Saturday, November 22, 2008

M-barrassing Season Comes to An End

It's never felt this bad to be a Michigan fan.

Rich Rodriguez's first season as head coach of the Wolverines is finished, with a 3-9 record. Worst in Michigan's 129 year history and two more losses than ever previously recorded for a Michigan football team.

There is hope for the future and I still think Rodriguez is the right guy for the job but right now, all I want to do is sit in a dark corner and sulk. Here's a compilation I made to sum up the season, enjoy.

*EDIT* - I don't know how I messed this up but the score for the Utah game says Utah 25, Michigan 17 when they actually lost 25-23. I'm an idiot, but don't let that mistake take away from the slideshow. That is all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Game

Ugly. Putrid. Tough. Stomach-wrenching. Maddening. Sick. Horrible. Beyond comprehension. Learning experience. Difficult. Down and up and down and up and down and down and down and down and down and up and down again. Michigan's football season can be described in any of these ways, and it has come to this: The Game, the University of Michigan (3-8) vs. Ohio State University (9-2) at 12 p.m. on Saturday.

I have watched many rivalry games in my day, but none of them ever compares to Michigan-Ohio State. It literally sickens my stomach, grinds my teeth, slacks my jack to say the words 'Ohio' and 'State' together. There is nothing like it in all of sports.

But this year, everyone is saying that The Game lacks luster; it lacks competition. "This will just be a blowout, Michigan doesn't stand a chance," they say. And you know who 'they' is. It's everyone. It's Ohio State fans, experts, and anyone who takes a simple look at the numbers. Might as well not even play The Game right? Wrong.

Gun to my head, I'd admit that yes, if I was a betting man I'd put money on the assholes in devil-red playing in Satan's Horseshoe. But there is no such weapon; I'm free to hope and cling to any irrational ideas of Michigan's chances at victory.

The Wolverines have shown signs of promise: their comeback against Wisconsin early in the season was incredible to watch and their domination of a superior Minnesota team on the road a couple games ago was also surprising. They definitely have talent and they know how to play football, it all depends on if they can string four solid quarters together, stay in the game, and take the victory at the end. I think they can do it, and I hope they will.

I didn't put as much time into this post as I would have liked, since this Game always exemplifies the best rivalry in college football every year, but you can safely bet that I will be on that couch watching Michigan today. I still feel somewhat sickened by the fact that the only game that Michigan has won in this rivalry in recent memory was one I was unable to watch, in 2003, when I was flying back from California for Thanksgiving. Maybe that's my karma; maybe that's why they keep losing. But there's nothing I can do other than hope that streak ends today.

So, root for Hope, root for Change, root for Michigan. Go. Blue.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Na nana na na....Barry's Singin' the Blues

Poor, poor Barry Melrose. The Magnificent Mullet was fired on Friday afternoon by the Tampa Bay Lightning after only 16 games as their head coach. The move was wrong, the move was unjustified, and Barry deserves better.

Most people know Barry from his work on ESPN as the only lead hockey analyst on Sportscenter. He is funny, charismatic, and one of the most enjoyable people to watch on the show. His hockey knowledge stretches far and wide and stems from his short stints as a player in the NHL, for the Maple Leafs and Red Wings. He is quite literally a guru of the sport and cares about every aspect of the game.

So, when he appeared on ESPN's popular show, Pardon the Interruption (PTI), in early June and said he would entertain any coaching offers, I was excited for him. A short while later, the Tampa Bay Lightning hired Barry and let him bring in a whole new coaching staff.

Tampa Bay was the worst team in the NHL last season, so everything appeared to be on its way up in the organization. They hired Melrose. They got the #1 pick in the draft and chose Steven Stamkos (a star in the making). They had a ridiculous offseason, picking up Olaf Kolzig, Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Andrej Meszaros, Radim Vrbata, Matt Pettinger, Vaclav Prospal, and Mark Recchi. The Lightning roster went through more changes than a house on Extreme Home Makeover.

But as the season began, the results didn't follow suit. Tampa Bay was 5-7-4 through those 16 Mullet-coached games and sat in 12th place in the Eastern Conference (out of 15 teams). Keep in mind though that 5-7-4 means the team has lost four games by an overtime goal or shootout loss, so they could just as easily be 9-7-0 if a few bounces go their way. But that's not my point.

I don't care if the team is 0-16 and has lost every game by ten goals. If you hire a coach in the offseason, he deserves at least one full year to let his system work, with the exception of any legal scandals. Barry wasn't doing a bad job with these guys. Like he said in an interview on the NHL Network yesterday, if the Bolts' two star forwards, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, have a normal start to the season, this team might be off to a great start instead of a mediocre one. (In 2006-07, Lecavalier had 108 points, St. Louis had 102. In 2007-08, Lecavalier had 92 points, St. Louis had 83. The two have only 23 points combined so far this season).

And Barry's not a bad coach. He didn't get fired for a lack of coaching ability. He's got good credentials. He even led the 1993 Los Angeles Gretzkys Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Montreal Canadiens, thanks to complete and total asshole goalie Patrick Roy.

So maybe he's past his time? The game has changed a lot since then.

Nope. Erroneous. Melrose preaches passion. He wants fiery guys and he wants to play defense. His team did just that; they just didn't score enough. Tampa Bay is dead-last in the NHL in goals per game, with only 2.06. I don't care if you have Terry Sawchuk in his prime as your goaltender, 2.06 goals per game just isn't going to get it done.

And sure, some of the blame for their offensive futility falls on Barry. But not all of it. And surely not enough of it to warrant his firing when they're only 16 games into an 82-game season.

Barry was fired because some of the Lightning players talked to upper management and told them that they didn't like what was happening, that they weren't being properly motivated.

Can Barry motivate today's NHL player? I don't know the answer to that question. What I do know, however, it that is it not right to have a group of players undermine their coach and it's even worse to see the general manager and team officials succumb to those complaints. The whole situation screams of injustice.

But maybe I'm only pissed because I like Melrose. If this happened to Mike Milbury or Marc Crawford, I might actually smile a little. Maybe I don't have all my facts straight or don't know everything behind the story. It's certainly a possibility, with all that gets lost in today's media.

But the fact is that Barry Melrose, one of the classiest guys hockey has seen in my lifetime, was fired. And when a coach is inexplicitly fired this early into his first season, that's saying something. That doesn't mean management thinks it made a mistake or that he was the wrong guy for the job, that means management didn't even want to give the guy a chance.

So, I'm sorry Barry. You're still a great guy with more integrity in your hair than all the Lightning GMs have in their whole bodies. I missed seeing you on TV anyway. I hope to see you back on ESPN soon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Gimme that jug!

Pencil another one in for Michigan there, sir.

Big win. Biiig win. The Wolverines' 29-6 victory today over Minnesota was huge because not only does it stop their five-game losing streak but it takes out the possibility of a double-digit number in the loss column. And they did it against 7-2 Minnesota, on the road, without their starting quarterback! Crazy. It was nice to see Michigan actually play all 60 minutes consistently. The defense was great and even though the offense had trouble in the red zone, they continued to sustain drives and get the ball moving. I know Minnesota isn't considered a tough rival for Michigan every year but whenever the second-oldest trophy in college football is on the line (the little brown jug you see above), the game carries some importance.

A 3-7 record isn't impressive by any means and still makes me cringe occasionally, but I can see success in the near future. RichRod has brought in some talented offensive players already (Odoms, McGuffie, Shaw) and I think that when they get some more experience and Rodriguez actually starts to get all of his recruits through the system, this Michigan squad will turn heads. Next week they play Northwestern at home in the Big House before heading to the Horseshoe in hopes of upsetting the Hairless Nuts in their final game. With the way the team played today, they certainly are capable of beating Northwestern and maybe giving OSU a game. It will be interesting, at any rate. But anyway, good win today. Makes me happy to see those players keep some of their dignity and raise that little brown jug over their heads. They've played hard this year; they deserve it.

Checkin' In on the Cup Defense...

In other news, the Red Wings are off to a good start to their season, holding an 8-2-2 record at the moment. They've had a few tough losses to some good teams but overall, they've played solidly. Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk are absolutely melting the ice beneath their feet as they have started to develop an incredible chemistry together. I feel sort of bad for Zetterberg, who's been sitting on the second line with less talented guys like Samuelsson and Cleary because of Franzen's injury, but the Mule will be back in action again this Tuesday so that should give him something to smile about.

I thought I'd mention the Wings because they have had a full week off now, after finishing their five-game road trip out West last week, and will take the ice again at home against the Devils. With the new schedule implemented this season by commissioner Gary Bettman, every team plays every other at least once and because of that, the Wings play the Devils, Penguins, Lightning, and Panthers in their next four games. They hardly ever play any Eastern Conference teams in the regular season so that'll be an exciting stretch to watch. It's always good to see new players and jerseys instead of playing a division opponent every other game. Good ol' 1995 Finals rematch tonight...although Brodeur is out with an injury so it will be slightly less exciting. I say 4-1 Wings.

A.I. to Motown and Chauncey B-B-B-B-Billups going back to Mile High

I'm a general fan of professional sports and that includes basketball, so naturally the huge trade involving the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons caught my eye: Allen Iverson was traded to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and a draft pick this week. When I first heard about the trade, I was pretty shocked and shook up. Chauncey has always been my favorite player for the Pistons. He was pretty much the reason why I started rooting for them in 2002-03 when the team actually started to piece things together and win games. So, to see him leave was a major disappointment from a fan's standpoint. But in terms of basketball, this is a positive move for Detroit. Not only does it open up plenty of cap space for the coming years when free agents like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh go on sale, but the trade also opens up a new dynamic for the team. They now have a player, in Iverson, who can take over a game and create his own shot. He's a bonafide superstar, even if he is aging a bit (at 33). They've never had that before; they've just had a complete team. Iverson might mess with the chemistry the Pistons have built for years but after six straight conference finals appearances and only one championship, a change is necessary. I wasn't convinced of this when I first heard about the trade but I think in the long run, this could make the Pistons very difficult to beat in the playoffs this year. And, since the trade happened this early in the season, it gives A.I. some time to acclimate to the Pistons' playing style compared to if the Pistons had made this deal much later in the season around the trade deadline.

But yeah, I know a lot of you don't care about the Pistons so I'm done writing about them. I just wanted to voice my opinions on what might be the biggest trade in the team's history. Pretty interesting move by GM Joe Dumars. We'll see how it pans out.

Hope you've all had a good week. Enjoy the weekend! Go Wings!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes. We. Did.

Goosebumps. Little dimples on the skin that accompany a tingling feeling that rushes quickly throughout the body. I'd felt them before, but never in a situation like this.

Barack Obama addressed the nation only moments ago after being announced as the first African-American man elected to be the President of the United States. His words were eloquent and commanding. They sent chills through my veins for what seemed like unending minutes. "I met the President of the United States almost a year ago; I even shook his hand," I thought as he waved to the Chicago crowd and hugged his wife, Michelle.

I will remember this moment for the rest of my life.

From the night when I first heard Barack Obama speak, two years ago at the University of New Hampshire shortly after announcing his decision to run for president, I was in awe of him. I loved his charisma and the feeling that he would actually try his hardest to better our country, regardless of who stepped in his way. I never thought he could actually become president; he was too hopeful, too slime-free. I saw John Edwards weeks later at UNH and as unimpressed as I was, he seemed like a candidate more likely to be elected. Edwards didn't seem real; he couldn't relate to the middle class or the everyday worker of America (his $1000 haircuts can attest to that). But Obama was, and that's why I liked him.

I never thought he could get this far.

I later met Obama when he came to my old high school, A. Crosby Kennett in Conway, NH. I volunteered and got a front-row seat to another one of his rousing speeches as he vied for the presidential nomination against Hillary Clinton. I felt so lucky to get that chance, to see him up close. He's a man of the people. He doesn't sling mud at his opponents unless it affects the country. He never stooped to the levels of Clinton's campaign managers (emphasizing Obama's race) or McCain and Palin (his association with Bill Ayers) because it had no bearing on what was happening in the country. For the first time in my life, I watched a politican concentrate entirely on what he can do to help solve our nation's problems instead of getting caught up in asking for votes just to garner the title of "President of the United States." Obama wanted that title, sure he did. But he wanted it in the best interest of the country, not for himself.

To all you McCain supporters out there, I say shame on you for not seeing the truth. McCain would have botched this presidency just as he botched his campaign. He was a great candidate in 2000 but now, he's just a crazy old man who will stop at nothing to be president. I thank God that he did not win this election because despite his war heroics and despite what he would tell you, he does not have the country's best interests at heart. He is a great politican and a good man, but he is not fit to run our nation. It doesn't matter how much you may disagree with Obama's beliefs, you simply can't argue against the fact that he is undoubtedly the best choice for this job and the best that our country has seen in generations.

I've never felt more strongly about an election in my life. Yes, I greatly despised George W. Bush's eight years in office but without his struggles, without his victories over Al Gore and John Kerry, Barack Obama never would have had this opportunity. And no matter what happens in his years as president, he is "the change we need." He is a reason to get up and cheer for our country. He gives me goosebumps. He is Barack Obama. For the first time in my life, I can't wait for what the political future will bring.

Thank you America, we did it.