Some who are aghast at the corruption, incompetence and callow nature of Barak Obama's administration have noted something even more alarming: Tens of millions of voters elected and re-elected him! This despite a miserable economy, unconscionable deficits, spying by the IRS and NSA, multiple fiascos such as Obamacare, Fast & Furious and Benghazi, and an epidemic of lying that permeates the administration. Perhaps it is the electorate, not the misguided leftists in charge, that should concern us the most. Is our populace really that far-gone? Sadly, yes.
I see the same dynamic playing out at the University of Michigan, which is enduring an unfolding disaster in its football program and rampant cynicism about Head Coach Brady Hoke and Athletic Director David Brandon. Just like the O-man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Hoke and Brandon were put in place by a massive -- and massively misguided -- fan/alumni base that lives in fantasy land. I'll get to that shortly.
The issues surrounding Hoke's ineptitude, the football team's miserable performance, and Brandon's shaky "leadership," are far too numerous and tangled to cover here. For the curious, just log onto the Detroit News or Detroit Free Press websites and you'll get the lowdown.
I would like to focus on just a couple of points that jumped out at me in the past few days.
First, quarterback Shane Morris's concussion. I found it hard to believe that neither Brady Hoke nor any of his key assistant coaches saw the play in which Morris got slammed to the ground by a behemoth defensive lineman, then staggered forth as if he'd just consumed a pint of Bacardi's 151.
But even if they did miss the play, there are plenty of coordinators and coaches up in the press box wearing headphones who could quickly relay their vociferous objections to the sideline coaches once it became clear Morris would remain in the game. Either that didn't happen, or their concerns were brushed off. It was clear to anyone remotely familiar with the issue of football-related head injuries that Morris may have suffered a concussion.
But Hoke doesn't even wear headphones during games, but if someone looking down expressed concern to a sideline coach, the recipient ought to have had the courage to call time out and read Hoke the riot act on how critical Morris's situation was.
Second, Hoke projects an image of a folksy, down-to-earth Everyman -- someone you'd like to have over to dinner or shoot the bull with over a few beers. But there's a dark side to Hoke: an expedient mendacity he's employed to benefit his football team and himself.
The case of former Wolverines placekicker Brendan Gibbons is a prime example. Gibbons was arrested by Ann Arbor Police in 2009 for allegedly raping a U-M co-ed. Yet Hoke went before the press and gave a B.S. line about Gibbons missing the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl due to a "family matter." Hoke had also lied a few weeks earlier about Gibbons having a "muscle problem" that would keep him out of the regular-season finale against Ohio State. In December 2013, the university kicked Gibbons out for "Violating the student Sexual Misconduct Policy." This was another case in which the judicial system should have been in charge, but instead the pompous and imperious machinations of academia held sway.
It's easy to see what led to the current mess. Michigan's delusional fan base and many of its alumni brought about this train wreck by insisting that the university hire one of its own (a so-called "Michigan Man" -- a designation that has never really been satisfactorily defined) as athletic director and as head football coach.
Former Domino's Pizza executive Brandon, who played on the U-M football team in the early 1970s and served on the university's Board of Trustees, was named athletic director in January 2010. And Hoke also had prior ties to U-M, serving as a Wolverines assistant coach under former Coach Lloyd Carr. Brandon hand-picked Hoke to succeed fired coach Rich Rodriguez in 2011. So Brandon "owns" this pick, and he's got to be hoping and praying that it doesn't cost him his job.
It's too late to pray that Hoke will right the good ship Wolverine. His team is horrible, and will be lucky to avoid finishing below .500 this season. It's also too late for Hoke. He's a dead man walking, and it's only because he has a lucrative contract and it would be difficult to get someone qualified to step in and take over mid-season that Hoke will remain in charge until this season is mercifully over.
Which leads me to the mind-set that put Brandon and Hoke in place. It is a pipe dream -- "The Grand Illusion," to use a Styx album title.
Barack Obama's supporters are naive idealists. Snookered by a smooth-talking snake oil salesman, they refuse to give up their pie-in-the-sky belief in the perfectability of man via the enlightenment and wisdom of an all-knowing, magnanimous government.
A huge chunk of the University of Michigan fan base suffers similar delusions. They believe their precious maize-n-blue legions are somehow morally better than other teams and universities. By extension, that makes them better. They honestly think that it is the natural order of things that Michigan should win the Big Ten (or at the very least, be one of the two best teams in the conference) every year.
The Michigan cult loves to boast about its football program having the most victories of any college team (never mind that many of those wins were against hapless tiny colleges, high school teams or the Detroit Athletic Club, and some of them were earned with non-student "ringers"). The fact is, Michigan has won one national championship in 66 years -- the 1997 shared national championship in which Nebraska finished No. 1 in the coaches poll while Michigan topped the Associated Press poll. And Michigan was basically a dimestore cowboy, winning many of its Big Ten championships in a conference that had one other quality team: Ohio State. For many years, people referred to the Big Ten as "The Big Two and the Little Eight."
Too many Michigan fans believe their precious university and football program must be headed up by someone who is part of the family tree -- who understands the university's history and traditions. But they overlook the fact that one of their all-time favorites, Bo Schembechler, came to U-M from Miami of Ohio and had been an assistant coach of Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes. And one of the great Michigan State coaches, Biggie Munn, who won a national championship for the Spartans in 1952, was a former Wolverines coach.
The U-M fan base needs a major wake-up call. And that includes accepting outsiders who are not part of the inbred cult. Fresh perspectives and new approaches can be like good medicine to insular, decaying institutions. Michigan's football program is sort of like the declining Roman Empire -- crumbling in large part because of arrogance, complacency, a long-standing sense of entitlement and a paranoid attitude toward change.
For Spartan fans who endured decades of taunts, derision and scorn from our foes in Ann Arbor, there is a sweet schadenfreude to this whole spectacle. But I have not and will not take to social media to rub it in, lest I lower myself to the level of those I despise. I suspect the university, its fans and football proram will eventually work their way out of this, but it's going to take a while. Meantime, I'll just enjoy the karma.