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The Nervous Fan's Guide to Michigan Football: Basics

As of noon today, there are only 1224 hours left until Michigan football kicks off its 2006 football season.

Think about that--1224 hours! That seems like a much less significant amount of time than 51 days, doesn't it? Between working, sleeping, drinking, and whatever else people do when they aren't doing those things, a thousand hours really can fly by.

For me, there is always a certain attendant excitement that accompanies the first of July each year as I realize that college football is on the horizon, just two months away. Maybe this is our year! I think to myself. And it's not hard to find the reasons why that makes sense when I'm standing in the sun: Ohio State has lost an entire defense; Penn State must rebuild its lines and secondary; the Notre Dame defense wasn't especially strong last year; Michigan State probably won't win in Ann Arbor with that coach; at some point, Lloyd is due to outcoach someone. Fueled by ideas like these, I annually begin to believe that my most pressing concerns should be figuring out which hotel is closest to the national-title game site and whether I'll have the vacation days required to take a really long New Year's vacation.

But just as I am researching the night club scenes in places like Miami, Pasadena, New Orleans, and Phoenix, the forces that regularly inspire the words which I write on Schembechler Hall push back, re-seizing control of the spring from which my hope flows and poisoning it with the bitter run-off pollution of doubt: the offensive line is unsettled; the receivers may not be able to consistently stretch the field; the defense will be learning a new system and still has so many personnel questions in the back seven; Chad Henne probably failed arithmetic.

One would think that by this point, I'd have learned to maintain a more measured mindset, but you'd also think that a 24-year-old wouldn't spend hours of his life eating Fla-Vor-Ice, and that's certainly not the case. No, my passion for the Wolverines prevents me from ever settling down into a less manic pattern, but the years of heartbreak have taught me how to cope with my condition.

It's called managing expectations, and you do it by convincing yourself that bad things can and likely will happen. I don't think I go through all of my life engaging in this practice, but it's certainly an omnipresent part of my football experience. Sure 16 starters are coming back for Michigan this fall, but weren't those the same guys who failed to execute and looked slow and fat on their way to a 7-5 2005? I know that Michael Robinson is gone from PSU, but you can't beat a team so many times in a row, can you?

You see what I'm getting at, right?

The saddest part, of course, is that despite my heightened preparation for the worst, I am always crushed when failure rears its ugly head for no fewer than the three contractually stipulated times. I don't take the losses very well, even when I assume that they're coming.

I want to improve, though. I want to finally reward my inevitable mitigation tendencies. And so that's why Schembechler Hall is proud to announce the unveiling of a new series: The Nervous Fan's Guide to Michigan Football. The Nervous Fans's Guide will be a series of posts designed to help all Wolverine lovers figuratively stock up on water and canned goods while nailing plywood to the windowsills. We'll examine each team on Michigan's schedule, forecast the Michigan record, and delve into lingering, serious matters like where in South Bend you can dispose of 85 soiled diapers before a big game. There will be rumors, generalizations, damning empirical evidence, and, of course, stubborn rejection of hope.

Check in tomorrow for the first part of the series: Which of the Michigan units has the potential to hurt the team the most?