9/26/2008 – Michigan 27, Wisconsin 25 – 2-2, 1-0 Big Ten
I don't have to tell you it was ugly at first, but an illuminating example: at a couple points in the first half when the guy with the red hat was on the field various family members of mine stood up because we're natural standers frustrated by the usual decorum of our section.
A set of ancients crabbed at them to sit down despite, you know, the lack of anything to see other than a guy with a red hat standing on the field, and when this was finally annoying enough for someone to respond with the obvious riposte about the red hat a full-scale verbal confrontation ensued in which the crabs behind us simultaneously complained about how we were violating the stadium announcer's request to treat our fellow seatmates with respect and called my cousin "fatso."
I thought but did not say "I know you are wearing a hat that indicates you fought at the battle of Antietam but don't think I won't smash your skull into splinters."
At halftime, Michigan had 21 yards. I tried to hide from the sun and list all the things I would rather do than watch the second half.
At the beginning of the year we were all confronted by an unexpected cost imposed by the massive turnover in coaches and star players: Michigan seemed a little like laundry we wanted to win, and sucky laundry at that. They wore the wrong numbers and ran the wrong way and certainly played the wrong way and goddammit where was Mike Hart?
We know college football players not as people but as things that have transpired on the field. By the story arcs their careers trace out, tragedy or comedy. Without those—without even Lloyd Carr's story to fall back on—the first few games of the season were strangely numb. They lost to Utah? Okay. They lost by 18 to Notre Dame? Okay. You can go back and check the columns here: serenity reigned. That was born from detachment.
Johnny at RBUAS captured this sentiment perfectly:
Mike, Jake and Chad risked their dignity and only left with a little of it, but they came back in the first place by choice, because of something bigger. As for the guys that are still here, Trent and Jamison are mostly quiet and patient and had no place else to go. And no matter how jubilant and grateful Terrance might seem, he knew how much money could be made by coming back. I don’t hesitate to say that wins this year won’t be as satisfying as wins last year were. Not enough of these players have suffered yet.
Those people out there aren't Mike, Jake, and Chad but Threet and McGuffie (or Shaw or Minor or Brown or Grady) and I'm Not Sure Who The Left Tackle Is This Week.
But there is no better one-word description for the first half Saturday than "suffering," and Johnny Thompson is always going to be the guy who picked off Allan Evridge. Steven Threet could have four years of moments good and bad in him but I suspect to me he'll always be looking over his shoulder at Wisconsin safeties, just as shocked at what is transpiring as everyone else.
After it was over I did something I hadn't done since I was a kid making paper airplanes out of the free programs and throwing confetti* in the air whenever Michigan scored. I went down to the tunnel as the players exited the field and watched them go: Taylor boisterous, high fiving anyone he came across, Warren stoic, the Coner completely neutral until someone thumped his shoulder pads in congratulations. The only thing that betrayed Kevin Koger and his old man beard as an 18 year old, not an Antietam veteran, was the kid-on-Christmas-morning smile stretching from ear-to-ear. A blood-soaked band-aid hung from Thompson's chin, gamely sticking to a couple of hairs in his ragged beard. Barwis looked like he was stuck in a paint shaker.
These are no longer strangers. I know how they run, and they are mine. I wanted to say something to them, to wrap everything that had just transpired into a sentence and give it to them, to tell them about ashes and hope and the future. But nothing came.
After Brandon Minor's touchdown run I turned around to see what the crabs were thinking and perhaps to say something unkind. They had left at halftime.
This is what I should have said: "Those who stay will be champions."
- Thanks, karma! The entire crab sequence was awesome.
- Carson Butler got suspended and Mike Massey flailed around a bit before being replaced by Kevin "My Name Lacks An R" Koger, who proceeded to do nothing obviously wrong and then caught a seam route touchdown. If they're going to burn a redshirt, it might as well be for a 30-yard touchdown, and since he doesn't seem appreciably worse than either of the two nominal starters I say let it ride.
- This is what I am talking about with the "It's Great To Be A Michigan Wolverine" chant. It should be kept in reserve for Events.
- I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but if you booed the team you're an asshat. You wear asses for hats. Yes, you may have the purchased the right to boo your asshat-wearing heads off, but you are also taking your frustration out on a team that's obviously trying really hard but just kind of sucks from time to time. Booing the coaches is your excuse? Don't care, the players couldn't tell, and now they probably think we're all asshats because of you. You have a "right" to boo. You also have the right to give your grandmother the finger and call her a harlot.
- The block M in the student section was not epic fail but it did look a little squat from my vantage point.
- What is the point of replay if they aren't going to overturn that ridiculous Wisconsin "reception" in the fourth quarter? Even the Wisconsin fans in our section thought that was a terrible call.
- As I was walking home these guys behind me were having an extended conversation about how Rodriguez was dumb to go for two. One: they were wrong. Two: seriously? Seriously this is what you're focusing on instead of one of the best games in Michigan Stadium history? It must suck to be those guys.
- Those guys at the 1997 OSU game: "It should never have been that close."
- Those guys at the birth of their children: "he has a disappointingly shaped head, did you have to push so hard?"
- Those guys in the space machine vortex thingy from Contact: "you should have sent a poet. I'm just a guy who has no understanding of game theory. I'm not even enjoying this because I don't have someone belting out quatrains about these stupid galaxies."
*(Also made from the free programs. Those things are clutch when you're ten.)