How’s everyone doing out there in the Off Tackle Empire? I’m sure you’re all in a great mood, because we’re coming to the conclusion of B1G 2018 with our review/preview of Michigan, the conference’s reigning power, whose week in this series always means the season is about to begin!
Hang on, now. The little calendar down there in the corner of my computer tells me it’s only the first week of June? Well that’s weird. Eh, must just be a scheduling snafu, there’s no way almost half of the conference had a better season than the ol’ Maize n’ Blue!
So look, it’s a real honor to be contributing directly to Michigan Week here at B1G 2018. Normally, the Friday morning of Michigan week is presumptively reserved for the lead Ohio State writer, but this year he said he had “better things to do than waste even my digital breath on a has-been program that’s looking up at Northwestern more often than not these days.” Ha, he’s probably just out recalibrating the countdown clock until The Game.
But this left me in a real predicament, as it’s a heavy burden to comment on the most successful and relevant program in the conference in the year 2018, the University of Michigan Wolverines. Fortunately, I have a wealth of material from Michigan week to guide my hand. In fact, my greatest inspiration came from none other than site founder LGHF’s Tuesday article. This perspective, coming from a lifelong Michigan fan, one who cared enough about that fandom to launch this site over a decade ago, should really help us all keep in mind what’s most important for college football teams:
Glamorous European vacations!
After all, who could forget Bear Bryant taking the 1963 Alabama team to Brussels? Joe Namath’s impassioned address to the European Economic Community is still credited with contributing to de Gaulle’s decision to block the UK’s entry into the common market, and we all know the tone that set in Francophone leadership of the EEC for the following decade, amirite? Roule la maree!
And had Knute Rockne and the Notre Dame football team not interceded on Leon Trotsky’s behalf during their barnstorming tour of the Soviet Union in 1927, Stalin may well have just had him executed then rather than deporting him.
Of course, students of college football remember John Heisman’s Georgia Tech team and their direct and prominent involvement in convincing the British war government to abandon the disastrous Dardanelles campaign in early 1916, just as his Yellow Jackets were hitting the peak of their dominance in the late 1910s.
What these lessons and so many others teach us, of course, is that history’s greatest football coaches have always prioritized making their charges into men of the world, into prominent ambassadors abroad, just as prominently as making them into winning football players. The one naturally follows the other and is in no way a headline-seeking distraction from the fact that your program hasn’t sniffed a division title, to say nothing of a conference or national version.
The modern world demands a savvy, new-wave approach, though, and Michigan’s embrace of new media has been second to none. Consider also the Amazon-produced series All or Nothing, a chronicle of the 2017 Michigan football season. First, tip of the hat to Amazon for nailing the choice of the team to follow.
How, indeed, would the impressionable young minds Michigan’s coaching staff is trying to reach learn the importance of adversity in the face of abject inability to get the thing you want most, as they did in the Ohio State episode?
Or of coming very close to achieving a goal but failing, as in the Wisconsin episode?
Or of the importance of foresight and adaptation to something as simple as a change in the weather, as in the Michigan State episode?
Or the value of being able to take a punch, and then another punch, and then several dozen more punches before collapsing in a bloodied heap, as in the Penn State episode?
These, gentle readers, are more valuable lessons than could ever be imparted through raising gauche trophies or living up to your inherited, unearned reputation. Michigan Football was, is, and will remain a lesson in humility in an age that needs more of it. And so, to Tuesday’s question, posed in headline form: is he [Harbaugh] winning? Brother, given how satisfied its fans are with all that he’s accomplishing, what can the answer to that question be?