"Carry your world, I'll carry your world."
We're not going to be fair to him. On some level, I'm OK with that, because there will be a compensation package commensurate to that burden. But I also know that he's coming back and he knows the expectations and he relishes it. He knows he can do it and he knows if he does, he becomes a legend, even more than he already may have been in our eyes.
For the last few weeks, I couldn't even bring myself to type his name, for fear that it was an illusion and saying it would shatter the well crafted fiction/delusion we had imagined for ourselves. The most fascinating part of this is how the Michigan fan base, or at least the part I follow because there's a rationality even in the most irrational of times, one factionalized and divided, united under one banner. Our provincialism be damned, we fought against the NFL reporters and their agendas, and the unwavering belief that every day that he didn't say no was a day closer to him coming home. Then the plane landed at Metro, and he was home, he was back.
There has been a tremendous amount of Biblical imagery thrown around in the last month. Part of this is because it's one of the easiest cultural references to make, even in a more secular world, the references are still well known. When Paine wrote Common Sense and The Crisis, he often sprinkled in Biblical references to give weight and gravitas to his arguments while still making them accessible to the common men and women of the colonies whom he sought to persuade. I think we made use of these references because we know what Ufer taught us, or our parents or our grandparents: "Michigan football is a religion and Saturday's the holy day of obligation." Or as John U. Bacon said "Michigan football is a religion, not a business, and something economics can't accurately explain." We've thrown our phrases like "prodigal son", "second coming", "wandering in the desert" and yet, we have to know in doing this, it's placing a ridiculous amount of expectation on one man. But it is because that fandom is a faith, secular as it might be, but residing on a belief in the unseen, on "miracles", it sometimes come down to needing to believe in one man, because hope is still the most powerful fuel that fandom runs on.
In Gods and Generals, a Michigan native gets to give a nice little monologue, built on the Roman Civil War for a direct parallel to the American Civil War. Watching as Union troops head to a slaughter on Mayre's Heights because Burnside is the latest in a string of generals not up to the challenge of leading the Army of the Potomac, Jeff Daniels, as Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain begins by saying:
"How swiftly Caesar had surmounted the icy Alps and in his mind conceived immense upheavals, coming war. When he reached the water of the Little Rubicon, clearly to the leader through the murky night appeared a mighty image of his country in distress, grief in her face, her white hair streaming from her tower-crowned head, with tresses torn and shoulders bare she stood before him."
I believe that he knows this. He's been told this by an Michigan fan, alum, teammate, booster, or general believer who can get his ear for one moment that his school is in distress. He had to know and I think he wants to know that what was can be again and he may be the only one to do it. It may not be the perfect moment or opportunity, but you don't get to pick when these moments come along. He seized the moment because the moment was there. And now we wait.
It will be a long eight months between now and fall camp. There will be recruiting battles to try and salvage. There will be anticipation for Spring Ball and debates and discussions. We'll know nothing and believe we know everything. This is as it should be. We will suffer the slings and arrows of the rest of the college football world. We must because as much as people say college football is better when Michigan is great, they also know that they enjoy attacking Michigan because, well, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. While that crown has not been national or even a B1G championship of late, the #915 is still there.
He is not Bo, but he reveres him at least as much as we do, and while that may not mean anything anymore, it's a Hell of a place to start. Until that Thursday night in Salt Lake City in August, we must survive on belief that it will be better.
So here's to that. Welcome home, Coach Harbaugh.
"Heaven we hope is just up the road.
Show me the way, lord because I am about to explode."