There is a famous scene in Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" in which the book's titular hero and his friend, Huckleberry Finn, believed to be dead and at the bottom of the river, are eulogized by the townsfolk while observing the proceedings from the church rafters. To be sure, the rascally boys find great pleasure in hearing just how missed they are by their bereaved neighbors. If today's Rich Rodriguez were to find himself in a similar predicament he may be more than a bit unnerved to find that the people in attendance were just praying he stayed lodged in the river bed for all eternity.
There are schools for whom the news they are exonerated from any wrongdoing (as the Wolverines were yesterday) would be cause célèbre. Michigan is not one of those schools. Michigan does not rejoice when the football team's biggest victory in a season is not getting heavily sanctioned by the NCAA. Yes, the
Evil Empire Ohio State game is still on the slate to save the season, but with a defense apparently dependent upon shamrocks and unicorns for success, a victory over He Who Shall Not Be Named seems highly unlikely. And Tresselvest isn't even the most immediate concern for the Maize & Blue; while Rich Rod struggles to keep his head above water, his team is faced with a visit from a man who rules the waves:
In so many ways, this game is a microcosm of why Rodriguez finds himself in such deep trouble. Many of us have given RichRod the benefit of the doubt due to the staggering production from his offense while simultaneously laying the blame for the defense's, er, shortcomings at the feet of Greg Robinson. However, comments from the most respected Michigan defender since Charles Woodson cast some serious doubt on the blamelessness of Coach Rodriguez. We are now left wondering if it's our own impatience that's to blame for the unease around the Michigan program or the refusal of a man who thinks he knows everything to admit that perhaps he was wrong. Has the country boy let success and fortune go to his head? Hmm...
As we asserted in the comments section of a fanpost earlier this week, Michigan is still one of those special jobs. It's hard to believe, but this remains a program only a graduating class removed from double-digit wins. Moreover, Michigan remains the winningest program in college football by a long-shot. And while once-proud programs like Minnesota, Army or even Notre Dame haven't so much as sniffed a National Championship in over a generation, Michigan has brought home that hardware more recently than traditional powers Penn State or Washington (to name only a few) and won their title the same year Nebraska "claimed" their last. This remains the gold-standard job in college football. However, the Rodriguez era has now passed from "deconstruction and rebuilding" to "search and rescue". To that end, YFDI presents with a fair amount of warning, from San Francisco, CA, Anchor Steam Beer.
The only anchor you want to take you to the bottom
Much like the Michigan football program, Anchor has been doing it better longer than anyone else. Fritz Maytag (an Iowan, but hey, you had a coach/AD named "Fritz", too!) saved a relic of 19th Century brewing in the late 1960's. By 1971 he had the brewery churning out what is widely recognized as the first post-Prohibition craft beer in the United States. It's clean and crisp yet full-bodied and balanced by just a subtle hop kiss on the finish. It's the very definition of understated beauty.
Much like Michigan football, while many have done more exciting and innovative beers since, few have managed to consistently deliver such sustained excellence over so long a period. And this is the crux of what has people upset with the state of things at Schembechler Hall. Unlike Ohio State fans, UM folks don't expect a National Championship every year but they sure as Hell demand a certain standard is maintained. Some people were willing to suspend judgement with the faith that this was all part of a plan. As things go forward it would appear this is more an experiment than anything. That sort of "let's see if this works!" attitude may work in West Lafayette, but certainly not in Ann Arbor. Likewise, Anchor rolls out a new beer once every so often (like maybe every 5 years) but is more concerned with maintaining it's unblemished record than wowing folks with the Next Big Thing.
The immediate future would appear to be this: unless the bottom completely falls out, Greg Robinson will be required to fall on his sword if Rich Rodriguez is to be allowed one more year to turn things around. However, with an unprecsidented grace period having already been granted, anything short of tOSU-style success next season will bring about the conclusion of this (so far) inglorious chapter of Michigan football. It's not time for Rodriguez's funeral just yet, but despite what he may report, he's not getting better
Go forth and drink and enjoy, as you never know when it will be your last...