Teach Me to Trust You Again...For the First Time

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.

This is why I enter every game expecting Michigan to screw something up, to miss field goals, to fumble punt returns. This is why I enter every season expecting to lose games that we shouldn't. I didn't used to be this way. Recalling Michigan's victory in 2003 over the Buckeyes, I was a confident fan...hell, even downright poetic:
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.
Wowsers. Old me would stare new me down and call me a bad fan.

It would be so cliche to say that Saturday's win over the Cornhuskers changed everything. Honestly, Nebraska is not that good (see home loss to Northwestern), and they did everything possible to hand us that game on a silver platter. But it did change some things, like the current perception of Michigan Football. And I've said it 1000 times, there is no place in the world where perception is reality more than in college football. Michigan has one many-a-game before they were played over the years by way of the name, the helmet, the jersey, the tradition, the reputation.

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.