Sunday, September 02, 2018

August and Everything After

Shea tried. He really did. (Photo: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)
"Well I've been watching you for hours
It's been years since we were born
We were perfect when we started
I've been wondering where we've gone
All your life is such a shame, shame, shame
All your love is just a dream, dream, dream."
--"A Murder of One," Counting Crows, August and Everything After, 1993
There's a notion I cannot escape, something like existential dread, but for your football team.  I try to push it out of my head and from time to time, I feel like I'm successful but then, unbidden, it creeps back in, sometimes without warning, but more and more lately, I see the contours of the landscape, and it arrives once more.  I hope that it is a dream, but it is not.  It exists somewhere in the ephemeral space between conscious and unconscious thought.  You reach out to chase it down, to see its face, confront it, and banish it, but it always slips out of your grasp, like a confident running quarterback eluding your best pass rush.

I worry genuinely that Michigan will never be Michigan again.  That this is the permanent new reality, relegated to being a perpetual also-ran in the Big Ten East while schools that have sold their souls to the machine move ahead with no actual real price paid.  That even the best possible coaching candidate for this school could not save us from the long decline.  Then I worry that I don't care enough about other people's suffering and that the smallness of this feeling makes me petty and cheap.  I know I am not alone in this latter worry, Geoff excellently trod upon this ground last week.  But we arrived back where we started without ever knowing the place we left, or at the very least, appreciating it.

I worry about dumb things, like the fact that Harbaugh's presence at the 2016 World Series somehow transferred the Cubs curse to Michigan football.  You laugh until I point out Michigan is 10-9 in games since November 2, 2016, since the day that the Cubs curse ended.  I worry about the idea that Michigan hasn't beaten a ranked team on the road since Bo passed away.  I worry about trying to find supernatural reasons to explain things that come down to Michigan doesn't have a great offensive line and Michigan's defensive aggression, while usually a good thing, can also be used against it by a team with time to plan for it.

August is the season of hope for football.  The reports trickle out from Fall Camp by design, giving the fan base a taste of the meal they so desperately want to feast upon, wafting the aromas of anticipation and expectation.  Everyone is putting their best face on what they are seeing and hearing, and when you are in charge of getting growth performance out of a group of people, it's not that you fool yourself into thinking that things are better than they are, you just convince yourself that it's there when maybe it is not.  No one is lying as much as they're just optimistic in the face of a lack of evidence to the contrary.  As a teacher, I know I have had this happen to me a number of times, even when I have done my best to temper my enthusiasm to avoid disappointment.

Then again, perhaps it's too early to go gloom and doom.  In 2015, a transfer quarterback lost his first game in a tight spot on the road and that season went pretty well.  Maybe it's all just a little bit of history repeating.  We look to the past because we want to understand the future.  The problem is that history doesn't repeat.  Patterns of history do, but it isn't exactly the same.  The changes

During the frustrations of the Rodriguez and Hoke years, I felt that there was a silly nobility in writing through them, that you were sticking with something because you loved it, for better or for worse.  I don't know if I feel that any longer for reasons I can't (or don't want) to suss out.  I still want this to matter as a diversion, as an escape, but I also know that collectively, people who watch football know so much more about how football works not than they did in the past that it becomes easier to diagnose what we think is wrong than in the past.  Knowing what ails us doesn't cure the problem.  Let's hope those in charge of fixing it make it happen.
She says, "I've forgotten what I'm supposed to do today."
And it slips my mind what I’m supposed to say
We’re getting older and older and older
And always a little further out of the way

--"August and Everything After," Counting Crows, cut from the album of the same name for time, 1993.

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