Monday, November 06, 2006

stop your sobbing

Standing at the podium afterward, LaMarr was asked “Did this feel at all like last year, with losing the lead at the end?” And involuntarily his puffy eyes – no doubt dried and bloodshot from the anguish we want each of our idols to feel when something goes wrong – glared down at him, as if appalled that a flawless season, cobbled together only with the team’s own unflinching confidence and the sullen loyalists’ rectified optimism, could be reduced to “last year”, when Michigan slowly amputated all that we love about this game with a dull razor blade and a sheet of sandpaper. Then in an instant the notion that this team had earned immunity was scorched to ash by the flames that had inspired them to win 10 games in the first place.

Had he grumbled something close to “no,” the entourage of adoring journalists before him would have lauded the defense just the same a day later – his defense had earned it, of course, and coaches will always be vilified before the players; he was innocent if he wanted to be. But in a brief moment of introspection, LaMarr realized that sitting in the shadows only made the Truth more lethal later on; like, perhaps, November 18th, when there’s never anywhere left to hide. “A little bit…A little bit,” he said, with each syllable cleansing his team of last season’s sins – the courage to be honest brings progress. Last year he saw that his team had become the same one every Michigan team since ‘97 thought they had a right to be. Memories of the mythical Charles Woodson were smeared across Michigan’s legacy like lingering cave paintings of an indomitable prehistoric tribe, immortalized by a transcendent king.

Michigan has always had a reputation of vast significance, leaned on like an oak walking stick; leaned on for so long it rotted into a splinter and gorged the hand of this program, only to go untended and finally become infected somewhere in downtown San Antonio late last December. No more than a second and a half passed between the reporter’s question and LaMarr’s answer, but he had to be thinking about that. Or maybe, in the most satisfying solution of all, he had already been thinking about it; for hours, for weeks, for months – because deep down, our greatest fear is that the athletes we root for do not care about the game as much as we do. I’ve seen this team play, I’ve seen it win, and I can’t say I feel like it’d lie to me.

For four three years LaMarr played for a Michigan team that never brought him anywhere but just short of where he wanted to be – a championship; the elite; the only place we’d ever settle for. And so LaMarr spoke not like a man who was content surviving in spite of Michigan’s errors, but one that would be motivated to change because of them. Michigan is 10-0 now – peculiar to see, but Michigan has been playing every Saturday since September 2nd and they have not lost a single game – and LaMarr’s left with just three more games. No, not in the sense that he needs to savor them, but that he has just three more games he needs to win. “But, you know,” he said gratefully. “Last year we lost the game…this year we won.”

And I’ll be damned if I let anything but those last four words change how I feel about this team. I live an ordinary life; I have simple pleasures. I like girls in my bed, milk with my cookies, and Michigan to win every single game it plays. It’s a bit of a shame to say that my life revolves around four months a year, the anticipation before them, and the mourning after them, but I couldn’t tell a lie so blatant as to say Michigan’s football team isn’t what really makes an ordinary guy want to wake up in the morning. I’ve read the words of hundreds who can find nothing but trifling flaws in this team – “disaster looms,” they say. And then Michigan wins another game. There’s no harm in objectivity, but by now what good does pessimism do? At a certain point you just stop worrying about the meteor in the sky, sit quietly, and hope you’re still alive after it crashes into the earth. It seems to me as if the pessimists keep waiting for this team to be exposed, almost angry that it hasn’t happened – because it will happen, they think, and the longer it takes, the more their desire swells to fucking believe in it. I’ve spent years waiting for a team that could continually inspire faith week after week, a team that could stand in front of the same podium so many failed heroes have stood in front of, and convince me that a winning is all I had to fucking care about – the hows and whys were unimportant, and they’d make sure they remained so. I guess I stopped waiting two months ago; I was positive I had it at Notre Dame.


Blogger Maize n Brew Dave said...

Great stuff Johnny.

8:57 AM  
Blogger swindlerjackson said...

I too was positive I had it at ND. And I'm positive we'll finish it.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Johnny.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Johnny...

You should try instilling this same school pride that I share with you, to those jack asses at Mzone (great articles but yup definitely pessimists).

Johnny for President!

Go Blue!

12:15 PM  
Blogger JosiahQ said...

Damn Johnny. I believe.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Easy guys. It's obvious the MZone fellas are simply venting some nervous frustration over our boys' flat performances of late. They are as true Blue as any of us, and they've never taken any personal digs at any of the kids. How many of you were actually in the stadium and witnessed that debacle first hand? It was UGLY and embarrassing. Every player in that locker room would agree with that statement.
At any rate, here's an interesting tid bit: Michigan covered the point spread in their first 8 games, but failed to cover it the last 2 weeks.
I know this doesn't mean squat, and actually, I'm quite impressed that they covered the first 8 in a row. The last two games, anyone who knows anything about Lloyd would've known that the Wolverines weren't going to cover those huge point spreads.
They do need to get their breakdowns in pass coverage fixed, though. I was in the stadium for that last 85-yard drive by BSU versus our starters, and it wasn't pretty. The next two weeks will tell us whether or not that was just an isolated hiccup or a harbinger of doom.
I was also bummed that when BSU closed the lead to 8, our offense couldn't respond with a score or even a first down. Michigan got the ball twice with that 8 point lead and had to punt it back to BALL STATE (!) both times. Again, I hope that was a hiccup and not a harbinger.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Kenny said...

Actually anon, Michigan did not cover the first two games against Vanderbilt and Central Michigan. Central was actually the only undefeated team ATS in the country until last weekend.

Great stuff as always Johnny.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Michigan fan after my own heart. Although we hail from opposite ends of that great spectrum that is Ohio State/Michigan, I too, look each week for that team that can stand before the podium, that great podium of heroes, tradition and for me, fallen "victors valiant" and remind me that yes, winning is all I fucking care about.

(and that maybe sometimes, a sentence like that last one, absurd to those who don't understand, is completely acceptable to those of us who do.)

Keep up the great prose. I was beginning to think that the M Zone represented all Michigan Fans. It's good to see that there is still an opponent to the North worthy of our time and respect.

I look forward to that titanic matchup in November that is Ohio State vs. Michigan. I only hope that on that glorious day it will be my "eleven warriors" who will stand before that podium and bask in the transcendent light of this historic moment.

With all due respect, "Go Buckeyes!"

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Wolverine" website has the spread wrong for the Vandy and CMU games.
The Vandy spread was actually -25.5, and the CMU spread was actually -28. Michigan didn't cover either, and that's fine by me. Lloyd rarely allows his team to lay it on an overmatched opponent. He doesn't, however, have any problem putting 38 and 26 point BEATINGS on the Domers!!

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alrite johnny...

7:22 PM  

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