Posts Tagged ‘Football’

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To Michigan Fans Still Unhappy Even After a Win: Get Over Yourselves

11.13.10

Michigan won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time in recent memory by defeating Purdue 27-16 on the road today.

This comes after a monster win over Illinois, smothering the Illini’s two-point conversion attempt on the last play of the game that needed three overtime periods to determine the winner amongst two teams that kept waiting for their defenses to make that one stop that would give them the victory.

Surprisingly: it was the Maize and Blue squad that provided that one crucial goal-line stand after having not done hardly anything of note for… well, pretty much the last two-plus years.  And, it was one of the most thrilling and maddening games I’ve seen the Wolverines play.

After a three-game skid that threatened to look like the futility of the past two seasons, the Wolverines are 7-3, bowl eligible, and even winning games because of their defense (rather than in spite of).

There are fans out there who haven’t been happy with Rich Rodriguez since the day he was hired.  Well, they were probably unsure at that moment but they were for sure unhappy when UM started out his first season with a loss and went on to having an embarrassing 3-9 record.  And it’s been hard to convince them since.

Michigan fans are extremely proud of their school, their football program, and – possibly even more importantly than anything else – their winning tradition. I get it.  I went to Michigan.  I love that we have the winningest program in all of college football history.  I love that we have the biggest football stadium in the country.  I love that we have 11 national titles, 42 conference titles, and 3 Heisman trophy winners. I love that we have had the longest active streak of going to a bowl game.

It’s what’s made these past two seasons that saw only three wins in the Big Ten and no postseason berths (not to mention extending the losing streaks against rivals MSU and OSU) even tougher pills to swallow.  No one likes losing. But when you’re not used to losing more than three (four, tops) games a season, you get spoiled.  You get a sense of entitlement.

Since we’re Michigan, we must be great.  Since we’ve always won a ton of games, we should continue to win a ton of games.

After last week’s win, I saw all kinds of comments on Facebook and on news articles from Michigan fans angry over the win.  Despite the fact that Big Blue scored one in the ‘W’ column after a three-game losing streak and became bowl eligible for the first time in three years (and hopefully starting a new record-breaking streak), people were still calling for RichRod’s head for the fact that the team allowed 65 points to be dumped on them.

People in the comments sections also bemused that anyone would bother being excited for a win over Illinois — you can practically taste the lack of respect dripping off the words, as if beating even an arguably solid (UI has had a defense that ranked in the top-20 in the nation) Big Ten team was below them, because historically we’ve had Illinois’ number so therefore they’re always unworthy of beating us.

Larry Lage described the excitement as such:

“The Wolverines, meanwhile, celebrated as if they had clinched a Rose Bowl bid instead of just a trip to some second-tier bowl. Forcier jumped and screamed as he ran off the field, then slapped hands with fans along the tunnel before racing to the locker room.”

Why shouldn’t everyone rejoice? I’m sure if I had been there, wrapped up in the excitement and intensity of the game, rolling with all the ups and downs of the inherent drama, going from crushing defeat when Forcier lost a fumble on his first play to total elation when the defense stopped Scheelhaase’s pass, I’d have been beside myself, celebrating with my fellow Michigan fans in every way I knew how.  It’s why you go to games.

And, of course, after this week’s win, the Michigan fans that I saw on Facebook and even with whom I texted throughout the game, the messages were all negative and pessimistic.  They declared it an ugly win; as if it were still embarrassing and unacceptable to not play a flawless game despite winning by 11 points, on the road, in the rain and wind, and holding Purdue to not a single offensive touchdown. How cynical and impossible-to-please are we when all we do is focus on the negative in a victory?  Sure we had five turnovers on offense, for the second week in a row.  But, c’mon: leave that for the coaches.  They’re the ones who are supposed to never be happy, even in a win — but not us fans.

I say to those cynical people: get over yourselves.

I think it’s because many of these people aren’t fans of RichRod, so they have to justify their dislike even in the face of his success.  We won?  Well, yeah, but look at those turnovers.  Our defense held Purdue to only field goals?  Great, but they still racked up nearly 300 yards against us.  We outlasted Illinois in triple-overtime?  Did you see the score, though!? At this point, they’re too proud and have been too vocal in their opposition to Rodriguez as head coach that they can’t now admit that our team is improving.  So they have to just focus on the negative and miss the entire joy of watching a team grow before our very eyes.

The fact is that we’re 7-3.  We’re .500 in the Big Ten.  And we’re going to a bowl game.  We are improving.  Our offense is ranked 5th in the nation.  Our rushing offense is set to break all kinds of Michigan records — a school known for its rushing prowess.

To not enjoy these past two victories is to miss the fun in being a fan of a team.  The point of being such a huge fan is that your day is either made or broken by the outcome of this weekly game.  Winning brings euphoria; losing drives you to bitterness and finding yourself irritated by anything anyone does around you all day.  Winning – for us fans, not for the kids who play the game – is everything.  There are no moral victories against your arch-rivals.  There is no consolation in almost.

And, these past two Saturdays in November, we won.

So, let’s enjoy it.

Image courtesy of larrysphatpage’s Flickr Photostream.

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Why Rich Rodriguez Doesn’t Exude Confidence but I’m Optimistic About Michigan Football Anyway

08.30.10

I’ve supported Rich Rodriguez as Michigan’s head coach since he was hired in 2008 and I still do after all the strife and all the losses we’ve endured for the the past two seasons.

He’s going into his third and most likely decisive year where his job is on the line if you talk to any of the fans.  For those who haven’t liked his hiring since the get-go, even going 9-3 and beating Ohio State wouldn’t be enough to win them over — although, it probably would satiate them for a little bit longer.

Personally, I’m hoping for 8-4 and wins over Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State.  A tall order, I admit, but I think it’s all well within the realm of likelihood — even if OSU is ranked number two in the preseason AP poll.

Despite giving Rodriguez the leeway to build the program his way, after suffering a couple, rough rebuilding seasons, I can see how hard it is for others to get behind the guy.  And his soundbites don’t exactly instill confidence in the fans.

Rivals.com:

“We made progress last year, but the problem was we had so many dang turnovers toward the end of the year,” Rodriguez says. “We had too many turnovers and negative-yardage plays. Hopefully we’ll get better.

AP:

I know eventually what we’ll have, but in the first game or two, with all of the nerves out there and all that kind of stuff, big Johnny (Falk) will probably have to bring a couple extra pairs of pants in case they make a little mess,” said Rodriguez, referring to the team’s equipment manager.

Sporting News:

We have a pretty good idea already in how our rotation is going to be with the quarterbacks,” Rodriguez told reporters Monday. “But it’s going to be a feel thing. I’m not going to say this guy is going to play 20 plays and this guy is going to play 15 plays. It’s going to be a feel thing and we’ll get them all ready.”

Detroit News:

Every day I come in and wonder, ‘OK, who’s going to separate themselves?‘” Rodriguez said Wednesday after practice. “So that’s been an ongoing process. With three guys, this is probably as unique a situation I’ve been in.

“It may seem frustrating and everybody wants to know (who will start), but as long as they get better every day and eliminate the mistakes tomorrow that they had today or yesterday, then we’ll be OK. That’s the big thing. We don’t want to keep making the same mistakes, and they haven’t been for the most part, but there are some days they do better than others.”

Not exactly what you want to hear from the head coach just days before the kickoff of the 2010 season.

Michigan hasn’t had a bona fide QB1 since Chad Henne graduated after the 2007-2008 season, leaving the big question: who will be taking the snaps?  And when the coach, having had two, full recruiting years under his belt, still can’t make a decision on who will be leading the team down the field on offense less than a week before the first game, it doesn’t exactly exude confidence.

When it comes to the quarterback position, three pretty decent players doesn’t not one great player make.  Actually, that’s never the case, but at least when it comes to other positions like linebacker, wide receiver, or running back, you can fill in by committee without changing much in the way of the game plan — but, when the director of the offense keeps changing, the challenge would be in maintaining consistency throughout the group.

Perhaps he has a plan and feels confidence in his signal callers to the point that they all could lead the time and win.  I don’t know.  But I do know that I’m truly optimistic for this season. I can’t wait for this Saturday’s game against Connecticut. Maybe our three quarterbacks will all gel into some never-before-seen, three-headed QB behemoth.  (Like I said: I’m optimistic.)  And our top recruits on defense will jump into their new roles and play well beyond their years.  And we’ll hit that 8-4 mark and go back to a bowl game.

And we’ll finally beat the Buckeyes for the first time since 2003.

I’ve never coached a team of any kind, but I imagine installing a brand-new system into a program with a bunch of inexperienced players that weren’t recruited for your schemes would come with a fairly long learning curve.  I’ve been patient with RichRod this whole time and I remain so to this day.

Because at the end of it all, it’s Michigan FootballThe maize and blue. And while it’s easy to sit here and say that I’d have done things differently and that we should have hired so-and-so instead and we should never have switched to the spread offense, I’d rather just get behind the school and the team that I’ve loved for so many years and look forward to getting back to our winning ways rather than waste my time wallowing in the losses of the past couple years.

It’s gotta turn around at some point.  It might as well be now.

Image courtesy of Anthony Gattine’s Flickr Photostream

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Just the Right Time for BCS Intervention

12.10.09

Congress wants to tackle the problem of the BCS and force a playoff for FBS (formerly Division 1-A) college football.

Some say that there are far more important issues to tackle at this time, what with 10% unemployment, a struggling economy, and American forces fighting two wars.  But, this is such an unwinnable argument as there will always be more important things to do.  Just ask someone who doesn’t exercise enough as they should.  Always the excuse of important things to do that just don’t give them enough time to squeeze in the 30-minutes of cardio.

On the contrary, I’d say this is a great time to do something about the totally unfair BCS.  In terms of the economy, it has a noticeable impact.  This isn’t just for bragging rights and the ability to say definitively, “We are the champions!” Like everything, it’s about money.  It’s about the top six conferences – the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC, Pac-10, and Big East – guaranteed to have at least one of their teams in the big money bowls – the Rose, Orange, Fiesta, and Sugar – where even the loser of the championship game takes home nearly $20 million, while the other conferences have all sorts of rules that essentially prevent them from making it in. This is why when TCU and Boise State make their way in – as they have this year and were pitted against each other (which some consider a slap in the face) – they’re called “BCS Busters,” because they beat the system that doesn’t want them there.  To let those outside schools into the game, the Big Six would have to actually produce quality teams that could truly compete at the national level year in and year out versus just dominating within their own conference and getting a free pass to a multi-million dollar, postseason berth.  They want to be able to still play on the national stage and reap the publicity and TV ratings even if they have a weak team that gets blown out whenever they show up in January.

It’s the best time to expose the financial unfairness of the BCS and how it discriminates against smaller schools because there will always be something else arguably more important, more timely, and more deserving of our attention.  The old adage is that any team can beat any other team on any given day.  Let’s change the system and find out who really deserves the national title by settling it out on the gridiron.  Now is as good a time as any.

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Impatience Is The New Patience

11.21.09

Microblogging.  24-hour news.  Instant messaging.  YouTube.  We are the culture of now is already too late.

Of course, I am not immune to this shift from novels, two-and-a-half-hour films, and land phone lines to 30-second clips, feature-length commercials, and toddlers text messaging.  I’m right in the thick of it.  And I love it.

I’m addicted to Twitter.  I prefer texting over actually talking on the phone.  I have to force myself to do anything for longer than five minutes at a time or without several other things going simultaneously.  My brain needs constant stimuli from all directions at all times.  I’m struggling to not check my phone for messages at this very moment despite the fact that it’s sitting right next to me and hasn’t beeped or lit up in the past hour so I know for a fact that no one has contacted me.  It’s become habit and also a comforting device.  Healthy?  No idea.  All I know is that the little Tweetie icon in my toolbar is glowing blue so I know someone has posted some 140-or-less words of brilliance that I must read as soon as humanly possible.

(I just checked my Tweetie – nothing of monumental importance – and my phone – and now I’ve lost my train of thought.)

So there are some downsides to this shift.  Our need for constant stimuli has made us virtually devoid of patience.  Seriously – I bet an overwhelming majority of you reading this post won’t even make it past the next paragraph because reading this will take far too long for your attention span.  We’ve become so accustomed to having everything at our fingertips the nanosecond that we want them that when we’re forced to actually wait for things to develop in real-time – and by real-time I mean pre-TADD (Technologically-induced Attention Deficit Disorder) – we freak out.  We seriously can’t handle it.

Let me give an example:

Today was the annual meeting of the Michigan and Ohio State football teams.  Michigan is currently rebuilding with second-year coach Rich Rodriguez, who has implemented a vastly different offensive system that requires a different type of athlete than which usually plays in Ann Arbor.  This has led to some serious growing pains.  For some, the growing pains are far too tough to handle.  With ending the season with another loss to Ohio State (this afternoon makes it six in a row, and seven out of the last eight), fans are clamoring for Rodriguez’s ouster, after just two seasons as head coach and the first with a group of kids that he actually recruited.  Many have been wanting him fired since the middle of the season when the team lost to rival Michigan State, a mere five games into his second campaign.  In fact, the word “embattled” became a common adjective for the coach even before the team took a snap this season.

It seems that no one has the time to wait for a program to develop anymore.  Being a Michigan fan, I feel the pain of going 1-7 in the Big Ten.  I feel the pang in my stomach after losing to our bitter rival for the better part of a decade.  My afternoons get ruined when we commit five turnovers and look like a shell of what our team used to be week in and week out in years past.  So I could easily jump on the bandwagon and call for Rodriguez’s head and blast the system every single time there’s a bad play call, a bad decision by an in-over-his-head athlete, or just a lack of talent on either side of the ball.  But what’s the point?

Look at the alternative: RichRod gets fired.  We bring in someone else, maybe someone with Michigan ties or someone who runs more of a traditional pro-style offense.  He can’t run that system with the current personnel so he starts off with a less-than-amazing first season.  Fans either get their hopes way too high after a strong victory over a solid opponent, or they lambaste the program for continuing the losing ways.  They hope for next year when the coach has installed his own players – who will be young and inexperienced at the collegiate level and need to go through their own learning curve, as well, just like our current crop of footballers. What then?  What if it’s another mediocre season? Fire that guy and just keep on going on like that until we just happen to get lucky?  To me, that makes little sense.  We’ve invested in Rodriguez and our system, whether we all agree with it or not, and we owe it to the program to give him the real time it needs to succeed or fail.

We have to adapt to culture shifts, not fight against them with all our might.  Things change, momentum shifts, and life evolves.  No one can wait for anything anymore.  Not traffic lights, lines at the grocery store, web browsers to load, and certainly not Michigan football to get back to its winning ways.

Things aren’t going to change and I, for one, don’t really want them to.  I’ll take the bad with the good.  I’ll try to sit on the deck of this new TADD world while keeping my toes dipped in the pool of the old days.  I’m going to give Rich Rodriguez at least another year before I start questioning his ability to coach Michigan football into a perennial winner.  At least.  No one wins championships with a team of freshmen, so I’m going to wait for these kids to mature, Rodriguez to get his recruiting machine moving, and hope that in the next year or two we get back on the winning track.  I hate losing, especially this much, but I am going to be patient.  Even though, I can barely sit still without checking my email, my text messages, my Facebook status, and my Twitter account all at the same time and that impatience has become the new patience.

(For those of you who made it this far – I commend you.  Had I not been the author of this blog, I doubt I’d have made it to the end, either.  Maybe I should’ve posted this is 140-word installments instead.)

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Allow Me To Be Blount

10.02.09

It only took one punch.

One punch and LaGarrette Blount may never play football ever again.

The 22-year-old University of Oregon senior didn’t punch his girlfriend.  He didn’t get into a bar brawl.  He didn’t carry a concealed weapon into a club.  After a disheartening loss to Boise State, Bronco defensive end Byron Hout made sure to give Blount an earful of unnecessary snark and taunt.  Blount responded with a fist square to the jaw, dropping Hout to the ground.  It wasn’t unprovoked.  And, to be honest, it wasn’t completely out of line.

I don’t mean to give Blount a free pass.  Clearly the wrong thing to do in that situation was punching Hout in the face while he wasn’t looking.  But, just how wrong was it?  It’s no secret that Hout was provoking the hell out of Blount.  Who knows exactly what was said but no one could call it sportsmanlike, that’s for sure.  There are sore losers and there are also poor winners.  Hout was most definitely a poor winner and totally out of line.  Did he deserve getting socked in the mouth?  Blount sure thought so.

It seems rather hypocritical to suspend Blount for the rest of the season, effectively ending his collegiate career and any real shot at going pro, for something arguably less violent than many legal hits out there on the gridiron.  Knees are shredded, ankles snapped, heads cracked, tendons sprained, fingers jammed, noses bloodied, winds knocked out, bells rung, teeth rattled and sorts of other physical destruction during the brutal exercise of football.  And all within the rules of the game.  That fierce competition breeds this kind of intensity and physicality and raw emotion that Blount exerted after the final seconds ticked off the clock.  To condemn him and rob him of a potential future because he couldn’t turn that passion off moments after a frustrating loss is just wrong.

Not to say his actions were in the right.  But they were in the realm of understanding.  Hout reminds me of those bullies in school who would just taunt and tease the less-cool kids until they snapped and reacted with violence, usually a feeble attempt, but violent nonetheless.  And then it’d be the kid who acted out who ended up suspended or handed detention and made the example of.  From that, we’d all learn the lesson: just walk away.

Easier said than done.

And Blount isn’t a kid.  He’s nearly 23-years-old.  He should know better.  Then again, so should Hout.  His immature and infuriating taunting was completely unnecessary and totally unsportsmanlike.  And Hout wasn’t even punished.  He wasn’t suspended for even a single game.

So, I ask, what kind of message does this send?  It’s okay to talk all kinds of shit after a big victory?  Verbal abuse is allowed?  Sportsmanship only relates to physical actions now?

There’s a reason why there’s a phrase, “Those are fighting words.”  What you say can have a profound effect on someone’s actions, as evidenced by this entire incident.  I think Blount and Hout should have both received suspensions for their involvement because without Hout doing what he did, Blount wouldn’t have done what he did.  Hout didn’t deserve to get punched, but he sure was asking for it.  And for the football community to truly want to do something to cut down on these types of incidents happening again in the future, Hout must be held culpable for his involvement in escalating things to the point where Blount lost control and swung a fist.  I think it was irresponsible on the part of Boise State to not reprimand Hout in the least.  To condone his actions is to only perpetuate this type of disrespectful lack of sportsmanship that will only lead to more violent confrontations in the future.

As for Blount, apparently Oregon has laid down a list of requirements that Blount must achieve in order to have a chance at reinstatement on the football team.  I hope that the school is serious and that Blount follows through.  Blount deserves another chance.

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Terrelle Pryor, Genius

09.07.09

I am so glad that Terrelle Pryor chose Ohio State over Michigan.  After seeing this wonderful display of blatant factual and moral worthlessness, I couldn’t be happier with his decision.

According to the Buckeyes starting quarterback, we’re all murderers, so we should just forgive people for all of their infractions.  Especially if that person happens to be Pryor’s idol: dog butcherer and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

Classic.

It’s one thing to let Vick back to work.  It’s quite another to honor him and completely dismiss his terrible actions.  Then again, in Pryor’s world full of murderers, electrocuting a few canines wouldn’t even be a blip on his moral radar.

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Michael Vick Won’t Walk My Dogs

08.17.09

Okay, let’s just admit something off the bat: Michael Vick will never be the president of the American Humane Society.  But does that mean that he shouldn’t be allowed to play in the NFL again?

A lot of people truly hate Vick for his involvement in an illegal dogfighting ring.  They don’t think he should ever be able to play in the NFL again.   I do find his crimes to be despicable, but I don’t understand why Vick shouldn’t be able to make an NFL roster now that he’s paid his debt to society by serving nearly two years in federal prison.  Nevermind that the NFL is acting at least partially out of self-interest in allowing the former Falcons quarterback to rejoin the league – Vick will put fans in the stands and money in their pockets – I think more employers should follow its lead.

Two of the more frustrating requirements of applying for jobs (I should know since that’s been all I’ve been doing lately) are the spots on the application where the employer asks if you’re a convicted felon and where they say that they’ll want to do a credit check.  I am already having a tough enough time finding work and I’m a college graduate with a clean criminal record.  I can’t begin to imagine what the job search would be like otherwise.  (I’m not even going to start with the notion that I could be refused a job due to bad credit.)  It seems that our society enjoys finding ways to keep people in prison long after they’re released.

Vick is definitely luckier than others of his ilk in that his unique skill set makes him a very attractive employee regardless of his marred criminal record.  Most felons don’t have that luxury.  But reading and hearing about all of the people who don’t think that Vick should have another chance playing professional football makes me wonder if maybe most people think that way about all felons who try to return to their chosen profession.

Had Vick committed a crime that threatened his credibility to continue in that chosen profession, like Pete Rose betting on baseball or an accountant embezzling from his employer, then I could get behind the uproar.  But it seems that it’s simply because of the unsavory nature of the crime he committed.

I don’t believe that prison time did anything to rehabilitate Vick in terms of feeling sorry for brutally killing dogs for sport.  He said so himself.  But since we are putting people in prison as punishment, then we should honor and accept when said punishment has been completed.  Vick went to prison.  He served his time.  He’s not a child molester trying to get another job as a teacher.  And he’s not trying to open his own dog kennel.  He’s just like many other felons who broke the law, paid their price, and now should be able to reenter society and get back to work.