I've heard people call the First Saturday of the college football season Christmas. I've been present when grown men and women explain how the Last Friday of the off-season is like Christmas Eve. In the past I've said both. But, they, and I, are wrong. This isn't Christmas. It isn't Christmas Eve. It isn't any holiday I can think of. They're not even close to today.
Maybe, just maybe, if you could take all those holidays, the gifts, the meals, the fireworks, the jolly fat man, the family, the dude in a Rabbit suit, Batman costumes, Pilgrims and Indians, the song, the dance, the arguments, the pageantry, the celebration... and roll them all into a tight little ball and somehow managed to cram them into the tight parameters of a 24 hour day... maybe then.... you'd be close to what tomorrow represents. And that brings us to today. The day before all of this goes down. This isn't Christmas Eve anticipation.
This is the type of anticipation God felt the day before he created the Universe.
Why this is so doesn't really make any sense. When the 101st has landed, the flag is raised, the Star Spangled Banner is sung, and the fly-over complete it is, after all, just a game played by large children. Days like tomorrow shouldn't be this important in the grand scheme of things. But they are. And they are crucial to who we are as a people.
Tomorrow is sacred. It is a day when we put our lives in stasis so that we can cheer on 115 kids as they play a child's game. It is an escape. A day of freedom from the shackles of our everyday existence, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant that existence may be. We are no longer individuals on that day. We a part of something bigger, older and larger than ourselves. From individual droplets we become a roiling, churning sea of humanity with a single goal and purpose. It's no longer talking with Bob or Fred about something they can only nod their heads at and then change the subject to pro-ball. We're no longer alone. We're immersed in the life giving water that has forsaken us sense January. 8 full months of desert now end. The last dune before the ocean is today and tomorrow we can swim and drink to our hearts' content as we rejuvenate and celebrate together, this wonderful game and this wonderful school.
Tomorrow all the disagreement, discontent, and pettiness disappears. There are no more distractions. No more arguments about who should've been what and who could've done that. Tomorrow we are all in agreement. Tomorrow whatever fractional elements or splintered sides rejoin the whole. Tomorrow is the greatest glue humanity has ever produced. Tomorrow it's like everything was right from the beginning. Tomorrow is hope, forgiveness, and celebration all at once.
And we need it. Michigan is no stranger to trying off-seasons. Prior to the 2010-2011 off-season, Michigan has endured a coaching change and two losing seasons for the first time since the invention of the automobile. But this off season, this one, took the cake. First there were the losses to close the season. The blowout loss in the Gator Bowl. Rodriguez' firing. The flight tracking. The innuendo. The supposition. Hoke's hiring and its immediate reaction. The recruiting class that was caught in the middle of the transition. Would Denard stay or go. Then there was Borges. And Mattison. And Hoke somehow transforming himself from WAC sideline walker into a Red Bull'd up Urban Meyer on the recruiting trial. Then all hell broke loose at Oregon, Auburn, Ohio State, LSU, and UNC. Then there was Miami, and yes, that situation warrants its own sentence. There was spring ball. Summer workouts. And more time than we knew what to do with.
We guessed. We fought. We argued over the future and the past. We wondered what would happen next and whether the fanbase would eat itself alive before the first snap of the spring game. Then a sort of delirium set in. We wondered aloud whether the magic was back. Whether this new coach was somehow channeling Bo and Yost and Crisler.
Now, a day before kick off all the questions are moot. The answers we've sought for eight months seem hours from delivery. We don't care that the answers we'll receive on this First Saturday are only partial answers, and we care even less that they'll be only partial answers to questions we haven't asked. They'll be answers. And they'll be ours.
Answers.... at last.