|There were moments. You wanted to believe.|
"You wonder why. It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired the traits you hold dear -- loyalty, honesty, tradition, victory. And you wonder: if you were a different person who valued other things would you care so much? It occurs that at some point the Michigan program acquired other traits you share but do not hold particularly dear -- cantankerousness, stubbornness, an inability to suffer fools gladly. And you wonder: do I like Michigan because of the way I am, or am I the way I am because I like Michigan?" -Brian Cook, "Eleven Swans", MGoBlog, November 18, 2006
Only speaking from my own experience, I cannot see much joy in defaulting to pessimism, other than life would rarely disappoint you. If you expect the worst, it's hard to be disappointed when the world shows its true colors to you time and again. Some might even call it realism, a life view based on experience. But my experience with college football, and specifically, with being a Michigan fan, is that I choose to be optimistic until the exact moment where it just starts to feel impossible.
At 2:06 of the third quarter of the game against Wisconsin, sophomore quarterback Brandon Peters was left in the open as an unblocked Andrew Van Ginkel ran straight at him and proceeded to bury him in the Camp Randall turf moments after Peters released an incomplete throw in the direction of Chris Evans. No penalty was called, but Peters would need a cart to be removed from the field and would later be transported to the UW hospital for tests. Even the most optimistic Michigan fan would look at the situation and think Michigan might still be able to pull off an upset.
The sad part was, however, that ten minutes of real time before that moment, most Michigan fans were, if not believing in the upset, at least trying to plot a course to it. Through the rocky shoals of defeating a highly ranked team on the road, something Michigan has...struggled with for, well, most of this millennium.
It would seem to me that you have to want to believe that things like this can happen, even if you academically know in your mind they are unlikely or improbable. College football presents you with a veritable buffet of this kind of thing each year, and the math rarely, if ever, checks out on it. But hope isn't about math, it's about the art of the possible, even if that potential seems like a faint glimmer of light on an endless field of blackness.
You come to realize that most things fade into that blackness of your mind because they are not memorable. The replay challenges that go your way, the penalties that don't get called because they weren't there, they just recede into memory. In fact, it's almost worse than that because fans tend to ascribe favorable breaks for their side as "skill" or "karma" or "justice" and ill fortune as "a vast, multinational conspiracy designed to destroy your team." So you worry if you wonder what the B1G schedule makers were thinking when Michigan had to face Wisconsin on the road before Ohio State while Ohio State got Illinois and whether you're just being paranoid or angry or lost because you honestly just don't know any longer.
You want to be optimistic heading into The Game, because what would be the point of getting excited about it otherwise. Even if you know the numbers will tell a story that runs contrary to that optimism, you still want to believe otherwise because it is a part of who you are. You aren't sure why you are that way, the conundrum presented to open our piece, so correctly stated 11 years ago today. Like so many things when you get older, you find yourself less and less sure of the reasons why things happen, something that a younger you would be befuddled by because you expected the world to make more sense as you got older, not less. It's why we long for the nostalgic past, the one cast in the gauzy haze that allows you to forget that things similar to this happened then too. You've just had more time to process it, but more importantly, to come to terms with it.
Some days, a solid but unspectacular quarterback starts lacing ultraprecise laser passes into impossible spots. Some days, the replay official can't see that a foot got down inbounds before the one went out of bounds. Some days, your offensive line struggles with stunts and twists.
Some days are better than others.
Some days you feel ahead;
You're making sense of what she said.
Some days are better than others.
Some days I hear a voice taking me to another place.
Some days are better then others.