The Game 2009

Like many things in life that end broken, this started with good intentions all around.

Rich Rodriguez watched from the sidelines while Michigan avenged Carr and desecrated the Tebow Temple. Chad Henne dropped redemption from the sky into the waiting hands of Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham. Mike Hart fumbled and laughed and Michigan were The Victors.

I dreamed of spread offenses and 70 point thrashings, a wild new Michigan built for the Mayan Apocalypse, slaughtering the Big Ten with lightning from the Yost Ages, standing atop the Big Ten as the world ended.

But we couldn’t just sit back and enjoy it. This is Michigan, and at Michigan an apocalyptic reawakening wasn’t going to happen quietly or without a soul searching battle. This is the House of Bo; taking out that wall to open up the foyer a bit, and maybe tearing up that old carpet for a peek at the floorboards, well, that wasn’t going to happen in 30 minutes on TLC.

We needed to hear every mind numbing detail about every non-existent CRISIS AT MICHIGAN every day until finally the fake crisis managed to grow until it was a real crisis. The outrage – over exaggerated minor gaffes, outright lies, witch hunts – kept combining with itself until now, where we find ourselves in a constant fight with each other and every one around the college football world.

No. Things aren’t great at Michigan right now. I might have a kool-aid mustache, and I might be a clown, but I’m not in denial. Superficially, this isn’t where any of us want to be. We all want The Game to matter, to play a bowl game.

The reality is that it does matter. For the obvious – beat Ohio, go to a bowl – for the imaginary – Rich Rod doesn’t understand the rivalry!! – for the legitimate – wins are good – and for the spiritual – we want to heal.

Richard Jonathan Rodriguez isn’t a bad guy. He’s humble. He’s dedicated. He’s animated. Rich Rod isn’t a serial killing child rapist. He isn’t a dedicated to corruption public official. He’s just a football coach. But here there’s a chunk of the population that decided, the day he was hired, they wouldn’t be happy until he was run out of town. We’re The Leaders and Best. If it takes other programs two years to decide that their coach must die, we decide the day he is given the job.

Others held out. Until the first half of the Utah game. Every loss, since that gorgeous summer day in a gutted-under-construction and all too-apt metaphor Big House, there has been a new message board post where a “faithful” Michigan “fan” declares that ‘”I am a Rich Rod supporter but today I had my first serious doubts.” Saying “I’m a Rich Rod Supporter” is the Michigan version of “I’m not a racist, but …” Inevitably, the Supporter is here to announce he loves Maize and Blue and Rich but he has Serious Legitimate Doubts After Today and This Is Why I Think Rich Rodriguez Is a Hick Mexican Who Isn’t Fit to Wash My Car.

I’ll tap out. You’re right, Mr. Outrage. RichRod Must Go. You should be the Athletic Director. If we had listened to you, mighty Nostradamus of the gridiron, we’d be laughing at those SEC peons this year and making room for another crystal football. You’re the best. You are my superior, in every way.

I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone

Funny story, though. None of that happened. Rich Rod is the Coach. We play Ohio State this weekend. All that unacceptable talk doesn’t seem to have changed the reality. So, what are you doing to do this week, champ?

Michigan fans are finally learning what so many others fan have known for so long – the team keeps on playing even if they aren’t The Best. Football does not cease to exist because you have lost your honor in the office.

Even those of us just tired, exhausted, beaten down – we’re in the wrong. You might not like the talent on this team and you probably don’t enjoy the results, but dudes, these guys still play for Michigan. Maybe not the Michigan of your dreams, but the real Michigan. Winning is part of the “deal”, in some ways, but isn’t that a bit empty? Soulless? The opposite of the tradition of the Sport Fan? You pick a team. And that’s it. It’s the first adult decision you make. The second you have one favorite team, one that will be a creepy part of your identity, that’s your first marriage. Some divorce by age 14 and have multiple out of wedlock champions. Maybe one of you moves away and the distance is just too hard. Leaving Michigan is one matter. Staying with Michigan sporting a cold, dead glaze over your eyes and ogling other dates in front of her is much worse. There’s nothing appealing to anyone about a fence rider. You can be moderate, but eventually you’ve got to make a choice. This isn’t life and death. It’s a fucking football team. If you can’t make that choice …

The tough now they get going when the going gets tough.’
But for you my best was never good enough

So if you’re in, you’re in. That means you have to convince yourself – someway, somehow – that Michigan is going to thrash the Bucks on Saturday.

Leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkness past

A win changes the narrative … again. Sports exist in a constant timeline flux.

We have a floating memory of the past three weeks and an eye constantly pointed forward. The past and the future are equally hazy – in nice times, we picture coming victories and triumphs of the past. When we lost, it’s surely the sign of something worse ahead and all we can think of are depressingly similar past failures.

If you open up your head and reach way in the back, you can still see Tate Forcier splitting a LB and churning downfield.

That was the leap, the original 2009 narrative shift. The train was ahead of schedule and it’s one way to TITLE TOWN for the Wolverines. And now it’s easy to forget that was even this season.

Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been co-operating. It’s been unseasonably warm this November. For proper drama, we need to be under those fabled gunmetal skies, with snow falling and winter setting it. A proper landscape to illustrate the barren feeling that’s taken over since the simmering late summer festival of love that was the ND game.

It all started so promising. Rich Rodriguez was going to bring his spread domination to Michigan. Tate Forcier was going be the first freshman Heisman winner. The seamless transition would be complete, Michigan would vanquish their foes and announce to the college football world that we were not to be laughed at any longer.

Now, of all the dreams we had, only one really remains. An end to the Buckeye dominance of the past 8 years and a trip to scenic Downtown Detroit. It is not the end that we dreamed of. We all wanted something more, from the most pollyana fans to Brandon Graham. Brandon Minor didn’t want to be doubtful for his last chance at true Wolverine glory. But here we all are, and maybe this is another lesson we needed. True redemption won’t be had easily.

No matter what metaphorical dark clouds are hanging, what the future holds for the Rodriguez Era, what the reporters think, what fans think, what Ohio State thinks, whatever uncertainty remains, there is one solid truth we simply have to believe – this team has played their version of the perfect game once before. It is not an impossible task.

dreams will not be thwarted … faith will be rewarded ….