Thoughts on Michigan’s new coach

January 15, 2011

As a resident of Washtenaw County, Michigan, I’ve been informed that I am obliged to have and to express an opinion of David Brandon’s hiring of Brady Hoke to coach the Michigan football team. So here it is: Hoke has the potential to be a great coach at Michigan, or to be a disaster.

Hoke led the Ball State Cardinals to a 12-0 regular season and a national ranking. That’s a spectacularly impressive accomplishment. There are very few places at which it’s harder to find success than Muncie, and it’s hard to imagine a coach putting together that kind of season in Muncie and not being able to do it in Ann Arbor, with Michigan’s money, facilities, fan base, and tradition.

Hoke has said time and time again that Michigan is his dream job. He is not going to leave Ann Arbor for another school, and he’s not going to leave for the NFL. He’ll be at Michigan until he gets thrown out or until he retires, and this sets up the possibility of something we almost never see anymore: a coach spending decades at a single school. If he can succeed at Michigan, he’ll be there a very long time.

That’s the success scenario; here’s the disaster.

Hoke isn’t going to have a three-win season like RichRod did in 2008. He’s probably not going to have a five-win season like RichRod did in 2009. But he’s going to have a hard time winning the Big Howevermany, much less delivering the national championships that Michigan fans think they deserve. Right now, there are probably five or maybe six teams higher up the Big Howevermany food chain than the Wolverines (in approxmate order: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan State, and maybe Penn State). It’s fairly easy to imagine Hoke winning just enough games to stick around, and maybe a division championship here or there, but never really getting Michigan back to the national stage. They won’t have the losing seasons of RichRod, but may instead continue a slow slide toward football mediocrity.

A hot week of movies

July 10, 2010

I had the last week off work, and the weather was atrociously hot, so I wound up watching a bunch of movies. Here’s the run-down.

Shutter Island – The surprise wasn’t all that surprising, but it was still worth the journey. With this film, Martin Scorsese delivered a masterful psychological thriller, and DiCaprio did a pretty good job of convincing me that he can act. (8 out of 10)

Grown Ups – This was exactly what I expected from the ads. This movie pulled together a great cast of some of the best comedy actors out there: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider. But somehow when you put this all together, it was less than the sum of its parts. This cast can’t help but put together a funny movie, but with that kind of comedic firepower, I should have been doubled over laughing, not just chuckling here and there. (3 out of 10)

Eclipse – Yes, I’ll admit to having read the “Twilight” books, and to having watched the first two movies. This wasn’t a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was much better than the first two movies. The only downside was Bryce Dallas Howard, who seemed in over her head as Victoria; though she didn’t get much screen time, I much preferred Rachelle Lefevre in this role. (5 out of 10)

Knight and Day – It’s been almost 10 years since I enjoyed a movie that starred Tom Cruise (Minority Report in 2002). This one won’t revive his career, but it was a satisfactory escape on a hot day. It was a totally predictable action-comedy with a smidgen of romance thrown in. (6 out of 10)

Toy Story 3 – Although their reputation is built on outstanding computer animation, the truth is that Pixar has always been focused on telling compelling stories. Computer animation is their chosen medium, but they consistently put the message first. The short film, “Day & Night” that preceded Toy Story was charming, but the feature film drew me in so quickly and completely that I had soon forgotten it. A few critics have called this the best of the three Toy Story movies. I haven’t seen the other two in many years, so I’ll refrain from that judgment, but it was certainly the best movie I’ve seen in a couple years. (10 out of 10)

Blown Away – After Toy Story 3, it was inevitable that the next movie would come up short, and boy did this one! Tommy Lee Jones’s Irish accent was terrible, and Jeff Bridges performance was truly forgettable. It was like watching Speed with worse acting (yes, worse than Keanu Reeves) and a few more explosions. (3 out of 10)

Iron Man – Another disappointment, the more so because I had heard good things about this one. This was good for about the first 30 minutes, but then went quickly downhill. The middle of the movie spent far too long showing him trying to perfect the Iron Man suit, and the end was too cartoonish after the rest of the movie taking a realistic approach. (4 out of 10)

The Italian Job – Low expectations, high satisfaction. I’d not really heard anything positive about this movie, but it turned out to be a reasonably entertaining crime caper. My only complaint is that I’d really like to see Seth Green cast as someone other than the tech guy. (6 out of 10)

Also, mixed in there, I saw a few previews for movies that might be promising. The most promising of the bunch looks like Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leo DiCaprio. Other intriguing previews were for The Green Hornet, The Other Guys, and Salt.

Anyone != Everyone

June 3, 2010

“Surely not everyone” from Seth’s Blog:

A newspaper asked me the following, which practically set my hair on fire:

What inherent traits would make it easier for someone to becoming a linchpin? Surely not everyone can be a linchpin?

Why not? How dare anyone say that some people aren’t somehow qualified to bring emotional labor to their work, somehow aren’t genetically or culturally endowed with the seeds or instincts or desires to invent new techniques or ideas, or aren’t chosen to connect with other human beings in a way that changes them for the better?

The newspaper questioner was right, and Seth was wrong. The questioner suggested that not everyone can be a linchpin. Seth’s non-answer is that anyone can be a linchpin. That may be true, but there’s a difference between anyone and everyone.

Pick any trait where performance is strongly correlated with effort or time, and where there’s no or little predetermined correlation (e.g., no genetic bias, so most sports are out). Obviously anyone is capable of putting in time or effort to produce above-average performance. But not everyone can be above average.

I think this is a common mistake, and it goes both ways. One of the reasons I think some people dislike Tim Ferriss is that he is misread in this way. He writes about remarkable things he has done, such as becoming the National Chinese Kickboxing Champion, and he suggests that anyone could do such things. Readers object that if everyone tried these things, the techniques would not work, but they’re argueing against a statement he never made. Anyone could do it, but not everyone could do it.


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