Sunday, December 05, 2021

Calling Cards

Amazingly, all that was needed. (Jacob Hamilton | The Ann Arbor News)

"Singing we'll all be together,
Even when we're not together
With our arms around each other,
With our faith still in each other

I've got calling cards
From 20 years ago."

"Calling Cards" by Neko Case from her 2013 album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

Things always look easier in retrospect, because the goal has been accomplished.  Things are only impossible until they are not. It would have been easy to settle in after the back to back offensive plays in the first quarter that saw Blake Corum bust a huge TD run that featured JJ McCarthy getting downfield and throwing a key block and then a picture-perfect halfback pass from Donovan Edwards to a wide-open Roman Wilson, in stride, to put Michigan up 14-0.  Michigan was never in any real danger, mathematically at that point, but that isn't how it felt.

But as much as I would like to memory hole the entire second quarter, with Iowa's field position game going strong, starting Michigan drives on their 8, 3, and 9, this was the moment that sealed that this was going to be different:

Cade is not a scrambler by nature, but he saw nothing but open real estate ahead of him and went for it.  He dove headfirst to make sure his slide wasn't behind the line to gain.  Yes, Michigan would end that sequence with a punt for a touchback, but Cade did enough to flip the field to keep Iowa from playing the field position game for the remainder of the half.

My grandmother, the person who had as much to do with my being a Michigan football fan as anyone, loved to tell me that Michigan was a second-half team.  That probably wasn't specifically true and I was too young to know it was a widely held college football cliché, but I grew up believing it.  But over the last two weeks, Michigan came out of the locker room with specific and significant adjustments to what Iowa was trying to do on offense, but then also came out with a methodical drive, ten plays, 82 yards, five minutes of game time, to go up 21-3.  From that point, virtually everything else was gravy.

The joy in the Michigan fanbase of seeing every lazy narrative about Michigan football and about Jim Harbaugh's Michigan football teams be put to rest, for good, was one thing.  But similarly, it was about knowing what those of us who have loved this team, who have bonded over the internet for the last fifteen or so years.  We need shared experiences, good and bad, and we find people along the way who understand us.  To be on Twitter last night was a moment of catharsis and validation, which seems silly from the outside, but was understandable to those who had been on the journey.  We all dealt with the disappointments in our own way: anger, gallows humor, open questioning, sullen states.  We also dealt with this unexpected season in our ways.  For all of the accusations of Michigan football and its fanbase being arrogant, petulant, and annoying, so much of that dissipated into the either on that fateful day in early September in 2007.  Nothing had been the same since, and the further that last Big Ten championship faded into the rearview mirror, the harder it became to believe that it might ever happen again.  It became an article of faith, in belief in things unseen.  But what few of us realized is that this team, these players, this coaching staff, always believed it was possible, and they made it happen.  As Jane Coaston, commander in chief of the Michigan War Dads, stated in her NYT Opinion column earlier on Saturday:

In the end, Michigan will be in the College Football Playoff with a team that's genuinely fun.  We hope for the best, but anything that happens from this point is playing with house money.  After all, banners hang forever.

For so many of us, after almost 15 years, we've heard Jenny Lewis sing it, but perhaps we never really believed it until now, until this moment.