A Long, Hard Winter

With about 2 or 3 minutes left in The Game on November 21st, 2009, I stood motionless in section 37, row 38, seat 3. Surrounded by Ohio State fans on all sides...listening as they turned Michigan Stadium into "The Horseshoe North" with their O-H-I-O chant...I was stunned. All I could do as I looked out at the expanse of the stadium I used to think belonged solely to Michigan fans was ask "How did we get here?"

This article is not really an attempt to discuss any one particular topic, but merely a meandering of thoughts that I have had about sports in general in my month of blog-abandonment. There are many good reasons why I have been selfish enough to basically ignore this site since December began...but I don't want my loyal dear readers to think I am going to make this a trend. We fully plan to head into 2010 with a full head of steam looking forward to next fall.


I can not stand pro sports. Nothing about "professional" sports is enticing to me. The day Barry Sanders, the single greatest pro athlete to grace the city of Detroit turned in his cleats at the age of 30 and paid the Lions back the money left on his contract, pro sports died for me.

Football, basketball, baseball, hockey...you name it. There is nothing there for me anymore.

Why? Those teams are run like huge corporations. Athletes are commodities. Nothing more. Just something to throw on screen between commercials...usually a commercial with one of those athletes telling you which car to buy or which shoe to wear. And we as the mindless public just drink it up.

Tiger Woods just cheated on his Swedish model wife with the entire Dallas Cowboys cheerleading team. But who cares, just as long as he wears his red shirt and Nike cap to the divorce trial. Fist pump...Boo ya! Smile for the camera.

Every Detroit Tigers fan is up in arms about how Curtis Granderson was traded to the Yankees for a couple of no-name prospects. Hey, what the hell were the Red Wings doing in the late 90's? It's called no salary cap. New York is a major market, which means more money. Money wins, Detroit loses.

It's the natural ebb and flow of professional sports. Not every guy can be Steve Yzerman or Barry Sanders.

Despite what almost any pro athlete will tell you, its all about the money. Nothing more, nothing less.

That's where my love of college sports comes in.

I am a Michigan football fan through and through. No doubt about it. God put me on this earth to cheer for this team. There is nothing I would rather do than watch the boys in blue on a Saturday afternoon in the Big House. For me, it's everything that is good about sports. The fans, the stadium, the band, the helmets. I cherish those things. College football, at least to me, is the greatest sport in the world.

I've been a Michigan fan for as long as I've known more a thing or two about college football. You can boil it down to a pretty simple equation: Michigan is righteous, everyone else is evil. Not to tough to follow.

So it makes perfect sense that I feel what has taken place over the past two years in Ann Arbor is not only worrisome, but downright depressing.

Michigan is, in every sense, a national powerhouse.
• #1 All-time in winning percentage (.738)
• #1 All-time in total wins (877)
• #1 All-time in winning seasons (110)
• #1 All-time in undefeated seasons (25)
• #1 All-time in attendance
• #1 All-time in televised games (406)
• One of only 3 schools nationally to have a winning record against every Div-1 conference.

I do like Rich Rodriguez, but he's got a ways to go before he earns the love of the Michigan fan-base whom has come to expect nothing short of what I just wrote above in a new coach. It's a tough job, filling the shoes of Bo Schembechler, Fritz Crisler and Fielding Yost. But it's the job Rodriguez signed up for. It's the job he broke his contract and left his home-state of West Virginia for. And it's the job that he currently makes 2.5 million dollars a year to do. And so far, it's not going so well.

But for reasons I've stated time and time again on this blog, we're going to stick by our embattled coach for one more season. I've said it from the start, give the man three years to make his mark. But damn, years 1 and 2 aren't giving me much to look forward to in year 3.

When I look around the college football landscape, I see teams like Texas, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma...all doing well with their esteemed coaches. And I'll admit it, I'm jealous. I'm also jealous of teams like Rutgers, Boise State, TCU, Cincinnati and even Oregon. Those teams are experiencing a tremendous amount of success, all due to great coaching. Not all those teams have amazing players, but they have amazing coaches. And that's enough.

And as much as it pains me to say it, Notre Dame is going to be a juggernaut with Brian Kelly. Not only does he fit in perfectly in South Bend, but he's a winning coach with a great attitude who said every possible thing right in his first presser under the golden dome two weeks ago. As a Michigan fan, Brian Kelly at Notre Dame scares me. I never felt that way with Weis, Willingham or Davie.

The only thing that could screw Michigan more is if Rutgers joins the Big Ten so we have to play against Greg Schiano every year...and we schedule a home-and-home against Stanford to meet up with Jim Harbaugh. It would be the coaching carousel of death. Non-conf games against Harbaugh and Kelly, and then face off against Shiano, Ferentz, Dantonio, Fitzgerald and Tressell.

Kill me now.

Okay, maybe it's not that bad. That is a worst-case scenario. But it simply illustrates that my inner frustration with seeing all these top-notch coaches being swept up by big schools while Michigan keeps banging it's own head against the wall with Rodriguez in yet another bowl-less season.

I'll keep my thoughts to myself about Urban Meyer while that whole situation works itself out. My initial reaction is that there's something really bad going on with Meyer, and he needs time to figure it out and get it right. We as college football fans should at least give him the time and freedom to do so. For all of the reasons I can't stand Urban Meyer, we at least owe him that.

But back to my point about being at least a little jealous of the rest of the bowl teams that we get to watch this postseason.

As I sat there in the last few minutes of the Ohio State game and watched as those hillbilly fans from down south poison our beloved stadium with their awful cheers, I had a moment of sheer astonishment. And I don't say that lightly. I was in shock. While Michigan has struggled in the last 2-3 years, Ohio State has thrived. They've won at least a share of the Big Ten in the last 5 seasons. Jim Tressell has made Michigan his whipping boy. He's secured his place in Ohio State lore forever as being the guy who has finally dominated the powerhouse Wolverines. He single-handily chased off Lloyd Carr, and has made Rich Rodriguez look like a rookie coach, and has made Michigan rebuild its entire football program when a total rebuild might not have been entirely necessary. Well, to be fair, Ron Zook has also made Rodriguez look like a rookie coach...but I digress.

How far away is Michigan from being a powerhouse again? Will we be a powerhouse again? Will we go to a bowl next year? Will Rich Rodriguez be our coach in 2011?

Those questions, and many more like them are going to be the focus of this blog for the next 9 months. We pledge to help guide you, the loyal bleeding-heart Michigan fan through the long, hard winter we must endure. But we will. And I hope, as much as anyone, that there will be a light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

1 comment

  1. I'm also a die-hard UM fan, but take a small exception to your comments about other teams being good due to "great coaching". Some of what you say is true, but ALL OF THEM inherited programs where the cupboard was not bare. In fact, that's why they took those jobs, because talent was there for them to have success. Not so with our beloved Wolverines. RR's cupboarb was more bare than a maple tree in January when he arrived (thanks Lloyd) and everyone, even you bloggers who have an inside slant on the program, did not recognize it until it was too late. Did you recognize the talent drain upcoming in 06/07? If not, why? I agree that a small portion of this is RR's fault, but not nearly as much as you express. Give the man a chance...