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.

Weekend Roundup: Earth Rotating in the Proper Direction Again Edition, 9/15/2009

It's time to get back to being Arrogant Michigan Fan.

We won.  You lost.  We won because we're better than everybody else, on and off the field.  We are the greatest college football team of all time, representing the best academic Univerisity of all time...the rest of you can get in line behind us.

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee...Central Michigan beat Michigan State.  Compounding my glee is that it came on the day that Dantonio's extension was announced, and just a couple weeks after Michigan State signed up to play directional Michigan in a round robin fashion for many years to come.  Little brother will never learn.  No matter what you do, no matter who you get to lead your band of misfits, you will still be dumb.  You're dumb.  There's nothing you can do about being so damn dumb.  From stupid penalties to drugged up quarterbacks to having your heroes shoot themselves in the leg...literally.  That is who you are, and that is who you will always be.

Sure, the events of the final 30 seconds all broke in the Chippewas' favor.  But we'd been outplayed by a significant margin for the 59 minutes and 30 seconds that preceded those 30 seconds--outgained by 74 yards and outconverted by 8 first downs.  And when it mattered most, we couldn't stop them.  Central gained a total of 147 yards to reach the endzone on both of its final two non-onside-kick-commenced drives.  We were lucky to be in position to win the game with 30 seconds to go.

And you're lucky we continue to let you participate in Big Ten football, as you have less Big Ten titles than the University of Chicago.

This feels great.

And you, OSU, who have taken advantage of the worst years of the Big Ten, have shown time and again that you are built only for this conference, and only when it sucks.  With the coach you have, a sweatervested god in your world, you have reached your peak.  You will forever live off of that single National Championship in 2002 that required the participation of a future felon that took money from a booster.  Cue Dr. Saturday...

Ohio State's failure to beat a quality opponent since defeating Michigan to punch a ticket to the national championship game in 2006, Tressel's teams have been outclassed, outsmarted, outplayed and outprepared in every big game they've played.

More, more, more!

This was a giveaway game, one the Buckeyes absolutely should have won. But it wasn't the kind where the quarterback makes a boneheaded play at the end of the game, or where the runningback fumbled, or the cornerback slipped and fell, or the kickoff coverage broke down. It was a game where the coaching staff let everyone down by asking its team to execute a rubbish gameplan.

And from the SF Chronicle, and article titled "A Better Choice - Ann Arbor" infers that Pryor made the wrong choice...

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit and some other national experts say that the No. 11 Buckeyes proved they can play against the nation's elite. If by play against, they mean play not to lose and handcuff their exciting quarterback with conservative play calling, then yes Ohio State proved that.

Did I mention how great this feels?  One more shot from Black Shoe Diaries...

Congratulations, Ohio State. You have a five star quarterback that can't read defenses. He stares down his receivers, throws off his back foot, and forces passes he has no business throwing. On top of that, he's an inarticulate headcase who doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut leaving one to suspect he has some self esteem issues he's trying to mask.

Ok, enough.  Here's some links about us...

Tate Forcier and Darryl Stonum were named big ten players of the week.  Sports Illustrated said this about the last spot in their Heisman watch list...

Heisman-o-meter: There are a number of players who could've landed in this spot. Along with the aforementioned Gilyard, Pike and Spiller, Purdue's Ralph Bolden, Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Alabama's Mark Ingram (who battled the flu last week) and even Michigan's Tate Forcier are among the multiple contenders.

Ya, well, no.  But, ya. In other news, 

Charlie Puddingpants whined about officiating, but we later found that pictures don't lie.  Troy Wollfolk walks soft and carries an empty leash.  

About his dog  (BTW things seem to be awfully fun at pressers these days)...
"I kind of like to walk him in the dark because he's black and he can't be seen, so it's like I just have a leash," Woolfolk joked.

The Wolverine talks of Euphoria

Coming for you, Ron English...GO BLUE!!

Things Are Different Now

Going into Saturday's game, I really had no opinion on the outcome.  I didn't know, on any level, what was going to happen when Michigan took the field.  I mean, I knew what I wanted to happen, but I was probably more preoccupied with what I didn't want to happen.  I didn't want the euphoric feelings I felt after Western Michigan to be erased by a loss at the hands of the Irish.  Overcoming the adversity of practice-gate and the anti-Rich Rod rhetoric by way of a 31-7 victory was a really big deal.  But people don't want to hear about what you did for them yesterday, they want to hear about today.  I thought a lot about what people would think following a loss to Notre Dame.  I would have certainly been an apologist:  Notre Dame has a good team...Michigan is young and when they get more experience watch out...Next year is the year, maybe the year after that...yada yada yada.  But I don't have to worry about that anymore.  Because a group of very young men and a coach under fire have decided they don't want to wait.  They want it all...right now.

Though I don't do it very much in my day-to-day life, and I attend religious services about as often as I root for Michigan State, I find myself praying sometimes at football games.  I literally look to the sky with my hands folded, thinking there's some higher power that isn't busy with famine or disease or world peace that has time to fix a football game.  I was just in the middle of of something along the lines of "if you let Michigan win I'll volunteer at a..." when my connection was interrupted by Seven Nation Army and an entire section of students whipped into a frenzy.  This whole piped in music thing is so simple, so effective, that I can't believe we waited so long to implement it.  But that is just one of the many New Michigan Traditions.  The Victor's Walk, the honorary captains, and the team immediately sprinting towards the student section following a victory to sing The Victors, were brought here by Rich Rodriguez and are designed for one thing: FUN.

Michigan football, everything about it, is fun, perhaps for the first time.  From the play on the field, which is like some kind of wild circus of speed and trickery with a ringmaster that would've gone to prom four months ago if he didn't have spring practice, to the players seemingly as intent on getting us into the game by flapping their arms and pointing to crowd as they are with making the next play.  Rich Rodriguez, whose recruiting prowess grows with every early signee, made a pitch to the most stubborn of prospects.  And though two games, by showing what can happen when the right personnel runs a system, by saying all the right things, and by shedding a few tears, Coach has landed the biggest recruit in Michigan Football history...us.  We are on this team.  We are the 12th man.  We are All-In.

"Everybody kept saying a freshman couldn't do it," Michigan quarterbackTate Forcier said. "I did it."

Michigan is now ranked, which, as I discussed earlier in the week, changes the chemistry of the situation.  There are expectations now.  We are all assuming 4-0 going into Michigan State, and following Sparty's celebration of Mark Dantonio's contract extension by losing to Central Michigan for the third time, things are looking pretty good for our afternoon in East Lansing.  But we need to remember that despite Tate now being college football's poster boy for "freshman poise under pressure," he has yet to have his back against the wall with a stadium of people that want him dead.  The plus side is that we seem to have two consecutive cupcakes in front of us, which means that Tate...and please don't forget Denard...are going to be three weeks older, three weeks better, with two more games worth of plays and film analysis to help them.

But I'm here to tell you not to get ahead of yourself, to remember that while they are fearless and talented, they are still kids...and it's a long long season.  So let's just relax and enjoy these next two weeks, and revel in this miraculous start.

"I told them after the game, they have to stay hungry and humble. It's two wins. They'll get some respect back, but it's still a long way to go. If they stay humble and hungry, then some of that national respect that all of us want, our fans want, our players want, they'll get it." - Rich Rodriguez