Friday, August 08, 2008

And they burned up the diner where I always used to find her

CHARLIE: "It's all bullshit except the pain. The pain of hell. The burn from a lighted match increased a million times. Infinite. Now, ya don't fuck around with the infinite. There's no way you do that. The pain in hell has two sides. The kind you can touch with your hand; the kind you can feel in your heart... your soul, the spiritual side. And ya know... the worst of the two is the spiritual."

TERRANCE: "I sat down and I talked to Mike (Barwis). I was on the bike, and he told me, 'Look at you. You're the only person who is not able to finish a workout. You don't want to be that guy.' I thought about it all that night. I told myself I didn't want to be that guy. I started eating right. I started getting my sleep. I started drinking a lot of water...It was all mental, to be honest with you. We've been doing it all summer – breaking our bodies down to see what we could do in the end. He broke me down mentally. Then he built me back up. Now I'm mentally tough like I've never been before in my life."

DOUG KARSCH: What happened to the rest of you, where did you go?"

TERRANCE: "It’s somewhere out here in the ground, from the sweat."

Terrance Taylor threw up after the team’s first practice, lost 22 pounds, and needed a night of intense reflection to keep him from quitting football. Will Johnson is bald, can reputedly bench press a sedan as many as three times, but approaches his final season quite aware – almost annoyed – that Michigan’s offense is far from good, not close to adequate, and at quarterback could just as likely feature a naïve true-freshman that asks a lot of questions and throws more out of obligation than instinct as it could a transfer from Georgia Tech that’s never taken a college snap.

Kevin Grady tries to erase a career of anguish while a viral YouTube phenomenon front flips over defenders on command. Tim Jamison doesn’t wear a knee brace anymore, looks – on the exterior – like he did in high school, and at least now capable of becoming the player we used to pretend he was. He’s conscious of how inadequate everyone expects Michigan to be, but has always seemed too docile to carry out the vendetta he’s alluded to.

Not that it really matters. Michigan’s defense has the potential to be fearsome in that deranged and unrelenting sort of way. But the offense is almost a complete uncertainty, and helmed by a coach not very prone to conservatism. These seniors will graduate as martyrs. They’ll be 7-6 this year, or 8-5 if they’re lucky, and unlike Mike Hart, none of their legacies will transcend that. (Well, for me, Terrance’s will, but that’s because of my own sentimentality and appreciation for neurotic, ingenuous players.)

They will be forgotten and they must know this, even if they don’t care. That isn’t really the point, though. The past six months have been about survival and that alone. The Ann Arbor News continues a crusade to sabotage as many elements of the university as it can, Sports Illustrated doesn’t think Michigan will win six games, and Rich Rodrguez is portrayed as just about the most vindictive and immoral coach in the country. Meanwhile, their conditioning coach – who “doesn’t need much sleep,” and is either addicted to methamphetamines, a robot, or the best in the world at what he does – made Brandon Graham lose 40 pounds in almost five months just so he could help put 20 pounds of real weight back on him. They run until they vomit, and there is no remorse.

I always thought Rich Rodriguez was kind of a rube who told bad jokes he’d probably told several times before, tried much harder than Lloyd to tell them, and compensated for a lack of grace with persistent eye contact, a smile he wielded like a sword, and a bunch of West Virginian bluster which never had much substance, but that’s OK, because he's a coal miner’s son who made it big, and you’re lying if you don’t find his candor at least a little endearing.

Maybe those feelings are tempered a little, now that I’ve realized Lloyd is gone, and that Rich is never going to be Lloyd, or that anyone is. But I guess I still feel that way about him. The difference, though, is that those aren’t necessarily flaws anymore, it’s just who he is. The same way Lloyd was purposely dull, or Mike was unrestrained. He’s familiar enough now that his idiosyncrasies are somewhat ours, and I have sympathy for a man who’s not nearly as despicable as people try and tell you he is.

I know that perceptions don’t matter. I know that Michigan is still here.

GODRIGUEZ: “I’m kind of a simple guy, I live a simple life.”

GODRIGUEZ: “Some of the people I probably respect the most, both in the profession and guys that are successful in their profession, business, whatever, said 'Coach whatever you do you gotta be yourself.' And that’s what I’ve always done, so that’s what you gotta do. If you’re not, you’re being fake. And I know one thing we’re not gonna do is be fake.”

GODRIGUEZ: “I’ve not changed who I am, I never have. It just seems what was portrayed was changed. And that was probably the most disappointing part. I mean what I have I done wrong, image-wise?”

GODRIGUEZ (About the defense): "It's always easier to say 'whoa' than 'sic 'em,' and so we're saying 'sic 'em,' " Rodriguez said. "And if we have to say whoa later, we'll say whoa later."

GODRIGUEZ (About Shafer’s aggressive mentality): "If it wasn't mine, he wouldn't have gotten hired. You want to hire a coach that has a like philosophy or you'll always be battling. Scott's personality and philosophy is something anybody would want, I'd hope."

GODRIGUEZ: "All of them got tested at times. I think they know now why we're doing that. We're trying to test them. I've seen it. Sometimes when you're out of shape and getting tired, and getting pushed to a new limit, it's easy to be surly."

JAMISON:Lot of guys played a lot last year, lot of guys know what it feels like to be down and keep their poise.”

WILL JOHNSON: "We practice every day like we’re gonna run the show."

DOUG KARSCH: Are you a quicker player, stronger player, how would you describe yourself now?
GRAHAM: "I'm a freak now. We all are freaks."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worth the wait.. You always make me proud. Nice pictures too

5:46 AM  
Anonymous RHammer (SNRE '98) said...

ditto, the "smell of napalm in the morning" and the dog-day afternoon photos are good metaphors for this years team... swarming, oppressive D and an overall sense of us against the world.

while we may all prefer the "experienced veterans ready to make a run at a title" vibe to a season's beginning, I am perfectly happy with the player's enthusiasm and work-ethic coming into this fall...

having uncertainty over what was to come under the new regime made the off-season a bit more unsettling, but coming into the fall-camp with a better understanding of the mental state of the team (which you captured so well here) is music to my ears...

thanks, as always, Johnny

7:04 AM  
Blogger MaizenBrew said...

Great stuff johnny.

9:16 AM  
OpenID thethirdcoast said...

Great post!

Y'know, I'll be perfectly satisfied with this season if the D lives up to the stories coming out of preseason.

I can remember a time when, win or lose, opponents knew Michigan's D was going to bust them up for the whole afternoon.

Here's hoping!

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog, I am always waiting for new posts. Brilliant as usual. I haven't been this excited about an incoming team in a long time.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Ufers Spirit said...

Already in mid-season form I see.

Barwis would be proud.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

more cutlines?

11:30 AM  
Anonymous brad said...

Hey Johnny you must be some kind of wizard. Marell Evans is about to be starting as a sophomore. Not that he's an all american just yet, but that seemed like a damn bold prediction at the time.

9:02 PM  

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