I might as well confess, aside from being the only actual Wolverine in Michigan, and maybe the entire U.S. I am also the only wolverine who is a human doctor and my specialty is the human brain. Please don’t judge me for being a doctor, but I had to have a job, cause the off-season hunting is not as good as it could be around here. You see, I have to buy food during the summer when there are no rival mascots to eat. That being said, I look at things from a neuroscience perspective, so let’s start there.
Dopamine. That’s the brain’s feel good drug. It encodes (gives you a squirt of feel good) in a place in the brain called the nucleus encumbers (the reward center of the brain). Dopamine encodes on the anticipation of reward, not the actual reward itself. So like me, Michigan football fans were getting lots of dopamine leading up to the Cowboys Classic.
When we lost the game, as badly as we did, our dopamine took a huge dive. It was very depressing. Now the human brain is a lot like a series of highways that are interconnected. When something happens on one highway, it can affect the others. There is a major connection between the Prefrontal Cortex (the thinking part of the brain) and the nucleus accumbens (the reward center). When we took that dopamine dive from game in the reward center of our brain it affected the thinking part of our brain because that’s just how the brain works. Hence, many people have not been able to truly put the game in perspective. So I’m going to try and do that here.
1: Fitzgerald Toussaint: why did Brady Hoke suspend him for this huge game? He suspended him for the game because he made a very bad mistake. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. There is a responsibility that comes with being a student athlete at Michigan, and no player, no game, and no coach is more important than the obligation to uphold that responsibility. We are a Michigan. Those who stay will be champions. And to be a champion, you must be a champion on and off the field. It’s a 24/7/365 gig, end of story.
While emotionally Hoke’s decision may have been hard to accept, if we think about it. We should applaud that decision. What that says is we have a coach and an athletic administration in place that is a) concerned about the student athlete, and b) devoted to maintaining the integrity of the program. That’s vital, because that mindset is what will prevent Michigan from ever experiencing a situation that is commensurate with what happened at Penn State. Toussaint is a young kid, he will learn from this, and more importantly the young recruits will learn an important life lesson that only few athletes get, “There is no such thing as being so talented that you are above the rules.” As a parent of a highly sought after recruit, who is comparing opportunities for their son, this will weigh heavily in Michigan’s favor, because parenthood, like being a champion is a 24/7/365 gig.
2: Why didn’t we play better? Well there’s a harsh reality. Alabama had better athletes and their regime is in place. Our athletes are very good, but on a field of play someone is always better than someone else. Alabama was better than Michigan on September 1, 2012 in Arlington Texas. However, Alabama is not better than Michigan. We’re still the winningest program in College Football, etc. etc. Our accolades and accomplishments are too numerous to list here.
So nothing has changed in that regard. We’re still the best. Ultimately, college football is about legacy. Legacy is a climate, not weather conditions. We’ll play Alabama another day, and on that day the best team will win, and if history has taught us anything, that team will likely be the Michigan Wolverines. Brady Hoke had an amazing first year. He created an incredible turn around from the previous regime. However, this is just his second year at the helm, and he has yet to get his horses in the stall. Nick Saban has had 6 years to build Alabama. Currently we are out recruiting everyone in the country, including Alabama. The future is bright. We’ll meet Alabama, or a like SEC opponent again, and when we do, you will see the outcome will be much different.
3: Coaching Decisions. Why didn’t Borges open the offense up more? Why didn’t Denard run more? Physically Alabama was bigger, stronger and more lethal. Ray Charles could see that and he’s dead and blind. I suspect the reason was focus. People do not understand how focus occurs in the human brain. Focus utilizes two different parts of the brain. Immediately, focus engages the amygdala and hippocampus—in the R-Complex of the old mammal brain—where the mantra is, “survive now ask questions later”. Focus also includes the frontal lobe in the neocortex—the new thinking part of the brain, which plans for the future. Thus when focus is working correctly, we see what is immediately before us while keeping the big picture in mind.
If Borges had opened up the offense he ran the risk of having several players injured and out for the season, particularly Denard Robinson and Roy Roundtree, who just had arthroscopic knee surgery. Our coaching staff was truly focused. They were looking at the immediate circumstance within the context of the big picture. In other words they were using their brains. Having a really smart coaching staff, with vision is what sustains legacy. So our coaching decisions are more laudable than questionable when examined closely. Having a thinking coaching staff is really good news for Michigan fans and terrible news for Michigan’s future opponents.
4: The lopsided score: 41-14, does NOT sound good. However, we outscored Alabama in the last 35 minutes of the game. What does that tell you? It tells you our team never gave up, and that they were able to score on the nation’s best defense. It also tells you that for more than half of the game, Michigan’s defensive was able to hold a formidable opponent to fewer points than Michigan’s offense scored. That offensive/defensive performance ratio is a fail-safe formula for victory. So the reality is, reading between the lines of the score, the future is bright, in terms of the remainder of this season and in terms of subsequent seasons.
Additionally, we all know that football is an emotional game and momentum driven. Losing Countess early in the game and having the Alabama receiver run past Courtney Avery had an adverse psychological impact on Michigan and adversely impacted Michigan emotionally and contributed to the quick numbers that Alabama put up on the board set the tone for an uphill battle. It was a battle that we did not forsake, but one that we could not win, ultimately.
5: Where do we go from here? We have lost Blake Countess, who is one of our best players, and key in a defense that is ever evolving. Is that going to affect our season?
Denard sustained some injuries, which hopefully are slight, but even so, his passing still has a great deal of room for improvement. These are legitimate concerns. The answers will unfold, one game at a time. So the answer to this question is, we go into the Big House on Saturday and put a beat down on Air Force. Alabama is history, and history, recent or long past, is still history.
6: What does the Michigan faithful do now? We do what the nomenclature suggests. We remain faithful. We are Michigan. We don’t drink the Kool-aid that the Kirk Herbstreit’s are peddling. Kirk Herbstreit is a hater. Fact: he never beat Michigan when he was Ohio State. He has clearly never gotten over that, and probably never will.
When asked if he hated the Chinese for taking over Tibet, the Dali Lami said, “They took my country, why would I give them my mind by hating them?” Clearly the Dali Lama is much smarter than Herbstreit, who has given Michigan a permanent rent-free summer home in his head after we took the gold pants from him. There’s a lot of Herbstreit’s out there who will try to make this worse than it was, or mean something that is does not. Why? Because when you are the best you are the most scrutinized, and we are “the leaders and best.”
Most importantly, we cannot do what LSU has done. We cannot give The Crimson Tide our heads by hating them and wishing them bad luck. The game is over, they won, we move on until we meet again. Anxiety can only exist in the past and in the future, and the past and the future are only valid when they are the present. So our job is easy, stay in the now, because that’s where we are, and the present is all we ever have. Understanding that and negotiating that will author a successful past and bright future.
In facing the challenges of the upcoming season there is a tremendous opportunity for growth. If you don’t know that Michigan will seize that opportunity, then you don’t know Michigan. HAIL!