Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mr. Jones

Strike a Pose: 2018 Edition (Dustin Johnson / DJPhotoVideo)
We all wanna be big, big stars
Yeah, but we got different reasons for that
Believe in me
'Cause I don't believe in anything
And I wanna be someone to believe, to believe, to believe
"Mr. Jones", Counting Crows, August and Everything After, 1993

We can safely say that this was by no means as pretty or as fun as last week's outing.  It was far too close for comfort, even when the numbers said Michigan was comfortably in control, well, we all know what those ESPN numbers can actually mean in the real world, but especially in this game.

It was moments after the feeling that Michigan State's legendary luck, it's perma-horseshoe, was going to help them pull off another miracle was settling in when Shea Patterson got a super clean pocket, waited for a beat, then launched a beautiful arcing throw to a racing Donovan Peoples-Jones, who beat his man, slipped a last-gasp tackle attempt, and found paydirt for a 79 yard TD.  DPJ then proceeded to pose like the Paul Bunyan Trophy and while the game was not over by a longshot, it felt much better for the remainder of the day, because Michigan's defense was not going to allow a weather-induced slopfest stop them from making Michigan State if not regret, then at least question several of their life choices on the offensive side of the ball.  While a flag festival on MSU's final drive was enough to make a vexillologist convention happy, Michigan's relentless defense held Michigan State under 100 yards of total offense and won back Paul Bunyan and continued its revenge tour.

There will be people frustrated that Michigan has "lowered" itself to Michigan State's level, cries of "We're better than this!" and "Act like you've been there before!"  In the past, I might have even agreed with this, but I realize now, Michigan needs to loathe Michigan State as much as Michigan State loathes them.  They need to feel it deeply and completely, allowing it to permeate every membrane of their collective selves, seeping into every crack, and filling them with the same devotion to getting the job done.  Michigan State has made a living off trick plays and luck that defies math for the last decade (seriously, Mark Dantonio may actually have assembled all of the pieces of the Weather Dominator, having successfully stolen them from GI Joe), Michigan could not afford to say "Ohio State is the only rival that matters" any longer.  They understood it.  They heard the narratives, 1-5 against rivals, haven't beat a ranked team on the road since 2006, they knew the world needed to erase those narratives and the only way that you can do that is to win this game.

It was not a given.  Even after taking the 7-0 lead on the longest TD drive in Michigan history (because of the weather delay, it took forever.  Yes, this is a lame joke, we don't care.) and just as Michigan's defense forced Lewerke into bad pass after bad pass, the inescapable feeling that Michigan had left points on the field, gifted with great field position and failing to cash in each and every time, including a disturbingly bad looking kick by Quinn Nordin, and headed into the locker room sitting on the 7-0 lead.  Grumblings about conservative play calling, burning downs, and Shea's indecision swirled like the hot dog wrappers that tornadoed around Spartan Stadium during the weather delay.  The rain returned, the strip fumble of Chris Evans inside the Michigan 10, and a trick play later, the 7-7 tie made it seem like all of those premonitions and predictions of doom were about to come true.  So when the shot that people had been begging for all game paid off, when the running that had looked to be going nowhere had finally worn down the Spartan defense and was rewarded with a Ben Mason touchdown, it was a reminder of one indelible truth of football: Defense Travels.

So Michigan enjoyed the win, their second in three years over the Spartans, Michigan Twitter maybe enjoyed it even more (OK, not as much as Chase Winovich) and Paul returned to his rightful home in Ann Arbor, and the joy of an open date coming off two straight big wins laid out ahead of the team and of us fans.  Order has not yet been restored, but you can't start a winning streak without winning one.


Mgrad92 said...

I scrupulously avoid worrying about things I can't do anything about — but I know Michigan State has ached for this rivalry to be bitter, hate-soaked and classless since at least 2007. I can't make people start or stop hating MSU, so I'm not going to worry about whether they do — but I'll certainly lose zero sleep over Spartan tears about finally getting what they've wanted.


I have a lingering sense MSU has used their hate for Michigan to justify overlooking a multitude of sins in their athletic programs over the years, whether it's PED abuse, slaps on the wrists for arrests, more serious accusations swept over the rug, etc. As long as you're getting over on Michigan, they'll overlook that stuff — and I feel like that's a problem.

If you say you want to match MSU fans loathing for loathing, I'll say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But the trick is going to be keeping that hate from ever blinding you to the corrosion of your program's values.

Craig Barker said...


I thank you for this because it is an excellent point. Perhaps it's not so much loathing, even though the emotionality of Saturday would have made me get there, as much as "accept no slights" which is admittedly, reactive and potentially still problematic, but this is a great great point.

Mgrad92 said...

Thanks, @Craig. Elie Wiesel once said the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. So personally, I opposite-of-love MSU. I'm glad my school's football program isn't run the way theirs is, but in the end that's their problem and I've only got brain space for them one week a year. Now, I live out of state in Tampa Bay, so maybe it's easier to say that from a distance — but it's not like we don't have all the Spartans (and Buckeyes) we need down here, either.

But even if people do want to go even beyond a "these slights shall not stand" attitude and muster up some OSU-like hate for MSU, I still get it. I feel like the rivalry has been pushed that way for a while now, so it doesn't surprise me. It's not where I'd go, but I'm not going to gasp and clutch my pearls when Chase Winovich embraces that hate in his postgame interview. I have two teenagers of my own, and I know how it goes when you tell them to take the high road. This wind wasn't sown by Michigan, but it was sown anyway. Time to reap the whirlwind.

What I do worry about is whether there's a difference between emotion and blinding emotion. I'm fine if we decide we want to match MSU's hate with the passion of a thousand suns — just don't let it make us become MSU.

Michigan's probably got more big boosters now than in the past (or at least their profile is higher), but it still feels to me like their influence is outweighed by students, fans and alumni like us. Stephen Ross backed Dave Brandon, at least publicly, long after it was clear he needed to go. It was the convention called on Mark Schlissel's lawn that carried the day.

So, as students, fans and alumni, it matters what we want. And we need to maintain our willingness to burn a winning program down to the ground (like we did with basketball post-Ed Martin — if it shows signs of rot, even if those rivals we hate revel in it. A lot of Michigan fans already get that. The way things are headed, more of us need to.

Anyway, thanks for the kind words and for tolerating my lllooonnng rant. I love your blog, and Go Blue.