Growing up I didn't like the University of Michigan for a number of reasons, many of them stemming from the simple situational condition of being a Michigan State fan.
My family were Sparty people after-all, my Grandfather a dean of the education school, and I was brain-washed early and irrevocably to think in shades of green rather than maze and blue.
On crisp fall Saturdays I might head to a game with my grandparents and enjoy the cross generational thrill of rooting for the team, watching my usually mild mannered grandfather get fired up and blunder the occasional "damn" or "crap" (big time swear words for him), only to be reprimanded by a sharp "Bob!" by my ever vigilant grandmother.
And needless to say, the University of Michigan beat up on us quite a bit. Across all sports, Michigan often succeeded while State (though occasionally rising up) seemed mired in mediocrity. These were times before Tom Izzo established a reliable brand of excellence that had not been seen at MSU since the 1950's.
Playing second fidle to anyone, particularly to the young and vainglorious, fuels envy which is generally the precursor to outright dislike.
Michigan's fans were often elitist as well, trumpeting their schools success as if it was there own, even though most had no ties to UM other than their bandwagoning lust for self-esteem. And I found nothing more pathetic than the Michigan fan who presumed to lecture me (an A student) on Michigan's excellent Academic reputation. The innuendo was of course that State was garbage (hardly true) and I took it as an assault on Gramps, who worked at MSU selflessly for many years, and who was eventually inducted into the State of Michigan's educator hall of fame.
So yeah, I don't like Michigan. So much so that when choosing a pompous reputable state school for my own graduate career, I went to the University of Virginia, because I couldn't fathom the hypocrisy of teaching at Michigan.
But Grampa Bob also taught me the difference between right and wrong, and he also taught me that fandom (though powerful at times) is often another guise by the mob to invoke the ugliness that the mob often demands: the impulse to bully, the indignant self-righteous hypocrisy, and the faceless anonymity of doing another a bad turn.
The things so repugnantly perpetuated by the media in these voyeuristic times.
And so as I sit here watching anonymous cowards make statements about the credibility of Michigan football practices, I'm filled with a heat that evaporates any water on the brain acquired during a lifetime of rooting against Michigan.
Grandpa Bob cared little for fandom that strayed into immorality, or petulance, or ill-will. And so the spirit of my Grandfather demands that I now leap to the defense of Rich Rodriguez, even while many Michigan fans would prefer to pile on.
I feel sorry for Rich Rodriguez.
First of all, I've never been a fan of the notion " anonymous accusers," this shield used by the media to justify reporting a story without the bother of having a source's credibility scrutinized. If you've got it in your head to ruin somebody, and potentially the University of Michigan's entire football program, then you should at least have the cajones to do it in the open, rather than sniping from the bushes wielding the media as your gun.
Like the NRA that'll tell you that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," the media likes to report anonymous unsubstantiated stories under the guise of "just reporting the news." Both these arguments neglect the relative ease with which their preferred weapon allows a homicide to occur. Guns make it easy for crazy people to kill people, and anonymous stories make it easy to kill a man's reputation without the messy need for substantiation.
It is no secret that Rich Rod is not loved by the Michigan fanbase, after a disastrous inaugural season which saw many athletes defect the program, and it is no secret that there is plenty of speculation as to how long he'll last at the school anyway. Pundits don't predict great things from this years squad which if true, means Rodriguez will be on a very hot seat by year's end with or without these trivial allegations.
The NCAA of course is predictibly looking in to the matter, pretending to be concerned about the players it so obviously exploits, provoking many coaches and players (present and past) to question the motivation here.
Anyone that knows anything about big-time college football knows that every single program in some way is violating the time restrictions "imposed" by the NCAA.
Every one, without exception.
Those "voluntary" off-season workouts and film sessions?
Guess what, they aren't voluntary, if you don't attend them you won't play. Period.
Beyond that you'll definitely hear about it from your teammates and coaches if you aren't showing up.
During the season playing on the team is like a full-time job, particularly if you're on the road, what with practice, film study, workouts, and much more of these "voluntary" exercises that aren't voluntary.
“Twenty hours is a very, very small portion of what you do, especially if you’re a quarterback at a high-profile school,” said ex-UM quarterback Chad Henne who didn't play under Rodriguez. “Twenty hours isn’t enough for you. You have to be in there by yourself, studying film, no coaches around, and doing it on your own. That’s where the leadership comes in and that’s where, if you want to get better and play better, you have to do it on your own.”
So these allogations of impropriety really sound pretty ridiculous when coming from the mouths of disgruntled ex-players and being investigated by the NCAA, the organization so responsible for enriching themselves based on the obvious and wide-ranging infractions of its time restrictions.
Add to this now the case of Rich Rod being cast as a villain as the backer of a real estate deal that went belly up, even though he was the victim of fraud in that circumstance, his lack of success as the head of the UM football program and his messy divorce from West Virginia, and it equals trying times for the Wolverines head football coach.
So let's be reasonable here and get off the guys back.
Personally, I don't care if he coaches the UM football team into the ground, but that doesn't mean I want the NCAA (an organization I despise even more than UM) to come in and club them for some trumped up charges about time violation.
The enemy of my enemy is not my friend, and if anything it's made me sympathize with the embattled coach.
Football's a game that usually involves a lot of piling on, but when the whistle blows and enough is enough, then it's time to get off.