Monday, August 31, 2015

Rip Van Wolverines - The Long Dark Sleep is Over

This is weird. I just woke up and feel like I've been having a Rip Van Winkle kind of Long Dark Sleep - I understand that it's 2015 and I've been deep in football dreams and nightmares for nearly nine years. The last thing I recall was Ohio State and Michigan being ranked #1 and #2 and about to challenge each other head-on for that top spot. Lloyd Carr had his team ready but Bo insisted on giving the Wolverines a special motivational speech. It was electric. I hadn't been so excited and confident for a game in a long time. And then, I don't know what happened, but my Michigan memory disappeared into a strange world where things happened in Ann Arbor that just don't occur in any reality I ever experienced at the university. I've heard from others that had a similar sleepy loss of time and place and memory. Maybe there was something in the air, like Dorothy in the poppy fields of Oz or contrails from aircraft whose owners, likely from East Lansing or Columbus, had nefarious plans for the Maize and Blue faithful. We'll never know. Bo's lifting up the team one minute. Jim Harbaugh's our coach the next. And there's the Dream Time in between.

I don't know what you remember from your dream sleep, but some key points from mine went something along these lines:
  • Before that 2006 game, Bo Schembechler left this world. This couldn't have been real because he's immortal to us. He's just off somewhere, getting served Big Macs by Elvis, awaiting his triumphant return, the Once and Future Coach.
  • Michigan adopted a spread offense and hired a guy named Rich Rodriguez who was from West Virginia and had no affiliation to the university at all. The greater Michigan family was divided and rancorous. To make it worse, the new guy tried to start new traditions. [Gasp] I know this to be impossible. Hire outside the extended Michigan family? Gimmicky spread offense? Dissent in the Michigan ranks. Not in a million years.
  • Then President Mary Sue Coleman hired a new Athletic Director, Dave Brandon, a businessman hawker of pizza and coupon mailers whose primary qualifications for the job were being a slick marketing guru, a former Regent and a little known football player for Schembechler. After a slew of uncharacteristic losing seasons [cue the heavenly sounds of Josh Groban's "You Lift Me Up"] he made Rich Rod go away. 
  • In no time, Brandon handed the coaching torch to a jovial unknown from SDSU, Brady Hoke. He looked like Fred Flintstone but he knew exactly what to say to seduce the Wolverine family. In dreams, you hear what you want to hear. He had a National Championship ring from the 1997 season of glory.  [Fade out Groban and fade into Pop Evil's infernal "In the Big House"] He understood Michigan was a place of "Tradition!" and didn't rock the boat. After going 11-2 his first season, I almost remember waking up. (This was a false memory - a dream within a dream, if you will.) And then things went a little hallucinogenic. Hoke apologized to MSU about some perceived slight involving a tent stake. Beyonce spoke to us at a half-time show. And Tom Harmon's sacred number was not only being worn, but getting ground into the turf behind the line of scrimmage with remarkable regularity. Tickets were being given away for buying a Coke or using a coupon at Meijer. Long-time attendance records were in danger of falling. The AD was telling fans to find another team via angry late night emails. The Alumni Association offered a membership Groupon.
STOP. I can't even recall this psychedelic break from reality without high anxiety. If it had really happened someone would have stepped in and put an end to it. Right?

Well, it's the ultimate relief to know that all of it was just a weird, horrific nightmare. I'm awake now and aware (fully!) for the first time since I blacked out of Michigan Football on November 17, 2006.

Sure, I'm sad to realize that Bo really is gone. I'm just glad I got to talk to him over beers a couple years before that day. I see Rich Rod winning at Arizona, Dave Brandon leading Santa's Elves at Toys 'R Us, and Brady Hoke enlightening listeners about high energy execution on Sirius radio -- as if nothing bad ever happened here at all.

And this Thursday, when Jim Harbaugh marches onto the field in Utah for his first game at the helm of the Wolverines, a new dream begins for all of us. It'll be a waking dream and will certainly have its share of twists and turns. Ecstatic highs and of course, some rough patches that may occasionally make us nervous about the return of the Long Dark Sleep. We all suffer a Michigan football fan's version of PTSD. But it won't come. 

Part of the Long Dark Sleep was preparing us for this moment and preparing our leader for his time. In this new dream, Bo isn't really gone. He's living on in Jim Harbaugh's head 24/7/365 - a testament to the lessons and wisdom imparted by the old legend to his long-in-coming rightful heir.There will be no excuses, no passing the buck, and above all, no apologies to anyone, especially our rivals in East Lansing and Columbus. Accountability. Execution. Dedication. Work. These words will be defined and upheld in ways none of the coaches of the Long Dark Sleep could realize here. 

So dream on, dear Wolverines, and enjoy the show.  Scene One, Act One on Thursday should be dramatic. And I think Team 136 can pull this one off. I can't begin to bet against Harbaugh in his opener. He may be coaching some of the same men who contributed to years of "Ls", but there's no way on Earth they're the same players.

Let the games begin. GO BLUE! 

No comments:

Post a Comment