I grew up in a family of Michigan fans.
I know I know, it's not something I’m proud of. I have long tried to bury this part of my past to the point where I only mention the school when I absolutely have to. It's traumatic, like finding a freshly dead body in the woods near your house when you’re a kid or getting bit by a dog. Like scurvy, it rots away at the most important parts of you if you don’t treat it early and properly.
Being around Michigan fans has its ups and downs: one hand, you have to listen to them be insufferable throughout all their successes, whether it's being a one-seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament or not losing a football game through the entire month of September, Michigan fans treat every tiny bit of success as if they had just walked on the moon. Basketball beats Penn State? Michigan fans throw a parade. Jim Harbaugh opts to throw the ball on third-and-long? What do ya know, Michigan fans are ready to give him a lifetime contract.
Needless to say, it gets old fast. You can only take so much misguided trash-talking and overconfidence before you snap and want to cut your ears with a dull blade. The invention of social media and the rise of Twitter from a social media site into the Axis of Information only exacerbated things. Before, I’d only have to hear about the reasons Michigan would win the Big Ten either right after a game or at school a couple days later, but then the hype would die out until the next Michigan win. Nowadays, Michigan fans (and the fans of most big teams) spew venom at each other every waking second of the day. Things were only made worse when the Playoff Committee ranked them ahead of Michigan State two weeks ago, despite Michigan State coming out on top, but I don’t want to talk about that.
No, I want to talk about how these diatribes are the worst thing that come out of Michigan fans outside of other Michigan fans. I’m all for supporting your team, and I understand the lengths some fanbases will go to support them. Iowa fans waged war against ESPN commentators for thinking Iowa wasn’t the second best team in the country, and Alabama fans are constantly firing Nick Saban after close wins. Going to war over your team is one thing; baseless hope after decades of failure is another.
It’s the hope that kills you.
I learned this saying earlier in the year. Apparently it’s a common phrase in England that some fans use for their teams, which makes sense since I heard it for the first time in British Premier League Documentary Ted Lasso. It can apply to a lot of real-world scenarios, like elections or the SNKRS app, but it fits best in the realm of sports.
Imagine this: your team does it. They hire a rising head coach, praised by every media member, coach he’s worked under and player who’s been under him. They have the #1 pick in the draft and get the rights to a generational prospect. Your team has one of the easiest schedules in the league, getting to play the other teams that finished near the bottom.
Then things fall apart. Your top pick gets injured in training camp, and the rest of the team crumbles. You realize your coach is in over his head having to make all the decisions himself. The team gets another pick in the top-5, and you get to do the exact same thing over again.
It’s the hope that kills you.
Being around Michigan fans my entire life has led to exactly one good thing: the crushing despair that hope can bring. The pleas to be spared from God’s wrath for letting someone like **** ******* find a modicum of success when it's not even their fault.
Michigan fans get riled up over the least bit of success, and then somehow find a way to take it to another level when the good times pass. At the slightest second of failure, Michigan fans turn into something completely unholy, something that could only vaguely be described by HP Lovecraft and reported by a racist caricature of a Middle-Eastern man.
It's happening right now. As I’m typing this, Michigan fans are melting down over their team being down to Arizona in basketball. Instant degradation of their opponent, claiming the team hasn’t had time to gel yet, amongst other things I am too kind to repeat. A loss in a November basketball game that has no actual implications. It’s a glorified exhibition and they’re acting like Michigan basketball is being put to death by firing squad.
My favorite moment of Michigan fans hearts being ripped out was the Revenge Tour. If you don’t know what this, this article provides a perfect summation of that season. Essentially, Michigan went on a win streak the 2018 team went on that included beating a bunch of teams they had lost to the previous season that started with Wisconsin. It was at this time the team felt they would have their best chance at beating Ohio State, which they had not done since 2011.
It’s the hope that kills you.
Ohio State won 62-39. Michigan fans were irate at Don Brown’s defense giving up 62 points on practically all crossing routes, and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day moving to 1-0 when their own head coach Jim Harbaugh (who is still the man in charge) was and still is winless in the series.
Watching the hope drain from the eyes of Michigan fans during that game was magical. It’s when you walk into area into a video game after beating a murder’s row of villains, but you ran out of health potion doing so and a cutscene starts right when you walk through. You come in off an all-time high just to encounter Martyr Logarius. You’re fucked but you don’t have a choice; you have to see it through, even though you know you’re going to die.
Michigan kept it close until half (they were down five) and then couldn’t stand up straight on defense after. A defense with multiple first round picks was pushed into a Jigsaw trap by their defensive coordinator and ended up being ripped limb from limb. Then the defensive coordinator picked them up, dusted them off, and held the same position for two more years.
The same thing is happening this season. Michigan is playing the best football they’ve played in the Harbaugh era; they’re well-rounded, can win in a variety of ways, have arguably the best EDGE duo in the country, and most importantly aren’t committing seppuku. They refuse to beat themselves (they kind of did against Michigan State but that’s neither here nor there) and they’re outright dominating the bad teams on their schedule. They’re doing everything they’re supposed to do. As of this writing, the Playoff Committee has them ranked 6th, but they’ll probably be up to 4th or 5th by Tuesday.
Naturally, Michigan fans are in the clouds. Honestly, I would be too if my team could lose and still be ranked ahead of the team they lost to for reasons. It feels like the Playoff Committee is firmly on their side, and even with a close loss who’s to say Michigan won’t make the Playoff.
Will it be a close loss though, or will Michigan be torn to pieces by an Ohio State team that has come into their own the last few weeks, one that just annihilated the very team that handed Michigan it’s only loss?
I know the past does not dictate the future, but let's look at past results for a second: Michigan hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2011, which was two coaches ago for OSU and one for the Wolverines. Michigan hasn’t won by two scores since 2003, and has only won three times since the turn of the millennium. The last three times they’ve met, meanwhile, Ohio State has won by double-digits (the teams did not meet last season due to COVID protocols and because Michigan would’ve been whooped.)
This season, Ohio State is the #4 team in the country (most likely 2nd on Tuesday when the Playoff Committee meets again), have the Heisman front runner at quarterback, a 5-star freshman at running back, and a receiving core that can only be described as playing in the 4th dimension. The defense isn’t great, but who needs defense when you can score 60 points at the drop of a hat and have the best offense in the country?
Michigan fans have every reason to be hopeful. Maybe this is the year they get over that big bad hill in the south and make the Big Ten Championship! Maybe they can make the Playoff for the first time and maybe they even win a game there! The team looks awesome; Cade McNamara has shown he can sling it when he needs to, Aidan Hutchinson is going to be a Top-10 pick, and David Ojabo came out of nowhere. They’re really good, no doubt about it.
But, it’s the hope that kills you.
Howdy! If you have like this, have problems with it, or just want to tell me I’m an idiot, leave a comment! You can also find me on Twitter @B1GOPE if you have any stronger feelings about it.
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