Monday, December 29, 2014

Cloak of Indifference, I Renounce You!

When I was first acquainting my boyfriend Dave to my group of friends, it happened to be at a birthday party held at Arbor Brewing during the Michigan-Notre Dame game in 2008. With the game on a TV above us, we all watched and drank with hope in our hearts. We had a hot new coach, Rich Rodriguez, and we were interested to see where he would take us. The crowd was comprised of Michigan grads and a few strong Michigan fans. Dave was one of the latter. As the game commenced, it didn't take long for us to realize that we were going to get stomped. Not a group to wallow in self-pity, we just turned our minds back to sweet, delicious beer and enjoyed the party. All except for Dave, who was left rather confused by the reaction of so many Michigan alums and hardcore Wolverine fans to a demoralizing loss-in-the-making. I think he was actually put off by it for a while. He was screaming and yelling at the TV. Then he'd look around and the rest of us were drinking and looking at him like "Buddy, get a grip. It's just a football game." He thought we were all horrible Michigan fans and a shame to our alma mater. 

I told him something to this effect sometime after that day, as other losses steeled my resolve to feel nothing: "Dave, we've become numb to games like this. We love Michigan football but it hurts to watch it right now. You lose to Appalachian State and Toledo and most of your Big Ten opponents and you stop caring. We've become the butt of jokes all over the country. So we all have to put on a cloak of indifference. If you win, fabulous! It's a great surprise. If you lose, you haven't spent an ounce of emotional energy on it."

He was skeptical and rather disgusted with the idea. I'm sure he swore he'd never, ever get to that point because no true fan could do that. Well, until the last year or two of the Hoke regime when he was finally broken down. We fitted him for his own cozy cloak of indifference and he wore it with the rest of us. The long years of horror, loss, pain, shame ... and so much more, finally got to him, too.

Today, the University of Michigan will announce that Jim Harbaugh has returned home to Ann Arbor to take the reins of the Wolverine football program. This can hardly be described without cliche. Slam dunk. Home run. Other terms that are oddly not related to football. I call it universal justice. From Carr's final season up until the OSU game this year, Michigan has been knocked down, kicked in the gonads, broken, laughed at, belittled, and humiliated in the eyes of the rest of the football world. All that time, the program lauded as the "Winningest in CFB History" was being taught a tough lesson. Accused since time began of being arrogant and entitled, Michigan was being shown what it was like to be on the other side. What it was like to be the Northwestern of the 1970s... and all the other teams it used to beat into submission with regularity. And we didn't like it.
photo of Bo Schembechler shouting at Jim Harbaugh
The once and future heroes - Bo Schembechler makes a

point with quarterback Jim Harbaugh (AP)

I think, perhaps, that "The Horror", as I think of these past years, was something we all had to go through, fans, players, coaches, and administrators alike. It had been a long time since we'd felt the sting of mediocrity ... before Bo came and raised hell and gave us our pride back. The Horror has centered us a bit and given us perspective. It gave us humility. And if anything could prove "Pride cometh before the fall," the Horror would be it.

So when Jim Harbaugh takes the podium today to tell us his hopes and dreams for the rebirth of Michigan football, remember that all the pain, shame, anger, and failure we've endured were necessary steps in reaching this singular glorious moment. The moment when the words flow haltingly with near disbelief off our tongues: Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. 

It's what we've always wanted but were denied because we never got it right. Or the stars just weren't aligned. The Herbstreit revelations. The drama over Les Miles. Lettermen factions. The seduction and jilting of Rich Rod. Hoke's "This is Michigan" dream season that deteriorated into a nightmare by 2014. Player discipline issues. The sheer madness of Dave Brandon. Every single moment of all that insanity got us to 12:00 noon today. When Jim Harbaugh will become Head Coach of Michigan Football. (I can't stop saying that.)

I know it could take some time. I don't expect miracles, though he's already managed one for me. He's given me hope when I thought we were beyond it. I feel excited for Michigan Football again based on nothing more than just the thought of him on the sidelines taking charge. And if I shed a little tear watching or listening to his press conference, it will be the first one I shed in joy over Michigan football since 1997. I'm no longer comfortable being numb. 

It's time to torch that dirty, ragged old cloak of indifference and put on my best maize and blue again. 

We. Are. Back. Long reign The Harbaugh. Hail to the Victors indeed.


  1. Excellent post. When Coach Harbaugh stands and says he'll work hard, we can believe it since QB Harbaugh put his heart into it, and we can expect the same from Coach Harbaugh. And dammit, in our hearts Ufer is looking down and proclaiming "God bless your cotton pickin' Maize and Blue heart, Coach Harbaugh."

    And that's just what we needed to hear.
    That and I'd rather be in Ann Arbor.

    M BA '88, M JD '91

    1. Thank you, Steven! I think of Ufer saying that exact phrase all the time... and I get still get goosebumps! If this hire is as epic as I believe it to be, our cotton pickin' Maize and Blue hearts are going to be pounding with excitement! Go Blue and Happy New Year!