The balcony at my apartment last year looked out over Michigan”s football practice field. It was always fun to sit out with a beer and check out what coach Lloyd Carr was working on for the upcoming game.
Of course, the location had its drawbacks I can assure you that there”s nothing worse than waking up to music blasting from the field to get players ready for crowd noise. “Who Let the Dogs Out” was an awful song don”t even get me started on how much I hated it after it served as my alarm clock at 8 a.m. every morning during Northwestern week. Too bad the season was over when finals rolled around in April I could have used an alarm then.
My neighbors and I heard anecdotes about Carr going from apartment to apartment before the season, making it very clear that practices were not to be watched. We never believed it Carr may be a divinity around Ann Arbor, but he wasn”t going to tell us what we could and couldn”t watch from the privacy of our own homes.
So when an assistant coach showed up at my neighbor”s door during Michigan State week because he had spotted us watching with binoculars, we were a bit taken aback.
That”s just the way things go, though. And after Michigan came back and beat Iowa this past weekend, it began again the Michigan State hysteria.
What is Michigan State week? Simply put, it”s a state of mass paranoia.
It”s the feeling that everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of Michigan State players, the knowledge that if you show any confidence, your statement will end up on a lockerroom”s bulletin board.
So it was no surprise to find tight-lipped players holding court at Michigan”s press conference yesterday. Media members were wowed by such bold statements as Dave Pearson”s “there”s always a little bit more intensity for this game.”
Dave, tone it down a bit, man.
At least defensive end Shantee Orr was fighting back laughs as he pointed out that “all our emotion and intensity should be the same for each and every game.”
Well put, Shantee.
Michigan players seem to spend this week wearing colorful bracelets embroidered with “W.W.L.S.” “What Would Lloyd Say?” They seem like they”re constantly looking over their shoulders, afraid of being honest, but far more afraid of being caught being honest.
It”s typical rivalry-week strategy. And while it”s funny to watch, it does have merit.
No Michigan fan will ever forget Ohio State”s David Boston claiming before the 1997 matchup that “if our offense and defense are clicking, we should win by two or three touchdowns.” Of course, Michigan”s defense (particularly Charles Woodson) held Boston to three catches for 68 yards on the day, 56 of those yards coming on one touchdown play as Michigan won 20-14. It was such a harsh beating that Boston should still be sending Woodson Father”s Day cards every June.
So yeah, I guess I understand Carr”s rationale. But it”s impossible not to miss the pageantry of rivalry games, the desire to check message boards to see who”s saying what about someone else”s mother.
This is a week like no other week. This is a week when Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker can be called “great” by the Wolverines. My god, if Smoker”s “great,” what adjectives are left for Dan Marino or John Elway?
Where”s the hatred? Where”s the drive? Where did the arrogance go? It”s a lost art in college football, the ability to make an ass of your opponent before the game, and follow it up on the field. I was waiting for a man in black to show up in the press conference, ready to whisk away any player stupid enough to speak.
At least quarterback John Navarre had the guts to put it bluntly. “It”s a big game,” he said.
And these days, if that”s not bulletin board material, I don”t know what is.
Jon Schwartz hopes that he”s never again woken up to “YMCA” or “Across the Field.” He can be reached at email@example.com.