*diary material, well placed.
On being a fan
------- Originally posted to board, comments suggested diary. Hope they're right -----------
I first learned what it really meant to be a football fan when I was 13. Mike Lantry missed a field goal, by inches. Then he missed another - by inches. And a group of unaccountable, brutally unfair adults got together and decided that 10-10 meant that Ohio State won, and should go to Rose Bowl, while Michigan stayed home for the holidays.
I wasn't quite the same for weeks. Every morning, there was a brief interval between waking up and remembering that Michigan hadn't won - and then the slightly nauseating feeling hit again. I was old enough already to realize that this was irrational, but not old enough to stop it. I'm still not old enough, really.
More thrills, more heartbreak. Lantry missed again the next year. Ricky the Peach Leach put the HEI in Heisman before Michigan got knocked off by one of the Little 8. Ohio State overcome, but USC not. By the time I actually got degrees from Michigan, my Michigan football fandom was not an allegiance, not a choice. It was a permanent condition, an extra lobe in my brain connected to a fifth chamber in my heart.
Those extra vital organs experienced plenty of euphoria through the years. Lots of scars, too. Every year, the hope was that this year was the year - the year we'd break through, and prove ourselves to the world. Decades of starting that Fall climb of Everest, only to be turned back hundreds of feet from the summit while smarter or better prepared or more ambitious climbers went to plant the flag at the top. And then the disappointment, upon finally reaching the pinnacle, of finding that someone else had climbed the other side to share the credit. Decades of screaming "throw the f--king football" at the future hall of fame coach, and wondering how other great teams always seemed to get it just a little more. Decades of believing that we just needed a little bit more, that this might be the year ...
And the question - sometimes the outright conviction - that we might not have the right leader to do it. The awful symmetry of reading the gently mocking assessment of a USC coach after the '77 Rose Bowl, that they knew when Michigan would pass because "the receivers turn cartwheels when they break the huddle", and hearing the faint echoes 30 years later from a USC defender after shutting down the most talented Michigan offense ever: "they didn't do anything we didn't expect".
Along the way, in '05, I found this blog. Written by someone who could mix intense passions for writing, humor, analysis, and M football into a remarkably addictive cocktail. It worked for the Engineer in me, and the football fan in me, and I was not alone. I became a more educated, more involved, more insightful fan, able to understand and look for outcomes besides just final scores and records. And I shared Brian's hope that Rich Rodriguez was, at last, the kind of leader that might begin to redeem decades of dearly purchased hopes.
It didn't happen. About 12:00 PM PST Jan. 1, the M fan organs went into temporary shutdown. And I have to tell you, they aren't exactly healthy yet. A January hire of a lifetime 47-50 coach just didn't provide enough voltage to jolt them fully back into rhythm.
This is not fair, you say. I must give the new leader a chance before passing judgement, and anyway, who can really project? And I respond that projection is what being a fan is all about. Whether it's "We're gonna kick their ass", or a multi-thousand word analytical piece from Mathlete or Misopogon, trying to figure out what might happen next, and putting your hope and conviction behind it, is what constitutes this crazy affliction. And if skeptically projecting that you are not likely to achieve full success while fervently hoping you are wrong is unfair, it is an unfairness which can't and shouldn't be eradicated. Bo Schembechler and his kids never lost a game because of my screaming conviction that he should pass more, and Bo wouldn't have had a job at all but for millions of people like me.
It is true that there are no closed-form solutions to predicting the future. Two star recruits sometimes become All Americans. A sixth round draft pick becomes an NFL and Super Bowl MVP winning quarterback. A guy with no experience running anything bigger than a tailor shop becomes an iconic U.S. President. But there are reasons why such stories are so inspirational: they're exceptional. Much more often, past is prologue.
So if you'll forgive me, and those like me, I'll not subject myself just yet to the enthusiastic belief that we've found football Harry Truman. I'll leave it to those of you who are younger or less cynical or maybe more naive or maybe just happier. And I won't judge you for being what I once was, and you won't judge me for what I've become. We'll all root for Michigan and Brady Hoke, and we won't mistake apparently undue optimism or pessimism for moral failure. Maybe it's a deal we all could make.
but I do. Well said.
way too much realism. How can you enjoy being a fan without the feeling that "maybe it's just around the corner." I was in The Big House as a student for Bo's first season and I was in The Big House with my daughter as a student for The Horror and I will always think that "maybe it's just around the corner." It's the hope and joy of being a true fan....Or someone that needs to be locked up for their own good.
Was the first place I ever ate in A2. Sorry to say, memories are so foggy now I can't even bring up a mental image.
And, I do still have the feeling it's just "down around the corner". I've spent 40 years "waiting for a miracle", hoping to catch "lightning in a bottle" and "this is it". All old-fart song titles, for you whippersnappers. But I've got a certain distance right now, a certain wait-and-see skepticism, that pollutes my pure fandom. And, fittingly on MLK weekend, a doubt that I will ever cross over to the other side with my team.
And honestly, a recognition that my interests and those of Michigan's AD do not completely intersect. And probably never will, as long as the AD is an ex-corporate type like me.
I, too, remember Mike Lantry's fatal misses, Dennis Franklin's broken leg and the 10-10 loss to Ohio State, Bob Ufer, Ricky Leach - "the guts and glue of the Maize and Blue", Johnny Wangler to Anthony Carter, and dozens of near-miss seasons.
Rich Rodriguez didn't work out, but he had a reputation as a top-notch coach when he was hired, and top-notch coaches belong at Michigan. Brady Hoke and his band of nameless has-been and never-was coaches just don't excite me in the least. It seems like a crew they'd get excited about at Toledo or CMU. I admire Hoke's enthusiasm and love for the school, but they don't have the appearance of Michigan-caliber coaches. Not yet, anyway. It feels like we're settling for above-average comfortable mediocrity, not striving for excellence.
I will withold judgment until I see the product on the field, but as OregonWolverine said, I'll be expecting to be disappointed. I want to be wrong about Hoke, but I've seen too much water under the bridge to believe this is the best Michigan can do.
Please prove me wrong, Coach Hoke. I want to believe.
of writing this is finding out how many MGoBlog followers are of my generation. I always had the feeling that I was this old, irrelevant baby boomer who was a peripheral hanger-on and had little to contribute to this community.
Ahh just kidding.
My first sporting event was wangler to carter and I thought thats what football was. Then I heard Ufer describe it on the way home and couldn't believe someone else love UM as much as I did.
I am not excited by the hire either... but like you am watching and hoping.
of the same vintage my friend. I remember early in my fandom the soul-crushing vote to send the Buckeyes to Pasadena instead of us. I used to wear a black armband around for a few days after Michigan suffered what in my childhood were rare losses (true story). I remember sitting outside shivering on cold, gray November afternoons when we lost a few in a row to OSU in the mid-70's. My parents had to bribe me with gifts to get me back in the house. That's why the last 3 years have been so hard. People like us have never known anything but success for Michigan football. I was most definitely NOT psyched by the Hoke hire but I have come around after seeing him and hearing him. I don't know if he's the guy to turn things around but what choice do we have but to believe? He's our coach and I'm 100% behind him. Go Blue!
Two or three times, at least. Among several other tomes. And Truman was a tailor and a farmer until age 40, and he was never in charge, in an executive management sense, of anything bigger than that tailor shop. Kansas City party Democratic party? Senate investigation into military contract abuse? I suppose you could argue that those were executive-type functions. But they hardly constituted the kind of bottom-line accountability for results that I associate with executive positions.
But never mind, to quote Truman himself: "There are a million men in this country who could do this job, but it's my job, and I'm going to do it". I'm not holding my breath waiting for similar statements from Brandon or Hoke. The culture of 2011 will never permit such exhibitions of doubt and modesty from its authority figures.
"Congratulations on succumbing to your fandom and falling grudgingly into line."
I have no idea what that means. Please explain.
You certainly have a better grasp of Truman's history than I do at this point, and you're right, I was being hyperbolic. And if we want to pare down that list to what Truman did by age 40 (haberdasher, farmer) to what Hoke did by 40 (natl championship DL coach), then it would be far less surprising to see Hoke win a national championship as M head coach by age 56 than to see Truman as President. So we definitely have that going for us, and the comparison is "unfair" in a detailed sense.
Who I would prefer over Hoke is not actually central to the point of my post. I wanted a coach who could make me believe again in the possibility of Michigan football reaching its tantalizing, always just out of reach potential. Hoke has a track record - a far more relevant track record than Truman's, for purposes of this discussion - and parts of that track record are not the stuff of which belief is made, for me. For the record, I do think that a coach who had coordinated a unit which consistently achieved at a high level against difficult competition would have carried more credibility for me. But that dispute has been hashed many times over, and I think it is counterproductive to do so again. And my skepticism in no way means that I believe Hoke is absolutely destined for failure, nor does it mean that I think he's not an admirable person, nor does it mean, in a million years, that I'm rooting for him to fail. I'm just not thrilled that he was the choice - even if he was the best choice available - because I can't be thrilled with a choice that doesn't hold out the promise for me that we will really be "the leaders, the best" instead of "the leaders, the consistently very good".
The point I want to reiterate is, at the risk of redundancy, is that different fans have different backgrounds and experiences, and different notions of what constitutes an immediately satisfying hire. And for us all to agree on this is impossible and undesirable. And for our own health, and that of the team, it would be better to acknowledge and accept those differences than to insist on conformity.
I distinctly remember when I was 12 years old - and before I understood the makeup of conferences/NCAA - I didn't think that Michigan was literally in the league where national champions came from. I would watch the skill and killer instincts of Miami and notre dame (yes, notre dame!) and the annual rose bowl poundings and wonder why michigan wasn't like that. I soon realized it was for a lot of what you mention above.
I sat in the stands in '97, my senior year, as Woodson led UM to greatness and it was wonderful. I was surprised that Carr deployed Woodson the way he did because it never seemed like UM went after "it" like that. The killer attitude, the creativity, "we'll use our weapons and we wont stop" is what we didnt have at mich. That is what really excited me about RR and what I'm afraid of from Hoke. I hope I'm thrilled with the results. Like i heard yesterday, "you can't kill hope/hoke)".
We all hurt. But we all hurt together. You were not alone in 2007 when the Horror occurred. 110,000 of your brethren were there. We all suffer as one. As a family. If the family stays together, we are unstoppable. We have the most dynamic young man in the history of the game as our leader. We have a coach who loves his players and his team more than his own coaching style. I believe that Brady Hoke will bring us back, and Denard will lead the charge. Fear not the Spartans, or the Buckeyes. We are Michigan. We are coming back with a vengeance never before seen. There will be pain and heartache along the way, but that is the path of life. In the end we will prevail. Go blue, HOLD THE ROPE.
It'll get better.
I'm right there with you. I was pretty much born a Michigan fan, but didn't start following the team until my freshman year in high school (the '06 season). I didn't watch a single game until that week, and I've either watched or listened to every game since then. That means my first four games were OSU, USC, App State (to make matters worse I live in NC and know tons of people who go to/went to ASU), and Oregon.
I remember the day I began to bleed Maize and Blue. It was the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years of elementarfy school. Growing up in Florida, Michgian was somewhat of an anomaly in that people either rooted for UF or FSU. We were at Michigan when they were putting the outer ring on the Big House to once again make it the largest stadium in the country, overtaking Tenneessee. (I believe this was '96 or '97). A group of 5th grade kids attending a summer program at UM managed to get into the then under construction stadium, make it down to the field, and began a game of flag football. I will never forget those days. I may not have realized I would later attend Michigan and see it through some of the hardest times in school history, but I would not trade that hour of my life for anything in the world. I remember as a small child, standing on the M at center field, turning a complete 360 and realizing there was something larger afoot. It was something larger than any one coach or player in particular. It was something that I can't put my finger on but I know is there.
When Hoke was hired, I was pissed. I felt Michigan had once again been cheated out of the coach they deserved to bring them back to greatness and glory. I expected another mass exodus a'la 2008. I expected to lose another 3 to ohio state, at a minimum. Then I realized how much Hoke loves Michgian. Denard will be here on that September day when the winged helmets once again take the field. Our team has a leader, and an amazing athlete to rally around to lead the resurgence. Brady Hoke kept the family together, and that is his first win. I was once skeptical and pissed, I am once again all in for Michigan.
You can purchase and download the game from iTunes.
Lantry did not miss by much.
Lantry was a Vietnam vet and kicking phenom for the times (could probably play today).
I have to chuckle a bit reading some of the posts on this board, a little perspective helps.
Most of us loved Bo like a crazy old coot Grandpa who could bridge the gap between the crew-cut and hippie generations.
When we were able to go to bowls, Bo lost a lot of the games by close scores and there was tremendous pressure to transition from "4 yards in a cloud of dust" to a pro-style offense (queue scene from the movie "The Big Chill").
You know what....to his credit, Bo gradually adapted his offense to the times.
So cyclic->single wing->wishbone->pro-style->west coast->spread->whatever Gen Y comes up with...adaptation is the nature of the game and I believe Borges/Hoke will adapt.
Oh, you just woke up a part of my memory that I thought that I had filed away forever. Watching 3 OSU-UM games in a row being lost by a field goal with my late father brings back memories when I was younger and was convinced that the sun would never rise again. But, I would like to rekindle Bo’s first year in 1969 where Michigan killed Vanderbilt and Washington only to be crushed by Missouri by 17 to 40 and then loose to MSU 12-23. UM went on to win the next 4 after the MSU loss prior to the infamous OSU game. Ohio State had run the table and the Big Ten was scheming how to let the greatest college football team in the entire Universe return to the Rose Bowl (The Big Ten had a policy then that a team could not go to the Rose Bowl 2 years in a row). Bo, to the chagrin of myself for fear of upsetting the mighty Buckeyes, stated “Who says that OSU is gonna win?” . The rest is history. Let’s just hope that Brady will bring that swagger back to the might Wolverines.