It has come again, this time that we wait patiently (or not so patiently) for each and every year. When I say "we" I am of course referring specifically to our privileged society that can claim the Michigan Wolverines as our team, our passion, and our reason for eating, sleeping, and breathing every autumn. We are indeed privileged, for despite the embarrassments and foibles of the recent past, being a loyal fan of this team has been a very rewarding enterprise for as long as many of us can remember. Wolverine fans have it easy in the wide world of football fandom. Our team delivers victories at a pace that leaves us jaded. We expect success, relying on wins each Saturday to validate our very existence. When we lose, I believe I can speak for most here in describing the experience devastating. Our loved ones hope for Michigan victories, even if they don't care for football. They understand that the alternative is having us unbearable to be around. All of these deep-rooted feelings make this a special time of year.
This year is different though. The solid foundation that the Michigan program has stood upon for generations is now eroded. It feels much less stable than we can seem to recall. Last August surely didn't have this feel. Despite the regime change, despite the player exodus, despite the complete overhaul of how our Wolverines would line up and play the game, we felt that talent and tradition would lead us again to glory. It was our right after all, what the past had taught us to expect. Now the situation is palpably different. The rug has been swept from beneath the Michigan fan base. We simply cannot view each game on the schedule as a better than even chance of victory. Western Michigan looms as a stiff test for these young Wolverines, and that feels very odd indeed to say. The season has more glaring questions than most of us were willing to admit going in to last season.
Remember how it felt in years past, when there would be a question mark at quarterback, running back, defensive line, etc, etc, etc? Maybe the replacement wouldn't completely fill the shoes of the star player they were replacing, but pretty much rest assured they would be solid. Now we have questions everywhere we look...
- Can a freshman quarterback really lead this team to a winning record and a bowl berth?
- Do we really have a great running back in the stable, or will the fumbles and injuries return to haunt us?
- Will one (or hopefully more) of the many talented wideouts or slot receivers step up and become the star target we need?
- Was it merely a mirage that the O-line seemed to gel in the second half of last season?
On the defensive side of the ball the questions loom just as large...
- Can the D-line pick up where the departed seniors left off?
- Will RVB or some platoon of underclassmen be enough of a threat to free B. Graham of constant double teams?
- Is Ezeh cut in the mold of great Michigan linebackers of the past?
- Will Warren take that next step, or are his perceived shortcomings of last season due to something more than injuries?
- Do we have any decent safties on the roster?
- What the heck is a Spinner supposed to be doing?
- Will a burnt crispy Stevie Brown haunt us each and every weekend?
- Most glaring of all, can a defense possibly come together when the system they run as well as the their coaching staff changes three times in three years?
In truth, most of us probably miss the dominance that was the birthright of Michigan fans for 40 years now. We must get over our collective feeling of loss and embrace the new and the unfamiliar. We are simply feeling what all other college football fans have felt at some point, and that we have been blissfully insulated from. We are still privileged. We have our traditions and our pride intact. We are able to fret about whether an already proven coach can succeed here, where the odds of failure are minimal. We can take heart that our players are still a cut above those of most opponents. Our ultimate pride is that our fans are the best around, and that we will fill the Big House, holding our heads high and supporting the young men who, for the glory of Michigan, give their all on the gridiron every Saturday.
Hail to the Victors.GO BLUE!!!
(Now let's hear some answers to the questions raised above. Maybe through further intelligent discussion we can all feel more confident about the situation!)