A Tailgate to Remember, A Season to Forget

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.


The Thin Line Between Love and Hate Should Be Thicker

The bulk of the Michigan faithful stayed around longer than I expected them to, no doubt clinging to the hope that Tate might have another rabbit left in that winged hat.  The one redeeming quality of losses of this nature?  When games are over just a couple of minutes into the second half, you have a couple of hours to wallow around in it, to make your peace with it before it's actually done.  It's cathartic to have to sit in a cold light rain and see two small, white-clad sections of the stadium exchange their "WE ARE"s and "PENN STATE"s.  I sat there, wondering how this could have happened...not the 35-10 drubbing, but how I let my expectations change so rapidly after that 4-0 start.  More amazing is how I never let them fade after barely nipping Indiana, then falling to MSU and Iowa.

There's something that everyone needs to understand.  This is not a very good or even good football team.  This is an average football team.  They're too young, too inexperienced, and too thin at nearly every defensive position.  But being average means that this is certainly not a bad football team, and it is a country mile ahead of where they were last year.  Being average means we can beat teams like Notre Dame, we can blow out teams from the MAC, and we can be competitive with the best this league has to offer.  Being average also means that we can have our ass handed to us on occasion.  Saturday was such an occasion.

Immediately following the loss, those that cheered the new coach after the 4-0 start, and admitted they were wrong for their snap judgment after last season, quickly went back to wanting the return of Lloyd-ball.   The haters who had been patiently waiting for...and even wanting a loss like this dusted off their soapboxes.  Suddenly the piped in music was hurting their ears, the spread offense became a passing fad, and *gasp* Rich Rod yelled at one of his coaches on the sideline indicating obviously that this whole house is about to come crumbling down.

Someone really needs to shut this whole internet thing down, or at least gag Drew Sharp.

These knee jerk reactions from game to game and this over-analysis of a season, a program and a coaching staff based on a single contest is getting really ridiculous.  It was ridiculous when it we were 4-0 and had just beaten an Indiana team that we convinced ourselves was good, and it's ridiculous when we're 5-3 and we just lost to a Penn State team that we had convinced ourselves was not so good.  You see, the thing is, Indiana is not so good, and Penn State is good...I think.  So that makes things confusing, beyond your understanding, and if nothing else it should widen that thin line between praising Rich Rod for a turnaround and anointing Tate Forcier as the next coming of Christ, and wanting Rich Rod to step down and say that you can't wait for Devin Gardner to get here.  Come to grips with the fact that you just don't know, that you can't predict the future.  There's a pretty big damn difference between 5-7 and 9-3, and there's a pretty big damn difference between "Rich Rod is the man for this job" and "Rich Rod should be fired."

We all need to spend some more time finding that gray area, exercising patience, and waiting to make broad analysis of the direction of the program until the season has ended.  Bonus points if you wait until after 2010.

When in Hell, You Still Take a Few Pictures

AnnArbor.com's finest journalist James Dickson wrote an article featuring UMTailgate.com entitled The Road Warriors.  It can be found here.

Pictures (albeit only 17 of them) from the @ MSU tailgate/game are here...

Bear with us this week...short turnaround before heading to Iowa City.The All Time Sagarin ratings for NCAA basketball can be found here...you'll find Michigan basketball two spots BETTER than MSU.  Why?  I have no idea.  Ecstatic?  Yes.  Mr. Sagarin has an open invite to the tailgate.

Go Tigers!


M is for "Mortality"

There are a lot of ways that you can try to get past a loss like the one we just had at Michigan State.

There's the "whatever, State still sucks" defense in which despite losing the game you still poke fun at your little brother, reminding him that even though they found a way to win 2 in a row against you, they have only managed 3 wins in the last 10 tries.  Then you laugh next week when they get dominated in Champaign.

There's the "ya, but we fought back so valiantly" defense, where you justify the loss by the ferocity of play in the final five minutes of regulation.  You might even go delusional and think that we're going to take that momentum into Iowa City.

Then we have the "it was the first game on the road for our team that is comprised of a large amount of Freshman" excuse, where you talk about how young we are, and how much better we are going to be once these guys get a year or two of experience under their belt.

All of these are fun to use, and I highly recommend doing so.  Another tactic that usually works when you talk to a Sparty that confronts you about the game is taking your keys out of your pocket and jingling them.  Or get a flashlight and make figure eights on a nearby wall.  This will amuse them and they will forget what they were talking about.  Also, you might want to mention that midnight madness for hoops is less than two weeks away.  They will immediately start talking about the amazing time they had a Ford Field last year, and they will forget that they even field a football team.

OK, OK, back to reality.  I'm not going to use any of those excuses.  We got our ass kicked by Michigan State.  Seriously.  If they didn't "Sparty it up" with mind-numbingly dumb penalties, we would have been run out of that stadium.  Hell, we almost were anyway.  Tate wasn't exactly Tate-esque for the first three and a half quarters.  And while the defense wasn't necessarily worse than they've shown this season, they certainly weren't any better.  Greg Robinson's goal of being the "best tackling team in the nation" is not coming to fruition.  But the short answer for why we lost?  They wanted it more.  Our young team wasn't rattled by the crowd or foreign field.  They were rattled by a team that knew what this game meant.  A team that was visibly more into this rivalry, and whose passion seemed to grow with every snap.  I could see it.  They celebrated every tackle like it was a touchdown.  Someday, hopefully next year, these young players and this new coach will really understand what this rivalry means...not to us, but to State.  And if we don't drum up some semblance of OUR backs being against the wall to counteract THEIR backs which are ALWAYS up against a wall, it will be tough to compete no matter how much better we are than them position by position.

The really amazing thing about it all is that we really did have a chance, in fact several chances, to win the game.  Should've scored a touchdown on that first drive after the interception...should not have given Zoltan the option to run it...shouldn't have fumbled it late...shouldn't have forced that Denard series...should have told Tate he needs to find better ways to throw the ball away.  You can't win a game like this with mistakes and missed opportunities.

But our main issue overall is that the weight of the program is resting solely on the shoulders of this kid (Tate).  We seem to be relying on him to get us out of whatever trouble we are in.  And while he has been able to handle it way better than anyone should be expecting him to, somebody, in fact many "somebodys," are going to need to start performing at a higher level, offensively and defensively, if we expect to be successful.  OK, gotta stop now, Rich Rod tells me I only get 24 hours to think about yesterday, and that time is up.

Bring on the Hawkeyes.  Iowa City, here we come...and GO BLUE!

I Hate You Too

As you may have heard, this is a big week.  For Michigan, it is part two of a three part essay on how successful 2009 will be.  In part one, we dispatched of Charlie Pudding Pants and his limp wristed signal caller.  In part three we will take on the Sweatervest and his band of automatic weapon wielding illegally recruited retards.  But now, in this second stanza, we face off against a team whose season is summed up by just a single line every year.  Either Michigan State beats Michigan, or Michigan beats Michigan State.  To them, nothing else matters.  This is all they concentrate on.  This is all they care about.  They flirted a bit this preseason with delusions of "turning around the program," and through some gorilla math, dwelled on having out recruited Michigan, though I never saw a single ranking on Rivals or ESPN that illustrated that fact.  I think they might of out recruited us in Lenawee County, and the Oakland press might have ran with the story.  Today, they'd trade their whole class for Denard or Tate...and we'd decline.

It seems that now, in some way, we have become their oppressors.  We're the bullies.  We're the assholes.  We don't give Michigan State respect...

"Before the game last year, Coach D told us that if you haven't played Michigan, within 30 seconds you'll realize why we don't like them," said defensive end Trevor Anderson. "After about 15 seconds, I realized why I didn't like them. Just the total lack of respect that they have for our school in general. Not just the program, but the general lack of respect they have for us."

Trevor, you are sooo right.  I have absolutely no respect for you.  It's been 20 years since your last Big Ten title.  We have 8 to our name over that span of time.  Hell, Northwestern has 3 since your last.  Your coaches have embarassed themselves, and I'm not just talking about Bobby Williams or John L. Smith.  Your current coach got in a war of words with Mike Hart, and he has placed so much pressure on this one game, I'm not surprised you can't win it.

"I know this is a very important game," Dantonio said. "I try and deal with the present right now. It's a critical game for us. It always will be, regardless of our record."

Right.  And if you were to spend a little less time worrying about October 3rd, and a little more time figuring out the intricacies of Dan LeFevour, maybe you wouldn't have lost to Central Michigan in East Lansing.

And here's where I quote myself...

Some call Michigan vs. Michigan State a rivalry game. Geography plays a part in that. Just 60 miles separate the two campuses, but I remind you that just a few feet of stone separated East and West Berlin. And that's how different these two institutions are.  To the Northwest, smothered in Green and White, lies Michigan State University. A land grant college (the first in fact), by definition it's an A&M...as in Michigan A&M. It was founded in 1855, but wouldn't become a University until 1955. In 1950, Michigan (yes, we were in charge) reluctantly allowed Michigan Agricultural College to join the Big Ten as a replacement for The University of Chicago, who left the conference in 1946. The University of Chicago stopped playing D1 football in 1939, but its seven Big Ten Football titles is still one more than Michigan State has managed to win since. No, seriously, Michigan State has six Big Ten Football championships. Six
This is where the inferiority complex comes into play. It's a pretty serious one. Your typical Michigan State fan was shunned by the University of Michigan coming out of high school. (See The Thin Letter). Occasionally, you'll run into a Sparty that will tell you they chose Michigan State over Michigan. And occasionally, monkeys fly out of my ass. But you have to feel for them. You get shunned academically, then you stand by and watch as your school gets dominated on basically every possible field of play for your career there. And while there is dominance in the Big Ten athletic arena by Michigan over Michigan State, that isn't necessarily the problem. The problem is Michigan State's complete and utter ineptitude overall in sports.
Michigan State has 76 total Big Ten Championships all-time in all sports. Michigan has 337. As a reference for MSU's crappiness, Penn State has 41...they joined the conference in 1991.

But hey, this game...it's important to us too, albeit for different reasons.  We've been known to tighten up for this game, to feel a little pressure ourselves.  Not because we are worried about your talent, not because we are worried about your gameplan, but because we are worried about the fact that on any given Saturday, weird shit can happen.  Weird shit like phantom penalties, missed calls, and clocks managed by members of the fan club that result in extra seconds.  Thank god for rule changes and replay, eh?  But basically, we're afraid that you'll find a way to beat us...and the fact that you are a useless Big Ten representative and useless as a football program in general, losing to you is embarrassing.  Fortunately, it doesn't happen too often.  Because when it does, a few days go by where you pretend to be one of the big boys, and I have to listen to your botched grammar diatribes about how your program is making the turn.  That's of course before the next Saturday comes and you shit the bed against Indiana.

You hate ME?  Let me tell you what...I hate you so much more.  If you had your act together over the last 40 years we could have had something pretty cool going on here, like Texas-Oklahoma or Florida-Florida State.  Unfortunately, you aren't any good, ever, so playing you is a lose-lose situation, just like when we play a MAC school.  If we win, we were supposed to.  If we lose, it's a black mark on the record of the winningest football program of all time.

You are not in our class, you are not in our league, and after Saturday, you will be in our rearview mirror.