Friday, November 21, 2008

Bo Day.

In a sense, it was two years ago today. Not literally, but in a sense. The day before Ohio State. Two years ago in this position, we sat on the eve of the biggest game of all of our lives. We were 24 hours away from #1 Ohio State against #2 Michigan, with the free world on the line. The winner would get the Big Ten title, a berth in the National Championship game, and bragging rights for a generation.

And then we got the news.

For us Michigan fans, we'll never forget where we were, what we were doing. We'll never forget what we did when we heard that Bo had died. 16 months ago, I detailed what I was doing when I heard the news. I was never lucky enough to see a game coached by Bo Schembechler. All I have to go on is old videos and stories passed down from my elders that I will one day pass down to my offspring, just as Bo would have done.

The other night I was laying in bed, listening to some Dylan, when I heard a loud bang, and my entire bed seemed to shudder. One of the goddamn wooden beam support things had come loose, and the whole thing was wobbly and unstable. So I had to drag the mattress off and lift the boxspring up to put it back in place. For the first time since I put the bed in place that fateful day in November 2006, I had to repair it. It's almost fitting, I suppose. Since Bo left us, it seems like everything has come apart. We lost the game of the century to Ohio State. We lost the Rose Bowl to USC. We lost to Appalachian State. We lost to Oregon. We lost to Ohio State in the final game of Henne, Hart, Long and Carr. The Rodriguez era is young, infantile, and under siege. The day before Bo died, we were among the toast of the college football world. Now, two years after his death, we are at the bottom of the barrel, with vultures circling.

There's no logical explanation for the horrible series of events that have afflicted us these past 24 months. Maybe there is a God, and because Woody Hayes has been gone longer, he's had more time than Bo to get in his ear. I don't know. Musing about a hypothetical afterlife isn't something I specialize in or am even remotely good at. I'm just okay at knowing reality, and it's crappy right now. We all know that.

What would Bo, or even Woody, think about the current state of affairs? What would they have to say about a Michigan/Ohio State game where the winner has already been determined well before the teams take the field? In their heyday, such a thing was unheard of. I'm about halfway through Michael Rosenburg's book War As They Knew It, but I didn't have to read a page of it to understand what Michigan and Ohio State was all about during the days of Schembecher against Hayes. Ten years, ten games, ten Big Ten championships, ten trips to Pasadena. So what would they say about a scenario where the game means nothing, the result a formality? Surely they would find it perverse.

Bo never had any reason to speak out about the onfield product at Michigan after he retired. His disciples were running things on the field, and they kept it in good shape after he hung up his whistle. If he were around to see this nightmare, would he voice his opinion? He'd surely be aware that one dissatisfied word from him would have Rodriguez on the first bus out of town. Would he voice that word in the face of a 3-9 season, with imminent defeat in Columbus looming? I'd like to think no, but I have no idea.

This isn't what today is supposed to be like. We shouldn't be going through the day before Ohio State with mindset that we just want tomorrow to pass so we can move on with our lives. And yet, even when Michigan football returns from the darkness, this day will never be right for me again. Until I die, I will always associate the day before Ohio State with that godforsaken day two years ago, when we learned that the man who bled Blue, who was always there, wasn't there anymore. It haunts me to think how cruel the universe is. If there was a shred of decency, we would've beaten Ohio State in 2006 and carried Lloyd off the field then in the ultimate tribute to his fallen mentor. We would've beaten them last year on the anniversary of Bo's death. We wouldn't have had to see Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long leave the Big House for the final time on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

But the world doesn't work like that, it's not perfect. If it was perfect, our Wolverines would do to Ohio State tomorrow what they did in 1969 in Bo's first year, they would shock the world and shake up the rivalry. But that's not going to happen. Tomorrow Chris Wells will undoubtedly rip off a long touchdown for the 3rd year in a row. Terrelle Pryor will no doubt make tacklers miss and gallop for big gains. Those who could've been Wolverines will hurt us the most.

For now, all we have left to cling to is hope. We look to Michigan basketball for a beacon of hope. We see John Beilein and the basketball team entering their second year together and actually looking competent, pulling off an upset nobody expected. If there was any poetic component to this crazy little thing called life, we'd follow up Beilein's signature turn-the-corner win with Rodriguez's tomorrow. But there isn't. There's just cold reality, and the emptiness of Bo Day.

I think the last 40 or so seconds of If You See Her, Say Hello might be the most beautiful thing I've ever heard, and I could listen to it over and over...tomorrow there will be three and a half hours that I will never want to see again for as long as I live.

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