ORLANDO, Fla. Sitting in my hotel room after the Florida Citrus Bowl, I was searching for a way to put a period at the end of this Michigan season.
I expected to spend the night recovering from New Year”s Eve. I wasn”t prepared to be dwelling on the worst bowl loss in Michigan history.
Was it so long ago that Michigan was on top of the world heading into East Lansing? Wasn”t it just a month and a half ago that Michigan was a home win against Ohio State away from the Sugar Bowl? Hadn”t Michigan won four straight bowl games, including two of the previous three Citrus Bowls?
But when my roommates had long since gone to sleep and staring at the wall got boring, I had it figured out. This was, quite simply, the most forgettable season of Michigan football that I could remember. It”s not a new thought, but it was enough to get me to sleep. Why bother dwelling on it, right?
They can”t all be great, and I can deal with that. Florida State was also 8-4 this season. Who”s to say that Michigan can”t fall to that level every once in a while. It”s not like great things were expected from this season. Most preseason predictions accurate 8-4, 9-3, somewhere in that neighborhood.
That worked for a little while. But I soon realized that I was taking advantage of a luxury I didn”t have. Most of us get four seasons as a student. I”ve used up three. I have just one left.
I”m not going to play the game where I get all self-righteous and claim that I deserved better from my team, because that”s just not true. Every team has down years I was just unlucky enough to get stuck with one of them. Students from years past have dealt with rough years, and I can guarantee the Wolverines of the future that they will, too.
But selfish or not, I can”t deny the attachment that I, and all the students at Michigan feel for this team. There are far more Michigan fans than there are students here this semester, but they all have a lifetime left of Michigan football I have a season left as a Michigan student.
It”s just that this idea is what makes college football so different from any other sport. As a college student, you feel a certain sort of ownership over your team. Their trials are your trials, their wins yours also. I know that I have an Mcard in my wallet which gives me the indisputable right to cheer for Michigan, usually one of the top teams in the country. When you enroll here, you don”t jump on the bandwagon or become a front-runner. The right to support is a given.
The Mets were in the World Series at the beginning of my sophomore year. I have been a Mets fan since I could pick up a mitt. I live just outside New York, and the 2000 World Series was the end of my first full season away from the area. But their success didn”t mean any less to me than it would have had I been home. It was a bit harder to find passionate people to watch with, but I cared just as much. I don”t tie myself to the New York area, I tie myself to the Mets.
But if Michigan wins the national championship in six years, it will be different for me. Sure, I”ll still be enthusiastic and excited, but it won”t be the same. I don”t see myself going as crazy as I did when Michigan beat Ohio State my freshman year, when it won the Orange Bowl on a missed extra point or even when the Wolverines beat Auburn in the Citrus Bowl last year. I tie myself more to the University than I do to the Wolverines.
This past football season was extremely disappointing for everyone who watched. But forgettable? Not a chance. I know that I”ll never forget watching the highs and miserable lows that this season brought.
The team? It will recover. It”s like offensive coordinator Stan Parrish said after the game: “You pick up, you go from here. The beautiful thing about this sport is next year, we start anew. We”ve got a new team and another year. You always get another chance.”
But not all of us, coach.
Jon Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.