It's So Hard/Easy to Say Goodbye

Something that year to year we pine for, that we count the seconds to, that we hope never ends, will come to a close in just 10 days.  It's been the kind of season that has had us all looking for the fast forward button.  Get me to 2009.  Get me to 2010.  Show me that the right decision was made.  But if we had access to that button, we would have missed that which has made us grow, to appreciate the past more than ever, to appreciate victory like never before.  If what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, then we endured life support from September 28th to November 7th.

If that date range was the meat, then this season was certainly sandwiched on a couple of nice pieces of bread.  The Wisconsin miracle, regardless of its statistical insignificance, meant something to all of us.  The claiming of the jug that with Minnesota off the schedule leaves it in Schembechler Hall until 2011 showed that this team is capable of manifesting a throwing out of the record books...and perhaps that things are moving in a direction more sideways than down.

A group of seniors that returned and endured despite the shift in leadership, that "stayed," will leave here without becoming what would be defined as "champions."  Without a bowl, they will end their careers earlier than any player in 33 years.  They now play for their younger brothers, for the future.  On Saturday, they will fight for the promise of a better day.  They will muster up the courage and the drive to inspire the underclassmen in their final contest as Wolverines at home.

Their opponent, whose rich tradition can be read in seconds in the "ring of bowl games" up in Ryan Field, will come to Ann Arbor as overachievers.  At 7-3, they have already qualified for the postseason Michigan cannot get to, and few expected them to be at this level this season.  The bowl game they play in will be their 7th...ever.  EVER.  And despite that fact, and despite Michigan's performance at the Metrodome, the Northwestern Wildcats will come in with all the confidence.  There is still a scent of Maize and Blue blood floating around The Big House, and everybody wants their piece of the seemingly weak Wolverines.  The Wildcats want revenge....for previous beatings, for being an afterthought in college football, for their lot in life.  They want to take away the last chance for these seniors to get the elusive third victory walk to the maize clad student corner of Michigan Stadium.  To sing the victors one last time, to feel the admiration of those who always wanted to believe in the present, and that believe in a future where just being in the presence of Michigan is worth a touchdown or two in fear points.

And that's why Saturday is so important.  It will be a send off for those who won't get to be a part of what we all believe will be something extraordinary, and that will play with the same vigor as if they never lost.