Saturday, November 24, 2018

Things Fall Apart

Eighteen years ago, I watched Drew Henson bootleg into the endzone in Ohio Stadium and clinch a Michigan victory. Had I known then that that would basically be the final hurrah for Michigan in the rivalry, I probably would have savored it more. Or given up following sports altogether. That would've been the smarter play, I think.

18 years later, and Michigan has exactly one win against a non-lame duck Ohio State team - and that came 15 years ago. It has been an endless, unrelenting, and caustic wave of death for basically 20 years now. It never seems to make any bit of difference what happens before the game, what shape Michigan or Ohio State are in, what the relative strengths and weaknesses are, or anything else.

The final score has always ended the same: Ohio State too much, Michigan not enough.

We tricked ourselves into thinking this might somehow be different. Two years ago Michigan flubbed the game to the point where it came down to a bad spot when it should've been a Michigan regulation win but for three ass-fuckery turnovers by the quarterback. We convinced ourselves that with a functional quarterback this year, Michigan would obtain justice for that indignity.

We forgot that the final score is always the same.

Against this Ohio State team, this OSU defense that got shredded into ribbons by Maryland and Purdue, got bombed by Penn State and Nebraska, how could this not be the year? Michigan finally brought an offense in that featured a healthy QB and what appeared to be a functional offensive line. Surely this would finally be enough to get over the top?

The final score is always the same.

It makes not a single bit of difference what Michigan does - Ohio State is always better. Michigan throws rock; Ohio State throws paper. Michigan throws paper; Ohio State throws scissors. Michigan throws scissors; Ohio State throws rock. Michigan gets fed up and pulls a knife; Ohio State has a shotgun cocked under the table.

For what amounts to a generation, they have been leaps and bounds ahead of this program. A dozen years ago the fabled "spread" was slowly beginning its matriculation through the sport - Michigan's idea of innovation was running AWAY from where their fullback shuffled. Ohio State took the field for the 2006 Game and ran 4-5 wideout sets all game; Michigan stayed in its base 4-3 and got predictably slaughtered.

A dozen years later, and Michigan still thinks it's 1975.

There is a virus in this program that has eaten away at the parts that contain critical thinking. To the screaming majority of college coaches today, 2nd and 10 is a passing down every time. To Jim Harbaugh, it's a time to line up in the I and run up the gut behind your fullback. Imagine the shock when you're in 3rd and 9 and hoping for a miracle to keep your team on the field.

I'm not even going to dwell on the nuking the defense took in this game. Michigan's fabled DL generated exactly zero pressure against Dwayne Haskins - game over. Two years ago Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley, Matt Godin, Ryan Glasgow, and Maurice Hurst ate the Ohio State offensive line for lunch and killed their offense for as long as they could before Michigan's flailing offense flailed one time too many. Today Michigan's defense laid down and died because they did not lay a single finger on the Ohio State quarterback. The outcome, when considering that, was predictable.

Offensively, Michigan is broken, fundamentally. The mindset that was created by Bo Schembechler and continued by Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, and Brady Hoke is still there under Jim Harbaugh. Rich Rodriguez tried to deviate from it. It is the mindset that "Michigan Football" requires you to "manball" the opponent with a tough, physical running game that you deploy relentlessly so that by the time the fourth quarter arrives, those 2-4 yard runs are suddenly 6, 8, 10 yards because you've worn them out.

This worked in 1975 when everyone ran the same thing and there were no scholarship limits and Michigan had the cream of the crop. It worked in 1985 when Jim Harbaugh ran it to success under Bo. It worked in 1995.

By 2005, it had startled to wobble. In 2018, it is a recipe for being what Michigan is and will be going forward: 10-2, noncompetitive in the only game that matters, and still no conference championship or playoff appearance.

If your offense relies on having an all-world offensive line that can simply steamroll your opponents because they know what's coming but can't stop it, then your offense will fail. Michigan brought the 1975 playbook to Ohio Stadium in 2018, and suffered one of the most humiliating losses in the history of the rivalry.

Today's humiliation, while annoying and distasteful to me, does not shatter me the way previous losses did. It should have. It was armageddon, again. It was a winner-take-all showdown that turned into a comical pantsing in front of the entire country, and my reaction is...rather tepid. Maybe the burdens of real life have numbed me to sports. Maybe deep in my soul I'm not surprised by what happened. Maybe I live in 2018 America where the shittiest people imaginable experience the wildest of successes. (And make no mistake: Ohio State fans are the most loathsome, detestable pieces of shit anyone would ever have the misfortune of coming across. They are subhuman in their degeneracy.)

Which, in a roundabout way, brings me to the point of this post: I'm closing up shop. This is not a result of one game; not a knee-jerk reaction to one exceptionally disappointing setback, except in the sense that giving up 62 points and getting Hiroshima'd in the most important game of the season should produce more agitation than a heavy sigh and a simple shrug.

To that end, at the conclusion of this post, after some 11 years, Genuinely Sarcastic will cease operations. This is not some earth-shattering announcement; this space has largely been quiet for several years now. I've popped my head up from time to time during momentous events. But the raw, unvarnished passion that you can read in my earlier posts has largely faded away. In my youth, the sun largely rose and set with the machinations of Michigan football. I began this blog in the crucible of fire that was the beginning of the 2007 season. During that season (and shortly after), I shared this space with Matt - someone I am sadly no longer friends with and no longer speak to. We did not have some sort of friendship-ending fight or anything so dramatic. We just...drifted away. Life makes me sad in that sense. People have a way of getting lost.

In that vein, I have lost the fire that made this blog something approaching unique in the Michigan sports blogosphere. To this day, I have no idea how Brian found out about my blog. This space was originally supposed to just be my own little slice of internet where I'd rant and rave largely to myself, with the words preserved for posterity. Once I came into the MGoBlog orbit, it became something else; something more. I was, am, and will remain humbled and honored that someone like Brian Cook, whose talents I admire tremendously, thought my oft-incoherent ramblings were decent enough to land on his sidebar. Even now, when my appearances here became so scarce, I still get the occasional email from an MGoBlog reader, wondering how I am, or if I'm writing something about this game or that game. At its zenith, someone I used to know once told me that I had become something of a rock star in the MGo-community.

I am grateful for the positive feedback much of my writing here received. It was rare that I ever put excessive thought into something I wrote on this blog. Normally I would sit by myself in a locked room with the lights out at 3:00 in the morning and just bleed words onto the page. There would rarely be any strenuous editing process or anything that I guess "normal" writers go through. I just typed out the words as they came to me, and eventually it became something I was comfortable posting.

Those words no longer come to me. As I said, this is not a decision born out of the result of today's game, but more a decision a long time coming and confirmed by my decidedly numb reaction to it. This had been coming down the pipe for a while. The words I used to empty onto that blank page simply don't come as naturally as they used to; it would seem that my emotional investment in the things that used to light a fire under me is not as strong as it used to be. Once that fire has faded, it's over. One of the consequences of growing old, I suppose. Pouring your heart into a game of sport which you have no control over wears on you to the point where eventually you have to do the whole adulting thing and allocate your emotional resources elsewhere.

So...the lights will go dark here, now. I am known by various aliases in various corners of the internet; you can still find me in those places. But in terms of this place, this blog...the time has come to close the doors and lock them for good.


No comments: