Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend in the Big House

The call went out. The faithful returned to Ann Arbor. The Wolverine Nation poured through DTW. This is the year. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, execs, parents, children, grandparents, all answered the call. They came. They knew. They believe.

The team believes.

The cry, the chant, the call, two simple, but powerful words: BEAT OHIO.

Even the Columbus Dispatch knew. They dropped the clock.

The stadium was a sea of maize and blue – not the blurry scarlet and gray of 2 years ago. 114,132 in Michigan Stadium, the Big House. Less than 10,000 Buckeyes. BEAT OHIO.

The forecast was rain -52% chance of rain. And yet they came.

Michigan-Ohio State, Wolverines versus Buckeyes, the greatest rivalry in sports could not descend to the level of the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals. Ohio State wanted to win, but the Wolverines had to win. 2926 days were 2926 days too many. Only one win in ten years.

The two schools hate each other, but they need each other. Hence, the mutual respect.

The sun broke through for a few minutes at kickoff and then hid behind the gray clouds. Were the football gods sending a message? But then the clouds broke and the blue shone for the 4th quarter. Go blue. Ohio State was doomed for this was the omen. The football gods had spoken: BEAT OHIO.

104,000 closest friends and neighbors in the Big House erupted into a continuous chant of The Victors, interrupted only by the PA system playing Sweet Caroline. The stands shook. The players knew. Michigan would beat both the Buckeyes and the officials. The scattered Buckeye fans could only woefully look on. Michigan, unlike Notre Dame, was not going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The two worthy opponents marched up and down the field. No quarter was asked, and none given. The Buckeyes played their hearts out, but it was not to be. They were destined to lose this fall day. Michigan pasted 40 points on Brutus, the most since 1946.

The Best Damn Band in the Land played its loudest to cheer on the Buckeyes, but its sounds were muffled in the home of The Victors. BEAT OHIO, not Carmen Electra roared through the stadium.

Four Buckeye cheerleaders plaintively cried out "Go Bucks." The deafening chorus responded "Go Blue."

This was more than a game, more than the annual clash between two intense rivals. This game was not for the national championship; nor the Big Ten title. Not even a trophy. It was more than that. This game is the rebirth of Michigan football.

The nation’s winningest football program was in a malaise, just as in the 1960’s. An attempt to rebrand Michigan football failed, as miserably as had the New Coke.

The Wolverines had been declawed and defanged. Jim Tressel was doing to Michigan what Woody Hayes did 5 decades earlier. The hallowed grounds of Harmon, Carter, Howard, Woodson, and Brady were desecrated.

The sins of Appalachian State and Toledo had to be expiated.

Every major program has its lows. Texas is hurting now. Notre Dame has fired every coach since Lou Holtz retired in 1996. USC was suffering until Pete Carroll arrived. Nebraska had similarly tried to remake itself. Alabama, LSU, and Oklahoma went through football droughts.

But this is Michigan. Appalachian State was a debacle, and the spread without defense and blocking is a failure. The buzzards were circling. Michigan had to rid itself of the albatross.

The great university survived the collapse of Detroit and the Michigan economy, but the football program was in systemic decline. Michigan, Notre Dame, and USC are great academic institutions, but football is in their DNA. Michigan is not Michigan, Notre Dame not Notre Dame nor USC USC without football.

Time to return to the fundamentals – the team, defense, conditioning, the will, and a Michigan Man from Ohio. Bo in 1969 and Hoke in 2011. This is Michigan football.


So what if Tressel is out for cheating and lying. Michigan won.

So what if Pryor turned pro. Michigan won.

So what is Ohio State’s QB was a raw freshman. Michigan won.

So what if the Ohio State team was banged up. They lost.

So what if the Ohio State players had more tattoos. The Wolverines had more points.

History records the final score with no asterisk.

Tens of thousands stormed the field as the final seconds ticked off. No one left the stadium. This was the second coming of November 22, 1969.

10-2 with victories over Notre Dame, Nebraska, and The Ohio State University. The new genesis of Michigan football has begun.

THE VICTORS beat Ohio.

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