This year’s Spring Game left more
than a little bit to be desired. After watching players go through
the motions for about two hours, a more accurate name would have
been the Spring Light Scrimmage. Leaving the field afterward, I
thought about how I hadn’t felt so disappointed since I saw
my grades on Wolverine Access after fall semester. Sure, it was
good to see how Matt Gutierrez had developed since last year, or
who might be the first-string running back. And I enjoyed watching
Ryan Mundy absolutely drill David Underwood in a game where there
wasn’t supposed to be any tackling. But I couldn’t help
but feel like I was viewing a practice that I had no business
watching.

Daniel Bremmer
Tyler Ecker, left, and Davis Baas team up for a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” prior to the start of the Spring Game. Unfortunately, most fans were unable to hear them due to faulty microphones. (JASON COOPER/Daily)
Daniel Bremmer

Heading in, I thought the Spring Game was supposed to be fun.
And I still think that the game — and the event as a whole
— should be more entertaining than it is, even if
that’s not necessarily the intent. There are just six home
games this year — the team played seven each of the past two
years. And since tickets to Michigan games are so expensive and in
such short supply, it would be great for the team to give something
back to the fans by putting on a free show people would want to see
in the spring, instead of just holding an open practice.

Maybe it’s because I was in the press box and
couldn’t hear the crowd too well. Or maybe it’s just
because the crowd didn’t make much noise. It’s hard to
tell. But I’ll tell you one thing: The sight of just 18,000
fans in the Big House was eerie, and putting on a better show
before the Spring Game would quickly boost that attendance
figure.

Right now, the Spring Game is an event where people turn to the
person next to them and ask if it’s over yet. Here’s
how I would turn it into a festivity that the entire campus would
want to watch.

 

Allow tackling

I know that seeing a player go down with a serious injury in
something as meaningless as the Spring Game would make Lloyd Carr
squirm, but the glorified version of one-hand touch which we saw on
Saturday — instead of tackling — is just plain boring
to watch. Underwood busted two big runs for about 80 total yards,
but how many more would he have ran for if he were allowed to break
a tackle with a stiff arm instead of being called down on the play?
It works the other way, too. Tackling would make the game more
exciting for the fans, as evidenced by the oohs and ahhs after
Mundy’s crack on Underwood.

Hold a skills competition before the game

Since the Spring Game should be geared toward the fans want to
watch, I say the event should parallel some of the best events in
sports: the all-star extravaganzas. The dunk contest, home run
derby, NHL skills, quarterback challenge — these are some of
the most entertaining events in each respective sport, excluding
the playoffs. Why not try out a mini Michigan football skills
competition before the Spring Game instead of the usual drills?

I’d love to see who on the team can kick the longest field
goal. Would it be Garret Rivas, Troy Neinberg or Phillip Brabbs? Or
would it be a non-kicker? How long would it be? What about setting
up a few targets to see whether Gutierrez, Clayton Richard, Spencer
Brinton or Jermaine Gonzales (a receiver who came into Michigan as
a quarterback) could hit the most? Maybe an obstacle course for the
linemen. They’d all be great.

For that matter, I’d love to see them bring in some other
sports. Wheeling a basketball hoop out onto the field to pit Marlin
Jackson vs. Braylon Edwards in a dunk contest could be as good as
Jordan vs. Dominique for a Michigan fan — especially since
rumor has it that Braylon’s been dunking from the free-throw
line at the CCRB. I bet students would pay to see this, let alone
come for free.

All these ideas go along the lines of playing to the fans. Teams
are allowed 15 practices during the spring, with the 15th being
Saturday’s Spring Game. Are you trying to tell me that
14-and-a-half practices — 14 regular ones and then some fun
before the 15th, the Spring Game — wouldn’t accomplish
the same thing? If the team spent half of Saturday’s practice
putting on a show for fans, there wouldn’t have been that
same feeling of disappointment after the game.

More Lloyd

Another Spring Game highlight was watching Carr behind center to
take a snap on the “last play” of the game. Carr rolled
out and hit one of his assistants — who made a great catch,
considering Carr’s bullet of a pass — for a touchdown
against a token defense to the delight of players and fans. This
got me thinking. More Carr equals more fun. I’d love to see
Carr get involved in some other fun aspects of the practice,
especially in the same type of situation or even in the skills
competitions I described above. The fact that the coach’s
usual demeanor is so straight-laced makes it all the more fun when
he loosens up. I’m telling you, SportsCenter would pay for
footage of Carr running the offense.

Fix the PA system

One of the funniest moments of the Spring Game came before the
whole thing even started — when David Baas and Tyler Ecker
sang the national anthem. No, their rendition of the song
wasn’t what I was laughing at — I was laughing at the
fact that a band at Touchdowns has better equipment than the
Michigan Athletic Department. Baas and Ecker could barely get two
words from their mouths before the microphone cut out, prompting
Baas to state, “This is horrible,” during one of the
few points when the microphone cut back in for the whole crowd to
hear. If it wasn’t for the crowd’s collective impromptu
anthem, they might still be there now, waiting for the game to
start.

 

As much as the Spring Game bored me, there were some things I
enjoyed. Specifically, watching the refs was hilarious. I
don’t know exactly why — I can only guess that it was
funny seeing these zebras taking the game so seriously when not
many other people were. Where exactly do you even get refs for a
Spring Game? Are these the same guys who would do a real Michigan
game, or did they pluck these guys from the high school
leagues?

I also had a good time watching Braylon go up against Marlin.
These are two legitimate All-America candidates going head-to-head,
both working hard. Since most practices aren’t open for
anyone to watch, this was one of the only chances for fans to see
two of Michigan’s best go one-on-one. Now, if we can just get
them some basketballs to dunk, I’ll see you at next
year’s Spring Game.

Daniel Bremmer can be reached at
“mailto:bremmerd@umich.edu”>bremmerd@umich.edu.

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