpose, the USSR was preparing for its date with the ash heap of history, and the Buran was carted off to a museum. Meanwhile, U.S. was taking a fresh look at manball less complex vehicles that were more reliable.

Fortunately, Russia had a ready-made supply of 1960s-vintage Soyuz capsules with which it was ready to compete on the world stage. No word yet on how it fares against eight- or nine-in-the-box defenses. 



November 10th, 2013 at 12:30 PM ^

A co-worker was telling me about the early Russian space program. He was telling me about this show "dark science". He claimed that these amateur radio guys kept hearing distress calls. Turns out it was the first Russian astronauts. Reportedly the were just blasting guys up there with no way to get them down. Supposedly the Russians never publicized their space travel until one of the guys lived. Anybody see that program?


November 10th, 2013 at 1:51 PM ^

Actually, some of it's quite certainly a hoax, like the recording purportedly of a craft breaking up on re-entry (as you might recall from 'Apollo 13' there's a radio blackout during re-entry)., or the supposed deaths of people found living many years later.

Wikipedia's got a useful summary with lots of links:

On the whole it's at about the level of the theory that none of the Apollo astronauts ever landed on the moon.


November 10th, 2013 at 12:38 PM ^

For me I compare us to ND in 2004.  Ty Willingham was an outsider who had success at Stanford but for whatever reason was hated by the ND alumni, insiders and donors.  He was second guessed by the establishment.  People were in an uproar regarding recruiting.   A new AD comes in and gets rid of the hated outsider after only 3 years.  Charlie Weis comes in and promises that ND will play a new brand of football based on his skematic advantage that only he can bring.   Weis has a hot shot staff and generates excitement with big time recruiting.  Then he wins big with the old players.  Year three everything falls apart.  Weis apologists blame the problems  the financial meltdown and unrest in the Middle East on Willingham.   Weis gets two more years.

Weis ultimately failed at ND because he was an X/O guy who did not have interest in developing the basic skills of players.  The team ultimately had no identity and devolved into a hodge podge of gimmics and attempts and big plays be it on offense or defense.  Weis got the extra tme because the insiders who brought him had tied their reputation to him and the premsie that the man he replaced was awful.

So if patterns continue our AD's reputation is tied to Hoke and his high priced staff.   Even if we lose the next 3 games and even bomb out a bowl game, Brandon will be loathed to do anything.  We will be bad next year as we lose our best two Olinemen and all of our toughest games are on the road.  The following year we have to break in a new QB who made his recruiting stars on the 7-on-7 circuit, not playing the game.  Morris could turn out.  Perhaps not.

 I see the same problem at Michigan.  The current staff has staked their reputation that the incumbants brand of football is sissy ball.  Yet there is no identity.  Despite big name recruits it appears the young players are taking longer to develop.  So the question is how to break us collectively hurtling down the same tunnel of doom that afflicted Notre Dame?



November 10th, 2013 at 2:25 PM ^

I mean, plus several hundred points for comparing Sergei Korolev with Bo, but minus several thousand for even jokingly comparing John Cooper/John L. Smith and Apollo 1.