As a Michigan football faithful, I anxiously await tomorrow’s National Championship game, the biggest game in my 17-year-and-counting tenure as a Michigan fan.
The fervor surrounding college football may seem inexplicable to those on the outside. I often find myself pondering the same question: why does it matter so much? It’s just a sport. Whether they win or lose, it has no direct impact on my life. In fact, I know many Big Ten alumni who are completely apathetic toward their alma mater’s football program. So, why does it have to matter so much?
In 2006, I moved into Fletcher hall. Little did I know, I would wake up to Michigan Marching band morning practices every day. My freshmen year roommate, Andrew, was a Detroit Tigers fanatic, and he would lose sanity over Tigers’ game. To ease his agony, I casually burped out “hey man, it is just a game.” He, then, emphatically refuted “It is not JUST a game!”
As the year progressed on, most freshmen in the campus gradually caught on scared traditions of Michigan football. Week in and week out, Fletcher hall would gather around in the basement to watch Michigan football games. I was hooked then, and I never looked back. Everyone around me couldn’t stop talking about how great our football program was.
Initially, I dismissed the whole phenomenon as a pathological obsession with sports in America. I pretentiously bemoaned the fact that many were wasting so much time and energy on the sport. It was only later that I came to understand that beneath the veneer of this obsession, there is something more profound. I realized a Michigan football game was more than just a game after a devastating loss against OSU my freshmen year. I sank helplessly into a sulky and sorrow state, and I felt as if a part of me died.
So, why does it matter so much? Is it a collective hypnosis orchestrated by the Michigan athletic department at the Big House? Could it be a pseudo-religion into which we were secretly indoctrinated? Perhaps it’s a result of trauma bonding from watching Michigan lose to Appalachian State. Or is it an attachment formed through endless cycles of euphoria and terror? It might even be an irrational tribalism rooted in the fact that I attended the school. It is probably all of them combined, concocted, and more.
For me, Michigan football is a legacy from the past — a time when I could love something without an obvious reason, long before I grew up and needed a clear rationale to invest my time and energy.
Waking up to the Michigan Marching Band’s tunes in Fletcher Hall, enduring miserable all-nighters at the Duderstadts, ringing the bell after submitting my senior project at the NAME building, suffering bitter winters at Bait II housing, chowing down a breakfast burrito at Bursley, torturing myself with advanced math classes at East Hall, composing my dissertations at Danny’s, making new friends while losing some, falling in love with my wife at the School of Social Work library. Every high and every low. All these experiences smelted, refined, and cast into the block M.
Even during the dark ages of Michigan football, my broken heart has always loved you. Win or lose. National championship or not. I will always love you.
Forever Go Blue.
P.S. — please win the whole thing, so I may die in peace.