Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Exposed in the End, the Wolverines Will Emerge Hungrier

It’s been a few days and I can finally let myself think calmly about last weekend in the context of the whole season.  I went dark after the MSU game. It was a terrible thing for me. Within moments, I took my Facebook profile photo down and replaced my cheery Michigan cover photo with a bleak, soulless black and white photo I took years ago of a crow in a dead tree in the Utah desert. The last minute fluke play sucked away my will to be among people online or in-person for a good two days. It felt like being run over by a truck for about a week and truth be told, I'm not over it yet. I'm just packaging up my anger and saving it for next year. It should have a nice sharpness to it by then.

When last Saturday happened, the feeling was certainly depressing, but it left me in a much different state of mind. This may be because our larger dreams died right there on the field. Excepting a bowl game, the season was over and it didn’t matter anymore what MSU or another team did. There was no fluke play to fume over. The refs were bad, but a few missed calls were not the reason we lost. OSU was ready...and better. Michigan wasn’t. The evisceration of our team began early and was painfully deliberate. On another blog I read a comment with a metaphor I'd like to extend. This guy called the OSU game “a colonoscopy without the benefit of anesthesia.” I’d say that’s an apt description. A feeling of being uncomfortably, mortifyingly exposed. We, as fans, have been going through the prep all season, drinking the Gatorade, starving for THE GAME and the sustenance we’d enjoy once it was over. In its sure-to-be glorious aftermath, we were ready for a feast on Buckeye nut-encrusted vitamin-rich steak after dispatching a crumbling OSU to loss #2. Then we got rolled into the procedure room, and the anesthesiologist said “Your insurance doesn't cover anesthesia, but you can listen to some music.” And they played Hang on Sloopy on a loop as the gastroenterologist arrived, tapped us on the bum and said “You're going to feel a little pressure” with an evil grin.  And we looked around to see Urban Meyer. 

Now, the weird thing is, I can envision Urban Meyer enjoying something like that. I’m not sure why he had to give one to Jim Harbaugh, because Mark Dantonio looks like he’s in far greater need of a checkup down there. I guess it’s all the undigested red meat Jim keeps promoting? In the end (no pun intended), we learned that our Butt (Jake, of course) and the rest of the team and staff will be better for that embarrassing exposure in the future. I expect that they’re already studying up on their football gastroenterology and will be taking care of Dantonio and Meyer next year.

I’m still somewhat stunned at the outcome of the game, but I’m looking at it as a moment on a timeline that’s really just begun. When I look back on what we were all witnessing last year at this time, it's almost inconceivable where we stand today. One year ago today, Jim Hackett fired Brady Hoke. Dave Brandon was already gone. We were glued to our favorite Michigan sports news outlets, half in fear, half in euphoria waiting to see the mysterious words for which we all knew the reference: It’s happening. We heard the NFL media say “He’ll never leave.” We heard Michigan insiders say “It’s his destiny.” Then one day at the end of December, all the pain and humiliation of being a Michigan fan was relieved with one simple announcement. Jim Harbaugh was happening.

After nearly an entire year of hard work, relentless effort, creative recruiting, and dozens of quirky public photo opps, Harbaugh is a bowl game away from his first complete season on the Michigan sidelines as head coach. There were ups and downs along the way. A loss to Utah that played a few weeks later may have been a nice win. A loss to Michigan State on a weird game-ending play that was as much Spartan luck as it was Spartan skill -- and of course, the brutal field dressing performed by the Buckeyes last weekend. In between those moments, we saw a lot of good, bad, crazy, maddening, inspiring, hold-your-breath football. Moments of Hokiness. Moments of mad genius. We saw Harbaugh and his staff make a quality quarterback of Jake Rudock from Iowa’s scraps (Thank you, Hawkeyes!) and watched as he broke records and passed his coach and Tom Brady on some pretty big QB stat lists. The defense, for most of the season, was ranked among the top five in the nation in all the defensive categories. Guys like Peppers, Chesson, Smith, Darboh, Butt, and so many more, stepped up and played with grit and pride. Football looked like fun again and they gave us 9-3 after a disheartening 5-7 bowl-free season in 2014.

They didn’t win the big games we wanted so badly, but they showed us what the future looks like: Bright. Intense. Fun. Although I got pulled into the what-ifs that had Michigan going to the B1G championship game and the twisted scenarios leading to the CFP, it was wrong of me to hang my hopes on that. It was very wishful thinking; me and my belief that the universe was spinning this into Bo’s 1969 team redux. A team destined. That wasn’t really fair. It could have happened, but was never a very likely thing. Not something we mused about at the Spring Game in April or heading into the first games of the season. 7-5. 8-4. That sounded like a good start coming from such a low point. This regular season’s 9-3 (given who 2 of the 3 were) was not successful by the measures we want to use but it also didn’t feel like a failure. These coaches got all that performance out of much the same team that Hoke fielded in 2014. Many of those newly well-coached Hoke kids will be back and we’ve already seen evidence that big time recruits are interested in the experience Harbaugh is selling. He knows how to put the pieces together and I believe we’re in for some great things very soon.

After waiting for what seemed like ages for September and the Utah game to arrive, we’re somehow in December and staring at the down time. They’ll have one more game somewhere warm. We’ll wait to see how the fight for recruits shakes out on February’s National Signing Day. Then a little more snow shoveling before we get to the Spring Game in 2016. It’ll be September again before we know it because time flies when you’re having fun. And it IS fun again!

I can’t wait to see how we improve next season. How veterans become stronger and smarter in their positions; how the incoming freshmen make their first statements on the field as Wolverines. Jimmy is probably already working on that, turning the results of that painful game-day colonoscopy into something good. Lessons. Motivation. Competition. Teamwork.  

Let’s hope, like all negative “screenings”, our next uncomfortable examination from Dr. Meyer isn’t due for at least another 10 years (or more)!

Go Blue!

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Game: A Battle Between The Team and the I's and Me's of OSU

Yes, it's been awhile. Three weeks to be precise. My last post, written before the Rutgers game, was a silly piece fueled by an respiratory virus, strong coffee, and maple-glazed donuts, sponsored, in large part, by Mucinex. All that time and a bottle of Flonase later, a lot has happened. It’s all been pretty good if you consider the Wolverine’s successes, which weren’t always pretty, but always ended well. The only bad part was that one of the few times in my life I’ve actually cheered for the Buckeyes, they added “didn’t come to play football” to the list of other things they don’t do, such as “play school” or respect their coaches. It's okay, though. We don't respect their coaches, either. Watching OSU implode last week after losing just one of their last 24 games was compensation enough for me. Amazingly, even after MSU's win, there's still a shred of hope for an interesting post-season for Michigan. A top bowl game? A B1G championship? The CFP? It's all still on the table, however crazy it seems, until this evening.

Today is the pivotal day where our destiny becomes clearer and unfortunately, it's not entirely ours to determine. We need to win. Sparty needs to lose. Simple as that. I've heard so many of their fans talk about their undeniable lock on a CFP playoff berth that I wonder if MSU's team isn't looking too far ahead, as well. One can only hope. They forget how close they flirted with disaster at the end of most their games. Yes, they should beat Penn State. Like they were supposed to beat Nebraska, too. Anything could happen. I'm hoping this is the day their Last Minute Luck (translated by Spartans as "Skill") runs out.

The Wolverines are first up tomorrow and need to knock out the Buckeyes to do their part. I hate to be overconfident and jinx things, but I feel good about this game. First, I think there's some ugliness going on in the OSU locker room and their prima donna players who aren't getting the "me" time they think they deserve are calling out their coaches and questioning their decisions. Urban Meyer shrugs it off as the reaction of frustrated 20-year olds to losing, but he's no stranger to mutinous behavior. His I'm quitting/I'm staying/I'm quitting stunt at Florida left a bad taste down there and it looks like he could someday be heading for the same in Columbus. Lose another game and he'll be clutching his chest and considering a health-related resignation again. Fingers crossed, trouble in Columbus is good for Michigan tomorrow and in the future. 

I also think Jim Harbaugh has been saving up for this game since he took the job. He may even have been thinking about "If I was Michigan's head coach..." versus OSU scenarios for years while guzzling whole milk, eating steak, and saving programs elsewhere. All games are important but this one must feel very personal for him and for every player on the field. They need this win in their souls and the Buckeye's are ripe for the picking. At home in the Big House, riding on the high of a surprisingly good season -- this task is so very doable. If the Wolverines do win, and I believe they will, it will all harken back to Schembechler's The Team speech. It's worth remembering here and now. It's worth comparing to the behavior of the Buckeyes after their loss last week:

“We want the Big Ten championship and we’re gonna win it as a Team. They can throw out all those great backs, and great quarterbacks, and great defensive players, throughout the country and in this conference, but there’s gonna be one Team that’s gonna play solely as a Team. No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team, and if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration what effect does it have on my Team? Because you can go into professional football, you can go anywhere you want to play after you leave here. You will never play for a Team again. You’ll play for a contract. You’ll play for this. You’ll play for that. You’ll play for everything except the team, and think what a great thing it is to be a part of something that is, The Team. We’re gonna win it. We’re gonna win the championship again because we’re gonna play as team, better than anybody else in this conference, we’re gonna play together as a team. We’re gonna believe in each other, we’re not gonna criticize each other, we’re not gonna talk about each other, we’re gonna encourage each other. And when we play as a team, when the old season is over, you and I know, it’s gonna be Michigan again, Michigan.”

Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines, with every game, become more and more a living example of this old and timeless speech. It's how you can take essentially the same hapless team Brady Hoke fielded last year and forge it into a force to be reckoned with now. When Bo said "We’re gonna believe in each other, we’re not gonna criticize each other, we’re not gonna talk about each other, we’re gonna encourage each other," he could have been speaking of the current day Michigan and OSU teams directly - one exemplifying "The Team"; the other exemplifying the ills of men and coaches who are more important than the team.

It's too bad that Ezekiel Elliott, Cardale Jones, and other Buckeyes will never understand this concept. They have the comfort of a ring, but 20 years from now, will they still have their team? They may have a few million in the bank. But will they be part of a brotherhood that runs true for all time? Not likely (and they probably won't care.) It is what this Michigan team will have. Each other. And the support of every living member of every Michigan team that came down that tunnel before them, whether they won or lost on the field.

I’m putting my money on THE TEAM this weekend and will do so every weekend Jim Harbaugh is standing on the sidelines in maize and blue and khaki. Anything is possible now. OSU “can throw out all those great backs, and great quarterbacks, and great defensive players” but it’s hard for individual competitors to beat The Team. 

I think we have this one. And it's gonna be Michigan again, Michigan.

May there be a multitude of new reasons to be thankful this weekend! 

Go Blue! Beat OSU! And for good measure, Go Penn State! You have one job. Do it!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Harbaugh. Germs. Androids. Healthcare. Cider. A Sick Saturday Morning Stream of Consciousness

I hate being sick. It's bad enough during the week, but on a lovely fall weekend, it's the worst. I'm not miserable, mind you. Just a sore, tickly throat and a sinus thing going on that makes talking hurt and my voice sound like Demi Moore after gargling sand. Sadly, therein ends the comparison between me and Ms. Moore!
It's also messing with my brain, which explains my postless, almost tweetless week. My mind, when not in a deep, healing sleep, hasn't been capable of deep thinking on anything except my obsession with a big bowl of spicy (virus-destroyingl) Tom Yum and living 20 miles from the nearest good (well, even bad) Thai restaurant. I have yet to get the soup. I have yet to string together enough thoughts to inspire a great blog post.
Until my mind and body are back in sync, I'm going to offer up a window into my muddled brain through some slightly edited stream of consciousness as I struggle to start my Saturday. Here goes:
[Ten minutes later] God,I couldn't even stay awake to write the first sentence. There’s my phone buzzing. Oh, a favorite for my donut tweet. I wonder if there's still a maple-glazed downstairs? I should get out of bed and go watch Game Day. Why in the [radio edit] is Advair so expensive? I don't even know where Game Day is. Wireless is so slow upstairs. Xfinity bites. I am such a slug. Need more water, not more coffee. Good thing I turned down the Rutgers game today. I must not feel well if missing it doesn't even faze me. Jim Caldwell reminds me of Brady Hoke. He's not aware. Mike Riley is Nebraska's Bready Hoke. I like that my tablet associated Brady with bready. Ambulatory carbohydrates. How cool is it that the Beileins coached against each other? Juice. That would taste so good. Or cider. Why does Android auto-correct always think thge misty eyed [mistyped] word is right and the correct word shown is o thge left and not aotmatically corected? The donut was a bad choice. Sugar spike. I don't really want a hamburger tonight. German sounds better. Kid’s birthday, kein Metzger’s für uns heute Abend. There had better be a TV with the game on. Jim Bob Cooter is like the Waltons and Dukes of Hazzard collided and not in a good way. I remember the Rutgers game last year. Miracle? My TV survived Michigan 2014. Looked back at old posts and didn't even mention that heinous result. I should write a sentence starting with “Jim” based on Android autocorrect and predictive text suggestions: Jim Harbaugh has probably turned that in New Zealand. Alrighty, then. I have no idea what that says about me. That was fun! Let's try it again with “I”: I lost like they're shutting down academic Department for years to become a Dantonio. I am sicker than I thought. Must get up. This Android word suggestion thing could be writing crack. I can't see my lawn for all the leaves. Will we see Speight today? This is a big spread and I don't know if we'll beat it. PTSD from last year. Have faith. This should be another shutout. Shoutout! To whom I do not know. Martha Ford. I hope to be 90 and rich and feisty. More cojones than William Clay. Settle for 55 and rich. Pisses me off when people say a woman shouldn't run a macho thing like a football team. Like MEN have done so well with the Lions! I would pull out my own fingernails before getting on a Russian airplane. Glad my man likes my sports knowledge. Except when I learn about big MLB trades before him. David Price. Is Mike Babcock having fun in Toronto yet? Lidstrom. So great. Something other than IKEA worshipped both here and in Sweden. Hockey Hall of Fame, sorry, not fun unless you like sweaters and sticks. Conn-Smythe the best. Maple leaves. Canada. Ordered Strepsils from Canada because they're the best for sore throats. Why are Strepsils not in the US??? Why can't the U.S. have nice things like good OTC drugs? I love Shoppers Drug Mart. Or Hy and Zel's in Mississauga. Why am I still in bed? Game Day is over. Okay, I'll get going. Must start prepping 80 care packages for soldiers. 3:30 is coming quickly and then payback for last year. Feeling it. The things our soldiers request is breaking my heart. Warm bedding. Socks. This is 2015, not Washington at Valley Forge. Need something special for the Michigan soldier stuck living with Buckeyes and ‘Bama fans in APO BFE. Fighting the enemy. Living with them. He needs a big M flag. Should I assume he's an M fan? Do I care? Would sending a remote Spartan "M" gear make me a Tokyo Rose ... or be a kindness offered to a misguided soul far from home? Mike Riley could use a win today. Veiled MSU disrespect. If you say it, it's not so veiled, is it? My feet are on the floor. Open enrollment. Crap. Worst type of shopping ever. Stretching. Coughy. Coffee gone, so water it is. Up. Into this Maize and Blue day!
That experience was really cathartic. I highly recommend it.
My Android wanted to wish you the best for this day: 
Have a great Michigan football income supports all day and Harbaugh has to let us back as good carelessly fans and Harbaugh does not otherwise in Ann Arbor today!
I can say it a little better:
Go Blue! Beat Rutgers! Durkin Donuts (and hamburgers, it seems) for dinner!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ruminating about MSU and the Audacity of Hoke

This little guy got multiple
concussions during the game.
I've returned to the living, back from the self-imposed period of dark and solitary reflection that started during the last play of the Michigan-MSU game when, as MGoBlog so rightly called it, "The Worst Thing Ever" happened. 

It was the Worst Thing Ever. I screamed and beat my Dammit Doll. I set a world record for the number of times "No!" was yelled in less than 10 seconds. I unleashed long and creatively strung together curses. Dinner out was cancelled. I couldn't even be bothered to get a calming beer or glass of wine. Dead inside, I slumped on the loveseat, stunned, ill, and unable to tend to anything but the most rudimentary functions. These feelings festered well into Sunday and the early part of the work week. I think I was actually depressed for awhile. When I did find some moments of respite, someone on the radio or TV or in social media would yank me back into my abysmal sadness. I read about the end and listened as the world talked about it. I have yet, though, to watch a replay of the Worst Thing Ever and hope I never will.

I was ruminating, which is defined as 
repetitively thinking about the causes, situational factors, and consequences of one's negative emotional experience. I'd certainly nominate the Worst Thing Ever as the mother of all negative emotional experiences. Psychology Today warns that rumination can lead to many bad things, including: 
  • becoming depressed (was almost there)
  • increased risk of alcohol abuse and eating disorders (would have been there if I could bother to get off the couch)
  • fostering overall negative thinking (paranoid feelings that Jim Delany is out to get Michigan?)
  • impaired problem-solving (does avoiding them count?)
So, with those evils before me, I'm determined to stop ruminating about something as unimportant in the world as MSU. It's ironic that this came to mind in writing about Michigan State, because East Lansing is home to a variety of ruminant creatures, like cows and sheep and Mark Dantonio. They're rather complex beasts. All I know about them is pretty much shown in this cross-section of a cow. It eats. The grass rolls around and does things in there that make acid reflux sound simple (and attractive.) And then it poops. Somehow these beasts lead to ice cream and cheese, so I can't knock them too much.

I always thought mental rumination was called that because thoughts rotated in the mind like the grass inside a cow. After this doleful week, I understand the relationship between the mental act and the cow much more clearly. It's not about the regurgitation process. It's about the poop. Cow poop. Mental poop. They're both stinky. And I felt like the end-product of bovine rumination for quite some time after Saturday.

So, in an effort to ease my mind and move on... to put steel in my spine as our coach recommends ... I will say nothing more about the game itself and my opinions of how it went. It's done. It's all been said already. I'm at peace now. (Mostly.) We're okay. It was a Great Horrible Accident. The rest of the season, culminating with the Buckeyes in the Big House, can still show us successes that we only dreamed of just 
one year ago. Let's put an end to this cud-chewing and look onward and upward, where our Wolverines are heading.

Speaking of last season, an uninvited blast from the past actually interceded mid-week to immediately take my mind off the evils of MSU and B1G officiating. His voice and his words were like bombs going off around Michigan fans just beginning to heal from their football PTSD. 

He's baaack!

After about 10 months of blessed Hokelessness, in which the Wolverines already have as many wins as they did the entire 2014 season, Brady Hoke emerged from exile, condescending to give his opinion of The Worst Thing Ever.

In doing so, he actually second-guessed Jim Harbaugh, saying he would have gone for it instead of punting at the end. He (and the 10 players he'd likely have on the field) would have accepted the risk of putting the Hail Mary ball into Connor Cook's hands, trusting the top-rated defense to keep him from burning us. Later he went on to say Harbaugh's success early at Michigan validates his rebuilding of the program. You know, his 31-20 upgrade from the late Carr/early Rich Rod years.

I call this, with apologies to Barack Obama, the Audacity of Hoke. The headset he now wears as a Sirius radio personality must be restricting oxygen-bearing red blood cells to his little head. Our former head clapper and sponsor of the words Well, practice, and apologize, left us in 2014 with a mortifying 5-7 record. Yet he was brimming with advice and opinion on all things Michigan and Harbaugh, speaking on his show and in some later interviews with SI. 

Listen to Hoke's entire SiriusXM statement on Soundcloud: 

Or enjoy his additional comments on Harbaugh, Michigan, his Wolverine legacy and his coaching future here aSI Campus RushMake free to laugh, weep, or gnash your teeth as you see fit. 

Hearing Hoke make noise about...
  • his own end of game management (and ballsy decision-making), like that heartbreaker in Columbus and the 2 point conversion
  • his growth of the program, almost to the point where you expect Harbaugh should be thanking him publicly
  • his implication that he's somehow on par with Rich Rodriguez, Jim Harbaugh, David Cutcliffe, and others
  • and wanting to be a coach in a Power 5 conference again 
...makes me feel that poor Brady has been a victim of excessive rumination himself since his firing in 2014. Signs of impaired decision-making are clear (opening his mouth and rather than stuffing it with pizza, commenting on the Worst Thing Ever AND judging Harbaugh's decisions) coupled with growing delusions of grandeur (Michigan's success this year has anything to do with him?) 

We see here a fine example of the dangers of letting your mind contemplate the negative too much. Brady Hoke's 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stomachs, in conjunction with his single brain, have created a masterpiece of ruminative (rear)end product this week. It isn't just about his regurgitation of his time at Michigan, it's about the poop. And apparently his has grown more fragrant in the aging. My nose, for one, isn't buying it. 

Luckily, he can get back to that pizza now.

A Needed Bye Week Break

We're in it, Wolverines. Enjoy it. Look forward to the onward and upward sans cows, Horrible Accidents, and the revisionist history of our discarded coaches. The rest of the season starts next week.

Go Blue! Beat Beat the Gophers!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Easy Lies the Head That Wears the Tiara

Whew! Have you ever had a short week that seems very long yet you have no time to do what you want to do... like write your post for the week? Well, that's been my week. I don't mind when fun interrupts writing, but how dare work interfere with it? When you work in customer service for a software company and your entire network hosting center crashes and your systems fade to black, blog posts are shoved to the bottom of the agenda quickly! But, it's Friday, my work week is now over, and it's looking like a great maize and blue Michigan weekend! I can't wait for it to start!

I spent the past weekend in Northern Michigan with seven of my girlfriends on our 24th Annual Girls Weekend. I wrote about this annual trek last year not long after I started this blog. It's a time we look forward to as a group, partly for the shopping, serious girl talk and chick flick wallows. It's also our time for relentless wine and beer "tasting" and some friendly group football rivalries. This year we topped it all off, so to speak, by sporting beautiful tiaras with genuine faux diamantes everywhere.

Tiaras for World Peace and Adult Beverages; U-M alums
are 4th (my MGoFriend Val) and 7th (MGoGirl) from left.
The rest of the crowd boasts Badger & Spartan alums, 
Spartan moms, Hurons, & ladies too sweet to pick sides.
Photo credit: Harbor, Inc.
On Saturday, our day trip led us to Harbor Springs to visit Pond Hill Farm's Tunnel Vision Brewery and Winery, followed by a royal appearance at the inaugural Harbor Springs Beer Festival. The two of us who are Michigan alumnae were very aware of being knee deep in Spartan shi.., er... territory. Green coats and hats and other dreary, mossy-looking apparel surrounded us at every turn although I sensed other U-M fans were among us. As we know, the Wolverine is a much more elusive and stealthy killer beast than the noisy, muscle-bound Spartan! It was all very civil and fun as we smiled and waved our way about town. I can tell you, a boldly worn tiara at a public venue may be the answer to world peace. Spartans, Wolverines, and everyone we encountered were charmed by our sparkling presence and sought our benevolent attention everywhere we went.

In between beers and dancing and explanations of our headgear, we caught most of the Michigan-Northwestern game via mobile updates, arriving home to the cottage just in time to catch the last five glorious minutes of a rout that was supposed to be a challenge. As we then watched the MSU-Rutgers game, the Wolverines among us tried hard, in the interest of friendship, not to giggle and fist bump with every Spartan miscue or Scarlet Knights' success. Although a little part of me wanted MSU to lose a humiliating game to a B1G cellar dweller, it ended as it needed to: with their undefeated status intact but smudged yet again by lackluster play and difficulty with a team they should have devoured. For the realization of Michigan's dreams to be even sweeter, they needed the Spartans to enter the Big House tomorrow 6-0, still convinced of their superiority and dripping with excuses for being the luckiest undefeated team in the country.

I know Jim Harbaugh doesn't believe in jinxes so I'm not going to worry about them either. Well, except for the navy blue polish on my toes that will be there until they lose. I'll just say it. I have a really good feeling about Saturday. A this-is-destiny feeling about it. I'm sure MSU will play the best game of their season against us. Mark Dantonio will show some things he's been saving just for October 17. You know there's going to be a fake punt or other trick in there somewhere.

I'm equally certain that Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines have some surprises up their sleeves, too. After watching nearly every Michigan game and every Spartan game this season, I can't come to any other conclusion: Michigan, right now, is the better overall team and has the ability to emerge from this match victorious. 

I don't have any hard science backing me and you can still find "experts" claiming that MSU remains one of the best teams in the country and a contender for the national playoff. I don't know which MSU they've been watching, but the one I've seen isn't the team it was last year. Whether they're missing Narduzzi, struggling with injuries, or just aren't aligned, they aren't playing like they're hungry to remain in the Top 10. Their wins at times seem more like SOLs (Short Of a Loss) than convincing Ws. On the other hand, I think Michigan is looking sharper every week. The offense is steadily improving and Rudock is slowly finding his confidence as a leader. Special teams are making big contributions. And the defense, well, if Connor Cook isn't looking at our D line-up with more than a little trepidation, he's nuts. I fully expect Mr. Cook to be pulling little green and black rubber bits from his ears, nose, and teeth before the end of the game.

As a newly experienced crown-wearer, I can tell you, it feels good. It feels right. The attention is addictive and the feelings of confidence and invincibility are heady. I think it can also be a burden. I hear it's lonely at the top. You're a target for usurpers. The weight of expectations and the heavy eyes of critics watch your every move. It takes a toll. 

"Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." Shakespeare gives these words to Henry IV, who cannot rest or find the nightly peace that even his most lowly subjects enjoy. Ohio State wears a national crown. MSU has worn a conference crown. Both have lorded over the Wolverines for years, relegating our once proud program to the yeoman's rank or what even began to feel like serfdom at times. 

From all I can tell now, the crowns are weighing heavy in East Lansing and Columbus these days. It's hard to stay on top and do it honorably. It's difficult not to swoon in the oxygen-starved heights at the top of the polls. You believe that you've arrived and it feels so good and no one is going to take it away from you. You know that your hated rival has been reduced to a joke and that you will own them for years to come. No one can question your right to be at the top. No one can disrespect the crown and the success it represents. 

Well, the crown is bearing down hard and the Spartans are going to feel the weight of it this Saturday. I don't know if we'll win or not. I could be way out of line in thinking we have this in the bag. What I do know is MSU is going to look the usurper in the eye and feel the heat of a Michigan revolution. As Mark Dantonio said in 2007, as the crown became heavy for Michigan, "Let's just remember, pride comes before the’s not over and it’ll never be over here. It’s just starting...Their time will come."

And ol' Miralax Mark was right. Our time did come and we served it in Hell, thank you. And we learned a lot about ourselves along the way. We're better fans and a better team for it now. I could easily toss Dantonio's words back to him regarding his team today. I feel it happening - a palpable shift in power and momentum between East Lansing and Ann Arbor. It's driven by a body of highly energized sub-atomic particles that I defy Stephen Hawking to explain: Jim Harbaugh.

I would advise the Spartans to enjoy the weight of their crown while they can. The Once and Future King is on the march and an army 110,000 strong will be behind him and his team tomorrow. It will be loud. It will be hostile. It just might be beautiful.

No matter what happens, the Wolverine head that wears this tiara hasn't rested this easily in quite some time! 

Now go, my Wolverines, and hasten to your posts. Eat and drink merrily! Be fierce in your support of our team, shouting lustily...

Go Blue! Beat State!

Monday, October 5, 2015

D-Licious Durkin Donuts and Other Week 5 Delights

It was another great week to be a Michigan Wolverine! As cheesy as it may sound, I'm really starting to believe that nobody has it better than us. That's not me just being a super fan. Just look at all the insanity that took place inside the Top 25 and you'll know what I mean. So many top teams looked weak against "lesser" opponents (Hello, OSU and MSU!) and I'm really starting to get a feeling that Team 136 could beat just about anyone out there when they're hitting on all cylinders. These guys are hungry and relentless, which goes a long way in overcoming some of their imperfections. I still see steady improvement every week and the players' capacity to learn from their coaches is evident. A few of my thoughts from Week Five:

High Pressure System Pushes Hurricane Joaquin Out to Sea

Hurricane Joaquin, originally expected to hit the U. S. East Coast over the past weekend, took an unexpected right turn and headed out into the Mid-Atlantic after encountering a strong high pressure system pushing offshore from the Great Lakes. Though Joaquin had the power to move football game kickoff times and change flight plans all over the Eastern seaboard, it was not able to overcome the meteorological anomaly driving southeast from Ann Arbor. High Pressure system "Harbaugh" very likely saved millions in property damage and hundreds of lives, while racking up a nice victory over the Maryland Terrapins. No thanks required, East Coast. Our coach is a documented first responder/hero. It's just what he does.

This game wasn't always pretty, but it worked out and with last week's win, gave the Wolverines' their first back-to-back shutouts since the 2000 season. The offense had some ups and downs, but they were supported from beginning to end by our beastly defense - and oh how good it feels to say those words! It illustrated yet again that this is not a team that quits or lets down in any way. In spite of a few miscues and mess-ups, it was fun to watch, especially when that defense was killing it. Tell me those guys aren't niggling at the minds of our foes to the north and south! Another tasty Durkin Donut and yes, those calories are lookin' good on the team!

The Michigan State Feelings Status Meter

This week's Spartan Feelings Meter sees some changes. As we all know, the #2 Spartans played and beat Purdue this week with the same level of shock and awe as they have their four other games, which is to say "not much." It was a strange week in college football for the entire Top 25 and for Michigan, it couldn't have been better. While the "mighty" struggled for wins or got knocked down, Michigan kept its slow, steady progression upward -- in the new AP poll, up to #18 while the Spartans dropped to #4 after winning their 5th game to remain undefeated.

I actually heard several rational Spartans admit "We're not a #2 team" after the game. It's because of the rational MSU fans that I've downgraded this week's Disrespect Feelings Score. After four weeks of "Meh." even their own fans are owning up to it now.

The attention being given to Michigan's defense and their slow climb up the rankings still has less rational Spartans groping for explanations about Purdue and other should-have-blown-them-out foes ('we have a history with Purdue', 'we play down to our opponents', etc). This leads me to raise the fear factor this week. It's clear. The Harbaugh is getting into their heads, right where we want him - pushing them near the edge of the Safe Zone.

This leaves us with a Feelings score of Aggravated+/Apprehensive+ with less than two weeks to go before the big meeting of minds between Harbaugh and Dantonio. If you include the anger and disrespect Spartans endured after being assigned Beth Mowins for ESPN's play-by-play, this trends toward Upset again. Note: It's not that I don't want to see more women in traditionally male broadcasting roles. I don't want announcers of any gender who confuse Michigan and Michigan State and who don't know all the players' names. Calling one school the other is a gut-punch to both and she does it all the time. (An equal opportunity critic, I'll also call out Brandstatter and Dierdorf for teaching us that long runs "inflate your rushing stats" after Chesson's 66 yd carry. I would never have thought of that, but am the better for knowing it.)

YES, I-275 Spartan Slappy

I espied this beauty the other day and made the MGoMan slow down and pull behind so I could get a snap. Isn't this a gorgeous testament to Spartan fandom? I was first awed by the firm grasp of primary and secondary colors. As to why he's calling out the media rather than Michigan fans themselves I don't know, but clearly this guy's more concerned about OUR ranking than his own. (By the way, do these look like DIY printable magnets from Staples?) As we drove by, I couldn't help but peer inside to see who would do this to their car. I didn't look too long. It was angry old guy wearing so much old school Spartan kelly green that I was nearly blinded "Yes, yes yes!" to your question, angry, made-your-own-magnets Spartan dude. And we'll catch you on your way down.

Photo of Michigan State van with sticker asking if Michigan is in the Top 20 yet.

And so, I think that's it for now, my friends. I'm busy getting ready for our 24th Annual Girls Weekend in Up North Michigan. I wrote about our somewhat un-Girly weekend last year not long after I started this blog. I remember sitting in a corner, watching my friends watch football, analyzing the games, drinking beer, shouting at the refs, coaching from the couch, and other things you guys would not imagine we do on when we're away from you for four days and have the option not to choose sports/beer over pedicures/Cosmos. I can't wait to see what this coming weekend brings. I'm sure it'll be more football, more beer and wine (a Short's visit is planned and the Harbor Springs Beer Festival), and yeah, maybe some shopping and a little girl talk, too. We still do that, too! I'm sure you'll hear about it next week.

Until then, have a great Wolverine weekend and Go Blue! Beat Northwestern!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Musings on a Maize and Blue Autumn Weekend

Ye of Little Faith, Believe!

Before driving to Ann Arbor yesterday morning, I did a quick check of Twitter and ran through a few MGoBlog posts, trying to gauge feelings for the upcoming BYU game, our first against a ranked opponent under Coach Harbaugh. 

I found a mixed bag of predictions. Some thought Michigan would beat the spread with no problem. Others thought they might eke out a 1 point victory. And sadly, but understandably, many still gave the edge to BYU. Based on BYU's results season-to-date, with wins over Nebraska and Boise State, followed by a painfully close loss to UCLA, people seemed confident that BYU was well-tested and deserving of their Top 25 ranking. That Michigan had lost a close one to a decent* Utah team and had good, but somewhat ugly wins over Oregon State and UNLV wasn't enough for many fans to follow their hearts over their heads.
* We now know that excellent is a better description.

I was almost one of the latter. It's hard to forget how things would have gone down the last few seasons in the same situation. We would have every reason to expect the worst. In this first year of Harbaugh, we've probably all practiced the phrase "This year might be a little rough, but just wait..."  

This year, though, even when my mind says "winning is not likely," I'm physically and mentally unable to say "We stand no chance." Those four words that were my mantra last year feel foreign on my tongue today. 

It's because I now have belief and I have it in spades. I can see and feel and hear Harbaugh's Michigan. Hourly. Daily. Weekly. 
Muhammed Ali quote about affirmation becoming belief.

There are Michigan voices in the air, new affirmations at every turn, and yes, things are starting to happen. I didn't expect it so soon, but there it is. I refuse to doubt this team under almost any circumstances for the simple reason that they make me feel that nothing is impossible. How freeing is it to think that for a change! I never feared BYU because I had a gut feeling something great was coming and this team would step up, prove their worth, and open some eyes. And they did. While some top teams have been struggling to demonstrate real dominance and others have been exposed as frauds altogether, Michigan continues to improve at a steady rate. This coaching staff is the real deal. They've weeded out the weak and unwilling and they're slowly and methodically recarving the block M in the list of college football worthies. It feels pretty awesome, doesn't it?

So, believe, people, BELIEVE. Be willing to be humble if things go awry (and they still will), but go about your day believing that anything is possible for the Wolverines under this leadership. This season is like reading a mystery, one chapter a week and the plot is getting thicker with every page. I don't know who's guilty at the end, but I think Jim Harbaugh did it in the Big House with a Team.

I'll Have a Weiner on a Whole Grain Batard

Fools are among us. Jon "Stugotz" Weiner, of ESPN Radio (on the Dan La Batard Show) probably just figured out that Jim Harbaugh wasn't still in play for Oakland, when he announced this week:

"I pride myself on seeing things before others see it, and I'm telling you right now, he is going to break Michigan's heart," Stugotz said. "I'm telling you, Chuck Pagano is out at Indianapolis. There is no way Jim Harbaugh is going to pass up the chance to, a.) get back in the NFL, and b.) coach Andrew Luck in the NFL...Jim Harbaugh, next season, will be the Colts' head coach." [from article by Steve Schrader]

I know this is just another clueless ESPN crapweasel looking for attention, because no one on the outside of the Jim Harbaugh orbit can claim to comprehend what drives Jim Harbaugh. That someone would take on a hard luck challenge like Michigan and ask for a less than top salary in doing so simply does not compute with the NFL-worshipping hacks at Egotistical Self-Promotion News.

Weiner, you're aptly named and will be exposed soon enough. Harbaugh isn't going anywhere. He and his brother have divided the world and Jim's on a different warpath. He's back in the place he loves most doing what he loves most to restore the team he loves most. His grandkids will be assistant coaches at Michigan before he's finally carted off the sideline in a maize and blue golf cart for the last time in front of a loving, cheering crowd. 

At least Weiner is self aware.

The Michigan State Feelings Status Meter

And because I am endlessly amused at the Spartan capacity for a) not enjoying success, b) needing Dave Brandon levels of validation, and c) using logic that would evade Einstein in defending the value of their current undefeated status, I bring you the Spartan Feelings Meter. I'll try to update this regularly until my mission is complete and Mark Dantonio is so puckered up he's forced to drink his weight in Miralax to dislodge the solid form of his hatred for Michigan and Jim Harbaugh (and everyone else in the world who doesn't fall all over MSU.)

As you can see, this week's trouncing of Oregon (who Sparty barely beat) by Utah (who barely beat Michigan who soundly beat BYU who almost beat UCLA who just kicked Arizona) and the resultant questioning of the value of their signature win has registered Sparty as Upset/Apprehensive. Still firmly in the Safe Zone, but trending upward. 

And who can blame them? Their "quality" opponent, Oregon, has been booted from the Top 25, leaving them a 3 point win over someone Utah beat 62-20 and less than dominant wins over the MAC and Air Force. Michigan's now played two teams in the current Top 25, losing it close to Utah (while outgaining them) and giving BYU what may now be called a Durkin Donut points. 

I don't know what will happen on October 17, but it's going to be more of a game than anyone will give Michigan credit for. 

Quoteworthy Harbaugh

And finally, here are some of my favorite quotes from the Coach this week. Sometimes flaky. Often clever. Always ours. 

On Turnovers (from the Monday night radio show)
"It's kind of like the olive jar. We haven't gotten a lot of turnovers and it's like opening up a new jar of olives. You open it up, turn it over and you can't get one olive to come out. People know that. They're packed in there so tight, you can't get one to come out. But if you can just get one to come out, the rest come plopping out. That's what we're hoping for with these turnovers. We've gotten one, we've gotten two and now hopefully they come out in droves."

On the crowd and atmosphere at the Big House during the BYU game
"I had a couple occasions to look up and go 'this is good'... This is really good for us and good for football. It looked good. Attitude of gratitude about that and the way our team plays and the way they prepare.”

We agree, Jim. We agree. 

Go Blue! Beat Maryland!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Stay Me with Flagons

Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love.
(Song of Solomon 2:5)

I know, Biblical quotes about love aren't the standard way to preface a post about Michigan football. However, after watching the home debut of Jim Harbaugh at the Oregon State game last Saturday, love was all I was feeling. This quotation about it, "Lit nerd" that I am, was the one that kept popping into my thoughts that day. I'm not trying to be sacrilegious at all. In fact, the verse speaks of love-sickness and that's what we used to feel in Ann Arbor for the coach we wanted but didn't have. Now that he's here and has his first "W" etched in the history books, I don't know about you, but I'm pining no longer. I'm just sick with love for our coach.

Of course, this is just platonic fan love. None of that other stuff you'll find in the Song of Solomon, which would be a little creepy starring Jim Harbaugh. I'm already envisioning the DirecTV ad: "Hi, I'm Jim Harbaugh. And this is You're Teeth are Like a Flock of Shorn Ewes Jim Harbaugh." No, no, no!  I'm simply in love with what he's already done with this team and the way he's conducted himself on the field and off. The difference from last year is evident on so many levels, even though we've only seen the product in action twice.

Harbaugh, in about eight months, has given this team everything it begged for: followable leadership, mental toughness, physical strength, and discipline. It seems those who've stayed are 110% on board. So are we. "All In for Michigan" is no longer just a slogan on a T-shirt.  "All In" is a lock. You can see it in the locker room when team leaders are interviewed. You can see it on the field as they grind harder and finish plays. There's some swagger there now. No doubt these players felt pride in playing for Michigan even during the Dark Ages. Add to that pride a dose of real hope and the feeling that comes from a good performance and it's a new ballgame. I know it's early in the season and the future holds some daunting challenges, but the way these guys played Saturday reminded me of watching Michigan in the old (good) days. It was the power football I grew up with and I was as giddy as 12-year old me watching it unfold.

So back to our love story on the sidelines. I mean, could you just watch Jim Harbaugh coach the Wolverines all day long? I don't know if the home sideline has seen that level of laser-focus and energy since Bo stalked the coaching box. The coordinators do their jobs well but Harbaugh isn't blindly delegating control of the game. He misses nothing. He makes adjustments to the game plan (not his noose or his story, as Rich Rod and Hoke did more often than not.) And the way he vehemently argued calls with the officials with arms, legs, words, and clipboards flying? Pinch me. I've been waiting for someone to give a real damn down on that field for eternity. ESPN may call it a tantrum. I call it letting the B1G's stellar officiating crew [insert tongue in cheek] know that things have changed in Ann Arbor. He asserted himself as alpha like all the great coaches do and eventually it will lead to an edge. Bo did it. Uncle Urbz does it. It fires up the team, too. When your coach sticks his neck on the line for you, playing harder for him and for each other burns like a fire in the belly. 

Harbaugh reminds me of one of the best managers I ever had. He came to us from GE and in our office, they treated this man like a god. Most of the mid-level guys on his staff were a bit afraid of him, but I wasn't. I could see right away that he was a real leader. Like Jim, he was scary smart, quirky, dry-humored, and liked making people who deserved it feel a bit awkward. He begged me not to accept another internal offer and pitched hard for me to join his team. He said "Our job won't be easy, but I promise you, we're gonna have fun meeting the challenge." He also walked straight over to HR with the sticky note that listed the non-negotiable salary the guy down the hall offered me and came back a few minutes later offering me a 10% raise. I said, "yes" and he delivered on his promises. His role, in his words, was to remove obstacles to MY success. He had the honor of a Boy Scout in his dealings with others--playing fairly within the rules, but squeezing everything he could from those rules. I actually sobbed when he left a couple years later. I guess I had platonic fan love for him, too.

If you've ever been asked in a job interview "What characterized the best manager you've ever had?" I think of the GE guy and say "I would follow him without question or hesitation into battle." This is the the same thing I think the Michigan football team and the coaching staff would say of Jim Harbaugh. He's pulled together the factions and created an army of the willing (and increasingly able.) Their work will be hard, but they'll have fun meeting the challenge.

In light of all this goodness, I anticipate being sick with Harbaugh fan love for years to come. We have but to watch and enjoy as he spearheads our journey back into the light.

So join me in my happy state and...

Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love! 
Solomon 5:1

Go Blue!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dancing in the Endzone: More Delicious Bacon

I've been notably silent since the Utah game. It kind of came and went without fanfare in my life. Here I am watching the Oregon State game, enjoying this second look at our improving team, and finally getting around to my keyboard.

The first problem was that we were driving deep into the northern realm of Michigan-free radio on Labor Day weekend. Not a high school fan? Not a Spartan? Not much of a chance then of hearing the Utah game in the car or at our TV-free cabin near Alpena. We listened to the first half in our car on a scratchy AM station with all the quality of Marconi's first transmissions in the early 1900s. The second half we enjoyed in a classic Up North Michigan bar with a couple TVs showing the game while old coots in John Deere and Remington caps did karaoke with remarkable range if not skill - crooning Conway Twitty and bobbin' to the Sugar Hill Gang. (You've gotta love Up North Michigan!) Between enjoying the show and the brief reconnection to my Twitterverse, I probably saw about half of that half. 

The second (and greater) problem in writing about the Utah game and Harbaugh's debut was all John U. Bacon's fault. He had to go and release Endzone on September 1 and proceed to ruin my sleep and sanity for nearly a week. I got my hard copy on "opening day" and had plans to go to his Rackham appearance before the realities of my impending trip north forced me to more practical tasks. He quickly added a second sale from my house, though. I wasn't through the door for two minutes when my boyfriend snatched the book from my hands and hit the couch, promising to be done in time for the weekend. As the Thursday drive to the communications abyss that is our cabin approached, I didn't see his bookmark on Endzone moving as quickly as it needed to. Enter my tablet, a quick download to my Kindle app, and voilà -- two people, two Endzones, no conflicts, love abides!

So yeah, this book consumed us both - a middle-aged pair of Michigan fanatics, who with no kids in tow, no neighbors around, nothing but fresh air, plenty of adult beverages, and boundless time, hopped into the sack and proceeded to, well, read Bacon simultaneously. (It didn't disappoint!)

Like all of Bacon's books, Endzone opened my eyes wider than I thought possible. As someone who spent most of 2014 hanging on every blog post, radio/TV broadcast, or tweet about the Michigan "situation", I thought I knew a lot. I now know that my grasp of things was little more than the skin and first layer of a very big, near-to-tear-inducing onion.

What I love about Endzone is that the book isn't a mere indictment of Dave Brandon. It would have been easy to lay out all his sins, focus all of the blame for everything wrong with Michigan football (or even Athletics) on him, and roast him in his own bitter juices. Bacon doesn't quite do that and proves his journalistic integrity by showing restraint and telling the whole story, including all the cast of characters and their contributions. Brandon is the primary antagonist, but he isn't alone. (Mary Sue Coleman, that's you, girlfriend.)

Endzone starts by establishing the historical baseline of past ADs and coaches by which all future pretenders to the positions would be measured. It's only after illustrating the Michigan Man's true origins in the actions and words of Baird, Yost, Crisler, Canham, and Schembechler, that Bacon (and the rest of the Michigan faithful) are able to legitimately measure Brandon and find him wanting. Really, desperately wanting.

The book is balanced and is careful to note the good things Brandon did as AD (in addition to his generally well-regarded stint as a Regent.) It illustrates his attention to the non-revenue sports and his admirable accessibility to all student-athletes, such as the book's interesting tale of punter Will Hagerup, who clearly saw sides of Dave Brandon most of us never knew.

Still, as someone who has experienced first hand the life-changing and stressful effects of new management, toxic organizational environments, and the destruction of quality, loyal, long-term employees, I came away from this read despising Dave Brandon even more. I will never feel the slightest pang of sympathy for him and his perceived losses. I hope never to see his face again associated with anything I love. 

He came so close to killing the soul of Michigan and its athletic tradition. He assumed a lot about what Michigan fans want to experience by consulting no one but his own greedy, narcissistic mind. The condescension bordering on contempt he showed for the average, not-able-to-donate fan was glaring. His treatment of non-athlete students was abysmal. If reading about the beginnings of the American Revolution spikes my patriotism, reading about the grassroots Michigan revolution of 2014 has completely reinforced my connection to this great university. I signed that Fire Brandon ePetition. My ancestors fought at Lexington and Concord, but that signature felt like a revolutionary step in my time. Cut off the head of the mad tyrant. Don't tread on Michigan.

What amazed me after consuming the book was how much more was happening that we didn't know. Endzone put rich, succulent flesh on the skeleton that was dangling in the Michigan Athletic Department closet during the Brandon years. I don't know how JUB kept all this detail quiet while waiting to publish. He's a stronger person than me. I would have burst into a thousand maize and blue bits months earlier. Here are some random thoughts that developed from reading it (with additional clarity provided by a recent re-peek at Bacon's classics Bo's Lasting Lessons, Three and Out, and Fourth and Long.) 
  • Dave Brandon is a monumental piece of work. I'm appalled that Bo Schembechler died thinking Brandon a great man and shared one of his last dinners with him. This guy has so many issues on so many levels -- always striving to prove something. Is it feelings of inferiority from his days under Bo? A high school star relegated to the practice squad who spends the rest of his life trying show the world he was really superior to all of them (to all of us)? Was he getting even? I feel sorry for the employees of Toys 'R Us. They're about to stock some new "games" and work will surely not be the Barbie Dreamhouse for long.
  • Lloyd Carr and the ridiculous influence of his personal preferences should not have been (or be) part of any discussion pertaining to the future of Michigan football or Michigan Athletics. If you love Lloyd, that's fine. I reserve my right to think he's not all that and a bag of chips.
  • Rich Rodriguez, given the support that everyone gave Hoke, would have gotten Michigan to more than one B1G championship game by now. Everyone's treatment of him was shameful and unbecoming the University of Michigan.
  • Brady Hoke should never have been given the opportunity to accept a job bigger than him. He's a good man who was offered his dream job and it ended in a nightmare. What he must have felt under Brandon's thumb! While Endzone shows the indecision and lack of real control that made his exit necessary, I do hope he finds a place he can thrive that doesn't require the high tensile strength and S.O.B. level of ferocity demanded of a coach in Ann Arbor.
  • Mary Sue Coleman. She and her starry-eyed Brandon love helped foster these years of Horror. Thank God she retired when she did. It was the best thing she ever did for Michigan, at least related to athletics.
  • Katherine White and Mark Bernstein will have my votes should they run again for Regent.  
  • President Schlissel, Jim Hackett, the CSG, and the army of football insiders who worked on Harbaugh are heroes. It gives me a sense of calm knowing that they've done all they can for now to right the ship. The future is a mystery, but one I can be patient for, knowing that every day it's all getting better, tougher, stronger, and closer to what Michigan deserves and expects to be. 
Endzone is the perfect volume to conclude, for now, Bacon's documentation of the program we love. I recently recommended it to a friend and fellow Michigan alum who was unaware of Bacon's works. For any newbie to his football-related catalog, I'd start with Bo's Lasting Lessons, which is a light read in Bo's voice that lays the groundwork for understanding Michigan Football and linking its values to those that should be found in any organization or leader who expects respect and success. Follow that up, in order, with Three and Out (the Rich Rodriguez volume), Fourth and Long (the "state of college football" volume), and finally with Endzone. You'll start by learning how things should be and then follow the story as events unfold after Bo's death. You'll see how his lessons are rapidly lost in the myopic new organization. No need for a spoiler alert here. We know the story ends with hope and a Harbaugh at the helm, and therefore, with the final chapter comes a new beginning. We're left dancing in the Endzone.

We can only hope for a period of peace, winning, and prosperity that leave Bacon without a football-related muse until he's ready to pen something of pure joy, like "Urban Decay - the Downfall of the Buckeyes" or "Six and Counting: The Harbaugh Championship Years."

In the meantime, I plan to re-read these books regularly to remind myself how close we came to real peril and more so, to remember how to avoid similar loss of direction in my own life. There are lessons to be learned here that reach far beyond the game.

Hail to the Victors! Hail to the Conquering Heroes. Every single one of us.