[Ed (Seth) note: Brian's off today. but Jane Coaston (twitter: @cjane87) has finally written something for this site. Jane is an incredible writer (and an entertaining follow) who spends most of her day making the world better, and probably would have saved it by now if she wasn't so obsessed with college sports]:
He looked so small.
I was looking at Trey Burke in a Utah Jazz uniform at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and all I could think is, “He looks so damn small.”
When you leave college, you find that the world is big. The world is bigger than Ann Arbor or Michigan or the Big Ten or sports could ever be. It is bigger than Crisler, or this school, or that school, or any school. When you leave college, you have left the biggest little place you will ever be.
You will find that the world is full of a thousand stupid paper cuts. It is full of unspeakable evils, yes, but it is also full of HR managers and disappointing movies and nonexistent reminders for the things you were supposed to do two days ago. You are in debt to someone, probably. You should have cleaned out the back of your fridge in June. Your boss visibly loathes you. And your parents are suddenly old and you don’t remember how that happened. They weren’t old, and now they are, and they will now never not be old again.
Your sophomore year roommate who yelled at you once when you got drunk and threw up in a trash can will get married. The kid who you were convinced would never exist outside of the Brown Jug is now an investment banker in New York; he’s engaged now, too. Much of these changes seem to take place in spurts of activity on Facebook, but sometimes you run into someone you used to know and they’re still them, but a different them. Sometimes they’re so different that you don’t quite know what to say.
Charles Woodson is different now. Tom Brady is different now. Every Michigan player you have ever loved or hated or some bizarre yet totally understandable combination of the two is completely different from the way they were when they played in maize and blue. Trey Burke is different now. He’s playing in the Summer League before his second year in the NBA. He’s 21. He makes $2.4 million dollars a year. And he was roughly 25 feet away from me, playing in front of 13,911 fans on a Wednesday night.
“Are y’all here for Trey Burke? I see all this Michigan stuff and I’m trying to put it together.”
The guy in front of us - who turned out to be a West Virginia grad and friends with Patrick Beilein - turned around to ask us why we were wearing Michigan sweatshirts at a Wizards game. So did the two men next to us, who told us that Michigan-Louisville was the best title game they’d ever seen, and that the upcoming tournament should be a good one. “Good to see y’all representing your university,” one of the men said.
And we weren’t alone. When Trey Burke’s name was announced during warm-ups, at least six people in the area immediately yelled out, “Go Blue!” There were Michigan shirts in every section, Michigan sweatshirts, Michigan basketball jerseys. We had somehow turned an NBA regular season game into the Trey Burke and some other guys and Gortat! Show. This same Wizards team would later go on a mildly improbable playoff run, but on that night in March, we were there for Trey.
Trey Burke is different now, but he’s still Trey Burke. He still got the Steal. He still hit the Shot. The sands of time will turn to glass and the mountains will be made low and Trey Burke will still have put a Michigan team that had barely sniffed the Sweet Sixteen (or hell, the NCAA tournament) for over a decade into the championship game on a run that made me glad I chose to go to devote much of my sanity to the University of Michigan athletics department. I didn’t go to a Wizards game. I went to go see Trey Burke, Michigan player.
Desmond Howard hasn’t worn the winged helmet in 22 years but he will always be diving in the end zone on fourth down for a touchdown. Charles Woodson will be running back a punt on a cold day in November and beating Ohio State with a rose between his teeth for the rest of his life. Denard Robinson will always throw a floating pass to Roy Roundtree, who will fight through pass interference to catch it, and it will always be a touchdown, and we will always win. Maybe it’s strange to hold onto the projections of people like that, but we do it anyway.
Things change, and it’s terrifying. Our offensive line is literally one giant question mark. Michigan’s athletic department makes decisions that make me uncomfortable. I am not doing what I want to be doing with my life and I spend a lot of time trying to not think about that.
But Trey still beat Kansas.