Michigan Wolverines fans seem to be in dire need of something to get them excited, even if just to spruce up preseason conversations. Michigan prides itself on its passionate fanbase, which reaches far and wide as one of the largest alumni networks in the world. Every interaction with an alum or fan revolves around bringing up the football team. The main question typically has to do with Jim Harbaugh and how much longer he’ll be in Ann Arbor.
This question is the equivalent of running out of things to ask or talk about on a first date when the conversation turns to the weather we’ve been having. It’s painfully awkward and occurs so often that it’s no surprise the there’s usually no real answer. Just a mutual understanding that nobody knows where this is heading.
It feels as repetitive and lackluster as the last couple of years of football have. We have run out of things to say. Answering that question is almost like having writer’s block. We cannot seem to come up with anything new or thought-provoking, no matter how hard we try.
A lot of it seems to hinge on past successes and the storied history of Michigan football. Boasting that it has the most attended and largest home games. Or being the winningest team in the country when we know that hasn’t felt true since the early 2000s. There were plenty of times during the lulls of Rich Rod and the end of Brady Hoke’s career where the stands, especially the student section, were scarce before the third quarter even started.
Some fans cling to the expectation that since Michigan was successful in the past that success is demanded and deserved. However, it’s easy to see the comparison between what is happening in NCAA Football and the achievements that Michigan football has reached in the modern era.
It feels like Michigan is evolving slower than it should. There are a lot of factors in making a statement like that with no quick answers. Saying it has been a Harbaugh problem isn’t right, but isn’t completely wrong. Blaming the woes on administration, recruiting, the culture, etc. isn’t right or wrong either. There is no one clear thing to point at and blame for why they aren’t beating Ohio State, playing for Big Ten Championships and knocking on the door for the College Football Playoff.
It’s tough because Michigan has not so bad — COVID season notwithstanding — that we should be embarrassed, nor is there much to hang their hats on in terms of success. It is uncomfortable because it is an identity we haven’t had. The longer it winds up being since beating a storied rival, the worse it feels like it’s going to get.
The exhaustion with the pandemic and the need for normalcy could also be a factor. A sense of normalcy will return when walking through the gates of Michigan Stadium, but when that fades, the fear is that a sense of mediocrity sets in. We want to go to Michigan games, but we don’t want it to be something we can’t even look at. It’s hard to be excited when we have started to think so realistically and less optimistically. And those feelings are warranted coming off of last year and an offseason with so many question marks.
Maybe we are too removed from the first game of the season against Western Michigan to feel the need to be overly excited about the 2021 football season. Regardless of whatever could have us down, being a Michigan fan means being loyal through thick and thin.
That is exactly what we are going to do.
If there is anything that Michigan taught me during my time there, it’s that it is a place meant to knock people down, but also a place of resiliency and determination to get back up. Being cautious about the state of affairs is as part of the Michigan experience as winning. This season is going to start as they always have, where the team is going to go one way or another. It doesn’t seem shiny and new or interesting, but there is always that chance that it could be different.