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Football full of follies/The Red Line

January 6, 2011
By Brandon Veale -

I came down with a cold last week. The good news is that, after all sorts of sore throat lozenges and various chemical remedies, everything seems to be running its course.

The bad news is that while trying to recover, I spent a lot of time watching football, and it hasn't been that great of a year on that front.

Michigan's firing of Rich Rodriguez on Wednesday was more or less an epilogue on what just hasn't been a great year for the sport in these parts.

Let's start at the top: The Packers have done well to overcome injury after injury to make the playoffs. But as the sixth seed, Green Bay will have to win three games on the road. If it wins for a second time this year at one of the toughest road environments in sports in Philadelphia, it will have to face the conference's top team on a short week (the Falcons have already scheduled their divisional game for Saturday night, Jan. 15). Then it's an NFC Championship Game, again on the road, and maybe a Super Bowl in Jerry Jones' Xanadu against Bill Belichick's bunch or a team good enough to beat them.

This ain't the year, folks. Don't get me wrong, they might win one or two, but that's four mountains too much to climb.

On the other side of Lake Michigan, the Lions have provided their fans with all sorts of hope for the 2011 season after winning the last four games of 2010. What did this accomplish? The best-feeling 6-10 record in football.

What it does is make the Lions everyone's sleeper team going into next year. I'm looking forward to seeing the first summer publication to pick them to make the playoffs. Ask 49ers fans what it's like to be everyone's sleeper pick and then to sleepwalk through the season. Though, since former coach Mike Singletary has lots of time on his hands, perhaps he can join all the king's horses and all the king's men in trying to put Matthew Stafford together again.

All this does is reinstitute an enjoyable cycle of hope and despair that enjoyed greatly when I was a Packers fan living downstate at college: 1. Listen to Lions fans claim how much better they are this year through Labor Day Weekend. 2. Actual games begin. 3. Listen to Lions fans complain about how bad the team is from October on.

Under Matt Millen, they never even got to step one. I guess that counts as progress.

Now to the college ranks and the end of the Rich Rodriguez era, also known as college football's answer to New Coke.

Ann Arbor's a long drive away, so I'll keep it brief, but I had a chance to meet the man last May at the Associated Press Sports Editors' Conference in Midland.

He had scheduled the speech well before, and it turned out that he'd put himself in a room full of reporters on the day before the university was to announce its investigations and self-imposed penalties over violating NCAA practice time regulations.

Watching him speak about it, I?certainly wasn't repulsed by him, but I?couldn't help but wonder if even he believed what he was saying.

Disasters, on and off the field, have been the hallmark of this era: Whether it be creepy Josh Groban renditions, the inability to defend just about anyone,

violating NCAA rules (or more specifically, getting caught violating NCAA rules), or getting repeatedly and violently shellaced by Ohio State, these are the dark ages of Michigan football.

After making Mississippi State, a team that only recently reached mid-pack in the Southeastern Conference, look like Knute Rockne's Notre Dame, it's a small wonder the man wasn't thrown into the Atlantic Ocean.

In three years, the program has gone from consternation that only a 'Michigan man' was fit for the job to realization that only a 'Michigan man' is nuts enough to take it.

In East Lansing, that MSU football renaissance ended with a pretty loud thud in Orlando against Alabama.

Then again, I suppose they still could have made a good Rose Bowl team - since the SEC doesn't play in that one.

Perhaps with five Ohio State players sitting out the first month of the season for exchanging autographs for tattoos (what would Woody Hayes think?) and selling championship rings, a better day is dawning in 2011.

But at this point, both blue and green look out of fashion these days.

Brandon Veale can be reached at



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