The thing about time machines is this: you show up with a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper, and the day after tomorrow’s. On day one, you loudly proclaim “I AM FROM THE FUTURE” and people laugh at you and you make bold proclamations about newsworthy events, holding up tomorrow’s paper. The next day you’ve gained some credibility but skeptics remain, so this time you show them the day after tomorrow’s paper, which just has one story on the front page. The headline, in “WAR”-sized caps: “HOLY CRAP, THIS GUY IS FROM THE FUTURE.”
Your credibility established beyond a doubt on day three—which is sometime in late August, 2007—you sit the Michigan fanbase down and carefully explain everything that is going to happen to them over the next twelve months, at which point they laugh at you again.
Travelers pursuing this course of action are strongly recommended to depart before September. Buy stock in Ann Arbor Torch And Pitchfork, Inc., before you go.
If you’re not out by now, you screwed up, Bakula
Right, so all that happened. We didn’t listen! We didn’t listen.
It all went down. The Horror. The Post-Apocalyptic Oregon Game. The resumption of normal service against Notre Dame and Penn State and a bunch of other teams before the Ryan Mallett Experience and Chad Henne’s traitorous shoulder submarined a promising(?!) season. Defeating the Tebow Child by scoring 41 points and deploying an all-shotgun spread offense that looked like it came from, well, the future.
Mike Hart fumbled twice inside the five in that game. Of course he did.
Then Lloyd Carr retired and things got weirder than the absolute weirdest things that had ever happened before. Kirk Ferentz was considered. Bill Martin was on a boat when Les Miles’ agent frantically attempted to reach him; Miles then theatrically signed a contract extension with his Damn Strong Team(tm). Greg Schiano chose Rutgers—Rutgers!—over Michigan. Brady Hoke was theorized.
A few days after the internet burned down, Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez, a man with a four million dollar buyout at his alma mater. Twelve months earlier he turned down six bazillion dollars from Alabama to stay at said alma mater, saying he planned “on being here a long time.” Michigan had acquired a former coal miner from Grant Town, West Virginia, running the swankiest offensive system this side of Urban Meyer. Mere hours before the news broke the most likely candidate seemed to be Hoke.
Michigan fans put the gun back in the drawer; the level of drinking remained constant but the intent shifted 180 degrees.
It was at this point the clocks started to melt. Some guy named Dave Hickman published a story in the West Virginia Daily Whatever claiming Rodriguez had somehow gained access to the Sacred Single Hard Copy Room where West Virginia kept the Sacred Single Hard Copies containing every piece of information WVU had about its football team. He then shredded all of it, laughing maniacally, as dozens of onlookers let Sacred Single Tears roll down their cheeks. The complete implausibility of it all was no obstacle to the story’s ascendance into fan lore; this blog started a series tracking the “West F-ing Jihad” as a nation got its clucking seriously in gear.
We could go over the events that followed, or we could just sum it up in video form:
Everything about this is perfect, from the impotent rage of the West Virginian to the skeezy hotness of the prize to the vaguely douchy New York frat vibe given off by the West Virginian’s target and eventual victor. Oh no he di’in’t, said everyone, and this blog attempted to slay all of them with the Power Of The Internet. It didn’t work.
Things reached their peak weirdness a week or two later, when Hickman – the guy who wrote the article that started the whole mess – wrote a column that actually contained this sentence: “Go ahead, name one thing WVU has done to antagonize anyone.” He followed it up with this defense of the article he wrote, which I remind you was written by him and was also authored by him and all other various sorts of things that involve choosing and ordering words to form sentences:
The shredding accusations, you say? Yes, WVU officials commented on it off the record, but the issue had festered for several days without a word from West Virginia until the media pressed the issue. [emphasis mine] At worst you can argue that was planted by WVU, but even if that were the case, the information about Rodriguez destroying files was true. [and, of course, by “true” he means “not true in any way whatsoever.” –ed]
I’m neither proud nor surprised that in the recesses of the old site there is a draft of a post titled “I want to fight Dave Hickman.” (On the other hand, I am a little surprised I had the sense to not publish it.)
Sample sentence: “Oh, I don't know, you stupid [redacted], maybe we could check the GODDAMN ARTICLE your GODDAMN IDIOT EDITORS APPROVED with YOUR GODDAMN IDIOT NAME ON IT and this GODDAMN IDIOT QUOTE IN IT:
“It’s unbelievable. Everything is gone, like it never existed,’’ said a source within the athletic department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Good, bad or indifferent, we don’t have a record of anything that has happened.’’
Which is an outright lie that you gullibly printed.”
And so on and so forth for the entire irritating summer. Some offensive lineman transferred to Ohio State, blasting the “erosion of family values” as he went. By mid-August more words had been written about a football coach accepting his second job in seven years than Tom Zbikowski’s boxing, Brady Quinn’s sister, and Joe Paterno’s potential retirement combined.
Now we play the games and put this all behind us. Thank God.
So. Here we are. Which is… somewhere. The acquisition of Rodriguez is thrilling in the long term but extremely painful as far as the 2008 offense is concerned. Mallett, Manningham, Arrington, and Mr. Plow all lit out. Terrelle Pryor chose the wrong school. The leftovers at quarterback are a walk-on, a Lurch-sized redshirt freshman, and a true freshman very few thought was a quarterback. One starter returns on the line and the first guy off the bench could be a true freshman.
The outlook is grim. For the first time since 1985, Michigan was omitted from the AP top 25. The coaches deigned to include Michigan at #24, possibly because they weren’t supposed to vote for Duke any more.
And you know what? This seems like great fun. Michigan’s going to run out on the field and play like they’re one of those teams trying to make inferior talent work. They’re going to line up in the shotgun without a huddle. When whichever quarterback happens to be that play’s piñata raises his leg, the team will glance to the sideline and get the new play in. On average, this will be a run that goes for six yards.
At no point will they assume physical or mental superiority over their opponent. Their plan is to raid the endzone as best they can, which may be “not very well at all,” but by God they’re going to try on every snap.
It’s going to be a fiasco. It’s going to be ugly and tantalizing and dispiriting and awesome. I can’t wait.