2006 Michigan Wolverine Football Preview

The disappointing 2005 season in which the Michigan Wolverine football team went 7-5, including losses to rivals Notre Dame and OhioState, still lingers in the mind of theMichigan faithful. This year, Lloyd Carr and the newly revamped coaching staff that now features Ron English at defensive coordinator and Mike DeBord at offensive coordinator now face an uphill battle in one of the toughest conferences in the world of college football. Road tilts with Notre Dame,PennState, andOhioState will not help causes asMichigan tries to recover from their worst season since 1984 and Lloyd Carr?s worst season in his 11 year tenure.

The key to the season? Get the running backs going and BEAT ND! A large portion of Michiganfans across the country have expressed that a win over Notre Dame in South Bendon September 16th will catapult the Wolverines to a highly successful season. If they don?t?well, we don?t really want to go there. Michigan has not exited the non-conference season without a loss since 1999, a season in which we won the Big Ten title, beat Ohio State, and beat Alabama in the historic 2000 Orange Bowl. This is a perfect example of what we are capable of doing if we avoid the early losses. The next two seasons we lost early to UCLA and Washington and finished a mediocre 9-3 in 2000 and 8-4 in 2001. In 2002, we lost in South Bend and went on to go 10-3 with an Outback Bowl berth. The next two seasons didn?t fit the criteria, however. Michigan lost at Oregon in 2003 and lost at Notre Dame in 2004, but still won the Big Ten Championship and went to the Rose Bowl. Both seasons we lost in Pasadena. Last season?do we really want to go there? To summarize, we lost to ND early, went on to lose four more games, and lost in the Alamo Bowl. Now that that?s over, on to 2006!

 

 

 

 

Michiganreturns the stellar backfield of Mike Hart and Chad Henne. The duo combined for 3,213 of Michigan?s 4,611 yards on the offensive side of the football even with the absence of the third year starting running back for a good majority of the season. Steve Breaston returns as well, and many may say that he had a down year in 2005. His receiving numbers took a significant drop as he only racked up 291 yards and two touchdowns.  Mario Manningham will try to work some more magic as he did in the last second victory over the then undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions. TheWarren,Ohio native caught 27 balls for 433 yards and six touchdowns last season. Breaston and Manningham will most likely compete for the number one receiver as Jason Avant served that role last season. Avant?s departure to the NFL will be felt because he wasMichigan?s leading pass catcher with 1,007 yards. He was the only Wolverine receiver in 2005 to surpass the 1,000 yard mark. Senior tight end Tyler Ecker will also assist in the passing game. He was the fourth leading receiver when he caught 21 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. He will be facing much pressure after the Alamo Bowl debacle but will have a steady season asMichigan?s starting tight end. Rounding out the receiving corps and most likely seeing regular playing time are freshman LaTerryal Savoy, sophomore Adrian Arrington, and senior Carl Tabb. Players nagged by injuries include Doug Dutch and Antonio Bass.

 

 

 

 

The man distributing the balls to these talented receivers will beChadHenne?and only Chad Henne.Michigan?s back-up, Jason Forcier, has not had any game time. Hence, if Chad Henne goes down, so does our season unless Forcier pulls a magic trick out of his pocket and dazzles us. Last year, Henne was the leader, at many times of this struggling offense. He seemed to be the only constant as he was the one that stayed injury free throughout the season. Henne struggled a great deal in the Notre Dame game, with two turnovers in the red zone. The offense, in the entirety, went only 0-3 in the red zone. Henne finished the season strong as he, at some times, was the only one that kept us in the game. After the Notre Dame game, he finished with 2,076 yards, 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He averaged 210 yards per outing.

 

 

TheMichiganoffense?s biggest fault was most definitely the running game. Many feel that with a more potent running attack last year, we may have beaten many more teams and may not have had to suffer through five heart wrenching losses. With Mike Hart?s early injury and the time he came back,Michiganwas 2-2 with losses to Notre Dame andWisconsin. Kevin Grady gained only 79 yards after Hart?s exit early in the Notre Dame contest. When Hart returned againstMichiganState, he displayed what he can do when he is healthy. He racked up 222 yards inEast Lansing, then followed with a 116 yard output againstMinnesotaand an impressive 108 yards against a very goodPennStatedefense. That would be all theMichiganfaithful would get for a while, however, as he left theIowagame early due to an apparent injury. Hart missed the following two games against Northwestern andIndianaand was held to 15 yards in his return againstOhioState. The lack of a rushing game killed the Michigan offense and that?s why we are talking about a 7-5 season, not a 10-2 or even 9-3 year. The whole offense was a mess with injuries on the offensive line and back field. WhenMichiganwent over the 150 yard mark in the rushing department, we were 6-0. When we went under 150 yards, we were 1-5, with the only win atIowa. That tells you how important and vital the rushing attack has become atMichigan. You gotta stay healthy and you gotta run the football.

 

 

 

 

Running the football all starts up front. Offensive linemen, Rueben Riley, Adam Kraus, and Jake Long, return to a line that was battered and bruised last year. Most returning offensive linemen got significant playing time last year due to injuries. Upper classmen will dominate the line as two juniors and three seniors hold up the fort. Senior Mark Bihl will start as the center man, and junior Adam Kraus and senior Rueben Riley will be at the guard spots. Hart and company will use senior Mike Kolodziej and junior Jake Long at the tackle positions.

 

 

 

Now to theMichigandefense. LaMarr Woodley anchors a very good front seven for the Wolverines. Woodley was a monster last year, making 48 tackles, 14 of which were for losses. He wasMichigan?s leading sacker with seven and forced three fumbles. David Peabody, frequent poster at the umgoblue.com fan forum, will even be sporting a t-shirt that says ?Guns don?t kill people, LaMarr Woodley kills people?. Linebacker David Harris returns for his fifth and final year forMichigan. He was the leading tackler for the defensive unit last year, compiling 88 tackles and five for a loss. Chris Graham and Prescott Burgess round out the linebackers. That duo combined for 123 tackles and including seven behind the line of scrimmage.

 

 

The defensive secondary features three returning starters who allowed 207 yards passing yards per game and only 14 touchdowns through the air. Senior Willis Barringer and Leon Hall will resume their respective positions. Hall was Michigan?s leading interception man with four. The senior cornerback also returned the memorable 83 yard fumble against Northwestern that put Michiganahead, 14-0 in that contest. Willis Barringer was third on the team in forced fumbles. Morgan Trent will serve as the other cornerback, opposite of Leon Hall. Trent, the speedster from Brighton, Michigan, was third on the team with four pass break-ups.  He also had one interception and 22 tackles. Lastly on theMichigan defense, but certainly not least, Brandent Englemon will supply the Wolverines with a solid free safety. TheCovington,Kentucky native played in 11 ofMichigan?s 12 games last year. In those 11 games, Englemon recorded 42 tackles, two sacks, and two fumble recoveries. If the secondary stays health, knock on some serious wood, this should be a very good group. Players that could see time at these positions are Charles Stewart, Jamar Adams, Brandon Harrison, and Darnell Hood.

 

 

The special teams unit is an area thatMichiganhas had some troubles with over the years. Garret Rivas will return after an average season at best. The senior fromTampa,Florida, went 19-26 last year on field goals. His longest was a decent 47 yards againstMinnesota, a game in which he went 2/4. He was perfect inside 20 yards, 2/2, but went 8/10 from 20 to 30 yards. He was 9 for 14 from the 30 and beyond. He hit the game winner in overtime againstMichiganState, and nailed four field goals against Northwestern. His 33/35 extra point conversion led him to be Michigan?s leading scorer with 90, just less than twice as much as the second leading scorer, Jason Avant. Ross Ryan proved to be a reliable leg last year as he sent 40 of his 69 kick-offs into the end zone for touchbacks. He averaged 62 yards per kick. The punting situation does not seem to be settled at this juncture. Ross Ryan and Zoltan Mesko, a European native, will be battling to see who receives the starting punter position. In spring practices, Mesko seemed to have a very strong leg and had some punts surpass the 60 yard mark. Steve Breaston seems re-energized and back to his usual self. Last year, he took the ball back only once for a touchdown on his returns and averaged 12.3 yards per punt return and 28.1 yards per kick off return.

 

 

Now, to the coaching. Lloyd Carr made some very good changes as Terry Malone and Jim Herrmann moved on. Carr promoted Mike Debord and Ron English to the offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively. What does this mean? Henne will thrive under Debord?s system. Debord incorporates the tight end very well and will spread out the field, something that has been missing the past few years inAnn Arbor. Many believe that Henne?s forte is throwing the deep ball, and Debord will do that. On the defensive side of the ball, Ron English has lead very spirited practices that will hopefully lead to a more aggressive style of play. Blitzing packages should be expected for opposing offenses. The aggressiveness may lead to allowing some big plays, but in the big picture, it will force more turnovers and help our offense out immensely. Again, another scheme that has been missing inAnn Arborsince 1997.

 

 

Now, onto prediction time. My optimism may be too evident but I?ll try to take off my maize and blue glasses and postpone the maize and blue kool-aid intake for this, but don?t be 100% sure that will happen. In 1997, whenMichiganwon the national championship, they were coming off an 8-4 season that included an Outback Bowl berth and a disappointing fifth place finish in the Big Ten. Let?s compare 1996 to 2005. We went 7-5 last year, fifth in the Big Ten, and with an Alamo Bowl trip. Now, I am not guaranteeing a national championship, nor am I even guaranteeing anything, however, if history repeats itself, the Wolverines just might follow up a well, terrible, season with a strong one. Michigan might not have what it takes to win three road games against three top teams, BUT, a win must be there for Notre Dame and Ohio State. I don?t think we will have any problem with our home tilts, but atMichigan, they always seem to lose a game to an inferior opponent. With that in mind,Michigan, in my prediction of course, will go 10-2 with a Big Ten Championship and a BCS Bowl berth. I think they might drop one of the road contests and lose a silly one to eitherIowa,Wisconsin, orMichiganState.

 

 

Only time will tell if the coaching changes change anything, if we can resolve our rushing situation, and if our defense can come back with a chip on their shoulder and play ?angry?.

 

 

Go Blue!

Michigan Stadium Renovation- The Media Elite to the Rescue!


A few well-connected fans of the Michigan football program have mounted a campaign to turn back the clock in Ann Arbor.  While most fans and alumni are excited by the changes coming to the Big House, a few have taken it upon themselves to substitute their judgement for ours.

What really irritates me about this effort is how traditional media is being “spun” by opponents of the renovation plan.

Unable to arouse interest in their agenda they have turned to their media contacts to pump up their flagging campaign.  The latest media salvo comes from Frank Debord at Sports Illustrated.

So can you believe it? There is actually a place in America today where humble citizens are fighting the construction of luxury boxes. Yes, in Ann Arbor, Mich., home of what is called the Big House, the largest stadium in America, many alumni and professors of the University of Michigan are vigorously trying to persuade the Board of Regents not to approve the plans of the university president and athletic director to spend something like a quarter of a billion dollars to build 78 suites that would rent for up to $85,000 apiece for a mere seven college football games…So finally, somewhere in the Republic, the lowly common folk have risen up against the sports aristocracy.

Hey Frank- you want to define MANY for us?  And who are these “humble citizens” fighting the renovation of the Big House?  Last I checked the figurehead of this effort is John Pollack who created a web site which claims thousands of electronic signatures opposing the renovation.  Of course, you need  to do some digging to track this information down because he doesn’t have his name anywhere on the web site.  Hey John- what’s with the mystery?

So who is John Pollack?  A web search turns up the following bio:

A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, John Pollack has built the world’s first cork boat.
Prior to his work in the private sector, John worked at the White House and on Capitol Hill, where he was the wordsmith for House Democratic Whip David Bonior. John’s speechwriting skills developed from extensive campaign experience and his work as a journalist, both in the United States and abroad.

A 1988 graduate of Stanford University, he began his writing career as a reporter for the Hartford Courant, covering local government in suburban Connecticut. Later, he spent three years in Spain as a foreign correspondent, covering everything from business to bullfights for the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, Advertising Age and other media. His first book, The World On a String: How to Become a Freelance Foreign Correspondent, grew out of that experience. Recently, he published Cork Boat, a non-fiction account of his 30-year quest to build a 22-foot Viking ship made completely from wine corks, and its 2002 voyage down Portugal’s Douro River.

Hardly an average Joe.  And this guy is telling us about Michigan Tradition?

John Pollock, who loves Ann Arbor but doesn’t live here.

John Pollock, who loves the University of Michigan but couldn’t be bothered to attend.

It’s great that he takes time to tell alumni and those who live here- us hicks in fly over country- what we should be thinking.  Thanks.

I don’t need someone to tell me about Michigan tradition.  And I don’t think that most Michigan fans need to be told either  Michigan fans are quite capable of deciding for themselves what they think about the renovation plan.

Fans have no problem reacting to things they don’t like.  Criticsm of the halo was immediate and vociferous.  When Michgian and Ohio State made plans to sell the naming rights of THE GAME, phones lit up at the athletic department when Lloyd Carr himself made it known that he didn’t support the plan.  A few days later the plan was scrapped.

I’ve been critical of how the athletic department with the approval of the regents have gone about their business in the past.  I may not like their tactics, but the plan itself seems sound.  There is only one issue that Michigan fans are united on- an issue that the Michigan Athletic Department and these “opponents of the renovation” aren’t addressing.  Fans want the Big House to stay the Biggest House in the land.  When attending a game at Michigan Stadium, they want be “among largest crowd watching a football game in America today.”

The current renovation plan adds a minuscule amount of seats to the football stadium and adds debt that will probably preclude any large scale addition of seats, such as an upper deck, in foreseeable future.  The foes of the renovation want you to believe that most fans want things to stay the same, indeed most fans want change that embraces the Michigan Tradition of having the largest capacity stadium in the country.

Moving Ahead in Ann Arbor

I can’t support the opponents of the stadium renovation.  The fact is that the stadium has been evolving practically from the time it was built.  To stop this evolution is a betrayal of the great Michigan tradition of being the “Leaders and Best.”

But I do have a recommendation for the foes of the renovation.  The next time you fly into Detroit-Metro airport head east to Dearborn before visiting Ann Arbor.  Pay a visit to Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum and you can see a number of historical buildings that have remained unchanged.

But in Ann Arbor were heading into the future and we’re taking steps to make sure that Michigan Stadium is safe, sound, and viable for generations of Wolverines to come.

Michigan Football- The Waiting is the Hardest Part

My good friend Tom Petty likes to say that the waiting is the hardest part.  Ok, I actually don’t know Tom Petty, but I did see him last year and that should at least count for something.  As another season of Michigan football approaches it seems as though the days start to drag out even more. The encounters with rivals’ fans seem to increase and become slightly more serious than those odd exchanges back in March and April; you know the ones where Joe “I just crawled out from a hole and bought this shirt because my team went 9-3 last year” Commonfan makes some insipid remark about your Michigan hat and/or shirt with that sly smirk on his face and you pretty much have to grin and bear it?  I think we all have had at least five of those run-ins this off-season.  It’s hard enough waiting through this long stretch when your team is playing well, but when they struggled the past season, it suddenly becomes a torturous gauntlet of self-restraint and building anxiety.

I mention this because there’s a disturbing trend that’s becoming more and more a yearly occurrence, and I’m not referring to our team’s performance on the gridiron.  There appears to be a large portion of the Michigan fan base that expects this team to slide into mediocrity again this season because, “they do it every year”.  This kind of group self-loathing is beginning to become eerily similar to that of pre-2004 Red Sox fans and pretty much any Philadelphia sports fan over the last two decades.  Each of those groups reached a point (or is at a point) where they expected their teams to lose, expected the worst to happen, and then would wallow in their teams’ failures when they came to fruition.  These groups have become identified with the failure of their teams to come through when it mattered most, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy year after year.  Now before anyone flies off the handle, in no possible way do I think that the Michigan football program has gone through a drought that in any way resembles either of those teams.  It’s only been 9 years since we won a National Title, and we have won three Big 10 titles since 2000, the well hasn’t been dry, but it’s not at the level that anyone would like at this point in time.  What I’m saying is that the familiar symptoms of self-loathing and expected failure are starting to manifest themselves within the Maize and Blue faithful.  This is not a good thing…

Well, actually, part of this is a good thing; it means that people are realizing what Phil so effectively underscored in his most recent article regarding expectations.  More and more Michiganfans are reaching the, “hey, we’re stuffed to the gills with talent every season, we should be doing more than this,” conclusion.  I don’t disagree; we should expect more out of this football team.  In part, I think the growing pressure for this team to perform at a higher level and to do so immediately is a great thing.  What puzzles me is that many times the very same people who are so passionately mad about our performances are the very same people who are now expecting those kinds of performances in the first place!

This line of thinking is particularly prevalent at this point in the year.  Now that the spring games and practices have passed, the doldrums of summer bring out the annual ritual of previews and predictions that make every college football fan prick his or her ears up when someone so much as utters their favorite team’s name.  These subjective and all-too-often inaccurate breakdowns of teams most people haven’t seen play a single snap of football are almost always taken way too seriously and given way too much weight.  Is it a fun way to pass the off-season?  Certainly.  Does a preview that says X and Y about your team mean that those things are bound to happen?  Of course not.  What amazes me is the way many of the reviews of our Wolverines take the assumption of mediocrity before anyone has so much as seen this team set foot on the field: “When was the last time this team lived up to expectations?”  What amazes me even more is the way that many Michigan fans are beginning to expect and accept this as the truth.  It is entirely fair to ask the “when was the last time…” question, it is not fair however to extend that reasoning into the future when we haven’t played a single game.  There’s a time and a place for those kinds of questions, and I happen to think that now isn’t it in either case.

What many people might not see is that this is the easiest possible position to take, the burden of proof lies not with those who think this team will go 8-4 because “it always does,” but rather with those who seem to think that this football team is capable of doing more than that.  The pessimistic (proponents of this type of reasoning blithely call it “realism”) fan prefers not to be the one who gets their hopes up, but rather be converted by the team’s sudden improvement in performance.  A lot of posts have been made with the following words included: “until they show me otherwise” or “unless I see something vastly different”.  Now then, I’m not one who puts tons of stock in the idea of group karma, but then again, sports are kind of funny that way.  Crowds influence games, especially in football.  Fan bases can have a large affect on the attitude of a team, and I think the attitude of a team can make a huge difference in how they perform on the field.  I’m not arguing that everyone should think this team is going to be undefeated this season, not in the least, but is it too much to ask that perhaps as fans we go into this season with the idea that it is possible for this team to turn it around?

I can understand how the attitude begins to build, I’ve been right there to watch the losses to lesser teams, the crushing losses to key rivals and in BIG bowl games.  The underachieving nature of this team when it matters most over the past few seasons has made the subsequent off-seasons harder and harder to endure.  Naturally this has lead to this point.  The encounters with opposing teams’ bandwagon fans and true fans alike are becoming more and more of the same experience, and unfortunately we Michigan fans simply haven’t had much to respond with as of late. All of that does add up, all of it can weigh on a fan’s mind and on their heart.  What many people don’t realize is that it is at this juncture where a team and a program needs the fans the most, not when they start to prove your expectations wrong, not when they start to turn it around and put this program back on top where it belongs.  Because then my friends you have become a very sad thing, you’ve become that which comprises 99% of the Notre Dame fan base: the fair-weather fan.  We’re all better than that ladies and gentlemen, we truly are.  It is entirely possible to support this team before they pass the artificial watermark that you have set for yourself to become a “believer”.  I have no problem with the criticisms of the past failures, or of the problems that have consistently plagued this team.  It is fair to point out where we MUST improve.  What I am having a harder and harder time stomaching are those that are already criticizing a team that has yet to play a single down of football.  Criticism has its place, but so too does support.  At this point in the year there should be far more of one and much less of the other, if you’re still not sure, go back up and read that banner that’s so much a part of our tradition.

Our fans should be gearing up for the opportunity to show that last year was a fluke, that this team isn’t “owned” by anyone, and that Michigan football is not some once great program on it’s way out of the spotlight, but rather an elite program.  We should be rallying around this team, not reading it its last rights.  So next time you run into that Joe Commonfan in the store or on the street, just smile, hold your head up high, and tell him “Go Blue!”  It’s part of what makes college football so great.  Revel in the knowledge that when the roles are reversed, they’ll know you didn’t just buy that shirt because your team went 9-3 and beat two teams with better than .500 records… not that I’m singling any teams out here or anything.  Mr. Petty was right everyone, the waiting is the hardest part, but try not to let it get you into a state of lowered expectations when all anyone wants to see is improvement from this football team.  The season will get here soon enough; let’s try to look forward to it!

GO BLUE!

A kind of magic…GO TIGERS!

“There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what’s possible.”

Ray Kinesella- Field Of Dreams

 

I should have written sooner but I’ve been afraid I would break the spell.

After over a decade of consistent failure the Tigers are not only in first place in their division, but indeed have the best record in baseball.  Friends who in prior years wouldn’t be caught dead using my season tickets are now calling to see if I have any games to sell.  The new Tiger Stadium is jam packed with people night after night.

So what’s going on?  Well, as long time Tigers victim fan I’ll try to bring the you bandwagon jumpers up to speed.

When last we left our heroes

At the tail end of last season things were bleak for the Tigers.  High priced free agent signings such as Magglio Orgonez, Troy Perceival, Pudge Rodriguez, and Ugeuth Urbina had gotton the team nowhere. Magglio missed large chunks of the season with various ailments, Perceival was diagnosed with a career ending arm injury, Pudge was in a nasty funk due to being in the middle of divorcing his wife, and Ugeuth had been offloaded in a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies for second baseman Placido Polanco.

Every time the Tigers reached the .500 mark they would start another losing streak.  Eventually the wheels came off and they ended up 20 games under (71-91).  But the really disturbing thing is that they seemed to get worse once they began to get their player back from injury.  I came extremely lose to giving up my season tickets.  I love baseball and enjoy going to games but the teams seamed to be regressing.

I hoped for a major shake-up in the offseason.  And we really didn’t get it.  The Tigers fired Manager Alan Trammell and brought in Jim Leyland to replace him.  At the time this didn’t seem to be that big of a deal- more on this later.  They also signed pitcher Kenny Rogers and relief pitcher Todd Jones.  These were hardly the signings I had hoped for.  Kenny Rogers had been involved in an off-the-field incident last season where he got into an altercation with a cameraman and Todd Jones has previously been with the team.  Ugggh.

2006

So as the season began I had muted expectations to say the least.  I figured if everyone stayed healthy the Tiger might end 5-10 games over .500 but then again I thought they should have finished near .500 in 2005.

And then an amazing thing happened.  Actually a number of amazing things.  The Tigers starting winning…and winning…and winning.  They’ve developed a swagger that you rarely see.  They honestly believe that they are going to wing every game no matter how far they get or what happens.

Down in the 9th inning?  No problem.

Ken Griffey hits a grand slam late in the game to take the lead?  No sweat.

Five runs down in the 6th inning?  Yawn.

What’s Changed?

Jim Leyland has taken control of the club that floundered last last season.  He’s created an atmosphere where veteran and rookie alike knows what’s expected of them.  The Tigers have been remarkably injury-free.  An injury to starting pitcher Mike Maroth was filled with prospect Zach Minor.  The biggest change was bringing in veteran pitcher Kenny Rogers.  By him having a great season (and remarkably not getting into fights with the local media) he has solidified a Tigers pitching staff that looks incredibly strong right now.

A kind of magic

I don’t know how long this ride will last.  But over the last four months I’ve seen some things happen that are just amazing.  Baseball is a sport ruled by statistics and probablities but there is no explanation for things I’ve seen this season while watching the Tigers.

Two out opposite field home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.  Infield singles.  Opportune errors by opponents.  Five run rallies.  I’ve been at games this season when the Tigers have been down we sit there and wonder how they’re going to come back this time…And they do.  I’ve seen the stadium packed with over 40,000 screaming fans calling for a ninth inning comeback…And the Tigers have responded.  A starting pitcher get hurt…Just call the next guy up from the minors and watch him run off a string of victories.

These are seasons that make life long fans.

It’s the sweet mystery of baseball when inexplicably the mathematically probablities stop applying for certain teams.  When you’re head tells something can’t happen but your heart tells you it will- that it must.  When what happens on the field seems less determined by probablites and more by what’s possible.

I don’t know how much longer this ride will last.  Maybe the Tigers won’t even make the play-offs.  Perhaps the wheels will fall of as many naysayers have been predicting all season.

But one thing is certain.  If you haven’t been paying attention who’ve missed on the great sport stories of the year.  And anyone trying to describe it you will fail miserably.  It’s like trying to describe sunset- words are inadequate to get the job done.

You have to be there for yourself.  So if baseball’s not your thing, go about your business. It’s your loss.

A Tale of Two Cities- Boston, Detroit, Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium

I spent Thursday evening at historic Fenway Park in Boston.  On Friday I returned to Michigan to read that Detroit has made plans to tear down historic Tiger Stadium.  Both stadiums opened in 1912 but Fenway Park has a bright future while Tiger Stadium is destined for the wrecking ball.

And it’s sad.

As a season ticketholder the new Tiger stadium I love my nice padded seats, spacious aisles, and variety of modern concesssions.  But sitting in Fenway Park I felt nostalgic for old Tiger Stadium.  I noticed that Fenway has the same type of pillar construction that results in some obstructed views and tiny seats with little leg room.  I recalled all the great players who had played there and history that the place represents.  It along with Yankee Stadium (slated to be replaced in the next decade) and Wrigley Field are truly cathedrals of the game.

The Tigers did a great job of convincing the public of the need for a new stadium.  They stopped doing basic maintenance the last few seasons and let people convince themselves that cracked paint somehow proved that the old stadium was unable to be saved.  Make no mistake- the decision to replace Tiger Stadium was a choice and different ownership could have made a decision to renovate rather then build new.

Sitting in Fenway and seeing an old ball park meticously preserved reminded me that the decision to leave Tiger Stadium for the gleaming new park says more about us as sports fans than anything else.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said today that tearing down old Tiger Stadium gives the surrounding neighborhood the best chance to rebound.  No Mr. Mayor, the best chance for the surrounding neighborhood was to not desert Tiger Stadium in the first place.