Holding Steady at 42

I met Brady Hoke once, soon after his hiring.  He was a football coach in every sense of the word.  Though I had dismissed Dave Brandon's choice and the process by which he made it, it was difficult to argue that this was the man for the job.  I guess when they tell you that the last guy wasn't a Michigan Man, that he didn't appreciate the traditions, that he didn't understand the rivalries...and then the results are 3-9, 5-7, and 7-6, which are more losses than you've ever seen before...then the logical conclusion is that we need someone that does appreciate those things, someone that does understand.  Coach Hoke preached toughness.  He talked about how this was his dream job.  He talked about Team 132, 42 Big Ten Championships, and Beat Ohio.  But as we enter the final quarter of his 3rd season, nothing he has preached has been practiced.  Sure, we narrowly beat Luke Fickell's version of Ohio, but we're no closer to Big Ten titles, and we are visibly weaker than we have ever been, mentally and physically.  I find myself in the exact same place I was late in Rich Rod's second season.  From November 9th, 2009...

I used to think it was difficult to be a Michigan fan.  I envied those who followed lesser institutions, lesser football programs.  No expectations.  Every win is big.  Every loss is forgotten before you get home.  At the tail end of a second consecutive season that no one seems to know how to deal with, I must admit, I am getting almost comfortably numb.  The part of me that used to proclaim dominance no matter what the situation, the part that would be talking about how we were going to Madison to kick some badger ass and would be preaching about 1995 and 1996 to put Ohio State on notice...I don't know where that part of me is anymore.  1995 and 1996 is a long long time ago.  1997 too.  The chances of winning another game are seemingly slim and none, and slim just got shoved out of the way by Bill Martin.  Since the turn of the century, since the inception of UMTailgate.com, Michigan has rarely failed to disappoint me.  

And that tradition continues.  We're all talk.  Inside Michigan Football featured about 10 players last week, each with the same message, likely written on similar index cards that were handed to them by Bruce Madej..."we can't let Michigan State beat us twice."  And yet, that's exactly what happened...and it happened on every level.  I'm tired of all the talk.  "This is Michigan."  "This is our expectation at Michigan."  "Our goal is to win Big Ten Championships."  It becomes very difficult to believe any of that shit when after the Nebraska game Coach says "I like the play calling. I think we thought we could do some things and we didn’t."  It's tough for me to handle him repeating so much that he needs to be a better coach when I'm not sure exactly what it is he does other than "mold men," moonlight as a motivational speaker, and coach the D-Line.  And when asked about the regression of the o-line blocking on a week to week basis, he says "I’ve got to do a better job of coaching, it looks like. We’ve got to do a better job of what we’re doing and look at what we’re doing.”  What?  You're not looking at what you're doing.  The day to do that has long passed.  You are determined to shoehorn this bullshit plan and force it on to a group of guys that are not good, and in the process you are making them worse.  We run about 5 different offensive plays total...10 if you count left and right, though we rarely go right.  Everybody knows what we're going to do.  Everybody.  

Whew.  Is this over?  I mean, I am clinging to the hope that we can win one more game...that we can somehow split the next two before I sit in disgust as O-H-I-O echoes throughout my home stadium.   So, like 7-5?  Heading to a shitty December bowl, wondering what is going to happen with our recruiting classes, and thinking about how next year might be Brady Hoke's last year?  Ya I know, I know...it's not his fault.  It's still Rich Rod's fault, right?  I got news for you all, Coach Hoke has as yet only shown the ability to win with Rich Rod's players....like Charlie Weiss in his first year at Notre Dame.  With each passing year, the team has regressed...it's inadequacies masked by Denard Robinson are now in full view.  Rehashing what I said last week...I guess we just have to wait and see what happens.  Nobody is going anywhere.  Hell, we still have a chance at the Michigan standard of 8 wins...Lloyd Carr's perennial Mendoza line of mediocrity.  Maybe a bad loss like this will spark something, some kind of wake up call.  Maybe Hoke has a way of getting more from these guys.  Maybe this class coming in will make a difference.  I don't know.  

Maybe we'll lose out and Jerry Jones Brandon will fire the whole damn lot of them.

The thing is...I thought...I'm sure we all thought...that we were done with the really bad years.  We made it though the Rich Rod debacle and we will be rewarded!!  And after year one it seemed that we were going in the right direction.  I'm surprised and disappointed in the way things have gone.  And now it would be an even bigger surprise to me if this staff was able to turn it around.  I hope they do.

Anyway, let's cut all the bullshit.  Stop counting the teams.  I never knew what team # the 1997 national champions were, or the 2003 big ten champions.  I could care less that this is team 134.  And I am aware that we have 42 Big Ten Championships.  I am also aware that the last one was 10 years ago, so let's stop talking about it until we get to 43.  And finally, it's difficult to rally behind "Beat Ohio" when you narrowly escape an Akron, Ohio game.  Let's stop talking about the past.  Let's stop having all of these goals.  Let's dial down the coach-speak.  Let's stop trying to play Michigan Football and instead get creative with what we have.  

One singular goal...FIND A WAY TO WIN THE NEXT GAME.

Sad today, proud forever.  Go Blue!

Theme Revealed: 11/9 Nebraska

Were you aware that we have two bye weeks?  That's two breaks for your liver...two breaks for your cholesterol....two weekends to remain on the couch watching (scouting) other college football games.  

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Following the bye on 10/26, the Wolverines will travel to East Lansing on 11/2.  They will be returning to Ann Arbor with the Paul Bunyan trophy.  This will warrant a celebration.  We will honor Mr. Bunyan with a tailgate in his honor, a Lumberjack Themed Tailgate.  There's going to be a chill in the air.  It will probably be raining and gloomy.  But there's something comforting about blue tarps and steam rising off of grills and out of pots.  Flannel shirts, biscuits and gravy, sausage and cheese chowder, soups, and stews.  What could be better?

Full disclosure, this theme is basically a re-branding of the Soups and Stews theme and will be called Soups and Stews if the worst were to happen on 11/2.

Schucked

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I once heard Paris Hilton talk about cargo pants and say that people in the midwest wear them because they have to...because they all work on farms.  I found it to be amusing that she was so out of touch with reality.  I mean, I am technically a midwesterner.  I don't wear cargo pants because I work on a farm, I wear them because they have pockets that hang further away from my tailgate belly.  My tailgate belly and child-bearing hips could, at any time, crush my iphone 5 if it were in the regular top pockets.  And then I wouldn't have Siri.  So who would I talk to when I had a question?

The reality is, there is a midwest like the one Paris thinks she knows.  And it's in Nebraksa.  The residents of Lincoln, or "city-folk," seem as if they were plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting, with perhaps a bit more flannel.  They’re fresh off the farm.  Seemingly happy in the little place that they’ve dug out for themselves, their level of politeness was downright uncomfortable, and they were genuinely happy to have us come to their town, as if they hoped that during our visit we’d share what the world is like outside of Lincoln, or show them some new piece of technology, like a laserdisc player…or indoor plumbing.  Walking around the city on gameday, multiple tailgates in multiple areas wanted to provide us with beers for our walk.  Prior to the game, members of our group were offered tickets, for free.  And when we said we had tickets, they offered to swap our tickets with theirs so we could perhaps have better seats, and then we could go and sell our own to get some money.  This is not a joke.  This is not an exaggeration.  That’s what the guy said.

They barely booed when we took the field.  They were almost silent in victory outside the stadium after the game.  A Nebraska fan and his wife stopped me on my slow dejected walk to the car and said that “it wasn’t fair” because he came all the way to Lincoln to see Denard and Denard got knocked out in the first half.  I’m guessing when he said he came all the way to Lincoln, that it was less than 50 miles away…but a good three days journey by stagecoach.

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In short, it was like another planet.  Columbus folk know that there’s things going on outside of their inbred infested hell hole, they’re just too stupid to put together a plan to get out and see the rest of the world.  Nebraska fans, and I say this with all due respect to a fanbase that treated me so well, seem to ignore the fact that the outside world exists.  It’s a different kind of dumb.   Safer for us as travelling fans, but very strange to experience.  

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Nothing comes in, nothing goes out.  Ever heard of a Runza?  They sell them in the stands like hot dogs.  It’s a baked bread pocket with meat, onions and cabbage in it.  They’re everywhere in Lincoln, and you’ve never heard of them.  They have a microbrew lineup, but it is universally served as the microbrew lineup in all of the bars.  They have several restaurant chains that are only chains within the greater Lincoln-Omaha area.  They even stole the Tilted Kilt concept and rebranded it as their own.  It’s like a parallel universe.

And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy myself, or that the food or the beer or the people weren’t good.  It was just, well, weird.  Maybe I was in the wrong part of town.  Maybe I’m so bitter over the rest of the places I’ve travelled to in the Big Ten and the asshats that have engaged me and my cohorts in every possible rude way you can think of.  I guess i'm just taken back by the fact that we had a game at 8pm in hostile territory and had no incidents.  None.  So, thank you Nebraska?  I think that's what I'm supposed to say.  Just stop touching me when you thank me for visiting.

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There was also a game.  It was painful most of the way, obviously more so once we lost Denard.  Russell Bellomy wasn't ready for this.  You can chalk it up to receivers dropping balls, or nervousness, or not being able to find a rhythm.  Doesn't matter.  The contingency plan for a fallen Denard was not in place.  And the blame for that is on the staff.  If there's one thing we know about Denard, it's that he gets knocked out of games with some regularity.  This season it hasn't happened much, and I think we got comfortable with him.  Comfortable enough to push the Devin Gardner experiment to a point where he hadn't taken a snap at QB in weeks.  He couldn't come in when Bellomy fell flat.  He hadn't practiced.  

I'm not sure if Denard is really going to play this weekend.  But I am certain he will be knocked out of a game again at some point down the road.  I'm sure that Bellomy will be better when he next appears, and I'm sure that Devin will be ready to jump in too.   But that's too little, too late.  Our defense performed admirably, and was taken to its limits.  They kept it within reach.  That game was winnable, and would have had us firmly in the driver's seat for a trip to Indy.  Now we need help to get there, and that help will mean nothing if we slip up again.  We left ourselves with no room for error because we were not prepared.