We’ve arrived at what I hope is the low point. After nine games, the Michigan football team has an un-Michigan-like 2-7 record. It’s an unprecedented and embarrassing record to say least, but perhaps it was an avoidable one.
Admittedly, I say that having been one of the boo birds, screaming for Lloyd Carr’s head. After the embarrassing Appalachian State loss I even signed a piece of plywood, an ad hoc petition to fire Carr. It was an emotional, knee-jerk reaction. But during the last few years of Carr’s tenure I refused to admit that it could be worse. My assumption that the 2005 season, which included an embarrassing loss to Minnesota at the Big House, was the worst Michigan could do was dead wrong. Now at 2-7, who among us wouldn’t take a 7-5 record and a trip to the Alamo Bowl this year?
With our new perspective, we may even admit that Carr wasn’t so bad after all. Though he made some avoidable mistakes, he still kept Michigan football in its place as one of the most successful programs in the country.
Since my world is dominated by politics and sports, I can’t help but draw a comparison: Carr’s tenure reminds me in a lot of ways of the current Bush administration. Of course, the parallels between politics and sports are tenuous at best.
But hear me out. When I think of the Bush administration, a few words come to mind: unsatisfying, frustrating, disappointing. Those were the same words I used to describe Carr’s years. In a way, I’ve been down this road before. I have plenty of issues with the Bush administration: its fondness for budget deficits, its failure to use overwhelming force in the first year of the war in Iraq, its unnecessary, massive bailout of banks.
Contrary to the alarmists, though, we aren’t in a depression. We haven’t been attacked by terrorists in seven years. And we certainly are still the most powerful nation in the world, both economically and militarily. In short, just as was true with Carr’s Wolverines, it could be worse.
In both situations an inspirational leader stepped in, promising sweeping change. For Michigan football it was Rich Rodriguez, who claimed the only way to continue the tradition of winning was to ditch the preceding system. Three yards and a cloud of dust was yesterday’s paradigm, and, therefore, it can’t work today. Sweeping and fundamental change is necessary to move Michigan from four to zero losses a year, Rodriguez said. Though the jury is still out on Rodriguez’s tenure, it doesn’t look like fundamental and sweeping change was prudent.
Into an America that is similarly craving change steps Barack Obama. He claims that the only way the United States can stay in its unique position as the leader of the free world is to radically change. The well-thought-out Obama paradigm? Bush equals bad. Therefore, the road to a more prosperous nation is to repudiate the Bush administration’s policies, foreign and domestic.
But in both scenarios, the specifics of those changes aren’t very clear. While we knew something like West Virginia’s spread offense was going to come to Michigan, we didn’t know Rodriguez would go whole hog with his system in the first year. While we know that Obama certainly has a much more liberal economic outlook than Bush, we also aren’t sure just how much more liberal that economic outlook is. To this skeptic, the murky Obama definition of rich ($250,000, $200,000 or $125,000 on any given day), plus his “spread the wealth” comment to Joe the Plumber hints that radical change could be coming.
Perhaps radical change is necessary, but that is rarely the case. If the current mindset is producing a consistently winning (if admittedly underachieving) program, why re-invent the wheel? Tweak it. Four years from now, we will have a similar vantage point on the next presidency as we currently have on the Rodriguez tenure. I just hope we don’t end up in the same boat twice.
It’s my hope that when voters go to the polls today, they don’t vote for change that they can believe in but vote for change they think will be beneficial for this great nation. If everyone does that, no matter who is elected tonight, America will be just fine.
Alex Prasad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.