Friday, June 30, 2006

Men of the Square Table

Answer's to EDSBS Roundtable Questions

Stranko got bored. Two Blogpoll Roundtables in two weeks? Unprecedented. Here goes. Sorry for the lack of pictures to supplement my answers, blogger doesn't want to let me upload them.

1. Education. List the region of the country you were born in, what universities you attended and at least one other you would have attended if your alma mater didn’t exist.

Somewhat like Brian, I'm a bit of a vagabond myself. So these answers may seem a tad disjointed.

Birth: Born on the Chessapeake Bay in Baltimore, MD.

Education:
Undergrad: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. BA in Political Science with minors in hockey, beer, and being a jackass.
Law School: DePaul University College of Law, in Chicago, Illinois. J.D. with minors in hockey, beer, and being a jackass.

Alternative Schooling: Had Michigan not accepted me, which judging by my resulting grade point they shouldn't have, I was all set to go to USC. Deposit paid and everything. Song Girls, the beach, Compton. Ah, what could have been.

Having traveled out to Seattle for the 2001 Michigan/U-Dub game with close friends who happened to be Huskies, I too fell in love with the Univeristy of Washington. Husky Stadium, while lacking in volume and numbers what Michigan Stadium has to offer, is hands down the most beautiful stadium I have ever watched a football game in. One of the endzones opens up onto the Sound and a gorgeous white seaplane with a purple "W" emblazeoned on its side takes off and lands in the middle of a pristine Saturday afternoon. Stunning. Had DePaul not accepted me (and had I not applied ten minutes before the start of fall term four years ago), I would've gone to Washington for law school.

2. Sports Affiliations. List your top 10 favorite teams in all of sports in decending order. For instance, your alma mater’s football team may be number 1, but perhaps there is a professional team that squeezes in before you get to your alma mater’s lacrosse team.

A. The Baltimore Orioles - I can't help it. First game at four months. 1979 ALCS. 1983 World Champions. Cal, Sr. Cal, Jr. Eddie. Boog. Brooks. Billy Ripken (one of my all-time favorite baseball players). Rick Dempsey. El Sid. Palmer. Weaver. I was hooked before birth. My Grandparents (both of them) were huge Birds fans. My Dad still has trouble breathing when he realizes the season is over. I'm hopeless. I'll watch the Orioles play even if the team is composed of Sudanese midgets in tutus. Actually, I'd watch that no matter what, but you get the picture.

B. Michigan Football - "You're going to give yourself an anurism!" The words of my wife during the season from hell as I screamed obsenities and threw pretzles at the TV screen. Other than the Orioles, the only team on this planet that has caused me more pure frustation or given me more joy (sports related) is Michigan Football. I love the stadium. I love the fans. I love the crappy concession stands. I love the feeling that every game you honestly have no idea what is going to happen. I love the anticipation. The tradition. The Band. The run from the Tunnel and the Leap to the Banner. I love the Helmets. The Rivaly. The expectation that every year could be a National Championship. I love the feeling that if its not, something is wrong and needs fixing. I love the expectations. How much every fan and alum cares. I love it all.

Oh and I love the fact I can turn to my wife and say, "oh really? When was the last time Notre Dame won a National Championship?" If Charlie Weiss takes that away from me I'll snap.

C. The Chicago Cubs - I hate Dusty Baker. Let me say that up front. I actually root for the Cubs to lose so he gets fired. I want them to be a team again. I want to look at the team and see a group that cares. I love the Cubs. I positively hate this incarnation.

D. Da Bears - Sweetness. And this.

E. Michigan Basketball - Have you been reading the site? Further proof that abusive prelationships are the hardest to get out of.

F. Michigan Hockey - Used to be a lot higher. Time and distance have made it nearly impossible to follow the Icers over the past few years. I lived and died by this team in college, and they rewarded my attention with two national championships. I still follow as closely as possible, but its hard to get the games here in Chicago. Thankfully Brian and Yost Built have made it easier.

G. Chicago Blackhawks - Still love them. Utterly and totally incompetent. The games resemble a monkey shit fight at the zoo. GM is useless. Coach is clueless. Owner is evil incarnate. My team!

H. A plethora of different teams. (yeeeeas El Guapo.)

3. Movies. List the movie you’ve watched the most, your favorite sports related movie, the movie you secretly love but don’t like to admit it (possibly a chick flick or b film), and the movie you were (or still are) most looking forward to from this summer’s season.

Most Watched: Two different ones...
Most Watched All-Time - The Blues Brothers. Best movie ever made. Period.
Most Watched Recently - 40 Year Old Virgin. "I don't wanna cram pimpage."

Favorite Sports Movie: Slap Shot. "Reg that reminds me. I was coaching in Omaha when Eddie Shore sends me this guy that was a teribble maserbater. You know. Could control himself. Damned if he would get diliberate penalties and get int there all by himself and hmm hmm hmm..."
Close Second - Bull Durham. Chick flick my ass. Crash Davis is my favorite character in cinematic history.

Movie of Shame: Roadhouse. Goddamn Kelly Lynch was hott back in the day.

4. Music. List your favorite band from middle school, high school, college and today. Also, as with the movies, include the song you secretly love but don’t like to admit. If Nickleback is involved in any of these responses, please give a detailed explanation as to why, god, why.

Middle school: Depeche Mode.

High school: Lynyrd Skynyrd

College: Motley Crue, G Love & Special Sauce, Tribe Called Quest

Shamelove song: "I Want it That Way" by Backstreet. Chicks dig it, so I learned it. I learned it too well.

Ecletic isn't it?

5. Books. Favorite book you’ve finished, worst book you’ve finished and the book you really should read but haven’t gotten around to it.

Favorite: The Sun Also Rises. Re-read it constantly. Also "A Star Called Henry". The Irish version of Forrest Gump, except without the happiness. Phenomenal.

Worst: 'Tis by Frank McCourt. A festering pile of self pity. He's what's wrong with my people.

Book we should read but haven’t: A Brief History of Time by Steven Hawking (Started it twice, and something else always got in the way).

6. Travel. Favorite city you’ve every been to and the one place you still must visit before you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Fave city: Chicago. Close second Munchen, Germany.

City we need to go to: Prague. I never went "to find myself" in college.

7. What do you love most about college football in 20 words or less?

Everything!

Northwestern Head Coach Randy Walker After Suffering Heart Attack

First Coach to Lead Northwestern to Three Bowl Games

Randy Walker passed away last night from an apparent heart attack at his suburban Chicago home. Walker was 52 years old. He is survived by his wife, Tammy, daughter Abbey and son Jamie.

Walker joined the Wildcats as their head coach in 1999 and compiled a 37-46 record. He led his lead to a shared 2000 Big Ten Title and an Alamo Bowl Berth, The Motor City Bowl in 2004-2005, and the Sun Bowl this past season. We was an excellent coach and was an even better human being. He will be missed.

My deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, and players.

(Photo Courtesy Bonnie Trafelet Chicago Tribune)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Michigan Finds a Point Guard. I Think.

Um... Welcome?

Michigan is expected to announced the signing of point guard Reed Baker (Bishop Verot, FL) in the next few days. If you stopped drinking your coffee the second you read this, then reached to scratch your head and ask "who is this guy?" you're not alone.

Because Zach Gibson's recent commit to Michigan was through a transfer, he'll eat his own tuition this coming year and go on scholarship in 2007. Thus, a single scholarship remained open for Tommy to hand out to anyone who knocked on his door.

Well that's a little unfair. I don't have a clue who this kid is. So lets see if a little well intentioned google-salking can shed some light on who the latest young man to don the Maize and Blue is.

Vitals
Reed Baker
Ht: 6'1"
Wt: 175
Pos: PG

Baker averaged 22.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game for Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, FL. Baker led his team to the Florida Regional 3A Championship, where they came up a tad short. He was named Class 3A First Team All-State selection by the Florida Sports Writers Association. This senior year doesn't appear to be a fluke, as a junior Baker averaged 23.4 ppg and was named 2nd Team All-State. He left his high school as its all time leader in points (1,512) and assists (313).

His Strange Journey

Baker was not heavily recruited out of high school. He originally signed with the Citadel last fall. The Citadel fired its coach, no word if it was Lords of Discipline related, and Baker was released from his commitment. The press blurb on the site had this to say about Baker:

Baker earned three letters in basketball and averaged 23.5 points, five assists and five boards per game, while shooting 88 percent from the free throw line. Named the Southwest Florida Player of the Year in 2005, Baker made second team all-state as a junior. During his senior season he averaged 20.6 points and 4.8 assists per game.
Baker then signed with Birmingham Southern.* Though I can't find a link to it, the Detroit Free Press states Birmingham Southern dropped to D-III shortly after Baker's commitment. Baker again asked out of his commit, and it was granted.

Sans a team for a short time, apparently the Air Force Academy and Pepperdine expressed interest in him. Johnny found a blurb that seems to sum it up best, "an array of circumstances prevented him from landing with those programs."

Then out of nowhere, Michigan called. "I was a little surprised they contacted me," Baker told the Free Press. After two days of courting, Amaker & Co. told him they extend a scholarship. And now he's going to be a Wolverine. I'll give the kid props, he said the right thing. "This is the best day of my life."

What's Out There On Him

There is an interview Baker did in the News-Press, a southwest Florida newspaper, which seems to shortly follow his Citadel Commitment. In it he mentions Jamal Crawford as a favorite player. Why are all those sirens going off in my head? The article also features and incredibly smug shot of Baker in a suit spinning a basketball on his index finger. Second coming of Dugan Fife?

Creepy recruiting site (is there any other kind?) HoopsUSA.com has a listing of the top 100 Florida seniors. How they came up with the numbers, I have no idea. Who this guy is that runs it, ditto. But they rate Baker as the 73 best senior in Florida.

Scout's Florida High School site has a small profile on him. He's rated as a two star prospect. Rivals has a "site" for him, but it looks like it was set up yesterday. Baker isn't ranked. His list of schools with interest is either very confusing or incredibly depressing.

UPDATE: Nathan Feno at the Ann Arbor News did a write up Baker's commit. Baker apparently played well enough at an open gym with current and former Michigan players to get a head nod from Graham Brown.

Brian is out on the ledge again. Someone talk him back in. Brian repeat after me. Football season is coming. Football season is coming. Football season is coming. He dug up this News-Press article about Baker's commitment. Read it at your own peril.

One thing that is for sure, he's never seen Crisler. "To play in a packed house in front of 20,000 fans screaming with every game on ESPN, it’s going to be incredible." Apparently he thinks he committed to Michigan State. Reed. Quick heads up. We wear the blue and white jerseys.

Where Does He Fit In?

The kids a scorer and a distributor, at least at the high school 3A level. How he'll adapt to Big Ten athletes is up in the air. Jarret Smith should remain the defacto point guard, but I'm sure Baker will spell him a bit. Expect to see a lot of Baker early in the season as Tommy tries to get a handle on what he can do. Also expect to see him in situations where he has no hope of success when Tommy throws him to the lions against OSU or MSU if we're down big.

On paper, buried on the depth chart. In reality, if he can actually run the point, we may see him out there quite a bit as Smith's backup. What I could find on him is positive. In 2003-2004 he was an all-state honorable mention as a sophmore. He then went 2nd team all state as a junior in 2004-2005, and finished first team as a senior. Good progression. Good numbers.

Baker mentioned that he sent game tapes to Michigan after receiving "hi, who are you?" phone call. Less than a week later he's in Ann Arbor and they're pitching him on the school. Maybe they saw something. We'll have to wait and see. Tommy will too. Because of NCAA rules he offered Reed a scholarship WITHOUT EVER SEEING HIM PLAY LIVE.

There were some creepy recruiting sites that said Baker could end up being a steal for a D-1 school. Most of those comments were by random anonymous posters (so no link), but the vibe on the kid seems to be he's a decent ball player. The Birmingham Southern site also mentions that he cracked 30 points four times his senior year. Combine that with the assertion he shot 88% from the free throw line, we could be looking at a quiet 10-15 a night mixed with some apples. While this is a hopelessly optimistic view, I'm less ready to throw Tommy under a bus for this than I was at the start of my investigation. There are other things that warrant that, so its not like this pushed Tommy over the edge in my book.

Even so, the fact that Michigan yet again failed to land a top name, top game point guard is not a good sign. The fact that we're picking up the pieces from schools like Rutgers and the Citadel, no matter how good those players turn out to be, is not good. We now only have two 2007 scholarships left open. Please, dear god, do not let them be unranked "who dat's". This is killing me.

We've got two open scholarships. Fenno's got the following guys as Michigan's top targets: Manny Harris (Detroit), Dante Jackson (Greenfield, Ohio), Scott Martin (Valparaiso, Ind.) and Demetri McCamey (Westchester, Ill.).

Fenno doesn't get it. I've already started combing the Southwest Chicago State rosters to find our next big recruit.

*As you can see, this was source of most of the information I could find on Reed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tuesday's Hearsay and Conjecture

Four Wolverines Taken in NHL Draft

If you're not a hockey fan scroll drown, because likely to missed, forgot about, didn't realize it existed, or were too infected with World Cup Fever to acknowledge the NHL Draft occurred this past weekend.

It was a good/bad day for the Maize and Blue.

Good: Three studs taken in the first round. And they're all young! Incoming frosh Trevor Lewis, forward, was taken by the L.A. Kings with pick 17 in the first round. Sophomore defenseman Mark Mitera was picked by the Ducks of Aneheim two slots later at 19. Incoming Freshman defenseman Chris Summers was selected 29th by Gretz and the Coyotes. Late in 7th round, with the 201st pick Billy Sauer went to Colorado.

Bad: Three studs taken in the first round. While none of them were picked high enough to warrant bolting for money, it makes your eye twitch a tad realizing that if these guys have breakout years there's the very real possibility they could all be gone at season's end. Thankfully, the new economic realities of the NHL make it more feasible that they'll stay. Still, it makes me jumpy. Other than Sauer, no other Michigan player was selected during the draft.

The Skinny: Looking at the roster, Michigan is littered with first round picks. Along with the three mentioned above, you've also got Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano who were first rounders last year. Three first round defensemen, young defensemen, will certainly shore up the blueline in the long term. The outlook is good for next year's blueline as Johnson, Mitera, and Summers are sophmores or freshman. While Summers will certainly add to the defense, Lewis' appearance will bring more punch to an offense that sputtered badly against top competition.

Of the Three first rounders here's how their stats played out last year.

Mark Mitera (MICH) - (39 GP) - (0G - 10A = 10pts) - (24Pen - 59 PIM) - (+5)
Trevor Lewis (USHL) - (56 GP) - (35G - 40A = 75pts) - (69 PIM) - (+25)
Chris Summers (US-U18) - (59 GP) - (6G - 11A = 17pts) - (87PIM) - (too lazy to calculate)

Least Favorite Draft Rumor

Jack Johnson (#3 2005) for Jordan Staal (#2 2006). While the deal never materialized, it was widely speculated that the Penguins would trade the #2 pick to Carolina for Jack Johnson. Had that happened, the chances of Johnson bolting would have gone through the roof as he and Crosby are good buddies. Fot the Pens Johnson would've immediately stepped in as their #2 defenseman. I have serious doubts that the Pens top three of Eric Cairns, Brooks Orpik, or Ryan Whitney would've been able to keep Johnson off the ice. Thankfully, it didn't happen and Johnson remains in Ann Arbor. I will find whoever started this rumor, then kick them in the jewels.

Fluff for All: A nice little fluff piece on Billy Sauer in the Ann Arbor News. Putting last season behind him. Focusing on the Team. Goal is to win a national championship. yada yada yada.

Just Like The NHL Playoffs, Only Longer
Coaches Want NCAA Basketball Field Expanded to 128

Expanding the NCAA tournament to 65 teams annoyed me a tad, but, what the hell. A play-in game for two small schools to battle each other to the death for the right to get crushed by UConn. Actually, a nice concept. Kind of like cock-fighting, but less humane.

There is a proposal on the table from NCAA coaches association to expand the NCAA Tournament, The Dance, to 128 teams. The evil jackass who presented this abomination was Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. In addition he proposed selling the children of poor nations for food, melting the polar ice caps to produce more clean drinking water, and that drinking the blood of endangered animals will make you immortal.

Haney stated, "[The expansion proposal is] based on several things. First, there are a lot of good teams worthy of making the NCAA field, and second, the size of 64 or 65 has been in place for a number of years." Great reasons. By that rationale I should have no trouble getting into Yale for business school. These sound like Brigham Young's reasons for more wives and kids.

For once, thankfully, the NCAA has come out against the expansion. NCAA vice president for men's basketball Greg Shaheen said there wasn't much support for the proposal and that many people feel the tournament is the right size as it is. NCAA president Myles Brand, who was bathing in $100 bills and scrubbing himself with a wash cloth made from baby seal pelts, could not be reached for comment.

Amaker is already working on his press conference rationales for why Michigan didn't make the field of 128 should the proposal ever go into effect.

Monday, June 26, 2006

All Work And No Play Make Jack A Dull Boy

Disappearing For A Good Reason

The last few weeks have been far busier than I would have liked. However, my latest absence was not for work.

Over this past week and weekend I was lucky enough be a part of a dear friend's wedding. To share in such a wonderful time in peoples' lives lifts your spirit and reminds you of how lucky you are to be alive.

I hope you all experience such a feeling too, and soon.

Camp News: Hello Mudah, Hello Fadah

Two new Commitments - Over this past week Michigan picked up commitments 7 and 8. Seven was 6 foot corner Tony Woolfolk of Texas. Woolfolk is the son of former Michigan great Butch Woolfolk who stands 4th on Michigan's all time rushing board. Though Woolfolk camped at Michigan, his Dad stated he though Tony would end up at one of the Texas schools. Brian has the details on Woolfolk and commit #8 wide receiver James Rogers from Michigan.

Ryan Mallett continues to impress. Instead of sitting on his laurels he's turning into Michigan's top recruiter. iBlogforCookies and Mgoblog have all your recruiting updates.

Annnnnnnd, We're Clear

With little fan fare, the U.S. Men's Soccer team is heading home from Germany empty handed. Not empty handed in the sense that they didn't win the World Cup. Empty handed in the sense that they didn't win a SINGLE GAME. Despite an inspired effort against Group E winner Italy, the U.S. came out either flat or over matched against Ghana. The result was a 1-2 loss to a team that comes from a country with roughly the population of Florida.

The future for the US team remains as bright as it has ever been. The future is, as always, stocked with promising talents who are already playing overseas. However, for those of us living in the here and now, that bright future is a pin prick of light hovering at the end of another four year tunnel.

Returning to Form

I have not been on the top of my game recently. Alas and Alack. However, I fully intend to make up for this.

Coming soon:
A look into why hockey matters (at least to me);
Is this the worst home schedule for Michigan Football in the last 20 years?;
Tommy Ball, what hell is happening to the basketball program;
The College World Series, Oregon State v. UNC (how the hell did this happen?); and
Whatever else enters my mind.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Questions From An Elliptical Plane

Bruce Ciskie recently posed some great Round Table Questions for the upcoming college football season. Even though I'm a little late to the party, I brought chips and some onion dip. While I possess neither Bruce's knowledge nor eloquence, I figured I'd give y'all my thoughts.

Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?

To be honest, I try to avoid them. I know, I know, I'm nuts. But after years of reading the Sporting News (which is always, always wrong) or Lindy's or Athlon (again, always wrong), I just gave up. So much of the originality of the coverage these days has been supplanted by the internet. If I want to learn about Texas I go to BON, Florida has EDSBS, Georgia I go to Dawg Sports, etc. At this point you're better off reading the local paper or football site to get an idea of what's going on. So many of the preseason magazines do little more than provide information that has been on the web for months on glossy paper with a few more photographs. For knowledgeable fans, generally we've got a pretty good idea of where our team fits in the national rankings anyway. The magazines are there simply to confirm or deny our assumptions.

However, of the magazines out there the gold standard is Phil Steele's preview. Somehow there's always a tidbit or two in there that hasn't found its way onto the chat boards and his accuracy goes without question.

The rest are kindling for those end of season bonfires.

What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?

Ohio State. I'm not saying this as a Michigan fan, I'm saying this as a football fan. Offense is fun to watch, but if you can't play defense at some point you're going to fall flat on your face. Buckeye Commentary had a great piece on why this isn't a concern. I totally disagree. Linebacking corp? Gone. Safeties and corners? Gone. D line? Gone. Breaking in nine new starters, with an early road game in Austin is asking too much. McSweatervest always has a great defense. He's too good a coach for them to be Herrmann bad. But, the largest number of starters he's had to replace is 7. He is basically replacing his whole defense with guys who, at most, have limited experience. You could count on the defense last year to get that final stop, or that final three and out when you needed it. There was experience and aged to perfection 1st round talent. This year there's talent. That's it. That's not enough.

ESPN and the preseason magazines, seem to think the above concerns aren't really that bad. Everyone points to the great offense that Ohio State will have this year as the reason for their supreme ranking. That offense benefited greatly from the field position given to it by its top 5 defense. Without the turnovers and three and outs, regardless of the talent on behind center, its going to be harder to score points.

Another reason the offense may not be as good as advertised is the absence of Santonio Holmes. Holmes had 11 of OSU's 18 receiving touchdowns. He led the team with 53 receptions. He was to Ohio State what Avant was to Michigan. The critical piece that made the rest of the offense work. Holmes caught the crucial passes. Holmes ran the danger routes. Holmes had that break away extra gear. He was the total college package. As dynamic as Ted Ginn is, without Holmes to clear one side of the field for him, defenses are going to key on him without fear that Gonzalez is going to beat them down the field. Together Ginn and Gonzalez accounted for the other 7 receiving touchdowns OSU scored. No one else found the endzone in the air. Two of OSU's top receivers are gone (Holmes and Pittman) and there isn't a star on the other side of Ginn.

While I'm sold on the OSU running game and quarterback, the receiving corps however is a big question mark. Had Ginn produced a monster year last year (4 TD's doesn't cut it) rather than doing his best Steve Breaston imitation, I'd think differently. But he didn't, and I'm not buying the conventional wisdom that a finesse guy like Ginn is going to overnight become the hard nosed possession receiver the OSU offense requires. Gonzalez will catch the ball. Ginn will stretch the field. But neither of them has that second intangible that made Holmes special and the OSU offense work.

Ohio State is extremely talented. They will score points. They'll probably win the Big Ten. But I can't see them holding up a crystal football at the end of the year. This team would have been better served as an #8. The gigantic target they're gonna wear this year will prove to be too much. 10-2 or 9-3. But they're not number 1.

Honorable Mention: Notre Dame. They've been hammered on by everyone. I echo those sentiments. The fatman racks up three more losses again this season.

Turn the tables. Who is underrated?

A couple of teams leap to mind.

To risk the ire of Orson, there is no way Tennessee can possibly be as bad as they were last year. If so, the cheetoes are going to hit the fan around Ole Rocky Top.

Steele has LSU ranked 21st. No way. Even though both lines have to be rebuilt, the Bengals will lay a hurtin on someone this year and end up in the top 10 but out of NC contention.

Nebraska will also surprise. If they can keep Zach Taylor out of the hospital (note to Nebraska's O-line: blocking = good), the Huskers will own the pathetic Big XII north. The Huskers showed guts and heart against a vastly more athletic Michigan team during the Alamo bowl. With that win and solid season behind them, Nebraska may finally be able to break away from the Solich years.

Nebraska's schedule is an absolute joke:
09/02 La Tech
09/09 Nicholls St
09/16 USC
09/23 Troy
09/30 Kansas
10/07 at Iowa St
10/14 at Kansas St
10/21 Texas
10/28 at Oklahoma St
11/04 Missouri
11/11 at Texas A&M
11/24 Colorado


With Texas and USC as Nebraska's only "penciled" in losses, this team should go 11-3 with losses to USC and Texas (twice, Big XII championship game). They've got two "tough" road games at Iowa State and A&M, but Nebraska will end up higher in the rankings anyone's giving them credit for. Because the USC and Texas games are at Nebraska its possible they could pull out an upset (singular) too.

Honorable to Boston College. The potential to play Miami twice within 9 days (ACC championship game) hurts them a tad. Still, they're loaded this year.

Which conference will be the best in 2006?

Big XII is too top heavy. So's the Big Ten. SEC is good but not great.

I'd have to say in terms of competitiveness the ACC will be the best this year. Expect Maryland to bounce back. Boston College has some experience under its belt and a favorable schedule. Florida State and Miami are, well, Florida State and Miami. Virginia Tech as well.

Then tack on an emerging Clemson team, and two hungry Virginia and Georgia Tech teams. That's seven teams out of 12 that will deliver good years.

SEC and Big 11 Ten tied for a close second.

Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?

Who cares? Let's say Conference USA at random.

Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?

I'm going with SMU. No reason. I just want to see the ponies gallop back into the limelight. The offense woke up at the end of the season and SMU looks like its on the verge of a winning season for the first time since receiving the death penalty 19 years ago.

Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.

If healthy, Tyrone Prothro. Certifiable Bad Ass. However, his gruesome injury last year will probably rob him of some of his electrifying talent. Too bad. Man, he's fun to watch.

Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma and Troy Smith of Ohio State are my front runners. Smith is a slightly slower but better throwing version of Vince Young. Peterson, if he's got a line, will end up the No. 1 pick in the draft and probably walk away with the award (provided OU beats Texas). If either team produces, these two will be at the forefront all year long.

Dark Horse Candidates: Mike Hart. When healthy, as good as Peterson. Look at his freshman year numbers. They're almost identical to Peterson's, and Hart did that with a freshman QB. Injuries hampered him last year, but a successful Michigan team gets him a DAC invite. Also, Brian Brohm of Louisville. (HT: I'm a Realist).

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thursday's Hearsay and Conjecture

Too Lazy To Buy Your Own College Football Previews?

Don't worry, the Detroit News has your back. With over two thousand pages of material to sift through, this is all they got from Athlon, Lindy's, Sporting News, and Phil Steele.

Nothing earth shattering. Michigan could be good or bad. OMG Ohio State. OMG Notre Dame. Consensus 2nd in the Big Ten (except the Sporting News [4th?!]). Consensus 9-3 season. Consensus 11th in Nation. Whup-de-do. Sporting News also has us losing to PSU. I don't get that. They're on my list anyway for their lackluster NHL coverage (SI too, you bastards), so to hell with them.

New Roundtable Up

Some excellent roundtable questions have been posed by Bruce Ciskie. Once I've had time to digest them and formulate answers (e.g., tomorrow), I'll post them. If you haven't seen them already, Kyle, I'm a Realist, and Burnt Orange Nation already have their answers posted. Excellent reads, all.

It's Time For Omaha!

Sweetness. The College World Series is upon us. So is my cable guy. HDTV connectors in hand. Tears are welling in my eyes. Not only will I be able to waste my entire weekend in front of the television watching the CWS, but I'll be doing it on a crystal clear 37" HD. (If the Stanley Cup goes to a game seven, oh baby....)

Unfortunately, due to work constraints my baseball viewing will have to be postoned until Saturday. However, with the Rice v. Georgia first pitch scheduled for Saturday at 1pm CST, that's enough for me. I'll probably pull for Georgia, but my gut's telling me Rice has the upper in that game. It's the Miami v. Oregon State game I'm excited about. Miami wasn't even ranked two weeks ago. That's Miami of Florida, you know, where A-Rod played when he was still Alex. They didn't care. They simply brushed aside the rankings and blugeoned their way into the CWS. Anytime you've got a Miami team with swagger, its gonna be an exciting game.

Kyle is lucky enough to have a team he genuinely cares about in the CWS. (I think I speak for all of us when I say "Congratulations, you son of a bitch"). Me. Not so much. With both Michigan and Texas out of play, I'm left without a true rooting interest. I'm watching anyway.

Pizza? Ordered. Beer? Purchased and in the fridge. Sweatpants? Damn Straight!

It ain't Christmas. But it's close.

Speaking of Which

The Oilers are still alive. Fernando Pisani scores an overtime shortie to bring Edmonton back home for the chance to tie the series. Please God let this go to Game 7.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Two Days in The Middle of Nowhere

Much to my surprise the State of Illinois does not end at the Chicago City Limits. It should. But that's a discussion for another day. What also surprised me about Illinois is that it is a looooong state running north south. Over the past two days, from Chicago to the tip of southern Illinois, I managed to rack up 700 miles in work related travel and see more signs for "adult entertainment and McDonalds next exit" than I ever care to see again. Though those roads led me away, they brought me home safe. Which is more than I can say for Ben Roethlisberger.

Basketball Recruiting Update: Plus/Minus Edition

Michigan has accepted Rutgers transfer Zach Gibson. Gibson's presence eats up the final open scholarship in Michigans possession and gives Michigan another big man in the paint.

While I'm happy Gibson got what he wanted (has stated repeatedly that Michigan was his one transfer choice), I'm neutral on this pickup. Gibson wasn't recruited at all by Michigan out of high school. His stats at Rutgers during his first year (10 games, 1.1 ppg, 1 rpg) do not inspire confidence that he'll provide anything more than five fouls on Greg Oden. The Scout report on Gibson is he's a big man better suited for the outside game. The line "needs to be more physical" from the 2006 recruiting hotwire reminds me of a certain other big man currently on the team.

On the plus side, the Ann Arbor News has given him some praise as a big man who can put the ball on the floor, has a decent outside shot and moves relatively well. He's not going to be Graham Brown, but if he can pour in a few more points than Graham, we're in business. What gets lost in the shuffle is Gibson was the third rated prospect out of the State of Michigan in 2005. What's also a plus is he's grown two inches since his senior year, now standing at 6' 10". His senior year stats at Grand Blanc were 16.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.2 blocks and 2.6 assists. Not bad for a center who's still growing. Finally, he was also a high school teammate of incoming freshman K'Len Morris. Having some familiarity with a teammate going in should help both of them develop.

Bottom line: Gibson must have impressed at the voluntary shoot arounds at Michigan's open gyms. I didn't think Gibson was in line for a scholarship, but Tommy saw it otherwise. Since he's had the opportunity to view the kid, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. This is by no means an earth shattering development. However, with Hunter and Brown gone to graduation, center was a huge hole for Michigan. Now, at least, we've got some filler in that hole.

Johnny Goes Off Again

You're better off in the center of the sun than in Johnny's sites these days. The good folks over at Blue-Grey Sky posted his "Why I Hate Notre Dame" essay, the haters went after Johnny, and he responded by doing his best Little Boy impersonation. The ground is still scarred from his latest volley. Vicous.

Sportwriters Delight, U.S. Loses First World Cup Game

I know I'm a day late, dollar short, and missing my pants, but the U.S. got its ass handed to it by the Czechs. Not that this was much of a surprise. FIFA's got the Czechs at #2. Hell, they've got Chelsea's goaltender and Arsenal's best forward. The U.S. has, Landon Donovan?

I don't wish to make light of the game. Really. I don't. Going in, I figured we drop a game to either Italy or the Czechs. There were no two ways around it, we weren't getting through this bracket unscathed. If anything I had my money on the U.S. beating an older, screwier Italian team before it was able to top the Czechs. All is not lost, despite how bad they played.

The problem was the U.S.' dismal performance gave the talk show morons all the amunition in the world to mortar the sport and the team. It's too bad. But, they got two days to make it up.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Quiet Fridays

Michigan Players Turn Out In Support of Mott

If you weren't in the Ann Arbor/Detroit vicinity yesterday you probably missed the radio-thon that was being broadcast on WKTA in support of Mott Children's Hospital. Lloyd and several past and present Michigan stars showed up to talk football all day and raise money for the new children's hopsital. While the original goal was simply to raise $10,000 for the center, Brian Griese alone matched that number and the radio call ins totalled over $40,000 dollars.

The past and present players that showed up or phoned in to raise money for the center were: Jeff Backus, Desmond Howard, Rod Payne, Andy Mignery, Brian Griese, Mike Hart, Kevin Grady, Chad Henne, Steve Breaston, Ryan Munday, and the entire Defensive Coaching Staff. (Massive HT: The Diag Blog)

Ron Payne tore Michigan a new one during his interview. My favorite part: "Michigan was soft, man, Michigan needs to get its head of their collective asses." (again, HT: The Diag). Sounds like he's been hanging with Joey.

If you still want to support Mott Children's Hospital but thought you missed out, there's another chance this weekend. The Third Annual Carr's Wash for Kids will take place outside Michigan Stadium this Saturday June 10 from 12:30 to 2:00pm. If you're around, show up, get your car washed, and donate some money to a great charity.

The Blogs, They Are a'Changing

I'm hoping over the weekend to make some updates to the ole' (not old) blog roll. It's my hope to be able to add a couple of fine blogs (that you should be reading, dammit) to the side bar along with some improvements to the site.

Since its Friday, and you're probably bored, here's what to do in order to counter any productive urges you may have:

1. Brian's Song: Mgoblog's gone World Cup Crazy. Seriously. Certifiable. His article in support/defense of "the other football"/soccer is a must read for any sports fan, whether you like soccer or not. He also kicks Sparty square in the jewels.

2. Just Good Writing: Johnny does a little square dancing on the Roundtable and reminds us why we loved to be young. On a side note though, shouldn't it be old farts like me that reminiss over stuff like that? I would if I could write like that.

3. Your Mascot Sucks: Nathan over at the Golden Tornado (G-Tech up this Biatch!) is tired of all this discussion involving X's and O's, strengths and weaknesses. He went right to the heart of the matter in determining whether your school sucks or doesn't suck. If you want to know, look at your mascot. He's taken a look at the ACC, the SEC and Big Ten. Michigan gets an incomplete. But rest assured, had there been a live wolverine on the sidelines, the "best mascot ever" tag would apply.

4. More Cup in Your Face: If you can't get enough of the Cup (heh heh), Kanu has EVERYTHING you could possibly want to know about soccer and the World Cup. Dodgy at Best is your World Cup home. Cup or not, I'm still rooting for Ireland.

Small aside. Years ago some buddies and I were drinking heavily and watching the World Cup finals. In a moment of shear stupidity one of my friends blurts out "That has to be the most recognizable cup in the world." Without missing a beat, another buddy turned and said "Hence the name." Good times.

5. Dawgin It: Kyle's been at it again. Now he's taking on the College Footbal Resource over their assessment of his beloved Bulldogs. Highly enteraining stuff.

6. Read Me: Check out Sean's outstanding OSU blog The-614. There's another great Michigan addition, Stadium and Main (which should have been up long ago).

7. Maize n Brew mentioned on ESPN: Well, not really. But a reader posted a link to my piece in support of afternoon games at Michigan Stadium on one of their forums. Thanks to the reader who posted the link and said nice things about it. A Maize n Brew cheese plate is on its way.

8. Pay Per View: The M Zone took a post or two off from their usually hilarity to talk about something a little more on the serious side. Net Neutrality. The basic idea is that the net treats all information equally within its bandwith. So EDSBS and ESPN and that annoying Nissan pop up ad all fight equally for the same travel space on the web. What is apparently going on in certain corners of Congress is a few of the major phone/ISP companies are arguing they should be allowed to charge for larger applications that eat up bandwith. While it seems somewhat benign, it does have the potential to spread into a whole new host of fees and charges on top of what you're already paying in ISP costs. As further proof Congress needs to be completely cleaned out this November, the House passed the phone company's telecom bill late last night.

Having worked in and with Congress for a number of years, I'd be surprised if this money grab by the phone companies survives the Senate. The House, more often than not, acts like the annoying kid at the supermarket who throws everything whithin its reach into the cart or onto the floor leaving it up to the Senate to clean up their mess. (Guess which side I worked on). I'm sure there will be a debate. I'm sure there will be a host of lobbyists who come in and say hello to the committee members and staffers. And at the end of the day, I sure this thing will die a slow death in committee or on the Senate floor. The phone companies don't have the votes to push this thing through. If you want more information go to: http://www.savetheinternet.com/blog/

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday's Hearsay and Conjecture Basketball Style

Got Next?

Thinking back a few years I still remember saying that. Me. The tall scrawny white kid. Tall enough that I was always the center when I played with my suburban friends. I won't be shy about saying it. I could dominate. However, the downside of being half a foot taller than your friends is that you never really have to work on anything. All my shorter buddies would go to Gus Macker or some other camp and come back a step quicker, but always the same size.

The stuff they'd try to do would puzzle me at first, and then it'd be back to my blocking their shots. First time I saw a jump stop I yelled "Walk!" only to be informed by everyone that it was a legal move. Then they'd pull the ole 'up and under from one side of the basket to the next. Again, it would puzzle me at first. But by the third time they tried it I'd marked their moves and would use my gadget-like arms to swat their attempts. I felt pretty good about it.

The funny thing was, I'd never played organized ball. Never put on a jersey. I was a backyard king among the Liliputians. My friends all played for the JV or had passed the water bottles on the varsity bench at some point. I thought I was good.

So I started going to play where the suburban kids didn't.

That's when I realized my little oasis of above the rim dominance was a mirage on a very unforgiving basketball dessert. Back in our little enclave, I dunked. 10 foot rim. No joke. White boy threw down. I posed for effect in the way that only a teenage dumbass can. What I ignored in my little moment of glory was the dunking always involved a running start and traveling.

Two things became very evident when I started playing elsewhere. One, I wasn't that good. Two, my friends weren't any good either. At 6'4" you're generally bigger than your suburban high school classmates. That gets you picked near the top for sports like volleyball or basketball. At 6'4" in the city, it means you're guarding someone either three times faster than you or three inches taller. It's a humbling experience. When the young man you're guarding spins off your forearm and dunks without a running start, you begin to realize you're not that good. When you start guarding the 6'2" guards, no matter how long your arms are, they're quick enough to get around them.

I pressed on anyway. As much as my little arrogant world had been hurled into the sun, from its ashes came an even worse planetary formation. The street ballin' suburban. Keep in mind for a lanky white boy, I'm deceptively slow and uncoordinated. But I was playin. Running the break. Doing what every offensively challenged kid does, I played "stiffling" defense.

I quickly realized my two move arsenal wasn't going to cut it on the playgrounds. The baby hook I prefected in the backyard could've been delivered by the pony express. My little fade away, if the equipment you use to telegraph a move is a pair of tin cans and a string, well, you get the picture. It was like throwing watermellons at a battleship.

Didn't stop me. I kept coming back. I kept playing. I kept asking "Got next?" while the previous game was rolling. I'd talk with an accent even I didn't recognize. I'd D' up the biggest dude there and watch as he'd turn around and dunk in my face. So what. I'm playing. Every now and then I'd get a tip in or surprise myself by emmulating a move I saw the game before. There'd be the outlet pass that led to a dunk or lay-in for someone else. A moment or two of pseudo glory amdist an afternoon of pummelling.

At a certain point, I got the picture. Even though I'd deffinitely gotten better, I knew I'd never be good enough to play at a level above my backyard. So I slowly stopped going down to the playground. But while it lasted, it was fun to roll. To play with people far better than me. While I was never the first one picked on the playground, no one ever groaned if I was on their team. They'd even ask if I wanted to run the next game with them. They all knew I was over my head, but they ran with me anyway.

When I'd ask "got next?" there was always someone to run with.

Basketball Recruiting Update

Boateng? Gone. ASU. Reynolds. Ditto. Spurned us twice. Once for Oklahoma. Later for Villanova. Hey those rhyme.

So who's left?

According to Scout.com's 2006 recruiting hotwire, only Zach Gibson (a 6-8 PF transfer from Rutgers) remains on the 2006 radar. There is one open scholarship left, but Michigan hasn't extending it to Gibson at this point. Though he was a top ten state of Michigan player out of high school he didn't fit into the Wolverines plans and wasn't recruited. From the write up he's more of an outside player who "needs to become more physical". If you take away the outside player part, he might as well be Courtney Sims. With a pile of large inside power forwards on the 2007 radar, I'd be surprised if Gibson is offered a scholarship.

Going into 2007 Michigan will be in a heap of trouble if it can't land a premier guard or two and a legit center. The focus at the 1 and 2 appears to be on 2007 guard Corperryale Harris of Detroit. Scoring machine and capable of making his teammates better.

Unless your over 6'9", you haven't made up your mind to go to Ohio State yet. A lot of the 2007 class will play out along with Michigan's season. A tournament appearance means guards like Demetri McCamey and his teammate Evan Turner of Illinois might start showing a little more interest in Michigan.

Without it, well...

Carr's Wash

If you're in Ann Arbor don't forget to participate in the annual Carr Wash for Kids over at Michigan stadium. For all the crap we give Carr, this is one of the coolest things he does for the community. The proceeds from the car wash for to Mott Childrens Hospital. You can find the details here and here (scroll down).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Night Moves

You're not going to find Michigan playing a home game on Saturday night. Ever.

According to a recent Free Press article, though Michigan is willing to accomodate the occassional late afternoon start, Athletic Director Bill Martin has said in no uncertain terms that Michigan will never host a night game. For that, I say Huzah! to Mr. Martin.

Such a decision seemingly flies in the face of college football logic. Night games mean viewers. Viewers mean exposure. Exposure means applications and t-shirt sales. More importantly, it also means recruits get to see your school play. According to the article last year's afternoon Iowa game brought in an approximate 4.0 point share, with a point being 1,102,000 households. Had the game been at night, it could have been a 5.0 share or more. That's a lot of viewers that miss the opportunity to see Michigan on the field.

Take a look at the ESPN pre-season top 25 (btw, Michigan is ranked 16). Ohio State plays home games at night. Oklahoma, check. West Virginia has them. Texas, bingo. Florida State lights up DoakCampbell. Southern California, duh. Several other prominent schools host night games. Notre Dame. Miami. Penn State (we're playing them at 8pm on October 14). Even the lesser programs host them. Fresno State. Michigan State. Boise State. All these schools are reaping in the viewership benefits of hosting prime time night games. Michigan is not alone in holding out against night games, but stands in an increasingly shrinking fraternity of such programs. Though Michigan Stadium will undergo $226 million in renovations, not a penny of that money is designated for stadium lighting.

But really what are the benefits of night games for participating programs? Financial? Publicity? Recruiting? Is the progression towards night games simply a fact of economic life in sports, similar to baseball's move under the lights? Is Michigan's decision to prohibit night games a good one or bad?

The real benefit to a program participating in night games is exposure. Taking ABC's Monday Night Football as an example, a greater number of viewers are available in the evening. Whether its because their back from work, the beach, or Tibet, they're at home with nothing better to do. This is prime time baby.

During that 7-10pm slot, a majority of the American viewing public is turning on the tube. This means big money for the networks and big exposure for the participants. The more people that see your school the better. While I have no scientific data to back this up, I'll argue that the more people who are exposed to and aware of your school, they are more likely to apply, buy stuff, and talk about your institution.

Night games also give potential recruits a better opportunity to view your school from afar. While friday night lights are nice, the reality is in major metropolitan areas there are too many schools and not enough facilities to get all the games done in one evening. So games are played all day saturday too. Thus a Saturday night game might allow that wideout in Dallas with the 4.2 speed to see a game in Boston after his own game and think to himself, man, I might like it there. At least that is the logic.

While these are nice thoughts, they really don't apply to schools like Michigan. Exposure is something UM has in abundance and is not something that is likely to go away anytime soon. Using Notre Dame as an example, during the dark years (Davie), Norte Dame still maintained its legion of fans, its television contract, and its popularity despite several mediocre to bad seasons. At a certain point, the name speaks for itself. Recruits aren't going to stop coming to Michigan, USC, or ND because they don't see them as often as they'd like. They'll still come. It may affect Michigan on the fringes with top prospects who grew up rooting for a particular team. But top prospects, at least lately, seem to view the recruitment as career decision rather than ones made with the heart. All you have to do is look at the recruitments of Ryan Mallett and Jimm-ahy Clausen as evidence of this trend.

What it comes down to is money. But you knew this already. There is a load of financial capital sitting out there waiting to be thrown at the networks and NCAA when good match-ups prop up at night. Many universities drool over this. Not just for the revenue stream the game provides, but from the ancilary benefits of application fees, apparel sales, etc. However, again, these are not things Michigan is lacking. As Mgoblog pointed out months ago, Michigan is the most profitable collegiate athletic department in the country, raking in an over $17 million surplus. When you're rolling in that kind of dough, you can afford to order the Ol' 96er and leave half of it on the plate.

So what is the point of all this you ask? To give Bill Martin some credit for sticking with a great part of Michigan tradition and not trying to dive deeper into banks of the Pactolus river.

One of the great aspects of Michigan football is Ann Arbor during a fall afternoon. Watching a game in Michigan Stadium during the day is far better than watching one in the evening. While its just my opinion, you pick up the movements better and see things clearer during the day. Also, there is something to be said for attending an afternoon football game, taking in a Michigan victory, and then having the rest of the day to savor its sweet taste.

Walking around Ann Arbor after a game is a sight to behold. The leaves have turned to the colors of a sunset. The crisp air wakes you with every breath. Your fellow alumni and fans stream from the stadium into the bars and restaraunts all to talk about the game. You put your feet up on your porch. You grab a sandwich outside at Good Time Charlie's. Maybe pick up a Bell's XL and a coke on the walk back. You might even throw a football around, pretending it was you who stretched that extra inch toward Michigan football glory.

You still have your day after a win, or god forbid a loss, to enjoy. That, to me, is one of the greatest parts of the Michigan football tradition. Football as a part of a glorious fall day. One that begins with wonderous anticipation, climaxes under the afternoon sky, and slowly settles into a glorious evening.

Martin also made this very valid point with regard to night games, "It's... an awful lot of tailgating going on for an awful lot of time." I can attest to the proposition that too much tailgating can be a bad thing. Driving out of a stadium parking lot, pro or college, after a night game is a dangerous thing. Most of us who tailgate get there early. You get a good spot. You fire up the grill. You enjoy an adult beverage, or two, or four, or ten. For those fans who go towards the end of that sentence, leaving the game in one piece can be a challenge. I've been forced to wonder too many times whether the camper next to me will a) take off my front fender, b) rear end the guy in front of him, c) run over the parking attendant, or d) run over the cop flaggin him down. While I've had my share of nervous moments after an afternoon game, night games are certainly the worst.

I don't wish to come off as anti-gating. Far from it. I love getting to a game early, grilling a brat and having my share of a PBR 30 rack. Kyle is on record as not being a proponent of pre-game drinking, I take a different view. As Dirty Harry once said "A man's gotta know his limitations". If you're a jackass when you drink too much, don't. If you can't enjoy a game without a buzz, consult a therapist. If you enjoy having a beer or a cocktail with friends at a game, do so. Just know when to stop. If you're just there to get loaded, and not enjoy the game, sit at a bar and give me your ticket.

If I know I'll have a few I don't drive to games. Unfortunately, many other many fans don't share that view. From a public safety standpoint, Martin's stance makes perfect sense. I'd rather have people tailgating for 4 or 5 hours rather than 10.

Certainly all of us during our undergraduate days would have reveled in a few additional hours to tailgate or simply sleep off the previous night's hangover. Night games provide that. But for the majority of people who attend these games, those really aren't considerations.

Martin has said and done (for the most part) the right thing with regard to night games. While I am somewhat annoyed with him caving on late afternoon games (4:30 start time for Michigan State!?), so long as it does not become a rule more than an exception, I'll live with it. Even though great memories like last year's Penn State game took place under the lights, better memories were formed under the sweet November afternoon sun of 1997.

Keeping Michigan under the glow of the sun rather than the glare of halogen is the right decision. Martin deserves a golf clap for keeping with tradition on this one.

Now, if we can talk about Crisler....

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Busy Weekend

Lets See if This One Makes it Up

Blogger has eaten my last two postings, so I'm holding my breath that this one will actually make it onto the net.

Michigan Eliminated From Both College World Series

Over the past week both the Michigan Softball and Baseball teams saw their seasons come to a close. A shame their post season runs ended so soon, but a hardy round of Huzahs to both teams.

The Softball team fell 2 games to 1 to the same Tennessee team it had bested in the CWS last year. After splitting the first two games, Tennessee took the elimination game from Michigan with a 1-0 victory. The Lady Vols move on and Michigan's repeat quest comes up a little short. Michigan finished the season 44-15, captured its second straight Big Ten Tournament title, and claimed the Great Lakes Regional crown during the NCAA tournament.

Looking forward, the Softball team's Alumni Field will be renovated and seating expanded to a capacity of 3,150 seats. This year and last seem to be bellweathers for great things to come in Michigan softball.

The Michigan Baseball team's season also came to a close this past weekend. Placed as a 3 seed in the Georgia Tech bracket, Michigan dropped the tournament openner to Vanderbilt 5-2. Michigan came back blazing in the losers bracket elimination game against Stetson. Putting a woodshed beating on the Hatters, Michigan pounded out 11 runs and 17 hits while allowing only a single run. This set up a rematch with Vanderbilt on Sunday.

Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Vanderbilt got some timely hitting, and the benefit of some questionable calls to top Michigan 5-4. The Free Press and Detroit News have all the details.

In hindsight it was a great year for Michigan Baseball. Michigan posted a 43-21 record, won the Big Ten regular season crown, captured the Big Ten Tournament Title, and was the only Big Ten representative at the CWS. In addition, Michigan's Fisher Stadium will undergo a $9 Million renovation along with Alumni field. With a young lineup and established starting pitching, Michigan appears to be on the brink of something special.

Fluff For All!

The Ann Arbor News' Jim Carty caught up with former UM offensive lineman Tony Pape. You may recall Pape retired at the ripe old age of 24. Describing himself as burnt out on football, Pape went to work with autistic children, helping them to learn to do so many of the things we take for granted. After a year away, Pape is back in the NFL. After a year of working with children with disabilities Pape says its given him some perspective and taught him to appreciate his opportunities more. Kudos to Tony. Something tells me the world would be a better place if more people did what he did.

Daniel Horton is proving to everyone he belongs in the NBA. After a slew of private workouts with various teams, Horton has impressed several in the NBA heirarchy and could end up a late second round pick.

Johnny is back. He waxes poetic on youth and the youthful. As always, a great read.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Back From the Dead

I generally look forward to my mornings. I get in early, pound out a blog entry, and start my day afresh in a wash of productivity.

Over the last week, not so much.

While normally being a lawyer means helping South American drug cartels shield their assets from the government, assisting Heather Locklear with her fifth divorce, or telling your incredibly hot Assistant District Attorney that dammit it's your duty to enforce the law as written no matter the consequences, every now and then its just a fuckload of work.


You're here to do your job, Ms. Southerlyn!

I've been swamped. Sorry. But now that the month's over and my billables are more than covered, its blogging time.

The CWS Is Upon Us

Every June the College World Series rolls around and every June I inform my wife (then girlfriend) that once the tournament reaches Omaha she should make plans that don't include me. Play tennis, see your folks, take up kickboxing, whatever. As soon as Rosenblatt Stadium is filled for the games that matter, only trips I'll be making will be the ones to the the icebox and the door for the pizza man. Nothing else will get me out of my seat.

The pings, the horrendous fielding, the pitchers that couldn't find the plate with both hands and a GPS, and the 150 lbs shortstops who hit walk-off homers. I love it. All the drama of baseball, with a little extra uncertainty for good measure. In line with EDSBS and Kyle's recent blog ethics postings let me disclose this, I am a rabid Texas baseball fan. This goes back to my high school days in Texas practicing with former Longhorn Calvin Murray.

Back then I was just a kid, a lanky uncoordinated kid trying to make the JV. He was already on his way to Texas, a graduated senior. Still, he was nice to everyone. Even tried to help me with my swing. I didn't really know him, but I knew who he was. As a kid I felt I was looking up a man, when in fact he was just as young in the ways of the world as I. But there was still that sense of wonderment watching him practice, take his cuts, and field ground balls. You looked at someone do something the way you wished you could. That stuck with me. When he went to Texas I followed the games and slowly got hooked on the Horns (no pun, really). Since then, every year, I follow the Horns on their march through June.

However, should the Horns and my beloved Wolverines meet at any point, my sentimentality will go out the window. Its like a soft spot for an old girlfriend. Texas was that first big fling, and it left a pleasant aftertaste. It made me appreciate women, or baseball, even more. Later, however, I found my true mate in team and later in spirit. And that first fling can't hold a candle to my wife.

So sentimentally, I'll still root for the Horns through the CWS. But I'll be cheering the loudest for Michigan.

Speaking of which....

Michigan Wins 2006 Big Ten Baseball Tournament!


Not a bad season! On Sunday, May 28, 2006 the Wolverines beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers 9-4 to win the Big Ten Baseball Tournament at Fisher Stadium. After dropping its first Big Ten tournament game to the Gophers 6-2 Friday morning, the Wolverines stormed back reeling off four straight wins. The Maize and Blue beat Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota twice to take home the title.

In doing so the Wolverines put six players on the All-Tournament team. First baseman Nate Recknagel, catcher Jeff Kunkel, Third baseman A.J. Scheidt, centerfielder Eric Rose, and Adam Abraham as both DH and Pitcher were honored as all-tournament selections. Abraham was also named the Big Ten Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Michigan finished the regular season with a 42-19 mark, including winning both the Big Ten regular season and tournament crowns. Even so, the Maize and Blue received only a #3 seed in the College World Series. The Wolverines first opponent will be #2 Vanderbilt at 2pm (EST) today, down at Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is the #1 seed in this bracket and will play #4 Stetson.


Not just stylish, but apparently good at baseball too

The Wolverines' seeding does not reflect their outstanding year and the quality opponents they beat. Michigan is 2-3 against the NCAA tournament field with wins over #2 seeds Notre Dame and Troy University and losses to South Alabama, UNC-Asheville and Winthrop.

The regional games will be a double elimination format, with the bracket winner advancing to the Super Regionals June 9-12. The NCAA bracket can be found here.

Go Blue!

He Can Do More Than Just Suck As A Coach

He can get us in trouble too. If the only thing that was saving Amaker from the recycling bin was the supposed fact that he was clean, well, that went out the window. The Diag is reporting that the NCAA is investigating Michigan for possible recruiting violations involving 2008 prospect Delvon Roe. Apparently one of Michigan's assistant coaches, as yet unnamed, sent a text message to Roe when he was still a freshman. That's against the rules.

It's really against the rules when you notice that Michigan IS STILL ON PROBATION! While normally this would be a minor infraction, you're not supposed to break ANY rules while you're on the type of probation Michigan is on. Remember that whole Ed Martin thing?

This is just plain old fashioned stupid.

Gotta love Tommy. Not only can he get your hopes up before the rug gets pulled out from under you, but he can violate your probation too.

I'm lighting torches and sharpening pitchforks as soon as this is done.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Those That Vanish Before Our Eyes

A simple question to ask yourself:

When you think of football, what comes to mind?

For myself, such a simple inquiry inspired more questions than answers. Do you think of the game or do you think of the players? How much of your memory is comprised of individual achievements and how much of it is simply memories of a sport in motion? Are your memories comprised of triumphs or disappointments? The reason I ask these questions is to gage in some small way our collective perception of football. Do we perceive the game solely as an instrument of conquest, or do we allow for the inclusion of the tragic in our responses.

The reason for these questions is Johnny's recent piece on Tony Boles. It made me wonder aloud why his story took so long to be told. Boles was a standout Michigan running back. A dervish with legs and a helmet. The grace and speed of a puma mixed with the elusiveness of a mouse in a room full of knotholes. He was Next. Long runs. Cuts in midair. Then, cruelly, it was all over. A knee injury that today would cost him six games, cost him a career. Decades later, it turns out it cost him so much more.

Boles quickly faded from the public consciousness after his injury. He dropped out of Michigan. He disappeared into a world many of us know nothing about. Petty theft. Drug abuse. Burglary. Prison. Today, twenty years after he dazzled the Big House, he stands in front of a halfway house. A place he will most likely be in and out of for the rest of his life.

Like so many former football players, Boles vanished. For a shining moment he stood at the acme of athletic and personal achievement. Then we blinked and he was gone. "What happened to him?" was a question that wasn't asked for twenty years. It puzzled me as to why.

In reading Johnny's piece, it occurred to me that tragedy and failure are not things we are accustomed to in football. While everyone knows the "pain" of a losing season, we focus on the little victories. Our memories of football center mostly around victory, conquest, and triumph over adversity. The catches. The runs. The blind heaves that somehow found fingertips in the back of the endzone. We tend to quickly forget the injuries, the suffering and the pain. They are warriors to us. They do not feel such things. There is no room for them in football.

But there is in real life.

Football is a brutally short game for those who play it. The average career in professional football, according to the NFLPA, is three active seasons. And this only counts the lucky few who make it to the pro ranks. How many faceless young men have suffered debilitating injuries in practice or during a college game? I'm sure the number is too high to count.

At a certain level, players exist only as auto parts exist in a Pep Boys. An injured player is quickly replaced. If a part is worn down, bring in a new one. The next young man who can pass, run, block, catch or hit takes his place. It is not that the players don't want to hang around for another year. They can't. If they are not at their best, the game has the potential to debilitate them. Unless you are in your prime, the game does not allow you to play.

In some way that is why football players vanish rather than fade away. The second their skills deteriorate past a certain point, their services become more of a liability than an asset for their teams. How many running backs has your favorite pro team gone through? How many receivers, corners, linebackers? They are not around long enough for us to get to know them. To grow with them. To attach to them. To watch them fade away.

These are luxuries a sport like baseball affords us. Players come onto the scene, mature, reach their primes, and slowly fade away. If you can hit you can play. No matter your other flaws. In some way their careers mimic our own lives. They miss more than hit, they rise quickly and fall slowly back to earth. We get to know them. They're in the papers daily. We're constantly reminded how good they used to be. The longevity of baseball allows us tell the proud stories of a player's prime, but also the sad tale of their decline. Stories like Ted Williams, Ricky Henderson, Joe Jackson, and Mickey Mantle all illustrate this point.

However, these long careers also allow us to know them on a personal level. And that relationship can be far more tragic than watching their skills evaporate. We know about their gambling, womanizing, drugs, alcohol, steroids, and other addictions. Stories like Rose, Bonds, and Cobb exist in baseball because we've had so long to know them. Because a single skill never left them, a roster spot and the public eye was always theirs for the taking. Baseball is a tragedy in motion at times, and perhaps that is why we accept the failures of the people that play it.

It may be there is no tragedy to behold in football simply because the players are not around quite as long. While we know they party and get themselves into trouble, it takes something truly special for us to do more than shrug and chalk it up to a generalization about the sport and players. We don't know these players that well. Their season is short. Their exposure is limited. There are so many of them. We can't quite as readily attach to these players because of this. When they are injured, we don't suffer with them after the initial hit. If you're hurt and can't run, you don't play. If your ribs are cracked, you're out. We're not going to watch him hobble out to rightfield. We're not going to watch him grimace everytime he throws to first. We're not going to see the wincing with every swing.

Maybe we are not accustomed to seeing the tragic in football because the men on the field are so healthy, strong, and capable. At least that is the image that is painted for us by the teams, players and media. They are not hurt, they are courageous. His joints aren't jell-o, he's a warrior. He didn't play shot full of pain killers, he triumphed over adversity. These men are painted as invincible.

This could be a reason we cling to this game so readily. The ideal of performing at your absolute best every time you take the field. These young athletes, in the primes of their lives, dazzling us with long runs and bone crunching hits. When down, they get up. They swat a helmet and run back to the huddle. What would have crippled the fan is shrugged off with a head shake and some trash talk. A quick squirt of gatorade and all is right again. Back to the line they go. As if nothing happened. They are immortal.

They are Achilles without the heel.

They seem that way. The game is always played by the eternally young. The players are always just old enough to drink, but never old enough to think the music you listen to was ever cool. The game is always vibrant and alive. Perhaps, in some small way, we cling to the game as a means of escaping our own mortality. Perhaps the blackboard of our memories is wiped a little cleaner when players go down so that we may remember the game as a vibrant endeavor rather than one of pain and suffering.

We don't see these things because football isn't as up-close and personal as other sports. The body armour. The helmets that cover their heads and faces. The tape and pads. If its bad enough, they won't even suit up. They'll be gone.

Injuries are in some way a finality. We don't see the comeback. We don't see them struggle to find their way again. There is no minor league to re-hone their skills. They can't come back at half speed in football. Unless they can return to their previous form they are released. Your starting nose guard one day, a longshoreman with a bum knee the next. No ceremony. Just a locker to clean out. And maybe it is because we so readily replace these parts in football that we allow players to so quickly vanish into oblivion. Those tragic memories don't really fill our minds because they were never really a part of our consciousness. They were behind the scenes. We knew what was going on, but we never saw it with our own eyes.

Players don't fade away in football. They vanish. An injury on the field and that player is replaced by the next man. The game goes on. Perhaps that is why Tony Boles disappeared from our thoughts so quickly.