Being the Sacred and Profane Memories of Charles Ryder, Q.B.
It was the waning days of the great Buckeye jihad across the Midwest. Those savage barbarians had breached the pale surrounding their nests and warrens in central Ohio and declared war upon the civilized world. Ordinarily, they were no threat, but they had found a leader to unite behind. This “Tressel” with his near-intelligence and ability to gesture basic commands, combined with the stupidly awesome might of ten thousand Lennies spilling out of Columbus, had proven a formidable foe. Their repeated incursions had cost us dearly. Feeling the tug of duty upon my broken heart, I was one of many who had left a promising career and volunteered to repair the damaged structures of our homeland.
Trains and buses whisked us about the shattered landscape. Each morning brought a new location, a new worksite. At first I happily busied myself with the work my compatriots and I were engaged in. We were doing good, I told myself. But I began to realize that our fixes were impermanent and would not last. Each site blurred together, and I calculated that for every eight or nine quality efforts we would leave behind three or four disasters. It was a hopeless cycle.
Here love had died between me and Michigan football.
Rodder, my valet, shook me awake. He stood there with a slight smile painted across his wide face, his faint grin hinting at his scurrilous nature. I did not trust him. Though I was fairly certain he had never stolen a single sou from me, something about his eyes suggested the devious. I was troubled by him, this upstart, this émigré, this man not of the North.
Everything about the man stood in stark contrast to the manservants I had known from the halcyon days of my youth, those guardians that had led me into the full vigor of manhood. Honorable, saintly Bo with his snarl and his tasteful penchant for a full three yards and a cloud of dust. Tremendous Lloyd, whose tremendous stewardship brought so many tremendous moments to my life. Even the Gitt, whose loving hands healed my aching limbs even as they fed me my third pizza in a single day. Giants, each of them.
What was Rodder compared to these titans? Had he ever reeled off twelve straight runs between the tackles? Had he ever fallen aslumber to dreams of pitch-perfect execution of a zone left? Had he ever kept top talent off the field for their entire careers, only to watch them blossom in the NFL? Had he ever insisted on throwing to a tight end with a massive cast on one hand? No, I thought. Of course not. He would take whatever this world would offer him, instead of imposing his own perfectly-executed, joyless will upon it. This parvenu could not understand, would not understand, what it meant to be a Michigan Man.
Rodder laid out my uniform and guided me through my morning toilet. Shaven, washed and refreshed, I stepped outside of our tent. I looked about and saw so many of his compatriots rushing around the camp with their maniacal energy. Barking instructions, exuding far too much excitement, far-removed from anything resembling gentlemanly behavior. The one called Barwis, in particular, was engaged in the uncouth business of demonstrating proper free weight techniques and emphasizing “fitness” to new recruits. I turned away, a scowl darkening my features.
It then dawned upon me with painful sadness: I was living in the Age of Rodder.
“Such a grand place,” Rodder said in near-whisper. I turned and espied the structure to which he referred.
In a single moment, the years fell away. The sweet bird of youth descended upon me. The weight of the long campaigns of mediocrity fell away, and I tasted sweet air as I had not known since 1997. I felt a twinge of vigor in my privies. I closed my eyes and let the long-forgotten feelings wash over me.
“Have you ever seen such a place?” wondered Rodder. “Did you know that a stadium with a capacity of over 110,000 even existed?”
I had been there before. I knew all about it.
ET IN ANN ARBOR EGO
To be continued...