Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Swan song.

(I just finished watching that UM-OSU documentary that HBO made...good stuff. It has inspired me to blog.)

I don't think there was a certain moment in my life where I identified myself as a "Michigan fan." There was no concrete moment, no defining instant of glory where I realized, "This is the team for me." My father never spoke to me as a young boy and told me, "Son, Michigan Football is what we're about here. Saturdays in the fall are special, and I want you to be a part of it." I have blurred, faded memories of 1995 and 1996; the games that immortalized Tim Biakabutuka and Tai Streets are but fuzzy flashbacks in my mind. Years like 1997 and 1998 are a little clearer. 1999-2001 are there in bits and pieces. From 2002 and beyond, everything is in hi-definition in my memory, with every play of every Ohio State game constantly being replayed in the bizarre rat's maze that is my mind.

The sad, disgusting reality of that is of course, the freshest memories are that of Tressel. Oh, how I curse myself. I wish I had been born in 1978 instead of 1988. Then I would have the memories of John Cooper fresh, instead of the fresh hell I have gone through for too long now. Cooper was an idiot, he never took Michigan seriously, and paid for it 10 times in 13 years. Now those days are gone, and the Scarlet Curtain has descended upon our world since then. The fact that Tressel predicted all of this 310 days before it happened in 2001 only adds to his mystique in the eyes of the OSU legion. And that burns my blood. The blue blood that is pumped from my maize heart has suffered for so long.

2002 was a groin punch. That edition of Wolverines played probably the best game they were capable of, and it wasn't enough. When John Navarre's final pass was intercepted by Will Allen, I fell to my knees and pounded the carpet over and over with my fists. The anger, resentment and hatred emanated from me. So close, and yet so fucking far.

2003 gave us our moment in the sun. Against the defending national champions, John Navarre, Chris Perry and Braylon Edwards refused to lose. All the voodoo and all the magic that Tressel possesses could not overcome the revenge that seniors Navarre and Perry had on their minds. When all was said and done, roses were abound in Ann Arbor. The image of Braylon Edwards raising his finger to the sky in victory while surrounded by masses of delirium is ingrained and unforgettable.

Since then, there has been nothing but pain, anger, and tears. 2004 ambushed us; we were better, and still we were blown out. 2005 scarred us; they were vastly better, and still we should've won. Instead, Jim Herrmann bowed to Troy Smith and Lloyd Carr conceded the game with a ridiculous pooch punt. Of course in the Year of Infinite Pain, there could be nothing less than a loss to Ohio State that leaves you feeling as if you just watched a puppy dog get hit by a car.

But last year...last year took everything to a new level of pain. To this day I have not rewatched the game. It's there. It's on my Tivo. Everyday I go to the Tivo to watch something, I see it there, and it taunts me. It mocks me, and at the same time, it motivates me. It motivates me because it makes me remember the pain, the agony. A year ago at this time, my heartrate was jacked 24/7. The epic showdown between #1 and #2 was days away, and the promos on ESPN with Brent Musberger talking of Judgment Day fueled the anticipation. I still remember Musberger's voice: "A century so young...already has its Game." Nothing could match the fervor. Nothing could bring me down from the week-long high. Michigan was back, and god dammit, it was time to ascend to the throne we had vacated for almost ten years.

And then Bo died. During the UM-OSU documentary on HBO tonight, whenever they showed Bo talking, my pulse quickened; my heart fluttered. When Bo spoke of his relationship with Woody, and what it was like when Woody died, the lump in my throat grew. And when the narrator spoke of Bo's passing, my lip quivered. I never once met Bo Schembechler. I never once watched a game live that he coached. I never once had the opportunity to curse at him for some decision he made during a game. And yet when he died, he took a part of me with him. When he died, he took a piece of all Michigan fans with him. He took a piece of Michigan Football. And most of all, he took a big piece of Lloyd Carr. I'd give up a lot to know what Lloyd said to his team in the hours between Bo's death on November 17th and the time they took the field in Columbus on November 18th.

After Bo died, I allowed myself to be convinced that Michigan couldn't lose the game. Not now. With the father of the program resting in peace, the warriors of the program would declare war. It was poetic. It was beautiful. It was...not to be. The defense just couldn't get it done. The defense that had won all of our hearts broke them. It had been years since a Michigan fan had felt "Dammit offense...oh well, the D will get the stop". 2006 had fixed that. Woodley and Branch and Biggs were destroying lives, and when they weren't, Burgess and Harris and Crable were cleaning things up, all while protecting a vulnerable secondary, save for Leon Hall. We knew Ohio State's offense was high-powered, but dammit, this is the Big Ten, the defense always wins.

Not on that day. It was bad enough that they gave up four touchdowns to Troy Smith, but what kills me - and what haunts me every single day - is the fact that the run defense that wasn't just the best in the nation, they were putting up historically significant numbers, gave up two 50-yard touchdowns. THAT is why I refuse to ever watch this game again. It's not Smith abusing our mediocre secondary; that's not surprising. It's watching the front seven that had restored pride in Michigan Football crumble at the most pivotal moment. To see Woodley, Branch, Harris and Burgess - four upperclassmen that had gone through the hell of 2005 and taken their lumps and spent 11 weeks proving the doubters wrong - get beaten truly crushed me. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it was torn down in three hours.

I'm tired of this. I'm sick to death of losing to this goddamn team. My freshest memories of Ohio State are all bad ones, and that sickens me. It makes me nauseous. If guys like Mike Hart and Jake Long and yes, Chad Henne, end their careers with an 0'fer against that fucking team, what the hell is there to believe in? Is there any justice in this world? Hart and Long...and Henne, I guess, are among the best to EVER put on the winged helmet. And yet their legacies will be stained by never defeating Ohio State? No. NO. I refuse to accept this. The world is full of unfairness, deceit, lies, injustices and atrocities, but this is intolerable.

This cannot happen. Rumors of Lloyd Carr announcing his retirement are flying all over the national radar. Lloyd, Mr. Carr, Coach...if this is your final Saturday leading the Maize and Blue out of the tunnel at Michigan Stadium, make it memorable. Don't give them another bullet in their gun. Don't give the people of Ohio one more laughing point. Don't let them say they beat Michigan in your final home game. Don't let them say they triumphed over Chad Henne and Mike Hart for four years. Don't you let them do it, Coach. If this is your swan song, make it a tune that pleases the ear. Make it a tune we can hum years from now. Make it a tune that sounds like this:

"Hail! to the Victors Valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
the Leaders and Best...

Hail! to the Victors Valiant
Hail! to the conqu'ring heroes
Hail! Hail! to Michigan
the Champions of the West!"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...



go blue.