"Hello, Mr. Barker. I'd like to speak to you about an exciting opportunity."
"It's 12:53 in the morning, who in their right mind thinks this is a good time to...wait, are you from the Michigan Athletic Department?"
"Yes. For the purposes of this conversation, you may call me 'The Admiral.'"
"OK Admiral, gotta say, the James Earl Jones voice modulator is a nice touch. Sounds very professional."
"Yes, voice modulator. No matter. Mr. Barker, we have an assignment for you and you're the best man for the job. We need you to solve a Michigan football mystery."
"I can't say that I'm the best man for that job. Why didn't you guys call Dooley?"
"The truth is Mr. Barker, Mr. Dooley has been sitting in the Towsley Family Museum, looking at the spot where the Little Brown Jug is supposed to be, gently weeping while he reviews a copy of the deed of gift to see if there's a basketball loophole. When we could get him refocused for a moment, he mentioned you."
"OK, but how did you get my number?"
"Did you really think those Facebook giveaways for tickets were out of the goodness of our hearts?"
"Fair enough. OK. So what's the assignment?"
"The truth, Mr. Barker, is that Michigan football is cursed..."
"Well, I mean, it's been a bit of rough sledding, but cursed seems a bit..."
"No, we have a very well written note, in calligraphy and everything, that just says 'Michigan football is cursed. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Ha."
"That many ha's? Really?"
"Yes. The note says that if we can discover the curse, the means of removing it will be obvious. We don't want to tell you what to do, but we do know it has "post 11/18/06" scrawled at the bottom. We think they're trying to narrow your search field."
"OK, I can look into it. How many possible explanations do you want?"
"Ten is good. Brady wore 10 here, let's go with ten. Give us the curse, the background, the record since, the probability, and what we need to do to remove it."
"Where do you want me to send it?"
"Just post it on your blog. It gives us plausible deniability, because who would believe we're stealing ideas for a Blogger blog without its own domain?"
"That kind of hurts a little bit."
"Sorry, would you like two free tickets to this Saturday's game?"
"I have tickets."
"Two Coke Zeroes then?"
"OK, I have to be up for work in four hours, can I got back to sleep now?"
"Just one more thing, how is your stock of delicious Chobani yogurt?"
"I don't eat yogurt."
"No matter, we're just contractually obligated to ask in any dealings we have online or on the phone. Good luck Mr. Barker."
So, with my mission charges to me, I set about to discover what, exactly, was cursing Michigan football since that fateful day in November 2006.
Possibility #1. The Curse of President Ford
Background: Michigan alumnus and 1934 Team MVP, President Gerald Ford passed away on December 26, 2006 in Rancho Mirage, California. Somehow his passing sapped a part of the spirit of Michigan.
Michigan's record since: 52-43
Reasons for this particular nexus point: The 2007 Rose Bowl, The Horror, Dennis Dixon, Chad Henne's numb elbow would all be explained.
Probability: Medium, 4.8/10
While it would be nice to explain the Horror with something supernatural, a 93-year old man passing away doesn't really feel like a curse.
What do we need to do to remove it: Jack Miller needs to go to the top of a staircar on a rainy day and take a tumble to the tarmac.
Possibility #2. The Curse of Little Brother
Background: Down 10 to Michigan State at East Lansing with just over seven minutes left to play, Chad Henne throws a pair of touchdown passes to win 28-24. Henne will trip on his way out of Spartan Stadium, and then senior captain Mike Hart says: “I was just laughing. I thought it was funny. They got excited. It's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and you let him get the lead. Then you come back and take it from him."
Michigan's record since: 44-41
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan, which had won eight straight after starting 0-2 and had a chance to win the Big Ten, lose their next two games to Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.20/10
The words of rebuttal to Hart from Mark Dantonio: "I find a lot of the things they do amusing. They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall..." kind of feels like a curse. Or a vow of revenge.
What do we need to do to remove it: Win at Spartan Stadium for the first time since that game, call Michigan State our brothers in arms against our common enemy, Ohio State.
Background: On December 1, 2007, ESPN College GameDay's Kirk Herbstreit reports that LSU coach Les Miles, following LSU's participation in the SEC Championship game, barring something extraordinary, will be the next coach at the University of Michigan.
Michigan's record since: 44-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Well, it might explain why Bill Martin didn't know how to work his new cell phone.
Probability: Moderate, 6.4/10
I still firmly believe that Herbie was reporting what he had been told, and that Miles planned to announce his intentions to come to Ann Arbor after the game. By announcing it before the game, LSU had time to counter in a big way, which they did.
What do we need to do to remove it: Cut a check.
Possibility #4. The Curse of Tim Tebow
Background: In the 2008 Capital One Bowl, Michigan sends Coach Lloyd Carr off into the sunset, with a 41-35 win over Urban Meyer and Florida. Michigan becomes the only team to defeat Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in a bowl game.
Michigan's record since: 43-39
Reasons for this particular nexus point: 3-9, losing to Toledo, losing 42-7 to Ohio State.
Probability: High, 7.6/10
A lot of this is going to depend on your view of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but this isn't our original thesis:
LRT: OF COURSE. Michigan beat Tebow and displeased God. You can't argue with the evidence.
— Hot Take, Esq. (@pheasantpants) October 6, 2014
What do we need to do to remove it: Devin Gardner needs to go before the Monday press availability and speak these exact words after a conference game you lost when you had a field goal blocked:
"To the fans and everybody of MGoNation, I’m sorry. Extremely sorry. We wanted an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Michigan has done a lot. I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this.
You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see another player push his team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season. You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless."
Possibility #5. The Curse of Yost Bleachers
Background: In the spring of 2012, Michigan undertakes a renovation of Yost Ice Arena, which includes replacement of the bleachers that have been there since its conversion to an ice arena in the 1970s. When removing the bleachers, they unleash the horrifying creature that Don Canham had successfully trapped under the bleachers, kept alive by the garbage dropped under the stands by patrons.
Michigan's record since: 17-15
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2012 and 2013 regression and all of 2014. It also explains why Michigan Hockey has missed the NCAA Tournament for two years in a row after two decades of making it.
Probability: Moderate, 5.0/10
Once you saw what was under the West End Bleachers, you couldn't unsee it. I will firmly believe that a horrible beast was being imprisoned there.
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a team of hunters to find it, bring Red Berenson to the creature. Let him glare at it for a solid minute. Creature will flee to Munn.
Possibility #6. The Curse of Clowney Comin'
Background: During the 2013 Outback Bowl, Taylor Lewan fails to call "Deuce", allows All-America DE Jadeveon Clowney to do this to this to Vincent Smith.
Michigan's record since: 9-11
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the 2013 regression and all of 2014. It also explains why Michigan offensive players look somewhat uncertain at times, as if they hear the footsteps of Clowney.
Probability: Low, 0.7/10
Honestly, the Clowney hit was just instant karma for the terrible spot that the refs gave Michigan on the previous play. Or for the terrible uniforms Michigan wore in that game.
What do we need to do to remove it: Make a sizable donation to Tay Odoms/Vincent Smith's H.O.P.E. for Pahokee charity at a game.
Possibility #7. The Curse of the Noodle
Background: On the W.O.W. Friday before Michigan's 2013 season opener against Central Michigan, a large Kraft Macaroni and Cheese noodle is spotted on the grounds of Michigan Stadium, violating the near sacrosanct rule about no advertising at Michigan Stadium.
Michigan's record since: 9-10
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Explains the extreme cheesiness of recent Michigan Athletic Department decisions.
Probability: Low, 1.0/10
I mean, there's a Cadillac at Michigan Stadium this year, but because it has the Michigan wings, it's OK, right?
What do we need to do to remove it: Get a Giant Ramen Noodle.
Possibility #8. The Curse of Old 98
Possibility #9. The Curse of the Chicken Dance
Possibility #10. The Curse of the Skywriters
Background: At Under the Lights II, Michigan enrolls Tom Harmon's Old 98, the last remaining retired number, into the Legends Program and puts it on Devin Gardner. Michigan wins, but Gardner throws an amazing 0 yard pick six that has to be seen to be believed. After the victory, the Michigan Stadium PA plays "The Chicken Dance" in reference to Notre Dame ending the series after the 2014 game. Prior to the start of Michigan's game against Akron, the next week, the Michigan Athletic Department pays skywriters to make Block M's and write "Go Blue" in the sky over Michigan Stadium...and in the sky over Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. The Athletic Department denies that they paid for the Spartan Stadium skywriters, until they are outed by the skywriters themselves. Michigan sheepishly admits they spent $3,000-$5,000 for the stunt.
Michigan's record since: 8-10 (for #8), 7-10 (for #9 and #10)
Reasons for this particular nexus point: Michigan has a losing record ever since these events.
Probability: Very High, 9.8/10
Hubris: extreme pride or self-confidence. When it offends the Gods of ancient Greece, it is usually punished. Hubris is usually perceived as a characteristic of an individual rather than a group, although the group the offender belongs to may suffer consequences from the wrongful act. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.
What do we need to do to remove it: Devin Gardner calls the Harmon family, thanks them for their kindness and courtesy but says that there is but one Old 98 and it is and always should be, Tom Harmon. Devin Gardner gets Old #12 back on. At the 50 yard line of Michigan Stadium, the Michigan Athletic Department Game Day Experience staffers take a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, cover it in shamrocks, and set it ablaze. Michigan's Athletic Department hires skywriters to write "Molon Labe" over Spartan Stadium during the Ohio State game and then cuts a check for $72,000 for pediatric cancer research to the Love Like Lacey fund, the latter of which isn't a terrible idea anyway.
In the end, I go back to The Bard:
"Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
Let's be humbled by this and humble ourselves. If we have offended some football higher power, it certainly can't hurt.
(P.S.: In all seriousness, there is one possibility I left off here, November 22, 2009. If this is what cursed Michigan, then we probably deserve what it is getting for trying to ignore something so serious and then prevaricating to us about it when people tried to raise the issue.)