Sunday, October 12, 2014

Saturday's Wolverines Restored My Pride

I'm not always a good Wolverine. As an alum, I'm a slightly less stellar donor than Stephen Ross. The cash I do entrust to them goes to Michigan Radio and it's about a stainless steel travel mug's worth. I like their friendly voices in the morning and they're very smart people who make me think. As a former university employee, I grumble and snipe like many former U-M employees. It can be a strange and unforgiving place to ply your trade. It's best I stop there. And finally, as a Wolverine fan, I still get excited about basketball and hockey, but I've been a little cynical and negative when it comes to football. From the black day Lloyd Carr coached us to the unspeakable horror that was the first Appalachian State game up through our current unfortunate situation, I've been wearing a heavy cloak of indifference. Though I used to cry inconsolably after Michigan losses in middle school, the years have taught me to expect the worst and to be pleasantly surprised by anything better. 

In a miracle of sorts this past Saturday night, the Michigan football team succeeded in lifting that cloak from my shoulders and making me actually feel something for them again. It really wasn't about the win. It took up to the last minutes of the game for me to even acknowledge they might pull off the victory. It definitely wasn't the quality of play. Both the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions were doing their best to give the win to the other guy throughout most of the game. It was a classic battle of the powers that used to be.

The miracle was that, whether they won or lost, I was feeling pride again. It was a strange feeling. I was proud of the team on the field and the no-quit spirit so many of them displayed in battling for the win. I believe I would have felt the same way if they'd lost. I also felt pride in everyone who came together after weeks of dissent, disillusionment, and near rebellion to simply be present and engaged as Wolverine fans again. And those former players who came to teach the current ones that the Michigan team is a team for life? Well pass me a tissue. It's been a while since anything Michigan football has made me a little misty-eyed, but the Band of Brothers thing? Even my hardened Blue heart couldn't resist that! Although victory was never a sure thing, I felt an unusual calmness - but not indifference - before, during, and after the game like I haven't in ages.

From what I saw on social media after the game, there were lots of Michigan fans in the same happy condition. Thrilled for victory, but even happier for the pure joy on the players' faces and in Devin Gardner's smile after bravely leading his teammates to finish the job. Considering the mood of the mob this past month, I marvel at how quickly this win, ugly as it was, became a balm for the weary Wolverine soul. It was a welcome relief from the exhaustion we feel from the negativity and madness of the ongoing media circus. A few precious hours away from the storm, especially for the players. And it felt really good.

It won't stop the cries for change, and it shouldn't, but for a moment we were all focused on good things, unifying things. The past standing up for the present. Fans in abundance and rocking. A solid defensive line that strangled PSU's hopes at the end of the game. Leaders, like Devin Gardner, being forged before our eyes - playing over pain, taking knocks, and refusing to quit before he could finally dust off a play he hadn't run in some time: The Victory Formation. 

Yes. It is great to be a Michigan Wolverine! No one ever said it would be easy.

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