No matter how old we get, and how hard we try to convince ourselves that sports are just a game, it just isn't so.
I've spent the last few years disassociating myself from things like recruiting coverage, at first because I found myself increasingly irked by the nature of it all; after all, I'm now older than the oldest Michigan football player on the roster. But, on a more practical level, grad school this past year has cut into my time by a significant amount, so that I almost didn't have a choice to pay attention or not.
With school and the job hunt occupying my mind (and the Chicago Blackhawks' run to another Stanley Cup), this was an oddly detached offseason for me. In years past, an injury to a player like Jake Ryan would have sent me into a frenzy of panic. This time around, not so much. Maybe the "he'll be ready by October" prognosis lessened the blow, but I think a growing acceptance of entropy has more to do with it.
Other than using the occasional one-sentence paragraph (I know, I know), the best thing Medill has taught me over the past year is this: Get to the point.
I haven't been very good at that over the years. For anyone that has read this blog, I have a tendency to, shall we say, expound a bit too much. I mean, this is just football, right? Should I really be writing 2,000 words or more about people I've never met?
I don't know anymore. Maybe that's okay, maybe it isn't. In any case, it's something I think about now that I didn't think about before. I don't know if it can be described as a creeping cynicism about the state of things--the issue of pay-for-play, the NCAA's nonsensical defense of a student-athlete model that is for the most part a serious oddity, the increasingly inescapable sleeper hold of money--but things aren't as they once were in many respects. This is not a bad thing; it is always good to question things. Say what you will about the journalism industry today, but if there is one trait we can all agree upon as the foundation of good journalism (or even good thinking, generally), it is the existential need to question anything and everything.
For the first time in a while, this offseason came and went without much consternation from me. The month of August, as always, is a time warp in and of itself, with days becoming weeks and weeks becoming years...but everything before that
I guess I'm not doing a very good job of getting to the point. Perhaps that is because I don't know what the point really is. I've sat around looking at the schedule, calculating satisfying scenarios in my head: 10-2 would be great, but what if both losses came to Michigan State and Ohio State? What about 9-3, with wins against the aforementioned foes and losses against, say, Notre Dame, Penn State and Northwestern (or Nebraska)? Would that be any better?
I don't know, but thinking about this sort of thing inevitably boomerangs back to one basic thought, one that I've expressed in some form here countless times: college football (and any sport, really), are about people and moments. Years from now, Michigan's 8-5 season will be but a vague memory, a historical footnote. But, Roy Roundtree's catch against Northwestern, Devin Gardner's pyrotechnics against Minnesota and Iowa, Denard Robinson's touchdown run at the Horseshoe...these are moments that will forever live on.
As a 24-year-old pseudo-adult, that's really all I find worth grabbing hold of in this game. The outcome is beyond our control, of course, but the curation of those outcomes is not.
Will Fitzgerald Toussaint bounce back to his 2011 form? I don't know, but I'll enjoy watching him try.
Will Devin Gardner live up to the offseason hype and build upon his 2012 run as the starter? I don't know, but I'll enjoy watching him try.
Will Brady Hoke keep Michigan undefeated at home as Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State roll into Ann Arbor this year? I don't know, but I'll enjoy watching him try, pointing left and right at anything and anyone willing to be pointed in the right direction.
A mere 88 hours remains until the Wolverines run out onto the field again, the 134th iteration of Michigan football. This one will be different than the last, and the next one will not be this one, for better or worse. We have one opportunity to experience this team in its current form. With the constant roster flux of incoming recruits and saddening departures, it's often difficult to separate the macro from the micro.
If you take a step back, the big picture becomes clear, imperfections and all. A clean slate beckons, calling for eyes and ears. Once the old season is over, the slate is cast among the rest, a dusty pile of slowly disintegrating memories.
It's always freshest at the beginning; when the banner is touched on Saturday, so begins a race against time.