Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Iago's Vengence

Song parody time again! 

This week I'm getting us into the Christmas spirit by riffing off of the best seasonal song of all time, NewSong's "Christmas Shoes." Important context if you're unfamiliar with the Chad Alvarez/Parrot story.


It was almost Axe game time, there I stood for the fifteenth time
Wearin’ all my gold gear and maroon, waitin’ for booze to change my mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round, his hands a knot
And Jesus, in them was a dead parrot
It was dead for a while, crispy and black, it had been fried
When it came time for teams to play
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

Barry, why’d Chad nuke this bird? ‘Twas a felony
His name’s Iago, he really liked to fly
You’re the AD, Bare, and you raised a psychopath
Horseshoe been up your ass for a while
I know it’d make Iago smile
Want microwaved bird wild and free if the Gophers beat your team tonight

He held that parrot up by the ears
Security said, “son, you can’t bring that here.”
He searched fans’ faces frantically
Only Badgers did he see
He said, “How you people stand up for Barry?”
Badger backs all suck in the League.
Tell me, what are we s’posed to do?
Could have shared a mistress with Bo Ryan too.

So he laid Iago down, a charred wing fell to the ground
And I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Don’t forget these eyes of hate

Barry, why’d Chad nuke this bird? ‘Twas a felony
His name’s Iago, he really liked to fly
You’re the AD, Bare, and you raised a psychopath
Horseshoe been up your ass for a while
I know it’d make Iago smile
Want microwaved bird wild and free if the Gophers beat your team tonight

I knew I'd caught a glimpse of Iago’s love
He descended in flames from above
I knew that God had sent that little boy
Iago’s geist to inflame Badger fans and boil

Barry, why’d Chad nuke this bird? ‘Twas a felony
His name’s Iago, he really liked to fly
You’re the AD, Bare, and you raised a psychopath
Horseshoe been up your ass for a while
I know it’d make Iago smile
Want microwaved bird wild and free if the Gophers beat your team tonight

I want him to be wild and free so he can exact vengeance tonight

Fleck Could Use Hair Extensions but Got a Different Kind Instead

Good morning, Gopher fans. Things sure are astir on the Twittersphere and Gophertronz with the news of Coach Fleck’s contract extension. It’s a one-year extension, team, so I have zero idea why people are freaking out about this. First, extending him through the end of January 2023 gives Fleck the opportunity to tell recruits that he’s contracted to be their coach through their entire tenure as students (of course, given the dynamics of the carousel of college football coaching, that assurance is worth less than the cumulative lifetime ad revenue generated by SGH, but that’s a discussion for a different day). 

This addresses the question of why do it now, after getting pantsed by the Nerds and likely getting pureed by the team from the East: you can pretty safely bet Fleck will have the plane gassed up and on the runway for recruiting visits within 90 minutes of helping the team re-atomize themselves after being reduced to quarks on Saturday. It may not be a big deal to me or you, but optically it’s an important selling point Fleck can take on the road with him now that wouldn’t be there but for today’s announcement. And we need all the selling points we can get at this point. The timing of this is hugely important given the new early signing period – the less reason our top recruits have to bail, the better. AND, he can make many of the same assurances to the 2019 class (hey, Hank!), the recruiting of which will begin in earnest next week (yo, Max!). 

Monday, November 20, 2017


Not great, huh? After Nebraska it kinda, sorta felt like we might have a workable approach on offense. Yeah, we didn't pass the ball much, but the Hydra of Croft, Smith, Kobe and Brooks could generate enough rushing yards to mitigate the flaccidity of our abilities to put the ball in the air.

Not so much. I'm not going to spend a ton of time breaking down what happened against Northwestern, because it can be summed up with any of "ignominious defeat of the highest order," "straight up trash panda" or "I'd rather drink gasoline and stick a flaming sword in my belly, so my insides shoot out my back like I was a Roman candle." It was one of the worst games I've ever watched in every facet.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

"Bowl Hope's Alive"

Sung to the tune of Pearl Jam's "Alive"

Old dogs, I say
The team you thought was a loser
Might not be dead yet

While you were screamin’
Into the void and at your TV
Your point of view was dyin’

It’s time to start believin’
Or just stop with the talk

Oh I, oh, Bowl Hope’s Still Alive
Hey, hey, I, oh, Bowl Hope’s Still Alive
Hey I, oh, Bowl Hope’s Still Alive

"The Wreck of Coach Patrick Fitzgerald"

The following song is sung to the tune of Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." If you aren't an old and you need a frame of reference, you can find the original song on YouTube here.

The legend lives on from Kev Trahan on down
Of a head coach that is very yelly
The coach, it is said, even screams in his bed
When the fates of Northwestern turn gloomy
With a load of Wildcats, 85 fine purple hats
Seeds of anger Fitzgerald was sowing
But ol’ Patrick’s jaw was a bone to be chewed
When the Fleck of November came rowing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

It's never too early to overreact

Well, fellow shootyhoops fans (shootyball? hoopyball? I'll abide by whatever our good friends at Taken All Wrong podcast ultimately decide), here we are a full two games into the 2017-2018 Gophers basketball season. The great thing about overreaction is I'd be able to write this article whether we were 2-0 or (oh, dear God) 0-2. We already have Rothstein anointing Jordan Murphy the best PF in the Big Ten, and Seth Davis calling us "Final Four good" so we are actually a bit behind with the overreactions here at SGH. Well, no more - here we go with our thoughts on the 2-0 Golden Gophers.

Monday, November 13, 2017

PJ's Path to the Rose Bowl - A Still Got Hope? Analysis

Hello friends. First time, long time.

Fresh off the most satisfying win in the nascent P.J. Fleck era of Gopher football, it's worthwhile to pause and reflect on both where we are as a program, and where we want to be. The latter is simple: Pasadena, preferably accompanied by a near-dusk vista of the San Gabriel's.

As to the former, I'd contend we haven't really been close to winning the conference since 2003. 2014 was fun and all, but the secret sauce was a little too much generic Thousand Island dressing and not enough meat for that perfect B1G mac attack. There was something missing, the same two ingredients absent from the Gophers over the last 10+ seasons (saying nothing of the last 50 years) inherently present in successful conference champions. The elements weren't there last season (9 wins though), aren't currently available, and generally haven't been since Glen Mason stopped pining for the Ohio State job sometime early on in the previous decade.

Reaching the ultimate goal, a trip to the Rose Bowl, requires Fleck to address the two biggest issues holding this program back: boosting the talent level of the team, and developing a quarterback.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2017-2018 Gophers – How we reach our ceiling, and how we could stumble

College sports are wildly unpredictable by nature. As Gopher fans, that’s often a very good thing. This is the year we will take back the axe! This is the season every major national publication has underrated our favorite team! The variance between best case and worst case outcomes, the exciting inconsistency in the performance of 18-22 year old student-athletes, is precisely the reason we Still Got Hope.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's Time to Make the Chair Legit

When the Gophers take the field against Nebraska this weekend, it may or may not be for the first trophy truly born in the 21st Century: The $5 Bits of Broken Chair. 

Yes, there are newer trophies, but none came to life purely through the passion and creativity of people from the Internet. A Twitter parody account, a college mascot and the denizens of Reddit joined forces in a way not possible when Floyd, the Jug and the Axe were conceived. People that had never met, and may still only know each other through message boards and other digital media, created something 

Technology facilitated its original birth and it lived for two seasons in real life before quietly disappearing a few years ago. The circumstances of its status are unknown, but it's fairly safe to say the administrations of neither Nebraska nor Minnesota approved and mutually decided to pretend it never existed in the first place.

But there has been a rebirth. Once again, a group of Internet people have come together out of passion and in the spirit of tradition and charity to give this trophy a second life. It celebrated its coming out party last week in Nebraska and will be unveiled to Minnesota fans this Thursday at my favorite campus haunt, Stub and Herbs (6PM - 9PM and I'm told there are door prizes too). 

One of the catalysts behind its resurrection was charity - to gain acceptance from the universities, it would need to serve the greater good. Thus the organizers have been fundraising for the Team Jack Foundation and the Univerity of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. As of today, they stand at $4,000 dollars raised out of a $5,000 goal. With a good push over the next few days and Saturday, there is no reason to believe they won't reach it. 

What remains in doubt is whether the trophy will be allowed on the field on Saturday. Both administrations have remained mum on the issue, but it's hard to believe it will be allowed in the stadium without explicit approval from the University of Minnesota at the least (alas, it's a bit too bulky to shove down one's pants with your trusty flask.)

I wonder why the schools have not embraced this. The trophy seems to embody everything that college football is supposed to be about. During his weekly radio show yesterday, Coach Fleck saw the trophy for the first time and summed up better than I can why this trophy is special: "I heard rivalry, I heard fundraising, charity, tradition...and I'm in."

You can't say that about many of the trophies in college football, particularly the newer ones. Here is one born of passion, oriented in tradition and founded on charitable intent. Fans did this because they care. Fans embrace it because they care. Fans want it to survive and be part of our program story for generations to come.

It's time to let the first trophy birthed from 21-Century technology live. It's time for both schools to make the Chair legitimate.

"Holdin' Back the Cheers"

The following song is sung to the tune of Steely Dan's "Reelin' In The Years." If you aren't an old and you need a frame of reference, you can find the original song on YouTube here.

"Holdin' Back the Cheers"

Your everlasting pessimism
You just won’t let it pass
You’re bitching about something
That you don’t think will last
But you wouldn't know a winner
If you held it in your hand
The things that make you angry
I can't understand

Are you holdin’ back the cheers?
Erecting a Claeys shrine?
Are you rippin’ through the beers?
Mixin’ Coke with turpentine?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wolves: OMG It's Happening After 10 Games

Timing is important in the blog game.  If you want them sweet sweet #hitz you post a lot when a team is riding high.  Get those posts in before any doom and destruction occur.

The Timberwolves have won five (5!) games in a row for the first time since 2009.  They also face the Harlem Globetrotters of the NBA on Wednesday.  The Golden State Warriors are the Globetrotters and all 29 other teams are the Washington Generals.  Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic teams in the NBA this year, but the Warriors are just on another level.

Catharsis through Visualization

Ok, so the last few days have been what we in the blogging business would call "sub-optimal." We lost our QB recruit, then got t-boned by the Fighting Khakis. We cried a little, we yelled a little, we lost some friends and maybe didn't get any new ones. But we're here, it's Tuesday and we have a very winnable game against a team maybe worse than we are. For a trophy even (sort of) as the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy (sort of) makes a comeback (noted parenthetically as neither schools seems to be officially sanctioning it, so five fans in the Maroon Lot may end up making the exchange. A little anticlimactic, but still pretty cool).

Anyway, let's turn those frowns upside down and get ourselves feeling good about the program again. I took a psychology class in high school and I vaguely remember something about visualization being somewhat helpful in effecting positive mood changes. So let's give that a shot and I'm sure we'll all feel better!

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Wet Fart Game

Blech. What an unmitigated disaster that game was. Turns out, if you can't run or pass the ball to generate positive yardage - I think we went backwards four series in a row in the second half - and your run D is as solid as a big, white, puffy cloud of meth smoke, you're gonna have a bad time. And oh, did we ever have a bad time.

2017-2018 Gophers - ranked, in order of importance

Was anyone else besides me yelling “OH, FUCK THIS” loudly in the tailgate lots a few hours before our football season even started? If you were, you probably also got the real-time news update that Eric Curry had torn his knee up and would miss the entire season. This was a blow because this year has some nonzero #TITTY potential on the basketball side and because Curry was the only backup big dude who had proven that he was more than a warm body good for 5 illegal screens per game (sup, Bacardi). While I’m still really high on this year’s Gopher squad, we can ill afford more injury or off the field issues if we want to maximize potential. That said, if Gaston Diedhiou were to steal a moped and take the UMPD on a wild goose chase through Dinkytown, it wouldn’t destroy our season quite as much as if Nate Mason came down with another case of old man hip. Here, I attempt to rate this year’s Gopher squad in order of importance to team success (from least to most vital, because suspense!)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

TAW Pod: Michigan Week

If it's Thursday, it's time for TAW Pod. We were mostly a three-headed hydra this week, with Matt piping in from some kid's camp with a quick #RTB. 

Lots of discussion on the Iwoa game and how we basically blew it, some verbal self mutilation related to the quarterback position and a look ahead at what will surely be a win against Michigan.


Wait Around for the Salty Tears

In December of 2012, an energetic and green young coach named Phillip John Fleck was hired by the University of Western Michigan (/wink)to bring new life to the Broncos football program. Eight months later, on August 30th 2013, Fleck would take the field for the first time as a head football coach.

On that day, in East Lansing, MI, the Broncos fell 26-13 to Michigan State. The following week, the Broncos lost again. This time the game was closer, 27-23, but this time the loss was to the Nicholls State Colonels, a team that had gone 1-11 the previous season, and would end up just 4-8 in 2013… in the FCS.

That evening, on a Collegiate Sports Nation message board focused on Western Michigan athletics called Bronco Stampede, a thread was started:

Subject: Fire Fleck
Someone had to start one of these. Might as well be me.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Culture, the Gophers and the Real World

Culture: the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group.

I work for a large company in the Twin Cities. One of the largest in fact. I've been there for about 15 years. Though the industry would typically be seen as old-fashioned and stodgy, I work in a part of the company where I can dress and act pretty much however I want. In the summer, I'll wear t-shirts; in the winter I'll wear baggy jeans and an old flannel which, when combined with a scraggly beard, probably gives people the impression I'm homeless. With the exception of my teammates, the rest of the floor is required to conform to the corporate uniform of business casual. Suckers.

I am not the first person to whom a new employee would be sent for a primer on the company culture. Partly this is by design: I work in research and development and, to some extent, our mandate is to respectfully challenge the status quo; we're supposed to be weirdos (a hat I wear quite well, thank you). Also, I'm a bit of a non-conformist. A rugged individualist, if you will, minus the slightest hint of characteristics that could be deemed "rugged." I see the culture of the company, and appreciate its value to some degree; but I ain't wearing a lapel pin and I sure as Hell ain't committing to memory some value statement thrown together by some human-centered design shop in Palo Alto.

In this, though, I must admit that I am in the minority. Not just at my present employer, but everywhere I've worked. I'm obviously making broad generalizations here, but most people seem to look at their career as a way to achieve some sort of life purpose. They spend most of their waking hours at their jobs and see their time there as a way to make a difference in the world. 

In traditional jobs, say manufacturing or construction, it was pretty easy to look back at the end of a day or a year and see what you did. There was kinship with your co-workers as you collectively worked toward producing some tangible output. There was a physical representation of what you'd done. You and the world could see it.

As we've transitioned to a more service- and skills-oriented economy, the 'proof' of your labor over a period of time was no longer visible. Sitting on conference calls, seeing dozens of patients or flipping burgers was still work; but you had no collectively-assembled artifacts to reflect your time and effort. Thus was born the corporate culture.

There's been a lot written about how corporate cultures affect the performance of employees, so I'll spare you the boring details (you're already, like, a thousand words in and I haven't even mentioned football, you poor saps - talk about bait and switch); but as Millennials have entered the workforce, the notion of a strong, meaningful corporate culture has become all the more prominent. We see things like "value-based," "purpose-driven" and "powering potential." Work today, for most people isn't just a means to an end, a happy retirement full of travel and excitement; work is an end in itself, a way to achieve self actualization and find purpose.

That lengthy screed is more or less to say that culture is important. Depending on a company's message, they will attract a certain type of talent, a certain type of individual. Target hires radically different employees than Cargill, which hires radically different employees than Medtronic - likely because the respective corporate culture resonated with the prospective employee and the company believed the person would be a good fit for the culture. A bad match on either end will likely lead to poor performance, a bad attitude and a short tenure. Not necessarily because the company or the employee did anything wrong; rather, it's a matter of fit. There is no good or bad, generally speaking: only different.

So, finally, let's talk about the Gophs! A ton has been made about the cultural revolution Fleck brought with him. Many saw it as a great thing, given trainghazi and some of the on-field discipline issues that arose last season. Many others saw his framing of the culture change as an indictment on the previous staff. Being the milquetoast blogger that you've all come to know and love, I'll say that it, at its core, was neither.

Kill et al. wanted a certain type of player: a hard-nosed lunch pailer that could handle psychological adversity. These are good things to look for in a football player. To a large extent, I think the Kill regime believed these were traits inherent to the person: they largely were who they were before they got to campus and the coaches would work with them to achieve success on the football field. It was a culture of tenacity and hard work that necessitated the recruitment of a certain type of player to be successful.

I think Fleck's culture is different in that it's more, uh, aspirational, I guess. Not that Kill didn't want to achieve success here; instead it's more about taking something, a recruit in this case, that might have some imperfections and turning him into something more. Fleck's culture doesn't require a wholesale re-write from the Kill regime. It's a nuanced shift that requires a player to be more capable of believing in abstract concepts. Yes, it's about development on the football field and in the classroom; but it's also oriented around the metaphor of overcoming the challenges of life in general. Metaphor wasn't exactly a hallmark of the Kill and Claeys tenure.

I'll wrap up by saying in a lot of cases they may have gone after the same players. Good football players are good football players, after all. But like Target, Cargill and Medtronic, the respective Gopher coaches each looked for prospects that fit the belief systems instilled by their respective cultures. Neither is categorically good or bad. They're just different and, in some cases, require different sorts of people to be successful.

2017-2018 Gophers Basketball: A Season In Review

Greetings, extensive community of SGH! I’m a tailgating buddy with Frothy, Tre, and JD, and the designated slash default basketball mind (read: I’m the one dude in the crew who pays serious attention to the squad), so throughout this season I’ll be providing occasional #Content on our favorite shootyhoops team. We’ll start by previewing the season to come with a bit of a twist.