Friday, November 28, 2014

Finding our lost Wolverine pride. Does it start after The Game?

Tweet quote: Anything lost can be found again except time

I was thinking about the upcoming end of the Michigan football season the other day when I saw this quote my nephew retweeted. While it should have made me think of things in my personal life, like my new job after a period of unemployment, what it really made me think of is how this phrase applies to Michigan football and those who love it. It brought to mind everything we've lost since 2008 (or even a little earlier than that if you count the Appalachian State Horror, as I do.)  It's not just the games or this year's vanishing recruits or the coaching merry-go-round. We lost precious time and those are years we can't get back. They're dates that will never appear on championship trophies and seasons our rivals will point to and mock ruthlessly for years to come. There's no fixing the time we've lost. Perhaps the most important thing we've lost as fans is our pride in the program. The love of it remains, but the pride we had? Well, there's that eerily apropos proverb to consider. And what a fall! Luckily, the pride is something that we can find again. 

Unless the gods of football orchestrate a miracle, however, it will not happen this Saturday in Columbus. I don't want to be a downer. There's nothing I would love more than to watch Michigan drive a stake (tent or otherwise) into the heart of the Buckeyes' playoff dreams and to see our team and its seniors win one of the biggest games in their Michigan careers. But I'd be lying if I said I believed it would happen. The Meyer-driven OSU football machine is running strong and little in what I've seen of Team 135 gives me confidence, especially playing in the Horseshoe. I just hope they can play a game they can be proud of when that miracle doesn't come their way. Win or lose, I expect these players will do what they have all year: face both success and adversity with sportsmanship and grace that is a point of pride to claim.

This weekend is going to be a lot bigger than just "The Game." I don't have to brace myself for a loss on the field. My cloak of indifference is fitting quite nicely and I've been wearing it all season. (It makes Saturdays easier.) Whatever the result, this weekend will be the peak of anticipation for the changes on the horizon. By now we know what end it signifies. We also imagine with hope the beginning it might become. 

It will very likely be the last game in which we'll see Brady Hoke clapping on the sidelines, dressed as though he coached in Florida, working without a headset. Although I know this is the right thing, it still makes me feel a bit sad for him. He so clearly loves Michigan and the players in his charge. When he says he coaches because he wants to make them better men, better fathers, and better citizens, I completely believe him. I respect that. I just wish he knew how to make them better football players. Unrealized potential is another loss we can't get back and Hoke carries the responsibility for that. He's everything Michigan wanted in a coach, except the get-us-back-to-elite part. It was over his head and this is not a program where learning on-the-job is an option. It'll be hard to watch the painful end of a good man's dream job. It would be harder still to watch him continue in it.

As this weekend passes, AD Jim Hackett will also be free to do whatever it is that he's planning to do. Rumors already abound. Flights are tracked and their itineraries mused upon. Lists of candidates and the odds of their ending up at Schembechler Hall will be fodder for TV, radio, blogs, and dinner tables until the truth is revealed. Will it mean tremendous joy or disappointment? Will it give us hope to find all that was lost while time ticked away in the most unsatisfying and soul-sucking manner imaginable for the past 8 years? 

Time will tell and sadly a lot more of that will pass as we wait impatiently for the next coach's results. It's not going to be an easy wait. I hope whoever he is, he can come in swinging and make things happen at a pace the mob can accept. If a Jim Harbaugh, a Les Miles, or a Dan Mullen can't satisfy us, it'll be hard to find the man who can. We're a smart fan base, but we aren't an easy one. 

It's too soon to start worrying about Team 136's coach and his first year body of work. It's enough for me to know that, unless we're all blind, change is coming and hope will soon return to the Big House. It's a start and the only way forward to realizing that anything lost can be found again but time. Like our Wolverine pride.

Go Blue! Beat OSU! Be proud -- and don't let Uncle Urban have the satisfaction of torturing, eviscerating, and hacking you in four quarters as the world expects.

The drawing and quarter scene in Braveheart

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