Monday, August 31, 2015

Rip Van Wolverines - The Long Dark Sleep is Over

This is weird. I just woke up and feel like I've been having a Rip Van Winkle kind of Long Dark Sleep - I understand that it's 2015 and I've been deep in football dreams and nightmares for nearly nine years. The last thing I recall was Ohio State and Michigan being ranked #1 and #2 and about to challenge each other head-on for that top spot. Lloyd Carr had his team ready but Bo insisted on giving the Wolverines a special motivational speech. It was electric. I hadn't been so excited and confident for a game in a long time. And then, I don't know what happened, but my Michigan memory disappeared into a strange world where things happened in Ann Arbor that just don't occur in any reality I ever experienced at the university. I've heard from others that had a similar sleepy loss of time and place and memory. Maybe there was something in the air, like Dorothy in the poppy fields of Oz or contrails from aircraft whose owners, likely from East Lansing or Columbus, had nefarious plans for the Maize and Blue faithful. We'll never know. Bo's lifting up the team one minute. Jim Harbaugh's our coach the next. And there's the Dream Time in between.

I don't know what you remember from your dream sleep, but some key points from mine went something along these lines:
  • Before that 2006 game, Bo Schembechler left this world. This couldn't have been real because he's immortal to us. He's just off somewhere, getting served Big Macs by Elvis, awaiting his triumphant return, the Once and Future Coach.
  • Michigan adopted a spread offense and hired a guy named Rich Rodriguez who was from West Virginia and had no affiliation to the university at all. The greater Michigan family was divided and rancorous. To make it worse, the new guy tried to start new traditions. [Gasp] I know this to be impossible. Hire outside the extended Michigan family? Gimmicky spread offense? Dissent in the Michigan ranks. Not in a million years.
  • Then President Mary Sue Coleman hired a new Athletic Director, Dave Brandon, a businessman hawker of pizza and coupon mailers whose primary qualifications for the job were being a slick marketing guru, a former Regent and a little known football player for Schembechler. After a slew of uncharacteristic losing seasons [cue the heavenly sounds of Josh Groban's "You Lift Me Up"] he made Rich Rod go away. 
  • In no time, Brandon handed the coaching torch to a jovial unknown from SDSU, Brady Hoke. He looked like Fred Flintstone but he knew exactly what to say to seduce the Wolverine family. In dreams, you hear what you want to hear. He had a National Championship ring from the 1997 season of glory.  [Fade out Groban and fade into Pop Evil's infernal "In the Big House"] He understood Michigan was a place of "Tradition!" and didn't rock the boat. After going 11-2 his first season, I almost remember waking up. (This was a false memory - a dream within a dream, if you will.) And then things went a little hallucinogenic. Hoke apologized to MSU about some perceived slight involving a tent stake. Beyonce spoke to us at a half-time show. And Tom Harmon's sacred number was not only being worn, but getting ground into the turf behind the line of scrimmage with remarkable regularity. Tickets were being given away for buying a Coke or using a coupon at Meijer. Long-time attendance records were in danger of falling. The AD was telling fans to find another team via angry late night emails. The Alumni Association offered a membership Groupon.
STOP. I can't even recall this psychedelic break from reality without high anxiety. If it had really happened someone would have stepped in and put an end to it. Right?

Well, it's the ultimate relief to know that all of it was just a weird, horrific nightmare. I'm awake now and aware (fully!) for the first time since I blacked out of Michigan Football on November 17, 2006.

Sure, I'm sad to realize that Bo really is gone. I'm just glad I got to talk to him over beers a couple years before that day. I see Rich Rod winning at Arizona, Dave Brandon leading Santa's Elves at Toys 'R Us, and Brady Hoke enlightening listeners about high energy execution on Sirius radio -- as if nothing bad ever happened here at all.

And this Thursday, when Jim Harbaugh marches onto the field in Utah for his first game at the helm of the Wolverines, a new dream begins for all of us. It'll be a waking dream and will certainly have its share of twists and turns. Ecstatic highs and of course, some rough patches that may occasionally make us nervous about the return of the Long Dark Sleep. We all suffer a Michigan football fan's version of PTSD. But it won't come. 

Part of the Long Dark Sleep was preparing us for this moment and preparing our leader for his time. In this new dream, Bo isn't really gone. He's living on in Jim Harbaugh's head 24/7/365 - a testament to the lessons and wisdom imparted by the old legend to his long-in-coming rightful heir.There will be no excuses, no passing the buck, and above all, no apologies to anyone, especially our rivals in East Lansing and Columbus. Accountability. Execution. Dedication. Work. These words will be defined and upheld in ways none of the coaches of the Long Dark Sleep could realize here. 

So dream on, dear Wolverines, and enjoy the show.  Scene One, Act One on Thursday should be dramatic. And I think Team 136 can pull this one off. I can't begin to bet against Harbaugh in his opener. He may be coaching some of the same men who contributed to years of "Ls", but there's no way on Earth they're the same players.

Let the games begin. GO BLUE! 

Friday, August 7, 2015

The RED Women's Movement - A Cure for Writers Block

It's been awhile since I've been back here, tapping out my thoughts about football and other sports that catch my attention in phrases exceeding 140 characters. It's not that I haven't had anything to say, really. It's that the things I felt like saying were already being said by a few hundred other people with a lot more juice than me on the internet. What drove me to write last fall was anger and frustration with the state of Michigan football, Brady Hoke, and especially Dave Brandon. If most successful writers are driven by emotion, angst, and a darkness of spirit, I had that in spades last year. Didn't we all?

Then Jim Harbaugh came along and ruined all that by making me happy and hopeful. By entertaining me to a point where I can barely recall the years of The Horror. But really, how many people need to document his every word and every move? What more could I say about this crazy, intense, beautiful coach and the things he's doing with his new program than others were already saying? So I took a summer hiatus from MGoGirl and just fiddled around on Twitter and MGoBlog when I felt the need to say something. 

With football season fast approaching, I've been contemplating how to ease myself back into my little literary endeavor. Thanks to my BFF and former MGoRoommate Lynn, who somehow manages to read the internet completely at least once a day, I was given the nudge I needed -- a tidbit of insanity she found on and shared with me on Facebook.

It's called the RED Women's Movement and I think most of you will find it a slap in the face to football-loving ladies everywhere. Check it out on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers website. Go ahead. Take a couple minutes. It won't take you long to either love the idea -- or if you're like me, feel cheapened, belittled, and dismissed. Dismissed from the man cave where I, too, enjoy calling the next play, second-guessing referees, asking my man for another beer, and cussing like a sailor or throwing objects when things don't go my team's way.

The Buccaneers bill this as "a women's movement that will re-invent the female fan experience." It's supposedly being led by the women of the Tampa Bay area to help start an "exciting new era" for female fans in their region. It's described as "groundbreaking," but I'd characterize it as condescending bullshit and football gods forbid this movement ever reaches the Mason-Dixon line in its attempt to create a special community of female football followers.

So, ladies, this is what RED will do for you:
  • Year round education on understanding football (OK, if done in a non-condescending way, this is potentially acceptable.)
  • Insider's talks with the Bucs' GM and visits from Bucs' legends, whatever that means. (Vinnie Testaverde? Baby! Count me in. Not.)
  • Game day style tips (somewhere Tim Gunn is reaching for smelling salts)
  • Sessions on how to incorporate Bucs love into tailgating and home entertainment ideas
  • Practical advice on expressing Bucs love through "fashion-forward" team apparel and creative culinary efforts.
It's bad enough that the photo in the article shows three hot, young blonde babes in Bucs' gear to represent the female fan. I barely noticed them, though. The picture was replaced in my mind's eye with one from the Mad Men era. In that photo, mommy is enjoying game day in the kitchen wearing a dress with a Peter Pan collar and smart, matching pumps. And she's not yelling "J---F---C---! Homer refs! I hope Jim Delany is happy with that call. Takin' care of Uncle Urbz! Asshats." She's just happy to be all matchy-matchy and deliver cold beer and thoughtfully prepared snacks to the guys in the room.

The stunning stupidity of this program is almost laugh-worthy. Seriously, the first thing I did when Lynn shared the  article with me was to check for as the source. I understand that not all women know as much about football as many of us do. There's nothing wrong with that, just as there's nothing wrong with a program to teach women more about football. That indeed could improve the game day experience for many women who don't currently enjoy a weekend marathon of college and pro football with their menfolk like I do. (There are even times when my beau Dave wants to turn it off and I'm "no, we need to watch the end of this game.")

I just fail to see what fashion-forward gameday apparel and cooking tips have to do with the Bucs' stated aim of changing the way women enjoy football. It's condescending and dismissive. It doesn't pull women into the same fan experience men have. It considers them fangirl Barbie dolls who want to know "What's a play clock?" (yes, click the link and witness) while contemplating whether their blouse matches the napkins the men will use at the tailgate which will be serving Buccaneer Bruschetta with I-Can-Define-First-Down Filets.

I hope the women of Tampa (who I suspect had nothing to do with this clearly non-grassroots movement) give this program (and the men who started it) what it deserves -- a) a forced run through a gauntlet of female fans swinging wooden spoons and jabbing with cocktail forks and shrimp deveining knives and/or b) a surprise halftime bombing of Raymond James Stadium with hundreds of thousands of tampons and other feminine delights. 

Would that help the Bucs' management pull their heads out of their collective 1957 ass? Probably not. When you're that out of touch with 2015, I don't see much enlightenment happening.

All I know is that in reading about RED, I appreciate being a Michigan fan and a Michigan woman more than ever! We get the Michigan Women's Football Academy with real coaches and game play. Tampa Bay women get Project Top Chef on the Runway. Who has it better than us?

Go Blue! I'm back. And my MGoLadies can laugh more about RED here