When people, usually the most fair-weather of Michigan fans, would complain over the years that "Lloyd Carr needs to go," I would always respond with the same question: "Who do you want to hire, then?" None of these folks ever gave me a halfway decent answer to that question. One said "Marty Schottenheimer." Part of the problem was that they never appreciated Carr, which to me, meant they never appreciated Michigan. We may not have had the flashiness of the mid-90s Florida Gators, but every year, we had the chance for greatness and at worst found ourselves in the Alamo Bowl. Even when Michigan was "terrible," Michigan was always good. And I think it's especially clear now how many people took that for granted.
For the last ten years, friends and I have participated in a weekly college pick 'em contest. Put simply, you pick the winning team for each game among the AP Top 25. In ten years, I have never once picked against Michigan, no matter how grim a game may have looked. There was no point in playing the game if I couldn't pick my team. But Penn State was an entirely different scenario. The spread was 23.5, and I was certain it was low. While I didn't hesitate to pick Michigan, cross my fingers, and hope for the best, others changed their approach. That they ended up picking correctly did nothing to assuage the outrage and incredulity heaped upon their heads by those who kept the faith. But now that the dust settled, and Michigan has lost to our "little brother," these acts of "treason" stand significantly. This isn't just about razzing our buddies.
I go back to those whiners that demanded a coaching overhaul. I wonder what they have to say this year. My guess is that they're not watching games, and certainly not reading this blog. They've moved on to Halloween costumes or winter vacations or something else to complain about. But the rest of us are still here. And we're trying to deal. Dave is numb. Brian, defeated by ennui. Hoover Street wants the season to be over. Wolverine Liberation Army sighs and then dutifully trudges onward. And Vijay is resorting to picking winners of all the other games. The bloggers are not dead inside, but in a sense, they are creating shelter for hibernation. Me, I just feel more disconnected every week. If I could get the slingbox to work, maybe I could share in the pain better. But reading boxscores of these games is like living through the last scenes of Chinatown every week. I'm helpless and frustrated. People here keep telling me to forget about it, that I'm living in one of the most exciting cities on the planet with summer just around the next corner. And maybe they're right.
Jake can't forget, and neither can I!
But I can't help noting that the life of a Michigan fan has changed dramatically this season. And honestly, it's OK for people to view it differently. My friends who have "turned their back" on the team have every right to do so. But I can't. I didn't go to Michigan for the football team. I went because it was the best education I could get and the right environment for me. My first steps into Michigan Stadium were on a gorgeous August day to watch the team trounce Washington State. I arrived and left by myself, not knowing anyone else who had tickets yet. That was really my first steps into this game, and even though that contest was hardly significant, I know now that it stirred something in me that has only become stronger every year until it culminated in a 22,000 mile road trip. Michigan football isn't that girlfriend I can't quite get over. It's more like a part of my family - suddenly in the role of the unreliable uncle who you have to forgive all the time.
I'm going to stand by this team, even if some of my buddies can't or won't. In the aftermath of my stunned, "woe is we" posting after the Toledo loss, some commenters reminded me that when we do bounce back, and we surely will, it will be all the better for this suffering. I don't doubt that. Though I have some great friends here in this new country of mine, none of them is a Michigan fan. Actually, none of them is a college football fans at all.
The past can't be taken away. We won a National Championship when I was 22 years old. We've been good ever since I set foot on campus. Maybe a little suffering isn't so bad. And hey, AARP Magazine named Ann Arbor the best city in America for retirees. (#1 in the nation, baby!) I just hope I don't have to wait until I'm that old for the joyful times to resume. But even if I do, I'll always consider myself a Michigan Man. I don't know how else to live at this point. Now let's get Uncle Borracho to rehab, quick.