Yes, I enjoyed my unannounced UMTailgate vacation, thanks.
The phrase "these are the times that try men's souls" is probably a bit dramatic when used to describe feelings about a football program. I'm not worried about how much more of this that I can take. I AM worried about how much more of it YOU can take. In what is supposed to be the dead period of college football coverage, we still find ourselves trying to defend that which we never thought we would have to. And it's difficult. Because those in the know, regardless of all the external influences and jabs at our psyche, are fighting an internal struggle coming to grips with the idea that this process, this change in philosophy that we once longed for under the vanilla regime, is not going to happen quickly. That happy ending that you can't wait to throw back in the face of the naysayers...that's not happening in 2009.
These realizations have taken the edge off of our Michigan attitudes. Which, in short, means confidence is low.
The 2008 team took the field, and you had no idea what to expect. We are 4 months away from the 2009 edition, and we seem to know less. Western Michigan is staring at me on the schedule, and I am scared that everything could end so quickly with a loss to a directional Michigan team. App State was strike one, Toledo was strike two, and I don't know that the fanbase will weather the fallout from a Bronco strike three. It would take a while, that's for sure.
But that's all X's and O's...field stuff. The more pressing problem is perception. And in a "business" that relies on the fleeting feelings of 16 and 17 year-olds, perception truly is reality. Here are a few things that have pee'd in our cheerios over the last few weeks...
Greg Paulus: I'm ecstatic that this is over, and ridiculously pissed off that it even started. Never underestimate the power of ESPN when they have a slow week in sports news. A handshake-style verbal offer to ride the bench at Michigan morphed into "competing for a starting job" and a scholarship offer that not only did not exist, but under the rules COULD NOT exist. It was like a shitty game of telephone with a partially deaf participant. Cue the talking heads...calling the situation a desperate move by RichRod. They cited the Paulus situation as evidence of just how far we have fallen. But the truth is that Greg Paulus never threw a ball for us, and he only attended one practice, as an observer three days AFTER the Spring Game. He was offered nothing, but in the end he probably got what he was looking for...press.
Steven Threet transfers: Didn't care when it happened...care even less now. The problem I have is that it happened twice. I can't tell you how many people came up to me TODAY to spout off about ANOTHER Michigan transfer. The confusion was in the fact that he transferred one day, then made his decision on where to transfer on another day months later. Result: coverage in all media outlets twice. You and I know who Steven Threet is, why he transferred, and why it's not that big of a deal. The rest of the world thinks that Steve Threet and Tate Forcier are the same person and think that Michigan is down to David Cone at quarterback.
The NFL Draft (or lack thereof): Terrance Taylor and Morgan Trent are the only Wolverines selected, both on day two. Worst results for the Wolverines since 1994. First of all, who cares? It's one year, and our NFL resume is unparalleled outside of USC and Miami. But maybe some recruits will look at this and see Michigan as a place where NFL talent is not developed anymore. Only time will tell. Let's not forget that the regime change attrition had something to do with this. Manningham and Arrington should have been in this class.
The UMASS rumors: In an attempt to keep up with the blogging world, and without a delivered paper 4 of the 7 days a week, it seems that the Freep/DetNews is more apt to throw a story out there than they used to be. On Monday, Michigan was christening the new stadium in 2010 with UMASS. On Tuesday, Scott Draper promised something with a little more panache. Which is good, because on the same day (coincidence? I think not) little brother announced a home-at-home with Alabama and West Virginia. And though neither is on the slate for another five years, it really made us look like a bunch of pussies.
Like I said, this is all perception. None of this matters when you're winning. The problem is that for the first time, we are not. So cling to the good news...Tate looked good, Harris and Sims are staying, and Justin Boren has swine flu. OK, I made that last one up, but it would be great, wouldn't it?
Hang in there, y'all. There will be tailgates.