Well, hello. I've missed you. Gonna try to get things back on track over here, something regular, something more than its been. Something. In the meantime, I'm going to shutdown comments. Commenting is rare and/or limited to a select few readers anyway, so I'm going to give them a break until (read:if) we start getting more regular content. Okay, that's all from the logistical department. On with the chlorophyll...
Happy New Year! Wait, what? I'm a month late? I blame New Orleans, which I'm sure is an excuse that has been used by many a men better than I. The siren song of Bourbon Street, the food, the 3-for-1 drinks, and the fact that everything...and I mean EVERYTHING, is within walking distance of, well, EVERYTHING...it can break a man. There's a festival in that town almost every weekend. It's an entire society based on hosting events. It might be the best place on Earth (to visit for a predetermined amount of time of less than one week).
I've never been much for posting city reviews or road trip reviews on here, and I don't plan to start tonight, so with as much brevity as I can muster:
- Eat, but not on Bourbon Street. Mother's for breakfast or lunch. Johnny's for Po Boys. Napoleon House for muffaletta and boudin sausage. Emeril's Nola for your obligatory touristy celeb chef joint...which happens to serve giant portions of fancy deliciousness. Jacques-Imo's for the alligator cheesecake and to get out of the quarter for a night. Cafe Beignet for, you guessed it, beignets...everyday.
- Drink on Bourbon Street. Doesn't matter where. In the heart of Bourbon, everything is "Huge Ass" and/or 3-for-1. Meaning you can't buy just one drink. For example, red bull and vodka is served in a 32oz souvenir cup. Crown and water is served in a 32oz cup. Whatever you get normally is multiplied by three and served in a 32oz cup. It's crazy, and it's why you spend the next morning (or early afternoon) playing hopscotch through puke piles along the city's sidewalks. It's fun. No, really, it's fun.
- Go to the WWII museum. It's a good story with a great ending, but it's a 2-3 hour event, so plan accordingly.
- Sign up for a walking tour: cemetery, French quarter, or voodoo. Interesting stuff abound in New Orleans.
Another nice feature? You can walk to the Dome. So, we "tailgated" on Bourbon Street, and then stumbled to the stadium, which was about a mile away. Nothing is more than a mile away in New Orleans.
I had been to the Superdome in 2003, pre-Katrina, but there have been a lot of renovations since then. Our "club" seats came with a nice lounge area attached in the concourse. And my drunken recollection is that the food in the stadium was tremendous. I had a big brisket sandwich that would bury any of the shitty BBQ joints north of Kentucky...and yes, they're ALL shitty...I'm talking to you Blue Tractor.
And then the game was played. And it was awful. But you know it was awful. Va Tech owned us for the bulk of the evening, and it would take a roughing the punter penalty combined with not one, but two blind up for grabs ("500!") tosses that resulted in touchdowns. Michigan's 2010 to 2011 turnaround is classified in some circles as miraculous...and if that is the case, the Sugar Bowl will forever be the calling card for that miracle. Outplayed in almost every facet of the game...aside from intelligence. Beamer made some really stupid calls, and the Hokies made some really dumb mistakes. Va Tech eventually lost on the foot of their third string kicker, who had already connected four times previously, but shanked a 37-yarder to start the extra frame, leaving Michigan to eventually connect on their own 37-yarder for the OT win.
And there was much rejoicing, even though Michigan had just followed one of it's worst defensive performances of the season (OSU) with one of it's worst offensive performances of the season (184 total yards in Sugar Bowl).
Yes, I'll take it. And as I continue to bang my drum of "perception is reality," I cannot ague that the season as a whole was a resounding success in the public eye, and the record will have it's place in history, sight unseen. But we, my dear friends, are not that good. This BCS bowl and the victory we achieved there...it's wonderful...and it's all a bit too early. We are a few years away from being able to make the claim that this is the direction we want to go. Next season will be another uphill battle, requiring another set of miracles, perhaps even bigger ones, to keep this rate of success going.
Team 132 was built on the heart of a group of seniors that had been through hell and back. Three head coaches, 5 different defensive schemes, walk-on quarterbacks, and NCAA investigations. They persevered and willed their way to the results we witnessed. They're gone now. And who and how that torch will be carried will determine where this team is going. How the young arriving talent will mesh with Rich Rod's leftovers, how Denard progresses, if Denard is the quarterback, and how we plan to replace the bulk of the line on both sides of the ball....all GIANT questions on a team that is likely going to be ranked at or near the top 10 in the preseason.
How will we deal with expectations?
Oh, and we play the defending National Champions in a not-so-neutral site game to start it all off. Wow.
Spring Game in 72 days. Pictures from the bowl game coming, I swear. Go Blue!
"You see those kids over there?" Brady said pointing at his celebrating seniors who had jumped into the first few rows of the student section. "That's their final legacy."
I've watched that ending a few times now. Still chokes me up. It was an emotional day. It was something I'd been waiting a long time for.
Michigan is back.
Brady didn't cry, but his voice cracked a little more than it usually does, and it reminded me of 1996, when Lloyd's bottom lip wiggled a bit after the Ohio State game. He uttered "It's a player's game, like most of these Ohio State - Michigan games are...and it was won...on the field...by a team that believed that they could win." And win they did, despite being 17-point underdogs that day.
I remember thinking then that Coach Carr really had developed an amazing relationship with these guys, and he was only their head coach for a couple of years. Brady Hoke has been here for 11 months, and the bond he developed with the seniors that he had no hand in recruiting, and had only coached for a few months, was extraordinary.
He is us, we are him. I love him. I love how he coaches. I love his leadership ability and how he does it. I’d do anything for him. - David Molk
It now looks as if he was the perfect hire for the situation. He surrounded himself with the perfect assistants, and most importantly, preached the Michigan tradition so well, that the team forgot it ever did anything but win. This was not the team that lost 22 games in the previous three years. This was THIS team. This was team 132, with navy seal's chains hanging around their necks.
We went through a lot to get here. It's so hard to imagine that less than a year ago I walked out of a bowl game in the 3rd quarter, that a week later I absolutely loathed the hiring of Hoke, that at the spring game I was certain we were in for a year of attempting a vanilla power offense with RichRod's mighty midget recruits.
I was wrong. So very wrong.
Sugar Bowl (likely) bound and ten wins is a big deal. It's even bigger when you've averaged five wins per season over the last three years. Offensively, we took a half step back for the greater good of the future installation of Power and Pocket, but maybe ended up building a better, if not more healthy, Denard. Defensively, we witnessed what has to be the greatest single season turnaround for a team...with nearly identical personnel.
The season wasn't perfect, as no season when little brother beats you is...and there are going to be a lot of questions going into next season. The questions however will pale in comparison to the expectations. Michigan is going to be a top 15 preseason team, top 10 if they win this bowl game. Michigan will likely be picked to win the Big Ten. And there will be a lot of weight on the shoulders of a senior Denard Robinson.
But I have the ultimate confidence in Brady and this staff to manage expectations. I'm done complaining. Sorry I'm so late to the party. Goals will be set. The expectations will be for the position. Hold the rope. Etc, etc, etc....
Just beat Sparty under the lights in 2012.