Friday, April 29, 2011

An Emboldening Start to the 2012 Class

Unsmiling and dirt-covered,
like any good linebacker.

Joe Bolden pledged this afternoon to become the seventh member of the Wolverines' 2012 recruiting class, and the third to play the linebacker position.

He brings his services from Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Ohio; the same school that produced the phenominally-named ex-wolverine, Mister Simpson.

Mike Hart's Time Machine

Everybody knows certain things about Mike Hart.  He was a three-star prospect to recruiting services, rushed for a billion yards, rarely fumbled and famously referred to Michigan State as the proverbial "little brother" to the University of Michigan.  Less well-known are some of his advancements in the quantum manipulation of the space-time continuum.

Yep, the dude owns a time machine.

Steel framework at 30 Rockefeller Plaza
circa 1931

Long before the GE Building in New York came to be affectionately known as "30 Rock" and the setting of a major television sitcom, it stood for hope and progress under its original name, the RCA Building.  Its construction is credited with generating a quarter of a million jobs during the Great Depression, and inside its doors a colossal mural appropriately named "Time" portrays the progress of humanity.  But the allegory of the building is only half the story:  of the 75,000 on-site workers who built the eventual home of NBC, only one rushed for more than five thousand collegiate football yards.

During any given play of a Michigan football game, eleven players outfitted in maize and blue take the field.  In 1932, atop a skeletal beam on the sixty-ninth floor of what would become a seventy floor skyscraper, eleven men took a precarious post on top of the world.

Men who sit for lunch in the clouds are blessed with an uncommon courage.  Like a running back outfitted in maize and blue, these were fearless zealots risking injury for the sake of forward progress.  These were men who built a piece of history with their hands and their sweat and the strength of their backs, and for that their legacy will long be remembered.  Most have since gone, but the building stands tall.

Each of these eleven men stood on the world's head to become an integral part of something bigger than himself; only one could slice a hole through an Illinois defensive line.

Carry on Mike Hart, and be proud of all that you've built.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meet Your Walk-ons: CB Tony Anderson

To perfect his speed and footwork, 
Tony Anderson (#17) sprints each morning
with an Obi Ezeh attached to one foot.

First Impressions:

Best Contemplative-Yet-Still-Confident-Even-After-Experiencing-A-Crushing-Defeat-To-Mississippi-State-In-A-Bowl-Game Expression:
Tony Anderson
RS Senior
High School:
Redondo Union, Redondo Beach CA
5’11’’, 192 lbs
If He Were an Animal:

Forward Progress:

Anderson hails from a high school not known for producing top talent:  Rivals has never bestowed more than two stars to any prospect out of Redondo Union.  Still, Anderson was widely considered the best player on his 2006 high school squad, moonlighting as both a wide receiver and defensive back for the Sea Hawks.

Since arriving in Ann Arbor in 2007, Anderson has seen primarily special teams action for the Wolverines.  In fact, despite being a fifth-year senior, he has taken snaps at the cornerback position in only five career games:

  • Delaware State (2009)
  • Bowling Green (2010)
  • Illinois (2010)
  • Wisconsin (2010)
  • Mississippi State (Gator Bowl)

Because Anderson is a walk-on athlete at a major college football program in a BCS conference, this should surprise nobody but the wide receivers he played against in high school.

After his redshirt season, Anderson made his Michigan debut in 2008 against Michigan State and played in each of the final five games of the disappointing season.  The following year his responsibilities increased only slightly, but he did log his first cameo as a cornerback in a win over Delaware State.  Anderson's production finally took a leap forward in 2010, contributing in eleven of the thirteen contests and making his first bowl game appearance.

Outlook for 2011:

In 2011, Anderson is primed for a promotion from "warm body in the event of multiple injuries" and "garbage time fill-in" to "warm body on the actual two-deep" and "regular time fill-in."  In Spring practice this year, Anderson has taken considerable snaps with the first team defense due in part to lingering injuries to J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk.  At 192 lbs, Anderson is the second largest corner on the roster (behind only Woolfolk at 195), giving him desirable size for a strongside corner in Mattison's 4-3 Under defense and the ability to assist in run support as necessary.  With everybody at the position at full health (please, God), I expect Anderson to be Woolfolk's primary backup throughout the season.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Colors That Float

Sometime after its owner has gone to bed, a Michigan jersey sprawled on the grass becomes indistinguishable from any other uniform.  The blues fade into green then scarlet then nothing at all; the burst of maize flirts with the audacity of Nittany white before settling into a muted gray.  The colors play their tricks and all that remains is crumpled fabric.
The uniform is not actually different in those hours after it was cast aside in triumph or defeat, but to a nocturnal observer its identity can feel temporarily misplaced.

Some colors just float on the light.

If rocks could swim, pigeons were toasters and the lunar cycle affected Michigan football, we would be experiencing those silent hours that are neither dusk nor dawn but that uphold qualities of both.  Today's Michigan fans are like those nocturnal observers, watching the same winged helmets crown the same fervent players in the same Michigan uniforms, but somehow the team's identity, that ineffable thing that makes it whatever it is instead of something different, has been temporarily misplaced.

This is not to say we find ourselves in, or anywhere near, the proverbial dark ages of Michigan football.  Instead we bask in the entropic calm of night, that recuperative time only partially remembered in the infancy of the following day.  The night comes and it goes and it is not good or bad; while it's here our visibility is diminished and our perception is skewed and identities might become misplaced, but in the morning we are usually stronger because of it.

Some praise the Lord for Light,
The living spark;
I thank God for the Night
The healing dark.

~Robert William Service

Exeunt the night.

You may think that Brady Hoke is a god or devil, and you'd be wrong.  If you tell me he's lucifer, you've stumbled closer to the mark but most likely by awkward chance.  It's been 106 days since Hoke was hired, no games have been played, and how he will fare in the coming season is a fair question for better time-travelers.  Although his success may still lurk in the realm of our collective optimism, Brady Hoke is already bringing something palpable to this team.  It's light materialized into rote sound bytes about "toughness" and "fundamentals."  It's identity.  It's the dawn that ends the night.  

Michigan may have the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year, but the sharpest weapon in its arsenal at the moment is a newfound sense of self-definition.  Six months remain to dissipate the lingering darkness, but already the contours of the future program are becoming visible.
Sing to the colors that float in the light;
Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue!
Yellow the stars as they ride thro' the night,
And reel in a rollicking crew;
Yellow the fields where ripens the grain,
And yellow the moon on the harvest wain; Hail!
Hail to the colors that float in the light;
Hurray for the Yellow and Blue!
-Charles M. Gayley, 1878

Just about everyone knows the chorus to the fight song, but many fail to recognize the above words as those to the alma mater.  It's said that these words earned Gayley the sum of ten dollars after he entered them into a contest at the University of Michigan.  Today they seem to hold a certain magic, a special meaning for a team battling the haze of the early morning and struggling to find its identity.  As this team rides thro' the night, these words offer a reminder of what awaits in the coming dawn.
The light is coming, and the colors are beginning to float.

The complete text and music to all three verses of "The Yellow and Blue" can be found here.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cowards Die Many Times before Their Deaths

Not to over-dramatize the situation, but Jim Patrick Tressel died yesterday.  Perhaps not in the final, never to breathe again, sense of "died" but he died all the same.

With the Notice of Allegations levied against Ohio State, a piece of Tressel's mortality, and that of the Ohio State football program, were fatally exposed.  Vulnerabilities that had remained inaccessible for the better part of a decade are now sprouting with renewed life like a fungus on Aquaman's bathmat.

This is not the reopening of a wound inflicted by Maurice Clarett or Troy Smith; this cut is deeper.  Ex-players are decrying the program, a schism is spreading across a fan base that is slowly devouring itself, even bastions of the local media are in an uproar against their own son.  To Michigan fans who have endured much the same sentence for a far lighter sin, it is a brand of poetic justice that could have been crafted by some divine comedian.

Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
-William Shakespeare
Whether or not the NCAA administers the death penalty to Ohio State (spoiler: not a chance), OSU died a coward's death yesterday that was set in motion more than year ago with warnings that at least two of his players were receiving improper benefits.  It was identical to the coward's death suffered when Tressel lied about his prior knowledge and deployed those ineligible players.

What is the toll of a coward's death?  On paper likely a fine, some vacated wins; perhaps discounted scholarships or a fleeting bowl ban.  Many are speculating that Tressel will not survive the 10.1(d) allegation that he "knowingly provided false information to the NCAA" which has marked the end of nearly every coach ever called upon to respond to it.  Regardless of the official censure, the investigation and infighting and uncertainty and turmoil carry another, more opaque penalty that Michigan fans know all too well.  While the discord within the Michigan ranks may have had its aggravating factors, other byproducts--such as negative recruiting against a coach whose employment expectations are less than certain--will not be muted.

One shortcut through the madness is readily available, a mithridate that will begin healing long before the disease has run its course.  Although Tressel's resignation could be inevitable, timed now it may even be considered an act of valiance.  Ohio State might yet regain whatever nobility it once possessed, but it seems fundamentally incompatible that Jim Patrick Tressel will be there when it happens.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Editor's Welcome

With this post, a new voyage begins.  One whose mission is to provide analysis and insight (read: pithy banter and pictures of questionable prudence) into Michigan football with all of the hallmarks of an aging bladder:  frequency, consistency, and maybe only a fraction of the discomfort.

As a confessed information addict I do not want to corral fellow junkies away from trusted suppliers, rather to entice them with a new syringe full of mixed metaphors, debatable grammar and Michigan football.

And so this site plunges in an imminently aimless fashion into overcrowded waters saturated with transitory fact peddlers and city-sized information barges, relying upon the constitution of a rickety and crewless vessel operated by a helmsman known only by a vague and befitting moniker.

Please enjoy yourself.