It's not supposed to be like this. Tuesday is here and I'm uninspired. I've lost some of the faith in a system I believed in. I've cringed at the last few press conferences. Maybe I don't have the stomach to be the last guy flying the "keep Rich Rod" flag. Maybe it's time to move on. What's weird about the whole thing, is that the season has pretty much gone the way I expected it to. But now that it has happened, I feel differently, and I'm not sure why. It might just be that I've seen more losses in these three years than ever before. It might be the way the defense is so perfectly inept, giving up huge chunks of yards on plays that these teams have been running for 30 years. It might have been that 24-0 halftime score on senior day in a newly renovated Big House.
All the discussions this week are centered around the future...the distant future. Will he be back for a 4th year? Will Denard leave with him if he's fired? What if he lets Greg Robinson go...is that enough "quid pro quo" between a head coach and a former player turned AD? And in the midst of all of that, somehow we snake oiled a running back recruit right out from under Notre Dame. Weird.
But there was a time, not so long ago, when this week was about something else. It was at this time of year that I would find myself consumed with hatred. I'd think about the history, the stuff "before my time," like how Woody Hayes went for two because he couldn't go for three. Or when the Big Ten sent Ohio State to the Rose Bowl after the tie game in 1973...and how MSU was the deciding vote in a cowardly secret ballot that Bo would later uncover. Then there were the things I remember first hand, like being disrespected when they made us 17-point underdogs in 1996 (we showed 'em), or when David Boston got in Woodson's face in the '97 game (we showed 'em again). Mistakingly passing through the OSU tailgates while visiting Columbus in 2000 and being pelted with raw hot dogs...having a 80+ year old women flip me off and tell me to "get the fuck out of (her) town" in 2002...that OSU student that attempted to steal my Michigan hat from off of my head in 2004...
Anger. Hatred. Rivalry.
That was then. With each passing year since 2003, I've felt more and more like Andy Dufresne fighting the Sisters. In fact, I can almost hear Morgan Freeman's voice summarizing the next iteration of Michigan-Ohio State:
I wish I could tell you that Michigan fought the good fight, and the Sisters let them be. I wish I could tell you that, but Columbus is no fairy-tale world.
How do I get that fight back? How do I get angry? It's almost sacrilege to ask the question, but....how do I get fired up for Michigan-Ohio State? The residents of Columbus don't even care anymore. They've become downright nice over the past few years. Long gone is the animosity built on ruining their collective lives in '95. '96, and '97, and the times when we considered renting cars in Toledo with Ohio plates to avoid state troopers and increase our chances of survival.
A couple trips back, somebody actually stopped by our car and said "Welcome to Columbus." That's the reality of this rivalry. It's closer to a punchline to anyone under the age of 23.
There is only one way to get that fight back. Strip everything out of the equation...the coaching controversy, the pros and cons of a spread offense in the Big Ten, the 3-3-5 defense, the 2500+ days since we last beat them, the past, the future, that stuffed animal GERG rubbed on Demons...and make it just about Michigan and Ohio State. Winged helmets, white jerseys, and maize pants. Buckeye-laden gray helmets, scarlet jerseys, and gray pants. Us. Them.
Winning may not fix everything, but it will fix Saturday. And for now, that has to be enough.