Monday, November 17, 2008

After The Gold Rush

On Saturday, Michigan threw 36 passes and only completed 12 of them. There is nothing discreet about how this team loses. There is no drama or climax; there would be something thrilling in that, at least. This is like rubbing sandpaper on your scalp until you hit brain. There is nothing but snow, and rain, and a numbing, overwhelming, and undeniably hopeless decay of something I once loved, and still do, but much less intensely.
It’s like trying to love a wife who lost her leg in a train accident, or got third degree burns on her face from a grease fire, and now she smokes cigarettes and drinks cheap whiskey from a sleeve of leftover paper cups you bought for some barbecue about a year back. This is not the same woman, and you know it’s not. You see things in her that you remember, things that used to make you happy. But now more than anything they make you sad, because you realize most of the time they don’t exist.

Steve Threet and Nick Sheridan have alternated everywhere between dreadful and fleetingly adequate. Sam McGuffie was hailed as some kind of messiah, but we found out his moves are nothing but extravagant head jerks; that he pass blocks with less enthusiasm than most people mow their lawns with; and that his spin moves seem tentative and halfhearted, like they’re more out of fear than deception. On Saturday he decided he wasn’t going to play, because he said he was too hurt.

Donovan Warren and Morgan Trent look over their shoulders after every incompletion to make sure there’s no penalty flag, then shake their head at the wide receiver as if they had anything to do with the incompletion in the first place. At this point, that's probably all they have.

The players I know appear inconsistently and without warning; increasingly neurotic and damaged.
Brandon Minor runs furiously and at times unnecessarily aggressive, as if he’s spent two years struggling with depression and regret, and he’s trying to make up for lost time all at once. He tries to laugh every now and then, but then his eyes dart anxiously to the side, like he’s waiting for someone to tell him he doesn’t have to pretend that everything’s going to turn out alright.

Back in the middle of February all I knew about Justin Feagin was that he either ran impatiently or was just incredibly decisive, I wasn’t sure which, and he had essentially said, “Terrelle Pryor, I am not afraid of you” before he even got to college. He sat in a chair after the Minnesota game, his hair matted erratically on one side, like he’d fallen asleep in the backseat of car with his head resting against a balled up t-shirt. He blinked slowly and spoke without hesitation. Sometimes he picked the wrong word and found a different one in the middle of his sentence once he realized it, but he was excessively calm, and already seemed accustomed to the whole idea of people wanting to talk to him.
In high school, Justin told Rodriguez he wanted to play early in his career, but it wasn’t the same robotic insistence most freshmen have. We knew he wasn’t lying when he suggested he burn a year of eligibility just to play sparingly in Michigan’s final four games. On a team going nowhere, after he’d declared that he could compete with the best high school player in the country, he volunteered to play special teams.
“I can’t really explain it for the fans that are listening,” he said on Signing Day. “I just play football, and I’m good at it.” It wasn’t a prepared quip; it was the only way he knew how to describe himself after a career of defying or ignoring reputations. If Mike thrived because he had been eternally doubted, Justin did so because he lived in a world oblivious to expectations and pressure. I wanted him to be Michigan's quarterback for the next three years, and at that position, he ran seven times for 49 yards against Minnesota. Afterwards, Rodriguez confirmed that his permanent position would be receiver.
These days, the coach's once-hypnotic charisma feels hollow and trite. At press conferences he seems embarrassed, like he’s still a little detached from it all and doesn’t have to cry with, or for a team he just met. Maybe it seems like he’s fighting for them when he’s being irascible and short-tempered, but this team is a reflection of who he is as a coach. He’s defending himself as much as he’s defending them.

For the seniors, he can only say, over and over again, that they deserve a hug. He did say that. At first I thought he was only using that line in press conferences, because it seemed affectionate enough, and a horde of obsequious reporters might pretend it had a vague humor to it. I was wrong. I saw a video of the locker room after the Minnesota game, and he said that to their faces.
Terrance never beat Ohio State, played for three different defensive coordinators, and vomited and bled for Rich Rodriguez after he considered giving it all up. He’s spent the better part of his adult life outnumbered two to one, and as a defensive tackle gets maybe three chances a game to remind everyone that he’s even there. He’s six feet tall and squatted 680 pounds in high school. A hug? I’d tell him to keep it.
This was once Michigan:

They used to exist.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

when did drew sharp sign on as a guest writer for rbuas?

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No shit, anon 7:38.
RBAUS's analogy is disgusting and racist. Smoking cigarettes and drinking cheap whisky from a paper cup? Your slam of Rodriguez and his cultural background is so transparent its ridiculous. And insulting.
Fuck off, and don't ever try to jump back on the bandwagon, you asshole.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous ShockFX said...

Johnny, I don't understand where this came from.

"Sam McGuffie was hailed as some kind of messiah, but we found out his moves are nothing but extravagant head jerks; that if you coughed on him he’d probably fall to the ground; that he pass blocks with less enthusiasm than most people mow their lawns with; and that his spin moves seem tentative and halfhearted, like they’re more out of fear than deception. On Saturday he decided he wasn’t going to play, because he said he was too hurt."

He's a true freshman, running behind a terrible offensive line with no passing game to speak of. To name him a messiah is to be beyond unfair to him. To question his heart is beyond unfair as well. He doesn't fall on first contact, he's not a power back like Hart, never claimed to be. Hart missed multiple games with a badly bruised thigh. Stuff happens dude.

Also, how is McGuffie, all 180lbs of him, supposed to block a 250lb DE? Hart was 225lb, it's a big difference.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous NVE said...

Yeah, dude...we suck. And sucking is not nearly as much fun as being awesome. But this is how it's gonna be for some undefined period of time. I hope this season is the last of it, but I am prepared to fight through a decade of pain if need be - just like I have with Michigan basketball.

Fandom is usually not easy, like it has been for so many years for those of us that love Michigan.

Yet I choose to root for the front of the jersey...not the back of it.

Go Blue, Beat the Bucks.

9:21 AM  
Blogger chitownblue said...

The maimed wife bit is sort of offensive.

And yeah, rooting for Michigan is harder when they're not playing well, but isn't that part of being a fan?

Finally, McGuffie is an 18 year old, homesick kid who had a death in the family on Saturday. Let's cut him some slack.

People often say that they care about these players beyond their ability to entertain us on the football field - and most of your writing suggests you feel the same. If that's the case, perhaps we want to give the benefit of the doubt to a kid who, in more ways than one, is hurting.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Crazy World said...

I'm living in Crazy World over here. Do people not remember that the players and coaches that are now so revered were directly responsible for 4 straight to OSU, App State, 2005, and on and on? That they were basically as hated as the current group even after they made 2 Rose Bowls? Yes, let's continue to walk down the road to mediocrity forever. This is insane. People are stupid. There was only one thing that had to
be done, or even could be done, to rescue this program, and it was to tear it down and rebuild it anew.

If it sounds like I'm angry it's because I am. I spent 4 hours in
literally the worst conditions ever to watch a team that was terrible and going nowhere play a literally meaningless game. Why? By definition fandom is stupid and irrational, but it is not selective. You either are or you are not. I am. You are not. Those who are not will get nothing but contempt from me when we return.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

See you later, Johnny. While you're mourning the loss of reliable but average handjobs, we'll be over here having the best sex of our lives because we took chances with the hotter girls.

And you? You'll still be standing in the corner with your dick in your hand, hoping Mike Hart comes back to tug it a couple more times.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh no, a dissenting opinion. Your idealistic world crumbling around you. Let's get angry and bitter. Who is a true fan? I certainly am.

Michigan fans unable to cope with a single losing campaign. Welcome to reality.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Dex said...

dead to me

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

fuck you johnny GO BLUE

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2:56 PM  
Anonymous brad said...

Damn! You kids are pretty harsh on the guy who is the best writer in Michigan's football world. Most of this season was shit, its ok to let a guy be real. Especially this guy.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous brad said...

Also Hart was an excellent blocker from day one at under 180 pounds. He never came close to 225 dude!

6:58 PM  
Anonymous JeremyB said...

It looks like Johnny loved Michigan football so much last year he wrote all of two posts during October, one in November, and none in December or January.

So if you're counting, that's not a single post after Ohio State, after Lloyd retired, after Rodriguez was hired, or before or after the bowl game.

Johnny's voice spoke for our souls during the 2006 season in a way that we all were so grateful he could channel. Maybe he just hasn't come down from that yet.

Maybe in Johnny's mind, it's still November 18, 2006, and Steve Breaston just caught the 2 point conversion to pull us within 3. I guess that's not a bad place to be.

8:06 PM  
Anonymous ShockFX said...

Johnny, upon second though, maybe you just don't have feelings for this team because it's so young and the non-young players are those you can't get excited about other than TT? Morgan Trent has never elicited passion, neither has Will Johnson or Tim Jamison. Carlos Brown and Minor have been too hurt or fumble prone to play enough to give you material.

I'm not sure how you can fail to find inspiration in Threet going out there completely injured, tapping Sheridan on the shoulder during the Penn State game to try and bring us back. Or watching Grady attempt to attone for past sins, carrying ND linebackers into the end zone like a pack mule, only to be robbed of the ball on his next carry.

What about Brandon Graham promising victory over MSU, then playing his heart out in a way that Crable never managed in order to bring home that impossible victory? What about Greg Matthews, thrust into a role he wasn't prepared for, making valiant efforts at uncatchable balls?

You see Johnny, where you find heroes lacking because of unfamiliarity, others find ainspiration in this otherwise gloomy season. No one could have expected such abject bitterness from you, and that's what's causing the backlash.

"Faith is to believe in what you do not yet see, the reward for faith is to see what you believe."

9:30 PM  
Anonymous CPS said...


The quality of the writing is not at issue, and neither is the general feeling about this season. The content of the post, on the other hand, is cause for the consternation.

Usually, when I read this blog I believe I'm reading the words of someone who truly loves Michigan football, even if a little too ardently. But when I read statements such as: "There is nothing but snow, and rain, and a numbing, overwhelming, and undeniably hopeless decay of something I once loved, and still do, but much less intensely," I read the words of someone who cares less for the program than at the beginning of the season. At least that's what I see. And why? New coach? New players? New offense? That part is not as clear to me.

I understand (but disagree with) the negative sentiments or lack of faith directed towards the coaching staff, the athletic administration, the players, etc. by much of UM fandom, but this post seems to go beyond that. Now I see someone who once loved the program, and now loves it less, and that's just not right. The program (for lack of a better term) is much larger than any one coach, player, AD or fan, and it is faith and irrational adoration of the program that keeps us as fans. Nothing has happened this season that should change or lessen that.

I appreciate the honesty in Johnny's writing, but when one writes with brutal honestly, the critique will be the same.

11:55 PM  
Anonymous Pat said...

To be honest, I didn't find much wrong with the post. It is an honest expression of how he is feeling about the current situation and I respect that.
Sure, its not very optimistic, but how optimistic can you be at this moment in our program.
Don't listen to them man, this shit is going to turn around sometime, and I believe that you will soon fall in love with our new generation of players, and eventually Rich Rod as well. I would hate to see all of these negative comments stop what you do, but please, never stop writing.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Misha said...

I completely understand where you're coming from. It's tougher for us older fans. We've grown attached to players, we need heroes, and quite frankly, there just aren't any on this Michigan team yet.

The angry commenters should read this:

It might open up their eyes.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Blue2000 said...

Why the vitriol at this post? The self-righteousness of the WLA crew and its followers regarding what is and is not appropriate fandom is just retarded. So Johnny's bummed out that the current team is not the one he knew and loved. So what? You might not agree with it, but he's entitled to his opinion, and it certainly doesn't justify a "fuck you" or a "you're dead to me." Jesus.

A lot of the "sky-is-falling" Michigan fans have been incredibly annoying this season. But equally annoying are the Michigan fans this season who have jumped down the throat of every fan who has expressed disappointment and frustration.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man this blog post sounds like someone that might have faced some negligence of their own growing up. If you can't find a way to be positive about Michigan Football, I worried about how real life may be treating you. These are the kind of posts that don't deserve attention, but it sounds like you have a severe inferiority complex. Go to CAPS.

6:56 PM  
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5:32 AM  

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