This Week's Obsession: Outtatime Comment Count

Seth October 21st, 2015 at 2:00 PM


The question:

You have been granted access to a DeLorean time machine and one round trip's worth of plutonium to go to any date in Michigan history. What would it be and what would you do? Back to the Future rules apply.*

* (So for example you can't go back and hire Harbaugh in 2008 unless you are actually Bill Martin or something. And you can't run into your former self, else risk causing a major paradox.)


The responses:

David: Again, there are a handful of appetizing options here -multiple OSU games come to mind, along with the '98 Rose Bowl, The Burke Shot, or even some of Yost or Crisler's teams- but I will have to go with the defining Michigan moment of my life: August 26, 1995.  

This baby's over!

Michigan was trailing the Virginia Cavaliers 17-0 with 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  The game came down to the final play, as Mercury Hayes beat Ronde Barber on a corner route and dragged his foot in the corner of the endzone on a 4th down pass from Scott Driesbach to win the game 18-17 as time expired.  I was ten years old, sitting alone in my Grandma's living room.

As the referee's arms went up, I screamed and went absolutely bananas. People came running down the hall to see what had happened and if I was ok (my family had no previous connection to Michigan and were not big sports fans, when I wasn't around).  The next few hours, I really don't remember, but I do know that I decided that day that I was going to have to figure out a way to get into school at the University of Michigan. I had rooted for Michigan for a few years, at that point, when I could manage to see games, but after that Virginia was done. I knew that I wanted to be a part of Michigan forever. As I got older and people would ask me about college and where I wanted to go I would always answer, "I'm going to go to Michigan." And it all really was affirmed in me that day.  So, to be in Michigan Stadium (or in that corner of the endzone on the field) for that game would have been pretty cool. 

[After the jump: If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're going to see some serious shit.]


Adam: If I'm at the mall and run into a scientist who is much older than me and probably crazy and happens to have a DeLorean time machine I'm probably going to run the other way but that doesn't answer Seth's question, so for the purpose of this post I'm setting the destination time in the car to November 23,1940, the day of Tom Harmon's infamous final game.

People talk about Jordan's flu game in NBA circles, but often overlooked is that Harmon was sick the week before the 1940 Ohio State game. According to this article, Oosterbaan wasn't even sure he could use Harmon on defense until he showed up at practice on Thursday, told Oosterbaan to stop worrying, and then up and left to go get more rest.

Harmon was right; he intercepted three passes, returned one for a touchdown, rushed for two more, carried 25 times for 139 yards, threw for over 150 yards, punted three times (and averaged 50 yards), returned three punts, and kicked four extra points.
That list is insane, but imagine how mind-boggling it must have been to see that in person. I've only been able to experience Harmon as a galloping grey ghost on grainy film via YouTube. I want nothing more than to put on a suit, throw on an overcoat, don a fedora, and watch Harmon lay waste to Ohio State in the Horseshoe in a performance so awe-inspiring that the people sitting next to me, the people who buoyantly paid to watch a potential Michigan loss, give him a standing ovation.

When someone mentions Harmon the images my mind conjures are still; that's not the case with other legends like Howard or Woodson, and the reason is obviously time and the capacity to record and preserve games. The DeLorean gifts me the ability to experience Tom Harmon's play as it should be seen: in vivid color and with the preternatural skill on display that's still talked about in hushed tones decades later.


Alex: This is a really tough question, but I think I'll go with the Rose Bowl after the 1997 season, not because it was a particularly thrilling game and not necessarily because it helped seal Michigan's first national title in forever, but because watching a game in Pasadena is one of those few things (sports or not) that I feel like I need to do. The Rose Bowl is the dream destination for Big Ten fans—it's a gorgeous stadium, the weather is invariably beautiful, and, unlike UCLA's home games, the place is filled with fans, some of whom have traveled thousands of miles. Of course, by choosing the 1998 Rose Bowl, I'm picking one that allows me to see both a Michigan win and the most fearsome defense in recent program history. Plus I don't even remember that game happening; I was four years old.


Brian: So I'm trying to think of a way to actually impact the course of football without being Bill Martin and coming up with not much. I guess now that I am armed with the knowledge that large swathes of Louisville's basketball team that played Michigan in the national title game were recruited thanks in part to The Best Little Sex Worker House In Louisville I'd go back to the approximate time and place of those events and break that story then instead of now.

There's an at-best 50/50 chance that does anything since the NCAA is as consistent as Michigan's deep passing game, but if I'm trying to improve instead of observe that seems like the lowest-hanging fruit that doesn't involve, you know, serious crimes. Crime is bad! Don't crime.

If I'm going back to merely observe, give me the Mad Magicians.


Ace: I can't think of anything to meddle with that won't risk violating the stated rules, so take me all the way back to the Point-A-Minute teams of Fielding Yost. I've always been fascinated by the early days of college football; seeing how the game worked in its infancy and how it evolved under arguably the greatest coach of his era would be remarkable, and it's not like we have game film from the time to be able to do that now. As a bonus, I'd get to be around for the birth of traditions such as "The Victors" that are still around to this day. (Yes, I realize "The Victors" predated Yost, but you get the point.) As an extra bonus, I could grow a handlebar mustache without being called a filthy hipster. Add in the chance to watch Willie Heston and I'm totally on board with this.


Seth: Better learn the words to "Varsity" first, Ace.

Nobody here suggested going to the future. I had thoughts about going to, say, 2115, and pulling a century's worth of data on future NFL players and Michigan's rivals, like that one guy did who was feeding Mo and Carr insider info on all of Cooper's teams. But this is fraught with so many perils. Like, what if Ohio State had gotten tired of Cooper and instead, like, hired some guy more successful out of a rogue YSU program. Plus life has some seriously awful things left in store for me and people I care about; I don't think I can take finding out about all of it at once.

So here I am back to being another observer instead of an agent, and my answer isn't even a good one. I'd gather up some valuables to pawn for old currency, go back to 1985, pick up some vintage Michigan stuff at Moe's, and watch one last game with my dad. Sorry if that's heavy.


Michigan Difference

October 21st, 2015 at 2:09 PM ^

I'm a little surprised no one said this, but I would go back to the 1969 Michigan-Ohio State game and just soak it all in.

A close second would be reliving the 1989 basketball run, starting with Bo saying "A Michigan man will coach Michigan."


October 21st, 2015 at 3:26 PM ^

Last Saturday. Call a(nother) timeout (or take a delay of game penalty), and make sure everyone is calm, have a conversation with the long snapper (not going to bother looking up how to spell his name right now) and Blake--take extra care here, and if it goes bad fall on the ball.

Oh man. Now I'm upset all over again.

SoDak Blues

October 21st, 2015 at 2:15 PM ^

Love this question.

I would go back to the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa and watch D. Brown hit John Kolesar for the game winning catch. I was only 7 at the time, and my dad was brainwashing me to love Michigan football (in the same fashion I am doing with my kids). That hooked me forever.

To see that game live with my dad (assuming he would fit in the DeLorean as well) would be tremendous.


October 21st, 2015 at 2:18 PM ^

Deloreans are way slow, man. / Nerd'd. for the game, I'll take the 98 Rose Bowl


So knowing the acceleration and knowing that the car travelled roughly 100 meters or 6.214x10^-2 miles we can look at how long it would have taken to traverse that distance. For an object starting from a standstill the equation for distance assuming a constant acceleration is D=0.5AT^2. Solving that equation for time gives an answer of 8.1 seconds. What that means is that the Delorean wouldn’t even be going 60mph (let alone 88mph) by the time it reached Doc and Marty since it takes 8.8 seconds for the car to get to 60mph. Doc wasn’t joking about seeing some serious shit... him and Marty would be splattered across the Twin Pines parking lot!


October 21st, 2015 at 2:19 PM ^

Seth's answers (both of them) are the correct ones:

Past - an additional game with a since-passed loved one may be worth the resulting paradox of how said person reacts when he/she sees your future self.

Future - the updated version of this...used for good.  Just keep it out of the hands of Buckeye Biff.


October 21st, 2015 at 2:19 PM ^

All of those are great suggestions.  Seeing some of the teams of yore would be fascinating.  I'd be tempted to go back to Bo's first OSU game I think and live through that experience.  I'd also like one more chance to go back and watch one of AC's vintage games.  My grandparents started getting season tickets in the late 1970's and used to bring my cousin and I to one game a year when were were just a few years old.  I don't have any real memories of those games and would love to relive them.  


As far as changing history goes, would it be against the rules to do any of the following?

  • In 1994 bump into Coach Carr and tell him not to rush 3 in his hail mary defense just in case it comes up during the season.
  • In 2006 find Shawn Crable in the lunch room at his dorm and remind him to be careful when hitting short QBs out of the pocket or to remember his blocking assignment at all times on FGs.
  • In 2008 talk to RichRod when he lands at the airport and suggest that he pull out all the stops for his DC or even consider keeping Ron English and part of his staff for at least 1-2 years so he can worry about the O and let someone else worry about the D.  (Also remind him that Gerg is a terrible football coach.)  
  • Go back 5 days and either sneak into the huddle before the final snap and remind O'Niel to fall on the ball if anything goes wrong.  


October 21st, 2015 at 4:10 PM ^

I love the style here. But what about going to 1973 and letting certain Big Ten athletic directors know it is "in their best interest" to vote for Michigan in the tiebreaker for the Rose Bowl nod? Maybe with a quick photo of their family sleeping, just so everyone knows there's no f***ing around?


October 21st, 2015 at 2:20 PM ^

I'd go back to 2006, find the hotel Michigan is staying at in Columbus, find Shawn Crable, and tell him "Beware the late hit out of bounds. Trust me." 

may completely change how we look now, but it would most likely erase The Horror and the following Seven Year Void

Class of 1817

October 21st, 2015 at 2:23 PM ^

Needed that one.

And I'm going to back to an obscure one here... 

1991 Gator Bowl.

I think that was probably the most definitive dominance I have ever seen a Michigan squad put on. 

35-3 vs. Ole Miss

Easily could've been 56-3.

And the entire Michigan offensive line named MVP of the game. Such a spectacular, unique event.


October 21st, 2015 at 2:24 PM ^

I would find Shawn Crable and tell him not to commit a personal foul penalty in the Ohio State game at all costs.


I think that would be more successful than going to 2011 and trying to convince have Heiko try and convince Al Borges that having Denard try and throw the ball in the trash tornado game would be sub-optimal.


October 21st, 2015 at 2:26 PM ^

I'd go back to November 17, 2006 with the best team of cardiologists and surgeons in the country and save Bo. I have a feeling the past 10 years would have gone a lot differently with him still around.

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October 21st, 2015 at 4:14 PM ^

Just practically speaking, a couple days of advance notice (maybe spending a couple days under a doctor's watch) would be a little more helpful.

OR (if you don't really care about anyone in your life right now)

1. go far enough into the future to get a whizzbang positronic heart with an infinite power supply and an installation kit

2. use your return trip power to go to 1969, the night before the Rose Bowl, and have Bo's heart replaced with the futuristic thing so that he can coach forever

3. live out the rest of your natural life watching Bo win for 50 years straight


October 21st, 2015 at 2:33 PM ^

I would go back to Saturday and buy a ticket to the game. Just being at the game would possbly be enough to change the circumstances ever so slightly so that the completely ludicrous last second play wouldn't have happened exactly as it does. But just to be certain, I would strip naked and run onto the field during our last timeout with 10 seconds left. That would be enough to re-allign the cosmos and allow the last play to happen again under different circumstances. And the chances that State would score again under those different circumstances is 1 in 1000.

Of course I'd be in trouble, as I would have to explay why I skipped my sister's wedding to run naked on a football field. 


October 21st, 2015 at 7:03 PM ^

they'd have watched your mojo on TV at the reception and said, 'hey sis, look, screaming apple is on TV....and he just mooned bullough....and stole the ball and screamed something in austrailian to the punter....and how he's in custody'

(a couple minutes later, after you were in the aapd paddy wagon)  'kick's away, no block, and since no state players were there the clock ran all 10 seconds out.  game over.  michigan wins'.    and then, 'do you, sister of screaming apple, take this man....'


October 21st, 2015 at 2:33 PM ^

And distribute a clip of the Bolden ejection.

I could go back to the waning days of Carr's tenure to warn the Michigan faithful of the impending near-decade of incompetence, dysfunction and institutional failure, but I play the role of Cassandra often enough as it is so I doubt that would change anything.

Blukon Cornelius

October 21st, 2015 at 2:44 PM ^

In the Back to the Future Movie, Marty changes the means by which his parents meet and fall in love, and, upon his return to the 1985 present, his parents still own the same house (which is now decorated in a much fancier manner) and his tool siblings are now somehow cool (including that horse, Wendy Jo Sperber who we are supposed to believe now has multiple gentlemen suitors).  The point there is that the Robert Zumekis paradox allows a time traveler to keep all other history in tact, but make everything else better.  Why has nobody opted to slightly alter the past in hopes of making any of our "tool siblings" a little cooler?  Myself, I go back to approximately 1987 and deliver information on the winning plays of each Sparty loss during the Bo and Carr era (Desmond trip, Clockgate, etc.) to the coaching staff.  I then return to the present to see that Sparty has not won a game against us in 20+ years, Harbaugh was hired immediately upon Carr's retirement, and my ugly horse of a sister now has multiple dates.  Perfect.


October 21st, 2015 at 2:50 PM ^

I was a freshman in Ohio State.  Michigan pulls out a victory my first year, soaked it all in and I was able to give all of my new friends shit for the rest of the year. 

I would pull my past self aside and say, "STOP GIVING EVERYONE SHIT!"  You have NO IDEA....what you are going to have to go through the next decade.  You're going to get everything that's coming to you and 10 times more.  You're going to experience an unprecedented decline in the quality of Michigan football.  You need to relax until you see a smiling angel with dreads and his shoes untied pick a fumbled ball off the ground.

Find a freshman named Troy Smith, follow him and gain evidence of either cheating, or illegal activing, then turn him in.

Hill Street Blue

October 22nd, 2015 at 2:48 PM ^

Yost beats Stagg and the University of Chicago Maroons at Marshall Field on the Midway to capture Michigan's first championship.  The largest crowd to witness a football game west of the Appalachians to-date jams the stands at UChicago to watch.  Elbel writes the Victors on the train back to Ann Arbor.

Later the president of UChicago, when asked what the purpose of the university was, replied, "to create knowledge for the benefit of mankind -- and to 'lick' Michigan." 

Now that's a rivalry.


October 21st, 2015 at 3:18 PM ^

If we had hired Les, 2008-14 would have gone better than they did in real life . . . but I don't know if we'd actually be a happy fanbase.   Without knowing how bad it could have gotten otherwise, we'd probably be frustrated with a succession of 9-3 seasons due to Les's poor game management and development of QBs.

Oregon Wolverine

October 21st, 2015 at 8:06 PM ^

Amaizing how the MM clips show a much more modern offense than I would have otherwise expected.  Lots of trickeration, fake dives, pitches, and what seems to be almost a read-option offense.  I wonder how much discretion the QB or HB had in distributing the ball, or if they were more set plays?

And my time machine would take me to the Game in 1997 -- to see what may have been Woodson's all-around greatest performance against the Buckeyes including 78 yard punt ruturn for a TD, 37 yard pass reception, and his 3rd quarter interception.


October 21st, 2015 at 3:05 PM ^

I'd go back to last Friday night, sneak into the Harbaugh household in the middle of the night, coax Jim into a semi-awake state, and show him a YouTube video of Blake dropping the punt. When the exact situation arises just hours later, there's no way he doesn't view that "dream" he had a sign of things to come and adjusts accordingly.