Rally Around the Flag

Hey guys. Hey.

The FBS era for UMass football starts in East Hartford on August 30th. That’s this month. The hockey schedule was confirmed today. Basketball – yes, basketball, no longer bazkettaball, hopefully ever – is gearing up for a season of actual high expectations. The summer may be waning, but none of us at Fight Mass gives a shit. That coolness seeping back into the air in the mornings and evenings? It’s got our internal clocks going bonkers and it should be doing the same for you.

It’s certainly an odd feeling for us to be seeing some of you out there on your various social networks commenting on how school is so close for you. All three of us are now engaged in our full-time big-boy jobs, and for the first year since the inception of the blog, none of us will be living in Amherst this season (Matt will be in Springfield, but that hardly counts as “close.” Or “living”). So what, though? Old habits die hard, and we’ll still be making our pilgrimages whenever our work schedules permit us out to the valley full of pioneers. And really, as you may have noticed, we enjoy the hell out of our road trips, particuarly for hockey, and since most Hockey East venues are closer to me and Derek, our obnoxious selves will be invading rinks plenty this year. (Oh, hey Doghouse? Try to steal my jersey again this year. Steal my jersey one more goddamn time, I dare you, I DOUBLE dare you mothafuckas.)

The real world is rough and full of license exams and NIGO’d service request items and fail-to-earns. (Don’t ask.) I can’t promise that the amount of content we put out on here will be as prolific as it has been in the past, which as you well know wasn’t all that much to begin with. Derek’s contributions to the blog, sadly, have all but ceased, although he’s still a part of the gang in spirit. And Matt’s work schedule is the craziest of all of us so anything he adds outside of his normal Twitter hijinks would be a bonus. But I started this thing, and I have no intention of shutting it down now. (Incidentally, this is all the more reason why we’d love to see some of you fearless readers contribute more, in a genius move I like to call “outsourcing the shit out of our blog.” Hit me up on the Twitter or the Facebook and I promise not to pull a last-year-with-Jarod where I’d totally not even check my emails for weeks and then post things way too late.)

We do have plans for the blog this year, I swear. Things that didn’t get implemented last year like the FightCast, which Matt and I will do more of for sure, and other special features I’ve got up my sleeve. As you might have noticed, I’ve reset us to a prior format which, frankly, I think was superior to the one we used last season. I do have plans to rebuild the subsections of the blog and add a new banner, but I’ll save that for the official Fight Mass Season Four (TM) re-re-relaunch a little closer to hockey season. I’ll also try and write a lot more about each of the “big three” teams between now and the football opener. In the meantime, here are some quick hits:

Hockey:
The John Michael Higgins John Micheletto era in Amherst has begun. It’s been a real treat to see the players rally around the flag, proverbially speaking, and the response on Twitter and in the media seems to be all the right things. As of yet I haven’t heard of any key players seeking to transfer out. This team developed a lot of confidence down the stretch, and while Micheletto’s Vermont teams have struggled the last few years, they also have a couple of NCAA appearances since the last time Toot took us there. I can’t explain it, but I have a weirdly good feeling about this team. They retain a great core group, retain continuity in Len Quesnelle, and now from the looks of it on Twitter the guys have a “shock the world” mentality. If Micheletto has growing pains early on, it’ll be understandable. But if nobody important leaves, the talent is there for this group to be competitive in the final pre-Notre Dame season of Hockey East play.

Basketball:
Not much to report here other than CAN THE DAMN SEASON START ALREADY? Honestly, so many things have to go wrong for this team NOT to be an absolute joy to watch next season that I don’t even want to live on this planet anymore if they all happen. I already have taken the day off in November for that Harvard 10 AM game, and aside from a sort of weak non-conference home slate, the schedule looks outstanding, between the supersized new A-10 and the Puerto Rico tournament. I’m hopeful that Matt and I will be able to make a more successful trip to Kingston this season, and maybe even down to NYC to see them take on Fordham. And then, knock on wood, back to Brooklyn for the conference tournament…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

By the way, check out incoming freshman Tyler Bergantino and transferring Western Kentucky star Derrick Gordon, who have started up a YouTube video feature called “The DG and TB Chronicles.” A few episodes in, they’re just goofing around having an understandably good time in the beautiful summer months in Amherst, but it sounds like they intend to continue this throughout the season with guests and it might turn out to be a great insight into the team’s attitude going forward – not to mention a way for you students out there to interact with the players. If nothing else, these guys seem like genuinely cool guys who are super-happy to be in Amherst, which is definitely a plus for the ongoing recruitment to the “brotherhood.”

Football:
It’s looking increasingly like Matt and I will be making the journey out to Ann Arbor this year to see UMass in the Big House (with a pit stop in Toronto to see the Hockey Hall of Fame along the way). Other than that, I actually do intend to make as many of the home games as possible, and maybe the UConn season opener as well. Coach Molnar’s recruiting is getting solid reviews around the NCAA ranks, but it is critical that we support the team by actually going to the games even throughout what can be expected to be a rough first season in the big show. We do defer to the Marc Bertrand-co-founded Maroon Musket for any and all things UMass football, but I do intend to actually write about my experiences this year. From the outsider perspective, I’m sure it seems quaint, but really – I never thought I’d be this excited for MAC football.

To wrap up, here are some promises I actually do intend to keep on this blog this year, feel free to refer back to them to mock me later.

1) Staying positive. I feel like things have gotten a little too heavy with this blog in recent years, although the struggles of the hockey and football teams kind of lend themselves to that brutal honesty. But when I founded the blog, I intended to levee the cynicism at other teams. We’ve been called out for not being “true fans” with our Twitter interactions, and while we’re still not super-thrilled with the way the hockey coaching search went down, and some other minor gripes (the marketing department’s late start on advertising football, the lack of hockey band, etc), we want to make this a year where we’re almost overly supportive of the folks actually wearing the maroon and white/black. Our ribbing on guys like Freddie Riley and Mike Marcou in the past, in retrospect, came off a lot more dickish than we ever intended, and that’s what I’m looking to avoid in the future. We’ll still be cynics, sure, but I can say that at least personally I will be aiming a lot more of that cynicism at the opposition. I’ll save the Statler-and-Waldorf routine for those who deserve it, like Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.
Of course, I reserve the right to call someone out when it’s rightfully deserved…but that’s mostly going to refer to the students or the administration. As long as none of the players goes Tim Thomas-post-Stanley-Cup crazy on us, we’re golden.
2) More FightCasts. Matt and I really need to work on this one to make it happen, but damnit, we’re gonna find a way, even if we have to do them over the internet or whatever. If anyone has any feedback about the first one, by the way, do let us know.
3) An increased effort to support the You Can Play initiative. We’ve casually mentioned it on the Twitter, but Matt and I actually met Patrick Burke over the summer and we’re more fired-up than ever about the cause. You can read more on their site, but the initiative focuses on curbing homophobia and gay-bashing language in the sports world, particularly in hockey. UConn and Northeastern are already on board with the initiative, with BC and BU rumored to be interested in lending their support, and Pat seems to think UMass might be receptive to doing a PSA for them as well. This is awesome (if you disagree, seriously, go fuck yourself and stop reading my blog) and if it happens, I think it would be great to get the students involved in this the way that Northeastern’s Doghouse did for their video. We’ll talk later on about this and hopefully we can stay in touch with Pat if we can get more folks on board with this.

Alright, that’s all I got for ya. Enjoy what’s left of the summer, we’ll see you guys in a few weeks, please be mindful of falling metal beams as I do some renovation on the site, and above all else….IS IT OCTOBER YET?

-Max

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