Mike Lantry, 1972
Sitting alone, in a dark corner of The Knickerbocker, sat West Layfayette's saddest man. He drained the remaining ounces of his Pabst, and less than gently set it back down, and slid it into the pile of his other empties.
"Fuck this place," he muttered, drawing breath through clenched teeth.
He knew his dream was done. Four years prior, he was hearing stories of how he would be the next Bob Greise, the next Mike Phipps. He spent his high school nights dreaming of glory, of winning...
Now, in 1973, that had all faded. The end was nigh. It just wasn't fair. He knew he deserved greatness, but why didn't it happen? No bowls, no championship, not even a winning season. He slumped a little further down into his chair. It all started down hill when his hero, his role model, got beaten out by some quarterback from Florida.
As the waitress swung past the table, Gary made eye contact with her, and motioned for another beer.
He continued to rack his brain. Who's fault was it? It couldn't have been his. DeMoss's perhaps? That would make sense, he supposed. He shook his head. That shouldn't have mattered, he thought. He was following behind two men who almost won the Heisman, he, of course, should've done the same... should've been just as good.
And then that word struck him: 'Almost.' They weren't good enough either! He suddenly knew why: The reason for his complete failure to even throw a third as many touchdowns as interceptions, the reason why that 'Spurrier' kid beat out Greise for the Heisman... It was all Purdue's, no, not even that, it was all the BigTen's fault!
How could he have missed this until now? He was set up for failure by the system. He could never beat someone from the South. No, he would never be good enough, no one from the BigTen could be, not if HE couldn't. Then and there, he finally understood. Those guys in the south. Those SEC teams, and especially those Florida quarterbacks, they will always be the best.
For the rest of the night, Gary sat back in his chair thinking of all the bad things that had happened in his life, using his new enlightenment to finally understand them:
"Of course my father beat me... he knew I would never be good enough to play for an SEC school."
"So that's why I got gonorrhea from that toilet seat."
As he became comfortable with his new world view, he took out his pocket knife, and etched into the table a heart, and inside he scratched:
Now, 35 years later, if you were to go back to that same West Layfayette bar, you can go look around and find that same table. The heart has faded, but initials remain. That same spot, is where a man's inferiority complex blossomed into a life long relationship felicitating the SEC. Ahhh, true love does exist children, and that God Damn South Eastern Conference knows it.
"You show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser" - Alan Johnson, Peep Show
While I know Michigan is really terrible at the footballs this year, there is a shift going on, at least in my mind, and I think several of you have noticed it too. This is not about schemes, or coaches, or Ws and Ls. It's about how we view each game; how we view each loss; how we view each win.
The fear element is gone. Remember that tinge in the back of your head before the App State game? Before OSU '04? That nagging feeling in the back of your head that, every game Michigan played, we should win, not we could win; that we somehow were 'owed' the game and, since "We're Michigan" it's somehow 'crushing' when we lose. Our fears were paralyzing. I think that's one of the reasons there was so much apathy from fans.
When we won, we weren't soaked in joy. We were soaked in relief.
Yes, we now have moved away from the FEAR side of the Life Line, and the only remaining direction to go is toward LOVE.
Now, this doesn't mean I think it doesn't suck to lose, and I think it would be a very bad thing if we continue to post up 3-9 seasons. However being as catastrophically bad as we are this year has had a few interesting effects. Other than about a week of a few MSU students/alums being MSU students/alums, no one is really 'excited' they beat us, broke losing streaks against us, etc.
When PSU beat us, Happy Valley was completely dead. No one even cared. When MSU beat us, I got exactly zero text messages from State fans. I generally get about 7 from them when we lose to them in basketball, and most of said friends care about football just as much or more than they do about basketball.
Now the fear element is in their corner. Could you imagine being a BCS Bowl hopeful team and then lose to a 3-8 team? Football is a strange sport, and crazy things like that happen *cough* USC *cough*.
Next week, I get to watch us play tOSU with no real fear. I am pretty damn sure we will lose to the Buckeyes in epic fashion, sealing a 3-9 season and a 5th straight OSU loss. If a big play or two keeps the game close, I get to hope we win, not fear we lose. It's liberating, and it's exciting, especially with the roulette wheel of a team we have in almost every aspect of the game.
Bring on next Saturday, and bring on next season. I, for one, am excited about it all. Who knows? The underdog spirit in football is one of the most powerful of any sport. Buck the Fuckeyes!