Fittingly enough, mere days after writing that Tech fans shouldn't be too negative towards their B/B+ coach, I was reduced to a fit of righteous anger after Michigan blew a nine-point lead in the final 7:40 against Ohio State and the replay board conveniently showed shots of Lloyd Carr. Lloyd has too many strengths to be anything below a B/B+ coach, namely the facts that he recruits well (although this year is shaping up to be an exception, in large part because Charlie Weis is kicking Michigan's rear in recruiting) and gets good results on the field (.755 winning percentage) without embarrassing the school's good name. That said, it's incredibly maddening to see a coach make the same mistake over and over and over again. With Lloyd, he consistently overrates the importance of field position and clock when nursing a lead and has absolutely no empirical sense. To wit, as MGoBlog helpfully recounts, Michigan has been had a one-score lead in the fourth quarter on three occasions before Saturday and in every instance, they failed to score to take a two-score lead and then the defense could not protect the lead. Doing his best to have a Georgia Santayana moment, Lloyd repeated the past again, punting the ball to Ohio State and then presiding over a passive defensive strategy that worked about as well as Baghdad Bob's "They are a snake that is stretched over 500 km, we would like to stretch them even further and then start to chop them up." gem.
So anyway, to get back to Tech fans, the episode reminded me that it's easy to dismiss the emotions of other fans and say that they shouldn't get rid of a good, but not great coach, but it isn't so easy to do so when you're the one subjected to a situation where your arch-rival has a clearly superior coach and your decent coach is good enough to get you to a big game, but not good enough to win it. If Georgia beats Tech this weekend to drop Gailey to 0-4 against Tech's biggest rival, then Tech fans will be in the same position. I'll be a little more careful with the "know your place" lectures.
One other Atlanta parallel to my weekend in Ann Arbor: being a Braves fan prepared me well for this Michigan season. After the Braves' first few playoff losses, which were all excruciating defeats where one or two small plays would have made the difference, I came to grips with the fact that the Braves would let me down in the playoffs, typically because of their bullpens. That realization has made the past eight or so playoff defeats easier to take. I expect the bullpen to screw up, I expect a key player to come up empty in a short series, and I expect the Braves to lose and the infuriating "Buffalo Bills" analogy to be repeated. That has made Octobers a lot more liveable.
Similarly, I knew the game was lost when Garrett Rivas, the fifth Teletubby, waddled out onto the field for the inevitable pooch punt that would simply allow Troy Smith, certified Wolverine trapper, to pad his passing stats by an additional 22 yards. In a way, it's worse to know what fate is about to befall you like a condemned man. On the other hand, at least there was no surprise when the Buckeyes marched the length of the field and saved their season while casting their arch-rivals into a winter of discontent.
And an SEC parallel: someone at the Michigan athletic department needs to go to an SEC game to learn a thing or two about a dramatic entrance. Alabama's entry into Bryant-Denny Stadium is immediately preceded by a video montage incorporating highlights from their 637 claimed national titles (OK, it's only 12,) along with the audio of Bear Bryant warbling about being a winner. By the time the Tide are ready to charge from the tunnel, the crowd is whipped into a religious frenzy. Georgia has a similar entrance with Larry Munson providing the background audio. Michigan, on the other hand, simply shows up in the tunnel and run onto the field without any dramatic build-up. No audio of Bo Schembechler shouting "The Team! The Team! The Team!" No video of Anthony Carter scoring on the final play against Lee Corso's Indiana in 1979 while Bob Ufer had an orgasm in the press box or Charles Woodson's human exclamation point interception against Michigan State in 1997.
Anyway, it occurred to me that a good Blogpoll topic would be to include a table of contents for your program's video entrance onto the field, but a better topic would be to imagine that, like an MIT/CalTech prankster, you've gained access to your arch-rival's scoreboard and can insert the video montage of your choice for that team so that when they enter the field for their biggest game of the year, they're met with silence and befuddled faces. Anyway, for cathartic purposes, here's the montage for Ohio State for next year's Michigan game:
Woody Hayes attacking a cameraman during a Michigan-OSU game
Woody Hayes ripping a yard-marker to shreds
Woody Hayes punching Charlie Baumann
A still-shot of a smiling Maurice Clarett
A still-shot of a smiling Art Schlichter
A still-shot of Jeffrey Dahmer
A still-shot of Ohio State's all-time record against Michigan
John Cooper looking mopey in his effeminate white sweater at the end of the '96 Michigan-OSU game
Burning cars, circa 2002
The final five seconds of regulation of the 1992 NCAA Tournament Southeast Regional Final
The closing shot would be Charles Woodson, nodding with a rose in his teeth, on a continuous loop.
"My Heart Will Go On"
Try to picture in your head the Buckeyes charging onto the field after that montage. (This fantasy is what I'm reduced to because Michigan can't beat Ohio State anymore. It might be helpful for Tech fans on Saturday night around 11:30 p.m. The mental images of a disheveled Ray Goff could really be therapeutic.)