Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ten Years Gone

(Author's note: Before I was a blogger here, I had my own personal blog.  It was your standard zaniness of a 20-something with too much time on his hands and a belief that people wanted to read every thought you had in an era before Twitter, where we now know this to be true.  The following is my "game story" from Thought for the Day (TFTD) from Monday, November 1, 2004.  As it is Michigan State week, it felt right to share my own trip back to Braylonfest, before we even knew we were calling it Braylonfest. I will attempt to annotate as appropriate.)

Games I Watched: 
#11 Michigan 45, Michigan State 37--I was at this game. I must tell the story of this game. All other games you can read about elsewhere, right now, you get this game. 

In Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby writes: 

"For a match to be really, truly memorable, the kind of game that sends you home buzzing inside with the fulfillment of it all, you require as many of the following features as possible. 

(1) Goals: As Many As Possible. 
(2) Outrageously bad refereeing decisions 
(3) A noisy crowd 
(4) Rain, a greasy surface, etc. 
(5) Opposition misses a penalty (or a late game field goal to win it.) 
(6) Member of the opposition receives a red card. 
(7) Some kind of 'disgraceful incident'" 

OK, so let's look at this in terms of Michigan's win, and adjust for American football: 

(1) Goals: As Many As Possible. 
Well, let's see. With 7 minutes or so to go in the fourth, it was 27-10, which is pretty high scoring. By the end of the game, it was 45-37, so yes, we have that. 

(2) Outrageously bad refereeing decisions, preferably against your team that do not cost your team the game. 
Oh, well, which one would you like? The reversal on the roughing the kicker that went for State, the fumble out of bounds that State never had, the phantom pass interference that allowed State to try its last second field goal in the fourth. I think we have a winner here. 

(3) A noisy crowd 
The loudest that a Michigan crowd has ever been in my experience, and that includes after the 1997 Ohio State game. Part of the problem is that the noise just gets sucked into the bowl and sort of dies, it's very hard to sustain any noise. But as the comeback got rolling and there started to be a true sense of belief, it got very loud, very quickly and sustained itself to the point of hoarseness. 

(4) Rain, a greasy surface, etc. 
In our case, major sustained winds throughout. It was going to wreak havoc all day and it did. It also made it very cold by the end of the night. Also, it was a 3:30 start, which meant it was dark by the time the whole thing was over. That is a very rare thing at Michigan Stadium and I think will add to the mystique of the game. 

(5) Opposition misses a penalty 
OK, in American football parlance, this would be opposition misses a late game field goal which would win it. And well, yes, made better by the fact that it came right at Dave and I and fell short. 

(6) Member of the opposition receives a red card. 
American football lacks this, and I have a hard time drawing a parallel. 

(7) Some kind of "disgraceful incident" 
When Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton went down in the second quarter, [college roommate/longtime seatmate] Dave turned to me and said "It's 100,000 people trying very hard not to cheer." As [longtime friend/now cousin in law] Mike pointed out yesterday, "And only 80,000 were successful." As much as Stanton was killing us, and I mean, he was destroying us, you can't cheer when the kid gets hurt, even if he was running with the ball. It's just bad form. Kind of shameful, no matter what the positive outcome that may occur for your team as a result of the injury. 

Now, I will add three personal criteria that I also think you need. 
(8) It is better if it is a rivalry game. 
Had Michigan rallied to beat, say, Indiana, I don't know it would have been AS exciting. Knowing that they rallied to beat State, saving us, the alums, from a year of Sparties lording it over us, which you know they would, is a tremendous thing. 

(9) Spectacular plays, especially for scores. 
Let's see, there was the amazing onside kick recovery, there was Braylon's first touchdown grab in Desmond corner, there was Braylon's SECOND touchdown grab in Desmond corner, there was Avant's "miracle make-sure I get a leg in" catch in the overtime, so yes, we had plenty of that. 

(10) You have to be there with someone who shares the same intensity and passion for the team as you do. 
This was not a game for a first date or an introduction to the game, this was a game where you go with your friend who has been there with you for years, who knows the whole history as well as you do, who understands the up and down, and who gets your jokes about or at least appreciates your witty comments. I had long-time partner in crime Dave and it made the whole thing even more spectacular. 

Part of the reason that i am not a sports journalist is that I know I am not able to fully convey what I saw on Saturday, and certainly not with an even-handed approach. But I do know when Braylon scored that touchdown to make it 27-20, I said "Uh-oh, Sparty hears footsteps." And I know that a comeback is best experienced in person, but it's still not the best Michigan game that I have ever attended in person. OK, here it is, my Top Five: 

1). 10/18/1997: #5 Michigan 28, #15 Iowa 24 
At halftime, Iowa leads 21-7, thanks in part to a brilliant Tim Dwight punt return for a TD. It's late October and the dream of an undefeated season is hanging in the balance. Michigan roars back with two third quarter TDs, the defense stiffens and Michigan emerges with a 28-24 win. Part of what makes a great game is what the stakes are. Michigan season this year was already somewhat sullied in South Bend, the Iowa game represented the march of the possible. 

2). 10/30/2004: #11 Michigan 45, Michigan State 37 (3OT) 
See previous. 

3). 10/12/2002: #13 Michigan 27, #15 Penn State 24 (OT) 
The only other overtime game in Michigan history, this one stems from the fact that it had me sitting in the closest you can get to F. Scott's at the Big House thanks to [friend/game show winner] Kevin's largesse. 

4). 11/22/1997: #1 Michigan 20, #4 Ohio State 14 
Charles Woodson's punt return wins him the Heisman. Michigan's win over the Buckeyes seals the first Rose Bowl bid since in the Carr era. 

5). 08/31/1996: #12 Michigan 20, Illinois 8 
Not a particularly great game, but it was my first game as a Michigan student, it was my 18th birthday, and thanks to my efforts, most of Stevenson's class of 1996 that was attending the U was sitting in Section 30 with Dave and I. 

Also, this is from Slate this morning: 

ORLANDO?The South Florida Sun-Sentinel buried this nugget Sunday in a story about the late delivery of 2,500 absentee ballots in Broward County: WPLG-Channel 10, an ABC affiliate in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, aired a half-hour chunk of Stolen Honor, the 43-minute anti-Kerry documentary, on Saturday. The time was purchased by Newton Media, a Virginia-based media placement company that says it was founded "on biblical principles" and that includes a number of "media ministries" among its clients. 

Angry callers "flooded the customer service phone lines" at the station for airing the program, the Sun-Sentinel reported. A liberal backlash? No, just sports fans upset that the Michigan-Michigan State football game, "tied, 37-37, and about to go into overtime," was pre-empted. Doesn't anyone at Newton Media know the story of the "Heidi game"? 

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