This picture evidently has a grip on me.
It was the centerpiece of the letter from the editor in Hail To The Victors 2008 and the desperate, searching column following the Post Apocalyptic Oregon Game. And why not? It’s perfect for this place and time.
On the right, Bump Elliot, fired/resigned/retired but at the press conference introducing his replacement. He looks like he wants a sandwich and is thinking about asking that guy off camera if he could get one, but he knows that losing to Ohio State 50-14 is not the kind of thing that helps the sandwich acquisition process.
On the left, Bo Schembechler. He looks like Bo. He is obscurely confident, staring at something. Maybe it’s a wall. Maybe he’s thinking about making that wall the best damn wall that wall can be. Maybe it’s a pair of pants, and Schembechler is devising a motivational method that will get the pair of pants to tailor itself into the best damn pair of pants it could be. It is not a sandwich, or Bump Elliot would be looking over there. It is probably not an elephant or a meerkat or any sort of African land mammal. Other than that we don’t know.
In the middle, Don Canham. In marked contrast to the men flanking him, Canham is sporting an expression of crystal clarity. Staring off into the middle distance, he draws his mouth tight and hunches forward. “God, I hope I didn’t screw this up,” he thinks. In a moment he’ll speak into the thicket of microphones in front of him, introducing the man to his right and hoping against hope that this man from Miami of Ohio can beat back the Buckeye menace. Together they will build an empire.
We are all Don Canham now. Rich Rodriguez comes in with a wildly successful pedigree but promises to finally tear down the culture of Bo’s program, to replace it with something uncertain. This has caused apprehension in some, joy in others, and disdain verging on hatred in a select group.
The program risks changing into something people drift away from because it has drifted from them, or, worse, something that you only wish you could drift away from. It also promises fireworks and fun and victory and a feeling that’s something other than that thing we’ve felt so much before. Other fanbases go through this every five or ten or fifteen years; for us it’s been 40.
I could welcome it, I guess, or celebrate it, or proclaim inevitable dominion over the land. But I don’t feel like it. Nor do I feel like fretting over imaginary scandals future. Like Canham, I just hope it works.
Here goes nothing. Go Blue.