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November 02, 2006 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-02

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8A - Thursday, November 2, 2006

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Sports and politics
can coexist


Carson Butler leads Michigan tight ends with 10 receptions on the season. Butler was a state champion in basketball at Detroit's Renaissance High School.
Former hooper catches on

his Monday, college basket-
ball coaches from across the
state - including Michi-
gan State coach Tom Izzo and the
University's own
Tommy Amaker
- announced
their opposition
to ballot Proposal
2, which would
amend Michigan's
constitution to ban
some race- and MAW
preferences in SINGER
public institu-
tions. Spitting Fire
It seems odd
that these coaches, who make their
living teaching young men how to
win basketball games, would get
involved in such a hotly contested
political issue.
But Proposal 2 is more than your
typical political football. If passed, it
will fundamentally alter the makeup
of Michigan's universities.
Just ask California residents, who
approved a similar measure 10 years
ago and watched minority enroll-
ment in their public universities
With Election Day rapidly
approaching and the poiis showing
a tight split in the electorate, the
coaches decided that Proposal 2 is too
important to ignore. They are taking
a stand, opening themselves up for
criticism and abuse based on their
political views, in addition to the
usual complaints about their coach-
So why bother? Why put your head
on the chopping block for the slim
chance that your appeal actually
impacts the outcome of an election?
The answer: Basketball coaches
are citizens, just like the rest of us,
with an interest in how this state is
governed. The only difference is that
they, as public figures, have a bigger
megaphone through which they can
speak. If they want to use it, by all
means, they should.
That's not to say coaches should
devote their time to traveling the
state, rallying support for every state-
house candidate and local election.
But if an issue is monumental enough
- as Proposal 2 no doubt is - sports
figures should be encouraged to take
a stand.
It happens more often than you
might expect.
In 2004, then-Toronto Blue Jays
first basemen Carlos Delgado pro-
tested the Iraq War by refusing to
stand for the singing of "God Bless
"Sometimes, you've just got to
break the mold," Delgado told The
Toronto Star at the time. "You've got
to push it a little bit or else you can't
get anything done."

Political speech in sports isn't just
a liberal phenomenon. Immediately
after winning the World Series in
2004, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling
turned his attention toward securing
another victory - President George
W. Bush's re-election. He went on
"Good Morning America" to tout
Bush's candidacy and later recorded
telephone calls supporting Bush.
Many sports figures even run for
public office.
Jack Kemp, once an NFL quarter-
back, was the 1996 vice presidential
Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky
was a hall-of-fame pitcher.
Former Nebraska football coach
Tom Osborne moved straight from
the sidelines to the U.S. Capitol as a
member of the House of Representa-
NFL castoff Heath Shuler is cur-
rently running for Congress as a
Democrat, while NFL Hall of Famer
Lynn Swann is the Republican guber-
natorial candidate in Pennsylvania.
Of course, there is nothing special
about sports figures that makes them
better politicians or more responsible
in their political choices. But because
of their notoriety, they're especially
capable of increasing public dis-
course and widening the political
debate. In my mind, that's always a
good thing.
One look at a counter-example
- a famous athlete who stays out of
politics at all costs - demonstrates
the negative repercussions of athletic
In his home state of North
Carolina, Michael Jordan famously
declined to endorse African-Ameri-
can civil-rights leader Harvey Gantt,
who twice ran for Senate against
notorious race-baiter and conserva-
tive Republican Jesse Helms. Gantt
lost narrowly both times.
The always image-conscious Jor-
dan explained his neutrality with the
stomach-churning words, "Republi-
cans buy sneakers, too."
No one will ever know if Jordan
could have turned the tide in those
elections, but to me, his actions serve
as a clear example of what sports fig-
ures shouldn't do.
Athletes and coaches need not be
political junkies, but they can alert
an apathetic public to political hap-
penings much more important than
the outcome of this year's Michigan-
Michigan State basketball game.
On Tuesday night, we'll find out
if affirmative action has a future in
Michigan. But no matter how the vote
on Proposal 2 turns out, Amaker and
Izzo deserve credit for putting them-
selves on the line and standing up for
their beliefs.
- Singer can be reached
at mattsing@umich.edu.


Daily Sports Editor
Two years ago, Carson Butler was a
wide receiver at Detroit Renaissance High
School, and his primary role was catch-
ing passes and blocking skinny defensive
But after making the move to tight end at
Michigan, Butler's job description changed.
Among his new responsibilities: taking
on arguably the best defensive end in the
country every day in practice.
"During fall camp, I was messing with
(Butler), saying 'I'm gonna come get you
every day,' " senior co-captain LaMarr
Woodley said.
Facing Woodley was just one of the new
challenges Butler faced during his transi-
tion to tight end.
"The hardest thing to grasp at tight end
for me was blocking at first," Butler said.
"You gotta get used to blocking, reading
coverages and defenses. It was all a big
change from high school to college. It was
just starting all over again."
Butler took the new responsibilities
- and Woodley's threats - in stride. And
in the second half of his redshirt fresh-
man season, Butler has finally received the
opportunity to show off what he's learned.
Coming into the 2006 campaign, Butler
was listed as the third tight end on Michi-
gan's depth chart, behind fifth-year senior
Tyler Ecker and redshirt sophomore Mike
Massey. As a result, he saw limited snaps

early in the season.
Due to some injuries, the situation soon
changed. Ecker went down with an ankle
injury against Minnesota and then Massey
got injured during the Penn State game.Tor
better or worse, the door opened for Butler.
During the past three games - including
the matchup with Penn State - Butler has
played a key part of the Wolverines' pass-
ing attack. He's caught seven passes for 61
yards in that stretch, and his 10 receptions
on the season are tops among Michigan's
tight ends.
But Butler has learned that extra playing
time isn't all fun and games. After playing
virtually all of the Iowa game, Butler was
winded. His coach noticed and dealt him a
playful verbal jab.
"(Coach Lloyd Carr's) comment to me
was: 'First you weren't playing that much.
Now you're playing a lot, and you can't take
it,'" Butler said.
Still, you can bet Carr is happy that the
6-foot-4, 247-pound Butler is playing his
college ball on the turf, instead of the hard-
Butler's main focus in high school was
basketball, and during his junior year, he
didn't even put on his helmet and shoulder
pads. That season, Butler helped Detroit
Renaissance to the Class B state champion-
Despite his success on the basketball
court, Butler didn't forget about football.
He returned to the field for his senior year
and starred at wide receiver, earning a foot-

ball scholarship to Michigan.
Football may pay his way through
school, but Butler can still hold his own
on the basketball court. Back in Detroit,
he hoops it up with high school teammates
Malik Hairston (Oregon) and Joe Craw-
"Whenever we're all at home, we play
basketball," Butler said. "It's fun. We keep
in contact, we're all good friends. It's a good
thing because we all went off to college, and
it seems like a lot of things are working out
for each of us."
Butler, who averaged 21 points per game
and earned all-state accolades his senior
season, even has visions of one day suiting
up for the Maize and Blue in Crisler Arena.
"I'd love to play basketball here," Butler
said. "That's just up to what my future is as
far as football and what Lloyd needs me to
Dreams of playing for Tommy Amaker's
squad aside, Butler's focus right now is
strictly on the gridiron. The undefeated
Wolverines are two games away from an
epic matchup with Ohio State. And with
Ecker and Massey's status still uncertain,
Butler will play a key role for Michigan
down the stretch.
Butler says he's ready for the challenge.
"When Tyler went down, when Mike
went down, that was a lot of playing time,"
Butler said. "They are great assets to our
team, of course we want them there, but
now it's an opportunity for me to step up
and take advantage."


Johnson's suspension shakes up
lineup at forward and on defense

Daily Sports Writer
With sophomore standout Jack Johnson sus-
pended for Friday night's hockey game at Michi-
gan State, Michigan coach Red Berenson is
displaying a growing trust in seniors Tim Cook
and Morgan Ward.
To fill the defensive void left by Johnson's
absence, Berenson will shift Cook back to his
former spot on the blue line and insert Ward as a
fourth-line forward. Ward will likely skate with
sophomores Danny Fardig and Brandon Naurato.
The move back to the blue line is a natural one
for Cook, who had never played a single game as a
forward at any level before this season.
At the beginning of this season, the Wolverines
welcomed freshmen defensemen Steven Kampfer
and Chris Summers into the lineup. With Cook
seeming tobe the odd defenseman out, Berenson
experimented with the senior at forward where
he has been pleased with Cook's hustle.
"(Cook) gives us something that the average
player can't," Berenson said. "He's a team player,

he's enthusiastic. He'll do whatever it takes to help
the team. He's growing with that position, too -
he never played forward before. But you can see
he knows how to play the game."
As unnatural as it was for the lifelong defen-
seman to move up front, Cook has adjusted well.
He loves playing forward and does whatever he
can for the team. Playing forward has also helped
Cook learn lessons about how defensemen can
contribute to the offense more efficiently.
"It helps me to see where to get the puck to (the
forwards when I play defense)," Cook said. "We
need to give it to them in a place where they can
do something with it. (I now see) howhard it is to
take it off the boards and do something."
Like Cook, Ward is excited to get into the lineup.
After playing just three games last season, Ward
will equal that total this year with his appearance
on Friday. In the two games he played this season,
Ward notched an assist against Alabama-Hunts-
ville and played significant minutes in a victory
over Miami (Ohio). The assist was Ward's first
point at Michigan.
Although Cook has seen more time in the final

forward spot recently, Ward believes he can pro-
vide a physical presence when he plays. Ward also
thinks he can provide valuable competition for his
teammates week in and week out.
"Any time you get into the game, you want to
shine," Ward said. "A lot of competition (for lineup
spots) will make the team better."
Part of Ward's task will be to jumpstart the
fourth-line offense. Michigan's third- and fourth-
line forwards haven't scored a goal this season.
If the Wolverines expect to compete with Mich-
igan State this weekend and Nebraska-Omaha the
following week, they will need contributions from
those forwards. The Spartans and Mavericks are
averaging 4.50 and 4.83 goals per game, while
allowing just 3.00 and 2.50, respectively.
When Johnson returns on Saturday night,
Cook will likely move back into his forward posi-
tion, leaving Ward out of the lineup. But Ward's
opportunity to play will prove invaluable come
December, when several players, including John-
son, will likely be lost for the Great Lakes Invita-
tional while Michigan plays at the World Junior
Championships in Sweden.


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