|Toledo Blade/Andy Morrison|
from Latin valēre: to be strong
In the end, it was for them and we're just happy to have been a part of it. This isn't about moral victories or taking solace in the margin being closer even if the result was what most of us expected at the beginning of the week. It is for them. If we doubt that, just look at Devin Gardner's face as he meets with the media after the game. He doesn't look that way because he let us down, no, it is because he knows he let his teammates down, even if the reality of the day contradicts that feeling. As much as any person on the field, he got his team in a position to go for that win when very few people outside of their locker room thought it was even possible. Then they didn't get that win, and the feeling sucks, and you try telling him otherwise.
But perhaps the most telling reaction to Saturday is the seemingly overwhelming approbation, both local and national, for the decision to go for two. Hoke said that he asked the seniors if they wanted to do it and they claim to a man, they said yes. I respect the decision even more for one of the core principles of leadership, trust your people, believe in them. The players, in the end, owned that choice as much as Hoke. Win or lose, they all owned the decision. Hoke gave his players agency in a world where all too often they are treated as interchangeable parts in a machine. In the end, eleven moving parts couldn't make it happen because of eleven other moving parts with the directive to stop them. In another reality, they did make it. But neither set of players in these parallel realities will ever know how the other feels, but as I said yesterday, to once again draw on the wisdom of the War Doctor, "at worst, we failed doing the right thing, as opposed to succeeding in doing the wrong,"
We spend so much time obsessing over what it means to be a "Michigan man" to the point where we are readily parodied for it. But Saturday reminded me why we end up loving these teams and these players, win or lose. We do get those occasional glimpses of just how much this means to them, how much they truly embrace the ethos of team, instead of it slowly becoming a marketing gimmick to repeated at halftime. They're not perfect, but neither are we. But I was reminded, as the Tom Brady speech to Team 134 was replayed on the video board during the game, the players in that room all chose Michigan, just like all of us did, alumnus, student, and supporter alike. The circumstances of that choosing will vary from person to person, but like the decision to go for two, we own that choice. We may get frustrated by any number of things, we may be upset by the outlook for the future, but it is only because we care so deeply about that choice. It defines us in ways that we don't even always want to acknowledge because society frowns upon the level of devotion that we may grant to a secular entity. But the things that define us, shape us, inform us, all serve to reflect to the world what we hope to see in ourselves. So we can find a way to be angry with the result, but be proud of the effort, because we are gifted with a first-rate intelligence, one with is "the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
So to Team 134, that latest link in the Maize Chain of Being, we salute you. We are reminded of the words of our University's co-founder in the wake of the fire that destroyed Detroit in 1805: Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus; or "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes."
In the end, perhaps this was an exercise in reminding us of the meaning of valiant and while it always feels better to be victorious and valiant, we can always try to be valiant nonetheless.