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Friday, August 31, 2012

Know Your Foe - Alabama 2012


Ed. Note: A huge thanks to Benny for coming out of blogging retirement to pen this week's Know Your Foe.  He blew off rescheduled a lot of work at the office the last couple of days in order to put in the time to get KYF finished by today.  

The Michigan Wolverines open their 133rd season this Saturday NIGHT! So which directional Michigan school are they going to wax in the Big House? Wait a minute, they're playing Alabama? In a professional team's stadium in Texas? In a made-for-TV showcase? How 21st Century. I don't know that Bo would approve, but it's great to see Michigan playing in games like this. And though the Crimson Tide have never before appeared on the Michigan regular-season schedule, the teams have faced each other three times, including the day after that whole Y2K fiasco. You might not remember back that far so you're probably wondering, who are these Alabamians and what should we know about them? To answer these and many other questions, the MZone is proud to present this year's special season-opening edition of KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – The University of Alabama (UA) was founded in 1831 and is the oldest and largest university in the state (take that Auburn and, uh, UAB!). It's formation actually dates back to 1818 when the federal government authorized the then Alabama territory to set aside land for a "seminary of learning." When Alabama became a state two years later, additional land was set aside. A mere 41 years later the state joined in a fight against that very same federal government. The campus design was influenced by the University of Virginia and featured a dome Rotunda in the center. It officially opened as "The University of the State of Alabama" on April 18, 1831, which seems late in the school year to start a university. 

Enrollment hovered around 100 students for the first couple of decades, but few of the early students remained enrolled and fewer graduated. Discipline was a constant issue – rules were enacted to curb drinking, swearing, and music, but gunfights and riots were common. Finally, in 1860, the governor transformed the University into a military school. Many of the graduates at this time became officers in the Confederate Army which likely explains why the Union Army burned most of the campus to the ground on April 4, 1865. Amazingly, four buildings from the pre-Civil War era survive to this day. The University re-opened in 1871, expanded in 1880 and first admitted women in 1893 (23 years after Michigan did so). The military structure was abandoned in 1903.

Much like the rest of the South, the middle of the 20th Century saw the issue of civil rights and integration come to the Alabama campus. The first attempt at integration came in 1956 when Autherine Lucy was admitted to the school (thanks to a court order), but then was suspended and expelled three days later as the university claimed it could not provide a safe learning environment for her. Successful integration finally came six years later when Vivian Malone and James Hood registered for classes in June of 1963. Then governor George Wallace made his infamous "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" in an attempt to stop their enrollment, only stepping aside when confronted by federal marshals. Lucy's expulsion was rescinded in 1980 and she graduated with a master's degree in 1992. Hood dropped out after two months but received his PhD in philosophy from UA in 1997. Malone stayed in school and graduated. Today, the plaza outside of the building Wallace stood to block their entrance bears the names of Malone and Hood and the clock tower in the plaza is named for Lucy.

Location – Tuscaloosa, Alabama. One of the greatest college town names (KYF recalls many a game announced by Keith Jackson from there), Tuscaloosa is the fifth-largest city in the state with a population just over 90,000 and becomes the fourth-largest city after signing day before Saban starts grayshirting. The one-time capital takes its name from Tuskaloosa, the chieftan of a Muskogean-speaking people, who were defeated in battle in 1540 in the Battle of Mabila. The city is located in west central Alabama, close to, well, not much else. The “Druid City,” so named from the water oaks planted in its downtown since the 1840s, actually has a pretty diversified economy. Obviously the university is a major driver, but local government agencies and manufacturing are critical economic factors as well.

Even if the university isn’t the main pillar economically, it certainly is culturally. Whether it’s the museums or the nightlife on The Strip or downtown, going out in Tuscaloosa usually has something to do with UA. And like any good city in the South, it usually has something to do with the football team. Not only is the university dominated by football, the entire town is.

Nickname – Crimson Tide. One of the most unique nicknames, not just in college athletics but all of sports, has a bit of an unclear origin. Early accounts of Alabama football referred to the team with the imaginative “Varsity,” or the “Crimson White” in reference to the team’s colors. The first popular nickname was the “Thin Red Line,” which was used until 1906. Then, in 1907, an underdog Alabama team fought to a muddy 6-6 tie against rival Auburn (incredibly the last time the two teams would play for 41 years). Hugh Roberts, sports editor at the Birmingham Age-Herald was so impressed he coined the “Crimson Tide” name. The name was further popularized by former sports editor of the Birmingham News, Zipp Newman. What a crazy time that was – not because guys were named “Zipp,” but because newspapers actually had influence on society.

The nickname is so unique, it’s actually made numerous appearances in popular culture. And this isn’t like the coincidental character names that Michigan can cling to. The movie Crimson Tide, starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman took the name straight from the football team. Steely Dan’s famous line of “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide” from their song Deacon Blues might not make much sense, but should serve as a point of pride for UA fans. The name has also been referenced in some country music songs that Know Your Foe has no familiarity with.

Mascot – Big Al, the elephant. Now why would the Crimson Tide have an elephant as a mascot? It goes back to 1930, that time when newspapers held sway over the nation. In early October, the Tide (who won the national championship) took on Ole Miss. Sports writer Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal wrote a story about the game that quoted a fan yelling “Hold your horses, the elephants are coming” right as the Tide team ran on the field. Strupper and other writers of the time would then refer to the Tide linemen as “Red Elephants.”

The costumed mascot didn’t appear until student Melford Espey, Jr. wore an elephant head to games in the early 1960s. Espey became a university administrator (apparently elephant head wearing was a job requirement) and in the 1970s was instrumental in the mascot’s official debut in the 1979 Sugar Bowl. The current roster of Big Als consists of five students, including one female. According to his appearance policy, Big Al doesn’t accept tips, though it’ll cost you $400 to have him show up for an hour at your wedding or bar mitzvah.

Colors – Crimson and White. KYF has gone over the whole red/scarlet/cardinal/crimson thing many times before. Red and the various shades that make up college football looks great in a full stadium. KYF even enjoys the occasional college coach who has the cajones to wear a bright red blazer on the sidelines. But the color is just too common for KYF’s taste.
Alabama is one of eight Division I-A FBS schools to include crimson among their colors, and one of three to pair it with white (along with Utah and New Mexico State). The colors have been associated with the school for at least 120 years and even the campus newspaper (the Crimson White) takes its name from the school colors. Some might say Crimson White would be a good euphemism for redneck. KYF wouldn't do that, though.
Logo/Helmet – The crimson helmet with white numerals and grey facemask has been a staple of college football for over 50 years with almost no change. In the 1960s and in 1983 and ’84, the team wore white helmets with crimson numerals for some games but for pretty much ever since the Crimson Tide abandoned leather helmets, things haven’t changed. And KYF thinks that’s great in this case. Not only will two of the winningest football programs take the field in Dallas on Saturday night, but so will two of the best looking helmets in football.
As perfect and well known as the ‘Bama helmets are, the logos are surprisingly un-original. The official logo which incorporates a cartoon elephant, looks positively minor league, and is a classic example of generic computer graphic design or some smart ass who wanted to show what an elephant f*cking a block "A" looked like. The alternate logo is at least more major league but that’s because it’s almost identical to that of the Atlanta Braves. Hey, Alabama, you’ve had so much success with the traditional look on the field, why not go back to the logo you used from the ‘60s to the ‘90s?

Fight songYea, Alabama. This fight song doesn’t get mentioned with The Victors or the Notre Dame Victory March, but Yea, Alabama belongs in that second tier of great college football fight songs. Most Michigan fans, and most football fans outside of the South, might not associate the tune with the Crimson Tide, though they are probably familiar with it. And while most college football fans know at least some of the lyrics to great fight songs like On, Wisconsin, Fight On, and Boomer Sooner, Yea, Alabama’s lyrics are unknown to most everyone who doesn’t wear houndstooth underwear. And there’s a good reason why – they’re laughably anachronistic. They mention a school that ‘Bama hasn’t played in 28 years, and a bowl game that the Tide hasn’t played in since 1946. And the whole mention of “watery grave” makes KYF a tad uncomfortable.

Yea, Alabama! Drown 'em Tide!
Every 'Bama man's behind you;
Hit your stride!
Go teach the Bulldogs to behave,
Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave!
And if a man starts to weaken,
That's a shame!
For 'Bama's pluck and grit
Have writ her name in crimson flame!
Fight on, fight on, fight on, men!
Remember the Rose Bowl we'll win then!
Go, roll to victory,
Hit your stride,
You're Dixie's football pride, Crimson Tide!

The song now ends with a “Roll Tide, Roll Tide” chant, much like how “Go Blue” often follows The Victors. As a matter of fact, both phrases serve as greetings to strangers across the world who are wearing their team’s paraphernalia.
No matter how the game goes, Michigan fans are sure to hear that song plenty on Saturday night. The one song Wolverine fans don’t want to hear is another ‘Bama tradition, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. This song is only played following (or at the very end of sure) Alabama victories. It’s the ultimate victory cigar to Tide Fans. Listen to it and it’ll no doubt stir up memories of Verne Lundquist wrapping up a game from Braynt-Denny Stadium. The linked file is for a win over Tennessee, but the fans substitute the name of the whichever team was just dispatched.

Hey Vols!
Hey Vols!
Hey Vols!
We just beat the hell out of you!
Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer, gave 'em hell, Alabama!


It’s typically only played once or twice after the game, but it was also played before games with the lyrics changing to “We’re gonna beat the hell out of you.” But in the early 2000s the university felt it was too taunting in nature and had the band stop playing it. After heavy criticism the university relented as long as it was only played after the game. The lyrics originate from a former student newspaper, The Rammer Jammer, and the state bird, the yellowhammer. The title of the song was also the title of the excellent 2004 book by Warren St. John, which EVERY college football fan should read. Seriously, go buy it now. KYF will wait.
Both songs are played by the 330-member “Million Dollar Band.” The name dates back to 1922 when the band had to raise funds to be able to travel to a game at Georgia Tech. Thankfully, with all the money in college football today, that would never happen. Following the game, a 33-7 defeat to the Yellow Jackets, an Alabama alumnus, W.C. Pickens, was asked "[...] what do you have at Alabama?" by an Atlanta-based sportswriter. Pickens replied only, "A million dollar band."
Academics – According to the most recent U. S. News ranking of America's Best Colleges, Alabama is a solid, if unspectacular 75th, which, ties them with seven schools, including the Big Ten’s Indiana, and Michigan lookalike, Delaware. This ranking would put them near the bottom of the Big Ten, ahead of only Nebraska (#101), but they’re ranked 5th in the 14-team Southeast Conference, and most importantly seven spots ahead of rival Auburn.

Athletics – Alabama has been a member of the Southeast Conference since it's founding in 1932. The school offers 21 varsity sports (Michigan has 27). Other than in football, athletic success has been surprisingly modest in Tuscaloosa. The men's basketball team has never made a Final Four, with an Elite Eight in 2004 representing the furthest advancement. UA has sent 24 players to the NBA, led by seven-time champion Robert Horry, all-around good guy Antonio McDyess, and ne'er-do-well Latrell Spreewell. Alabama has never won a national title in any men's sport other than football. They have won six women's gymnastics titles, and are the current national champions in women's golf and women's softball (beating Michigan in the Softball World Series).

But when people think of the Alabama Crimson Tide they think of football. And for good reason. The school has won 14 national championships (Michigan has 11), 22 SEC titles (by far the most), has a winning record against every SEC member (except newcomer Missouri who they've played only three times), and has played in a record 58 bowl games, winning 33. The program's 814 wins ranks 7th in Division 1-A, as does their 0.710 winning percentage. The face of Alabama football is Paul "Bear" Bryant, a man who's been dead for almost 30 years. Bryant's name is on the 101,821 seat stadium (along with former UA president George Hutchinson Denny), his trademark houndstooth hat pattern appears all over the state, and his legacy is reborn countless times when true 'Bama fans name their newborns (most importantly, the vast majority of Tide fans had a pretty good sense of humor when the MZone poked some fun at their beloved legend). Bryant was a solid player for the Tide in the early '30s but it's his 25-year coaching career at Alabama that has made him a legend. He won 315 games, six national titles, and 13 SEC titles. 

Famous alums – Even without including the fictional Forrest Gump, the list of alumni from Alabama is pretty decent. It includes Forrest Gump author Winston Groom, writer and journalist Gay Talese, actor Jim Nabors, actress Sela Ward, and director of many Seinfeld episodes, Tom Cherones.

Longtime baseball announcer Mel Allen is a 'Bama alum along with college football guy Rece Davis, and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. And KYF is deeply indebted to one Alabama alum in particular, Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia. Thanks, Jimmy!

There are, of course, a ton of football players, including seven hall of famers: John Hannah, Don Hutson, Joe Namath, Ozzie Newsome, Bart Starr, Dwight Stephenson, and Derrick Thomas. 

The list also includes plenty of local politicians, longtime Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, and former governor and presidential candidate (and neer-do-well) George Wallace, but, alas, no U.S. Presidents.

The Game – Wow, what a way to start things off, facing the national champions on a neutral field. This is the game of the week and could go a long way to determine who plays for that cheap-looking crystal football at the end of the season. 'Bama lost a ton of talent to the NFL, but the Nick Saban recruiting machine (scholarship limits? We don't need no stinkin' scholarship limits!) just rolls on. And if Saban's the coach, you know this team is going to be tough on defense. But the Tide don't have Denard Robinson, who saw the Michigan program through the darkest of days and is ready to cement his mark as one of the greatest Wolverines ever. It will be a lot of work, but Denard and the defense will put Michigan in the national championship conversation before we even get to Labor Day.

MICHIGAN - 20
ALABAMA - 13

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Now Playing at the MZone Theater

Well, not only is it opening weekend of the college football season, but it's also opening weekend at the refurbished MZone Theater (we added IMAX and are thus jacking up the popcorn and Red Vines to obscene levels to pay for it).

In theater 1, our main feature is the most anticipated blockbuster of the year...



And we have a special treat for you all at midnight in theater 5.  Based on our post of the same name, Hollywood has already rushed out a film version of...

Nick Saban vs. Mecha-Nick Saban


Ed. Note: BIG thanks for Rigby for the 'Shop work!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nick Saban vs. Mecha-Nick Saban


As a kid, I used to love the old Japanese Godzilla movies (which is why I will never, ever forgive the people behind that shitty-ass remake.  WTF was that?!).  I especially liked Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

For those of you who had a deprived childhood, Mechagodzilla (aka Mecha-Godzilla) was Godzilla's robotic doppelganger.  When they battled, it was heartless, fire-breathing evil versus its bionic equal.  Mano-a-Mechanical.

The reason I was thinking of Godzilla today was because I had started writing up a post about Alabama's head football coach, Nick Saban.  Like me, when you think Nick Saban, the first thing that probably comes to mind for you as well is heartless, fire-breathing evil (only with slightly less personality).

So I began free associating some ideas along the "Saban is Godzilla" theme when I  remembered the giant statue of Saban that Alabama had already erected...



And, voila, like that, the spark of an idea was upon me:  Pure, cold-blooded oversigning malevolence vs a metallic rush to deify (because, you know, what could possibly go wrong with putting up a statue of one's head coach while he's still there).

It really is the perfect monster movie.

So who would win such an epic battle of B-movie villainy?  As you know if you've watched such flicks, there isn't just one battle between the two baddies in each film, but many.  In different places, and against different backdrops.  Thus, the MZone breaks down what would happen in the scariest movie of the year...

Nick Saban vs. Mecha-Nick Saban

DESTRUCTIVE POWER

If the 9-foot bronze statue of Mecha-Nick Saban fell over, he'd crush that nearby wall.  But it can probably be fixed in a matter of weeks or days.

When Nick Saban recruits some kid only to abruptly pull his scholarship at the last minute, "grayshirt" him or make him take a medical hardship, these harmful actions leave scars on kids that can last a lifetime.

Advantage:



ON-SCREEN CHARISMA

Nick Saban always looks like a guy getting an enema while in a dental chair having a root canal at the same time.  Even Mark Dantonio has been known to remark, "Man, that dude needs to lighten the fuck up."

Mecha-Nick Saban just looks like the same guy getting only the enema.

Advantage:



BRAVERY IN BATTLE

Being 9 feet tall and made of bronze, Mecha-Nick Saban will not flee when things get tough.

After coaching at MSU and realizing he couldn't rise above Michigan when the playing field was level, Nick Saban fled to conferences where that wouldn't be the case.  Remember these words from Saban after he left MSU?:

"At Michigan State, we were never No. 1," Saban said. "That was always Michigan. It was always U-M this or that."

Advantage:



MOST DESPISED

This one is easy.  Mecha-Nick Saban is loved by pigeons.

Nick Saban is hated by any college football fan who doesn't bleed Crimson and White.

Advantage:


UPDATE:

Rigby did the poster for us!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fan Film Breakdown: Say Roll Tide, I'll Give You Another Piece of Ice

From the Editor:  Since the MZone is returning after a loooong hiatus and people might not know we're back, if you can kindly pass on a link or a tweet to a friend or 38, we'd sure appreciate it!

Yost

When players and coaches want to learn about their next opponent, they watch and break down game film, studying it for clues.  But what if you want to learn about a team's fanbase? 

In an effort to help you, the MZone reader, better know the fans of our opponents each week, today we are starting a new feature here called Fan Film Breakdown.  In a nutshell, we scour YouTube for videos posted by fans of Michigan's next opponent, then break them down like coaches in order to give you insight into those fans.  Sure, it may sound simple, but it takes a keen blogger's eye to really "see the fanbase."

Kicking off the new feature today, we turn our attention to the fans of Michigan's season opener, the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Please know that we didn't take this important task lightly.   To find out who Tide fans really are, we did meaningful YouTube research that took nearly 25 minutes.  Because we didn't want the stereotypes.  We wanted the truth.  In their own words.

And by God, we found it.

Thus, below is a completely unbiased, totally representative sample of the Crimson Tide fanbase.   Watch each video below then check out the Mzone's breakdown after the clip.

CLIP #1: ROLL TIDE BABY



WHAT WE LEARNED:
 Judging from the video, being a Tide fan isn't something a child born with.  It must be learned.  And if that doesn't work, bribery must be used

KEY PLAY:
-- "Say Roll Tide, I'll give you another piece of ice."
-- "Get the grass out of his mouth."

CLIP #2: ROLL TIDE GRANDMA



WHAT WE LEARNED:
 A Tide fan's love of her team never fades...nor does her love of stripping.

KEY PLAY:
-- "MOM!"
-- "We like to see your face, not your ass."

CLIP #3: JUST TWO PAINTED GUYS



WHAT WE LEARNED:
-- Judging by the same wood paneling in this video and in Roll Tide Grandma, either fans in 'Bama are all stuck in the 1970s or these two groups of folks might be related (or both).
-- Something is seriously wrong with our democracy when these two guys can vote for President of the United States and have said vote count just as much as yours

KEY PLAY:
-- "I don't even have a job."
-- "To summarilize all this stuff together..."

CLIP #4: THE TIDE IS COMING!



Ed. Note: At first we weren't sure if this was real.  We thought maybe somebody had broken into Yost's mind, stolen the idea for Fan Film Breakdown before he even had it then gone back in time and posted a fake, parody video of what a bad stereotype of a 'Bama fan might look like - just to see if we could spot a forgery.  We must be honest in saying that, after multiple viewings, we're still not sure that's not what happened.  Because to admit that the above video and person is a real Alabama fan is actually scarier than the whole breaking into Yost's mind/going back in time alternative.

WHAT WE LEARNED
-- Apparently people really do chew tobacco while not attending a NASCAR race or a Hank Williams Jr. concert.
-- Ned Beatty, please email and let us all know you are safe


KEY PLAY:
-- "Hbwphbrghykeduruv" (or whatever was said around the :24 second mark)
-- "Here's a little story..." followed by 10 second pause as brain reboots
-- "Screw you, bend over and kiss it good-bye cuz this shit ain't gonna be pretty."
-- "Roll Tide, motherfuckers"
-- [spit sound] x347

Well, there you have it, folks.  Our first Fan Film Breakdown.  Hope you now have a much more complete understanding of what we're up against off the field come Saturday.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Urban Meyer Starts New Tradition, Gives OSU Students Clap

Last week, we tweeted about the new "tradition" Tosu head coach Urban Meyer is bringing to the 'Shoe.  If you missed its video unveiling, behold...



First of all, what "aueur" directed that thing?  With the shaky camera and constantly shifting focus I kept waiting for Jason Bourne to jump into frame and kick the shit out of Coach Mick with a rolled up tube sock.  More importantly...

WTF is this "tradition" exactly?  It seems to be a mix between Simon Says and that Hand Jive scene from Grease.

And in an online exclusive, if the The Clap Quick Cals go well, the MZone has learned that Meyer will introduce the even more complicated tradition.  Shown in the video below, it will be for grad students and debut during the next home game:


In Other Buckeye News 

MZone reader Barry sent us the picture below which he received from a friend of his in Ohio showing some new Tosu apparel:


All I can say is, what can you expect from people who probably wear their "Fuck Michigan" t-shirts to church?  And finally...

Our pal Surrounded in Columbus sent us the pic below of the latest breakfast cereal in C-bus:



Gee, that has to be some stale-ass cereal.  Somebody jealous they didn't get their own pop tart?  Hmm.  I feel like we've seen this before.  Yep.

Man, it's good to be back and mocking our Buckeye brethren.

GO BLUE!

Obaam Misspells Ohio

ED. NOTE: We don't do politics here on the MZone.  That way lies madness on a college football blog.  There's enough animosity in the sports blogosphere without throwing politics into the mix.  Thus, the post and pix below are not an endorsement or repudiation of any candidate or party.

During a campaign stop at Ohio State on Tuesday, President Obama somehow got talked into spelling out O-H-I-O*.  Unfortunately, it didn't go so well...


Mitt Romney's campaign was quick to pounce, with his Ohio campaign manager tweeting:

A word of advice to @BarackObama: it's "O-H-I-O" that has 18 electoral votes, not "O-I-H-O"

Now,  it's hard to totally fault the President when the OSU fan to the left of Sweaty Armpits Guy is himself incorrectly rolling out the "I".  Maybe the President thought they were doing something that was going to be reflected in a mirror.  Or, because the state of Ohio itself is so ass-backwards, maybe he just assumed they spell that way, too.  (And I'm not even bringing up that the dude on the other end who looks to be putting up an "A" instead of the second "O" himself).

In any event, being the President and all, he was given a do-over and it went much better the second time...


No word yet if they tried to get him to wear a "F#ck Michigan" shirt during the visit.

"I'm blogger Fielding H. Yost, and I approve of this message."

Paid for by the MZone Committee To Continue Mocking Ohio State Even On Things Only Tangentially Related to College Football

* For a fan base that got so bent out of shape about Hoke's "Ohio" moniker, they sure as hell like to spell it a lot.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Off-Season Posting Schedule

We've officially entered Off-Season Blogging Mode here at the MZone.  Oh, we'll still be putting stuff up, just probably not every day (unless of course if Ohio implodes again like they did last off-season).  So check below this post for new nuggets of MZone goodness.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @MZoneBlog as we'll still be tweeting away during the off-season.  Plus, we'll let you know when we have new stuff up here.