It’s been called the worst season in the University of Michigan’s 129-year history and a slap in the face to the devoted hordes of students who bleed maize and blue each game, but I don’t buy it. This football season was much more than that. Though the team may not have produced the record most of us wanted this year, it still delivered unforgettable moments for its dedicated fans, and helped create a home for thousands of freshmen, like me, here at the University.
To put this in perspective for you, let me back up a couple months. This year my life in college as a freshman began with feelings of trepidation and anxiety. A new world existed inside the prodigious halls of the University and, in all honesty, I had no idea how I would adapt. I came to this school knowing just a handful of people and having graduated from a high school so small the entire student body could easily fit inside a couple of the lecture halls here. I no longer had the security of knowing every person I would see in my classes or the ability to identify every face I saw on any given day.
Back in high school, I was never an avid football lover, if truth be told. I went to my school’s homecoming game my senior year, but that was the extent of my interest. Thinking that wouldn’t change, I didn’t even buy season tickets when I came here. But amid the excitement and euphoria on campus, the first home game piqued my interest, and I decided to buy a ticket for the next game.
The intimidating aspect of walking into our stadium for the first time was lessened as new friends brought a feeling of reality and home to the University environment. With the stub in my pocket and my friends close by, I entered the Big House. The energy was unlike anything I had ever experienced. A vast sea of yellow blanketed the stadium while the ringing of cowbells and the enthusiastic sounds of the band permeated every seat of the stadium. Standing among thousands of students whose sole intention was to cheer with every fiber of their being is truly an incredible experience. And as you undoubtedly recall, this match-up against Miami (Ohio) gave us one of our few victories. That was one of the best days I’ve experienced at the University so far.
Despite a disappointing record, moments like the victories over Miami (Ohio) and Wisconsin demonstrate that this season did have some unforgettable high points. A 3-9 season — while admittedly not what anyone had been expecting — can never diminish that fact. I may only be a freshman and may have never experienced a “true” Wolverine winning season, but I still appreciate this year’s victories along with the team’s historic reputation. Call me naive, but it isn’t about how many games we won or lost, it’s about the times we spent crammed inside our great stadium rooting for our team.
Walking to the games clad in our gleaming maize shirts and cheering until our voices go hoarse from overuse is the true essence of Michigan football. Each Saturday when we parade into the Big House and continue our seemingly everlasting accomplishment of crowding over 100,000 people onto those benches, we continue the Michigan tradition. Every time we form the infamous “Z” by joining our thumbs and cheering on punter Zoltan Mesko, we continue the Michigan tradition. Our season’s record can never erase these memories.
I feel sorry for the seniors who must exit on this slightly sour note, but my sadness can’t go deeper than that. Winning season or not, we are the University of Michigan — a tradition of football excellence and legendary fan support. Next year will give us a new season and another chance to prove ourselves. Whether next year’s team is unstoppable or not, the students will stand proud and cheer until our voices escape us.
Matthew Shutler is an LSA freshman.