I once heard Paris Hilton talk about cargo pants and say that people in the midwest wear them because they have to...because they all work on farms. I found it to be amusing that she was so out of touch with reality. I mean, I am technically a midwesterner. I don't wear cargo pants because I work on a farm, I wear them because they have pockets that hang further away from my tailgate belly. My tailgate belly and child-bearing hips could, at any time, crush my iphone 5 if it were in the regular top pockets. And then I wouldn't have Siri. So who would I talk to when I had a question?
The reality is, there is a midwest like the one Paris thinks she knows. And it's in Nebraksa. The residents of Lincoln, or "city-folk," seem as if they were plucked from a Norman Rockwell painting, with perhaps a bit more flannel. They’re fresh off the farm. Seemingly happy in the little place that they’ve dug out for themselves, their level of politeness was downright uncomfortable, and they were genuinely happy to have us come to their town, as if they hoped that during our visit we’d share what the world is like outside of Lincoln, or show them some new piece of technology, like a laserdisc player…or indoor plumbing. Walking around the city on gameday, multiple tailgates in multiple areas wanted to provide us with beers for our walk. Prior to the game, members of our group were offered tickets, for free. And when we said we had tickets, they offered to swap our tickets with theirs so we could perhaps have better seats, and then we could go and sell our own to get some money. This is not a joke. This is not an exaggeration. That’s what the guy said.
They barely booed when we took the field. They were almost silent in victory outside the stadium after the game. A Nebraska fan and his wife stopped me on my slow dejected walk to the car and said that “it wasn’t fair” because he came all the way to Lincoln to see Denard and Denard got knocked out in the first half. I’m guessing when he said he came all the way to Lincoln, that it was less than 50 miles away…but a good three days journey by stagecoach.
In short, it was like another planet. Columbus folk know that there’s things going on outside of their inbred infested hell hole, they’re just too stupid to put together a plan to get out and see the rest of the world. Nebraska fans, and I say this with all due respect to a fanbase that treated me so well, seem to ignore the fact that the outside world exists. It’s a different kind of dumb. Safer for us as travelling fans, but very strange to experience.
Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. Ever heard of a Runza? They sell them in the stands like hot dogs. It’s a baked bread pocket with meat, onions and cabbage in it. They’re everywhere in Lincoln, and you’ve never heard of them. They have a microbrew lineup, but it is universally served as the microbrew lineup in all of the bars. They have several restaurant chains that are only chains within the greater Lincoln-Omaha area. They even stole the Tilted Kilt concept and rebranded it as their own. It’s like a parallel universe.
And I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy myself, or that the food or the beer or the people weren’t good. It was just, well, weird. Maybe I was in the wrong part of town. Maybe I’m so bitter over the rest of the places I’ve travelled to in the Big Ten and the asshats that have engaged me and my cohorts in every possible rude way you can think of. I guess i'm just taken back by the fact that we had a game at 8pm in hostile territory and had no incidents. None. So, thank you Nebraska? I think that's what I'm supposed to say. Just stop touching me when you thank me for visiting.
There was also a game. It was painful most of the way, obviously more so once we lost Denard. Russell Bellomy wasn't ready for this. You can chalk it up to receivers dropping balls, or nervousness, or not being able to find a rhythm. Doesn't matter. The contingency plan for a fallen Denard was not in place. And the blame for that is on the staff. If there's one thing we know about Denard, it's that he gets knocked out of games with some regularity. This season it hasn't happened much, and I think we got comfortable with him. Comfortable enough to push the Devin Gardner experiment to a point where he hadn't taken a snap at QB in weeks. He couldn't come in when Bellomy fell flat. He hadn't practiced.
I'm not sure if Denard is really going to play this weekend. But I am certain he will be knocked out of a game again at some point down the road. I'm sure that Bellomy will be better when he next appears, and I'm sure that Devin will be ready to jump in too. But that's too little, too late. Our defense performed admirably, and was taken to its limits. They kept it within reach. That game was winnable, and would have had us firmly in the driver's seat for a trip to Indy. Now we need help to get there, and that help will mean nothing if we slip up again. We left ourselves with no room for error because we were not prepared.
I'm like a dog that has been beaten so many times that the mere raising of a hand sends me away cowering. I've been hurt too many times to count. Outside of Bloomington and the Metrodome, I've watched Michigan lose a football game in every Big Ten venue, as well as four times in the Rose Bowl (one of those being a regular season game against UCLA), the Capital One/Citrus Bowl, the Alamo Bowl, Washington, Oregon, and a bunch of other places....not to mention the crushing defeats I have endured at home.
For the losses that occurred from 1998 through 2006, I expected to win every one of those games. I went into each of those meetings with confidence that Michigan would just be Michigan, and would come out on top. But something changed when Bo died before The Game in 2006. Bo died on Friday, and we lost on Saturday. We lost the chance to go to the national championship game. We lost our undefeated season. And we lost the chance to honor our most revered coach with a victory over a Buckeye team that had defeated us for two consecutive seasons, which at the time was about as long as streaks had gone for the Buckeyes against Michigan. That was five years ago, and we still haven't won.
This is where my bitterness comes from.
It's not from the Rodriguez years, which were themselves horrifying in so many ways, it was that two-loss finish. That Ohio State game and that Rose Bowl to end the 2006 campaign. And it was the writing was on the wall. The two games that started 2007 (App State and the Oregon blowout) just threw more gasoline on the fire. By the time we made it to Orlando to defeat Tebow that year, I had already reached a level of bitterness that didn't even allow me to enjoy it.
The rising sun broke the horizon as I loaded the last of the tailgate equipment into my car. It was a brisk and mostly cloudy morning. This is one of those games where the tailgate is just something you need to get through. I exchanged a few salutations and a 'Go Blue' with the families of Grant Bowman and Andy Mignery, expressing cautious confidence verbally, while maintaining the utmost confidence mentally in the team which I follow with unwavering passion.
That will start to happen again.Saturday also changed me a bit. It made me look at myself and wonder why I gave my team absolutely no chance to win that game, why I was waiting for the screw-up, the turnover, the big play that let Nebraska back into the game. I look away when we kick field goals, and when I did so on Saturday I missed Hoke's fake field goal call and Dilleo's slashing run that executed it and sent a message to Nebraska: We are leaving no doubt.
All of that worry. All of that snarkiness...instead of appreciating the fact that we dominated a team. A team with a mobile quarterback. A team with a power running game. A team with a power defense. Three historical recipes for disaster that Michigan took head on and threw back in their face.
And now The Game is all that is left. A bruised and beaten Buckeye squad, ripe with the stench of controversy, full of bitterness, looking to salvage an entire season at our expense. It can't happen. It won't happen. I want to step on their throat. I want to curb-job them American History X style. This is not about 8 long years of waiting to beat Ohio. This is not about serving justice for their crooked program and illegal players. This is about today. This is about 2011. The revisionist Buckeye faitful used to like to pretend that Ohio State football history started with Tresselball...and that time is dead. A new history starts Saturday. A history that starts at noon and ends with me making reservations for New Year's in New Orleans.
42 Big Ten Championships. 132 years of Michigan Football. Beat Ohio.And leave no doubt.
News comes at you pretty fast these days. Remember when you returned home from a day at the office, flipped on the 6pm Sportscenter, and got an update on the days events in the world of sports? Not so much anymore. The deuche with the Michigan State pennant push-pinned to his cubicle wall likes to artfully time his stride to catch you on the way to the shitter, just to let you know that he heard Tom Izzo talked to Judd Heathcote and he told Judd he's not making any decisions until he finds out if LeBron is going to stay in Cleveland. Guess what fuckstick? I've got a smartphone too. Oh, and all the computers here have internet access. Also, I don't give a shit. I mean, of course I'd like to see Tom Izzo to go to Cleveland, both because I think he would poop the bed in the NBA, and because I love to see coaches leave Michigan State. Michigan State is not a destination...it's a layover. Nobody is looking to reach the pinnacle of their career at Michigan State. Plus, I would just LOVE to see the reaction over there in Little Brother Land.
Anyway, I was talking about news, and how fast it is...like Demar Dorsey fast. I wish we could see how fast that is in Maize and Blue. Alas, all of our arguments on whether we should have offered Demar a scholarship were just a giant waste of time. I can't help but be a little bit concerned about how this all transpired, it makes us look a bit Notre Dame-ish. But hey, if we've got some kind of standards, and those standards are used across the board, then I guess this is the right thing to do. Right for who? I'm not sure. It's a losing situation for a kid trying to turn his life around, it's a losing situation for the football team's secondary, it's a losing situation for football recruiting since we come off as elitist...but it's a win for, um, academic integrity. So there's that. I just wish this didn't come off as another instance of poor communication with Rich Rod. He's gotta feel like he's got a bit of egg on his face yet again.
And ya, it's been a while since I've written a post. It's been a long strange journey of logo infractions and front page viruses and what-not here at UMTailgate.com. There's also been some massive outbreaks of blog laziness with a side of indifference. Because as each day passes, it seems as if there is something new and disappointing. Something anti-Rod, or at least something quirky and Rod-related. A bad story here,a stupid poll there. These things have to be building up over at casa de Rodriguez. Long story short, though I so desperately want him to be, I don't think Rich Rodriguez is going to be the coach here by the time we get around to playing Nebraska in-conference. Which means before long, we will go back to being slow, methodical, and predictable. I hope I'm wrong.
Speaking of Nebraska, I google-mapped the route from Ann Arbor to Lincoln, and it's like 750 miles. That's the Metrodome plus 100 miles. So if the rumors are indeed true, it looks like we've definitely got a destination we're going to need to fly to. Though I'm not 100% confident in the validity of the news that the Cornhuskers are joining us, I am 100% fired up at the prospect of something different. And if it turns out to be true, I hope that isn't the end of it. 12 is cool, but 16 is better, so let's get Mizzou and ND in here, and let's not give up on that Texas-Texas Tech combo. Blow the whole thing up.