Tuesday, November 10

Down in a hole

Somewhere in South Carolina, a close friend of mine is digging a hole. He's tearing up his own back yard - a small part of it at least - and he's digging. He's doing this for a dramatic gesture. He will bundle his well-worn Michigan jersey in plastic and place it in that hole. He vows not to collect it until Michigan makes a BCS bowl game.

At Mgoblog, Brian has given his last word (for now) in defense of Rich Rodriguez. Everything he writes is on the money in this complicated situation.

I love Lloyd Carr. The man took over our program at a really rough time and went out and won a national championship. He is a local hero in many ways, a Michigan man, and someone whose character should be admired not simply because of his ardent beliefs, but because in many ways he brings out the best in college football. He was not simply a coach, but viewed himself as a teacher. He believed in the game and believed in his players. Plus, he's the man who convinced me that we do indeed need a playoff. That said...

I think when people talk about the end of the Carr era, it's important to keep one major factor in mind: Mike Hart. He was a three-star recruit from the middle of nowhere New York that put the entire team on his back for four straight years. Sure, there was other talent, but after Braylon Edwards left, this wasn't exactly a stacked team. Outside of 2006, the defense was a mess, but Hart kept Michigan in every game he played. Remember in 2005 when all of Michigan fandom said "We have no chance to beat Michigan State!"? Hart came back healthy for the game and saved the day with 218 yards. We can all list a dozen games where he was the difference for Michigan. Appalachian State was supposed to be included, but, well, that thing about the abysmal defense. The Mike Hart teams won in spite of themselves and largely because he gave us a chance in every game where he was healthy. But there's a reason he never beat Ohio State, and it has little to do with him. The cupboard wasn't totally bare, but someone had been removing items when we weren't looking. Hart just made it seem like it was still relatively stocked.

For years, many people said, "We gotta fire Lloyd Carr!" My response was always the same: "OK, who do you want?" There was never an answer for this from the haters. Those who want Rodriguez axed don't have an answer either. Nearly every big-time program who fires their coach to start a new regime goes through this. The conventional wisdom is that Carr tried to put his assistants in place to take over. He gave them more responsibility in 2007. They failed. An easy transition was impossible. If we'd hired Les Miles, Marty Schottenheimer, or George S Patton, we would have had very similar problems.
Not our coach

The overriding obvious idea here is that this really sucks. As Ray Liotta said in Goodfellas, "This is the bad time."What my friend in South Carolina is doing is really important, but there's one aspect that is the most crucial part of the gesture. He's putting that jersey in plastic (please double-bag it, Roberto). He's not laying Michigan to rest. This is not a burial. This is a time capsule for himself. When he retrieves it some November day, he should buy it a bouquet of roses first (or a sack of doritos or whatever bowl-themed present is most apt). Then he should hug it high and tight like Ennis Del Mar.

I've identified my local futbol team here: Independiente. It's the third most popular team in Argentina, and has one of the richest traditions. The two most popular are Boca and River. Between them, they actually claim over 80% of the fans which is stupid, but Argentines generally like to follow the pack. Every team has nicknames they call themselves (in River's case: Los Millionarios) and names that everyone else calls them (River's: Las Gallinas (the female chickens)). Independiente used to be great, but since I first arrived here, they have been sucky to crappy. This season, they are actually playing well - winning games they shouldn't and playing above their talent. It seemed that Michigan was going the same direction, but perhaps that will have to wait until next year (ojalá!) I bring this up because the opposing team's nicknames for the Independiente fans is Los Amargos. This means, "The Bitter People." Translation - always negative, all the time. If that doesn't fit with the stereotype of a Michigan fan, then I'm Cristina Kirchner. I certainly didn't plan it that way, but maybe as Michigan fans, we're destined to suffer.
Not a Michigan fan - yet

I've been playing ultimate frisbee down here. Our team hasn't lost since March and yesterday we won the second championship in the history of the country. I bring this up because we weren't always such a dominant team. In fact, when we lost those two games in March, one team thrashed us 15-7. Since then we've been rolling. Why? We got mad, and we put in the practice. This experience will season these players, hopefully for the better. As much as this hurts us as fans, it's ten times worse for them. They're very young. Nobody can say they're not trying. They've come a long way from Toledo, even as they are sure to lose these last two games. We thought last season was the bottom. Really, we're looking at it right now, at least in terms of our patience and experience as fans. If Michigan pulls out a miracle in the last two weeks, it is a corner turned. And if not, you can't tell me this team isn't going to be more prepared next season.

So bury the jersey well, my friend. I expect it won't be ready to be dug up until November of 2011. By then it will be properly seasoned and in need of a big hug.

UPDATE: Maize N Brew chimes in

1 comment:

Robert said...

Well said my fiend. Well said...

As I shared with all the members of our private college football email group, these are very trying times for Michigan alumni and fans around the world. My heart is heavy these days. My soul is somber. But my dedication and admiration for Michigan football has never been stronger. Deep down inside, I know that we will turn this around and come out on top when the transition is over. Honestly, I love to see the fight in Michigan fans during these difficult times. We are kicking and screaming. There is no sticking our head in the sand. We are Michigan. We have 130 beloved years of tradition to keep us standing tall and strong. I do not mean to indicate this will be easy. I to am burned out and demoralized after the last two seasons. I'm on the ledge. I'm tempted to drive my car into a bridge embankment. But this is test and an opportunity to prove our faith. I will continue to support R2. I continue to stand by the Program. I tune in for every game. I will make my annual pilgrimage back to Ann Arbor this fall to watch our men take the field against OSU - win or lose. When that season ticket renewal package comes in the mail this spring, it will once again be my number one priority to fill it out and get it back to the Athletic Department as soon as possible.

And I will bury that jersey, my time capsule. As I said, in the likely even that we lose the next two games this season and do not become bowl eligible, I will be holding a UM FOOTBALL JERSEY burial ceremony in my back yard upon my return to Charleston after the Thanksgiving holiday. My beloved No. 1 Jersey will be unearthed at some point down the road when we qualify for our next BCS game one day. That maybe one year, or ten years. We shall see. I will carefully select the spot. I will mark the site with an elaborate stone. I will take all reasonable steps to make certain the Jersey is handled with the utmost respect. The Jersey will be sealed tightly in a water proof container so as to protect it from the elements. In the container I will place a copy of the fight song, and a picture of my closest college brethren from this year's reunion.

As for the “The Bitter People," always negative all the time, one commenter on mgoblog said it best: “If you don't have the stomach to root for this program when the chips are down, then go cheer for someone else for a few years. We'll let you know when you can come back. I promise."

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