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!