On Twitter earlier this evening, somebody made note of something they'd read earlier this year that seemed relevant once again. "2011: The Lost Season". When first made, the statement was tongue in cheek, impilying that so many schools had pending NCAA investigations that the entire season would be lost to eliminated records. Years from now, people would look at the college record books and wonder, "Why didn't anyone play football in 2011?"
In the wake of the PSU Sexual Abuse scandal, the phrase had taken on new meaning for the tweeter. To him, the scandals had amassed and amassed and reached a point where the 2011 season is better forgotten. The missing season is now a season in which the sport itself has gone missing, buried in a mess of too many lies. Too much hurt. Too much distrust and too much heartache. The season has spent too much time beneath a cloak wielding a dagger to be trusted.
I can't argue that point. Even though Michigan seems to have done everything right, I can't stand the abuse of young men willing to work hard and play harder, week in and week out by not following the rules, making illicit deals, or worse. It belittles the game to the point it's almsot easier to simply forget the year and hope another one like it never comes along. Right now, it hurts to be a fan of the system that creates and fosters these situations. We are very small but essential cogs in a very large machine that has corrupted its purpose. Something once as pure and simple as providing young men an opportunity to grow academically and cheer them on while they grow athletically has become very dark and sinister. It is ruled by money, unearned success and criminal behavior. And we are a part of it. It would feel a lot better to forget the whole season and pretend we support something much more pure, much more wonderful and idellyc. Right now, that's not the truth, but it would be easier.
It would be easier by far to declare this a lost season.
But to do such a thing would be to do a huge diservice to the very reason we are fans in the first place. At the heart of this broken, vile, soot-spewing machine lies the same power sources as there ever has been. Driven only by the desire for an education and the chance to play just a little bit longer, the young men at the heart of the game take the field every Saturday for joy and opportunity. Oh, some have pro-careers in mind. Some are less innocent than others, but it doesn't really matter. Not one is playing for position, wealth or illicit opportunity. Not one is playing because someone offered them a contract, or agreed to ignore and hide some wrongdoing on their part. They are playing because the NCAA told them they could earn a free education, develop themselves and maybe market themselves to football's next level, simply because they showed an apittude for it. And that, that is pure. A bit business-esque, perhaps. And certianly theres money to be made there. We can even argue about how that money is distributed, and what is fair.
It doesn't matter, really. There is no cloak and no darkness when the students take the field. They are playing for their university, and their university is educating them, and at that moment, nothing else needs enter the picture. At that moment, the machine is working. At that moment, everything is laid bare. There is no cloak and no dagger.
Two-Thousand-Eleven is a dark, dark season for college football. There have been misdeeds of every kind, and mistrust is present at every level. But so long as those young men run out of the tunnel to play for Michigan, and so long as we sing The Victors to support THEM, there will be an element of pure in a sea of filth.
This is not a lost season, because we still sing the national anthem and cheer the kickoff.