I was at the 87 game and froze my ass off, I think that is the coldest I have ever been watching football.
Memories of The Game
[Ed: Bump for truth.]
"Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were." (Marcel Proust)
We all begin these stories with two simple words: "I remember." That is how mine begins too.
I remember my dad turning off the TV, too agitated to even watch, even when we won.
I remember how the game often fell on my birthday, and the common result: one friend or the other's present to me were two tickets to see the event. What better gift?
I remember the first time I saw it in person, 1985, or at least the first time I remember seeing it in person. It wasn't a particularly nice day (when is it nice in November?), and a distinct chill settled over the stadium when Cris Carter caught a leaping touchdown to bring that team within three. Far too much time on the clock. The sky looming gray, threatening. The lights were on, casting an unusual glow on the field. And on 2nd and 7, trapped deep in our own end, a young Jim Harbaugh faded back into the pocket, looked left, and stepped firmly into Michigan History (at 8:11 in the clip below):
What I remember most about that play: the sudden roar of the crowd as the ball landed in Kolesar's hands; the entire stadium standing up to see what happened (blocking my own view, mostly). What I could see: on the side of the field where I was, Harbaugh laying on the ground, a referee huddling over him to make sure he wasn't hurt. Yes ref, he's OK. He just won The goddamned Game.
I remember too the next time I saw the Game in person, Earle Bruce's last. The bitter disappointment of losing, but the small secret pleasure of seeing a beleaguered coach, just fired from a job he loved, carried off the field by his team.
I remember God's seeming reply to Bruce's firing. And thus He spake: "So you don't want to go .500 against Michigan, huh? How about 2-10-1?". I remember irony.
I remember many years of living on the west coast, with The Game being one of the few games I knew I'd be able to watch, one of my few connections to my past, my roots. And who can forget: Shawn Springs slipping, Charles Woodson intercepting/receiving/punt-returning. And yes, I remember Timmy.
When we talk about the Game, that is all we talk about: our memories. This is why the current plans to tinker offend. It is as if someone is reaching into your mind and altering those memories that you hold so dear. As a movie plot, maybe. As something for our collective football hive mind, not so much.
We all remember so much about that one day in November. As Proust points out, our memories may not reflect reality. I know, for example, that somewhere in my mind, Crable didn't get flagged for a late hit, and we won that damn game. But, good or bad, they are our memories, and as fans, they are what we cherish about this silly but beautiful pastime.
When Delany, Brandon, Smith, and the other nominal powers-that-be decide, for good reasons or bad, to move the Game, they are not just changing the schedule. They are changing our memories, changing the sights and sounds in our minds. Not destroying them. But lessening them, cheapening them.
And this is why we write letters, post diaries, join facebook groups. A vain attempt to protect our brains, our memories. Our maize and blue blood telling us to strike out at this agent; it seems harmful, it smells foul. And perhaps, also, as one last vain attempt to ensure that for our next generation of fans, these same sometimes wonderful, sometimes terrible memories will one day be theirs, too.
I know too much on this topic has already been said. But as I woke this morning, this is what was in me. I imagine it is in many of you too. So if I offend for yet another post on said topic, well, sorry about that. Perhaps I shouldn't apologize, though. As Disraeli said, "Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth."
And perception is a tremendous part of how those memories are perceived.
David Brandon played football for Michigan in the early 1970's - prime time in the history of the Game, the Ten Year War, and really the defining moment of the rivalry. From 1968-1980, Michigan played Ohio State 11 times for the Rose Bowl, winner take all. (Bentley Historical - http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/umosu/osumb10.htm) 11 times in 13 years?! That's an incredible statistic. One that is part of every Wolverine fan's DNA, and yet one that, at age 34, I was nowhere close to experiencing.
By 1980, I was 4 years old. By the time I was really following football in a significant way, it was the late 1980's and Bo only had a couple years left to coach. John Cooper was really the first Ohio State coach I saw in real time. As you might guess, my entire experience of Michigan football, even as a fan, is very different than David Brandon's.
Since 1980, the Game has been played for the Rose Bowl, winner take all, only 5 times. 5 times in 30 years. From 1935 - 1968, the Game was played for the Rose Bowl, winner take all, only 6 times. So, in the 64 seasons outside of the Ten Year War, the game has met the expectations of the Game exactly the number of times it did during that 13 year stretch. So, David Brandon experienced the Game in a very unique way during a very unique period in its history, and most of the rest of us are left to ponder those times from a distance.
Now, the rivalry hasn't exactly gone away. The 30 years since the Ten Year War has produced some great Games, and the rivalry, I think, has aged quite well. 17 times, the Game has had significant implications on the Big Ten champion and Rose Bowl. (again, Bentley Historical - http://bentley.umich.edu/athdept/football/umosu/osumb10.htm) This is the Game that I know - occasionally taking on a winner takes all persona, but much more likely to be an 'underdog ruins the season of the favorite' type thing. Again, think John Cooper.
What does this all mean for the future of the Game? Probably not much. Jim Delany is going to do what he wants. David Brandon may be towing that line, or he may actually be expressing his own memories (perceptions) of the event. Regardless, I fear that our voices may not be heard. Regardless of that, I will continue to cheer on, hopeful that we take those bastards down year in and year out.
Regardless, I fear that our voices may not be heard. Regardless of that, I will continue to cheer on, hopeful that we take those bastards down year in and year out.
This is exactly why our voices will not be heard. They know that regardless we will continue to cheer on. They'll do what they want.
I have nothing more to add, except that my perception of UM/OSU is of a similar era, and I'd rather have a chance at a game that's either for the Rose Bowl, or for the national championship game against OSU than have it be on a particular date.
After all, it will be hard to fit, "champions of the Eastern Division" into the song.
If Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are in the same division, I say have the Big Ten Championship game in the home stadium of the division winner.
Thanks for sharing, those are great memories.
It has to be the last game of the season. As a fan I have nothing left in me after The Game and I need that month and a half break to recover, emotionally. And if it is that way for me, I imagine it is many times greater for the players and coaches. Put The Game mid season, how do you come out and play your heart out against Indiana the next week?
Also, maybe this year I can remember what it is like to beat OSU again.
My favorite memory is from 1993 as a freshman sitting in the corner of the student section. That is the year we beat a higher-ranked Buckeyes team 28-0. I had bruises on my shins for weeks after that game from jumping up and down with my colleagues and falling several times in celebration.
Most of all, I will never forget my last OSU game as a student, sitting with the seniors in the student section and running onto the field after Michigan sealed the first undefeated season that I'd experienced. I'll never forget the feel of the turf.
Playing on any other weekend other than the last weekend of the regular season will just never been the same. Tradition changes but this is not a change its a break. A little part of me will die inside if this happens.
Charles Woodson vs David Boston:
1) David Boston came back to school to prove he could beat Woodson. And, Woodson locked him down.
2) They had the fist fight!!!
3) Keith Jackson calling Woodson's punt return to the house.
Just a heck of a game, period!!!
I share those memories, but I also remember David Boston also finally faking Woodson slightly enough to fade deep, then thinking crap, then thinking wait how did Woodson catch up to him so fast, and then feeling horrible because that last burst by Woodson took his eyes off the ball, which had been slightly overthrown, allowing Boston to surge and catch it with no one behind him (where was the Safety?!? oh wait it was Woodson, why would you waste a safety over there?)
And the final taunting of Woodson by Boston that earned him a penalty flag.
I also think people forget the perspective of that season. At least my perspective was how disappointed I was that Ohio State lost to Penn State that year, ruining the chance that Michigan and Ohio State would meet undefeated, (and the fact that Curtis Enis bascially brought Penn State back to win it almost by himself, supposed fueled by a letter and Ohio State fan had sent him about his choice to select Penn State and leave his native Ohio. Basically stating, "OSU is better off without you")
Then Michigan completely crushing Penn State in their house when they were ranked number 1.
Then Michigan surging to a three score lead on OSU, only to see OSU come back somehow, almost entirely shutting down the Michigan Offense (actually what had the offense done all day except the one drive with the catch to Woodson, the same play that had been a TD at PSU was just a long play against OSU)
Because if I follow the Sagarin computers correctly, all those points scored on PSU, who had narrowly beaten OSU, meant that we should have destroyed OSU on that last game in November.
But we did not. Was the emotion and energy shown on that field a result of the date of the game? Or was it because it was Michigan versus Ohio State? And not only the long history of these two teams being very equal rivals (thus almost always a very close and exciting game) but that in 1997 the juniors and seniors on the OSU side had very clear memories of their defeats in 1995 and 1996, by a Michigan team rated as their inferior.
For me, a part of The Game was altered when Nebraska joined as the 12th team of the Big Ten, knowing that now The Game was not the last football I would watch until Christmas (yes I'm aware of other conferences games happening, and see the results on TV, but I don't dedicate my Saturday to watching them live and recording them for obsessive watching afterward), but some kind of Championship game.
I am still a little shocked, and in some denial that they will move The Game forward in the schedule. But the logical side of my brain knows that the spice of this meal we call The Game, was not altered just recently, but altered months ago.
The meat of this meal we call the Game is unchanged, Michigan and Ohio State are the two strongest teams in the Big Ten. I don't have the stats in front of me since I'm spending my time at work typing this, but I did average the standings of the last 10 years and the top two teams are Ohio State, and then Michigan. Yes even these last two years under RR (20% of the last 10 years) has been enough to dilute Michigans position in comparison to the rest of the Big Ten. In fact PSU over the past ten years didn't even end up 3rd, they were edged out by Iowa.
Michigan and Ohio State know they are the strongest, because traditionally they have been, yes there are ups and downs, no the magic of Bo vs. Woody can't return ( mostly because they had 105 scholarships, and now each team only has 85, damn you NCAA parity!) but the Game will always somehow be a highly competitive game because, independent of the schedule, independent of standings at the time, those two teams will use everything they can to win that game, that season. As John Navarre referred to The Game, "[The Game] defines your college career". I'm sure Henne, Hart, and Long would painfully agree. But not because of when it happened, but against who it happened.
I'm not saying I'm used to this new taste to the meal I call The Game, but whenever it's served up, I'll be there with my napkin tucked under my chin, fork and knife in hand, ready to devour it ravenously,
and maybe, just maybe, for desert later on, I could have a second serving?!?
hmmm, that might not be so bad.
P.S. and BTW, go look up the history of the SEC championship game,
Because out of 18 years, Florida and Alabama have played each other 7 times!?!
which is nearly 4 times every 10 years,
so maybe just maybe, this early meal will mean I get a heaping of dessert
it's definitely different, and parity is driving the change, but I still see the core value preserved, because we definitely all care about it deeply, and that is what keeps it alive and important.
not the date,
Wonderful essay. It almost brought tears to my eyes.
In school in 1976, and sat through the disappointment of 1975, OSU scoring twice in the 4th quarter to beat us. Sitting in a dorm lounge in 1976, screaming as we go up 13-0. Then Bo has Jerry Zuver, the holder, run to the right and score a 2-point conversion. We knew the game was in the bag. 1985, and OSU fans sitting around us. Cris Carter scores, and they go wild. Kolesar and Harbaugh team up right away, and we go wilder. Too bad for Kolesar, he gets hurt early the next season and is never the same.
Keep THE GAME at the end of the season. I'm sure the same sentiment and comments from OSU fans are happening. Hope we all can make a difference.
Great post and I think a good summary of what many of us are thinking.
Michigan-OSU is the culmination of the season and I can't imagine it any other way. Would Army-Navy be the same if it were played in September?
It's also that shred of hope at the end of awful seasons. I went to the game in '08 knowing there was no shot at a bowl yet harboring the slimmest of hopes that we could still save the season. No other opponent could have offered that sort of redemption for a 3-8 team.
OSU fans chanting "Eddie! Eddie!" at the beginning of the 1999 Game, only later to have the UM fans chanting "Eddie! Eddie!", mockingly, late in the Game.
Brian Griese htting Tai Streets on an innocent-looking-slant-turned-touchdown in 1996, and thinking "holy shit, we're gonna win this game!" (the glass half full of Shawn Springs' slippage).
Coach: A A+ for effort. That was off the chain good.
I believe my father freaked out and then explained what the word "scumbag" meant when Woody went for 2 at the end of the game. That day I understood that this was serious stuff.
Made me start thinking about my favourite memory of the Ohio State games, and for me it has to be the '97 game. I was a senior and with some of best friends and we were having a grand old time, and I still remember those amongst us who decided to rush the field and those who decided to stay in the seats and just the atmosphere was awesome. The images of Charles Woodson with the rose in his mouth strutting around the field after the game, and just the mayhem of the students on the field. And then the realisation that I had to go to the Rose Bowl and cheer on this magnificent team on more time. It was great.
And initially, I wasn't as upset as others about the plan to move the date of the game til earlier in the year, but I must admit that well written pieces like this one have started to get me fired up about the topic.
I won't forget to put roses on your grave.
Amen to this post!
Alas, money makes the world go round. And the higher ups couldn't care less about our memories of "the game."
Ever since it was announced that Nebraska would be joining the Big Ten, it's been nothing but one headache.
If money is what is driving this, M and OSU need to step up and let everyone know who drives the gravy train in the conference. It isn't Wisconsin, Iowa, MSU, Purdue or Illinois. The Game and the teams in it are what has created this valuable "franchise" that Delany is milking for everything its worth.
OSU and Michigan don't need the Big Ten. The reverse cannot be said.
This is not the Big Texas or the Pac-LA or one of those other conferences that is designed around one or two schools. OSU and Michigan most certainly need the Big Ten, because it is more than just one school or one rivalry or one sport.
What makes this conference so special is that it isn't just about Michigan football or Indiana basketball or Iowa wrestling or Penn State volleyball ... it's everything, all the teams that belong, all the sports that are played, all the games on the last week of November the way the schedule ought to stay.
The Game and the rivalry around it are very important, true, but the Big Ten Network provides much more than that ... it's a way for alumni from all 12 schools to watch their teams play from all over the country, and that is what makes it so valuable.
Let's stay on point. Moving The Game is stupid and shortsighted.
My first memory is 1976 -- Michigan winning 22-0 in the shoe. I still can't believe that the game will be moved (though that's probably wishful thinking).
all of which will be tinged with sadness if the split the two teams and move the game.
A few fleeting images from my 17 Michigan-OSU games:
-At my first UM/OSU game, i was 11 and sat a few seats down from an OSU fan. I had never met a buckeye before, and I kept looking down at him, not really believing that anyone could actually root for that team.
-I was in the student section when Kolesar caught that pass from Harbaugh. After he caught the pass, it looked to me like he was gonna go out of bounds before he hit the goaline.
-Three years later I was on the track in the Horseshoe not more than 10 or 15 yards away from where kolesar caught the Demetrius Brown Hail Mary to beat Cooper's first team.
-I danced on the O after we beat them down there my senior year. That same year an usher told me to F#$* off after I wished him luck in the Liberty Bowl.
-I taunted the Buckeye fans with chants of "Eddie, Eddie!" and "Northwestern's better" after Touchdown Tim torched them for 313 yards.
-I celebrated on the field with the masses after the '97 win for the ages. I still can't believe Stanley Jackson threw that ball right to Andre Weathers for a pick six.
-I suffered through the soul-crushing cold that was the 07 game. I seethed at the number of red shirts in the stands last year.
This rivalry defines college football, the big ten, and michigan football. Messing with it would be an irreversable disaster
Damn it, this post made me cry. Not just a hint of a tear, either. I had to get up and shut the office door.
For me... it was Desmond Howard's punt return for a TD. There I sat on the top row of section 26 (I think it was Row 91 back then... anyone?) I will never forget my reaction as he streaked down the sideline and it became clear he was going to score...
....I screamed louder than I ever had in my life to that point, or since. I witnessed something divine that day, and it has remained with me since, and is such a strong memory that writing about it now has me feeling like I am there all over again.
When you have a Hesiman front-runner on your team, the thing you hope for more than anything... even if he ultimately doesn't win the award.... is that his final game before the voting will be one like this. Howard, and later Woodson, did not disappoint.
- rushing the field in 97
- the roar of the horshoe when they took the opening kickoff back far into UM territory, only to be deflated when Henson led us to victory.
- after a michigan victory at the shoe getting stopped at the michigan/ohio border by an ohio trooper ticketing everyone with michigan plates.
- wanting to kill the ref who called the late hit on crable.
And I loved the vengeful God reference to the Cooper Years. Let's hope the Big 10 gods don't give us this:
God Bless your cotton pickin' Maize and Blue Heart
-Boston pushing off of Woodson at the goal line. Standing over him, taunting. It was right in front of me and we all wanted to come out of the stands on Boston. Wow. The hatred.
-Woodson locking him down the rest of the game was payback enough but he had to take that punt down the sideline- we knew the Heisman was his.
-Damn it was loud. Roars on every stop on D. The place shook when Woodson glided in and on the final defensive stop.
-I have OSU fans to thank for being on that I75 overpass in Ohio as the sun came up waving those O flags thru the snow flakes for really getting my blood pumping on the way to the game. It truly is The Game.
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Coach, I think you captured in your diary what many of us have been feeling but unable to express. Thank you. My wish is that Brandon, etal., could read your post and understand the sentiments that you wrote on behalf of all of us.
I moved back to Ann Arbor two years ago because of my love for the school and the town. My first live college football game was the Desmond Heisman pose game. I was at the Biakabatuka game as a student. I now have three year old twins and a three month old and I am sad for them.
I sent the AD's and presidents and Delany an email two days ago. The only response I got was from the osu ad. it said, thanks for your concern.
I wish I could zoom in at the end, because I am on the field with that crowd. First rushing with the entire student section to congratulate the team. Then coming back as the goal post came down.
That game - with Harbaugh, Morris, Mallory, Hammerstein, Kolesar, and Messner - is the one firmly anchored in my mental book of experiences at Michigan.
We're all sentimental saps I know, but I hope they are getting how much emotion is behind all the input they are getting.
Been going to games regualrly since '84, but that game, we took my grandpa who was dying with cancer.I have never seen my grandpa like that. When Kolesar hauled in that pass, he was jumping up and down like a kid. The Big House Rockin' that day, and I will never forget what a great day that was.
My birthday is 11/22, I hadn't even thought about the birthday - gameday issue until this post. This makes me even more full of hate.
I was born on a gameday in 1975 (at 10pm, though, so i wasn't alive for the loss), saw four birthday wins, and then....
That fucking 2008 game is going to be the last time they play on my birthday.
Your post makes me think those of us with kids should send pictures of them in Michigan gear to the powers-that-be, noting that our sons and daughters will not experience The Game as it should be: outdoors, on a damp, drizzly November afternoon with the stakes at their highest.
I'm a HUGE Michigan fan that lives in FL. I have family that lives right outside of Ann Arbor in Chelsea that I visit every year right around Thanksgiving and THE GAME. My Dad and I would always score tickets because he's good friends with alumni band director. I am especially sad because ill probably never see another OSU vs UM game there again because I won't be there in October. This is a terrible decision in my opinion and apparently 90% of you agree with me according to ESPN. Last time I checked, the fans buy the tickets.
-a small number to be sure of what is hundreds of thousands of memories from fans and players down through the years- reflect of the impact of this rivalry from people from both sides. You could not have a deep discussion on college football without having a significant portion devoted to this rivalry. It is woven into the fabric of football lore. I don't have the good fortune to have season tickets to attend the game in person, and while I was a student I commuted from Flint so I couldn't/didn't participate with festivities on campus on those Saturdays, so I don't have personal memory from the past. I was able to attend last year's meeting -THAT was peculiar, not only were there a bizzilion buckeye fans in the stands, the Buckeyes themselves wore funky throw-away (I mean throwback) unis- but many of the memories shared here I shared from a different vista.
Moving this game would eliminate a lot of the meaning of it, it wouldn't be the same. It would be like ND, or PSU sorta. Hopefully they make the right decision and do what's good for the game, not what's good for...who's this change good for?
Being younger, I didn't really start getting emotionally invested in Michigan games until my fourth grade year in 2001 so my best memory will be a lot more recent. I remember the 2003 game and being a nervous wreck because we lost the first two games against Ohio State I watched. I'll never forget Braylon absolutely owning Chris Gamble the whole day and Chris Perry who was battered all day long struggle to get up whenever he was hit but just kept going. That last touchdown to put us up 35 to 21 was so awesome, I was yelling, jumping up and down, just going crazy.
1980 -- Anthony Carter catching the game's only TD on a slant. The bitterest defensive struggle I'd ever seen and absolutely engrossing. OSU had the ball late and could have won with a TD, slowly moving the ball down the field as the clock ran down and finally it ran out. I was at a friend's house and two buddies were holding me up like I was drunk at the end. They said they were afraid I was going to have a seizure or something. I think they were kidding.
1989 -- I was there for this one. Leroy Hoard and Jarrod Bunch running wild. Todd Plate picking off a pair of passes. They lost the Rose Bowl but somehow it was fitting that Bo's last win was over the Bucks.
1991 -- I remember Keith Jackson's call as Desmond streaked down the sideline for the end zone: "Look at that! Oh my goodness! One man! Goodbye! Hello Heisman!
1995 -- It just wasn't fair. "Touchdown" Tim Biakabutuka carried the ball the length of three football fields and only scored one TD. Seemed okay with it afterward though. (IMHO the offensive line deserves a lot of credit too -- TB had some pretty big holes to run through.)
1996 -- This was a total shocker to me. The defense played out of their minds, and we caught our biggest break ever in Columbus when Tai Street's defender fell down turning a 15-yard slant into a 69-yard TD.
1997 -- How can you not remember Charles Woodson streaking down that same sideline that Desmond ran down toward the same end zone.
2003 -- Another game I managed to get into. Chris Perry scored twice on the ground and Braylon Edwards caught a pair for TDs. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but please dear God don't let this be the last time we beat OSU in a proper game at home!
We've become so used to this game being the stamp on the season. Even in an average to bad season, the OSU game is the stamp on the season. Who cares about all the losses, when Tuchdown Tim goes off on OSU! Who cares about an amazing season if we lose to the Buckeyes. This has defined the season for Michigan Football.
What will that stamp be now? If multiple games happen after the OSU game, we will define the season by numbers - not tradition ... not heart. I can barely stomach it.
I remember crying in my basement in Dayton, Ohio as a neighbor, who was a former member of the Ohio State Band, belted out their fight song on his trombone.
I distinctly remember staring at the screen after that Game and wondering why it affected me so much, but it did . . . and it always will.
Reads like the book "The Giver", a cautionary tale on how important memories are to the fabric of human life.
(In that the post is so good it captures the sentiment of an entire book, fairly good in its own right)
Insufferable: a word to describe the feelings about Brian lately.
Also, shortly after receiving a check at the NY event, my buddies and I said 'Go Blue' to Brian. He didn't even acknowledge us. Just took the money and ran.
We have the same birthday... and share many of the same memories and opinions... great piece.
This is my favorite diary ever. Which is saying something. Although I love the awesome diaries by people like Misopogon and others, this one's topic elicits more emotion than rational analysis. Which I think is precisely the type of feeling you describe and can undersand. Bravo.
Thank you, excellent piece, there really can't be enough Proust references when discussing football.
Earl Bruce had a 57-17 Big 10 record and 5-4 vs. Michigan, yet Ohio State fired him and brought in our favorite coach of All-Time, John Cooper. Bo was pissed off at OSU for screwing Bruce like they did.
Btw, in the 85 video, you get a short glimpse of a strikingly handsome young man wearing #51.
Great post! I think the most traditional game in the b10 is a big deal.
I will be very disappointing if "The Game" is moved to October. For over 30 years I have looked forward to UM vs OSU at the end of the season. I just don't know why the b10 powers are so worried about both OSU and UM playing in the b10 championship game 2 weeks after "The Game. I guess, I'm still on the fence to rather we should be in the same division or separate divisions. But if we are stuck with playing each other in October, I would rather be in separate division so at least when we play each other in b10 championship game it would be for something and like the OSU vs UM games of seasons past it will be the final game of the season.
I had a sportscry when I read your post. Thank you.