Thursday, December 23, 2010

A bag of questions for Christmas...

1. Is David Brandon being honest with us?

As we all know, DB has remained steadfast in his resolve to "evaluate the football program after the season is over." But is that what he is really doing? Or has he already made his decision? The answers to these questions will say a lot about DB's level of integrity.

If, as many Jim Harbaugh fans think, DB has already made a deal with him, it would be against everything DB has said he stands for. It would be in direct opposition to Bo Schembechler's mentoring, because Bo always said that a coach deserves at least four years to get his own people fully entrenched. I really think that in today's climate, a coach needs five years. Most of all, though, if DB has already made a secret deal with JH, it would mean that DB has been lying to us.

Think about that. This would not be a "little white lie" or a case of someone changing his mind. This would be a case of the Athletic Director of the University of Michigan lying repeatedly while representing the school in public. If DB is "taking his time," despite risking the loss of possibly the year's best recruit, I would actually respect him for it.

However, if DB has already made up his mind, has a secret deal with Jim Harbaugh or any other coach, and is lying to the public while being paid by the University of Michigan to represent their interests, I think he should be immediately fired with cause.

Obviously, I hope that is not the case.

2. How "commercial" is the Athletic Department about to become?

Brandon has made comments about "increasing revenue," and is now even looking into making the Big House available for weddings. We all saw the advertisements during the Big Chill. While I am always happy to see the Athletic Department prosper, how much "prosperity" do they really need?

I hope I'm wrong, but I see a very commercial future for the Big House. I can easliy imagine a time, within five years or so, when the end zone walls are littered with advertisements like a minor league baseball park. I can easily imagine flying back up to Ann Arbor to go to the "Domino's Pizza Stadium brought to you by Fifth Third Bank."

I can easily imagine projectile vomiting, too.

3. How 'bout that basketball team?

John Beilein has the Wolverines playing much more like a team than they have so far in his tenure. While I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Manny and Peedi for helping the team get back on the right track, and helping to make it almost "cool" to play at Michigan again, I have to wonder how true the rumors of "philosophical differences" between Manny and JB were.

Last year, it seemed like most of the team stood around and watched Manny and Peedi try to carry them. This year, everyone seems involved as equals. A different player shines every game, and everyone makes their own unique contributions.

The most encouraging aspect, though, is that Michigan no longer appears to be at a severe height disadvantage to every team they play. I still shudder when remembering the Illinois team of two seasons ago get up to five or six chances on many offensive possessions because they looked like a college team rebounding against a high school team.

Thankfully, even though the team is still young, they have some height, and the guys with height actually have some basketball skills. In a year or two, they could realistically be starting someone 6-9 at small forward. The last time they could do this, with Sean Higgins, they won the NCAA championship.

This leads me into another question:

4. Is Tom Izzo really "losing his mojo?"

I have been on record in plenty of places as saying that I thought Tom Izzo pretty much pissed away his mojo with his prolonged dalliance with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Izzo's main strength has been his ability to wring every last ounce of effort out of his players, using variations of "for the team" or "Spartan for life."

I have also been on record as saying that it will now be a lot harder for Izzo to get that kind of effort out of his teams because his players now know that he is a hypocrite who preaches "Spartan for life" out of one side of his mouth while negotiating with the NBA out the other side. Everyone in EL, from players to trustees to fans, now knows that Izzo was one LBJ signature away from leaving them.

So far this season, I have seen nothing to make me change my opinion. Against Texas, the Spartans were outplayed and outhustled on both ends of the floor, and the scoreboard didn't nearly reflect how Texas outclassed the Spartans. The talent levels still aren't even, but for the first time in a long time, Michigan is playing harder every night than the Spartans are.

Will my predictions of the beginning of a downward spiral at MSU, starting with them being a 5/12 upset victim in the NCAA tournament, prove accurate? We'll see. One thing we do know is that between his own restlessness and Michigan finally shedding the odor of the Ed Martin scandal and once again becoming a viable rival in recruiting the state of Michigan, Tom Izzo's job at MSU has just become a lot harder than it was.

5. What is going on at OSU?

An investigation into free tattoos has uncovered the fact that players, including Terelle Pryor, have been selling their Big Ten Championship rings and other memorabilia. This, of course, is an improper benefit, because the average student isn't awarded a Big Ten Championship ring.

The most hilariously ironic development is that Pryor sold his "Sportsmanship Award" from the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. To me, selling those two awards tells me that Pryor doesn't care about his team, championships, or sportsmanship.

Predictably, OSU players are pleading ignorance. They are saying they didn't know it was against the rules. Inexplicably, the NCAA is buying their "woof tickets," and is only suspending them for five games, starting next year. In the ultimate show of arrogance, OSU plans to appeal.

The real penalty should be that each player should be declared ineligible from the point at which he recieved illegal benefits, and OSU should have to vacate each game they played with an ineligible player. Since it is too late to change the bowl matchups, though, they had to be allowed to play the bowl.

My dream result: OSU appeals after the bowl game is already played and the NCAA takes advantage of the opportunity to increase the penalties: the players are declared permanently ineligible, and they do have to vacate a lot of wins from this year, including the one over Michigan.

At any rate, I can't imagine Terelle Pryor subjugating his ego or his taste for illegal benefits anymore. I expect him to declare for the NFL draft, where he will be drafted as a TE/H-back in the fifth round.

6. Anything else?

Yes. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How about Jesus for Michigan's next head coach?

The blogoshpere and Michigan media in general have been polluted with specualtion about the head football coaching position at the University of Michigan. Peering deep into the crystal ball, I have finally come up with the perfect candidate: Jesus.

Michigan fans expect a miracle-worker: one who can turn this team into National Champions immediately. Jesus can do that. A quick look at how he would handle issues related to the team right now:

1. Personnel is undersized due to age.

No problem. With a wave of his hand, Jesus would instantly add twenty pounds of muscle to every player on the team.

2. Injuries.

This one is easy. Anyone who can heal the dead is more than capable of fixing an ankle, knee, or shoulder.

3. Getting everyone on the same page.

This one is a no-brainer. The main reason people still even remember Jesus is because he was able to get everyone on the same page: his page.

4. Confidence against better teams.

Once again, Jesus was the master of making people believe: both in him and themselves. Confidence would be no problem if the team knew Jesus was on their side.

5. Bad bounces.

Really? There is no such thing as a bad bounce when Jesus is in charge. Even if a bounce appears to be bad, it is later proven to be "God's will." and therefore good.

6. Bad calls.

Is any referee in the country going to disagree with Jesus?

7. Why not Harbaugh?

Because I have never seen a "what would Harbaugh do" sign, bracelet, t-shirt, or bumper sticker.

It is for these reasons that, if he is stupid enough to fire RR, I would implore DB to seriously consider Jesus for the head coaching position. I only see one negative aspect to hiring him:

The media would probably crucify him.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

To all of the "Fire RR" people...

Now that the regular season is finally over, MSM outlets are falling over each other trying to be the first to "break" the "RR fired" story. Many of the media people want him fired so badly that they keep changing the "straw that broke the camel's back" point. And a lot of "Michigan fans" are acting like anything but. A few of the "firing points:"

1. "If the NCAA finds RR guilty of 'failure to provide an atmosphere of compliance,' RR is gone for sure."

Of course, the NCAA accepted Michigan's self-imposed punishment and gave them the extra year that Michigan left room for so that the NCAA could look like they were "doing their job." RR was not personally found guilty of the aforementioned violation.

2. "If the team doesn't show progress, RR will be fired."

The team has showed progress. Michigan has one of the best offenses in the Big Ten, even though they are still young and played a first-year sophomore starter. They won two more games than last year, even though as many as seven freshmen or redshirt freshmen played on defense some games. The secondary, in particular, was too young and inexperienced to play against top-ten ranked teams, let alone start.

3. "If the team isn't headed in the right direction, RR will definitely be fired after this season."

Michigan has won 3, 5, and 7 regular season games in the last three years. The offense is looking like it could turn into one very similar to that of Oregon or Auburn, both of which are indirectly using a lot of RR's playbook. They have played hard until the end of every game, even while getting beaten pretty badly the last two. Players are talking about "the team," and praising their coach for keeping them positive and focused. They are handling both victory and defeat with grace and humility. And something like 19 of 22 starters will be back next year.

There is absolutely no way anyone could say that the team isn't headed in the right direction unless they have already made up their minds that they want RR fired. In other words, this team is definitely headed in the right direction.

4. "If Michigan isn't bowl eligible, RR will be fired."

Obviously, Michigan is indeed bowl eligible.

5. "If Michigan gets blown out by OSU, RR will be fired and Harbaugh will be hired."

Finally, on the fifth try, the OMGFRDKRODNOWPLS people got what they were wishing for. OSU beat Michigan 37-7. This is actually quite similar to the 31-7 score by which FSU beat all-everything coach Urban Meyer three hours later. And Meyer has had five years to build his team.

Anyway, after making the parameter more ridiculous five times, the maggots, leeches, and parasites finally got what they were looking for. So now, they use the loss to OSU as "justification" for an irrational decision that some of them had already made almost three years ago.

As for Harbaugh, he won 4, 5, and 7 games in the years preceding this year, and he took over a team with better personnel. So, this begs a question:

Why are people willing to accept Harbaugh's nearly-identical pattern of growth and hail him as the second coming while simultaneously vilifying RR's pattern, that actually shows even more growth because he lost one more game his first year?

Obviously, the "prodigal son returns home" story would be a great one. And, if he ever does, I will support him fully and be happy for him. But the timing is not right.

Fans are pissed because the team isn't winning. They conveniently forget that the first four losses of the OSU streak were courtesy of Lloyd Carr. They refuse to look at the players Carr left for RR and realize that RR took over a team with personnel more on the level of a MAC team than a Big Ten one. But it still comes down to winning.

So, if the whiners get their way, and Michigan does indeed fire RR and replace him with a pro set guy like Harbaugh, it will mean at least one more year and possibly two more years of losing. Does anyone who is the least bit rational want to risk firing a coach who could get ten or eleven wins out of this team next year for someone who is going to retool again and finish around .500?

The rebuilding job isn't complete yet, but it is close. Michigan will have something like 19 starters with experience next year. The offense is close to becoming one of the best in the history of the Big Ten. The defense is laying the foundation for finally breaking through and being able to stop elite competition.

All that is needed is more time and more experience. Both will happen on their own. Firing RR and changing systems again would be one of the most stupid moves DB could make. Firing RR and replacing him with someone who runs RR's offense wouldn't be a pathetically bad move, but it would be rather pointless.

If DB has as much integrity as a Michigan Man should, RR will at least get to work the length of his contract. It would totally suck for RR if he rebuilt the team, was vilified for the down years during the rebuilding, and then had to watch as someone else won with the program he rebuilt and took credit for his work. It would also suck if RR was fired and came back to win National Championships with another team.

In other words, it would suck if RR was fired before he is given the opportunity to finish what he has started at Michigan. Hopefully, DB ignores the media and the naysayers and realizes what a great coach he has working for him right now.

If he does, and RR wins a National Championship or two at Michigan, his present critics will all be saying "I told you so" and bragging about how they had his back from the start. I could handle that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What a week

Various thoughts about the week that was:

1. The Freep was officially wrong.

The NCAA agreed with Michigan's appeal of the charge of "Failure to maintain an atmosphere of compliance," lowering the charge to "Failure to monitor." This was the big one as far as Rich Rodriguez is concerned. Speaking of atmosphere, the one around the program suddenly "did a 180." Finally, after all of the negativity involving the program, they got positive news from the NCAA.

Of course, the Freep didn't see it that way, but pretty much everyone else in the media did. That constitutes a major victory, not only for the school, but for RR. Many hold his job security in question, but I don't, and I think the decision handed down this week "iced" it for RR being able to stay and finish what he has started at Michigan.

More on RR later, but the best part of the whole thing was when Dave Brandon spoke of the need for an apology from the Freep. He may not have named them, but it was obvious who he was talking about. Brandon knows that the Freep fabricated much of their "evidence," and that Rosenpuke's hatchet job was just that: a hatchet job.

2. A Big Win at the Big House.

If there was ever a time for Michigan to pull off a big win, it was this week. Fresh off of the good news from the NCAA, the team won a wild one against Illinois in a game that had a higher score than each of the last three basketball games between the two schools. This game had everything that ESPN Classic likes: lots of points, lead changes, big plays, and a thrilling OT finish. We may see this game on ESPN-C for a long time if we are lucky (and Illinois isn't).

This was a game of vindication. The team proved that it wasn't going to have the same record as last year. Tate Forcier came off the bench to lead his team to victory against a team that trounced him last year. Most of all, the defense came up with a big stop when it really, really needed one. And it "only" allowed 14 points to Illinois in the last half of regulation: seven of them resulting from a Tate Forcier turnover deep in his own territory.

If the school gave game balls to everyone who deserved one, the Freep would probably call it a major NCAA violation.

3. RR does the right thing: again.

Last year against Iowa, RR pulled quarterback Tate Forcier in the fourth quarter. There was no information available during the game, but RR was roundly criticized for it after the game. It turned out that Forcier had sustained a concussion, but some so-called "fans" still ragged about it for the rest of the year.

Fast forward to yesterday: RR pulled quarterback Denard Robinson from the game in the fourth quarter. There was no information available during the game. Unlike last year, Michigan pulled this game out, and RR won't be criticized for it. But the reason was the same: Robinson was exhibiting concussion symptoms, and RR held him out for his own safety.

RR has been a lightning rod for criticism since he arrived in Ann Arbor. One of the most common criticisms both the media and the fanbase like to level at him is that he is a "win at all costs coach." For them, I have one question:

Is there any other coach in America who would have made the same decision in crucial games where his job status could be on the line not once, but twice?

AFAIC, most coaches would have found a way to get the star QB back into the game with some bogus question to "prove" that he was OK.

Other coaches talk about family atmosphere, and how the health and safety of their players is paramount, but RR walks the talk. RR wants to win as much as anyone on the planet, but he won't compromise the well-being of his players to do so. I can only hope that the same "fans" and media that have trashed him for almost three years will finally give him credit for being the kind of man and coach that he is.

4. About that job status...

I think it can be safely said that the "RR hot seat" rumors can officially be put to rest. Michigan has shown improvement this year despite the woeful lack of age and experience on defense. He has built the offense into a potential video game, and has rebuilt the team in his own image, laying the foundation for Michigan to truly arrive in the currrent millenium.

Hopefully, the so-called "fans" who have been bitching and whining about RR ever since it became evident that he couldn't snap his fingers and turn Threet or Sheridan into bona fide D-1 QB's in 2008 will finally give it a rest and stop their chronic complaining. RR is here to stay, and the school will be much better off for it, possibly as early as next season.

5. What: me defense?

Defense is a question that will be answered during the off-season. GERG's days at Michigan may be numbered, or he may get a pass for having to play so many new players this year. At any rate, they played a lot better when they were allowed to be more aggressive yesterday. The play that saved the game was the old "jailbreak" (at least that's what they call it at MSU) blitz. Almost everyone rushed the QB, and someone got to him before he could hit a wide-open reciever in the end zone.

While most fans, even the most loyal and learned, seem to think that GERG's dismissal is a fait accompli, I am not so sure yet. The defense does have four games left to improve enough to justify keeping him. "Only" allowing Illinois fourteen points in the second half and making the key stop in OT indicate some improvement to me. We will see how it plays out.

6. David Brandon is THE MAN.

During the season, and especially this week, David Brandon has shown the strong leadership skills that got him the AD job at Michigan. He has come out with strong statements regarding RR, the NCAA investigation, and the Freep this week. I have no idea what he is going to do in the offseason, but I do trust that he will make the right decision. It seems like the athletic department is finally in good hands again.

It is about time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Joe Pa is right, or at least halfway there

Joe Pa wants to remove facemasks from helmets to reduce concussions and other injuries? I have a better idea: ban helmets, cleats, and shoulder pads altogether. Helmets and pads are supposed to be protective, but end up being used as potent weapons. Cleats provide leverage for hits that injure both the hitter and the "hittee."

Those who run football are between the proverbial rock and hard place right now. Studies are showing that their sport causes an inordinate amount of concussions, and that those concussions aversely affect the quality of life of participants, years after the damage has already been irrevocably done.

They know something needs to be done, but they won't want to detract from the "tough" nature of the sport. Telling players not to hit when they have been trained to do so their entire careers, as the NFL is attempting to do, is a losing proposition. It will bring nothing but controversy, and enforcement will go back to current levels after awhile, much like hockey did after a year or two of trying to call Stanley Cup Playoff games tighter.

It works for awhile, but the game always tends to go back to its inherent nature. With this much protective equipment, the inherent nature on defense in football is to use yourself as a weapon with which to destroy ball-carriers and recievers. The gains made in conditioning and technology were supposed to prevent injury, but have just made players more likely to injure both themselves and others within the natural flow of the game.

Football is an aggressive sport, and equipment enables players to be more aggressive. So, the only way to change the culture is to change the nature of the game. And the best way to do that without sacrificing any of the toughness, integrity, or effort players put in is to simply ban protective equipment. Knee pads and cups are appropriate because neither gives a player any leverage that can be used to hurt themselves or an opponent. Shoulder pads and helmets only help players get hurt.

Besides, players of this era would like it because we would be able to see their faces while they play. It would be easier for players to "brand" themselves, even before they are allowed to take any money. And they would have more brain cells left when it is time to hang up their shoes, relax, and spend some of the money they earned.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Questions on the alleged MSU sexual assault case, or lack thereof

In the case of the alleged sexual assault of a coed by two Michigan State University basketball players, there are currently more questions than answers. Here are my opinions on a few of them:

1. What did the prosecutor mean by "mutual decision?"

It sounds to me as though the prosecutor pressured the victim not to pursue this case. If the prosecutor doesn't want to pursue the case, he could easily remind the victim of the long, arduous process and the "difficulty" of convincing a jury that their basketball heroes are guilty of sexual assault.

2. Is the prosecutor a basketball fan?

If the prosecutor is a basketball fan, it could indeed have a great impact on his decision whether or not to pursue charges. It would be difficult for him to prosecute someone he cheers for on a nightly basis.

3. Is there a different standard of "justice" for MSU basketball players than there is for other citizens of East Lansing?

Often, the accused's criminal record or lack thereof is taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to prosecute. Also, outside factors such as playing varsity basketball at the local school is also taken into consideration. Sometimes, if a potential defendant is seen to have professional potential, prosecutors are less likely to "ruin this kid's life" than they are that of an average citizen.

The problem with this approach is that the victim's life, at least in East Lansing, is already ruined. The name may not be public, but I can state with confidence that it has more than likely been "grapevined" to a point where everyone who knows her and many who don't know what happened. She is more than likely the target of scorn by many fellow students who are more concerned with the performance of "their" basketball team than with what she has gone through, or the concept of the perpetrators being held responsible for their actions.

At this point, it does not appear that justice is applied equally to all citizens of East Lansing.

4. Why have the major media outlets been so slow to pick up on this story, especially the two major Detroit outlets?

Apparently, the media don't see two Michigan State University basketball players being accused of sexual assault to be important enough to cover, or at least to feature it as prominently as they would if it happened at the University of Michigan. This leads to my last question...

5. If the accused had been football players at the University of Michigan, would the coverage be different, especially in the Detroit outlets?

This has been a major point of contention for me for a long time. The media is always quick to smear the University of Michigan's athletic programs for far less than what is alleged here. The newspapers will probably say that they considered the story less than newsworthy because no charges are being filed, but the Justin Feagin story was bludgeoned to death by nearly two months before charges were filed. In addition, the Demar Dorsey story was smeared all over the sports section of the freep, when supposedly sealed juvinile records were involved.

When one adds into the equation the amount of man-hours and print that put into the "expose" of twenty minutes of "extra" stretching by the Michigan program, and the constant framing of anything negative that happens at Michigan as "proof" that "Rich Rodriguez runs a dirty program," or "the University of Michigan has a 'win at all costs' mentality," it is difficult not to draw conclusions as to the motivation of the major media outlets in Michigan.

What it comes down to is that the coverage of the major media, but especially, is driven by a pro-MSU, anti-UM agenda. This would be OK if the media were calling themselves "entertainment," but they are not. They are portraying themselves as "objective" news sources.

Wrapping it up...

It is time for the media in the state of Michigan to cover the story of the Michigan State University basketball players' alleged sexual assault with the vigor and enthusiasm with which they cover negative stories concerning the University of Michigan. Right now, a very good case could be made that the instate media care more about smearing the University of Michigan football coach and his program than they do about the rights of a young sexual assault victim to justice.

The media should be asking why there is no justice for this young woman. They should be asking why MSU basketball players are not being charged in this case even as experts in the field say that the police report in question is some of the most valid evidence for sexual assault that they have seen.

Ultimately, the media should be asking themselves if their covert agenda to act as shills for Michigan State University while attacking the University of Michigan is worth denying justice to a young victim of a sexual assault. Maybe they should all ask themselves one question:

If this happened to your daughter, sister, or anyone else you were close to, would you want this story covered up? Or would you want it to see the light of day so that a young victim could have justice?

The truth, as it was once said, is self-evident.

I would like to thank WTKA, Sam Webb, and Ira Weintraub for their coverage of this issue on Michigan Insider this morning. A few of my opinions strongly echo those of Webb. Though I didn't "borrow" any material from him, I felt that he should be acknowledged for his efforts to bring this story into the "light of day." A podcast is available at

Two Michigan State University basketball players accused of sexual assault....

...and nobody cares.

We all know many of the details already. According to the police report, on the night of August 29 and early hours of August 30 after an orientation meeting, two unnamed MSU basketball players brought a young woman up to their room. After turning a miniature basketball hoop into a vehicle for "strip poker," the players intentionally missed shots as an excuse to remove all of their clothes.

The victim said they then blocked her from leaving and, according to the Michigan Messenger, "penetrated her in various positions." To make a long story short, when she finally began to protest, one player stopped and one continued. The player who stopped later corraborated her story to the police.

So, in this day and age, when sexual assault is now taken very seriously, and "boys will be boys" is no longer a valid defense, one would think that the combination of the victim's statement and the corraborating statement from one of the players would be a "slam dunk" to prosecute. Inexplicibly, the prosecutor decided not to file charges. Here was his excuse, according to a phone interview with the Michigan Messenger:

"After reviewing everything with the young lady, this was a mutual decision," Dunnings said in a phone interview Monday. "She [the victim] fully understood and agreed, is what Ms. Bouck [Ingham County Prosecutor assigned to review sex crimes] related to me."

Since then, the victim has come forward and told Michigan Messenger the following"

"I worry about what would happen if it didn’t go through and having to deal with all the publicity and everything that goes with pursuing charges," she said. "But also I am angry. It’s just that everybody looks at them as heroes and they’re so excited for basketball season that [the players] get off without anybody caring. They haven’t even been punished."

This raises myraid questions. Among them:

1. What did the prosecutor mean by "mutual decision?"

2. Is the prosecutor a basketball fan?

3. Is there a different standard of "justice" for MSU basketball players than there is for other citizens of East Lansing?

4. Why have the major media outlets been so slow to pick up on this story, especially and

5. If the players involved were from the University of Michigan football team, would the coverage be different, especially in and

I will give my opinions on these questions in my next post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Week four thoughts...

1. Ho-hum: another 189 yards of total offense in less than a quarter for Denard Robinson...

Denard was at it again on Saturday, showing what the spread option can do against a weak defense when running at optimum speed. We all know that he went out with a minor and temporary knee injury, but that he will be ready for Indiana. Denard is rapidly becoming the prototypical Spread Option Quarterback. Taylor Martinez of Nebraska is also becoming a force and Trey Burton of Florida may follow in his footsteps soon.

2. Tate is still Great...

Tate Forcier showed that rumors of his demise are somewhat premature. His 12-for-12 performance said a lot about how he has responded to his benching. If MSU and OSU fans get their way, and Denard is indisposed for a few games, Forcier showed that he is more than capable of leading the Michigan offense and has, to all appearances, taken the number two slot on the depth chart back from Devin Gardner.

Forcier can't run as fast as Denard, but he is a very good distributor, and can run just fast enough to "move the sticks" if needed. It is easy to forget how good Forcier was before his myriad injuries last season; the BGSU game was a reminder that he can still play on an elite level. And rememer, he is only a sophomore.

3. Potential...

Devin Gardner showed that he isn't quite as good as the other two QB's yet, but that he does indeed have a very high upside. As the game "slows down" for DG, he will get better. He isn't as quick as Denard, but does appear to have pretty good "top end" speed once he gets going. DG will get a lot better as he gets to know the offense better and makes decisions sooner. He will realize that he doesn't have enough speed to run laterally, but has plenty to run "downhill," and will make the adjustments with experience.

His height helps him see over the line better, and he does have very nice touch on his passes. Potentially, he is the most gifted passer on the team. It should take a year or two for that potential to emerge, though.

4. Let's whine about the defense...

Instead of celebrating a blowout win in which Michigan was able to give their "depth players" invaluable experinece, and were still able to score pretty much at will, the Chicken Little segment of the Michigan fanbase chose instead to bemoan the "deficiencies" of the defense.

Really, though, except for a couple of bad plays, Michigan's defense was servicable against BGSU. And a servicable defense, combined with a state of the art offense, will be enough to win the number of games to which Michigan fans are accustomed. They only gave up 21 points. Many will say that this was to a MAC school, but it's not like they had to win in a shootout.

As I have posted before, the offenses have the advantage in this era of college football. Everyone struggles on defense except maybe five teams. Nobody is really stopping the spread at this point, and Michigan's version appears to be nearly unstoppable with Robinson at the helm.

This defense has a lot of young players, and will consequently have a faster learning/improvement curve than an older defense would. They are big enough up front that they no longer get pushed around, and the mistakes being made by the younger secondary are errors of commission, not omission.

Iowa could be a pretty bad "learning experince" game, as could PSU, but by the time Michigan plays Wiscy and OSU, the players will have had ten games of major college experience. I think we will see a much-improved team the last two games of the year.

5. Ryan Mallett loses his poise...

Ryan Mallett had it all in his hands: a chance to beat defending National Champion Alabama on national TV and thus increase his leverage in the Heisman Trophy race. So, what did he do? He whined and cried like a baby the first time he got hit in the mouth and every time thereafter.

As he showed at Michigan, Ryan Mallett is the bully who is full of confidence and poise until someone stands up to him and hits him back. Mallett looked great until Alabama started hitting him, and he started complaining to the refs after every hit. Soon, he was so busy complaining to refs and thinking about getting hit that he threw two fourth quarter interceptions.

Ryan Mallett didn't leave Michigan because he didn't fit into the offense. Ryan Mallet left Michigan because he didn't fit into the RR/Barwis mold of player. RR and Barwis want a team-first attitude and stress responsibility for one's own actions. They want players who have poise in the fouth quarter. They want players who "tune out" all of the outside influences that keep a team from winning.

Comparing Mallett's fourth quarter performance to that of Denard Robinson against Notre Dame, it is obvoius that Mallett was right: he didn't fit in. But not for the reasons he thinks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why are we so sad about another victory?

Michigan pulled out a potentially-damaging game against UConn yesterday. They overcame three potential negative "game-changing moments" in the last few minutes and did what many teams might not have done in that situation: they won.

Michigan endured a pass completion off a deflection in which the UMass reciever was out of bounds and made it back in on a play that was so close that there was no conclusive evidence from the replay. They endured a dropped interception that ended up gaining yards for UConn. They endured a blocked punt. And they still won.

Still, the "Chicken Little" segment of the Michigan fanbase is back, and all too ready to tell everyone how this team is going to collapse, how it was overrated, and how it won't stop anyone in Big Ten play. Last week, the defense gave up too many big plays, so GERG reacted by "playing safe." This week, they gave up a lot of yards but no big plays. The obvious next adjustment is to find a "happy medium."

Besides, most people miss the obvious here: without two of the "game-changer" moments, the defense played more than well enough to win this game. As it is, they still won. Sometimes, though, you just have to give credit to the opponent. UMass came in with a great game plan and worked extremely hard. They played the game of their lives and came up just short. Instead of congratulating them on a job well done and giving them credit, though, too many in the Michigan fanbase would rather focus on Michigan's shortcomings than give UMass any credit at all.

Anyway, I think Michigan is still in good shape. The whiners, naysayers, and those who embody Sparty's use of the phrase "Walmart Wolverines" can complain all they want, but this team is still going to be playing on January 1.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What if The Denard Experiment is a success?

Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility of Rich Rodriguez pioneering yet another trend in college football: a small, hypermobile quarterback named Denard Robinson. I am calling this, for the time being, "The Denard Experiment." Today, I want to look at what the future might hold if Denard were to have Tim Tebow-ian success.

First of all, RR's influence on the Big Ten has already made it a faster conference. The days of slow, bulky Big Ten teams piling on the lard for "leverage when the weather turns cold" are pretty much over, unless Michigan State and Wisconsin count. Northwestern was the first Big Ten team to use RR's spread option offense. It was their 54-51 victory over Michigan in 2000 that made the mainstream football world pay attention to the offense.

Ironically, Northwestern head coach, the late Randy Walker, learned the offense from Rich Rodriguez, who would be coaching the team he beat eight years later. Northwestern was able to have a better record than it "should have" with its personnel using this offense. Still, nobody really paid a lot of attention to it until Urban Meyer won a couple of National Championships with it at Florida.

When Appalachin State and Oregon used the spread to embarass Michigan in 2007, Michigan finally decided to go outside the old, incestuous coaching tree and get some new ideas. The newest and most modern idea was still the spread option. Who better to coach it than the man who invented it: Rich Rodriguez?

Jump ahead to 2010. Michigan has finally gotten past its struggles, and is being led by a quarterback who is under six feet tall, doesn't weigh 200 pounds, and can run a legitimate 4.3 forty. Denard Robinson has put up insane numbers running the offense, and is already being mentioned as a serious Heisman Candidate. Regression fallacy projections based on his numbers for two games work out to 2730 yards rushing and 2580 passing for a total offense of 5210 yards and 30 touchdowns.

Obviously, Denard can't keep putting up numbers like this all season, but what if he comes close? What if Denard becomes the best player in football for the next three years, and brings home one or two National Championships to the Maize and Blue? I could see the following effects on the game and on Michigan:

1. Denard Robinson might become the prototypical spread option quarterback. No more statues, no more tall guys, no more "sneaky fast" guys: just burners who can stop on a dime and hide behind the linemen when they have to.

2. Michigan, by virtue of the success of TDE, might become THE school for spread option quarterbacks.

3. The requirements for a passer may change. Because a fast quarterback running the spread option creates a lot of space and mismatches, it won't be as important for a QB to be a complete passer. All he will have to do is be able to run really fast, manage the offense, and hit high-percentage passes when his recievers are open, which will be often.

4. The NCAA may no longer be a "farm system" for NFL QB's. This could cause:

5. And NFL development league. Not a crappy imitation like Arena Football or a joke like the UFL, or whatever it is now called, but a real developmental or "minor" league where players who want to get to "the show" can develop their talents in a pro-style offense. Or:

6. The NFL could actually start using the spread option, or at least a lot of shotgun and spread formations. The NFL likes to think it rules the sporting universe, but college football has its way with the NFL. College football can support a lot more teams than professional football can, because the game is a lot more fun. One of the reasons it is so fun is that everybody doesn't use the same offense.

7. A college football playoff system. I'm only kidding on this last one. The only two things that will cause a D-1 playoff are money or government "interference."

Anyway, the football world is watching TDE with great interest. Denard is talented, humble, and charismatic. If he continues to perform on an elite level and continues to exemplify ideals such as teamwork, commitment, and humility, he could be the new "face of the spread option." And he could be the new prototypical spread option quarterback.

I would like that a lot.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rich Rodriguez: Twice a Pioneer?

It is well-documented that Rich Rodriguez is the pioneer, or "Godfather," of the spread option. The last two weeks, it appears as if he is pioneering "Spread Option v.2:" this time with an elite athlete behind center.

For years, conventional "wisdom" has held that quarterbacks have to be big. Big enough to stand in the pocket and see passing lanes. Big enough to absorb punishment. Even in college football, at least on an elite level, quarterbacks under 6-2 have been the exception and not the rule, and the preference has been at least 6-4, with 6-5 or 6-6 being "ideal." It's almost as though there has been a de facto "rule" against using a QB under six feet tall since the demise of the triple option attack.

Quarterbacks have been used to distribute the ball, whether through the air, or by simply handing it to a running back, but they have not been encouraged to run the ball for fear of injury. This has made it easier for defenses because the QB is no longer a threat to run, so they don't really have to account for him. This has given defenses a numerical advantage over offenses.

When Rich Rodriguez invented the spread option, he basically combined the old triple option offense with the run and shoot. For fans, such as myself, who used to wonder what would happen if option QB's actually passed once in awhile, it has been very refreshing. For those who remember how much space the run and shoot gave Barry Sanders, it has also been great to watch.

RR's use of Pat White was an eye-opener. He didn't have the best arm when he started, but developed into a servicable passer by his junior year. As his recent failure to crack an NFL rotation showed, White doesn't have an NFL arm and his athleticism isn't considered to be so elite as to force them to give him an opportunity at another position, but he was able to pass for 6,051 yards and 56 touchdowns in four seasons while rushing for 4,480 yards and 47 touchdowns. This works out to 10,531 yards of total offense and 103 touchdowns in four years.

White was very close to what RR has today; he is a close-to-elite athlete with a decent arm and above-average speed. White, even though he was seen by most schools primarily as a safety, could be better described as a bridge between a conventional QB and what RR has now at Michigan. Enter Denard Robinson.

Denard has world class speed, and is a truly elite athlete. He was recruited by most schools as a CB or reciever, but was promised by RR a chance to compete at QB. Denard is generously listed as six feet tall, and doesn't fit into what scouts or coaches usually seek as "prototypical QB's," but was given the opportunity promised by RR: he was allowed to compete for the QB position.

As we have all seen the first two games, Denard has been successful. He has rushed for 455 yards and passed for 430 for 885 yards of total offense against two D-1 opponents projected to play in bowls this season. He has rushed for three TD's, including one for 87 yards against Notre Dame, and passed for two.

I know that projections based on a sample like this one are regression fallacies, but I will do it anyway for the fun of it. If Denard were to somehow sustain this level of performance, it would work out to 2,730 yards rushing with 18 touchdowns, and 2,580 yards passing with 12 touchdowns, for a total offense of 5,210 yards and 30 touchdowns. The most amazing feature of Denard's stats so far is that he has gotten all of them within the flow of RR's offense. There hasn't been any "gimmickry" such as Tim Tebow's status as main option in the goal line offense.

I'm not in any way predicting that Denard will actually amass these kind of statistics over twelve games, but I am pretty sure that he will look quite good by the end of the season. Most of all, the team will look a lot better at the end of the season than it has the last three.

Denard has earned all of this with his own work ethic, talent, speed, ability to grasp the offense, ability to manage a game, and ability to put it all together on gameday, but it was RR who gave him a chance when no other elite team would. RR has challanged a lot of "conventional wisdom with Denard." If RR were part of the herd instead of a pioneer, he may have listened to "pearls of wisdom" such as these:

A player as fast as Denard should be a CB, RB, or reciever.
A QB under six feet won't get the job done.
QB's are fragile, and should carry the ball as seldom as possible to prevent injuries.

Instead, RR has given Denard the "green light" to make his own decisions once the play has started. So far, the results are staggering. This version of the spread option may be RR's most successful version yet.

What are possible future implications if what could be known in retrospect as "The Denard Experiment" yields a National Championship and a Heisman? I will cover that tomorrow.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Questions for a hot August Day

The Big Ten isn't stupid enough to mess with the Michigan/OSU rivalry, are they?

Sadly, the Big Ten is more than stupid enough to move the Michigan/Ohio State game. They are going to ruin a rivalry that has been played on the last day of the regular season since 1935, all for a chance at the teams playing a rematch for the conference championship at the end of the season. Even though this would only happen about once every six years, and even though the Miami/FSU rivalry has been a quaint curio for most of the football world since a similar strategy was employed by the ACC, the Big Ten sees dollar signs and can't resist making their championship game a contrived "mega-event."

Apparently, Jim Delaney has convinced the presidents of the teams in his league that the game isn't good enough to stand on its own without selling out the flagship rivalry of the conference. The AD's from both Michigan and Ohio State are saying that they are in favor of being in different rivalries, but I am beginning to wonder if they really are.

When first hearing this news and hearing David Brandon speak, I was quite upset. I have gone so far as to wish that Bo could visit Brandon from the grave and set him straight. And, make no mistake, Bo Schembechler would not be in favor of such an obvious lack of respect for the rivalry that, though he didn't create it, he helped to its current relevance. After some serious thought, though, I am beginning to think that neither AD is in favor of this terrible arrangement, but both are being good "company men" and "falling on their swords" for their bosses.

Both AD's have to realize that putting their schools in different divisions and playing the game as a "protected rivlary" will make both of their schedules the toughest ones in the conference, because they will have to play each other as a cross-division game every year. While others in their divisions are playing easier games against lesser teams, they will be playing each other.

No matter how much money the commissioner and presidents of the schools think they can make by dancing on the graves of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, Michigan and Ohio State need to be in the same division. And the greatest rivalry game in all of sports needs to be played as the last game of the season, just like it always has.

How soon do we get to see the "old" Tiger?

Now that the inevitable divorce is final, Tiger Woods will probably go back to dominating the tour again. Tiger has long lived by the rule, "never let them see you sweat." He has never admitted any frailty or flaws: until now. Lately, Tiger has opened up to fellow players and the media, and has admitted that the drama in his private life has taken a toll on his game.

Well, the major source of drama in the life of Tiger Woods is now history. And Tiger will soon be back to his "old self." Between having been a bartender and musician, and now being in the health industry, I have been around a lot of people who have gone to various twelve-step programs. The program changes many for the better. In the case of those whose performance requires a certain amount of obsession to maintain, though, therapy can sometimes "cure" the very thing that made them great in the first place.

I think this is part of what has happened to Tiger Woods. The "kinder, gentler Tiger" may be a better human being, but he isn't as good of a golfer as he was. Basically, for the last nine months, Tiger has been trying to be someone he isn't. Predictably, his game has suffered.

As callous as it may sound, Tiger Woods needs to forget a lot of what he "learned" in therapy and be himself. Besides, now that Tiger is not married, he can revert to his old, womanizing lifestyle, and it will be "OK" because he won't be committing adultery anymore. Tiger may even become a counter-cultural "folk hero" of sorts, in the way that Wilt Chamberlain was in the latter part of his life.

Womanizing has been a part of the tour since it began. Without mentioning any names, I can safely say that one of golf's most beloved figures of the "golden age" pretty much did exactly what Tiger did when he was young. Luckily for him, the private lives of athletes weren't considered "news," and the media often "looked the other way," thus keeping his "beloved icon" status intact.

Has anyone noticed the curious silence about Tiger's "lifestyle choices?" The reason other players on the tour aren't speaking up is that many of them are doing the same thing. Tiger may have made some curious decisions as to his choice of partners, but many think that the only "groupies" hotter than those who follow the PGA Tour are those who follow Formula One. And Tiger Woods definitely is not the only one doing what he did. It is common knowledge among insiders that one of the PGA's most revered "family man" types has a "scoreboard" that may rival Tiger, even if he can't beat him on the course.

Anyway, back to the question: I think we saw traces of the "old Tiger" today, when he shot 65 at Barclay's. I'm not counting him out of winning the Tour Championship this season, and I'm not counting him out of the Ryder Cup just yet, either. At any rate, the "Anti-Year of the Tiger" is very close to being finished, and I look forward to seeing him win two majors next season.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's time to end NCAA "Shamateurism"

I have been on record for years as wanting the NCAA to put an end to "shamateurism" and allow players to have a piece of the rather large pie their work creates. Arguments such as "the scholarship is enough" or "it will no longer be all about the students" are well-intended, but I don't agree with them.

First of all, while the opportunity to earn a degree at a major university is very good compensation for playing sports, the kids at least need to have a little bit of spending money. Enough to bring their parents in for a game or two would be nice, as would enough to go out once in awhile, or to even buy snacks for in between meals.

When compared to the millions of dollars that football and basketball bring in, the schollies aren't all that much. Remember that a kid spends 20 hours a week on his sport in season, plus studying and attending classes. And that kid's 20 hours a week is a lot more demanding than someone who is working 20 hours at Subway for a few extra bucks. Players deserve to be able to live a somewhat "normal" life when they aren't playing. They aren't allowed to hold a part-time job during the season, so they need to get money from somewhere.

The main drawback to paying players in revenue sports is Title IX. I'm not an expert on Title IX, but my understanding is that if they paid 85 male football players and 12 male basketball players, they would have to find a way to pay 97 female athletes who bring no revenue into the school to make things "equal" for the female, non-revenue producing athletes.

Also, paying players would turn the athletes into "employees" of their institutions, opening a Pandora's Box that nobody wants to open. So, players being paid by the schools would be too problematic, but the money doesn't have to come from the school. This brings me to my solution for giving players their "slice of the pie:"

Throw out 99 percent of the NCAA rulebook and let players take outside income from whoever they want.

This is so "full of win" for everyone involved that I can't believe it isn't being done already. The schools would win becuase they wouldn't have to worry about NCAA sanctions anymore, and because they would save money on not having an unwieldly compliance department. The players would win because they could finally have some of the money they deserve. The boosters would win because they could brag to their friends about how they pay the players. The NCAA office would win because a huge pain would suddenly disappear from their collective gluteal area.

Really, the only people who would lose here would be the myriad "compliance staffers" whose middle management jobs would no longer be neccessary. And most of them would be able to eventually find administrative jobs within athletic departments again if they really wanted to.

What would be great about this for all concerned is that the free market would determine who gets paid and how much. The schools wouldn't be responsible for paying the players, so there would be no employer/employee relationship, and no Title IX consequences.

There are those who would argue that teams would be able to "buy" players and that the rich would get richer. To them, I would only say one thing: open your eyes. The rich are already "richer" and the bigger programs already get the better players. If anything, this would allow smaller schools with rich alums, such as SMU, to become major players again without fear of NCAA penalties. For those who say it "wouldn't be about the students anymore," it really never has been "about the students," so the point would be moot.

As for the NCAA rulebook, it really only needs about one page. Wouldn't that be nice?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Dominos" fall at Michigan

Maybe those who feel that Rich Rodriguez's "last year" at the University of Michigan is already etched in stone are being a bit hasty. Apparently, David Brandon is cleaning house of those who, by accident or on purpose, have sabotaged RR's tenure at Michigan.

The first "Domino:" Lloyd Carr. While I respect Carr for his accomplishments at Michigan and will forever be indebted to him as a fan for the National Championship that he delivered, I still think that Carr has been active behind the scenes and has played a major part in the dissension within the University of Michigan Athletic Department.

When Bo took over for Bump Eliott, under similar circumstances as RR taking over for Carr, Bump was sure to let anyone who complained about Bo's housecleaning that "Bo is the coach now" and encouraged them to support him 100 percent. Bump basically didn't tolerate anything that undermined Bo's position, even though he had been encouraged to "retire" and Bo was his replacement.

Fast forward to 2007. Carr was "encouraged to retire" and replaced by RR. RR immediately did exactly what Bo did: he turned the atmosphere around the football team from "Barton Hills Country Club South" to "Fort RR." Sadly, though, Carr never really showed support for RR, preferring to say he "doesn't want to get involved."

However, "someone" in the Athletic Department leaked info to Freep columnist Micheal Rosenberg, resulting in an embarassing wrist-slap for the team and compromising RR's tenure as coach. Am I saying that Carr was the leak? No. But I'm not saying that he wasn't, either. What is obvious to me, though, is that Carr has never supported RR like Bo would have if he were still alive.

The second "Domino:" Brad Labadie. As any UM fan knows, it was Labadie's negligence, along with that of Scott Draper, that is directly responsible for most of the confusion over CARA and countable practice hours. In other words, if Labadie and Draper had done their jobs correctly, there would have been nothing to "leak" to the Freep.

Were Labadie and Draper part of a conspiracy to undermine RR's tenure at UM? Was Carr involved? I don't really know, but I definitely subscribe to the opinion that there is a faction in the Athletic Department that is working against the interests of the head football coach and therefore the program.

This has been covered in a "nuts and bolts" fashion by Brian at mgoblog:

And in a more conspiratorial fashion by "The Other Brian" at Genuinely Sarcastic:

I think the "retirements" of both Carr and Labadie were the direct result of pressure from David Brandon to not allow their personal hatred of RR to keep them from working fully in the interests of the program. Brandon's time as Domino's CEO, along with his time playing for Bo, have made him more than capable of managing shark-infested, corporate waters, and was perfect training for handling petty power struggles from underlings in the Athletic Department.

I think that Scott Draper may be the next "Domino" to fall; I also think that RR is going to be given the benefit of an Athletic Department that is all on the same page and is working with the best interests of the football program in mind.

Rodriguez deserves a chance to succeed or fail without being undermined by those who are supposed to help him accomplish his goals. Thankfully, it looks like he is finally going to get it, at least for one season. Hopefully, one season will be enough to show what he is capable of doing.

Tinfoil hat rating: five out of five. There is definitely something going on here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The "solution" to the "Korean Invasion?"

In the past, I have stated my opinion that the biggest hurdle facing the LPGA tour is the "Korean Invasion." Basically, the health of any tour in any country is usually dependent upon people from the host country winning "their share" of tournaments or games, whichever applies. In this case, the LPGA Tour is no different. Americans aren't winning enough and the leaderboards are dominated on a regular basis by Korean players.

To me, it all comes down to this: if the LPGA Tour is to even get back to being healthy and relevant in America, Americans are going to have to start winning on a regular basis again. In Men's golf, Tiger Woods has bailed the PGA tour out from the inability of US players to dominate their own tour. It is my belief that one of the main reasons Tiger Woods, even with his problems, still increases the US television ratings so much is because he is a US player. Sadly, though, the LPGA tour doesn't have anyone close to dominating as Tiger did.

Basically, the LPGA tour needs US women to win more, whether it is from one dominant player, such as Michelle Wie, or more likely Lexi Thompson in a few years, from improvement of multiple players, or from an influx of talented young players.

I have stated previously that I think the Korean golfers are outworking the US golfers, and it would be easy to stereotype American golfers as spoiled brats who would rather go to the mall than the practice range. This may be partially true, becuase economics currently seem to determine which juniors have more access to teaching, playing, and practice time. Rather than make a blanket indictment of American golfers, though, I would ask a question:

For every player like Paula Creamer, whose parents made a lot of sacrifices so that she could become the golfer she currently is, how many talented kids are there whose parents having no time or money left to sacrifice because they are too busy putting food on their table and a roof over their heads?

To me, the only way for the US to once again dominate its own tours, both male and female, is for a major overhaul of what currently serves as a "development program." At this point, the financial costs of developing a golfer are so steep that they automatically disqualify a large percentage of the population. Worse yet, that portion of the population is probably that which would be the most motivated to put in the work neccessary to become an elite player: those who would see golf as a way to break free of economic hardship. Tiger Woods is doing great work with his foundation, but it isn't enough.

I would propose that the USGA, PGA, and LPGA need to work together and make the identification and development of elite junior players its number one proirity for the health of the game in this country. I know that there are many programs out there, but there has to be a way to provide equipment, practice, and coaching for those who possess the potential to be the best of the best but lack the financial means to fulfill that potential.

Maybe, since those with country club memberships already have the means, it could be done in cooperation with the Public Links Golf Association, but something has to be done to give those who would outwork their competition if given the chance a chance to do just that.

There are a lot of very intelligent and capable people in golf who could make this happen. Sadly, though, it doesn't appear to be a priority. Instead, many would rather sit on their hands and do nothing but complain about the Koreans. Once again, we are all built from the same cloth. If people from one country can do it, people from any country can do it by using the same methodology. All it takes is resources, direction, and motivation. The US has the resources to help develop a greater number of talented and motivated players. The question is whether or not the US has the motivation to provide the direction.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What does Paula Creamer's victory mean? Not as much as I would like it to.

Yesterday, Paula Creamer finally transcended her status as one of the "best players to never win a major" by winning the US Open. If the TV commentators were correct, US players have now won ten of the last 41 majors, which comes out to a "batting average" of .244. Creamer's victory is seen by many as a Godsend for the tour right now, but the tour is still struggling. Until more US players can step up, the LPGA Tour will continue to struggle.

To be blunt, the LPGA's number one problem is the "Korean invasion." This is, after all, the US tour, and it is bad for the game in this country when US players can't win at least fifty percent of the events on their own tour. Ironically enough, two of the most charismatic US players who could become among the most iconic on the tour with a few wins have Asian blood: Michelle Wie and Christina Kim. So, it's not a matter of race, but a matter of players who speak English playing under the US flag.

Fair or not, as long as the leaderboard is dominated by people from another country, who don't speak the language and don't really try to promote the tour here, the LPGA will continue to struggle. Thanks to the old adage "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I think the tour trying to schedule some Asian dates is a great idea. It can help the tour stay solvent awhile longer.

On a side note, when I put on my tinfoil hat, I can't help but wonder if there is a connection between the negotiations for Asian dates for the LPGA tour next season, the dearth of Asian names on the leaderboard after the third round, the softening/shortening of the course for Sunday's final round, and the subsequent subpar rounds on Sunday by a few Korean players. It may be coincidence, but I will give it three tinfoil hats out of five on my unofficial rating scale.

When the tinfoil hat comes back off, though, it seems to come down to an obvious but apparently taboo observation: the American LPGA players need to work as hard as Korean players do. Because, once you get around the cosmetic factors of a different language and a different facial structure, race doesn't matter, nor has it ever mattered. We're all equal on the inside and always have been.

The only difference between successful players and those who don't succeed is the amount of work they do on a daily basis. Koreans, as a culture, have apparently tapped into something Americans used to think they had copyrighted: work hard and succeed in the "Land of Opportunity." Sadly, Americans seem to take their "opportunity" for granted now, settling for a comfortable lifestyle, while those from other countries still percieve the US as the "Land of Opportunity."

Too many golfers nowadays remind me of a very famous golfer on the men's tour whose name I won't mention. He has won quite a few tournaments, a major or two, and had a couple of very good years. But he is seen as never having reached his potential. Those who know him from his hometown say that he prefers to practice one or two hours a day and make a very nice chunk of change on the tour. He is capable of winning majors and being in the top two or three in the world if he practices eight hours a day, but he would rather "have a life." In other words, he doesn't want to pay the price for the increment of improvement it takes to win majors and dominate the tour when he can make a great living having fun.

Sadly for the LPGA tour, it looks as though players in one country want to pay that price and players in most others don't. Until US players, starting on the junior level, work as hard as Korean players do, the leaderboards will continue to read like a Korean telephone book, with a few Japanese, European, and American names sprinkled in from time to time.

Sadly, though, for every Paula Creamer, Christie Kerr, or players with their work ethic, there are ten Americans out there who are failing to reach their full potential as players because they are being outworked. I guess it all comes down to this: Americans can bitch about the "Korean Invasion" all they want, but it is ultimately their fault for allowing themselves to be outworked.

In my next post, I will propose a solution for the US to help "us" get back on top.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bob Probert- did this have to happen?

Sadly, we are finding out that the rumor is true: Bob Probert is dead at 45. As a hockey fan, I always appreciated his rough-and-tumble playing style. He asked no quarter, gave no quarter, and always left it all on the ice. As an "enforcer," his job was to deliver hard checks and fight the opponent's "enforcer" on a regular basis. Red Wings fans cheered him on; in spite of his well-documented personal problems, he was still one of the most beloved players to ever don the Winged Wheel. His early death, though, begs a question:

Was Probert a victim of his own playing style and the expectations it brought?

Enforcers fight and deliver crushing body checks; it's what they are expected to do every time they go onto the ice. They are involved in many high-impact collisions every time they play a game. When one considers an average close to a hundred games a year counting playoffs over a period of ten or fifteen years, that is a lot of collisions and a lot of impact. It isn't much of a stretch that it would involve a lot of concussions. According to a CNN article from Jaunary 27, 2009:

"Far from innocuous, invisible injuries, concussions confer tremendous brain damage. That damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)."

CTE is routinely found in ex-NFL players, and the beginnings of it were even found in the brain of an 18-year-old who had suffered multiple concussions.

Chris Nowinski, an ex-WWE wrestler and founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, which researches head injuries, had to retire from one concussion after a kick to his chin connected with more force than intended or scripted. According to Nowinski:
"My world changed," said Nowinski. "I had depression. I had memory problems. My head hurt for five years."

On January 21, 2008, Science Daily stated:

"Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute of McGill University have identified the neurological basis of depression in male athletes with persisting post-concussion symptoms."

In the case of Probert or any athlete, I believe that drug and/or alcohol abuse can result from "self-medication" of depression symptoms. While I am unable to find a study showing a causal relationship between depression and drug abuse, they have been found to occur together too many times for it to be mere coincidence.

Depression is often treated by SSRI's, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Those with clinical depression have been found to have low serotonin levels, and the drugs keep the body from breaking down its own serotonin, thus increasing the serotonin level. However, there are many substances that also increase serotonin, which would be a different way of "medicating" the problem. A few of those substances are alcohol, cocaine, and ecstasy. Marijuana hasn't been proven to directly increase serotonin, but researchers concede that it "may" do just that.

It isn't much of a leap to see that drugs are an effective way to unconsciously treat depression, whether or not it has been diagnosed. Unfortunately, we all know of their myriad "side effects." One in particular is that when one raises one's serotonin with recreational drugs, it tends to "crash" the next day. It is easy to see how addictive patterns can be formed in short periods of time for those with chronically low serotonin levels.

Probert's problems with drugs and alcohol were well-documented and kept him from moving freely across the US-Canada border on a regular basis. Between the drugs and a typical professional athlete's lifestyle, there was probably enough to ravage his body to a point where dying young was inevitable. But I also think that the repeated blows to the head had a lot to do with his addictions, his quality of life, and his ultimate death at 45.

I know many may see Probert as a victim of his own shortcomings, but I think he was much more a victim of his sport and how he played it. No matter what a tox screen or autopsy shows, I believe that it was chronic impact, both directly and indirectly, to the head that was the root of most of his problems.

I also believe that it is time to take research even further and to explore ways to make all sports safer for their combatants. I couldn't find any stats for NHL players, but NFL players now have a life expectancy of 52 years. It is usually blamed on their BMI, but it is beginning to appear that both NFL and NHL players are at least anecdotally more prone to Alzheimer's Disease and depression than the general population.

I think a lot more research needs to be done on athletes in contact sports, depression, CTE, and its relation to drug and alcohol abuse. Athletes live in a macho world, and are probably the last people who would ever "admit" that they have clinical depression. Active players are under peer pressure to play through injuries and illness, and a condition that is often percieved as "all in the head" would be seen as unmasculine by a players peers. I would imagine that athletes and ex-athletes percieve depression as a "bad mood" that needs to be "shaken off."

The culture needs to be modified so that a player can spot early signs of depression and CTE and get the proper care early enough to have a long life and a good quality of life. Drug and alcohol abuse, instead of being seen as a "lack of maturity" or a "lack of discipline," needs to be investigated as a possible early symptom of CTE and depression.

Nobody has any idea what an autopsy of Bob Probert will find, but I can't help but think that unless more research is done regarding athletes and chronic head trauma, his death will have been in vain no matter what the autopsy shows.

For those who want research, here are a couple of links to articles with more links:

And a link to the Sports Legacy institute:

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Modest Proposal

It' s really too bad for fans in this market, but Detroit is the last place most FA's would want to play in any sport but hockey. Maybe the people who want to obliterate part of the city have the right idea, after all.

I have a "modest proposal:"

Why don't they raze a sizeable percentage of Detroit, put a moat around it, and turn it into a zone for privileged athletes and others who are obscenely rich?" Athletes playing for Detroit's sports team could have their own private fiefdom, administrated as a de facto oligarchy, and Detroit may even become a "destination" for FA's. They could even have a groupie farm where only the genetically superior are allowed to procreate, and there could be a "downtown" similar to the Disney town of "Celebration," but only the "creme de la creme" would be allowed to enter.

That way, players wouldn't have to have untidy encounters with the people who ulitimately pay their wages: the fans, and they could further insulate themselves from reality. There could even be a strip club for "VIP's only," so that the Ben Rothlesbergers, Ray Lewises, and Vince Youngs of the world wouldn't have to be exposed to the "little people."

That way, everybody wins. Detroit gets elite FA's, and the FA's don't have to sully themselves by having encounters with the "common man."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tiger on the prowl again soon?

Finally, one of the most inevitable "events" in golf is going to happen soon: Tiger Woods' divorce. I am squarely in the camp of those who think his personal life is his own business, but I think this will have a great effect on Tiger professionally. The rumored financial settlement is about fifty percent more than I thought it would be, but it will be seen as a bargain ten years from now.

Tiger was an idiot for ever admitting his infidelity in the media. My immediate reaction to his announcement was that it would cost him at least $500 million because he had just made Elin's case a slam-dunk. Also, going into therapy to try and save a marriage that was already irreconcilibly broken was a terrible decision. His honesty is admirable, but it cost him a lot of money. I wonder if any of his critics would tell the truth if it stood to cost them a few hundred million dollars.

The main problem that I see with Tiger going into therapy is that he probably "cured" some of the borderline OCD that made him the best golfer on the planet in the first place. Nobody can be as driven as Tiger was without having what many would see as obsession bordering on disorder. Apparently, Tiger was sincere and thought he could actually save his marriage, and bought into the diagnosis of "sex addiction" that many thought appropriate for him.

So, Tiger did his twelve steps, many of which were on display in his interviews after he got out of therapy, and probably made himself a better human being. Unfortunately, it affected his ability to compete on the golf course and be the best golfer of all time. It is nice to see a "kinder, gentler Tiger" making a genuine effort to be a better person, but he is probably doing it at the expense of his game.

In golf, as in most sports, fans, writers, and participants use cliches such as "go for the jugular," "killer instinct," or "cutthroat." These are only metaphors, but they are indicitive of an attitude that is neccessary to win on an elite level. Elite athletes need to disassociate themselves from their true personas while in the arena of competition. It is not an accident that the cliche "nice guys finish last" has lasted so long. Luckily for Tiger, he didn't do rehab for himself; he did it because he thought he had a chance to save his marriage. Why do I see this as "lucky?" Because as soon as the ink is dry on the divorce settlement, the old Tiger will be back.

Soon, Tiger will be living his life for himself again. Some may see it as selfish, but the magnificent obsession that gave him a chance to compete for the label of "greatest golfer ever" will be back, without interference from Elin or any of the myriad doctors and psychologists who have tried to "fix" a person who wasn't broken in the first place. While I don't agree with what Tiger did, I'm not ready to put him in stocks and flog him for it, either. Tiger has a lot of fame, a lot of money, likes to get laid, and can pretty much have almost anyone he wants. I don't think most of his aforementioned critics could resist the temptation to take advantage of the situation like Tiger did.

Another facet of Tiger that has, so far, mostly been "covered" by comedians, is that when he becomes single, his lifestyle choices will make him a hero to many. It is no accident that on Bleacher Report, an article about the "20 hottest mistresses in sports" literally had a thousand times more readers than most sports articles.

Tiger Woods is poised to become what those who run the PGA tour secretly want but would never admit in a thousand years: a champion golfer with "street cred." To most men, other men who get laid whenever they want by beautiful women are viewed through a lens of admiration. If Tiger runs through a prolific string of photogenic "encounters," a majority of the male population will idolize him, at least while talking candidly to other men." And they will definitely buy whatever he is selling, from golf clubs to clothes to after shave, or even condoms if he were ever to show a truly absurd sense of humor.

Most importantly, though, Tiger will be free to be himself again. And a Tiger who is being himself will dominate the tour as much as he ever did. If Tiger's therapy and all of the fallout from his indiscretions changed him at all, it is because it made him want to, as the great Walter Hagen used to say, "stop and smell the roses." This will result in Tiger having more friends off the course, but allow him to keep his "killer instinct" on it.

That is the best of both worlds. And it will show on the leaderboard. Make no mistake about it: Tiger will be back soon. And he will be a hundred percent in control of his life, both personally and professionally. I am willing to bet that the public forgives him a lot quicker than they forgave Kobe.

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Cup officiating: conspiracy or deep-seated bias. Part Two

In part one, I concluded that the most likely reason for the US getting two legitimate goals disallowed in two seperate games by two seperate refs was most likely the result of two refs acting seperately out of bias against the American team. The rest of the world is passionate about soccer; the US really isn't. Most US athletes grow up wanting to play football, basketball, or baseball.

In many other countries, elite athletes think of soccer first. In the US, if an elite athlete becomes a soccer player, it is almost by accident. Other countries know this, and it seems to gall the rest of the world that the US team might finally become a legitimate contender for the championship of the one sport that is "theirs." In the US, we are somewhat insulated from other countries, but the bottom line is that most countries, even the ones we help, hate the US.

My best guess is that officials see the US as a country that plays soccer as a hobby and don't want to see the US actually become a world soccer power. So, they walk out onto the field hoping in their hearts that the US loses. It doesn't even have to be conscious, but I would imagine that most officials, if asked in a casual atmosphere with their friends what they think of the US, would both start and finish with invective.

Worse yet, IMO, are players from other countries, and this is where my penchant for curiosity kicks in. One thing about the US-Algeria game really bothered me. It was obvious that Algeria wasn't playing to win, but for a draw. If the game had finished in a draw, England and Slovenia would have made it to the second round, while the US and Algeria would have failed to advance. to me, this begs a rather obvious question: Why was Algeria content to play for a draw?

To me, it was obvious that Algeria, with nothing to play for, wanted only to spoil the US team's chances and had no intentions of playing to win. My belief, like the writers of Freakonimics, is that people usually act in their own self-interest. This brings me to another question: Why was it in Algeria's self-interest to play for a tie instead of a win?

At the absolute tinfoil hat end of the spectrum would be a conspiracy between Algeria, Slovenia, and the officials who disallowed goals from the US. Other possibilities are an agreement between Algeria and Slovenia with no involvement by officials. Or, the more superficial explaination that the players have a lot of pride and hate to lose could be accurate.

Whatever the answer, the Algerians seemed extremely angry at the end of the game. They showed a lot more passion after the game than they did during the game. And this makes me wonder why.

Am I saying that there was a conspiracy? No. But I'm not saying that there wasn't, either. When West Germany and Austria manipulated the system in their final qualifying game in 1982, it caused FIFA to institute the current format, where final games are played simultaneously. This shows that teams aren't above "working the system" by manipulating the results of games.

This time, it worked out well and the two teams that deserved to advance from the US/England/Slovenia/Algeria group did. If there was any covert agenda on the part of the Algerians, I would find it ironic. Why? Becuase the team that was victimized by the collusion between West Germany and Austria was none other than Algeria.

If I was going to guess the truth here, it would be that Algeria was doing their best to help Slovenia advance. I don't know whether there was any agreement between the teams, but it certainly seems possible. At any rate, I will never get tired of the looks on the Algerians' faces when the game was over.

Rating: 3 Tinfoil hats out of 5

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup officiating: conspiracy or deep-seated bias? Part One

Today, the US team was again victimized by yet another disallowed goal on a subjective call. The announcers mentioned them in the same breath with only three other controversies in the history of World Cup play. In other words, the announcers thought that what has happened to the US so far has only been matched or "bettered" three times in the history of World Cup play. As we know now, the US team scored in injury time to advance anyway, but was very close to being eliminated by not one but two terrible and subjective calls from officials. This begs a question: were the disallowed goals the result of incompetence, individual bias, or a coordinated effort to keep the US out of the second round?

I don't believe in coincidence. I don't believe that "bad calls" just "happen" in the way they have at the World Cup. Occasionally, bad calls happen, but when there are two potential back-breakers against a team that most people outside of the US pretty much hate, I can't chalk it up to "coincidence." I could almost understand one case of "incompetence," but two game-changing calls against the same team in crucial situations transcends mere incompetence.

The next possibility is individual bias on the part of two seperate officials. As sports fans, most of us like to buy into the illusion that refs are trying to be "fair" and "objective" at all times, and that their only agenda, collectively and individually, is to call every game down the middle and allow the team that plays the best to win. While there are probably plenty of officials in all sports who do call every play down the middle without bias, there are also plenty who don't.

Officials are human, and subject to likes, dislikes, and bias toward both teams and individuals. The best of the best transcend their biases, but many fail to do so. I won't go as far as to say they are "dishonest," but it is easy to see that one's biases and personal feelings can often "filter" their perceptions. They think they are calling games down the middle, but often shade games toward their preferences without even knowing they are doing so.

Sliding further down the scale, there are officials who consciously allow their biases to affect their calls. These officials may rationalize that the teams they cheat out of games "deserve it," but they know they are making bad calls. This is often seen in umpires who "shade" strike zones into varying sizes, depending upon who is pitching or what team they play for.

At the very worst end of the scale are officials such as disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who admitted to influencing point spreads and alleges league-wide corruption starting from the front office. I fully believe that there are officials like this in all sports, but that they are usually outliers who act on their own. I do, however, believe that the NBA likes to see certain teams and players succeed. For example, I don't see the fact that the NBA got their dream scenario this year, a seven-game final of Boston vs LA, as anything remotely resembling "coincidence."

If the officials were the only thing to be taken into consideration at the World cup, I would believe that what happened in the first round was the result of two officials with anti-US bias making calls on their own, and that there is no relationship between the two calls. However, I think there may be some deeper things at work here.

I will explore some alternatives in part two.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Is Tiger back? Will Phil ever be number one?

As every golf fan knows by now, Tiger Woods finished tied for fourth with Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach. The negatives were that he hit some terrible iron shots and couldn't get many putts to fall. The main positive was that he was able to keep his name on the leaderboard in spite of play that I'm sure at least saw as "below average."

Tiger Woods, whether one likes him, hates him, or is somewhere in the middle, is still the most compelling, exciting figure in golf. He finished tied with Mickelson, but nobody was really talking about Phil afterwards; they were talking about Tiger. Also, it seems like the fans are back in his corner. He still gets the best crowd reaction on the course.

Is Tiger truly "back?" It would definitely appear so. In an interview, he said that he feels like he "can play again." That might be great news for the tour, but not great news for his closest competitors.

Speaking of his closest competitors, this does not bode well for Mickelson. Mickelson has had a chance to overtake Tiger for number one while Tiger is rehabbing his game and his psyche, but has come up short so far. If Phil can't overtake Tiger now, I don't see him overtaking Tiger when Tiger makes it back to the top of his game. Like so many US Opens for Phil, this entire year is setting up as one gigantic blown chance.

Maybe, like a well-known car rental company, Phil is happy with being number two. But I can't help but think that he is seething inside beneath his "happy-to-be-here" demeanor. I know that it is a stretch to consider a year in which he has won a major a "failure," but Phil isn't doing much to deter those who still see him as "Chokelson" or "Mickelsecond."

Here's hoping that Tiger gets it all the way back, but Phil hangs in there and puts up a lot better fight than he has the last month. It is a lot better for the game if its two best players aren't simultaneously percieved as its two biggest head cases.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Izzat So?

Michigan State fans are ecstatic tonight because Tom Izzo announced that he will be staying at MSU, turning down a five-year, $30 million contract for one that makes half as much at MSU. But what do they have to be happy about? Teflon Tom just showed that his love of MSU, which has been the cornerstone of his ability to get his players to perform as well as they possibly can, can be bought for the right price and the right situation.

Cleveland wasn't the right situation for him, but the fact that he took nine days to decide it speaks volumes about his "love" of MSU. How can any player, especially the two seniors who he talked back into the same school he was willing to leave for the same NBA he talked them out of, take anything Izzo has to say at face value again? Players, administrators, fans, and recruits will now take anything Izzo says with a shaker full of salt. This cannot end well for Izzo. I can see the "Izzone" becoming the "Isn't-zone" within a couple of years.

Nobody does indignation better than people from Michigan. I grew up in Michigan and have lived in AZ, CA, IL, and FL, and it isn't even close. My experience has been that Michigan people are as loyal as it gets. But if you fuck someone from Michigan over, you have an enemy for life. I cannot imagine a few players, fans, and admins at MSU not feeling fucked over and fulfilling the "enemy for life" role right now.

As Mike Leach can attest, looking at other jobs and making enemies in the administration isn't all that great for one's employment outlook. Even if nobody in the MSU administration pulls anything as drastic as what was done to Leach, I still see his best-case scenario to be like that of Billy Donovan. Since Donovan left Florida for the Magic and then changed his mind, his team hasn't been close to being as good as they were. Donovan hasn't been able to replace the great class that won two straight championships for him, and the players he does have make a lot more mental errors now. His great program is now a good program.

I can easily see the same thing happening to Izzo that did to Donovan. His players will start to tune him out, and their hundred percent will change to about ninety-five percent. That will lose them three or four more close games this season, and should get them ousted in the first or second round of the NCAA Tournament. Then, the next recruiting class won't be quite up to the level to which he is accustomed.

Soon, Izzo will have completed turning a great program into a decent one. Sorta like David Ledbetter did to Charles Howell. But that is a story for another day. Or another blog.

The sports aliens have landed

As an avid reader/participant in many sports blogs, I have noticed one thing that many of them have in common: people think that their opinion is the only one that truly matters. It seems like too many blogsters are married to the concept that their opinion is "right," while everyone who disagrees with them is "wrong."

The worst often compound this by deciding that those who disagree with them are "stupid," "ignorant," "hypocritical," or any other pseudo-intellectual insult that comes to mind. However, when you really strike a nerve, and really piss off a blogger or commenter with your opinion, he pulls out all the stops, and brings out the "best" insult he has to offer: tinfoil hat.

Actually, I was called an even better variation of tinfoil hat once by a pseudo-Communist Michigan fan blog whose participants wouldn't know Karl Marx if he bit them on their pimply, teenage asses: "tinfoil covered, potato-shaped, massage therapist motherf**ker." Since I have been putting up with such behavior and unwelcome intrusions from these parasites and their unwitting tools for the better part of two years, I can only assume that they haven't heard that "mean people suck."

Consesquently, I am starting this blog today with the intent of honoring all opinions, whether or not they agree with mine. I will be discussing mostly Michigan and Florida-based teams, but really don't plan to confine myself to any one team or sport. In keeping with the tinfoil hat theme, I will often criticize officials and league offices in the context of what one team winning might mean to its league. If I find an entertaining (to me, anyway) conspiracy theory, I will also discuss it here.

Eventually, I will make the blog interactive, and plan to have chats and a forum. I may eventually collaborate with a few select posters if things go that way. Or not. Most of all, though, I want to have fun with this. I will mercilessly harass fans of rival teams in a "kayfabe," or pro wrestling kind of way. But I will not truly hate anyone, nor will I ever heap abuse on fellow fans for the "crime" of disagreeing with me.

So, if you have ever been accused of wearing a tinfoil hat or ridiculed for having a dissenting opinion in any internet community, you will probably feel at home here. There is no "groupthink" because there is no group mind, and there is no such thing as an invalid opinion. All heartfelt opinions about sports will be honored here and gtiven the dignity they deserve. On the other hand, all indignant, obnoxious fucks who come here to be hurtful to and personally insult their fellow sports fans will be welcome to take their baggage somewhere else.

To clarify, the only thing that will ever make anyone or their opinion unwelcome here (besides political or religious diatrabes, etc) is hurtful behavior toward fellow fans. Other than that, all will always be welcome.

So, go to your closet, pull out that tinfoil hat, put it on, and tune in. The signals are starting to become much more clear now.....welcome aboard.