So yesterday I happened to be driving through Ann Arbor on my way home from a prior engagement, and having some extra time thanks to sparse traffic, I decided a brief diversion was in order. This included the usual fly-by of the stadium just to take it in outside of the setting of the commotion and splendor of a Saturday in the fall. Perhaps such things become old hat when you live in the area, but since I do not I have to admit that these small little pilgrimages never cease to get old. Keith Jackson was right about the place, it is a good place to sit and listen. The next logical step after checking in on the Big House was to proceed to the M-Den over on Main St. Why? Well I shouldn't have to explain why, but the M-Den is nothing short of a Michigan fan oasis in times like these. For whatever reason I have a difficult time not walking out with one of those cool Maize n' Blue bags filled with something that, at least at the time, was vital or way too good of a deal to pass up, or any other of a number of excuses you have to use when you explain your purchase when you finally arrive at home. On this particular occasion the store was quiet, just myself and the folks behind the counter watching the minutes pass by. I went into the usual perusal of virtually every item in stock for the sake of looking and as I often am want to do, I ended up in front of the hats.
One would think that when your major hat design is a Block M and nothing else that the variety would be somewhat minimal... of course you would be incorrect. There are enough hat designs to fill a wall and enough variations on those designs to fill several more pages of the website I'm certain. That's neither here nor there really, I simply mention it because working your way through all of the hats to find the new lucky one is not a two minute exercise, it takes time, patience even. Yeah, I said lucky hat. I won't attempt to even rationalize this rather odd tradition I've adopted of purchasing a new hat when times are tough for Michigan football, but it's something tangible to cling to (or throw violently with unsatisfying resultant velocity) when need be. Plus it worked pretty well prior to the '03 game, heading into the '06 season, and after we drew Florida in the bowl game back in '07. Yes, I can actually recall these things, I know it's sad... it also backfired terribly heading into the Oregon game in '07 but we need not dwell on that. Tangential thoughts not-withstanding, I'm standing there looking at a lot of hats when someone else walks into the store. Turning to look I see another god-fearing Michigan fan dressed appropiately for such an occasion, and because of the layout of the store, rather than see, I hear his two small children become quite excited that they are where they are, even though they are no more than two feet inside the entrance. What followed was heart-warming and certainly struck a chord somewhere near the Bob Ufer center in my brain, and I felt that at a time like this, worthwhile to share.
While I proceeded to look at hats, the kids proceeded to look at 86 other items, each met with growing enthusiasm and ever increasing pleas to their father to add them to what I am certain is an already impressive collection of Michigan regalia... "A Go Blue soccer ball!!!!", "Michigan gloves!!!", you get the idea. The people behind the counter and I got a nice chuckle when one of the little ones asked about a particularly small item, to which the reply was "half of your room is Go Blue already, why don't we wait on that one". My internal monologue gave the response that I'm sure the kid was thinking, "but I've got a whole other half!!!!". Anyways, the dad, in a very dad-like strategy to temporarily distract the children, asked them if they were almost ready to go over and see the stadium. The store got a little quiet for a moment as both of the little Michigan fans took in the question as everyone else present smiled. Their answer, as you may have already guessed, was a resounding yes. Suddenly the merchandise was all but forgotten. Their excitement was met with another question: "and what are you going to do when we get there?".... The kids, in a unison that only children who are about to get what they want are able to achieve both simultaneously burst out "SING THE VICTORS!!!!! GO BLUE!!!!!"... Awesome.
I had walked into the store simply intending to look around and see if there was anything that caught my eye, instead, in the midst of one of the tougher stretches of Michigan football... aw hell, the toughest stretch of Michigan football that I've certainly ever gone through, I was reminded that first and foremost we're fans. We're fans because we love something about this program, something about this team, something about the experience. I didn't come to be a fan of Michigan football because they won on Saturdays, I came to love this beast because I grew up spending fall Saturdays watching them with my Dad, attending games was a special experience without taking into account a single play that occurred on the field. Each of those days were (are) just awesome, the anticipation, the drive North, the chance to throw the football around at Elbel field, watching the band warm up and go through inspection, picking up the free handouts with Punt Counterpunt on the back (what happened to those??!), the trips to campus and the Union afterwards, all of it was a great time, and you know what, it still is. Maybe you came to be fan in the same manner, maybe you didn't, perhaps you didn't know a thing about Michigan football until you attended school in Ann Arbor, maybe you've only seen them on TV, maybe you loved the helmets like Jamie Morris, maybe your story is slightly different than any of those... but keep one thing in mind, we're all fans. Brace for it now, I'm going to get on my soapbox for a second: one thing fans don't do is quit on their team. Those kids weren't hanging their heads because we're not supposed to win on Saturday, they couldn't possibly care less about such things. They're kids, they don't know any better, and they're going to have a blast. It wouldn't hurt many of us to adopt that same attitude for the next few days.
Should we quit caring about this team because things haven't turned out how we have wanted/predicted? Should we shrug off the biggest game of the year, that I need not remind you comes around once a year and is at home once every two years, because the past two months have been unbelievably difficult? No. We will have months upon months to rehash, complain, and rehash again all that has happened during this 2009 campaign, so for the next four days, I'm going to enjoy being a fan again and I suggest you do too. Fielding H Yost certainly provided one of the more apt statements for these kind of days, you know the one about urchins and shouting, well apply it now. Have some joy, have some faith, and for God's sake, have some fun. Those little maize n blue people snapped me out of the worry and the dithering over what has transpired with this team recently, and I certainly thank them for it. They reminded me that above all this is something that I love... and as that all hit home, I settled upon the latest lucky hat that will be making it's inaugural trip to the stadium on Saturday, because darn it, a little luck never hurt either. So smile a bit, hum the Victors to yourself, go by a Maize n Blue trinket... but above all, have fun and cheer for your team on Saturday, it won't hurt, I promise.