This is meant as a self-indulgent thank you. It's an expansion of a comment I once made, so I apologize if you've read some of it before.
I'm not from Michigan. My mom, however, was born and grew up in Northville. My parents met in Detroit. I visited the state just once, when I was about 3-4 years old. So why have I become a Michigan fan?
I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area almost my entire life. As a young kid, I loved the Raiders. The Immaculate Reception game remains my most devastating sports moment, probably because I was a little kid when it happened. But then the Raiders got rid of Kenny Stabler and Dave Casper, which cooled my feelings, and moved to Los Angeles, which ended the relationship. A Giants fan can't possibly root for a team from LA.
After a period of mourning, I turned to the 49ers, which wasn't hard to do, since it was the Bill Walsh era. But I'm no front runner; I remained just as much a fan through the lean years of Dennis Erickson, Mike Nolan and Singletary.
College football isn't a big deal here. Cal and Stanford have their followings, but they don't seem to have the same passion as the fan bases of the pro teams. As a sports fans, I followed the teams' fortunes, but didn't care much about how they did.
But as the 49ers struggled through successive years of mediocrity, or worse, I took note of what was happening at Stanford. Jim Harbaugh was in the process of taking a one win team and turning it into a national power. Stanford? A national college football power? Not even Bill Walsh, in two chances, had been able to pull that off. Looking at Harbaugh's young coaching career, I also admired that he had gone against everyone's advice, as well as conventional thought, and taken the Head Coaching job at the University of San Diego where, of course, he had turned that unknown program into a winner. I laughed when he ran up the score on the mighty USC Trojans, which I saw as being similar to punching the neighborhood bully right in the nose. It was clear that this guy was a rare and extremely gifted coach, and also that he didn't really give a shit about what anyone else thought. Even though I wasn't familiar with the phrase at the time, he was all about the team, the team, the team.
So when the 49ers fired Singletary, and talk began that Harbaugh was a candidate to replace him, I agonized until the negotiations were completed and exalted when he was announced as the new Head Coach. I knew that the fortunes of my team were going to change, and quickly.
He began by bringing back the much maligned Alex Smith, who the media and entire fan base had assumed had played his last game for the team. Smith responded with, by far, his best season ever. Not a coincidence. Harbaugh was the only one who saw it coming. He didn't care what anyone else thought. They went from 6-10 to 13-3 in that first year, and missed the Super Bowl only because of two fumbled punts.
The success continued with a trip to the Super Bowl the next year and a near miss the year after, but then the reports began to circulate that Harbaugh was on his way out. I doubted them, at first. In a sport where coaching is most important, how could an organization decide to get rid of one of the few truly great coaches? But then it became clear. As it turned out, Jed York and Jim Harbaugh reside on the opposite ends of the manhood spectrum. Not content with merely being stupid for firing Harbaugh, York revealed himself to be gutless as well. In an attempt to justify the idiotic decision he was about to make, York orchestrated anonymous, anti-Harbaugh leaks which undermined the Coach and the team. Then Harbaugh was gone.
That was the end of it for me as a 49er fan. York ruined it. I will never root for them again. I root only for York's continued humiliation, which began quite nicely last season. I hope it continues forever.
Now I wasn't sure what to do. I first hoped that he would stay local, sign with the Raiders, and begin the process of rubbing York's nose in the dirt at close range. Instead, he signed with Michigan.
Of course, like any sports fan, I've always been familiar with the Wolverines. I'd watched them often, including during Harbaugh's playing days. I enjoyed the HBO documentary on the Michigan-OSU rivalry. But I had no rooting interest.
Still angry at York's stupidity, but interested in seeing the impact Harbaugh's hiring was having at Michigan, I Googled "Michigan fan blog." One of the results was Mgoblog. I clicked on the link, and I'm pretty sure I've been on the site every day since.
I was immediately very pleased at how happy and excited fans were about his hiring. Or maybe excited and happy is an understatement. Even with all of his success, Harbaugh was never fully appreciated by Bay Area fans. When he was fired, a significant portion of the 49ers fan base was actually happy about it. I think that was because this region is very impressed with itself. Many people here look at themselves as smarter and cooler than people who live elsewhere (see David Shaw's quote). Harbaugh was never cool. He didn't fit the image. As we all know, he's a somewhat awkward, possibly even geeky, football maniac. It's not cool to be a football maniac here.
But he went home a hero, and I was glad to see it. His opening press conference was awesome (a lesser athlete would've gone down). I quickly found that the more time I spent reading Mgoblog, the more interested I was becoming in Michigan football. A lot of it had to do with Harbaugh, but a lot also had to do with the blog. I was extremely impressed by the guys that ran it and the number of smart and funny commenters who seemed to know every detail about the team. And then I quickly went from being interested to being a fan. And pretty soon after that, I didn't care anymore that he had been fired by the 49ers. Being a Michigan fan was more fun.
I don't claim to rank with those of you that are alums or have been fans for years, but that doesn't matter. I'm having a great time. I was able to watch every game last season and, like most of you, agonized on signing day and follow all the recruiting news in obsessive detail. I can't wait for the next season to start. I look forward to someday making the trip to see a game in person. So thank you, Mgoblog writers and participants, for showing me what I had been missing.
I've been a cop for more than 20 years. A few years ago, I went to a burglary call at the home of a young couple who were both Michigan alums. They seemed like very nice kids, but as I looked around and noticed that their entire house seemed to be decorated in U of M memorabilia, I wondered if they might also be a little crazy. Now I know that they weren't crazy. They just loved their school. Now I get it.