Monday, September 09, 2013

Light in the Dark

(Author's note: Apologies for a lack of game column last week.  I was on a special assignment which I hope I can talk about soon, oh and I am trying to sell my condo.
But UTL requires a column.)

New 98
Devin Gardner: New 98. (Photo by Eric Upchurch from the MGoBlog photo stream.)

In the end, the lights were on, and someone was home.  For a sixteenth straight occasion, Michigan's football players walked off their home field in triumph, having first made their way to the student section to share the moment with their peers.  There were gimmicks to be sure, Michigan Stadium's first thank you tifo, lasers, flyovers, celebrity cameos, the most underutilized giant disco ball in the history of mankind, but they were ephemeral to what was a Michigan football experience at its core, dread, hope, more dread, still more dread, and finally relief.

Zach Helfand wrote a tremendous game column on how Gardner's teammates rallied Gardner and the team back after the darkest moment of the night, the moment where things could have gone all Achebe* and would earn Michigan a place in the pantheon of NBC Sports Network replays of Notre Dame classics and would have strangled the hopes of the nascent 2013 season in the crib.  Recent history, which is to say those days under the leadership of Brady Hoke, would tell us that we need not worry about the disasters of the past, that a steady hand at the tiller on the Michigan sidelines will find a way to guide the result into a soft landing and a Michigan win in the Big House.  But the past lives in a Michigan fan's heart, that dread encoded into our DNA both as birthright and as mutation wrought by the losses of the past where fourth quarter leads set like the early autumn sun over the press box, leaving just blood-stained skies and deeply held anguish.

*-To go Achebe-When things fall apart.  From the 1958 novel of the same name by the recently passed Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.

But while the past is instructive, it is not destiny.  Just as they had done in 2007 in destructive fashion, 2009 in comeback fashion, 2011 in destructive comeback fashion, Michigan once again found a way to remind Notre Dame that while they may be parting ways for a while after next season, you can't ignore the history built up between the two teams.  No one has won a greater percentage of their games than these two teams.  (Notre Dame has fallen to third in FBS all-time wins behind Texas, but with the Irish playing Purdue this week and the Longhorns hiring Greg Robinson to fix their defense, I suspect the Irish may be back at #2 sooner rather than later.)  They have played a lot throughout my lifetime, with the renewal of the rivalry coming just a month after I was born.  But it is not to be.  There will be other big games, there will be other big moments, but it won't be Michigan/Notre Dame, which is a shame, because it should be.  Even if it was four years off, two years on in a rotation with Michigan State and Purdue, it would be something, it might even be more of something.  But pride, money, and hurt feelings are in the way for now, so we will wait.

In the meantime, Michigan takes the New 98 and Snoop show out for a couple of more games against competition not to be overlooked, but that should be handled if Michigan plays to its potential.  The chances for more great moments, for more highlights, for more legacies will be there.  The lights are on, we're definitely home.

Photo by Geoff Zmyslowski and a pretty accurate assessment of where we were sitting Saturday night.

No comments: