Hello, TBHR readers! I’m Kate, and I’ll be here this season recapping Michigan games for you in a mostly ridiculous fashion.
You may know me as “that girl on Twitter who likes capslock” or “that person who met her husband on ESPN.com.” (Yeah, that happened.) This season, though, you will mostly know me as “that one person in the fandom who has no expectations for Michigan.” I understand that this is controversial and that it probably annoys you, so I’m here, a week before the season begins, to explain myself.
Let’s start with the beginning.
I was born and raised in Wisconsin and spent my pre-college life in Madison. The badger brainwashing begins there somewhere around the 4th grade, when they take you to the capitol and teach you the University of Wisconsin fight song. I did not care about college football until I turned 18, kissed the dairy state goodbye, and headed to Ann Arbor, where, at least in my experience, it is impossible not to care. And oh. How I cared.
Let’s call this period of my football life Era One. It started in 2000 and stretched until the beginning of 2007. It went something like this:
Things were good, y’all! Michigan was a powerhouse! They didn’t win national championships every year PER SE, but they beat up on other teams in the Big Ten, went to the Rose Bowl a lot, and gave students and alumni many reasons to be snobby and entitled about football success, both past and future! Success was a given! It was a given! A nine-win season was a failure! Sucks to be you, Illinois! Sorry ’bout your life, Northwestern!
During this time period I actually said to my father, “We don’t rebuild, we reload.” I said this to him more than once! I want to punch young me right in the face!
We were basically this:
coupled with this:
It was a heady time to be alive, and a Michigan student, and a Michigan fan. Everyone hated us, but who even cared?! We were Michigan! Kiss the ring, peasants!
And then the 2007 season started.
It started like this.
I trust that video will show enough to convey what happened, because even now, nine years later, I can’t watch it. I trust that y’all don’t need to watch it, because it’s burned into your brains. That is the no. 5-ranked Wolverines losing, on opening weekend at home, to Appalachian State, a non-ranked FCS football team. In non-football terms, that loss is basically on par with David and Goliath.
It was as incomprehensible and icky as Heidi choosing Spencer over her friendship with LC (wtf, Heidi).
It was the football embodiment of taking a double shot of what you thought was chilled Patron, but turned out to be warm El Toro.
Not room temperature.
Look, it was just bad. The team would lose to Oregon the next week and would somewhat salvage the season by winning a bowl game against a Florida team coached by Urban Meyer and led by Tim Tebow, but the damage was done. Lloyd Carr retired, the brain trust at Michigan made the decision to replace him with Rich Rodriguez, and thus began the next era of Wolverine football. It lasted until the end of 2014. I like to call it The Saddening.
My self-preservation skills prevent me from recapping this era for you in detail – we all survived it, that’s enough – so let’s just hit some of the key points. Rich Rodriguez was a terrible fit for Michigan and he probably never had a chance to succeed there due to a number of things that all suck, including the spread offense, a fan base that never warmed to him, administrators who never taught him how to approach said fan base and, allegedly, a less-than-gracious reception by Lloyd Carr. The program faltered under his leadership; he was fired after three years. I’m skipping a lot but really, I’m also not, it was a tire fire and in my personal life it just looked a lot like this:
Enter Brady Hoke.
Ah, Hoke. He was a nice guy! He had worked for Bo Schembechler! He loved Michigan and wanted to coach at Michigan and would reassemble all the Michigan-y things that Rich Rodriguez just never understood! He likes hot dogs! Fergodsakes!
But Hoke, eventually, also became a tire fire. Theories abound as to why – Hoke’s a nice guy, but not a good coach; he was in way over his head; he was but a puppet controlled by the evil Dave Brandon – but really who cares. He tanked, and both he and the evil Dave Brandon got the boot at the end of 2014. Here is a picture of my soul from around that time.
I know y’all know what this was like. It was seven years of sadness, and disappointment, and that empty achey feeling in your chest that comes from watching a handful of people burn down the thing you love most in the world. There were moments of brightness in the misery – for me, they included Hoke’s introductory press conference, the Sugar Bowl win, and basically everything Denard ever did – but they were, without fail, overshadowed by the next horrible thing to come along. One time, that was an ill-conceived Coke promotion. Another time, it was the questionable status of Shane Morris’ brain.
Over time, I stepped back from my rabid football fandom, really without even realizing I was doing it. I hoped for the best but I expected the worst, and somehow, that allowed me to survive. That, and a lot of liquor.
Now is probably when you are saying to yourself: “But we have Harbaugh now! We’re ranked in the top 10! Doesn’t she know?”
Yeah. I know.
But I have played this game before, y’all. And I have lost. Repeatedly. So I listen to the hype with my game face on. My game face, these days, looks mostly like this.
So I officially have no expectations. I approach the season anticipating nothing. I will take it week by week. I will control my blood pressure. I will yell at the TV, but I will also live in the moment. I will encourage my husband to calm the hell down (he will respond by not calming down even a little). I will hide in the kitchen when I can’t take the suspense. And then I will express my special snowflake feelings about all of it here.
And no matter what, I’ll root for Michigan, obviously. I couldn’t quit it then. I obviously can’t quit it now.
But I do reserve the right to wear this T-shirt if appropriate.