It’s about playing till it gets dark and then not having to stop. When dinner ends up getting cold because the fourth quarter’s happening and Steve Breaston just returned your last chance to midfield. Or guys like Mr. 86, chasing a touchdown pass 33 yards down the sideline like he was trying to catch the last train out of town to see a girl back home.
It’s about freshmen defensive backs sitting atop the stadium’s brick walls, conducting a symphony of 110 thousand behind them who don’t seem to care about mid terms and Mondays.
It’s about scoring 27 when the other team scores 25, and the eight year old you watched it with. It’s thinking about switching to the other game between commercials, and then throwing the remote someplace else to make sure you don’t miss anything.
It’s the girl who broke your heart, and what four quarters, three hours and a 5’8’’ running back can do about it.
You see, I don’t really think they’re about champagne and cigars and all the things you’re supposed to do when you celebrate. You can’t prepare for the best things in life anyway. It’s about wide receivers and quarterbacks, and carrying them on your shoulders when they win games you’d given up on. It’s hearing the words “Another classic in Ann Arbor today,” and jumping out of the shower before you have a chance to dry off to go watch the highlights again, because when you have the winning lotto ticket you always check the numbers a hundred times.
It’s about watching the game in the clothes you woke up in, and going back to bed the same way. It’s about the guy stuck on a plain to Minneapolis to cover pre-season basketball, and the six figures you’d trade for a basement a couch and a Michigan comeback. It’s about bedroom floors and laps and long drives home, and all the places you’ll tell your kids about the time Michigan made everyone forget a little bit about the year they weren’t so good.
But what I can’t explain is why this game meant so much. I remember when I was eleven and saw Michigan for the first time from a bar stool in Long Island, when the bartender had seen me standing long enough and just told me to sit down. When Charles Woodson beat Ohio State and decided to return a punt 78 yards and win the Heisman.
I remember the night before I moved into the new house, when I saw David Terrell catch three touchdowns against Alabama like he’d forged his birth certificate and managed to sneak into a Pop-Warner game; the Rose Bowl in ’98, when Ryan Leaf kept looking around for a 61st minute that wasn’t there. When Lloyd called him Charles and no one knew who C-Wood was.
And still for some reason those games weren’t close to yesterday. They were in some other zip code that doesn’t have any idea where yesterday was. It wasn’t watching Steve Breaston return that last kickoff, it was looking down at my brother and remembering to exhale. And when I saw the clock it wasn’t 50 seconds before they lost, it was 50 seconds until they won.
I don’t claim to have a relationship with a higher being, and it’s been a while since I saw the inside of a church, but if heaven’s an eternity of all that, I should probably try and get in someone’s good graces. This could be what happens after six weeks of lowering my standards, but I think it was more than just lifting the season from the depths of mediocrity. It was holding on to what Saturday meant and not worrying about all the games that come after it.
I'm not sure what I’ll be thinking a month from now, but yesterday I saw them win a game in October, and for now that’s good enough.