Reviewing's Michigan site - a season spent as a new user

Ace, Ace baby is back! Kind of. I am in London and not paying much attention to the inside scoop surrounding Michigan football anymore, so will not be returning with my Michigan football rumors column. But, I am bringing something new to the table: reviewing the pay recruiting services that Michigan fans have available to them.

I signed up for an account with Michigan's website, The Wolverine, over the summer and really paid attention to their product this year during football season. (Additionally, I created an account for Scout, 247 and ESPN -reviews coming on all of them too!)

To ensure that the hard working Michigan fan gets the most for his money, below are my thoughts on this service.

Cost: $9.95 per month

What you get: Premium game recaps/previews, weekly "Inside the Fort" insider article and access to read and post on their premium message board.



I was skeptical that people pay money for sports content in today's media environment. Anyone with Twitter can keep up to date with their teams and know all the info needed by following the teams on Twitter and watching the games, right? Wrong. This site is great at creating content: the articles are quality and there is a ton of quantity - usually 4-5 new articles a day.

These guys do a great job as writers and are by far and away the best source for engaging, interesting content on the internet for Michigan football. The writers of TheWolverine provide the following weekly articles (football only listed):

Borton's Blog - a 3-4 paragraph article on a current topic of Michigan football written by website editor John Borton. Borton is definitely a Michigan homer, but has some incredible insight and is a heck of a rahrah writer. If you want to get pumped up about the greatness of Michigan football, Borton is your man. He could have easily been a football coach in his former life. 4.5/5 stars

Wolverine Radio - brief audio segments of the staff writers previewing and reviewing the current week's games and sometimes discussing recruiting. These guys aren't radio hosts and shouldn't try to be. I think this feature could be lost from the site and no one would complain. 2/5 stars

Staff Picks - A must read every week. The 6 writers (and interns) each give their very amusing pick on what will happen each week in the game and predict the score. Usually, they take some small jabs at the opponents fans or coach and there is always a "prize" they are all competing for each week like a prematurely printed Indiana Football Big Ten Champions t-shirt. 5/5 stars

Big House Bullets - This is new writer Andy Reid's attempt to make this website "fresh"

[caption id="attachment_3317" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Andy Reid's Twitter picture"][/caption]

and "cool" by mixing in some social media, interesting stats, a campus power rankings (for all sports), and top tweets about Michigan football. Frankly, it is pretty amatuerish and takes away from the great content from the other writers on site. Reid's contribution to this site is fairly weak and not sure what value he brings to paying customers or to the staff their in general. I was told that he got hired for the job over Ace Anbender of Mgoblog for the role (which should tell you about Anbender's abilities).  The colum in general needs a new name: Big House Bullets won't sound too catchy if there is ever a campus shooting somewhere in Michigan. Ditch this column. 0/5 stars

Recruiting Recap - Tim Sullivan (formerly of MGoBlog) has done a great job keeping up with the happenings of Michigan football recruiting. He sums up the happenings with a weekly, long-form wrap up. These articles are great and can help the non diehard recruitnik stay up to date on the prospects Michigan is targeting. He usually discusses the current commitments, potential offers, outlook for remainder of class and dips into future targets that are underclassman. A can't-miss colum. 5/5 stars.

Game Preview - A must read before each game. Veteran writer Michael Spath provides readers with top story lines going into the game, provides noteworthy stats and compares the O/D matchups.

The offense vs. defense matchups really provide a neat insight into what to watch for going in to each game, including players for the upcoming opponent that I should be keeping an eye on. 5/5 stars

Post Game Articles - This is an area where TheWolverine is a cut above any other website covering Michigan football.

The staff provides the following articles after each game, and all are AWESOME:

Game recap - self explanatory

Notes, Quotes & Observations - quotes from players and coaches along with analysis on certain points in the game that mattered in the outcome. This is a very long piece after each game by Chris Balas, but quickly became my favorite thing to do an hour after the game ended. This is the best weekly article available to Michigan fans on the entire internet.

Post-Game Q&A - Spath asks himself questions regarding the game that just ended and openly and honestly answers them, with no fluff. I feel that Spath thinks about what fans are asking their friends after each game and goes ahead and answers those questions. A great read.

Entire post-game package 6/5 stars (yeah, 6)

Articles/features total score: 4.5/5 stars - best in the game


The Fort - Premium Message Board

WOW. That's all I can say after spending 3 months reading fan (and staff) posts on this mess of humanity called The Fort. First of all, what the hell does a fort have anything to do with Michigan football? Someone told me they named it after "Fort Schembechler", but no one in the history of Michigan football has ever used that term, so not sure if that is accurate. Stupid if so.

Its 2013 in 4 weeks people. How the hell do message boards with anonymous "handles" like wolvedude69 still exist? When I would check out this portion of the website, I would have to convince myself that I didn't go back in time 15 years, because that is what it is like. The page and the features still have the same design the did in 2001, no shit, they haven't update this webpage in 12 years -The Fort 2001

[caption id="attachment_3315" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Players on logo are a decade old?"][/caption]

So, what are the positives? Well, sometimes the writers will post about inside information in message board posts, but are usually incredibly vague and provide little concrete statements. Some wanna-be insiders like Section6 and DOTMAN make, again, vague claims like "hearing rumblings that a certain freshman lineman is impressing in practice" but rarely name names or give details. Entertaining regardless!

The negatives? This place is FILLED with a few hundred guys that literally have nothing to do rather than post, argue and rant about Michigan football. I have never see more whiny babies in one place on the internet.

Every poster on this forum thinks the exact same things, its almost as if they were brainwashed. Here a summation of the thousands of message board posts every day on The Fort.


* RichRod this, RichRod that... blame him for everything

* 1-Dave Brandon is arrogant. 2-No he isn't. 1-What the hell do you know pal? 1-Dave is best thing to happen to Michigan since Yost!

* $EC, O$U, U$C... every school or conference with a S in their name gets it changed to $ because EVERY SCHOOL pays players, except Michigan, according to The Fort.  The really bad part, is the writers like Balas, Spath, etc play into this and make vague statements to fuel the fans fire when these things come up

*** Example: {Insert recruit name} commits to {successful football program not named Michigan} TheWolverine writer - "No surprise, we heard rumblings that he was looking for a school to take care of him and Michigan doesn't play that game." Maybe the kid just liked 70 degree weather? No,no -he went to U$C. Weak job, guys. Either be blunt and say what you know or don't make your vague statements.

* Is Gardner getting a redshirt? This question gets posted 15 times a day.

* Lincoln shot! (when someone posts news that happened more than 15 minutes ago)

* What's the latest on {star recruit M is recruiting}? This question gets asked 25 times a day about each recruit.

* Off topic posts - The users here really clutter the place with the stupidest questions and expect answers from unknown internet message board guys. Examples of questions I have seen: "Any doctors here? Any advise on how to treat a rash on my entire back?" "Where can I watch the game in South Dakota this weekend?" "What beer should I drink tonight?" "How do I get my ex gf who cheated on me to take me back?" "What channel is the game on this weekend?" HAVE THESE GUYS NEVER HEARD OF GOOGLE!!!!!

The following "posters" seemingly live on this site and post hundreds of times a day. I wonder if they admit it to family/friends? These are the diehards you will see on this message board:

Trouten25, Amaizingblue, wolverineluke, TDFever, MHoops1, Anison, hills1953, bmitch2353, Andrews24, DOTMAN, Section_6, AVALONBLUEFAN, CraigT, FL_Blue, ktferts, Pond, UofM1, UMPADRE, Bluemax79, miktimrob, speedboys, Jdubb4prez, ChuckWoodson, michiganman76, KyleMac, Mundus, ronnieblckmo, Fred Derf, hamill_01, peaks24, 92Wolv, simmygoblue, PacificBlue, M_Powered, SOHOAFFAIR, Chewbacca, ebkitt, SD MichiganFan, Amadou, Shaver, mark78, CODYGIER, BlueMonster, Chris Calloway.

If you know any of the above people, be very careful around them. They would rather spend HOURS each day on a 1997 style message board arguing with strange men they have never met rather than spend time with friends or family. I find this very odd and have no shame in letting these message board people know they are weird and incredibly creepy. Be warned.

I don't think that all members of this message board are weird, in fact, I find it entertaining to read sometimes. Sometimes. The people who posts new threads and messages 200-300 times a day though? Odd.


Inside the Fort - Weekly 'Insider' Article

Chris Balas puts together a weekly insider article each week, giving fans access to the behind the scenes action of the football team, recruiting, basketball and hockey.

I found reading these all season to be as informative as they are vague: VERY. Usually these pieces provide a TON of info, mostly on football recruiting and the football team. They talk about rumors from practice, how certain freshman are looking, what recruiting is looking like and what to expect in this weeks games.

Only one problem with the things listed above - 50% of the time they are dead wrong. The other problem is how vague they are.

Very recent examples of wrong:

Statement: Michigan is DONE recruiting David Dawson and he wont be in the 2013 class

Result: Michigan re-offered Dawson and are actively recruiting him

Statement: Gardner was too hurt to play vs. Nebraska at QB, trust the coaches.

Result: No he wasn't. The coaches made a poor decision and ITF refuses to admit they were wrong on it, to this day.

Statement: 2014 superstar bball recruit Keita Bates-Diop is looking great for Michigan. He will chose between Michigan, Illinois or Purdue very soon.

Result: Commits to OSU 2 days later.

I don't blame them for being wrong sometimes, but they never admit they were wrong. The excuse is always the same: "We have a GREAT source on that scoop and even they were surprised."

On the vagueness: These ITF never name sources, but make them seem like they are talking directly to Brady Hoke. The source for any rumor they throw out there in these Inside the Fort articles is always one of the following:

"Source close to the program"

"A former player"

"An insider"

"Someone in the know"

"A source directly involved in the situation"

Keep the rumor mill to me guys, name your sources.

Score for Inside the Fort 2.5/5 stars


Overall takeaway

These site provides a great value when they stay above the surface. The game recaps, articles, breakdowns and previews are awesome and this website has the best collection of writing talent covering Michigan football.

The area they try and dip into but shouldn't is the rumor mill and inside info. The inside info isn't anything you can't find for free from Twitter and the weekly insider article isn't worth the cost. I would pay $5 a month for this service for the articles only, but paying $10 requires someone that really is into the message board community.

If they offer an article only subscription+ for $5/mo, I will gladly pay, but don't see the value in the message boards enough to pay extra for them. Overall score 3.5/5 stars

Give the a try and decide for yourself - free 7 day trial here

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