"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
"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.
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."
I laughed so hard when I read the part about dad turning off the tv even when they were winning but playing poorly. That happened to me a dozen times growing up.
I do remember shortly after moving to Upsate NY in 1990 going to a game when the astro turf was still there. The stadium walls were much shorter and our row 1 end zone seats were actually row 1 without "A" and "B" in front of us. After the victory the student section to our right rushed the field and my day lifted me over the wall and let me run onto the field to touch the turf. Two Michigan State Police officers were standing there and I chickened out after I touched my right toe on the field.
First and last time I have ever been ON michigan stadium. BTW I was 9 years old and can't even remember who we played. Too many beers and consussions I guess!
"Wasn't that Michigan drive just great. That's like Patton riding into Berlin." ~Bob Ufer
Unable to watch, he would go drive around in the car during the game, turning the radio on and off, allowing us kids to watch. Or he would pace around outside the house, and one of us would go outside periodically to give him updates.
... when your commissioner is some dipshit from the ACC. You'd think he'd notice how lame the divisional setup in his old conference has turned out.
This quote reflects his cluelessness: "The question is whether you want to confine a game that's one of the greatest rivalries of all time to a divisional game." Nobody who understands The Game would consider it a "divisional game."
Playing The Game twice doesn't make it better. It dilutes it. Basic chemistry.
Anyway ... my memories are especially sweet for all the heartbreak that went before.
1973: Freshman year, end zone seats for a perfect view of ecstasy and agony. Dennis Franklin's terrific tying TD run, then Mike Lantry nearly winning it twice. (Then MSU AD Burt Smith screwing the team out of the Rose Bowl. Eighteen years of silly, mindless hatred suddenly had purpose and focus. But I digress.)
1974: Watching from the Ohio Stadium stands as Lantry lines up for the easy game-winner, I suggest to my friend that we head down the aisle so we can run out on the field to celebrate like lunatics. He thinks we should wait. Kick is higher than the upright; a photog friend in the end zone swears it was good.
1975: Cornelius fucking Greene.
1976: Complete, utter domination. Locker room strewn with roses. Smiles, hugs, tears. Worth the wait.
The weather for each was wonderful—chilly and perfect. What is Brandon thinking?