Saturday, October 29, 2016

Hate Week Illustrated: The Spartan Feelings Meter Returns

I stopped using this after The Horror last year.  It's time to bring it back.

Spartan Feelings Meter about Michigan

I hope I don't have to retire it again later today. I tell you, football PTSD is a real thing. If it wasn't a noon game, I'd surely explode in anticipation. I know what we SHOULD do in this game. I know what the outcome SHOULD be. Forgive me if I harbor a few reservations. Completely irrational and unwarranted reservations. I just need to get this one done and done with surgical precision. I'll be on the road to recovery then.

I expect something on the order of 45-7 or maybe 52-10. Basically, big score (M) to little/no score (MSU).  I think we'll see heroics from Peppers, Lewis, Stribling, Higdon, and many more. I also expect to see the Sparty QB (Connor Lewerke or Messiah O'Connor or whatsisname) on the ground wearing a maize and blue bulldozer with a #3 on it at least a couple times before it's over. I also expect that the Sparty thugs will be up to their usual hijinx, targeting Speight, trying to end Peppers' career, and Sparty-things like that. 

We'll see how all that works out. Karma and the Football gods must be on our side. I spoke of bloodlust after Rutgers, but I'm finding that I was just having fun that weekend. This. This is bloodlust and I want Dad to rain hellfire on the smug Spartans and their constipated coach. 

#BurnIt #FireDantonio   Make that trend by about 4pm today and I'll be a happy girl.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Trey Burke, We're So Sorry

[Update: Burke has since tweeted that his comments were taken out of context. Maybe so - I want to believe it. I suppose he wasn't well-prepared to deal with the media or public panel discussions while he was in Ann Arbor anymore than he was prepared to handle anything else. And yes, maybe I'm still hard on him in my comments below. In his position, you need to know how the things you say will be twisted and interpreted, if in fact that's what happened. What I say here is just my opinion, informed by my own time at Michigan. I don't expect most people to agree with me. And that's okay. We all view things like this through the lens of our own experiences. Peace.]

I take this break in my MSU Hate Week fun to bring up a topic I only became aware of very late yesterday. Apparently while I was dreaming up invasive medical procedures for Mark Dantonio, a former Michigan basketball player, Trey Burke, was slamming the University of Michigan for a number of "slights" in a very public forum.

He appeared recently before the Knight Commission to tell about his experiences as a student-athlete at the University of Michigan. The Commission was formed as an advocacy organization for NCAA reform and NCAA athletes.

Mr. Dantonio, you can thank Mr. Burke for drawing the eye of Sauron (me, in this scenario) away from you and toward a Michigan "student-athlete" for at least today. You're welcome.

Here is my message to Trey Burke:

I used to really think you were a great guy and a great Wolverine. I was really sad when you ditched the University for the NBA after just two years here. I felt that if you stayed, we really might have become champions. But when all of you "stars" left, we did not become champions, and most of you didn't become much of anything in the NBA either. Still, I wished you well. No one figured you'd stay anyway. Life goes on ... and Harbaugh.

And now you appear before the Knight Commission to lay out a list of complaints over how you were forced to live at U-M? How you were supported? Is that the sound of the world's tiniest violin I hear? Playing the world's saddest tune? God help me.

Well, Trey, we're so very sorry that your extremely brief time here was so awful. 
That dorm food for athletes, which is 10x better than dorm food for little people like me who PAID A LOT OF MONEY to be here, was not as good as your mom's. My mom was a great cook, too. I ate dorm food for a year and Kraft Mac 'n Cheese and fish cakes for three years in an apartment after that. I never complained. And mom cooked for me as a treat when I came home or she visited. 

We're sorry you feel you need to be paid to be a student-athlete in order to survive. You got your tuition and books and room and board paid for, plus you had academic counseling, and all the physical training you could handle for FREE. But you needed more cash on hand than the average Michigan student who needs some pocket cash AND tuition and books and room and board and all the other expenses you took for granted. What a pain for you. How much fun money went toward your tattoos instead of superior food? Just askin'.

We're so very sorry that Coach Beilein and Athletic Department programs didn't prepare you to handle the potential challenges of professional basketball as a sophomore, because you seem to think that this was their job. Thank you for clarifying what their jobs were, because the rest of us all think that their jobs are to support the student-athletes,  make sure they are getting an education and as much experience as they can to improve athletically, should they want to move on to a professional career after college. Their jobs are also to WIN. It is college, not a farm team. YOU are the one who didn't prepare. YOU are the one who let the University down after they gave you so much. YOU made the choice to "check out" and stop being a student-athlete, becoming just an athlete looking for a big NBA "upscale" meal ticket. When you gave up on your commitment to the University and its success, why does the University owe you advice on how to deal with your agent or how to invest your money? If you'd stayed four years, you might have found some excellent classes to teach you that. You might have matured in a way that made you a more critical thinker when it came to analyzing how to proceed with your career.  You also might have matured as a player and increased your success in the pros.  You left and Michigan owes you nothing.

I will end this by saying, grow the fuck up. You sound like an entitled prima donna, now making millions for doing very little in the NBA. Face reality. Mommy can't always be there to cook for you or make things better. Your coaches, your managers, your do a job for them. Sure, some may be the type of people to offer you advice and be role models for you. Don't expect that you can dishonor your own commitments and still have the world fall at your feet because you can sink a three pointer in your sleep. 

Complain about Michigan all you want. There are five arguments against you for every one you can lay down at our feet. Maybe you and Chris Webber can hang out and sort out how you both got screwed by Michigan, how the bacon and eggs were bad, and how you weren't taught to invest your millions at age 20.  

Leave the rest of us free to think about how to pay off our student loans, or how to invest in our new 401K when our first job snags us $60K/year, or how to swallow the dorm food that goes to the people who don't have access to the "Training Table."

Good luck out there. It's a tough world for a millionaire. But I can only guess at that.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hate Week Illustrated: Dantonio Preps for the Wolverines

I don't believe in jinxes so I'm going to enjoy Hate Week this year with #EUTM. Yes, I know full well that strange things can happen (like that science fiction show in Happy Valley last week where a James Franklin PSU team stunned the #2 Buckeyes) or say, weird things happening in a kicking game with no time on the clock and the enemy running it back for a score even though the game was essentially over. I have some vague, tormented dreams that I lived through something like that.

But I don't think bad things will happen this year. MSU is not going to win this game. They're going to feel the collected wrath of every Michigan player who lived through The Horror Years and Mark Dantonio is facing a Harbaugh who does not take whiny, snarky chatter against him or his program well. Amend that, he takes it quite well, but his memory is infallible. Remember what he did to Rutgers as a lesson in chatter and whining about farming The Garden? Let's just say Dantonio is going to pay for years of butt-clenched, angry old man sniping. "Pride comes before the fall." "Where's the threat?" "The only response I have is maybe some day the little brother grows up." 

No, there's no way Harbaugh is going to go lightly on Mark. Or if he does, it will be with a dose of GoLytely, an excellent solution for what's about to happen to the old grumpy cat.

Because the only thing Dantonio needs to prep for is a thorough, eyes-wide-open colonoscopy on Saturday. And I. Can't. Wait.

Mark Dantonio, as grumpy cat, prepares to have a colonoscopy at the hands of the Wolverines

More to come. I am in no way finished enjoying this week.

Go Blue! Beat Sparty!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Recovering from a Day of Bloodlust

Blood is a mysterious thing.

It's a life-giving river flowing through us from the arterial tributaries of generations of men and women we never knew, but whose DNA stretches still within us. I'm fascinated endlessly by thinking of the parts of my being for which I can thank some Danish Viking or Saxon warlord that fought into my gene pool over a 1000 years ago. 

I see it in my absolute love of winter and cold. My ability to wear the scratchiest wool. Even in my appreciation for sharp, well-balanced, utilitarian knives that can get just about any job done.

Something happened yesterday, though, that surprised even me -- the Viking Warrior Princess that my friends have called me. Michigan beat Rutgers into a bloody pulp and rather than feel by the second quarter that we needed to stop the madness, I felt a berserker bloodlust rise in me that was unexpected and exhilarating. I'd hardly given Rutgers football a spare thought in my entire life and yet, there I was late in the game getting angry that they got a first down. Horrified that we almost allowed them that one called-back score. 

I was a cold, heartless Michigan fanbeast who wanted to see how far we could take it. I've been going to Michigan games since the early '70s and have seen lots of blowouts that put me to sleep. This one had me begging. One more TD please. Go for two. Get them back to negative yardage. More shots of their coach staring in abject horror. Volume up on their band playing our victorious march. Let every NJ Wolverine play every position and run it up to 100 - you have three minutes left!

Then it came to an end. 78-0. And then there was baseball that's not the Tigers and some sad West Coast games to turn to. Ugh. The mental let down was real. Not unlike, I imagine, how it felt to storm a beach screaming into your enemies' homes, stealing all they hold dear, then having a moment to process your mad success and your power and your domination and wondering, "So, what do I have to match that feeling today?"

I know that much of this comes from watching Rutgers and coach Chris Ash using a soft little twig to jab with child-like glee at Coach Harbaugh and the Wolverines over the past several months. Their taunting words must be haunting today: "this is our national championship" and "we would choose Chris Ash over Harbaugh any day." And the actions that may haunt Rutgers for years: bringing a reported 200 recruits to watch their "national championship" - then not sending them home before the end of the 1st quarter. The patience with which Harbaugh took this yearlong buzzing was perfect. His design to pay them for it had to be expected. Ash could not be that stupid, right? Harbaugh taught Rutgers a valuable life lesson last night and he was quite merciful in the doing. He stormed their garden, spilled some blood on their grounds, stole some of their loot (hopefully some 4*/5*), and left them alive to report their story of horror to those who would replace them in the fray another day. He was a better man than I would have been, but now that my blood is cooled, I can admit the wisdom in that. 

What I can't deny is that the bloodlust is alive in me now and I don't know if I can quell it going forward. The taste was as glorious as a half-price Ruth's Chris steak. The rush was pure catharthis. To feel the same way against the Spartans... the Buckeyes... jeez, my heart would explode. It's needed that feeling for so very long.  Until those battles happen, though, I'm going to make a valiant effort to temper myself. Each game as it comes. Trust in our leadership. Believe in our team. There is nothing they can't achieve this year. Even the Vikings knew when to fight and when to farm the garden. 

And now, off to ready myself for the greatest antidote for bloodlust. Indifference and the Lions.

#GoBlue from my bloody red Viking heart! Skål!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

For all the Great American Patriots (not the Tom Brady kind)

I just got back to my social media after a 12 hour day in football heaven on Saturday. It was a beautiful thing being amongst kindred souls at the Big House, watching Michigan destroy Penn State, and having Wisconsin and Duke put some tasty icing on what was a deliciously "cake" day in Ann Arbor. It was a day to forget about all the crap going on in the world and just have fun. (And isn't it nice to have honest-to-God fun in the Big House again?)

So today as I've been trying (and failing) to find joy in watching the Lions and Tigers, I'm reading through my Twitter feed and Facebook posts for the past 24 hours, and in no time, have been brought back to the grim reality that is the state of our nation. What has me going this time isn't Hillary or Trump (directly, anyway). It's the sadly not-so-surprising number of self-proclaimed real, righteous American "patriots" who are complaining about Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio for supporting their players' right to peaceful protest during the National Anthem on Saturday. 

Now, I haven't written in months here. Life has been busy and in the free time I'd normally spend writing, I've been in the thick of co-founding a non-profit and trying to get that off the ground. When I have something to say, though, that remotely touches on the sports and country I love, I guarantee I'll be back out here to say it. And today, this #RespectTheFlag thing has driven me to the keyboard.

First of all, I want to say I have the utmost respect (with a "c") for both Harbaugh and Dantonio in this situation. Yes, I still feast on Spartan disrespekt and I reveled in their demise yesterday. In this one single instance, however, I'll give Dantonio due credit. Both he and Harbaugh GET IT. They understand the vast difference between a flag and a song and a country. They understand what this country is supposed to be about and they let their players be real citizens of this country yesterday. There is very little more American than what they allowed and what their players did and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to examine their history a little more closely. That is unless you really think the American colonists were wrong for their rampant disrespect of the lawful government in England and their undoubted leader, King George III. Or that earlier Americans were un-American when they fought the status quo for voting rights, civil rights, women's rights, and even your right to legally open a beer and drink it at your tailgate. Because if you think Harbaugh and Dantonio were wrong and the players in protest were wrong, that's kind of where your logic is leading. 

The flag is just a symbol made in nylon or polyester. The anthem is just a moving song that most of us can't sing properly. The United States is so much more than either of those things. To be an American, well, it's something that's inside all of us, though none of us experience it in exactly the same manner. The problem is, many people are starting to question the patriotism of those whose American experience and patriotic behavior isn't 100% locked in goose step with their own. There can only be one "patriot" in this country and it feels to me like that person is a white, gun-toting, Republican, Christian extremist who "respects" the flag and the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, but completely disrespects true Christian and American ideals in about every other way possible. (And before I get nailed for this, let me announce that I'm a white, Independent, imperfect Christian who wouldn't mind owning a firearm or a fur coat.)

Well, wake up "patriots". One of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans in "the land of the free and the home of the brave" is the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. We have the right to question our government, to call foul on the things it does or doesn't do. We have the right, through our political and legal system, to evolve our country and make it better for every American, not just for those who feel their own way is the only way or for those who can afford to dictate what they want. Rights apply to all citizens, not just the ones you like or agree with.

There is no law telling us we have to like or support what everyone else says or does. I don't like neo-Nazis, but I think they have a right to assemble and speak because I have a right not to listen to them. I don't like some politicians, but I think they have a right to their bat-shit crazy platform because I have a right to believe in someone else's. And where is the law regulating a person's posture in front of the flag and requiring a hearty singing of the anthem? I can't find any such thing. 

I have more than a couple questions for real patriots. Why aren't you protesting the American living in my town who flies the flags of at least three foreign countries on his porch? Why aren't you protesting the guys wearing hats, guzzling beer and cat-calling the hot singer while the anthem is playing at a sporting event? Why were you mad when people joked disrespectfully about one president (W) but you've called his successor, his successor's wife, and even his successor's daughters the worst slurs you can call a human being? Why aren't your Christian values incensed by all the unfair judgment of everyone going on in this country today? I thought judgment was God's responsibility. Hmmm? Buehler?

Maybe we all need to practice less ignorance and do a bit more ignoring (of those things we don't agree with.) Kind of "live and let live."

There's a picture that sums up the kind of nation where people are segregated by those who are superior and those who are inferior. A nation where you walk in lockstep with your neighbors and your government or you pay the consequences. A nation where you have to salute the right flag and salute it correctly and you have to sing the national song and be the citizen your government demands you to be, even if it means hurting those who aren't like you just to save your own ass. It kind of looks like this:

I thank Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio for their understanding of American freedom and their (and their players') bravery in standing up for it. This country would be in a lot better shape if everyone did.

No Go Blue today. Just blue.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Kittens, the NCAA, and Jim Delany

The NCAA banned satellite camps last week because, well, I guess in some way they must hurt student-athletes. That has to be it because I read this on their website. It must be true:
We are committed to enforcing the rules, creating fair competition and establishing a positive competitive environment for student-athletes across the country. It's the responsibility of our universities, athletics programs, coaches, alumni, student-athletes and national office staff to be fully accountable at every level as we support student success. Values such as respect, caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity and responsibility are equally important on and off the field. No one is above the rules. Unfortunately, some people will try to break the rules—but to ensure a fair system, the rules and the consequences have to apply to everyone. Our goal is to further strengthen our culture of personal responsibility and individual accountability.
In addition to that statement being garden quality manure, I have a thousand other words to say on this topic (and other feelings about the NCAA which have been growing for years). Sadly, many of the words I want to use to describe the NCAA, and often the B1G, my mother would not wish me to share in a public forum. One of them might start with a "P".

So, with respect to my mother's memory, I bring you this kitten-filled photo essay on my feelings about the NCAA decision to forbid the use of satellite camps -- that evil, but heretofore legal practice so cleverly executed by Jim Harbaugh in the 2015 off-season. That same unfair tactic that put the SEC and  other morally upstanding conferences at such a competitive disadvantage. The NCAA and representatives from those poor, mistreated conferences voted to end that practice this year ... just as Michigan (and others who thought "why didn't we think of that?") were readying to rollout another set of camps this summer. Bring on the kittens!

The NCAA Snuggles with the SEC, ACC, and Big 12
Cute fluffy kittens from unfairly treated conferences catch a snuggle with Mark Emmert, the softest kitten of them all. These guys look pretty content and happy now, but for the past year, I guess you could say they've been staging a [wink, wink] Kitten Riot. "There's not enough room in the litter box for you, Harbaugh." Because it's already full of smelly ...

The B1G Has Our Back
Correction. The B1G is on its back. Just happy to have a job and rolling over in a cute, but submissive posture, we find B1G Commish Jim Delany responding to the NCAA decision. "I don't care what you do to Harbaugh, Mr. Emmert. The rest of my schools love it. Can you scratch my tummy?" This guy is an even softer kitten than Emmert.

On  Jim Harbaugh's (Imagined) Reaction
Unflappable in the face of adversity, Jim feasts on the kitten-like attempts to stop him from his mad and brilliant quest. "Eat more kitten. It tastes like vitamins. Got milk, anyone?"

When asked about his feelings on the ruling, Mark Dantonio was effusive in his support. "Camps were disrespectful and that little weasel got what he deserved. I hate the weasels. I hate kittens. And some days, I just hate green. You know, it's not easy being green. It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things. And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky. Kermit sang that. Hated it. Hate puppets.'  Well, except for the NCAA.

There are rumblings of discontent over the decision in many places inside and outside of Ann Arbor and who knows what will happen. I suspect because it's the NCAA and the NCAA is ... a kitten... nothing will happen. And next year, we'll see the Jim Harbaugh Spring Break Rule enacted for the protection of student-athletes and SEC schools everywhere. Count on it.

Winning in spite of it all is going to be beautiful.

Go Blue. In Harbaugh we trust!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

This Isn't Tee-Ball, People

By now you've all probably noticed that I only write a lot when I've got something to say that I can't hold back. There's no editor pushing me against a deadline and no income making this little hobby a "must do" task. And nothing moves me more to write than frustration, irritation, or outrage...and I'm feeling a little bit of all these things as the recruitment of the 2016 class slowly moves toward National Signing Day. So, I'm back from my little winter hiatus to jump in about something that's been niggling at me for the past couple weeks.

What's got my panties in such a twist? 
The rash of recent decommitments?
The roller coaster ride of prognostication as NSD approaches?
Stage moms deciding what their sons will do?
Michigan pulling scholarships from "committed" players within weeks of Signing Day?

No. It's none of that!

It's the way in which the whole nation is shocked and appalled at the way Jim Harbaugh is constructing his team and running his program. A man and his staff who are not allowed to speak about the particulars of their strategies and decisions related to recruits are being vilified for 'breaking trust with these Michigan-loyal student-athletes,' They're 'just kids' and 'it's so unfair' and 'the only honorable thing to do is give them their scholarships and stick by our word to them.' And so on, ad nauseum.

There are (at least) four kinds of people murmuring or ranting about Harbaugh right now:
  1. ESPN and other sports news organizations who know that anything Harbaugh gets clicks. 
  2. Frightened trolls and total hypocrites from other schools who are probably pretty upset that Michigan is killing it with recruiting this year and the momentum is changing in Ann Arbor.
  3.  Michigan "fans" who want a National Championship but also want to make sure that everyone feels good and gets a participation trophy.
  4. The decommitted recruits themselves.

I'm going to start with the media and simply say, I don't care what they say or report. All they're after is viewers and clicks. No coach in the nation is as viewable or clickable as Jim Harbaugh. He knows that himself and he plays the media with professional acuity. He knows exactly what he's doing and I sure can't see where any of it is outside the NCAA rules. I'll admit it now. I love this man. He had me at 'Hello!" He completes me as a Michigan fan.

As for the jealous trolls and hypocrites, I see them as the primary source of all the Harbaugh-shaming of late. Spartans, who see their reign of terror ending, are full of outrage. The Buckeyes and SEC schools who are getting dumped by superstar recruits racing to Ann Arbor are decrying Harbaugh's tactics while they continue grayshirting and any other number of genuinely shady recruiting practices. It's not even the pot calling the kettle "black" here. There isn't a comparison to be made between letting a committed, yet unsigned recruit go weeks before National Signing Day and letting one sign up, start classes, play a game or two, and THEN say, "Sorry, buddy, but we can't keep you on the team." That is the definition of reprehensible. That's not what Michigan is doing.

With regard to our own fanbase - I feel most irritated of all with that. In my opinion, any Michigan fan who's whining about how dreadful Harbaugh has been to pull scholarships from commits should, in the words of Dave Brandon "Go find another team. We'll be fine without you."  This, people, is how Jim Harbaugh works. He's worked this way everywhere he's been. We knew what we were getting, and I'm damn glad he's exactly what I expected and so much more. If you want a kinder and gentler program that can't win 6 games a year and never beats a traditional rival, then you should find another team. God knows there are plenty out there that meet those criteria. Go throw yourself behind the Oregon defense, perhaps. Hoke will be there to clap for you. Michigan needs no more of the Hokensian "we're just having fun" kind of thinking. Harbaugh is purging that weakness and mediocrity from our collective memory. This will be a winning team again, not a national target of ridicule. 

And finally, we have these recruits themselves. I don't know how many of you have followed these kids on Twitter or Instagram or SnapChat... but I do and you know what? They are in no way the naive Pollyannas that so many seem to think. They've been worshipped and coddled and told how amazing they are, in some instances, since 8th grade. Sure, some may be taken advantage of by coaches and parents who use them for their own ends. But there are just as many who, after years of getting sunshine blown into dark places, have developed a sense of entitlement that astonishes me. We're all hanging on every move these 17- and 18-year old kids are making and they can play a coach just as easily as a coach can play them. 

The truth is, we don't know - and may never know - the full stories behind all these decommitments or flips. I'm pretty certain some have been legitimate "I've changed my mind about Michigan" on the side of the athlete. Others have been nudged out for reasons Harbaugh might call a failure to launch. Michigan under Coach Jim is not going to be handing out participation ribbons and trophies for wearing the uniform. No one is going to be able to commit two years prior and then coast into a cushy spot high on the Michigan depth chart. Harbaugh is a madman. He doesn't like things that don't have a winner and a loser. He's been competing and working to be the best at everything since the doctor slapped him on the butt at birth. Nothing less than total commitment to incessant improvement will do for guys who want to play in Ann Arbor. Any dejected recruit who says a word against this coaching staff is very likely not made of the stuff we're looking for anyway. 

I'm all behind the way Michigan has driven the road to National Signing Day and it's made me even prouder to be a Wolverine fan and alum. I'd say that Harbaugh and company are doing the best they can to halt the wussification of America, one kid at a time, by employing good old-fashioned ideas like hard work and the recognition of winners and achievers. 

It's not Tee-ball, Michigan fans. We're gonna keep score. And somebody is going to WIN. He's just trying to ensure that it's us.

Go Blue!