Friday, November 21, 2008


"We're a Big Ten Football Team, we come from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Like all programs, it has its good, and it has its bad. This is a song called "Bad."

--Bono (if he were a Michigan football fan)

(Also, if you haven't already, go read this. I'll wait, and if you don't come back, I'd more than understand. It's that good.)

I was trying to find the right metaphor to sum up this season, and I went looking for a song to sum it. The coaching search was "Read My Mind" by the Killers, but nothing had struck me (maybe because I lack a deep or even passing knowledge of the slow sad songs prevalent in the country genre) until this morning.

Every morning I wake up to the same ten song CD I custom cut for my alarm clock, one song from every good U2 studio album, in a logical order. It opens with "Desire" because that songs opening sounds like an alarm ringing. The songs progress and as I get ready to leave, if I have timed it right, the opening notes of "Bad" (the "live" Wide Awake in America version) play. It's an auditory symbol that I need to get my ass in gear, which is ironic because it's also my favorite U2 song. When I heard the notes this morning, I paused and thought about the opening line of the lyrics.

If you twist and turn away.
It you tear yourself in two again.
If I could, yes I would
If I could, I would let it go.
Surrender, dislocate.

At its core, without knowing the meaning, context, or origins, "Bad" is a song about escaping something, something painful, something that needs to be departed. It's about watching someone rend themselves in twain over something that you, on the outside, cannot control, no matter how much you wish to do something. It's a powerlessness and a hopelessness in the face of the destiny of others. We cannot control it and yet we have invested something into that person or that thing knowing full well that any affection or disregard we have for it may not have an iota of influence on the impact or direction it takes.

If I could throw this lifeless life-line to the wind.
Leave this heart of clay, see you walk, walk away
Into the night, and through the rain
Into the half light and through the flame.

If I could, through myself, set your spirit free
I'd lead your heart away, see you break, break away
Into the light and to the day.

In this case, this is what we're left with for Michigan football this season, something that means so much to so many of us that we want to throw out a lifeline, make things better for them because we know in doing so, it would be better for us. But again, we are left wanting, waiting, wishing, but ultimately, without power. Our belief in all that we have done is tested by the lackluster, tempered by disappointment.

To let it go and so to find away.
To let it go and so find away.
I'm wide awake.
I'm wide awake, wide awake.
I'm not sleeping.

Were but it a dream, that we could just wake up tomorrow and everything was better, or at least unwritten. But we've been well aware of what has happened during this season, we cannot forget or let it go, no matter how hard we try. We are stained with this as fans, but the stain does not ruin what was perfect as much as it adds character to something that perhaps seemed a little too good to be true. While others heap scorn, ridicule, derived from a jealous place within the human heart or the darker recesses of the mind, we absorb the blows, because the results have rendered us all but moot. We withdraw in to our tribe, stare at each other across the fire, and know that the stars above us speak of days before and days to come.

If you should ask, then maybe
They'd tell you what I would say
True colors fly in blue and black
Blue silken sky and burning flag.
Colors crash, collide in blood-shot eyes.

If I could, you know I would
If I could, I would let it go.

We have seen the true colors of many a Michigan fan this season. Those who walked away after Toledo, those who have stuck it out in the hope of being rewarded down the line, those who are confused, sicked, maddened, or confused, and a majority of us who couldn't walk away if we tried. Our maize and blue blood has seeped into our eyes, from the bitter tears of defeat and the sheer madness of anger without a worthy target. But the operative word is "could". For those of us here still standing at the end of this, we couldn't walk away. Some would call us loyal, others mock us as fools. We may not even know the difference anymore, but here we stand, and here we hope, because we cannot let it go, but not for lack of trying.

This desperation, dislocation
Separation, condemnation
Revelation, in temptation
Isolation, desolation
Let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away
To let it go and so to find away

I'm not a huge fan of digging around for the meanings of songs I love, because I feel that all too often, it strips them of their magic. But I remember being told by a very dear friend of mine when I was in college that this song was about a friend of Bono's who overdosed on heroin on said friend's 21st birthday. What I also learned is that Bono did not know that that was his inspiration at the time, it was only later he realized it. Something powerful and horrible inspired something beautiful and meaningful for others. That's too often how tragedy works, how we rise from the ashes, our own ashes whether we realize them or not, we find something deeper to try and make sense of it in our own minds and perhaps help others. Bono, as he is apt to do, has reflected that this song is also about any form of addiction, and maybe it's time that we realize that there are similarities; the epic highs, the dizzying lows, the withdrawal like symptoms, there are parallels. But it's not a perfect analogy, because I think many of us could truly walk away if we wanted to, which means that it is a choice, that we are here for whatever reasons we have convinced ourselves are real, or others which may not be on the surface, but we hold deep in the heart. But in the end, it's not about us, it's never about us, it's about how we reflect the light of others, and what we do with that reflection. Shall we cast our light upon others, to make things grow, to light and heat others, or shall we use it to blind, or shall we merely cast it in upon ourselves. We make the choice, we hold that power, but we do not actually possess the light. Only they do, and some years, the light is dimmer than others, but it is there.

It's a scar, but a well-won scar; earned in battle in part because we stayed until the last man. Our numbered were diminished, but they were there. The loyal remained, the faithful held fast against the sweeping currents of reality and negativity. We could not change what had happened, we could not spin the results as hard as we tried. We looked to where all of college football lives, the past, and the future. The present is so fickle, so transient that meaning is lost as soon as the moment passes. So we examine what has been and what we hope shall be. We look for meaning in the past in a dire attempt to draw parallels to the future. But the past cannot change and soon this season shall reside there. We will tell the stories; sometimes when prompted, other times with motivations never necessarily clear to us, of what transpired this season. We will remember this season, in a context of which we are unsure now and may not know for a while, however long a while is anymore. But somewhere along the line, the memory will seep in and you won't even realize it was there until after it was gone. All you're left with is a scar, and a story about how you got it, and perhaps in the telling of the story, you can find peace with whether or not the scar was worth it.

Thank you, bless you, and Go Blue.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow. Well written. It struck me how true this is, I hadn't thought of it:

"In this case, this is what we're left with for Michigan football this season, something that means so much to so many of us that we want to throw out a lifeline, make things better for them because we know in doing so, it would be better for us."

That's exactly it. Thanks. I enjoyed all of it.