There was a collective pall hanging over the campus this Saturday after the devastation of the Michigan football team at the hands of Wisconsin. It was the loss of a hope, held carefully since the end of last season. Hope, perhaps, that this season would be the destined one, the championship one. Instead, we found ourselves treading a familiar path. Another loss and so early in the season. As fans, we are blind adherents to a faith that bids us to tear out our hearts for every down, every stoppage. We offer held breaths and exhausted screams. We offer our uncriticizing enthusiasm and our enthusiastic criticism. We offer our happiness and our grief. But we, as fans, cannot do much more than give this support. For, we cannot affect the results of games as the players do with their electrifying movements and their pure forces of will shoving aside any opposing force. We are helpless to call the right play, though we would swear that Jim Harbaugh should listen to us instead of consulting his laminated sheets. These actions unravel before us, without our consent. We watch, but alas, we cannot do.
It seems like a foolish thing to inflict fandom on ourselves. Especially after a loss. The grief of that loss, a loss that was fundamentally not our fault, still hurts and oppresses. We are fools to be so devoted, to display our desires so publicly where they can be easily crushed. Fools because we could have retreated to the quiet of uncaring. It is cool and cold there. Smooth and slick. If passion feels like a rolling, crushing wave, indifference is the undisturbed surface of a pond. But to affect indifference now would be as useful or as healing as rubbing an ice cube on a wound. It doesn’t stop the blood from pumping. What is done is done. Somewhere, somehow, we became fans or fools or all of the above. We have reached the point where there is no returning our season tickets and certainly no returning our allegiances.
With the path back blocked, there is only the myriad ways forward. But doesn’t it seem like we’ve been here before? Is it just me or does that stagnant offense constantly turning over the ball seem vaguely familiar? And isn’t that depressed frustration the same feeling we had during the OSU game all those months ago? We are reverberating helplessly between past and future, doomed to repeat mistakes without solution. If we are so doomed though, at least we will still also have those moments of delirious, devouring happiness when we feel as if we are sprinting down the sideline, heart and body lunging for the endzone. We are as helpless against the euphoria as we are against the abject misery. And so, against any good sense, we will dive back into the fray for nine more regular season games. We will stand and stomp, cry and scream everything that we have and everything that we are. Being a fan is not easy, being a Michigan football fan even more so. But that is why we care. That is why we roll into the stadium, a hundred thousand strong, supporting each other as much as we support the team. Because if all this was so easy, there would be no point.