he grew a beard
11/17/2007 - Michigan 3, Ohio State 14 - 8-4, 6-2 Big Ten
Saturday was wet and cold and miserable and had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Though other games have been more painful or less competitive, November 17th, 2007, stands alone in terms of sheer miserable boredom.
Michigan's best and most frequently deployed offensive player was the punter. There was one event of significance in the entire game, that being Chris Wells' game-sealing 62 yard touchdown run; once Tressel got his 11 point lead he decided he was done for the day. Ohio State threw two second-half passes, neither of which landed within ten yards of an eligible receiver. Even the flyover was canceled due to the weather, a particularly nasty near-freezing drizzle that crept into your bones by halftime.
These were the impairments to enjoyment inflicted on the viewing public at large. A couple insults were added to injury in my section. Invading Buckeye fans took to standing on the wet, rickety bleachers, providing the interested observer with the choice of getting up on the bench yourself, thus drawing the ire of everyone behind you, or peering through a thicket of heads to see the "action." (Scare quotes smarmy but 100% required.) Behind us two solid rows of central Ohio's finest truck drivers and forklift operators hooted constantly, literally saying "ain't nuttin' wrong with that" after every four yard Wells run. A good time was not had by all.
And so. And so what do you do with that?
One. In the aftermath I was -- am -- angry at Carr for hanging on too long, for bringing in a minimally qualified friend to coordinate the offense, for allowing his charges to put out an undisciplined, lackadaisical show time and again this year. This year is going to end in some rinky-dink December bowl. Michigan put up 91 yards of offense against Ohio State and lost for the fourth straight year. All of that's on Carr. Jake Long and Chad Henne and Mike Hart deserved better than what they got.
Carr was stubborn, arrogant, and loyal to a fault. There is no Carr coaching tree because the program is inbred.
Two. Carr was a curmudgeon in the best possible way. When it comes to calling out the hypocritical power structure of college football, he stands entirely alone. No other coach has called out the NCAA for adding a twelfth game while simultaneously protesting that a playoff is infeasible. No other coach has directly called for the players to get paid. He was a tireless advocate for his players and his program. Last November I sat in Michigan Stadium and listened to him eulogize Bo and wanted no one else to coach Michigan.
People unfamiliar with the program bash him for a lack of class because of post-game handshakes and halftime interviews gone awry as if "class" means putting a good face for stupid questions and meaningless gestures. No, he didn't like the media. But do you like the media? Carr was the best argument college football is about something other than violence and money the sport had.
And he won. Not lately, but he won.
There is an obvious split here. The first section is about Carr the coach; the second about Carr the man. I'll miss him sometimes, but mostly on Monday, not Saturday.
Lloyd Carr, the third-winningest coach in Michigan football history, will announce his retirement after 12-plus seasons as the Wolverines' head coach, players confirmed today.
The official announcement will likely come Monday morning at a 10 a.m. press conference held at the Junge Champions Center.
Carr told his players of his decision at a team meeting this afternoon.
"He's not going to be here any longer, but he enjoyed the moments that he had to spend with us," senior linebacker Chris Graham said. "It's a sad thing to hear, but I enjoyed every moment of being here with him. He's a great coach to me. He's like another father figure. Just having him here is the whole reason why I came."
For what reminder I can provide: Lloyd deserves some sort of recognition; I hope the students can provide something. Go Blue.
Just two links, so go read them. It's required by law.
Great players' legacies should be based on their entire body of work, but even if I've never spent any time in the Upper Midwest, I know enough about the gleeful antagonism between Ohio State and Michigan to know that's not exactly how it works. Saturday is the last chance the kids who started together with such promise four years ago, and have largely lived up it, have to go out alongside Lloyd Carr without the oft-referenced albatross of being the "Michigan Men" who never beat Ohio State, never won a bowl game, never won the Big Ten outright (the 2004 title was a tiebreaker situation over co-champ Iowa) and ultimately never capitalized on tthe full possibilities.
Tomorrow, it is over for them all, it is over for this era, this dynasty, however plagued by the ability to let us down it might have been. The dynasty that won our hearts and little else, it is over for them.
Oh, and... two sources indicate that the Scouts, Inc., report on Hart is excessively pessimistic: Hart will definitely start, as will Henne. It'll be up to their respective joints to hold up, but they're playing.
At around 3:00 on November 18th, 2006, I sat in the student section of Ohio Stadium and barely succeeded in not dissolving into a heap of tears worthy of Tammy Faye Baker as various bands and people paid tribute to Bo Schembechler. At that moment, the game that was about to unfold was quite literally the most important thing that ever had or ever would happen in my life. Michigan had to win.
Or what? Or I don't know what.
Five hours later I stood outside a Columbus 7-11 as the city, red-lit and ominous, exploded in hedonistic joy for their demon-coach and his demon-team. I waited for a man named Skeeter who would never come and silently decided that the true essence of adulthood was the realization that horrible things just happen and keep happening and they are unfair and there is no redemption at the end of things, ever, just more horrible things to have happen to you and the people you care about. And that "realization" is the right word there, not acceptance, because the things that are horrible are just unacceptable but they are real and you have to deal with them anyway.
I was a little melodramatic, maybe.
Or at least, that's what I thought. In September when I watched Chad Henne loft a prayer to Mario Manningham from the exit of section 44 -- I, wishing to flee the disaster scene as fast as possible, had bolted from my seat as soon as Appalachian State drew within chip-shot field goal range, content to watch the final throes from up above -- only for Shawn Crable to violate a basic principle of football 101 ("don't let that asshole block the field goal"), I revised my previous theory to something simpler: God is bored, and we are the ants under the magnifying glass.
Going into this year I had simple desires. I wanted to beat Ohio State, I wanted to win a BCS bowl, and I wanted Lloyd Carr to sail off into the sunset a respected, though probably not exactly revered, old jedi, Obi-Wan-style. And I wanted to see Mike Hart run. Shockingly, all these things remain on the table for Michigan if they can beat Ohio State, which -- as detailed earlier today -- the old brain thinks is pretty damn unlikely. And to fail one last time when everything is on the line... well... just fuck, man.
So I'm tired, and I'm sad, and I don't think any of us is going to get what we want. Maybe that's just detachment and preparing myself for defeat so it's easier when it actually comes but I don't think so. Because it's not easy to consider Mike Hart walking off that field a final time, head down, as Ohio State players clench roses in their teeth. It's not easy to envision Henne and Hart and Long and Manningham resigned to a dusky corner of Michigan history revisited only by force when economics professors go "WOOO 0-4 Mike Hart" in your face when they present their stupid studies about the AP poll at academic conference "WOOO 6-1 Jim Tressel".
But then there's Hart. Yesterday a Syracuse-area radio host called me for some quotes on Hart yesterday, and I obliged, objecting to the idea of "swagger" and describing Hart's career-in-microcosm eight-yarder against Penn State in 2005. A final question brought me short, though, something about the feelings of Michigan fans as Hart takes the field for the final time in Michigan Stadium. I don't recall the exact phrasing.
I stopped, and when I continued after a moment the words were halting, wavering, on the edge of collapse. What they were didn't matter. I can't encapsulate four years of glory and pain in three sentences. But a catch in the throat after an innocuous question can.
I am done thinking. Michigan is listless in the last days of a dying empire, but Mike Hart will run out of the tunnel and I will believe until I can't or I don't have to anymore. Go Blue.