November 14, 2009: Standing below the ceiling full of mugs at Essen House with Coach Jerry Hanlon the night before Michigan fell to Wisconsin in Madison 45-24. More pics, recaps and box scores from that game are right here on the Wisconsin 2009 game page.
November 10, 2008: The look of pain you see there is real. It was a rough night in the Twin Cities. Baby Gorilla, Godfather and I all piled on some diner breakfast that morning, and two of us managed to keep it down. Later, 5 KC Lopata field goals helped propel Nick Sheridan and the Wolverines past the Gophers 29-6.
I will be having breakfast there again on April 6 if you want to join me.
It's Thanksgiving week, so I just want to take a second to thank everyone that participated in our transition year of tailgating as we left the golf course for greener (actually more asphault colored) pastures. You guys really blew my mind this year with the turn out, the donations, and the enthusiasm. So much so that we are going to have to move this thing to a bigger venue. Stay tuned this offseason to find out where we end up.
I want to also give special thanks to a few folks...
- Gus, Mel, and the gang from New York. You guys were all amazing. Your hard work and generosity made things so much easier for me this season, and I would like to express my deepest gratitude for everything you did, up to and including the massive amount of filet mignon you showed up with for what was truly a grand finale of tailgates this past Saturday. We look forward to many years of having you as part of our group. It's nice that after all of these years to have the tailgate family still growing.
- Our hotdog crew, Joe and Jeff, who feed 100+ people in the postgame. I can't even imagine what the count was in total dogs for the season....not to mention the pounds of scortching hot peppers. How ever many it is, it's a huge load off for me, especially in these past couple of years when all I want to do after the game is curl up in a ball and cry.
- My load-unload crew of Kristen and JJ, who while noticeably absent for several games, occasionally provided the manpower needed to unload the car and get me to the couch as fast as possible after returning from these on the field debacles. OK, really it's only JJ, but Kristen does provide inspiration through her motivating dialogue, like "hurry up I want to order Pizza House." Love you both...wouldn't be the same without you.
- Also, thanks to any and all of you that helped with setup and takedown...too many people to name, but you know who you are, and it is much appreciated.
- Finally, thanks to James Dickson of AnnArbor.com, who has put my name in the paper more times in the last three months than I'd like to admit. He's become kind of an embedded tailgate reporter at UMTailgate.com, and his articles are all great reads, especially when they include quotes from our group...like this week.
Commence the run to the Final Four.
I watched a mashup of Michigan highlights against Ohio State on YouTube yesterday. The video quality was really poor. I thought about how somebody should remix the videos in HD to make it more pleasing to the eye. Then I realized that the videos were so bad because there hasn't been a highlight of a Michigan-Ohio State game that Michigan has won that was shot in HD. That's how long it's been. Incoming freshman at the University of Michigan were in 7th grade the last time Michigan beat Ohio State. I might as well have been watching UCLA basketball videos from the 70's. That's the sad truth about this rivalry. There isn't one. God I want that back.
This ain't easy. A hole has been dug, and no matter how much we lack in talent, and despite this being only the second year of our Coach's tenure, everybody...and I mean everybody, is pointing fingers and looking for answers from this staff. Things are beginning to compound. The buyout, practice-gate, the worst defense ever to take the field, and the losses...my god the losses. Momentum is building against Rich Rodriguez. Even if you believe, as I do, that this was the right choice, that Coach Rodriguez is the man for this job and will take us to new heights, you can't be certain how long we can hold off the barbarians at the gate.
Of all the Michigan traditions that we hold so dear, winning is the only one that really means anything. You can cover the scoreboard with advertisements, pipe in rap music, and have the team wear gold jerseys as they run out of smoke filled tunnel to the sound of cannon fire...if at the end of the game, Michigan has more points than their opponent, you won't give a shit. You won't spend a week talking about whether Rich Rodriguez understands the rivalry with Ohio State. I mean, seriously, do you expect him to? He's from West Virginia. Why would he understand our unique situation, our 100+ years of epic battles, and the hatred that goes along with it? How can I expect him to have the understanding that even I have? I saw Charles Woodson fight David Boston, he saw it on Sportscenter because he WAS COACHING ANOTHER TEAM. I understand the rivalry because I've had things thrown at me in Columbus. I've endured the wrath of angry Buckeyes whose lack of brains can only be matched by their lack of teeth, managing to slur out a "fuck you" as I made my way to the stadium. How did understanding this rivalry become a requirement for being a Michigan coach? I'll tell you what, Stan Parrish understands this rivalry. And I sure as hell don't want him pacing my sideline. A better example...Nick Saban knew absolutlely nothing about Auburn vs. Alabama when he took over for the Crimson Tide. He probably still doesn't, because he's already worrying about winning national championships, not about the Tigers.
But, whatever, it's really all moot. We are seemingly on the brink of disaster, even though we shouldn't be. Patience doesn't seem to exist here. Ohio State is not a must win, but it is a MUST COMPETE. If we get blown out, they will be waiting with pitchforks at Schembechler Hall. And the thing is, we've been blownout by lesser teams already, which makes an impossible situation even more, well, impossible. I'm having a lot of trouble coming to grips with the fact that I think they are going to do it. I didn't think we were that dumb as a fanbase. Hell, Jaime Morris even made up with Jim Harbaugh this week. Cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria. We are on the doorstep of the Michigan apocalypse.
And imagine being Rich Rodriguez. How much more of this do you really want? The roller coaster of love-hate-love-hate-reallyreallyhate has got to be taking its toll. And now you are faced with a group of players, some of which that because of outside influences and previous regime loving parents don't even believe in you or your system, and you have to look at them and motivate them, and you have to ask them for all intents and purposes, to save your face, to save your job. It's too early for this people....just too early.
One game. One game against the most talented team you've faced all season. One game for all the marbles.
Those that say Michigan has nothing to play for on Saturday couldn't be more wrong. Those that say this year's edition of The Game doesn't have the panache of previous seasons don't understand what is happening here in Ann Arbor. When it's all said and done, this game may be the single most important Michigan-Ohio State game ever played.
With one miracle, one upset, everything can change.
And yes, I do believe in miracles.
GO BLUE! BEAT THE BUCKEYES!
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Deep. Then let it out.
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. Sure, there have been bright spots. We've done some amazing things. Some amazing comebacks. Some amazing seasons. Reaching for happy memories, I can invoke images of Chris Perry doing his Hulkster impression at MSU. Rushing the field in 2003 after winning the 100th game over OSU, a rose clenched in my teeth, excited about returning to Pasadena. Matt Gutierrez getting pulled in favor of a true freshman named Chad Henne. Alabama missing the extra point on millennium New Year in our first overtime game. The unstoppable force that was Mike Hart's heart. Braylon reaching, and literally stealing, catch after catch as we mounted the ultimate comeback. Touchdown Manningham against Penn State. Drew Henson pointing towards the traveling fans the corner of Memorial Stadium in Illinois as he temporarily ended the Navarre era by leading us to victory after halftime.
I witnessed all of these things, not on TV, but in person.
But there wasn't one time, not one, that they didn't leave me wanting more. The team that lost to Appalachian State later gave Tim Tebow his only bowl loss to date, which while redeeming in so many ways, begged the question...how the hell did we lose to App State? Any game that was more than a time zone to the west has been a loss...the crown on the field in Oregon, choking at Washington, Navarre being Navarre at UCLA, the Rose Bowl, the other Rose Bowl, and that third Rose Bowl. The team that started 11-0 in 2006, predicated on an amazing defense, and wallowing in the ultimate in motivation in the passing of a legend, decided not to play any defense in their final two contests, falling to OSU and USC. Chad Henne and Mike Hart, legends of Michigan Football, started for four years and lost four times to OSU. Iowa beat us by four touchdowns in Michigan Stadium on our homecoming. And on and on....
Michigan had 16 total losses in the 1970's. They had 29 in the 80's. They had 26 in the 90's.
They have 41 losses in the 2000's, and there's still two games to go.
Take away the 14 losses under the new regime, however you want to lay the blame for them, and that leaves 27 losses. So, unless you believe that Michigan was going to have a total of 2 losses or less in 2008 and 2009 combined under some other regime, then it's safe to say that this decade was already going to be the worst decade in modern Michigan Football history. And because we got that taste of the good life in 1997, that wasn't going to cut it. When Coach Carr retired, we had two options...blow it up and gun for a whole slew of 1997's, or stick with the 8-4's and the National Championships every 50 years.
We opted to blow shit up.
And while none of us could have predicted the fallout from that blast, we also didn't know that we had such deficiencies in so many areas. Coach Rodriguez has something on the tip of his tongue at every press conference, something that he wants to say, but can't. He wants to tell us that we don't have the horses for this race. But out of respect for the program, and respect for the guys that are going out and working hard every day, he can't. Because despite what everybody in the media and everybody from every other institution (and even some from within THIS institution) says, this guy is not an asshole.
After the back to back heart wrenching defeats at the hands of two bottom-dwelling Big Ten squads, you are welcome to question this staff and their inability to get these guys to improve throughout a season. We looked better in September than we do in November...no doubt about it. But the thing is, I really don't care how good the staff is at coaching a team made up of guys that wouldn't be able to get the job done if Bill Belchick was at the helm. I care about how this staff coaches when we're facing Ohio State on a some future cold November afternoon, and the Buckeye defense is pissing their pants wondering how the hell they are going to get any pressure on the quarterback with all the talent we have on the O-Line...and how they're going to catch him if they happen to break through the line. Or how Greg Robinson stunts the linebackers after seeing the Buckeye quarterback go into a fetal position in reaction to a D-Line that is bearing down on him while all of his receivers are covered by our blanketing defensive backs.
In short, I'm not really concerned with how this staff coaches sub par talent. I'm only concerned whether or not this staff can coach next level talent. That's an unanswered question. That's why we have to wait. That's why we have to be patient. I mean, I'm sorry that you can't talk trash to the Purdue grad in the cubicle next to you anymore about how he hasn't won in the Big House since the 60's, or that the Illini grad next to him is boasting about Juice Williams's rising draft status. But you are just going to have to suck it up. And you're going to have to shut up. You're going to have to find something else to follow for a little while that makes you feel better about you.
Michigan Football has been there for you your whole life. They've been there for you to lean on. Every Saturday, winning, making you smile, sending you to work on Monday with your chest puffed out, ready to point and laugh at lesser men. But now, for the first time, Michigan Football needs you to be there FOR THEM, to be patient FOR THEM.
We need to find that place again. I've got to find that place again. That place where I know we are going to win no matter what the odds, no matter what the situation. Miracles happen. Freshman can do amazing things. There are two games left...and I love being an underdog.
See you in Tempe for New Year's.