Great post Brian. For those of you not familiar with the Seven Swans reference, it's an epic song by Sufjan Stevens from his 2004 album of the same name. Here is the song.
What do you do? I'm supposed to type. I do this. I'm here now and I have responsibility to put words here. But there are no words. I tap stuff out and erase. Everything longer than two words is crass. Now? How can it be now?
The Michigan locker room is going to be a quiet before the game tomorrow. I envision players quietly going about their various preparations: donning pads. Taping wrists. Applying eye-black. Cinching and tying, little tasks that pass the time. In between their thoughts will flutter sidelong at what awaits outside. A few may analyze the enormity of it in their heads directly. Harris. Hart. Breaston. Most will fall into the routine that has taken them from game to game since they first put on a helmet, falling into the patterns that people use to navigate when their brains shut down in fear or alarm or panic. They will proceed down the grooves they've worn in their life, and when they emerge onto the field they will operate more on animal instinct than anything else.
Sport as war may have grown trite; sport as war may be vaguely offensive with the nation vaguely at actual war. But what is left when you emerge into a maelstrom of hate under a gunmetal grey sky and meet an implacable mirror of yourself? Are we to compare it to canasta? Whist? Bridge? Knitting clubs? Michigan will battle Ohio State hand and foot. It will be vicious, maiming, disabling. The winner claims dominion. Sometimes what's trite is true. When the stakes elevate to this sort of level there's nothing else to compare it to.
Sport as war, clean war, where the champions of Good meet the champions of Evil on a mutually agreed battleground. According to the established rules, after three hours one is defeated utterly. The other is triumphant. The grey stops when the clouds do. We have taken the horror of war and stripped it down to its beating, thrilling heart. The term "Football Armageddon" is only partly in jest. Victory here is eternal. In 2006, Michigan beat Ohio State. Ohio State beat Michigan. Every year this is "The Game." This is The Game of Games.
We saw the dragon move down
My father burned into coal
My mother saw it from far
She took her purse to the bed
I saw a sign in the sky
Seven horns, seven horns, seven horns
I heard a voice in my mind
I am Lord, I am Lord, I am Lord
And then you try to figure out why the stakes are so high in the first place. Why this entire week you haven't been able to concentrate on anything by war by proxy. Fake war by proxy. Meaningless war by proxy. You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area. It's ridiculous. Intelligent people do not spend a goodly swath of their life pouring emotion and precious time into a contest that affects no one and changes nothing except some inky scribbles in media guides.
You wonder why. It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired the traits you hold dear -- loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory. And you wonder: if you were a different person who valued other things would you care so much? It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired other traits you share but do not hold particularly dear -- cantankerousness, stubbornness, an inability to suffer fools gladly. And you wonder: do I like Michigan because of the way I am, or am I the way I am because I like Michigan?
The answer seems clear.
Now the man who took that rudderless program and gave it -- gave you -- all the things you like and don't like is dead. In 1969, it all started with a victory over #1 Ohio State.
He will take you
At some point, as David Harris reclines -- head against a wall, fixing his bayonet, passing the time -- the faint ratatat of drums will filter through the concrete, beating out a march. Harris will rise from his seat, take up his helmet, and stride forward. The future holds its breath for three hours.
If you run, he will chase you
There's only one thing left. Play. Fight. Win. Please.
Posts like this are the reason I'll never stop loving this site. I wish I had started my mgoblog addiction sooner so I could have actually read this back then.
"Intelligent people do not spend a goodly swath of their life pouring emotion and precious time into a contest that affects no one and changes nothing except some inky scribbles in media guides."
... is something I remember saying to someone at work the day before that game, only not nearly as eloquently.
FWIW, I was at that game and remember that very "ratatat of drums" like it was yesterday.
Those were the days...reading this 4+ years after..so many things have gone wrong since that Day - or even the day before when Bo died.
Here's to bringing it back - a win over MSU in their game is a good start. I'll be there...
Still coming back to this post in 2011...
easily one of my favorite posts ever
2016 here as well; this is my favorite piece of Brian's writing on this site.
and still as wonderful as it was when it was written.
that was touching and extremely well-written, given the fact you start out by saying there are no words.
Linked from the 5 year anniversary thread.
Thanks to a blogger who is the worthy wordsmith of the school and team worthy of the prose.
Really bordering on artistic here. So good. I listened to the Seven Swans song on Google Play while I read the article. I recommend the same for all.