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Michigan Wins; Desmond Howard Loses It

Dr. Billi Gordon PicWhew!

It took an amazing special team’s last second field goal to send it into overtime, and three overtimes for Michigan to bag the win that arguably resurrected the season.  Although the Wolverines beat Northwestern 27-19, it was as ugly.  It was windy, raining, and cold.  Then, there were Northwestern’s “Wounded Warrior” uniforms.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a noble cause, and speaks volumes about Pat Fitzgerald and the Northwestern Wildcats — all of it good.  Still, those uniforms were so ugly they were scaring blind people.

Then again, maybe those uniforms weren’t the real issue.  Maybe it was just transference on my part.  Maybe what I was really upset about was the disreputable condition of Michigan football. I actually debated whether or not to even watch the game.  For an alumni cheerleader, that is disturbing on multiple levels.  But let’s face it being a Michigan fan has been a rough gig recently.

It hasn’t necessarily been all about losing games; although we’re Michigan, and being 7-3 is unacceptable.  What’s been most disturbing is watching the team getting worse and their morale taking a dive.  I also communicate with many of the players, so the latter was especially hard to witness.

As a doctor, specializing in the brain, I understand how vital morale and self-perception are to personal and team performance.  Sparing you the bulk of the nerd science, the lion share of who we are depends on who we believe we are.  Part of that is based on early experiences, genetics, and social factors etc.

However, a large part of self-perception and subsequently personal and team performance, is based on how others view us.  We decide how they view us by how they treat us.  That is why it was reprehensible and not intelligent for Michigan fans to boo the Wolverines when they lost to Nebraska.

It is also, why I find Desmond Howard’s comments on College Game Day curious.  Yes, he has issues with the coaching staff.  Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes are dead.  In Brady Hoke’s own words that constitutes a failure.  So, Desmond is not alone in his frustration.

However, considering his visibility and prominence in the Wolverine Nation, I wonder if attacking Al Borges on College Game Day was prudent.  I can’t say.  Passion drives people towards peculiar behavior.  Desmond Howard obviously has forgotten more about football than I will ever know.  Obviously, he is better wired in to the politics at Schemblecher hall than I am.  So maybe he knew what he was doing.

Whether I agree or disagree with all or parts of what he said, I still think there’s a bigger issue here, which is the team’s morale. Certainly, he understands the importance of morale from having been on many football teams.  I’m sure he also understands the importance of confidence and respect for the coaching staff by the players, the fan-base, and highly visible alumni.  If he does understand this, I wonder why he thought his College Game Day comments were useful.

With two games remaining in the regular season, who was his on-air tirade supposed to benefit?

Think about the potential recruit, teetering between Michigan and another school.  Were Desmond’s comments useful in swaying him towards Michigan?  Think of the Team 134, especially the freshman and sophomores, were his comments useful for them?  Think of Brady Hoke and David Brandon.

Were Howard’s public remarks useful in making a key internal decision?  While he may have echoed the sentiments of many, I think he was cavalier, disrespectful, and shortsighted in choosing College Game Day as a forum to make those comments.  Not to mention, how were his comments useful for the severely sagging spirit of the Wolverine Nation?

People have said that I think too much like a cheerleader, and maybe I do—once a rah-rah, always a rah-rah.  Still, I think it would have been more appropriate to voice his concerns to Dave Brandon privately.  If I have access to Brandon, surely Desmond Howard does.  In Desmond’s defense, like all of us, he’s a member of the Wolverine Faithful.  Of course, he’s not happy with this.  None of are, but Desmond Howard is not just some random Michigan grad, like myself.  His visibility and prominence has a huge impact.  Impact is power; power requires caution and discretion.

On a more positive note, none of us would have really blamed the Wolverines if they had just hit the send button at the end of Saturday’s game.  The team has been slapped around by opponents; Gardener’s been sacked more than Idaho potatoes; and the Wolverine Nation has been seriously critical of the troubled Michigan offense.

Yet, Michigan did not give up on Saturday.  They played to the very last second, literally, and they won in triple overtime.  The take home message is: this season is not over.  What is the ONE thing that would salvage this season?  Ohio State, if you don’t know what that is, you better ask somebody.  HAIL!

Dr. Gordon

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  • J- Dub

    I don’t think Desmond was wrong in this manner. There are quite a few things Desmond was getting at. 1. You should get what you pay for. If Borges is one of the highest paid coordinators in the country, he should do his job in the manner that he is getting paid to do it. 2. Accountability.As the head coach, Hoke should someway make his staff accountable for the teams regression. As the season goes on, the team should get better not worse. 3. Rah rah. What Desmond did was an athletic version of “rah rah.” He’s not putting the coaching staff down, hes trying to fire them and and tell them to wake up and do their job. 4. Old school. Desmond is from the old school of thinking. He was recruited by Bo. He is only doing what and how he was conditioned by coaches the he encountered in college as well as his pro career. During his playing days, coaches publicly admonished players/coaches and publicly held them accountable. This is more of a point of view from my counseling perspective.

    • Billi Gordon

      Very good points. Thank you for sharing them. I understand it better.

    • Matt Lason

      One of the most important points in your response is point 4 and the fact that players never get blamed for anything. The coaches try to protect them because the players of today grew up in the age of “scoreless” soccer games and “participant trophies”. The players never learned personal responsibility or how to lose. Players only get kicked off the team if they violate team rules, but not if they plain suck at what they do. These same men will, hopefully, get jobs. But if they get fired for not performing their duties in that job, they will not understand why they were fired. Teach kids that losing is not the worse thing in the world and you will teach kids to be winners.

  • k-boa

    look, it is so obvious the coaching staff lost the penn state game, come on. also obvious we are trying to be Stanford without stanfords offensive line, you have to coach to your strengths not fantasies. michingan needs to figure out why hoke won’t use a headset, why the defense is passive, why the o line is teeeerible and why we lack imagination of offense ( and keep skilled players on the bench) - May the Hoke be with you! © January 11th, 2011
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