As I wrote yesterday, we’re in for a culture year. For us fans, it sucks because we see the writing on the wall, in blood, on fire, shooting acid in our eyes, that we’re going to lose a lot more games than we win this year. We’ll muddle through, though, like we always have: self-medicating with booze and benzos (though not together, Gopher fans, we need you alive!), avoiding message boards for 96 hours after games, blocking any and all Wisconsin fans on Twitter and spending every Sunday in bed watching Netflix with the covers over our heads. That process is more or less like an old friend to us now.
The ones the culture year most adversely affects is this year’s senior class. I refuse to do the math, but I suspect the current 4th- and 5th- year seniors have the winningest tenure of any Gopher seniors since the 1960s. It sucks because, barring divine intervention, they’ll likely go out with a losing record and no final opportunity for a bowl game. They deserved to get the bolt gun to their football careers with a better experience than getting pasted seven or eight times this year.
But while I’m sure it’s demoralizing to them, it’s not as if they’ve been benched in favor of a youth movement, as often happens after a coaching change. Fleck, in fact, threw his freshmen babes into the fire when he took over at WMU – the idea being they will get turned to ash in the hottest of nuclear hellfires, but they would grow (I’m not using gROW - I love Fleck, but I’m not quite ready to start telling people I am “ELITE” when asked how I’m doing or incorporate his nomenclature into my pieces; I give it a week) through the adversity and be in full nekton mode by their senior seasons.
He’s not doing that here. Like, at all. As far as I can tell, the only senior getting less playing time in 2017 versus 2016 that hasn’t also been suspended is Cody Poock. There really aren’t many seniors on the team to begin with, but with the exception of Poocker, if they played a lot last year, they’re playing a lot this year: Ayinde, Calhoun, Carter, the Celestin Prophecy, Don’t Call me Joseph Merrick Jackson, Lingen, McCrary, SRich, Stelter, Wozniak and Wright. The only missing name here is Duke McGhee, who was suspended. Was the suspension fair? Beats me. But it’s a pretty thin branch on which to hang Fleck for screwing his seniors in favor of a youth movement.
Should Poock be playing more? Maybe? Thomas Barber looks pretty solid out there, though, notwithstanding his tendency to get caught up in the junk on occasion. The coaching staff shouldn’t be required to play someone just because they’re a senior. Maybe Poock is slightly better today, but Barber has amazing upside. Maybe Barber is just better. If he were benching seniors by the baker’s dozen, I’d be more inclined to agree with some nefarious conspiracy to persecute seniors as a means to build his culture.
Regardless, I’m not going to shiv Fleck in the liver by accusing him of benching senior players when there’s exactly one (1) (ONE) non-suspended senior not getting playing time equivalent to last year. From my perspective, he’s within his rights to play only freshmen and walk-ons: it’s his job and he’ll be judged by his results over the next three to four years. If he thinks playing me at punter will give him the best shot at job retention, then I am ready to serve, coach.
I really hope the seniors can hold the ship together and get us to another bowl game. They deserve it and, selfishly, so do us fans. They’re not getting the business end of the coaching cattle prod, at least with respect to playing time, though. Arguing otherwise requires a level of booze, kookiness and desire to sink the boat that’s beyond my ability to comprehend. Seriously specious shit.