Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
so Here we are. 10,000 km away, and 10 years removed from graduation. But my heart still lives in Ann Arbor. It's midnight on a saturday and by all rights I should be out getting blitzed and dancing the night away. Instead I'm sitting in my comfy chair, glued to my computer screen, counting down the hours until kickoff.
Why does such a trivial thing as football mean so much to me? Why do I care so much about the fates of men I have never - and probably will never - meet? How can such a silly thing give me so much joy and drive me to so much anger?
I grew up mid-michigan. An asian kid in an all white town. Football was the one outlet for all the pent up frustration and aggression that was unsuitable for an overly civilized world. Without football, I might have turned out like this: http://inmyroom.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/cho_large.jpg
For me, football has always been about the emotions it stirs.
But I also enjoyed the status it conferred. I loved the feeling of walking around school in my jersey on gameday. I liked how the cheerleaders knew all our names and gave us treats and presents. It made me feel special, in a good way. I didn't have to be just another asian nerd who was good at math.
I loved running out of the locker room in a big pack, through the banners. I can still hear the roar of the crowd and band. I liked seeing my name in the paper, even if it was just a boxscore in the lansing state urinal. I was tickled to be interviewed for the 5th quarter and watching myself on TV. This was back in 1994, before youtube, before a million cable channels. Football made me feel pretty special.
And I knew the game. I'd watch every NFL game on sunday with my grandma. I could see how Lawrence Taylor would just destroy people. How we could fight THROUGH a block to blow up a run. I'd watch NFLfilms on HBO nonstop. Admiring how Bill Walsh would take advantage of opponents' tendencies and schemes.
So, football offered so much. It was physcially, emotionally, socially, and mentally stimulating.
When I decided to go to Michigan, most of that continued even though I was not good enough to play division 1 ( or probably even division 2). Too short, too slow. But being a fan in the stands was almost as good. The comradarie was still there. The emotion was still there. The intellectual analysis was still there. And when I would return home, to the heart of Spartoon country wearing my maize and blue, the status was also still there.
Our team was better than your team. And they all knew it.
Sure they would put on a brave face and try to take pot shots at us. "Your coach is a a drunk", "You suck in bowl games", "We're just as good". But deep down, they knew they weren't.
And then, some amazing things happened. We got a new coach. Lloyd's first year as HC was my first year in the stands. We beat OSU. Biakabutuka ran wild. We finished 8-4. We were 8-4 the next year too. Remember when people were angry with LLoyd for going 8-4? And now we'd be ecstatic if we got to 8-4...ㅜㅜ
But we beat an undefeated OSU team again, thanks to some kid named Griese. Remember when we expected to beat OSU, even if they had the higher ranked team? Remember when we could make fun of John Cooper proclaiming Feb-10, 2001 to be his day in honor of his record against us...
The next year was pure magic. I had been going through a rough point in my life, drinking too much, thinking about transferring, or changing my major, or... I don't know what... something. I withdrew from all my classes and went home to sort things out. But Michigan was living a dream season in football. Even being away from campus, I could still feel like a part of things by watching the games on TV.
As stupid as this may sound, Michigan football probably factored as much into my decision to return to Ann Arbor as anything else.
And I was there. I was at the games I could go to. I saw Woodson's interception against MSU.
I watched Daydrian Taylor's hit against the PSU tight end on TV.
I gave about a million high 5's to friends and strangers when Andre Weathers got the pick 6 to make it 20-0, and we all knew we were going to the Rosebowl.
I rushed the field after the OSU game, nearly getting pepper sprayed. But it didn't matter. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
So was driving to LA with all my friends. Waking up hungover on new years, filing into that stadium. Such an awesome day. And they served BEER! Ice cold beer. The best beer I've ever had in my life on that dehydrated sunny day in the middle of what would be winter in Ann Arbor.
AND WE WON! Do you remember? Woodson leaping 20 feet in the air. Tai Streets scoring on long bombs. Ryan Leaf completing every damn 3rd and long. And then the ending was so confusing. Everything happened so fast. We had them pinned way back. But those cougars were cheating. They pushed off woodson. They faked an injury. OUTRAGE! The ref pulled out the flag. HE WAS WAVING HIS DAMN HANDS WITH THE FRIGGIN FLAG IN HIS DAMN HANDS! But he didn't throw it. And the crowd was booing the loudest "boo" I've ever heard.
But it didn't matter. WE WON! We won it all. It was chaos everywhere. I didn't know if I should take pictures, or rush the field or, or, or, just sit there like an idiot balling my eyes out. So I did all three.
And then Griese was given the MVP. The guy that threw a chair through the window at Skeepers. The walkon who was banished from the team. The overshadowed child who played under his father's glare with the whole country watching. So I cried some more. REDEMPTION. For him and me. I graduated with honors two years later, making the dean's list every semester after that.
That was the highest of highs. But It wasn't long until we reached some pretty bad lows. We had high expectations and then lost to ND. And I got stuck in a 4 hour traffic jam on the way home. That sucked. And then we were losing to McNabb by 17 the next week before I could even get to my seat. But the team improved. Every year we were very good. Always so close, but so far from winning it all again. There was the Drew Henson fiasco at MSU. Anthony Thomas's fumble against Northwestern. I remember thinking after those games when I didn't blame those kids. I blamed the fact that those teams were even within a touchdown of us at all. Remember when we could feel like other teams were so inferior to us that we should NEVER lose to them? ... ...
Even as I moved from city to city, and people came into and out of my life, Michigan football was a constant in my life. A blissfull reminder of goodtimes past.
That is, until last year.
Last year I gave up on the team. And sadly, it didn't make much difference in my life.
I tried. I was excitied. I was full of hope. I supported a guy who would later become a felon. I saw our team have nail biters against some of the best teams in the country. But I also saw a defense that was undermanned. I saw raw inexperienced players on offense. I saw a roster in tatters.
And what's worse is that I saw a team quit. I saw a team regress. I didn't watch the last four games of the season, because I already knew what the outcome would be.
With the season over, I stood back at arms length. I was fed up with recruiting rumors. I was sick of people leaving the program. The transfers, the defections to the pros. I thought the first year was a mulligan, but it continued.
Remember when Lloyd would threaten a kid with transfer papers, but then the kid would rise to the challenge and get even better? Now it seems that when a kid is challenged, he just transfers. Where is our support system? What is going on?
I don't want Rich Rod to be fired. That would probably be the absolute worst thing for this program. I want to be full of hope. But our situation at DB is not only discouraging, it's downright frightening.
So I wanted to take this moment, the calm before the storm, to remenisce about how things used to be.
This is going to be a long season. Even our best hopes for this year would have been a terrible dissapointement just a decade ago. I'm sure I'll get angry. I'm sure there'll be mitigating factors. So the only thing I can do is to not completely flame up the board after something frustratingly infuriating happens.
But I do have some hope. Our offense may very well be good. And maybe I'm in for a surpise on defense. I hope so. But I'm not expecting it.
Someone once told me that the key to happiness is having a reality that exceeds your expectations. Well thanks to "Angry _______ Michigan Hating God", my expectations are quite low.
Unfortunately, as I sit here 10,000 km away, Michigan football has already lost some of the things I most loved about it. I have no fellow alumni near me to cheer with. And I'd rather not discuss football with the green&white relatives (or even the friggen purple relatives, OMG I don't even feel superior to northwestern fans anymore).
Anyway, to wrap this up, I'll list some of my hopes for the season. A few years ago I wrote a wishlist, none of which came true. So now I don't even have wishes. Just hopes.
1. I hope we win 6 games
2. I hope we go to a bowl
3. I hope Denard Robinson has a better passer rating than Terrelle Pryor
4. I hope the stadium is louder than ever thanks to the new architecture and mic'd band
5. I hope we win more than one conference game
6. I hope we don't have any (ANY) more injuries in the secondary
7. I hope we beat OSU
8. I hope we beat MSU
9. I hope we don't have any more transfers
10. I hope Richrod won't be fired.