Saturday, September 01, 2007

The gathering storm

Eight months of emotional numbness and secular prayer are over.

It's been an evening for quiet thought and tranquility, as well as the following: a happy win for Ty Willingham against Syracuse in a season that may not be kind to him; rude ESPN interruptions for a failed no-hitter; and a Navy-Temple game.

There will be no going out on the night before kickoff.

The first bad dream came a couple of weeks ago. It was the start of the fourth quarter. Oregon was ahead 28-10. It was one of those dreams where you wake up reassuring yourself that it was only just a dream, and that the season hadn't even started yet, but still the stress is hard to shake.

Those dreams happen when a person's happiness and emotional well being are tied to the actions of college kids.

Warren St. John in Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer wrote about research finding that fans' testosterone levels rise after their team wins, but that the emotional fallout of a loss outweighed the emotional benefits of a victory. This is true, especially when the team is a perennial contender. The wins are less satisfying because they're expected. Even when the team wins, there's much to complain about: blown coverage, sloppy penalties, transparent playcalling. Michigan fans complain as much about the wins as the losses: it seems like last year's Ball State game inspired more post-game disgust than the losses to Ohio State and USC.

The losses can be almost cathartic. They're a reminder that you can face your worst fears and survive. The literal nightmares that come the next week -- about Spartan Bob, about the ball slipping out of A Train's wet hands -- are the price you pay for caring about something bigger than yourself.

The next time Michigan wins a national championship, the following day we'll start complaining about next year's disappointment.

And that's the scary thing about this season. Michigan has been painfully, exorbitantly hyped. There's already a bittersweet feeling about a last season for Henne, Hart and Long -- Michigan guys who seem like they've been there forever, who seem like they've been there since I was a freshman twelve years ago, like there's this sense of nostalgia for things that haven't even happened yet -- so strong that I feel tics of guilt when I get excited about Ryan Mallett and Sam McGuffie, like you're about to abandon the family for a new trophy wife. Knowing this program and having suffered PTSD based on events experienced via television, the enthusiasm needs to be tempered.

Throw in the Harbaugh blood feud, and there's even a sense that your program needs to avenge itself against its former (and formerly beloved) quarterback. The name of a football blog, Michigan Against the World, seems increasingly appropriate.

What's that, you say? Why am I being ornery on a day that begins three months that inevitably will include moments of unmitigated joy, cross-country travel, extreme socializing, hoarseness, sunburn, frequent-flyer miles, heightened testosterone levels, platonic kissing, head-butts, bruises, screeching, rolling around on floors, falling down, T-shirt acquisitions, early mornings, late nights, warm feelings and dehydration?

Co-blogger Flop, in a rare moment of insight, summarized it best. It was Ohio State week, less than 48 hours before Bo Schembechler died. The tension was already killing me: I wasn't doing much work that week. Flop wrote the following to a friend of ours in Ann Arbor:
Well, you could be one of those people who went to Tufts or Bryn Mawr or Williams or something. And tonight you'd feed the baby, pay some bills, maybe watch some TV, and then spend your Saturday shopping or running errands or maybe getting in some crocheting.

Instead, there's revenge in your heart and blood in your eyes. Sure, this isn't easier, but it lets you know you're alive.
Consider this post the insurance policy that I'm writing for my psyche.

Now that that's out of the way, in the famous words of some random dudes who screamed at some dumb chicks out of a window at Bursley:


This photo is framed and hangs in my apartment.

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