When I look back at the history of Michigan football under Jim Harbaugh (and the last two decades) I see a collection of games and results that frankly make me feel ill. The list of heartbreak is too long to count. In fact, I started a list the other day (because I hate myself) and when I got to ranking them I had to do some serious soul searching as to why I was putting myself through this. Masochism came to mind. Michigan has had a disproportionally massive amount of bad luck, or bad results, or as our rivals would say, bad teams. It has created what a much more clever blogger than I has coined, the Black Pit of Negative Expectations (BPoNE for short).
The BPoNE cloud looms large. It has only grown to cumulonimbus levels of size as it hovers above every Michigan fan that has watched more than 2 games in the last twenty years. And when Michigan State blocked that punt in 2015 we all collectively went from hopeless Harbaugh romantics to the most bitter of nihilists. Since that moment, it has been extremely hard to enjoy ANY sort of positivity regarding the Michigan program. Honestly, as I was watching Michigan-Nebraska play earlier this year Michigan got the ball back after a crucial fumble recovery and I found myself unable to celebrate. The game was for all intents and purposes over. And yet I sat quiet, possibly worried that we would be unable to execute a kneel down, and feeling only relieved that I wouldn’t be thrown into the BPoNE. I imagine that is how they felt when the contestants on squid game won their game of tug of war. Sort of happy to be alive but mostly just relieved this was over until the next game, and not in the pit.
I could go on and on about: Trouble with the Snap, The Spot, App. St Blocks the Kick, 2016 Orange Bow, Jon O’Korn, Clowney Winning the Game in One Tackle, #1 vs #2, our performance in just about every bowl game, every game vs. Ohio State and all sorts of other Michigan tragedies but at this point you get the picture. But I do feel that somehow we have a chance to dissipate the cloud, to climb out of the pit this Saturday.
This is Harbaugh’s biggest game in a long time, but more importantly, it presents a fork in the road. The stakes are high, the hype is reaching critical mass, and Michigan is playing well enough to represent that. Just a few short months ago every sports guy in the country was saying “I hope Michigan can get to 8-4”, and now they are saying we are playoff bound. But everyone has to understand, it is going to go hard one way or hard the other, there is no in-between. If Michigan loses, it’s over. I genuinely believe that. The BPoNE turns from a dark cloud to a black hole. Any last ray of hope gets snuffed out by an all-encompassing depression that is Michigan fandom. Harbaugh will never be removed from the hot seat until he is actually removed, and Michigan football continues the narrative of mediocrity and head scratching depth chart decisions and play calling.
But if we win, oh baby if we win. Choo choo y’all. The cloud of the BPoNE will start to look like engine smoke as the hype train for Michigan will be in full force. Winning a game against your in state rival, on the road, between two undefeated teams, would be the best win for this program since Under the Lights vs. Notre Dame. I’m not saying it’s all sunshine and rainbows for the rest of the season, we will still get smoked by OSU. But for the first time since…. I don’t know, my life (because I was born in the pit, raised by it). Michigan will be playing above the expectations set for them at the beginning of the year. The narrative on JH will shift, we can throw the monkey off of our back and into the BPoNE for all I care. And there is a chance, just maybe, I can smile a bit at the end of football games again.
Michigan State 21 – Michigan 20
Kidding… Go Blue!