How Do You Combine Objective Analysis with "Go Blue!"?

This vaguely has to do with predictions, expectations, objectivity and fanhood... and I guess semantics... and if it doesn't really, then just suffer my rant for a minute or two. I apologize in advance for the James Joyce stream of consciousness level of organization here... but anyways, onward.

I am not an analyst, I am a fan, a fan who has biases, quirks, beliefs, and expectations. When it comes to fan expectations, there are certainly all kinds. Beauford touched on an element of this a few days ago when talking about things like "winnable" games. I agree with him that using "winnable" in the context of a prediction is a big ol' hedge, but the context is important to keep in mind. It's also a buffer that many rational fans fall back on to not appear to be a "homer" or "pessimist". To me, when I hear someone describing a game as "winnable" there's an element of balance at play: there's the optimistic side that truly believes that "hey, we can win this thing" and there's the objective side that realizes "hey, this one's going to be tough". It's when one of these sides overrides the other that you start to see issues arise. Again context, context, context...

That brings me to the soapbox portion... it seems that there is an increasing number of people within the Michigan fanbase that seem determined to stamp out optimism at any turn, which yes, I get that the "we're MICHIGAN, we MUST go _____" is blindingly idiotic and horrifyingly annoying, but so too is pessimism guised as being "enlightened objectivity".  I will offer a quick example... an ongoing theme this offseason has been to look at our defensive secondary as being in dire straits... hardly any depth of any kind... and yet, our two starting corners are actually, well, pretty good. I fully understand that if one goes down, look out, but what's to say both remain healthy? What then? Is it wrong of me to suggest that perhaps our corner play will be better than indicated by the depth chart should we stay healthy? Both points are pretty valid, yet one has been getting major play this offseason, while the other viewpoint... not so much. Listen, I understand the push-back from segments of the fan-base that can't stand "homer" fans... but there's a fine line between striving for objectivity and losing part of what makes being a fan such a hell of a roller coaster ride. Part of it is that there are a lot of us that get horrifyingly angry at people who say things like "Rodriguez is on the hot seat" one year into his tenure... so perhaps the defense mechanism in play is to attack that mindset by trying to temper expectations a bit, thinking that then some of the undeserved heat and negative attention on a coach that many (including yours truly) believe to be the real deal will go away. I get that, and I can understand where it's coming from, but I think in an effort to combat the extreme end of the spectrum, there's a culture now that any approach other than "guarded" is that of a foolish kool-aid drinker. I don't agree with that sort of thinking, I think it's perfectly fine to be excited. There's a difference between excitement and "BCS GAME THIS YEAR OMG!1!".

I'm excited for this season because we're at a stage where there's a lot that's still simply unknown, there's a lot that can be said from any perspective on nearly any game, and there's an opportunity to see this team grow into something in front of our eyes. For every position where we're thin, there's 74 fumbled punts that won't happen this year (they won't, they won't, they won't). For every road game that looks like it will be an impossible challenge, there's that first half performance in State College last year. To give equal time, on the other side of the coin, for all of the returning starters on offense we talk about, there's the complete lack of depth in the secondary and d-line. And of course, for every moment spent talking about the offensive approach there's that nagging part that says "our starter at QB, for the second year in a row, has never taken a collegiate snap".

I'm not excited for this season because we have so many ___ star players from the past four years or because someone else decided to go elsewhere. Rather, I'm excited for the season because I can't wait to see what kind of progress we've made in year two, I'm excited because I think we're starting to build a team that has the "swagger" that we've been lacking more often than not over the past decade, I'm excited because... hey, this Tate kid looks good. I am certain that there will be ups and downs, there always are, but to me, that's part of what makes it so great. It's FUN to be emotionally involved with the team, it's FUN to get excited and have some enjoyment leading up to the year, it's FUN to believe that there's some pieces in place here to do some things. It's fun to think of a game as "winnable".

You simply can't always predict what will happen... one need not look any further back than the years of 2006 and 2007 to know that far too much goes into a football season to be able to stand here in July and point to much with any kind of certainty... but after a year of horrifying outcomes, worse breaks, and the longest offseason since the "one team gets to go to a bowl rabble rabble rabble" rule, I'm ok with trying to have the "glass-half-full" approach to trying to get a grip on the unpredictable.

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