Monday, October 12, 2015

There Be Dragons Here

(Photo courtesy of Michigan Athletics and Exposure)

10/10/2015: Michigan 38, Northwestern 0

"All that glitters is not gold when it comes to some coaches. Sometimes the hype or PR doesn't match the person."

October 10, 2015:

A morbid part of my soul has wondered what the pizza man is up to on Saturdays now. Does he watch the games? As someone who gave every impression that he is not a football fan - based on his idiotic decisions regarding the football program he was in charge of - does he even bother paying any attention to it now that he is no longer paid to do so? Dave Brandon liked Michigan football insofar as it was something he could extract money from and Scrooge McDuck it into a pile of gold while the peasants - the fans - shivered outside after being swindled by Mr. Moneybags.

If he does watch the games, I don't even envision him getting any joy out of it. Not regular joy, anyway; not the type of joy that the fans get. His joy would be the narcissistic "you see that? Yeah, that's all because of ME" type of joy. A man capable of naming his mansions "Ever After" and "Camp David" is incapable of experiencing real human emotions; he is incapable of feeling genuine human joy. When Jehu Chesson zips through a hole that Charlie Weis could roll through on his way to a game-opening KR touchdown, people like you and me feel a surge of adrenaline and serotonin associated with happiness; we look at each other and think, "oh's gonna be a day." People like Dave Brandon look at flowcharts based on focus groups that tell them what type of music people of a certain demographic want to hear after an "occurrence" like a touchdown at a football game.

It's The Victors, Dave. It's always The Victors, you soulless drone of a man.

But I digress.

When Jim Harbaugh first arrived, many fans wondered who would be the first Big Ten coach to fall into his crosshairs; who would be the unfortunate target of the first verbal jab, the first shot across the bow? Meyer and Dantonio were the obvious choices; James Franklin was a darkhorse.

I'm of the firm belief that it's never going to happen. When he was in San Francisco, Harbaugh's closest thing to a "confrontation" was the energetic handshake with Jim Schwartz, followed by Schwartz freaking out. Even the feud with Pete Carroll was confined to the football field. At Stanford, Harbaugh took aim at both Michigan and Carroll in an attempt to build some buzz about Stanford, then one of the worst D-1 programs in college football. Anything to get people talking. He knew he would have to back up his bravado, and he did.

At Michigan, not only is such talk unnecessary, but it would be tiresome, after listening to Brady Hoke talk tough and never deliver. I also believe Harbaugh views such things as being beneath him in his position as head coach at Michigan. I believe that Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Head Coach, makes every move under the belief that the ghost of Bo Schembechler is looking over his shoulder. He conducts himself as if Bo is watching in judgment, and to get into a war of words in the press with an opposing coach is not something a Michigan coach does; Bo would never approve of such lowbrow behavior in public.

It's possible I'm wrong. Maybe Harbaugh takes the podium on Monday and issues the ultimatum to Dantonio that we're coming for that ass next Saturday. But I would be amazed.

Speaking of amazed...look at where we are right now. We have reached a moment where the instant this shutout streak is broken, we will be extraordinarily disappointed. A Chicago Tribune writer asked Harbaugh on Saturday about the defensive starters still being in at the end of a 38-0 game. That's why you cover Northwestern, guy. I felt an odd sense of disinterested confidence about this game throughout the week. Less than a year removed from Brady Hoke's second-rate outfit getting faceplanted against Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland, etc, the concept of facing a ranked Northwestern squad provided no fear. 13 seconds into the game, Northwestern was Northwestern, and Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines rose to the occasion to lay waste.

Next week brings a different beast entirely. This was not how the script was supposed to go. Michigan was supposed to be a wobbly, motley bunch in 2015 while Michigan State and Ohio State ripped through the Big Ten en route to playoff bids and New Years 6 bowl games. Instead, we head into State Week with Michigan as the favorite. I think we expected to possibly make those two games competitive this year, since they're both in Ann Arbor; even Rich Rodriguez's epic dumpster fire of a 2008 team was tied with a 9-win MSU team midway through the 4th quarter. Even Brady Hoke's historic offensive disaster of a 2013 squad scored 41 points and came within a 2-point conversion of beating a perfect Ohio State. Homefield is a great equalizer, and now, with Michigan dropping the sledgehammer and MSU needing last second stands and late houdini acts to escape teams like Purdue and Rutgers, suddenly that mountain doesn't look so steep.

Which, naturally, will feed into the perpetual, endless inferiority complex that is Michigan State football. You don't qualify as an MSU fan unless you have Little Man Syndrome when it comes to Michigan. Disrespect is MSU; you think, therefore you are. Generations of Michigan State fans, players, and coaches grew up under the oppressive thumb of Michigan, even convincing themselves of a fictional "Blue Wall" in the media that conspires to keep U-M prominent and keep MSU in the salt mines. Never mind the fact that it has been Michigan State's coach and Michigan State's players who have become the talkers. It's a sort of cognitive dissonance, I think. MSU's players have it hammered into their heads all the time that they weren't good enough for Michigan, that they won't be given the benefit of the doubt, that they are endlessly disrespected and insulted by the media - and then they turn that around by being one of the trashiest and loudest teams you can imagine, with a fanbase that single-handedly keeps Insane Clown Posse in business.  In conjuring up these fictional insults, MSU manifests what they despise, and they become it. Dantonio's hatred of Michigan has turned Michigan State into that which they spent decades criticizing. Your hatred has turned you into that which you hate.

But they may be in for a surprise. Don't get me wrong, they may very well win next Saturday; it strikes me as a coin flip of a game, and MSU's struggles against the rubes of the Big Ten does not diminish their status as a very strong team. But it was not supposed to be like this, this soon. After the violent maulings they delivered on Michigan in 2013 and 2014, MSU never expected to encounter a resurgent Michigan this quickly. I can guarantee you that MSU's players have little respect for Michigan, no matter what their eyes tell them. They remember the last two games. They remember making Michigan quit, and listening to Michigan's coach apologize after last year's game. Human psychology can be a tricky thing like that; no matter that Michigan has strangled the life out of every opponent since the opener; until they see them up close and personal, MSU will always view Michigan as the feeble cripples they destroyed the last two years. Their coaches will try to dissuade them of this; they will try to warn them to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, in Ann Arbor, there be dragons.

Next Saturday, Michigan State will make that choice to go down a certain road on a certain night - a choice which is of course, no choice at all. Football teams have only one option: the next team on the schedule. It is the nature of football to always focus on what comes next; what's next for both Michigan and Michigan State is a walk into the darkness to war with each other, just as they have for a century. What they will find there remains to be seen. But take heed, he who fights monsters, to ensure that you yourself do not become a monster. For when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

1 comment:

Chris in NC said...

Dang, that clip was awesome. May have to pick that series up. thanks!! :)