Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Michigan - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Well, I figured it's time for a "year in review" post focused on the state of Michigan. Needless to say, it has not been a great year for the state (full disclosure: I used to live in Michigan, but now live in Texas). Let's have a look a the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

College Football
The Wolverines obviously didn't have a good year, but three teams from the state got bowl invitations this year. WMU and CMU have already lost their bowl games, and MSU plays tomorrow. CMU, behind Rich Rodriguez protege Butch Jones, continues to have success in the MAC with Dan Lefevour at QB. In Kalamazoo, WMU coach Bill Cubit just signed a new 5-year extension after taking the Broncos to their second bowl game in four years. The Spartans continue their resurgence behind former Buckeye assistant Mark Dantonio, and will try to knock off the preseason number 1 team in the country, Georgia.

Medical Marijuana
In November, voters in Michigan approved a medical marijuana ballot measure. This is wonderful progress against the stigma of using whatever means necessary to help people with chronic illness and chronic pain deal with their maladies. It has proven medical value to relieve pain, nausea, and other symptoms caused by cancer, MS, AIDS and other diseases (or the drugs used to treat those diseases). If morphine and codeine, essentially medicinal forms of heroin, can be used to help alleviate pain and suffering, why not cannabis as well? As Peter Tosh says, "Legalize it, don't criticize it."

Calvin Johnson
Lions wide receiver Johnson was the only good thing in an otherwise dismal season. If he were playing on a team that had any semblance of an offense, he would have had well over 100 catches.

Red Wings
Oh yeah, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.

The Bad

Kwame Kilpatrick
The Mayor of Detroit finally bowed to pressure and resigned from office in September after years of scandal in his administration. Just look at that wikipedia page. There are eleven items under "controversies" and the majority of the article is related to them. I guess Kwame could fall under "good" since he's no longer the mayor, but his whole administration was in constant turmoil, so I'm filing it under "bad."

Michigan Football
After going to a bowl game for 33 consecutive years, Michigan slumped to a 3-9 record this year despite hiring a new coaching staff headed by Rich Rodriguez. The team was plagued by many problems, including the adjustment to the aforementioned new coaching staff, the installation of new offensive and defensive systems, the loss of ten of eleven starters on offense (including the top pick in the NFL draft and two other four year starters), way too many turnovers, and incompetent play at several positions - QB, Safety, Linebacker, O-Line. At this point, Michigan fans are divided in their feelings about the new administration. I am optimistic about the future of the program, as Coach Rodriguez has continued to recruit very good talent, and he is a proven winner in a BCS conference. But make no mistake about it - this was a very bad season. But at least the hoops team is ranked now.

The Ugly

The Detroit Lions
The Lions became the first team in NFL history to lose 16 games in a season. They were monumentally bad. They lost by an average score of 32-17. They lost only three of their games by less than a touchdown. Five different QBs took snaps during the season (Drew Henson had the distinction of being sacked more often than he threw a pass - three sacks, two pass attempts). They finished 30th in offense, and 32nd in defense. The defense intercepted four passes for the entire season. I could go on (and on and on...), but I think I'll just take a knee and head to the locker room. NOTE: The Lions were 4-0 in the preseason though.

The Detroit Tigers
Despite spending lavishly in the offseason, acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, the Tigers sunk to last place in the AL Central - behind even the lowly Royals. They traded Pudge Rodriguez to the Yankees. Joel Zumaya got hurt again. Curtis Granderson was out for the first couple weeks of the year. They started 0-7 and never recovered.

The Economy
The unemployment rate in the state of Michigan in November was 9.6% - which is a 0.3% increase over the previous month, and a 2.2% increase over the previous year. The auto industry is begging Washington for a bailout. The big three are cutting production across the board. Chrysler is shutting down production at all of its North American plants for an entire month. The slowdown has affected all tiers of the supply chain as well. And that trickles down to all the people who provide goods and services to those people. Also, due to the mortgage crisis, Michigan is near the top in foreclosure rates. Like the section above about the Lions, I could probably go on, but I'll just take a knee again.

Keep your chin up, Michigan - 2009 has to be better, right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snake Oil Contributions

Note: This was written right before the OSU game

Timing is everything. Here we were leading up to the most meaningless Michigan-OSU game in my lifetime and I get the envelope from our esteemed Athletic Director Bill Martin – the Preferred Seat Donation Form. Outstanding! What a great time to demand more money from the fans. (Note the excellent use of the euphemism “donation,” it infers some voluntary component in the process – there is nothing voluntary about the fee for the right to buy your season tickets). Bill’s letter closed with these inspiring words as we sat on the cusp of our first 9 loss season in the history of Michigan football: “Now more than ever, it is great to be a Michigan Wolverine.” Really, it is true. Read it for yourself here. Hmmmmm. If Bill thinks this is the best time ever to be a Wolverine, I really fear for our future.

But since this is a critical year and I know Bill and Mary Sue Coleman need our help, “now more than ever,” here are some ideas for the next solicitation letter:

· The Rich Rodriguez Contract Termination Fee Fund
For a modest $2.5 million you can help fund the Bill Martin brain trust that concocted the plan to lure our third choice for a coach away from the place where he had just signed a contract. Our friends in West Virginia need this money much more than we do. Let’s chip in and help them rebuild their program after the loss of their native son.

· The Rich Rodriguez Salary Contribution Fund
This recurring $2.5 million delivers terrific value for all friends of the Michigan Athletic Dept. Our average cost per win (excluding contract buyout provisions) is now only $833,000.

· The Weight Room Improvement Fund
This was a relative bargain at $1M+ and it has paid vast dividends already. Just look at the performance of our athletes in the second half of games this year - 1-6 after leading or tied at halftime. Stamina, endurance. And don’t forget an important byproduct of this investment was our trainer Mike Barwis and his world-renowned "prehab" regimen. This makes players less susceptible to injury and able to bounce back faster from injury. Isn’t it evident that this team suffered far fewer injuries than the Carr teams of yesteryear with that Neanderthal training regimen?

· Naming Opportunities
How about naming a column in our new stadium? Skybox and club seat sales are robust given the two exciting wins against Wisconsin and Miami the team notched at home this year. So why not just bypass those pedestrian luxury seats and really step up for the U, how about $10M+ and we will name a concourse or brick tower after you or your favorite trophy wife? We will throw in a luxury box in the end zone for free – we have a large inventory of those still unclaimed.

As you can see, contributions to these funds and others have already delivered great, immediate returns for the football program. We will concern ourselves with the secondary and meaningless stuff like funding scholarships and aid for needy students later. First things first, let's get our world-class coaching staff up and running, eh? They need all the support they can get.

Let’s hope we didn’t buy the most expensive batch of snake oil ever peddled and that 2009 brings a lot more success and maybe we can bring the average cost per win down to $193,000 with a little something leftover for scholarships and the like.

Go Blue!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Seinfeld Band Names

Unlike most years, when the Michigan-Ohio State game would be the focus of a post on the Friday before the game, I have instead chosen to take my mind off what will probably be an ugly blowout. Instead of football, to take your mind off the impending disastrous 33-6 shellacking, how about some Seinfeld and music?

My wife and I were having a conversation a couple weeks ago about a band that named itself after something from a Seinfeld episode. The name of the band: Jerkstore. Brilliant. They're apparently a heavy metal (or "nu metal," whatever that is) band. Anyway, I thought this would make a great blog topic. So if you are a band in search of a good pop culture name that will catch the attention of potential fans, here are some ideas for "Band Names Derived from Seinfeld Episodes."

1. Mulva
This would have to be some sort of hard rock girl band - think Sleater-Kinney or Hole. Band members could even take on aliases like Delores, Bovary, Celeste, and Regina.

2. The Van Buren Boys
I think this would have to be a progressive bluegrass combo. They would be very popular at summer festivals and in small clubs throughout the country - think Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, or The Gourds. Instead of flashing the peace sign or the heavy metal "devil horns" sign, fans of the band would show eight fingers during the twelve minute mandolin and fiddle solos.

3. The Re-Gifters
I think these guys would have to be a cover band, perhaps playing covers of contemporary homogeneous pop noise like Nickelback, Daughtry, and Creed. They're probably playing at a bar near you this weekend.

4. Poison Envelopes
This band would have to be emo or goth. They wear black clothing, black eyeliner, their instruments are black, and their music is completely depressing. Their fans cut themselves or burn themselves with cigarettes and read Sylvia Plath and the Anarchists Cookbook for fun.

5. Izzy and The Mandelbaums
This would have to be a klezmer band. They play bar mitzvahs, Jewish weddings, and they'll even play at your son's bris. Their hit song would have to be titled "You Think You're Better Than Me?" Which brings us to our next band name...

6. Shakey the Mohel
Punk rock. Loud. Think Sex Pistols - only more Jewish. The sight of Hasidim slamming in the mosh pit is something to behold. Beards, hats, and sideburns would be flying everywhere.

7. Spongeworthy
This would have to be kind of a novelty jam band. Maybe kinda like Ween or Phish. Lots of good jamming, but with some quirky lyrics. Fans would be called "Spongeheads" and might even fashion some hats out of sponges, kinda like Green Bay Packer fans with their cheese heads. Oh yeah, and they smoke a lot of weed.

Any more suggestions?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

NCCA Hoops

I guess it's never too early for a NCAA tournament bracket. Wait, maybe it is. ESPN's Joe Lunardi already has fabricated a tournament bracket - it's March Madness in November! I'm not sure if they had previously come out this early in the year with a bracket, but here it is. As strange as it is to see a bracket out so early in the season, it's even stranger to see some of the comments from the readers. Some of the readers are really taking this seriously. Here are some examples, but you can peruse them from the link too.

JMoist21 (11/12/2008 at 12:00 PM)
Wisconsin as a 2 seed??? Michigan State AND Purdue are better than Wisky by a landslide. Do you do any research Joe, or do you just pull names out of a hat? Terrible.

Not only is JMoist21 upset that Wisconsin is a 2 seed ahead of MSU and Purdue, but has the stones to say the they are both better than Wisconsin "by a landslide." Wow. Perhaps he knows more about Big Ten hoops than I do. In fact, he probably does. But making hyperbolic statements like that before the season seems to me to be - oh, I don't know - the dumbest thing in the world - by a landslide.

NWarsh23 (11/12/2008 at 12:26 PM)
Wisconsin is not even the best team in their state, Marquette is clearly better and it is not even close, but yet Marquette is a 5 and Wisconsin is a 2, now that is a joke

This guy is certain that Marquette is "clearly better" than the Badgers and that it's "not even close" before he has seen either team play a game. Hmm. Perhaps these guys should be working for ESPN. Look, I'm not a fan of the Badgers, but it seems to me that Wisconsin is consistently pretty damn good. Coach Bo Ryan has taken them to the elite 8 once and the sweet 16 twice in his seven years as head coach. I have no idea whether or not they (or the other teams mentioned by these two clowns) are going to be good this year but considering their track record, it seems foolish to me to totally discount the possibility that they might be better than Marquette or MSU or Purdue. Of course, I suppose it's no more foolish than having a bracket in November in the first place....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 Election - Five Stages of Grief

Well, the 2008 election is finally over and I for one could not be happier with the result. Plus, the campaign coverage was getting tiresome and monotonous. Living in Texas, I am surrounded on all sides by McCain supporters - at work, in my 'hood, everywhere. There is definitely a palpable anger that many people have toward our new president, and I can't say I blame them because I was the same way in 2000 and 2004. Right now, McCainiacs are going thru the standard five stages of grief that are characteristic of any person dealing with a loss:

Stage 1 - Denial:
"I can't believe it. How could this have happened? How could we have elected a commie terrorist sympathizer?" I think even the most ardent McCain supporters probably cruised right thru this stage pretty quickly. After all, it was a pretty resounding victory for Senator Obama. if you were in denial at all, a quick look at the election returns should have cured you of that rather quickly. It happened - so move on to stage two already...

Stage 2- Anger:
"NO! NO! How can you accept this?" This one may linger for a lot of people. As much as we may like to think that as a nation we have risen above the days of bigotry racial discrimination, ask any minority and they'll tell you differently. But there are a lot of people who are angry about the election results, and not just for racial reasons. Many people think that their taxes are going to go up, that our military will become soft, that other countries are just waiting to attack us now that the Republicans are out of office, they're gonna take my guns away (gun sales have skyrocketed since the election), etc. Some people might be stuck in stage 2 for the duration of Obama's presidency. I know Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter were stuck there for the entirety of the Clinton Adminstrations. For the rest of you, just move on stage 3...

Stage 3 - Bargaining:
"Maybe this will be good for the country afterall. We were guided thru our country's most serious economic downturn by a Democrat. And it's great to see a black man elected to the presidency." After you have gotten over your anger, try to find something to grab onto. If you wish, you can focus on the insprational story of a mixed race man being raised by a single mother and his maternal grandparents to become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, and then go on to ascend to the office of the President of the USA. Isn't that the American dream? Certainly much moreso than GW Bush's rise to power: born into wealth, born into political entitlement, stumbled to the presidency with dubious electoral victory in Florida. After you are able to be inspired by the wonder of Obama's accomplishment and his strength of character, you may want to move on to stage 4...

Stage 4 - Depression:
"Man, this terrorist socialist is actually gonna be POTUS? I wonder what no-good leech on society my tax dollars are going to support now." Well, pretty much the same same leeches your tax dollars currently support. Only now you'll be subsidizing their meth habits and lottery tickets with even more of your tax dollars! Jesus - why don't we all just stock up on ammo, move to the storm cellar, and wait for the end of the world. Or you can move to stage 5...

Stage 5 - Acceptance:
"It's going to be OK." It may take a while for most of you McCain supporters to get to this point. Some of you might never get there. I eventually got there with GWB as President. It definitely took a while though. Every time he opened his mouth and made one his famously stupid proclamations or verbal gaffes, I would slide back to stage 4. At my place of employment, within shouting distance of my desk, there are people in all five stages at this point in time. One of the more pragmatic of those guys has already made it to stage five. I applaud his practical approach. If you find yourself stuck in any of these five stages, step back, take a deep breath, and move on. John McCain already has...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm Billy Mumphrey

"You see Elaine, Billy was a simple country boy. You might say a cockeyed optimist, who got himself mixed up in the high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue."

- Kosmo Kramer (The Assman)

Okay, today I'm Billy Mumphrey. But I'm ready to admit that Michigan's football season is a lost cause. Although I am still convinced that this is just a bad season, and not a sign of bad things to come in the future, some others are not so sure. In my season-long quest to convince myself and others that this season is a transitional one, and does not necessarily mean doom for the Michigan football program, I thought I'd explore some other relatively recent transitions to new ways of doing things. Many teams/products have tried new formulas throughout the years, with mixed results. Let's examine some of those, shall we:

New Coke
The geniuses at Coca Cola decided in 1985 that their product was not dominant enough in the cola marketplace - their market share had dipped from 60% just after WWII to 24% because of the emergence of Pepsi. Coke's response was to come up with a new formulation for their cola that tasted more like the sweeter tasting Pepsi Cola. To make a long story short, New Coke (or Coke II) was such a failure that Coca Cola brought back the original formulation as "Classic Coke" just 77 days later and New Coke was ultimately phased out altogether by 1992. This failed marketing ploy is the standard by which all failed marketing ploys are judged - kinda like the "Watergate" of stupid marketing ideas.

Nebraska Football
Obviously this is a closer parallel to the Michigan football situation. Tom Osborne retired after the 1997 season (after sharing the 1997 national championship with Michigan), and his handpicked successor Frank Solich took over the program. In Osborne's 25 seasons at the helm, the Nebraska program had finished the season out of the top ten just four times. Solich coached the team from 1998 thru 2003, when he was fired despite winning nearly 75% of his games. Then, Nebraska inexplicably hired Bill Callahan, who had recently been fired from his position as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. The Huskers changed from a power running I-formation offense to a "west coast" style offense - with disastrous results. The Huskers fired the AD responsible for the hire, then hired Tom Osborne as AD - who then fired Callahan. Nebraska is still recovering from this. This comparison should strike some fear on the hearts of Michigan fans everywhere, but there are as many differences as similarities - so don't panic too much. Because...

Oklahoma Football
Another close parallel to Michigan football. The Sooners broke from the successful Switzer era (successful early, but struggled later) by hiring Bob Stoops in 1999. Stoops previously had been the defensive coordinator at Florida. The season before his arrival, the Sooners were 5-6, despite the superior talent accumulated by head coach John Blake's stellar recruiting. Stoops was 7-5 his first season in Norman - a season in which they used the spread offense for the first time, let by a JC transfer QB. They won the BCS championship in 2000 - just Stoops' second year on the job. Oklahoma has consistently been near the top of the rankings ever since.

Bush Administration
Despite his re-election in 2004, things were not going well with the Bush Administration in 2005 and 2006. During 2005-06, Bush changed out most of his cabinet. Gone were Sec. of State Colin Powell, Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Interior Sec. Gale Norton, Sec. of Energy Spencer Abraham, and Sec of Homeland Security Tom Ridge (among others). However, the results were largely the same. The President has one of the lowest approval ratings in the history of approval ratings. Whatever it means, the success or failure of this midstream re-structuring of the cabinet will essentially be judged by the voters on a couple weeks. Election of McCain will be an endorsement of Bush policies, and election of Obama will be a repudiation of same. Barring an upset, it looks like it was a failure. Personally, I think the entire 8-year term was a failure, but perhaps that's a post for another day.

American Idol
While the essential format of American Idol has remained constant - marginally talented karaoke singers judged by three panelists of varying degrees of qualifications to judge anyone - the first year of the program featured two hosts: Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman (nice hair, dude). After the first season, Dunkleman was jettisoned and Seacrest was left as the only remaining host. Whether or not it was because of the newly formatted hosting arrangement, the show's ratings have been consistently high - routinely 50% higher than the ratings in season one - and Seacrest is a ubiquitous presence on television. Regardless of whether you like this show or not - and I do not - this has to be viewed as a good decision. In addition, many of the shows that are rip-offs of American Idol have the same format - single host, three judges: America's Got Talent, Nashville Star, etc.

Windows Vista
I have Vista on my home computer, and I haven't had any major problems with it, but I am not doing anything fancy on my home computer - Microsoft Office, torrents, internet browsing, blogging, watching porn, downloading pics of celebrity nipple slips, etc. But there are lots of whiners out there are complaining for various reasons. But there are also some positive reviews, mostly from gamers. I'm not computer savvy enough to know what the issues are, but I do know that the switchover from XP to Vista was insignificant from my standpoint. I think the jury's still out on this one.

After forty years of success under the guidance of Bo Schembechler and his former assistants Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr, AD Bill Martin went "outside the family" to hire Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia. Not only did Martin hire an outsider, but one with an entirely different offensive philosophy. Coach Rodriguez is one of the creators of the spread offense that is used throughout the country with great success (nine of the top ten offenses in the country run a version of the spread). The good news is that West Virginia went 3-8 his first season, and 9-4 his second season. Then he went on a streak of four conference titles in five years. And the year WVU did not win the conference title, they finished second. The bad news is that it was the Big East.

The last time Michigan hired an outsider, they hired a little known assistant coach named Bo. That worked out pretty well. How will this one turn out? I'm hoping it's more like Oklahoma rather than more like Nebraska or Coke II. Stay tuned...


Friday, October 24, 2008

Michigan-Michigan State

While I am optimistic about the future of the Michigan football program, I must admit at present it's a little depressing to be an underdog to our "little brothers" at home. It's kinda embarrassing to be hoping for an upset of Michigan State at home to save our season. If the Spartans are going to beat the Wolverines, this is the year to get it done, because RichRod's squad is only going to get better over the next few years. Here are some arguments why Michigan can win this game - and some Sparty counter-arguments:

Michigan State is one dimensional on offense...
So far this year the Spartans have rushed for 160 yards per game (and remember - college football counts sacks as negative rushing yards). Javon Ringer is a stud, but that's the extent of MSU's offense. QB Brian Hoyer is completing less than 50% of his passes this year - not good. If Michigan commits to stopping the run by putting Brandon Harrison up on the line of scrimmage (and I'll start throwing stuff at my TV if they don't), Hoyer is probably not capable of beating them with his arm.

...but that one dimension is pretty damn good
Ringer already has 1179 yards on the season, and already has more carries than all of last year. He's a workhorse and, like legendary Mike Hart, he does not fumble. Michigan's defense has proven to be less than stout against the run, despite the fact that their strongest unit (in theory anyway) is their defensive line. The problem is the linebackers and the safeties are bad. The Spartans could exploit this.

Michigan's offense is coming around...
In the first half of the Penn State game, here is a summary of the Wolverines' first three drives: 86-yard TD drive, a 49-yard FG drive, and a 78-yard TD drive. They had 253 yards in the first half against the Nittany Lions, who have a pretty good defense. Minor and Threet ran the ball well, passes were on target, and there were no turnovers. As long as Threet is in the game (and the offense doesn't give the ball away) the Michigan offense is competent, and borders on being good. Note to RichRod: Let Threet play the whole game.

...but Nick Sheridan
Yeah, I know. For some reason, Coach Rod insists on running Sheridan out there time and time again when Threet doesn't appear to have any sort of injury and Sheridan doesn't appear to have any sort of talent. If Sheridan plays at all, that is a bad sign. God bless the kid, because he's out there giving it his best, but the offense becomes stagnant (or just plain bad) when he's in there. The defense doesn't have to play for the pass at all, and there is no running room with 8 guys on the line of scrimmage. The Michigan offense becomes more one dimensional than the Sparty offense, except they don't have a stud like Ringer to fall back on. If Sheridan takes off the headphones and puts a helmet on, Spartan fans should rejoice and start ordering celebratory shots.

Brian Hoyer may not play...
Starting QB Hoyer is listed as questionable ( lists him as "questionable - Head" - an assessment that many Spartan fans might agree with). As shown above, backup QBs are a scary proposition for the offense. Many times it leads to narrowing the number of plays that the offense is going to call, making the job of the defense easier. The backup is a freshman. Even if Hoyer starts, after a head injury in the OSU game, one hit from Brandon Graham could send him to the sidelines asking for a popsicle and his blankie.

...but Brian Hoyer sucks
I'm not sure why Spartan fans would not be excited about the possibility of getting someone else in there to run the offense. After all, Ringer's gonna get 40 carries anyway, so does it really matter who's going to hand him the ball? Why not replace the QB with a fullback and just snap the ball directly to Ringer?

The Spartans haven't won in Ann Arbor since 1990. They have to be pointing to this game as an opportunity, not only for a big win, but to impress the recruits that are going to be on their own sideline and also the opposite sideline - both physically and metaphorically.

I think the Wolverine offense has turned the corner. They seem to have good balance and have the talent to make plays - as long as Threet is playing. Brandon Minor adds power to a previously "soft" running game. The defense has to start making plays, and the turnovers have to stop. If Threet plays the whole game: Michigan 27, MSU 24. If Sheridan plays more than one token series: Michigan 17, MSU 27. Enjoy the game and as always:

Go Blue!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Michigan Football and the 2008 Election

I got to ponderin' this morning, and I came up with an infallible and irrefutable theory. I decided that your opinion on the fortunes of Michigan football probably mirrors your opinions on the upcoming presidential election. Here is how I see it:

1. The Future is Bright
This is the group of Michigan fans that, despite their struggles so far this year, believes that the Rich Rodriguez hiring was the right one and the program will flourish under the new coach. Essentially, these are the hopeful optimists who are confident that the spread offense is the offense that will take us into the next great era of Michigan football. These people have observed how the game has changed, and how "three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust" just doesn't cut it anymore. The traditionalists think that these people are naive idiots, and that we are being led down a path to ultimate destruction - as if not making a bowl game one year is some sort of apocalyptic event.

This group consists mainly of Obama supporters. Supporters of Obama are more prone to embrace change, and are tired of the "same-old same-old" of tired Bush policies that McCain offers. But the supporters of Obama don't just want change for change's sake. They truly believe that Obama is a leader who can take us thru the current turbulent economic times and rid ourselves of the Iraq war anchor that is hanging around our neck. Traditionalists think that these people are naive idiots and that Obama is all flash and no substance, and that he's a Muslim pinko terrorist sympathizer - as if talking to world leaders we don't agree with is some sort of traitorous betrayal to freedom loving patriots everywhere.

2. Oh My God, What Have We Done
This is the group of Michigan fans that wanted Michigan to hire a coach with a more "traditional" offensive philosophy; i.e., more like Lloyd and Bo. This group would probably include the guys who already have started the Fire Rich Rodriguez website. There is panic in the air. These guys want to dump Rodriguez now and think that we can still get Les Miles, despite the fact that he already had a chance to come here if he really wanted to, and chose not to. These are also probably the people who are floating the rumor that Rich Rod is talking to Clemson about their head coaching position. They point to all the perceived mistakes and shortcomings of the coach - he can't recruit like Lloyd, he talks to the media more than Lloyd, his offensive system has failed to adapt to the existing talent, etc. They think that Kirk Ferentz is a "maverick." The people from group (1) above think that these people are stodgy old out-of-touch buzzkills, and that hiring a coach with a more "Lloyd-like" offense would have been a huge mistake.

This group consists mainly of McCain supporters who are reluctant to embrace change and feel that the war is a good idea and is totally justified in the age of global terrorism. These people believe that leaving Iraq before being able to declare some sort of "victory" is tantamount to surrender. These people are also convinced that in these troubled and turbulent economic times, they want a president who won't do anything different than the previous administration. Change is something these people can't handle. They think that John McCain is a "maverick." The people from group (1) above think that McCain is a stodgy old out-of-touch rich man, and that electing someone who would perpetuate Bush's failed policies would be a huge mistake.

3. Oh My God, This is Horrible - But I'm Hopeful...
This is the group of Michigan fans that is taking the "wait-and-see" approach to the new coach. They can see how we needed to modernize the offense, bring the conditioning program into the 21st century, and get some new blood in the program. On the other hand, they are also leery of outsiders, and wonder why we couldn't have hired a "Michigan man" instead of some guy from West Virginia. These people are straddling the line on RichRod, and are ready to jump to either side if something happens. Win over PSU this weekend - "I'm starting to warm up to this guy." Loss to Minnesota later in the year - "I'm not so sure about this coach." The people from groups (1) and (2) think these guys are mamby-pamby dispassionate non-fans who can't make up their minds.

This group consists of the "undecided" voters. I'm not sure what these people are waiting for. They can see both sides on every issue, and have some opinions in common with each candidate - "I like Obama's plan to get out of Iraq, but I'm pro-life." You've got 19 days left - make up your mind. They watch the debates trying to find something to cling to, and read all the spam e-mails that falsely claim that Obama is a Muslim and McCain has cancer and is about to die. The people from groups (1) and (2) think these people are mamby-pamby dispassionate boneheads who can't make up their minds.

So, there you have it. Where do you fall in the spectrum? If you're a Michigan fan, please weigh in. I'm a man of science. I want to attempt to prove or disprove my theory. From this post and previous posts, I'm sure you can guess into which group I fall...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Michigan Football - Improvement

Well, since I already talked about the obvious things that are wrong with Michigan football, I thought I'd weigh in with some equally obvious opinions on what I think needs to be done in the second half of the 2008 season to set up the Wolverines for a successful 2009 season. Please note: I am an expert, and my opinions are unassailable.

1. Don't play Nick Sheridan any more unless Threet is hurt.
Next year's opening day starter, believe it or not, will probably be Steven Threet. The alternatives are incoming freshmen, and odds are that they'll be sitting to start the year. Playing Sheridan at all is just a waste of time. Threet has to get as many reps as he can at QB. This offense needs an experienced QB who can read defenses in order to decide whether or not to hand the ball off, keep the ball, etc. Since he's gonna be the starter next year, play Threet every possible snap.

2. Fix the offensive line.
The blocking is atrocious. Use the second half of the season to get the top five (or seven, or eight) as many snaps as they can. As long as they stay away from injuries, the O-line should improve with more experience. Incidentally, this observation is number one on the all-time list of most obvious observations of all-time. Please congratulate me on my keen sense for the obvious.

3. Turnovers
If the Wolverines can cut their turnovers in half for the last half of the season, it should be seen as a victory. I'm not sure how you can coach a team on how to hold onto the ball, but if there's any way to have Mike Hart give these guys some advice, he should be consulted. Stop dropping the friggin ball on the ground. Since he handles the ball on every snap, Threet needs to take special care of the pigskin in order for the team to have any success. Also, stress the importance of creating turnovers on defense.

Since the offense is obviously struggling, perhaps the defense should get more aggressive and take some more chances. Use Mouton as a pass rusher like Crable. Blitz the safeties more. Whatever. It's increasingly apparent that the offense is not going to be able to put up huge numbers this year, so challenge the defense to step up and create turnovers by attacking the opposition with more funky stuff. And tackle better. The defensive line was supposed to be the strength of the defense, and other than Graham they have been pretty quiet.

5. Rotate the safeties
It's becoming more and more apparent as the season goes on that safety is a position of weakness on this team. It's time to sit fifth year senior Charles Stewart and get some of the other guys in there to get more experience. The safeties are like the QB of the defensive backfield, and they need snaps to get experience: Williams, Chambers, Smith, Floyd - hell, put a CB back there if he can tackle (Woolfolk, Cissoko, etc).

6. Play baseball
Treat the last half of the season like a MLB team that is out of the pennant race. Instead of playing veterans who won't be here next year or don't figure to play much next year, play the young guys and give them a chance to see what they can do. I am by no means suggesting that they give up on the season and play all freshmen. On the contrary, perhaps this season can be saved if the coaching staff can get some of the young guys some more snaps. And I'm not talking about all freshmen all the time. We're already using a fair share of youngsters, but I'm talking about playing select underclassmen who Coach Rodriguez and his staff know they will need contributions from next year.

I think the key things we need to look for the rest of the season are "improvement" and "experience" from almost all areas of the team, except of course Zoltan, who's already the most awesome thing about this team (and if that, my friends, is not an apt microcosm of the season, I don't know what is). Any further suggestions? I'm certain Coach Rodriguez reads this blog regularly and will take any advice that we give him.

Go Blue!

NOTE: I apologize for my excessive use of the word "obvious" throughout this blog entry. Please forgive me, but I am obviously unable to use a thesaurus.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Michigan Football - Midterm Analysis

Well, so far this blog has been suspiciously silent on the ongoing debacle that is the 2008 Michigan Football program (a couple work trips and the painful reality of the season have gotten in the way). So I guess it's about time we addressed it, as difficult as it might be. I was on record saying the team would win nine games this year, and that prediction is already shot. The ineptitude is astounding. There are a lot of reasons for the poor results:

1. QB
This is the most obvious, as the QB is the most visible player on the field. Threet has been decent at times, and has even shown that he's capable of running the ball on occasions where it's needed. However, he makes bad decisions, is inaccurate throwing the ball, and has shown a propensity for fumbling. At least twice already this season, Threet has fumbled the ball while just cocking his arm to make a throw. His backup and nominal "co-starter" for the first couple games, Nick Sheridan, has shown nothing to make anyone wonder why he was a walk-on. Michigan's pass offense is 102nd in the nation (108th in pass efficiency). Sheesh.

2. Offensive line
The O-line has one returning starter from last year. The blocking has been downright dreadful. They have been unable to open significant holes for the running game, and have not shown any consistency in their pass blocking. Sheesh.

3. Safeties
There have been several big plays that could have been averted if only the safeties had taken a better angle on the play. Both Steve Brown and Charles Stewart have been atrocious at times. Brandon Harrison has been pretty good, but he's had his share of miscues as well.

4. Hold on to the damn ball!
In just six games, the Wolverines have fumbled 20 times already, and lost 11 of those. As a comparison, for the 13-game 2007 season, Michigan fumbled 29 times and lost just 13. Although time of possession is somewhat of a misleading stat overall, it's indicative of turnover impact and offensive ineptitude. Michigan is averaging just 26 minutes of possession this year. Michigan is 114th in the country in turnover margin. Sheesh.

5. Coaching

Okay, I'll admit the coaching has been lacking so far, but I'm gonna revisit this topic later, so don't panic. I place a lot of the blame for the shoddy tackling and the poor blocking on the shoulders of the coaching staff. While I understand that it's a new staff, a new system, yadda yadda yadda, I still expected the talent on the team to be able to adjust to the new schemes with not a whole lot of drop-off. I was wrong. Perhaps the talent level is lower than I thought.

So, at the risk of sounding like a total homer, I'd like to say a few words about what I think are the positives about the season as we hit the season's midpoint.

1. Sam McGuffie
Despite the lack of blocking by the O-line, McGuffie has managed to eke out some good gains on a regular basis. In addition, he's shown that he is capable of being a good receiver out of the backfield. And he does not fumble often, unlike Minor and Grady.

2. Martavious Odoms
When he gets the ball, it feels like he can go all the way. He's lightning quick and has good hands. Unfortunately, too many times the ball is thrown inaccurately or his blockers whiff and he's hung out to dry. He has a chance to be a great one.

3. Zoltan
Okay, I'm reaching here, but Zoltan has been spectacular. The punt team is second in the nation in net punting average. Zoltan is the man.

Here's what I'm hanging my hat on: I have confidence in the system. Despite the shortcomings of this year's team, I don't think the spread offense is to blame. Lot's of teams run the spread, and most of them copied it from RichRod. Did anyone catch the Okla-Texas game last weekend? Oklahoma runs the spread offense, and theirs works because they have a great QB and their linemen can block. I think that once we get a good QB to Ann Arbor (hopefully next year with Forcier and Beaver on the way) and the linemen learn how to block, the offense will start to click.

In this age of instant analysis and feedback and blogs, don't fall into the trap of giving up on the team and the new staff just because of a slow start. I think it's too early to panic and bail out on the system because the players are unable to execute it. I think we have a good coaching staff that needs more time to teach the new offensive and defensive systems to the players. Once they have more experience under their belt, I think the offense will flourish. This year is gonna be painful though. It's already surpassed what I thought the pain level would be for this season. I was not anticipating this. Anyway, as always...

Go Blue!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Know Your Foe - Wisconsin

This Saturday marks the beginning of the Big Ten season. The Wolverines play host to Wisconsin this week. Michigan had two weeks to bounce back from a sloppy loss to Notre Dame. I was unable (fortunately or unfortunately - you make the call) to see the game due to hurricane issues down here in Texas. So far this season, Wisconsin has three victories over "mid-majors," including an impressive road victory over perennial giant-killer Fresno State. Likewise, this is Michigan's first game this season against a ranked opponent.

With that, I give you this week's installment of "Know Your Foe."

The University of Wisconsin is a public University that was established in 1848. The Madison campus is known for several things, including the liberal activism and hard partying ways of its students. In fact, in the May 2006 issue of Playboy, Wisconsin was named the #1 party school in the country. I remember I bought that issue just so I could read that article - really, the articles are great.

Madison, Wisconsin. The campus is located about a mile from the state capitol building. From all accounts I have read, it is considered a beautiful campus, and Madison often is found in the "nicest places to live" lists put out by various publications. The home football games are played at Camp Randall Stadium, which has a capacity of just over 80,000.

The nickname "Badgers" was borrowed from the state of Wisconsin. The territory was dubbed the "Badger State," not because of animals in the region, but rather because of an association with lead miners. In the 1820s and 1830s, prospectors came to the state looking for minerals, and without shelter in the winter, the miners had to "live like badgers" in tunnels burrowed into hillsides. The badger and the wolverine are actually part of the same family of carvinorous mammals known as Mustelidae. The family also includes weasels and ferrets.

Colors/Logo/Fight Song
The official colors are "cardinal and white." Just call it "red," will ya? The logo is kind of a stylized block W. I think it's called the "Motion W" and the university sued some high schools whose logos looked too much like the Badgers' logo. It seems to me to be a little bit petty, since afterall, it's really just a font? Can you trademark a font?

The fight song is a pretty good one, but it's obviously centered around football. Do they sing this during basketball games?

On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, plunge right through that line.
Run the ball clear down the field, a touchdown sure this time.
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, fight on for her fame.
Fight, fellows, fight, fight, fight, we'll win this game.

On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, stand up Badgers sing.
"Forward" is our driving spirit, loyal voices ring.
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, raise her glowing flame.
Stand, fellows, let us now salute her name.

However, what I remember most about this fight song is its use in some sort of ad campaign for cheese back in the 80s. It used the same tune, but the lyrics were something like "On Wisconsin, on your taco, on your cordon bleu, on your *something*, on your *something*, the taste is good for you." The use of their fight song in a cheesy cheese ad for cheese automatically downgrades it.

Bucky the Badger is one of the more recognizable mascots in the country. I particularly like the 20s style striped sweater that badgers have been known to wear in nature for thousands of years.

According to US News and World Reports, Wisconsin (Madison) ranks a respectable 35th, on par with the likes of Georgia Tech, Lehigh, UC-San Diego, and Rochester (Michigan ranks 26th). The University is a leader in stem cell research, and is one of thirty "sea grant colleges" in the US. These colleges are involved (which include UofM and MSU, among others) in scientific research, education, training, and extension projects geared toward the conservation and practical use of U.S. coasts, the Great Lakes and other marine areas.

Barry Alvarez put the Badgers back on the football map when he took over in 1990. His first season, they were 1-10. With the exception of 2001, Wisconsin has been to a bowl game every year since 1996. In 1998 and 1998, the Badgers finished in the top five in the country for the year. Bret Bielema took over the head coaching duties for the 2006 season, and has continued the success. Wisco's men's basketball program has also become a consistently successful one. They have made the NCAA tournament the last nine years, including one final four. The men's and women's hockey teams each won national championships in 2006. Also, the men's and women's rowing teams have won 27 non-NCAA titles (whatever that means) between 1990 and 2006.

Famous Alums
This is a pretty good list, but lacks true "star power." The list includes lots of football and hockey players. Among the more interesting alums are major league baseball commissioner and former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers Bud Selig, Second Lady Lynne Cheney, musician Steve Miller, actress Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm In The Middle), aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, broadcaster Greta Van Susteren, ESPN basketball writer Andy Katz, Democratic Senator and owner of the Milwaukee Bucks Herb Kohl, Sierra Club founder John Muir, and movie producers Jerry and David Zucker, who were responsible for producing and directing what might be the single funniest movie of my childhood, the 1980 classic "Airplane!" Surely, everyone is familiar with that movie. "I am familiar with it. And don't call me Shirley."

The Game
Despite the fact that the Wolverines' first three games have been uninspiring (to say the least), I have a good feeling about this game. The Badgers' style is pretty straightforward. They will run PJ Hill until he collapses from exhaustion. Fortunately for Michigan, their strength is the defensive line. Unfortunately for Michigan, the linebackers have been inconsistent. If the defense is able to control the Wisco running game, there is a good chance that Michigan comes out of this game with a victory. If Hill runs for less than 50 yards, it means that they have pretty well controlled the line of scrimmage. If he runs for over 120, that's a bad sign. On the other side of the ball, if Michigan can get competent play from their QB this week, they have a chance. For that to happen, the the big fellas on the offensive line have to play a lot better, and the little fellas have to hang onto the ball. Call me crazy, but if Fresno State can hold Wisco to 13 points, Michigan should be able to do the same. The question is whether or not the offense can generate any points. There was significant improvements offensively against the Irish (except for those pesky fumbles), but the Badgers are a lot better then ND. I say the offense gets some footing and is able to run the ball against the Badgers defense. The home field is the key here, and the Wolverines win their Big Ten opener: Michigan 21, Wisconsin 13.

Go Blue!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Know Your Foe - Notre Dame

In week 2, we saw Rich Rodriguez's first victory as Michigan coach. It was an ugly, close victory against a MAC team, but it's still a win. This week's opponent is a familiar one - The University of Notre Dame. The Irish looked pretty unimpressive themselves in pulling out a close victory at home over a San Diego State team that lost in week one to Cal Poly. The game this weekend is between the two winningest programs in college football history. However, this year's matchup does not have the luster of years past. It's got all the excitement of a MAC school taking on a Sun Belt school. So, bring on Troy vs. Eastern Michigan. With that, I give you this week's installment of "Know Your Foe."

The University of Notre Dame is a private school that was founded by a Catholic Priest (who may or may not have been a pedophile) as an all-male institution in 1842. Currently, it's organized into five colleges and one professional school. It became co-ed in 1972. Undergrad enrollment is only 8,352. There are no fraternities or sororities on campus, and 80% of the undergrads live on campus in single-sex dorms. Also part of its history, I attended an all-sports camp there for two weeks during one summer in the late 1970s, where I excelled in nothing and was recruited by no one. I did, however, learn some interesting new ways to use swear words to my advantage, and I ran into Notre Dame basketball stars Orlando Woolridge and Bill Laimbeer.

Notre Dame, Indiana. That's right. I bet you thought it was in South Bend. Notre Dame is actually an unincorporated community just north of South Bend. It's in northeastern Indiana, just four miles from the Michigan border.

Iconic campus buildings
Notre Dame has two - the golden dome that sits atop the "Main Building" (wow, that's some inventive nomenclature), and of course the library, on which is painted the famous "Touchdown Jesus."


The Fighting Irish nickname was originated in the early 20s. I must admit, it's a pretty good nickname. Any nickname that includes the word "fighting" is okay by me. Before the official adoption of the Fighting Irish nickname, Notre Dame had several other unofficial nicknames, including Rovers, Ramblers, and Terriers. Other nicknames for students and alumni include Domers, Assholes, and Insufferable Pricks.

Colors/Logo/Fight Song
The official colors of Notre Dame are "Madonna blue" and "Papal gold." In modern culture, when the words "Madonna" and "blue" are used in the same sentence, the "blue" is usually a verb, as in "That Madonna concert really blew," or "When she blew me, I was thinking of Madonna circa 1990." The teams also occasionally wear green because of the whole Irish thing.

The Irish have several different logos. The interlocking ND is a classic, but the fighting leprechaun (show above) is good too.

The Notre Dame fight song ("Notre Dame Victory March"), along with Michigan's and a few others, is probably one of the most recognizable collegiate fight songs in the country. The lyrics are inspiring, and the tune is memorable. The lyrics include lots of battle and war imagery - glory, fight, heart, loyal, thunder, victory, and of course a "rah rah" thrown in for good measure. A good school fight song should be able to be used in football or in battle. This one could definitely inspire an army infantryman or a defensive lineman. It's a classic.

Rally sons of Notre Dame
Sing her glory and sound her fame
Raise her Gold and Blue
And cheer with voices true:
Rah, rah, for Notre Dame
We will fight in every game,
Strong of heart and true to her name
We will ne'er forget her
And will cheer her ever
Loyal to Notre Dame.

Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame,
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky!
What though the odds be great or small,
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to victory!

Change "Notre Dame" to "USA," and "Gold and Blue" to "Red, White, and Blue" and you'd have yourself a nice little song to rally the troops prior to battle.

According to US News and World Reports, Notre Dame ranks an impressive 18th, on par with the likes of Vanderbilt, Rice, Emory, and Cal-Berkeley (Michigan ranks 26th). They've got a good law school, a good business school, and a good architecture school. It appears that the Notre Dame educational experience is very well rounded, much like head football coach Charlie Weis.

Notre Dame competes in the Big East Conference in all major sports (unless you consider hockey a major sport - the hockey team competes in the CCHA) except football, where they have maintained their independence, mainly due to money: they have their own TV deal; they don't have to share the money they make from bowl games; and they can schedule service academies every year. In football the Irish have won 11 national championships (the last one being in 1988) and have had seven Heisman Trophy winners. Recently, the football team has fallen on (relatively) hard times. They have not won a bowl game since 1994, and during their 9-game bowl losing streak, they have lost those bowl games by an average of about 17 points. The Irish have been invited to join the Big Ten numerous times - most recently in 1999 - but each time they declined.

Notre Dame is also competitive in women's soccer (national title in 1995 and 2004, runner up in 2006), men's hockey, women's basketball, and men's basketball. But make no mistake about it - Notre Dame is a football school.

Famous Alums
While the list of prominent Notre Dame alumni is long, it's mostly populated by educators, researchers, businessmen, and anonymous politicians. Among the more significant alums: rocker Ted Leo (of Ted Leo and The Pharmacists), the four founding members of the band Umphrey's McGee, actor George Wendt, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, talk show hosts Phil Donahue and Regis Philbin, famous Chicago scapegoat Steve Bartman, and Hubert Schlafly, the inventor of the teleprompter.

The Game
This could be ugly. Michigan has struggled to score points in their first two games under Rich Rodriguez. The QB play has been unsurprisingly abysmal. The running game showed signs of life against Miami but let's be honest - it was only Miami. Notre Dame, as referenced in the intro, has played just one game so far this year, and it was an uninspiring victory at home against one of the worst teams in the country. There have been some ugly games in the recent history of this rivalry, but those were ugly because they were lopsided in favor of Michigan (two 38-0 games and a 47-21 game in the last six years). This one's gonna be ugly because both teams are struggling. This is a pivotal game for both teams, since the winner of this game is going to come through it with much needed momentum to carry into the rest of the season. Michigan gets a week off before hosting Wisconsin and Illinois, and the Irish have to travel to East Lansing to face a tough MSU team. If Michigan loses, the fans will have an extra week to panic about the state of the team and the wisdom of hiring RichRod. If the Irish lose, their already panicky fanbase may start to turn on Jabba the Weis. I think this will be a low scoring game, with Michigan managing to limit their mistakes a tiny bit more than the Irish. The Wolverine ground game will gain more momentum against the questionable Irish defense. Jimmy Clausen will get sacked at least four times. Michigan 16, Notre Dame 12. Confidence level - approaching zero. So now, thanks to Hurricane Ike, it's off to the storm cellar, where I will subsist on water and spam for the next week or so. I hope our double-wide house makes it through. Enjoy the games this weekend, and of course...

Go Blue!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Epic Fail - 2005 NFL Draft

With the latest news that Niner QB Alex Smith is out for the season, and his career for the Niners is probably over, I decided to take a look at the 2005 NFL draft and check the status of the top ten picks in that draft. Smith was the top pick in the draft. Here are the rest of the top ten. It does not look too good:

2. Ronnie Brown - He is backing up Ricky Williams, of all people, for the Dolphins. While he has had a couple decent seasons, the second pick in the draft has to be considered a failure if he's not a starter and a consistent 1200 yard rusher.

3. Braylon Edwards - He's been great. No complaints. One of the few Michigan receivers that has lived up to his lofty draft pick *coughDavidTerrellcough* and the only one from this list who has made a Pro Bowl.

4. Cedric Benson - Released by the Bears this past offseason, and not currently on an NFL roster. Has been arrested twice this year for alcohol-related offenses.

5. Cadillac Williams - Suffered a patellar tendon tear last year while playing for the Buccaneers, and doctors are doubtful that he will ever come back to full strength.

6. Adam Jones - "Pacman" had an unspectacular rookie season, a very good second season, and was suspended for the entirety of his third season due to legal troubles. He was traded to the Cowboys for a fourth round pick. I'm sure that if you could find a Tennessee Titans fan, he would tell you that Pacman was a huge disappointment. Most well known for "makin it rain" in a Las Vegas strip club.

7. Troy Williamson - The Vikings needed a speedy receiver after trading Randy Moss to the Raiders. What they got was 79 catches in three seasons. He was traded this offseason to the Jaguars for a 6th round draft pick.

8. Antrel Rolle - Missed almost all of his rookie season with a knee injury. Played fairly well last season, but was moved to safety prior to this season.

9. Carlos Rogers - Serviceable cornerback, but has only 150 tackles and 4 INTs in three seasons.

10. Mike Williams - He was the third consecutive WR picked in the first round by the Lions. Two of the three are not only no longer with the Lions, but also no longer playing in the NFL. Williams is one of those. He totaled 44 receptions in three seasons.

By any measure, this has to be the worst overall top ten NFL draft picks in recent memory. One Pro Bowl appearance, two guys already traded, and two guys already out of the league after three years (and not due to injury). By comparison, the 2004 draft has already had six players from the top ten picks make the Pro Bowl, and even the 2007 draft already has two Pro Bowlers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


He starts hanging out with celebs like McConaughey...

Lance Armstrong announced today that he is coming out of retirement to try to win his eighth Tour de France title next summer. After a bit of soul-searching, I reached deep inside myself and discovered that I don't care about this even a tiny little bit. To be honest, he could not have timed his announcement any worse. Obviously he should have timed it to maximize the publicity (and make no mistake about it - that's most likely what this is about). But football season has begun, Tom Brady is injured, a MILF is running for VP, and there is an election coming up, so you'll forgive me if I am underwhelmed by the news that another retired athlete (from a very minor sport, at that) has decided to make another run at glory. The last Tour de France title he won was in 2005, so by the time the next Tour comes along, it will have been a full four years since his last triumph at the Arc de Triomphe. How well do "un-retirements" go after relatively long layoffs? Not well.

...and this is what happens

Michael Jordan
Michael took two years off after his second retirement following the 1998 season (and his sixth NBA title), then joined the Washington Wizards prior to the 2001-2002 season. While his stats were respectable for the Wizards, he tore up his knee after 60 games in the 2001 season, and they did not make the playoffs either of the two years he played for the Wizards. His style of play had changed significantly since his high-flying days with the Bulls. He was mostly a low post player who took a lot of fadeaway jumpers and was not as prone to drive to the basket as he was in his earlier years. He was an all-star both years, but at that point he was coasting on his reputation and all-star voting is a popularity contest. Most NBA fans would agree that this comeback was a bad idea.

Magic Johnson
Magic took a physical prior to the 1991 NBA season and it was discovered that he was HIV+. He immediately announced his retirement. After an aborted comeback in the 1992 season, and a failed attempt at coaching in the 1993 season, he decided to have a go at a comeback late in the 1994-95 season. He played the last 32 games of the season (at power forward) and the Lakers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Rockets. His numbers were decent, but like Michael's comeback, he was a totally different player than his fans remembered. I think most NBA fans would also agree that this idea was ill-conceived.

There have to be others that I'm missing, right? Remember, I'm not talking about Favre-like or Clemens-like retirements that don't even last a full offseason, but rather the ones that were years in length. I'd also like to hear about successful ones too. I just can't think of any right now.

NOTE: By the way, I am purposefully omitting boxers, because they seemingly retire after every big fight, so I can't tell what's an extended layoff between fights and what's a "retirement."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Know Your Foe - Miami University

Well, week one did not go as planned for the Wolverines. I'd love to say that Michigan gets a break this week with a MAC school coming into the big house, but App State is still fresh in my mind from last year. However, Utah is a top 20 team, and Miami is not. Michigan and Miami have squared off four times overall, and they last played in 2004 - which Michigan won 43-10. It was true freshman QB Chad Henne's first start, and it was my daughter's first Michigan game. The Redhawks have never beaten Michigan on the football field. Miami is coming off an opening week loss to Vanderbilt. With that, I bring you this week's installment of "Know Your Foe."

Miami University was founded in 1809 (!). The land grant for the school was actually signed by George Washington in 1792. The university's first president envisioned Miami as a "Yale of The West." It has instead become the "Yale of The MAC." Undergrad enrollment on the main campus is 14,265.

Oxford, OH - which is about 30 miles northwest of Cincinnati. The "Miami" in the school's name actually refers to the Miami River Valley, which is formed by two rivers - the Little Miami River and the Great Miami River. The river valley was named for the Miami Indians, who lived there before the settlers came, got them drunk, and shuffled them off to a reservation or something. Incidentally, I have a feeling that the theme of "named after Indians whose land they settled on" is going to be a common theme in the "Know Your Foe" series. So far, we're two-for-two.

They were formerly known as the Redskins, but at the request of the Oklahoma-based Miami tribe, in 1997 they changed their nickname to the Redhawks.

Colors/Logo/Fight Song
The Redhawks colors are exactly what you'd expect of a team with "red" in their name - Red and White. The logo is of course a Redhawk, but the football helmet is white with a red M outlined in black.

The fight song seems like a short and insignificant little ditty, but the Alma Mater of Miami is full of haughty biblical language and imagery:

Old Miami from thy hillcrest,
Thou hast watched the decades roll,
While thy sons have quested from thee,
Sturdy hearted, pure of soul.

Aging in thy simple splendor,

Thou the calm and they the storm;
Thou didst give them joy in conquest,
Strength from thee sustained their arm.

Now of late thyself envigored,
Larger usefulness awaits;
Hosts assemble for thy blessing,
Youth and maiden throng thy gate.

Thou shalt stand a constant beacon,
Crimson tow'rs against the sky;
Men shall ever seek thy guiding,
Pow'r like thine shall never die.

Chorus*:Old Miami! New Miami!
Days of old and days to be;
Weave the story of thy glory,
Our Miami, here's to thee!

*The chorus is sung between each verse and at the end.

Are you kidding me? Thee? Thine? Thou?

According to US News and World Reports, Miami ranks a surprisingly respectable 66th, on par with the likes of Purdue, SMU, UConn, Iowa, and Texas A&M (as a reference, Michigan ranks 26th). Their business school is ranked as the best in the state of Ohio, and eighth best nationally among public schools. It's by far the top academic school in the Mid American Conference (the next MAC school on the list is Ohio, down at 116).

The Redhawks last went to a bowl game in 2004, when they lost to Iowa State in the Independence Bowl. Strangely enough, they actually played in something called the "Salad Bowl" in 1951. The hockey team plays in the CCHA, where they have been moderately sucessful. The mens basketball team (coached by irascible curmedgeon Charlie Coles) has traditionally been pretty successful, making the postseason the last three years. Miami is also home the one of the country's few sychronized skating teams. They won a silver medal at the 2007 International Skating Union World Synchronized Skating Championships. So they've got that going for them - which is nice.

Famous Alums
Miami is one of only four universities (the others are Stanford, Michigan, and the Naval Academy) to produce both a US President (Benjamin Harrison) and a Super Bowl winning QB (Ben Roethlisberger). Other famous alums include author PJ O'Rourke, actress Tina Louise, and a disturbingly large number of reality show cast members (total of at least three). Actually, I think the more disturbing thing is that wiki lists reality show cast members as famous alums. I think it's a sign that the alumni list is not terribly extensive. Due to the strength of the business school, there are lots of CEOs on the list, but no one I would consider famous.

Miami is also known as the "Cradle of Coaches," due to the prominent coaches who were students/athletes/coaches at the school. Among these coaches: Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Weeb Ewbank, Ron Zook, Jim Tressel, and of course Bo Schembechler.

The Game
Miami came into the season with a pretty decent outlook (16 starters returning, including 9 on defense) and CFN called them the team to beat in the MAC, but their 34-13 loss to a mediocre Vanderbilt team opening week says otherwise. Vandy ran for 269 yards against Miami's defense. This bodes well for Michigan's anemic ground game, which was completely inept against Utah. Expect to see a lot of the Michigan ground attack, but the QBs need to get some confidence thru the air as well. Michigan should be able to control the line of scrimmage against the relatively puny Miami defense and open some holes for Minor, Shaw, and McGuffie. This should open up the passing lanes for presumptive starter Steven Threet, and Michigan should be able to coast to a victory. Michigan 35 Miami 10.

Go Blue!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Know Your Foe - Utah

Since one of my favorite Michigan football-centric sites, The MZone, closed its doors a couple months back, I thought I would steal borrow one of my favorite features of theirs - Know Your Foe. I don't expect this to be as good and exhaustive as Benny's on the MZone were, but it's my first one. Consider this as an homage to Benny, Yost, and the MZone. What are they gonna do - sue me?* Cheers, fellas.

*Note: Please don't sue me.

As everyone who's reading this is probably aware, this is the first game of the Rich Rodriguez era ("It's a New Dawn!"). The only time Michigan and Utah squared off was in 2002, the year before Urban Meyer took over at Utah and introduced the spread (he was at Bowling Green that year). The game was a thrilling 10-7 snoozefest in the heat of September. I was at the game, but I don't remember all that much about it. Looking at the recap of the game, it was indeed ugly. Phil Brabbs missed a couple FGs (including a 27-yarder), Chris Perry ran for 91 yards, and the defense only allowed 20 yards rushing. This season, Utah is expected to challenge BYU for supremacy in the Mountain West conference, and this week's game should be an entertaining contest, if only for the fact that both teams like to utilize the spread offense. This should be a welcome relief from last year's grueling opener.

Pretty boring logo

The University of Utah was founded in 1850 by none other than Brigham Young and it was originally called University of Deseret. It closed two years later for financial reasons and reopened in 1867. It was renamed University of Utah in 1894. The current enrollment is listed at 22,661 undergrads (for reference, Michigan's undergrad enrollment is 26,083).

Salt Lake City, Utah. Portions of the present campus are located on the grounds formerly belonging to the US Army's Fort Douglas, which was closed in 1991. The first permanent settlers in the Salt Lake Valley were Mormons, led by Brigham Young (unsurprisingly, his name is all over the state's history). In 2002, the University was home to the Olympic Village, and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and several Olympic events.

"The Utes," named after the Ute tribe of Native Americans. The basketball team is known as the "Runnin' Utes," a reference to the time when Brigham Young ran all of the Native Americans off of "his" land so he could build his big church in the Salt Lake Valley. "Look, them Utes is runnin' now!" For some reason, the women' gymnastics team is known as the "Red Rocks." Insert your own joke, because I can't manage to come up with one.

The Utes colors are a very popular combination - Red and White. In fact, three of Michigan's first four opponents this year wear these colors as well. The logo is a capital "U" with a couple indian feathers hanging off the back.

According to US News and World Reports, Utah ranks a mediocre 127th, on par with the likes of Arkansas, Colorado State, Michigan Tech, and SUNY-Buffalo (as a reference, Michigan ranks 26th). They're right at the bottom of the "tier 1" rankings. Their medical school is known as one of the finest in the region (yay). However, in 1989, then-chair of the chemistry department, Stanley Pons, claimed to have discovered a chemical process known as "cold fusion," which has since been discredited by the scientific community (boo).

Current head football coach Kyle Whittingham has coached the Utes to three straight bowl victories, and the school is currently on a seven game bowl winning streak overall, dating back to 1999. The basketball team has traditionally been pretty successful, last making the final four in 1998, when they lost in the finals to Kentucky (a game that I watched in a sports bar in Trinidad). The women's gymnastics program is consistently successful, with ten national championships since 1981, as well as seven second place finishes in the same time period (including the last three in a row).

Famous Alums
As you might expect, the list of alumni from the University of Utah includes numerous former Presidents of The Mormon Church. In addition, Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart, is a former Ute; as is Wilbert Gore, the inventor of Gore-tex fabric. The list of "celebrities" from the University of Utah is woefully lacking, unless you count Ted Bundy, who attended law school there before he was arrested for killing and raping a large number of women (estimates range from 26-57), and former Bush aide Karl Rove, who attended Utah but did not graduate. In fact, he does not have a college degree, which is probably why GWB kept him around for so long - to make himself feel smarter ("Hey Rove, where'd you get your degree again? Oh, I forgot - you don't have one. Heh heh. I went to Yale."). Numerous sports stars are former Utes, including two former number one overall draft picks in their respective sports - QB Alex Smith, and forward Andrew Bogut.

The Game
I wish I could offer some sort of insight as to what's gonna happen here, but just like everyone else, I have no clue. I'll make a stab at it anyway. Michigan's defense plays stout, holding the usually efficient Utah offense under 300 yards, and forcing a couple key turnovers. Michigan's offense sputters at first, but bolstered by a strong running game, manages to take advantage of the Utah turnovers to put three TDs on the board. It will be a close game until the fourth quarter, when the Wolverines will add a late TD to seal the victory. Michigan 24, Utah 13. The Rich Rodriguez era begins with a solid, but unspectacular victory. Huzzah. (Take that, Candyman!)

Go Blue!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Can't Wait For Kickoff

Why am I so damn disinterested in reading about the upcoming Wolverine season?? Like never before. I could never get enough. I mean, there is so much to read about…or is there? Everything at this point is pure speculation and supposition. Quite frankly, I don’t care what xyz reporter or blogger has to say because they have no idea what is coming. Yes, that can be said during any pre-season, but this year with all the player and coaching changes, nobody knows what to expect, probably including Rich Rodriguez himself. Instead of wasting my very precious time reading what all the pinheads have to say, I have taken the approach of waiting for it all to happen and unfold a bit, and then get into reading about. Reporting versus prognosticating. It is actually quite refreshing.

I equate it to playing a new golf course. When I play my home course, I always have preconceptions of where I have to hit the ball, and then what trouble I am in for different shots. When I play a new/different course, I just hit the ball – shot by shot. Sometimes that innocence and blank canvas frees the mind and helps, and sometimes you step in a pile of shit.

That is how I am looking at this Michigan Football season – let it all happen, see how it unfolds, and base thoughts on what is actually happening, not the speculation and opinions of our esteemed press. I fully intend to see some great/exciting/fun stuff and I also fully expect to step in that proverbial pile of shit on occasion. My baseless prediction is that we win 8 games this year – don’t know how or why, but with the athletes that Michigan has I just think we win that many games even through the growing pains. Either way, it will all come down to blocking and tackling.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michigan Football Preview - 2008

Okay, I'll admit that I have no real tangible reason for the optimism that I have for the upcoming season. The list of areas in which Michigan is seemingly deficient is long:

None of the QBs on the roster has taken a meaningful snap in a college football game. The starter may be a walk-on. The freshman who's best equipped to run the spread is not ready to run it on a regular basis yet. Expect to see some direct snaps to Carlos Brown or other non-QBs several times per game. Each of these sentences sends shivers up my spine and undoubtedly will make me reach for the Maalox on a regular basis while watching games this year.

Experience with new offense
Which is to say, "none." None of the players on the offensive side of the ball has played in this offensive system in college, although some have played in a variation of the spread in high school. It could start out a bit ugly.

After the departure of stud MLB David Harris, I was not real happy with our linebacker play last year. The personnel is similar this year. Coach Shafer's new aggressive style of defense may help, but I'm not sold on the LBs. I hope they prove me wrong. On the bright side, Shawn Crable and his reckless style of linebacking are now gone.

Both starters from last year (Adams and Englemon) are gone. Hopefully, upperclassmen can step in, because having freshmen at the safety position is a scary proposition. My trepidation is tempered, however, because of the general ineptitude of Big Ten QBs this year. Still, not an area of strength, in my opinion.

Offensive Line
Only one starter returns from a line that was not all that good last year. Jake Long is gone. Judas Boren is gone. This, to me, is the most critical deficiency on the team. We can survive with mediocre QB play, but a porous OL will hurt the running and passing games. The OL is one injury away from a real major crisis. If the OL can manage to be decent, I'll be happy. If the OL can somehow manage to excel and dominate, the sky's the limit.

But the list of things Michigan has in their favor is decent too:

Defensive Line
The prospective starters on the DL all have started games at Michigan. Terrance Taylor, Brandon Graham, and Tim Jamison all have the talent to be all-Big Ten performers. This unit is going to have to have a good year, like the 2006 team had (with Branch and Woodley), or it could be a very long season. With the overall experience level of the DL, this is not a concern and this is probably the single strongest unit on the team.

Morgan Trent is a very good veteran corner with great speed. Sophomore Donovan Warren is going to be all-Big Ten before he's through at Michigan. Boubacar Cissoko is supposedly impressing in practice. Woolfolk has been coming on. Brandon Harrison is a good nickel back. This is a strength, and with the pressure that is likely to be brought by the veteran front line and the overall lack of quality Big Ten QBs, I would not be surprised to see a lot of INTs registered by this unit.

Wide Receivers
The strength here is in the numbers. While we lost Arrington and Manningham to the NFL, there are several potential bright spots. Greg Matthews is a Jason Avant-like talent - very good hands, but not great speed. Matthews, Clemons, Stonum, Hemingway, and Savoy are more like the prototypical Michigan receiver from past years - tall and rangy. The new generation of receivers is small and quick - Odoms, Robinson, Shaw. I'm excited about the possibilities and the variety. Plus, saying the name "Martavious Odoms" gives me pleasure.

Running Backs
Despite the loss of Michigan's all-time leading rusher Mike Hart, this position is loaded. Carlos Brown and Brandon Miner return from last year, and Sam McGuffie and Michael Cox (and Michael Shaw as well) provide a new infusion of speed and explosiveness. With the spread offense, these guys are also used in the slot, so expect to see these guys all over the place - and several on the field at once.

The Barwis

The conditioning program instituted by The Barwis has revolutionized the way our players train and lift. They are going to be stronger, faster, and have more stamina to finish games strong.

If all else fails and the offense sputters, the all-powerful Zoltan can unleash a sixty yard punt and pin the opposition deep in their own territory. All Hail Zoltan! (At the same time, I fully appreciate the irony of saying that one of the bright spots on the team is the player whose mere presence on the field is a sign of temporary offensive surrender, so don't bother pointing it out)

Enthusiasm of new coaching staff
For the first time in like forever, there is an infusion of new blood into the Michigan program. While I know many (including myself, to some degree) will miss the Bo era, it's time to move on. The RichRod era is upon us and I for one could not be more excited.

Like I said, I am optimistic about this season (go ahead, call me a shameless homer). Last season, Michigan was rated in the top five to start the year. We saw how well that turned out. This year, nothing much is expected of the Wolverines - in fact, most polls do not have Michigan ranked at all. I think the team will be better than most people expect. I'm seeing a 9-3 season, including a victory over the Buckeyes that will send us to a New Years Day bowl game and catapult the Wolverines to securing a solid recruiting class, thereby setting up next year for awesome QB recruit Shavodrick Beaver and his team of lightning quick Lilliputian receivers.

"It's a new dawn."
- Grace Slick

Go Blue!

Monday, August 18, 2008

SEC Preview - Fun with Names

I thought there were some unusual names in the Big Ten, but those are nothing compared to what I found when I was scouting the Southeastern Conference. Just as the Big Ten representative has been thoroughly trounced by the SEC in the last two BCS title games, the SEC again scoffs at the Big Ten's strange names. Last year, we all had fun with the Arkansas Razorbacks team with Dick throwing to his favorite Johnson, and coached by Nutt. I suppose that's where my interest in mocking people's names came from. Again, I did not verify if any of the players listed below has exhausted their eligibility. Many of them might be gone, but I used the ESPN roster listing for each team. So sue me. Anyway, here's the SEC.

M'ore' Un'necesary A'postrophes
- Don'ta Hightower, Alabama LB
- De'Anthony Curtis, Arkansas RB
- D'Antoine Hood, Auburn DB
- Da'Shaun Barnes, Auburn LB
- Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn DE
- T'Sharvan Bell, Auburn DB
- De'Mon Glanton, Mississippi State DB
- Donte'e Nicholls, South Carolina DT
- Ja'Kouri Williams, Tennessee RB
- Demonte' Bolden, Tennessee DT

Team with the Most Opportunities for Snickering at Their Roster
The Hogs not only have two Dicks (QBs Casey and his little bro Nathan), but they also have a Penix, and lots of Love (see below). Also, this photo always cracks me up. This year, even the Hogs are Nutt-less, they still have a pair of Dicks (if the first one is injured, the other one can just step in and take over). In fact, there are times when they could use both Dicks on the field at once. In addition, their new head coach is kind of a dick too. (Yes, I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old)

Most Obvious Birth Certificate Spelling Error
Weslye Saunders, South Carolina TE
Don't hospitals have proofreaders?

Best Porn Name - For a Woman
Foxy Foxworth, South Carolina TE
This is strictly a soft-core porn name, since hardcore would be something like "Honey Titsworth."

Sometimes "Y"
Jhyryn Taylor, LSU WR
Are those considered vowels in this circumstance? If not, a vowel intervention is required.

Most Appropriate Name
Mississippi State has a linebacker named Nick Pounder, which is exactly what you want a linebacker to be - a pounder.

Military Names
Major Sosebee, Mississippi State WR
Captain Munnerlyn, South Carolina CB

Destiny's Children
Okay, if it's true that you grow into your name, then the ladies with marriage on their minds should start lining up for Mississippi State TE Jason Husband, but should stay away from South Carolina G Heath Batchelor. What woman in their right mind would want to put up with being called Mrs. Batchelor anyway? That would get old really fast.

Other Cool Names
- Rowdy Francis, Georgia S - I hope he lives up to his name.
- B.J. Wiedemann, Kentucky DE - Heh heh, his last name is a crappy G. Heileman beer - of which we drank copious amounts in college.
- Vanderal Shackleford, South Carolina LB - This sounds like a made-up name from "Fletch."
- Montario Hardesty, Tennessee RB - Another one that's got a rhythmic quality.
- T-Bob Hebert, LSU C - He is the son of former Michigan Panther and USFL Championship QB Bobby Hebert. This has dual Sienfeld significance. First, George claimed to be fascinated with the name "Hebert":

You know what's interesting. The quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons is Bobby Hebert. No "r" - which I find fascinating. You know it's Herbert h-e-r-b-e-r-t, Hebert h-e-b-e-r-t. "Hebert" it's a fun name to pronounce. Try and say it - Hebert.

Also, the name T-Bob reminds me of the episode where George wants to give himself a nickname and decides that T-Bone would be a good one. "But there's no 'T' in your name. What about G-Bone?" "There's no G-Bone."

Other Cool Names - Roman Division
-Quindarius Carr, Auburn WR
-Rodgerigus Smith, Auburn WR
-Octavius Balkcom, Auburn DE
-Omarius Hines, Florida WR
-Dontavius Jackson, Georgia RB
This sounds like a role call from a Roman Empire regiment. "Octavius, Quindarius, and Omarius - you go with Dontavius. The others will run with Mucus."

Mississippi State
This is a special commendation for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. In addition to the names already mentioned above, they have a great looking roster. Sylvester Croom has been very selective in the kinds of names he recruits. Have a look:
- Demario Bobo, DB - Great rhythmic sound for announcers. Go ahead - imagine how the stadium announcer would say it.
- De'Mon Glanton, DB - Is that pronounced like "demon" or is it more like "de-moan" or "de-mahn?" I need to know.
- Co-Eric Riley, WR - He's not the main Eric on the team. He's just a Co-Eric.
- Jasper O'Quinn, DB - Is he a leprechaun?
- Mike Hunt, DB - "Great coverage my Mike Hunt on that play. Mike Hunt was all over him. Mike Hunt is really looking good today. Uh-oh - it looks like Mike Hunt is hurt."
- Trevor Stigers, DL - There must be some mistake. Obviously, this guy is a striker on an EPL soccer team.
- Quinton Saulsberry, OL - I love his steaks.
- D.J. Looney, OL - I think I saw this guy DJ-ing in a club recently. "DJ Looney is in da house!"
- O'Neal Wilder, WR - His parents were fans of American playwrights.
- Cortez McCraney, DL - A clash of cultures - it's Spanish and Irish all in one!
- Dontavious Morrisette, RB - I just like the way this one rolls off the tongue. Another one that's just fun to say.
- Cleveland Tubbs, FB - Wasn't this guy Sonny Crockett's partner on Miami Vice?

"All You Need Is Love"
- Tyler Love, Alabama OL
- Jamar Love, Arkansas CB
- Jermaine Love, Arkansas LB
- DeMarcus Love, Arkansas G
- Omar Love, Ole Miss QB
- Logan Love, Tennessee DB

Mississippi State wins this one hands down, but Auburn also had a strong showing. Kudos to the Bulldogs. It will be the only SEC title they win this year: The First Annual Grateful Blue SEC "Best Names" Competition.