Saturday, November 27, 2021

Magpie to the Morning

To quote Santana Moss: "Big time players make big time plays in big time games." (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press)

Magpie comes a calling
Drops a marble from the sky
Tin roof sounds alarming
"Wake up child"
"Let this be a warning"
Says the magpie to the morning
"Don't let this fading summer pass you by"
"Don't let this fading summer pass you by"

Snow is very cinematic.  Especially for football.  It can't be too much snow, mind you, but a steady flurry that puts that thin layer of snow on the turf, enough to see the footprints, or the skid mark where a receiver caught the ball and slid into the end zone.  That's what you need, even if it means the folks in the stands are cold as they watch.

Come on sorrow
Take your own advice
This thundering and lightning gets you rain
I'm on a top secret mission
A Cousteau expedition
To find a diamond at the bottom of the drain
A diamond at the bottom of the drain
A diamond at the bottom of the drain

Michigan said, repeatedly, to all who asked this year, that there was a renewed, singular focus on beating Ohio State.  They made sure the public saw the signs in the weight room, they made sure the public knew about the 9 v 7 "Ohio Drill".  They knew we knew.  But even coming into The Game at 10-1, it was still hard to believe that Michigan could stare down the death machine built for one purpose and handle their business.  But they knew.  They knew in their hearts and in their minds and that is what ultimately mattered.  The ones who had the mission executed the mission.

Mockingbird sings
In the middle of the night
All his songs are stolen and he hides
He stole them from the Whippoorwills
And the yellow meadow lark
He sings them for you special
He knows you're afraid of the dark

A day after his birthday, H2 had his cake and ate it too. (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press)

Michigan had a game plan that was simple and classic in its design.  Some might call it Manball.  But there were cool things, there was jet and orbit motions, swing passes out of the backfield, but in the end, Hassan Haskins just kept powering through the Ohio State line like some kind of tremendous machine.  He found ways to eek out yards where none seemed possible, and he powered through for big ground gains and ended up with FIVE touchdowns.  Five.  Hassan joins the pantheon next to Biakabatuka and Touchdown Billy Taylor and countless other Michigan men whose names will evoke a specific edition of The Game due to their heroic efforts.  Descriptions of Haskins as a man determined to carry the team on his shoulders are not without merit, they also shortchange the efforts of the offensive line and all of the other vital components of the game plan on both sides of the ball.  It was a team effort from start to finish.

Come on sorrow
Take your own advice
Hide under the bed
Turn out the light
The stars this night in the sky are ringing out
You can almost hear them saying
"Close your eyes now kid"
"Close your eyes now kid"
"These old dreams are hid"
They are waiting
They are waiting

--"Magpie to the Morning" by Neko Case from her 2013 album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

There are two version of Magpie, the 2009 version from Middle Cyclone which I linked to and the 2013 version which is sweeter and lighter.  I prefer the 2009 version musically, but the 2013 version lyrically, though the banjo in this version is a wonderful choice.  The joy here is that both exist and I can enjoy both in their own way, not unlike this game.  I do not have to choose between Hutchinson's day and Haskins' day.  They're two versions of the same story that fit together in their own way.  I think so much of what is hard to capture in this column today is that, this was joy.  This was ten years of pent up frustration, of memory, or worry that all of the Michigan heroes of the Ohio State game were graying around the temples, with no new legends to replace them.  Those fears are gone.  A decade has passed, it was a long decade, a maddening decade filled with ups and downs.  But today is the highest of highest that we have felt in a very long time, perhaps too long to truly consider.  The snarky "Can Jim Harbaugh beat Ohio State?" questions are over.  The "last time Michigan beat Ohio State" data has hit the reset button.  In a game that was statistically not really in doubt once Blake Corum ran for 55 yards through the heart of the Buckeye defense, it did not ever feel possible until the 4:45 mark of the fourth quarter.  Would Michigan find a way to answer and re-extend the lead, or would it be on the defense to get the win.  But with everyone watching known Hassan Haskins was getting the ball, running for 15, for 6, for 11 before Ohio State realized with three minutes left it might need to preserve some clock and called a time out.  The snow, which had died down in the early fourth, right as Ohio State began to score again, had come back with a vengeance, and Haskins decided to impose his will and leave no doubt.  Well, almost.  But a 27 yard run that ended with a hurdle, out of bounds at the four yard line and Michigan Stadium exploded.  With just 137 ticks left on the clock, it finally felt real, it finally felt possible.  Possible, but not assured.  It was not until David Ojabo sacked CJ Stroud that I finally told myself this was real.  Olave caught a pass, it wasn't enough, and Cade came in for two kneel downs and joy washed over Michigan Stadium.  Ten years of pent up questions and frustration, washed away, swirling out of the Big House like so much late November snow.

Michigan is off to Indy for the Big Ten Championship game, a phrase never before uttered except in sarcasm and mockery, to face an Iowa team it has yet to see this year.  All of the goals still lay before them, it is time to seize them.  But for now, for this night, Ohio beat.

No comments: