563 days. 13,510 hours. 810,600 minutes. The exact length of time since Michigan balled up what remained of its dignity and tossed it in the rubbish bin like a urine-soaked Freep, beside Brady Hoke’s unopened headset and a novelty Tom Harmon jersey. Then they tongue-kissed Jim Harbaugh.
Michiganders across that decrepit state cooed and clucked and raised their doughy hands in praise. They welcomed the plague. “Bring on the wretched cure for our mediocre ills!” they shouted.
This is what it looks like when the abyss stares back.
Things weren’t always so desperate. It’s important that you kids know that. In the honey-tinted days of yore, Michigan football was a hallowed and noble institution. Sure, everyone hated them. They made up national titles based on the vote of three guys at an Odd Fellows hall. Bo couldn’t win a bowl game to save his less-than-Woody life. They gave us Desmond Howard—a death penalty offense in and of itself. The nylon-swaddled rabble from Flint and the head coach alike glorified the “Michigan man” in the same way your dad talks about his sporty Pontiac Fiero—a farce, but one honed to a buttery smoothness over years on the tongue.
Sure, Bo was a fraud, but he by God he was a fraud we could believe in.
The Michigan teams of decades past were the Big Ten’s own little IBM. Big, blue, and peddling an inferior product propped up by mythos and decades-old achievements. Hey, it’s great work if you can get it.
Now IBM is happy to be playing Jeopardy while Apple and Google run our lives, and Michigan is paying a neurotic twitter-fighting sociopath to sleep in teenagers’ houses. The new century is a cold and forbidding hellscape if you can’t see past your own winged forehead.
If I’m honest, I don’t even know what more to say about Michigan on my third go-around of the annual hate piece. At this point they’re a perpetual motion machine of self-mockery. Jim Harbaugh is their Norman Rockwell painting his own portrait in the mirror. Except it’s a $10 Cedar Point caricature. And he’s painting it with leftover garlic butter cups from Hoke’s under-desk Grab Bag o’ Condiments.
How do you even mock a team helmed by an unpainted clown in strip-mall pants that gives away tickets for the price of a loosey at a Dearborn Mickey Mart? That’s to say nothing of hiring a pizza shill to do for fan relations what Dominos chicken wings do to the good name of chicken and wings. I suppose they’re okay if you’re drunk (which is really more of a university president public speaking thing in Ann Arbor).
I’m a bit short of ideas at this point, as Michigan seems to be taking a page from the book of one B- Rabbit and doing the yeoman’s work of making fun of themselves for me. And like that story, this one also ends with a gaunt Michigan Man’s mouth agape in the Big House. It must be something in the water.
It occurs to me that Michigan has slid in something of a De Niro-esque period of gleeful nihilism. Remember Robert De Niro? He used to be a critically acclaimed actor. Taxi Driver. Casino. Goodfellas. Raging Bull. Even if you didn’t like the movie, you could at least respect the talent. Sometime around 2002, though, he looked in the mirror and said “F*** credibility…let’s get paid.” Then we met the parents. And the Fockers. And whatever the hell that Las Vegas movie was.
At least De Niro has the decency to not crow about his abandonment of basic dignity in our faces like some tin-foil badge of honor. He stuffs the hole in his soul with money and leaves us to enjoy our disgust. Michigan fans have no such standards. The slackened maws of the Walverines gape in wonderment at the shirtless manifestation of an under-used gym membership. They thump their chests at Michigan’s latest pre-season National Championship and tell us how his royal Harbaughness rebuilt Jake Rudock—a man barely alive—into the $6 Million Quarterback. Don’t you dare tell them different, or they’ll head right down to the public library and send you an email in which the majority of their epithets are not only physically impossible, but misspelled as well.
We stand on the verge of another season of Brent Musburger and his unctuous ESPN ilk swooning over the tenth consecutive resurgence of a program that’s been circling the drain since 2006. Can’t beat their rivals. Cheated their way past Minnesota. But oh the pageantry! Oh, the mystique! Oh, Michigan is so storied. So many wins. Such an ELECTRIFYING quarterback (not the one with the head injury…the other one)!
And so the Walverines will don their favorite synthetic fabrics, pop the T.J. Maxx price tags off with an Arthur Fonzerelli flick of the wrist, and swarm to that massive bedpan of a stadium. They’ll call MSU “Little Brother” and try in vain to think up something funny to say about Ohio State before yet another embarrassing shit-kicking by the Buckeyes (“hurr durr is Urban Meyer feeling sick yet?”).
No quarterback? Mediocre running back? Spittle-spewing crybaby coach who hasn’t won a single championship in any college league? Sounds like a preseason B1G favorite, folks. Hell, why not a Natty? This isn’t just any old team we’re talking about here. This is MICHIGAN. This is the team of Shoelace. This is Mike Hart’s big brother program. This is the home “aware but not fully aware.” This is the house that Harbaugh built. And then slept in. In a teenager’s bedroom. And then hired that teenager’s mom to be...a mom. For six figures. And then got in a twitter fight with the neighbor.
Folks, if that ain’t how you build a football program, I don’t know what is.
Oh, hey Michigan folks, don’t think I’m all hate and vitriol. I still look out for you! I found your hallowed 1997 National Title trophy in Brady Hoke’s old desk. It looks like part of it is missing, though.
I kid! I kid! Hoke would never leave a donut uneaten. He’d give it to a student for attending a Michigan game.
In closing, let me say that I would rather Alabama and Navy trade national Championships for the next 50 years than for Michigan to win the Big Ten once. Why? Because f*** Michigan now, f*** Michigan tomorrow, f*** Michigan for-ev-er.