Friday, July 29, 2011

Gettin' There, 7/29

With fall camp just a hop, skip, and a jump away, things are starting to take on a new feel. For any experienced fan, this  is something that is palpable and nigh quantifiable, and can either be exciting or terrifying depending upon what lies ahead. We're less than forty days away from the beginning of the Brady Hoke Era, and I'm not quite sure whether to be worried or not. In any case, the shot-in-the-arm of pure Hoke-speak that was yesterday has got me fired up and ready to go (as if I haven't been in that state ever since the final second ticked off the clock against the Bulldogs on New Year's Day). As lame as the concept of "getting it" is and sounds, Coach Hoke clearly does. Now, all he has to do is go out and, you know, win games and stuff.

Big Ten Media Day: As I said before, it was a pretty boring event but one that everyone watches because it's that time of the summer when fall camp is near but we're not quite there yet. A recap of the proceedings is available here.

Pretty general stuff, but the main points:


  • Hoke hasn't yet made a decision on the status of Darryl Stonum. I've written before that it would be difficult for me to feel good about letting him back on the team. We'll see, but from a purely on-the-field perspective, having Darryl in the fold would be, in a word, tremendous. Anything that takes pressure off of the run game (also known as "Denard Robinson") is crucial, and Stonum certainly adds that very thing to the offense with his ability to stretch the field. 
  • He touched on the rationale of moving toward the pro-style, in that development on that side of the ball simultaneously makes the defense better and tougher (of course). 
  • My favorite part of these types of pressers are the names that coaches mention as guys who have done well in the spring/summer. One notable name that stuck out: Jerald Robinson. Assuming that Stonum is back for the 2011 season, we're looking at Roundtree/Hemingway/Stonum rounding out the top 3 wideouts, and after that it gets a little murky. Odoms is of course there too, but his role is something to monitor going forward. Jeremy Jackson showed some ability last season as a strictly possession receiver down the road, and Je'Ron Stokes hasn't quite put it together yet. In short, there are some reps up for grabs (and this becomes even more true if Stonum is kicked off the team, which, for the record, I don't think he will be). Robinson was a pretty non-descript recruit--although not at the same level of a DJ Williamson "track star playing football" type--but he does have some solid measureables. In any case, we are fairly stacked at wideout this year, and any contributions from the underclassmen is gravy. 
  • Kellen Jones is not enrolled at the moment. While the situation here remains unclear, it would be unfortunate to lose a guy like that who many were feeling pretty good about (myself included). 
  • JT Floyd, recovering from an ankle injury, appears to be ready to practice. I have perhaps unreasonably high hopes for Courtney Avery, but I would definitely prefer to see JT out there opposite Woolfolk to start the season. The motto of the defense this season should be assignment football and "solid if unspectacular," and JT fits that bill. I mean that in the least disrespectful way possible. Seriously, GEOMETRY Coach Mattison, teach it! 
EDSBS on Big Ten Media Days: As usual, EDSBS weighs in hilariously on the Big Ten's Media Day:

The best summary of a Brady Hoke speaking engagement is to imagine Lloyd Carr using a gigantic Matt Foley puppet to address the media. The similarity in cadence is eerie, right down to repeated citations of "We're Michigan" as a justification for just about any statement Hoke wanted to make. ("I should have a large pizza up here hot and fresh right now. Why? Because we're Michigan, that's why.")
Yeah, pretty much. In other news, Mark Dantonio called Jim Tressel a "tragic hero." DERP. Brandstatter says "uh, no he's not," Dantonio says "uh, who are you?" Good times.

Recruiting Blast From the Past: Former All-Awesome Names American commit Shavodrick Beaver has picked up his bags and transferred, leaving Tulsa for the beautiful confines of Midwestern State (it's real, I checked). Obviously the best of luck to him in his future endeavors, but this cannot be said enough times...we definitely did well in replacing Newsome and Beaver with Forcier and Denard (even taking into account Tate's transfer). This is basically the college football equivalent of Seward's Folly.

New Scoreboards: 


(HT: MGoBlog user TheGreatDanton)

That is amazing. No longer will you have to squint to confirm whether Armando Allen stepped out or not. It will be interesting to see how the boards will be configured when replays aren't being shown, but either way this is another tremendous addition to the Big House.

Rivals Class Rankings: Michigan comes in at #3. With Michigan looking to be fairly picky as they fill out the rest of this already superb class, it's unlikely that the Wolverines will drop too far if at all by NSD. While we've certainly seen mega-classes bust before in epic fashion (ahem, 2005), it's nice to see Michigan's recruiting brand bookended in the rankings by powerhouses like FSU and UF. It's good to be the king.


36


"To make war all you need is intelligence. But to win you need talent and material."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

39


"Every time you feel it come off your foot you know exactly what you did, how high you hit it, how far you hit it, and where you hit it. When you punt [the ball] a thousand times you develop that muscle memory and the way it feels. The more you do it the better you get at it and if you drop a ball poorly you can make up for it. It helps with consistency."

Friday, July 22, 2011

43




What’s the attitude on the team about Ohio State? Are you guys saying, already, that you’ve got to get them this year? 

We think about it. Losing to them twice in a row has been very painful. We don't want to see it happen again, so it's on our minds.-Carl Diggs, 07/25/2003

Thursday, July 21, 2011

44

John Lott

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Offseason Doldrums, 7/20

The off-season is moving as slow as molasses and there's not a whole lot to talk about. We are still a couple of weeks away from fall camp and I think I've just about had my fill of the situation in Columbus (not to mention other places, like LSU, whose transgressions and resulting punishment elicited nothing but an apathetic nod from me). Given the way the last few off-seasons have gone, I kind of like this. An off-season where the local media and various alumni aren't taking pot shots at the program and its leader? I can get used to this.

Speaking of LSU: When I heard of the aforementioned "punishment"--which consists of a one-year probationary period and a loss of two scholarships--I thought back to The Process and remembered that, even in light of Hoke's lackluster record, I would've taken Hoke over Les in a second. It was a gut feeling that I had a hard time reconciling with conventional ideas like win-loss splits, but I held onto it nonetheless, mostly because of a feeling originating somewhere in the gut vis a vis Les's code of ethics. While Dr. Saturday points out that LSU likely won't see the NCAA's erratic and desultory regulatory hammer come crashing down on LSU as a result of their involvement with Willie Lyles, there is already too much out there on Les not to, at the very least, hold some deep-seated suspicions of him. However, he will never be the head coach at Michigan, so this is just me retroactively patting myself circa January 2011.

Previewin' time is upon us: Hammer & Rails has an early preview of this year's contest in Ann Arbor. The prediction: 31-17, Michigan. Most of the preview is essentially stuff you've already read a million times, but it's always nice to get an outside perspective on things. H&R asks:

How much of last year's success was based on the weather vs. Kerrigan's disruptive presence? Bother were factors in us having a modicum of success against an excellent offense, but since we could do nothing when we had the ball it went for nothing. We'll need a similar defensive effort this season if we're to win our third game in four tries against Michigan.
It's hard to tell, but as someone who attended the game in West-Lafayette last season...the weather was awful. It was just an all-around unpleasant environment for a spread offense (or any offense, really), and the offense struggled after dropping 67 on the Illini. Having been to Ross-Ade several times throughout my childhood, I harbor no ill-will towards Purdue football, but Purdue should not be too good this year once again. Ryan Kerrigan's terrorizing influence having left the program, the defense figures to be a lot less threatening, and that's one less person for Denard to have to evade if things break down.

Pre-season watch lists: Denard, Mike Martin, et al made some pre-season watch lists, for what it's worth (which is not much, in case you were wondering). I don't see any of our candidates winning one of these awards, but Denard and Martin figure to be our best bets (with the former probably being unlikely given the unfortunately inevitable drop in his offensive output).

More previewin': Brian profiles 2011 jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none recruit Frank Clark. I knew he was a guy that didn't have a position but I'm not sure if I've ever heard of a guy with such a wide variance of potential positions on the field. As Brian notes, Clark won't sniff the field for quite a while unless absolute disaster strikes.

Resurrection in Tallahassee?: Dr. Saturday seems to think that it's in the cards for the 2011 season. This season will be much like last year: no clear, absolute favorites. I'm not sure if this is "the year" for FSU, especially given the loss of Christian Ponder (although E.J. Manuel figures to be a good one), but the general lack of any clearly extraordinary teams will make the road much easier for Jimbo Fisher in his second year as the head honcho. For what it's worth, The Wolverine Blog is also high on the Seminoles. I am firmly in the "I'll believe it when I see it" camp when it comes to contemporary FSU football. Their schedule does set them up nicely, though; the ACC slate won't offer any challenges unless they meet Virginia Tech in the ACC title game. The only other tests are a crucial early season showdown against the Sooners and a trip to Gainesville to meet the Muschamp-led Gators, who they absolutely crushed last season.

This year's national champion will likely come from this group of teams: Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida State, and LSU. It's tempting to put a Wilson-led Badgers squad in there, but I just don't think they have enough to compete with the aforementioned (particularly in light of their Rose Bowl performance). Oregon and Stanford are also in the conversation but each have their own issues that make a championship campaign by either somewhat unlikely. Odds are, nobody goes undefeated this year and chaos reigns, as usual. I will say this: as much play as the Davids of the college football world (e.g., Boise State), I think it's good for college football when teams like FSU, Miami (Fl), etc. are good. Of course, that certainly goes for Michigan as well.

Media Day(s) are nigh: SEC Media Day kicks off today in Hoover, AL (Big Ten Media Days kick off next Thursday...don't pretend like you won't painstakingly parse every throwaway comment. You will.). Orson compiles a list of hypothetical questions:
"Coach Petrino, is Ryan Mallett the dankest qb ever? Don't worry about what that means. Just say yes."
Media Day is usually a long boring affair that produces maybe one or two interesting comments at most, but, like the release of Phil Steele's magazine, it represents yet another step towards real live football. That is, unequivocally, a good thing.

45



"You learned the dry-mouthed, fear purged purging ecstasy of battle and you fought that summer and that fall for all the poor in the world against all tyranny, for all the things you believed in and for the new world you had been educated into."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

46




We don’t force it on them, but we tell those guys that if you want to talk to somebody it could help,” Rodriguez said. “Because there’s a lot more mental makeup to that position than any other position. And I’ve never played the position so I couldn’t tell you what they think, but it’s tough to go out there and that’s your sole (role)."

Remember When: 2007 Northwestern



People forget about this one a lot. In fact, I haven't given it much thought since it happened. I decided to watch Wolverine Historian's Chad Henne tribute video last night on a whim and it brought it all back. You might think that it's "just Northwestern"--a 6-6 one at that--and, well, it is. It also isn't. I would posit that if there was a game that defined Chad Henne was as a player, I think this one is it. Five-star quarterbacks are not all the same. I mean, they're all generally great passers with strong arms and either great size or great athletic ability, but after that things start to get clear. It's like a microscope slide--at a resolution that is a touch less than needed everything looks the same, but a subtle uptick in focus reveals a world crawling with particles all different from each other. Sometimes you can't tell the difference even then, and you need to see how things act under natural conditions. If a slide in a controlled laboratory environment is a 7 on 7 camp or the Elite 11 then a real, live game is the unpredictable swampland, swishing with flotsam and jetsam, a place where destinies fulfill themselves without rhyme or reason. It was 2007. The Wolverines had lost their first two games after beginning the season with a top five ranking, and Chad Henne had gotten hurt in a thumping against the Ducks. Chad Henne came back for this: why?

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

Chad Henne passes as Justin Boren looks on, confused

This is a game that nobody will talk about in the grand scheme of things. It was an inglorious contest, one that Michigan escaped from with a victory but only barely after entering the half with down by 9. After Henne engineered a masterful opening drive--leading to an 11-yard Manningham touchdown reception, in which he made calmly dismissed the defensive back before him with a shimmy and a burst that we would see again months later against the Gators. Even throughout this first drive, it was obvous Carr and Co. were protecting Henne via a gameplan that featured short drops and quick passes to the sidelines. Northwestern wasn't very good, so it worked, but Henne had to exit the game for a while. Enter Ryan Mallett, the hero of the Penn State game and the caretaker throughout the Notre Dame Yakety Sax contest (for the kids). 

Of course, some people were already calling for the young upstart to ascend the Michigan quarterbacking throne, kicking Henne to the curb like the Borgias "dismissed" their rivals. Unfortunately for Mr. Mallett, he was not quite that good yet. From the moment he entered the game in the first quarter until Henne's return at the beginning of the second half, no points were scored. The offense was stuck in the mud and it was obvious that the freshman wasn't up for it. In a drive near the end of the first half, he was able to complete a bomb to Manningham down the right sideline, followed by a nice scramble to avoid a near sack to find an open Manningham for a first down*. Those two plays were just about the extent of Mallett's good play that afternoon: one frantic near sack and a completion that was almost ruled incomplete. He was downright bad and this performance was a bitter disappointment after he performed so admirably against ND and PSU (especially in the latter, during which he completed a number of fairly clutch late game passes). My intention is not to trash Ryan Mallett; rather, it is to show how good Chad Henne was by comparison, and what he offered that Mallett didn't then (and arguably never did, but that's a story for another day). Sometimes it's easier to tell what it is that you have before you if you juxtapose it with something else. 

Chad Henne returned and with a workmanlike efficiency resurrected Michigan's offense, applying a defibrillator to Mike DeBord's brain and saying just let me finish this so we can go home. Once he returned, the outcome was never in doubt. Henne led Michigan down the field once again in the 3rd with a little help from his friends--namely Mario and Mike--punctuating the 10 play, 77-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Carson Butler (!) of all people. Despite knowing that it's going to happen and having seen the above highlight video many more times than a normal person probably should have, it always surprises me that Carson Butler catches that touchdown for some reason. 

Henne went on to throw another touchdown pass, this time to Adrian Arrington, in the fourth to put the Wolverines ahead 21-16. It wasn't even some long, triumphant drive, either. 

Michigan at 11:15MICHNW
1st and 10 at NW 16Mike Hart rush for no gain to the Nwest 16.1416
2nd and 10 at NW 16Chad Henne pass incomplete to Mike Hart.
3rd and 10 at NW 16Chad Henne pass complete to Adrian Arrington for 16 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.2016
Jason Gingell extra point GOOD.2116
Bryan Wright kickoff for 65 yards returned by Stephen Simmons for 29 yards to the Nwest 34.
DRIVE TOTALS: Mich drive: 3 plays 16 yards, 01:22 Mich TD


After a stuffed rush by Mike was followed by an incompletion, Henne said bastante. He was sick of this, like John McClane, wondering how he get himself into all of this. Henne dropped back and unloaded a precision strike to Arrington between two hapless Northwestern defenders floating around like buoys in the sea, helpless and ineffectual in their movements. Henne's arm and precision was the perfect storm. 


I imagine Henne walking up to Lloyd in that knee brace, even more immobile than usual. Lloyd probably had that same look he always had, the stonecut wrinkles in his forehead in their most compressed state. He was probably anxious on the inside because Mallett play was the antithesis of tremendous. Henne to Lloyd: I'm good. Lloyd nods.


*Jason Gingell went on to miss a 26-yard field goal...history repeats itself and whatnot. 
------------------------------------------

Nobody will ever remember this game, which is a shame. This game is a reminder of so many things: how good Mario Manningham really was, what a somewhat competent defense looked like, what Obi Ezeh was before he was bludgeoned by unsolicited expectations that outpaced the growth of his abilities on the field, and what a quarterback with nothing to lose but a little more dignity could do. It also featured a hilarious interception return by Tim Jamison, as well as a somewhat depressing play in which Brandent Englemon failed to close in on a pretty slow Omar Conteh, who went on to bust a long touchdown run past him. That was one of the more embarrassing moments in Michigan safety play of the last 10 years, of which there are,of course, many. I remember thinking this exact thought after that play: "Man, we really need to upgrade our safety talent." 

Either way, this was the game that officially got Michigan's head above water, putting them at 3-2 (2-0) for the season. It had to be done and the senior did it, silently and without pomp. He'd done this before. 


Monday, July 18, 2011

47




All the accumulated rubbish years which we call memory, the recognizable I, but changing from phase to phase as the butterfly changes once the cocoon is changed, carrying nothing of what was into what is...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Synesthesia

Sometimes there's nothing to write, nothing to say. In the end it's all vanity, anyway, but if we're going to be vain than Michigan might as well be at the heart of the matter. That may be bargaining, it may be something else that doesn't have a name, kind of like a Denard Robinson run or a Mike Hart pass block aren't football plays but vague unknowable entities, like scientific constants that don't really mean anything to me or you in a general sense but you know are important; they hit us in certain times and certain places, when everything aligns to produce a certain situation that is greater than the situation itself. They are not players but reminders that maybe we don't know everything. They're each a universe unto themselves, their intricacies beyond our reach. The world was a scary, discomfiting place before the sciences began to take hold of the minds of human beings; monsters chomped voraciously at the edges of the world, threatening to consume those who fell of its edge, as if it were a piece of paper. They knew very little and we know more but we don't know a whole lot more. We've cured diseases and gone to the Moon and found ways to live longer than anyone ever has and developed the forward pass but I still can't figure out how a 5'8'' running back can stonewall linebackers Saturday after Saturday as if they were Ottoman Turks colliding against the very edges of Europe, encountering a far greater resistance than they had ever expected to.


He plays as well without the ball as he does with it. He’s an outstanding pass protector.  And in pass protection, you watch him, game in, game out take some of these big linebackers and block them, and look at how many times he carries the ball, you get an appreciation.



Not that you needed any reasons to appreciate him besides what you saw with your eyes, and sometimes what you heard. The sound that I heard when Mike Hart met Dan Connor in 2007--a sound that I heard from my pitiful Row 93 seat as a freshman--is perhaps one of the most satisfactory sensory points of reference that I have ever experienced. It was something you could know instantly, without analyzing or even knowing a thing about anything, let alone football. The loud thwack that I heard as a wide-eyed freshman watching a guy   shorter than me carry the ball 44 times with strep throat was all I needed to know that day. Forget about everything that happened throughout that bizarre, other-worldly season; that moment stuck out, ringing through the air, alerting everyone of its presence amid the expansive melange of pseudo-memory, of the type of football memory that becomes memory itself, a degraded version chipped away by time and old age and simple forgetfulness.

Memory is an ancient obelisk, a slab of rock that is perfect and will never decay in the moment of inception, littered with seemingly unintelligible symbols that once meant something but no longer do now that you've woken up and just like that it's 2011 and not 3000 BCE; degraded, dusty, and callous, rough and what is left is even more meaningful because it's what has survived the withering forces of time. It keeps coming back all the time, showing itself among all this like that one small part of your dream that you remember when everything else has receded into your the dark recesses of your brain to be lost forever or simply repressed, and everything is gone except for that one concentrated moment--good or bad--that becomes the dream itself in its entirety, a loud thump, a thwack. That was Mike in 2007 (or at least how I remember him): embattled, sometimes sick, sometimes injured, indomitable. I remember all the rest, too: the beginning (I remember a screaming caller on the radio as my Dad parked the car near where Williams hits State and I tried to ignore it), the middle (my heart rattled as I called my Dad asking if he believed that catch against State to put them ahead for good), and yes, the end (I watched it in Destin, FL with a friend and his family, all Auburn fans, wondering why Mike decided to start fumbling then but realizing that maybe he wanted to keep things interesting). But that one distinguishable noise, that moment, sticks out amongst the rest, a relic of a past that now seems long gone. Look on my works,  ye mighty, and despair. 





























Sometimes there's nothing to write because there's nothing you want to write. Sometimes you can't do a thing justice or maybe you don't have the right or the wherewithal to tell the story you want to tell just yet. We've seen Denard Robinson for two years now, and he has two more left to play. Denard has dazzled us with speed that we've never seen before. The first play was a peek into his brilliance, a taunting example of raw ability. We already know this story, even if it is half untold. This past year was but a chapter, a small sliver of the legacy; but legacy is something that means different things to different people. I've reached the point where I am no longer younger than those who I root for every Saturday, those dudes playing a game. I don't even know what a legacy is, so I'll just stick with memory. It's easier to deal with, even if less of it lasts and even less still matters to anyone other than you, the one with the memory. I don't know what Denard's legacy is or what it will or could be.

I remember watching Denard streak past everyone in South Bend as if he didn't have time to talk to anyone but God.



I remember saying "502" out loud to anyone that would listen, as if it were some strange incantation or I had gone crazy from what I, what all of us, had seen. He didn't even care.

The offensive line blocked, the receivers catching, everything was clicking. ... I'm a team player and I don't look at stats.

I remember Denard forcing the air out of Memorial Stadium, and the wretched glee it brought many to see him fall, which he did from time to time.

I remember Denard, broken and slowed, playing only the first half against the Buckeyes. He wasn't himself. He was back for a quarter in Jacksonville, but something was still wrong. We looked unprepared, yes, and the defense was the defense we had come to despairingly expect, but something about Denard--the same person who was canonized after only his second start, the guy who produced over 500 yards once like a magic trick--was wrong.

The thing with Denard is, unlike Mike, sometimes I think he's too fast; by the time my brain locks on to what is happening, he's gone, so that everything he's done is just a blur of interconnected dashes and glorified wind sprints on an early Ann Arbor morning in April, only it's Saturday in some autumnal month and people are trying to catch him or take off his shoes or hinder him in any way possible in the hope that help will come.



The block that Mike made on that September day in 2007 and the blunt accompanying sound that resonates as if it were fresh. I wonder if Dan Connor wakes up in hotel rooms now and then, awaking from some meandering dream that slides along like a rattlesnake along the desert dunes until it comes to meet him, and then he jolts up from his slumber so suddenly that he is not yet fully awake, clutching his chest in pain. I wonder if he still remembers that moment.

Mike always gave you time to admire the things that he did; even when he carried the ball, he got caught from behind time after time, and it was okay because we understood his limitations and that was that. Denard's limitations are different, mostly because I don't know what they are yet. He's still young, and I think his moment is yet to come. The moment that Denard does something so great that it forces itself into my mind--pushing everything else out as if to say forget about all that stuff, this is what matters--not knocking down the ramparts like Mike would've down in a series of quick, laboring efforts but swiftly, roundabout even, is the moment that memory is assured. In fact, it's really the only way any of us can be remembered.


I think that false start before was just the universe's way of giving us five more yards to watch him run. This is only the beginning, and memory has to be built up before it can be whittled away to what really matters. It might take time, too. It might be years until after Denard has graduated, even. You might be old, even. One day it will click and set in, appropriating a part of your brain for the purpose of its survival, perhaps in the form of a loud, synecdochical noise, a noise a part of and representative of a long and meaningful narrative; or, maybe, it will be something else. You'll know it when it happens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tears of Unfathomable Sadness


Yes, things are that great.

So, things are going pretty well these days. As I stewed in silence following the Gator Bowl, I probably would've called you insane if you said we'd have a top five recruiting class, a by and large happy fanbase and the beginnings of an NCAA process that could send OSU's program to sit in the corner and think about what it's done. Like George Costanza gaining employment with the Yankees, it all seems a little miraculous that everything has happened the way that it has. The recruits, the media support, the OSU schadenfreude...what  a difference six months can make. 

Kalis Goes Blue: Recruiting the best in Ohio has always been a zero sum game: our recruiting victories there also double as crippling blows to the overall dominance which the Buckeyes had on the elite talent in the state (a state which, as we have seen, Michigan needs to have a presence in). The commitment of Brobdingnagian lineman Kyle Kalis is another point for Michigan in that department. This is a huge get in and of itself, but getting a former Buckeye commitment is directly taking a probable future starter from them and putting him in our lineup. 

From an on the field perspective, offensive line is somewhat of a crap shoot in certain respects, but he seems to be the real deal. Kalis is enormous and surprisingly quick for a guy his size. Although some scouts seem to hint that a move inside may be in his future, the thought of a 6'5'' 300 pound pulling guard smashing Big Ten linebackers is not exactly a terrible one. In any case, this bring's Hoke's offense one step closer to executing the power play down the road when Denard is gone (a sad thought to be sure) and Michigan will truly ramp up the de-spreadification of the offense. 

Meanwhile, in Columbus: Some people should definitely not have access to computers and the Internet: these are examples of such people. While a part of me is a little hesitant to go digging through old Boren threads for fear of what I might find, I can say with little reservation that this is much, much worse than anything that has ever come from even the worst Michigan fans. How somebody can wish injury on a 17 year old kid is beyond me, and I'd rather not know what path in life led them to be so unabashedly bitter and without perspective. Insert the standard caveat about generalization, but anybody who has been to games in Ann Arbor and Columbus will speak to the differences in each group of fans. Add this to the next edition of the Infinite Jest-sized compendium of "Reasons I'm Glad That I'm A Wolverine and Not a Buckeye."

In The Two Towers, Theoden asks: What can men do against such reckless hate?" Aragorn responds: Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them. Imagining Hoke's recruitment of Kalis along these lines? Awesome. Yes, OSU fans are, of course, orcs. 

Denard...still awesome: Although everybody ate up Mike Hart's canonization of "Little Brother," Denard's humility has been refreshing and has endeared him to Michigan fans in an equal but different manner. Denard, Courtney Avery, and Marvin Robinson participated in a youth football camp over the weekend in Lexington, and all three impressed with what they had to say. When asked about what OSU's 2010 victory in The Game being vacated means, all three produced answers that exuded the maturity we've come to expect from our Wolverines. Denard weighed in:
"C'mon man," said Robinson, grimacing as if someone had told him to tie his shoes. "Who really wants to take a win like that?"
Marvin Robinson:
"We'll definitely take that win," Robinson said, smiling, "but the streak isn't over until we actually get on the field and win the game." 
"We wish the best for those guys," Marvin Robinson said. "They've got great talent on their team. I enjoy playing them; it's a great rivalry. We just hope to keep it how it used to be - a great rivalry, a great game." 
Courtney Avery even offered the Buckeye players some advice:
"You can't control what can happen," Avery said, advising OSU players not to let the slow-turning wheels of NCAA justice serve as a distraction. "If you can't control it, you can't worry about it. Whatever happens is going to happen anyway."
Odds that Buckeye players would respond in the same way if Michigan was in serious NCAA trouble? Slim to none. All of the aforementioned is great but expected (which is, in and of itself, a testament to the level of character that Michigan recruits vis a vis Ohio State). The best part of the entire article:
The Buckeyes in attendance, including quarterback Kenny Guiton, running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry, and defensive lineman Dalton Britt (a Clear Fork grad), were instructed by Ohio State not to talk to the media in the wake of Friday's decision to pretend the 2010 season never happened.
Further elaboration is unnecessary. 

Wolverine Historian: Back when playing Illinois wasn't a coronary-inducing event.


Breaston being Breaston, Tim Bracken and Alain Kashama sightings, and ESPN Plus...memories. As a Bears fan, I would like to take this opportunity to say that yes, Ron Turner--the 2001 season notwithstanding--was that horrible.

More OSU QB Talk: Johnny at Eleven Warriors says that Braxton Miller "needs to be the starter." I agree. If Miller hasn't developed enough throughout the spring, summer, and fall camp to take the first snap against Akron then the Buckeyes are looking at an offense that might have some trouble moving the ball. Assuming that OSU will get more than a slap to the wrist added to their existing self-punishment, there's really nothing to lose by starting the freshman.

Larry David on Golf: Not really relevant to anything but Larry David talks about his golf game in The New Yorker:

Then it hit me. According to Dr. Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross’s book “On Death and Dying,” Acceptance was the final stage of grief that terminal patients experience before dying, the others being Anger, Denial, Bargaining, and Depression. I was in the final stage! When I started thinking about it, I realized that I’d gone through every one of those stages, but not as a terminal patient . . . as a golfer.
As a fan, I'm pretty certain I went through each of those stages at one point or another throughout the duration of the 2011 Gator Bowl.


                                     (HT: Mike DeSimone)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Great Expectations

So how you'd do it, Coach?


How'd I do what, now?


You know. How'd you get the job? What makes you special is what I'm trying to ask.


I don't know about special. Coaches aren't special, I know that. We're just there when good things happen on the field and then we get the credit. Maybe we should get some of it. I won't say "deserve" though, because then that would mean that it was mine...the credit, I mean. What does that mean? I don't even know, do you?


Do I know what "credit" means?


That's right.


Well the dictionary says...


What dictionary?


Well, any dictionary really. Say, the OED.


Why not. Lloyd used to have one of those in his office. Good, fundamental dictionary that was. Lots of tradition there.


Coach...


Right. I don't want the dictionary definition. What does it mean to get the "credit" for anything good that happens out there. [Coach gestures widely out his window at nowhere and everywhere]. As long as it gets done, that's all that matters.


Well what then?


What's the idea behind the thing? I bring them in and I tell them what to do but how can I take credit for it? It's partly built upon the past and everything that's come before me, but that's obvious. If I claim credit for a win or developing a kid so that gets drafted in the first round then I have to give part of that to those who came before me, those who paved the way and made this place what it is. No matter what they say, this is still Michigan.


The idea? I don't know. The idea is that someone must take the credit for running things the right way, of guiding the program like Virgil through the fires of division amongst our constituents and failure. Well, you know, it's the praise from the media, the legacy of everything that you do here--if you're lucky enough to get that far, because not everyone does--and all the other positives that may or may not mean anything to you or to anyone at all.


Should it? I don't know. What do you think--does it matter?


It's really up to you. Why do you care what I think anyway?

I care what everyone thinks. The stadium ushers, Dave, my assistants, the students, the media, the boosters. Everybody has a say, even you. How you handle things off the field is as much of a game as the games played over there are games.[Coach smiles and points out the window where the Sun shone especially strongly]. I think I've done alright so far.

When you said you would've walked here for this job, did you mean it? Would you have actually done that?

Yes.[He said this without hesitation while holding an air that was part honest disbelief at the audacity of the question and part amusement at his own cleverness thus far].

Really? Why?

That's a question that has a long answer or a short one and nothing in between. Which one do you want? The visitor looked at his watch and decided that he had time and that things were going well so far.

The longer response will be just fine.

That's what I thought. Well I'll tell you this: I was here once before and you can tell. Things are different around here and I mean that. People say that about a lot of places but it's very rarely genuine or even true. When I say I would've walked, I meant it. I went down and bought myself a new pair of tennis shoes and was ready to head out the door if I didn't get that call. I waited by the phone and thought about what I would do or say if Dave decided to offer me the job. When Whitlock said I would crawl over hot broken glass to get to this very spot right here, this very piece of earth under the blue Ann Arbor sky...I was insulted. I would've done much more than that. The visitor's eyes widened. You look surprised but it's true. I wanted it more than anything. I knew I wasn't the number one guy. Dave said I was his guy after the fact, but I don't know. I don't even care. Les and Jim can coach and they're bigger names. I know that, but again, I don't care. I know for a fact that they don't love this place like I do. They're not here after all. No offense to Jim and Les, but I plan on being here for Michigan, for the long haul. Bo's office was five doors down from mine when I was here the last time, and I don't know if anybody loved Michigan more than that man. I've always measured myself up to him. It's about this place. This is Michigan. [Coach's breathing was heavy, each breathe a heavy salvo piercing the silence in the room].

What's the short answer?


This is Michigan.

The visitor looked at his notepad and he had written a good bit down but still felt that he didn't know the man quite yet. He loved Michigan, sure, but what was he about? What was he like when everything wasn't going according to plan? The visitor furrowed his brow and thought about it. 


I see you're not convinced by what I've said. I understand; I haven't done a thing yet. I haven't coached a game yet for Michigan. That is an undeniable fact.

It's just that everything has gone so well for you so far. It's almost too good to be true, don't you think?


There a many things wrong with what you've just said. First of all, nothing is too good for Michigan. Nobody has more wins than the football program in this town. Second, it only seems that way because of how things have gone lately. We've forgotten what it means to be winners. It's something you feel in your bones. It becomes a part of you and you don't even have to think about it. I'm not in the business of pointing fingers at anybody, but that has been lost. You know when it's there just like you know that gravity's there, keeping you grounded.

It used to be there?


Of course. It's everything. People talk about "knowing how to win" and all that. The media thinks they know what they're talking about but they don't (you still humor them, though). People are worried that my philosophies on the goal might be, let's say, antiquated. I hear those concerns loud and clear. I realize this isn't the 1970s and it's not just us and Ohio and everybody else. I know that you've got to do some things that you maybe didn't have to do twenty or thirty years ago on either side of the ball. But I won't bore you with scheme and tactics...those don't matter. They never do. Programs are lost or reclaimed on their adherence to a code, a basic operating imperative that has driven them to success in the past.

Like what? A motto, a phrase, a slogan? An idea? Coach Rod had his "hold the rope" mantra, is that what you're aiming at?

Let's put it this way. When everything is falling apart around you, what do you fall back on? What do you believe in? For me, that thing is Michigan, and not the inevitability of victory but the assurance that it will always be there, waiting for you to come back to it.

So we gravitate toward the familiar within us?


I can tell you're saying that as if it's a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with the familiar. People say it was broken before and that we needed change--and maybe we did and maybe it could've worked--but sometimes a change is just a tweak, a slightly different face or a slightly different outlook on things. Sometimes that's all it takes. We've strayed but I don't think we're too far away from where we once were...I know people want more than that, too. But you've got to start somewhere.

How far do you have to go?


It's an irrelevant question. Remember, I'm the guy who'd crawl over hot broken glass. "Far," the way you put it like that in question form, is a meaningless word, an adjectival hanger-on bringing out the assumption that we have a long way to go. Half the battle is getting people to remember that this is Michigan. It seems stupid, but you asked me for a motto, and that's the closest thing I could offer you. This is Michigan. Anyway, far only matters to people who are worried about the distance. I am not.

Very well. Do you have anything else to say before we finish up here?


I've come away with this feeling like there's some more to do. You are representative of everybody; you want to see proof. I can't give you that in my record or my work history.

I see that you are very passionate about Michigan.


Well, I wouldn't be here if I wasn't. [Coach smiled and the visitor got up and said his thanks; there wasn't any more to say. He shook the man's hand and walked out the door and into the street, curious but with a calmness that he maybe didn't have before this meeting. He left Coach sitting there, looking out the window, waiting for the first chance to prove himself, waiting like he waited for that call. He looked like he might have been just as nervous too, but a kind of nervous that was good. He couldn't wait for everything to start.]