Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's Rare.

If it bothers you when I talk about Michigan football, even just a little bit, most of this post will likely make you sick to your stomach. I make no apologies for that, however. You have been warned.

Also, on a completely unrelated not, I normally make a point to try to avoid contractions (Thanks Mrs. Wierenga!) in my writing because it's technically a bit more professional and contractions indicate laziness. (Which I possess in great quantities, but would prefer not to put on display.) That doesn't work quite so well when I'm in full-on stream-of-consciousness mode, so I'm throwing it out the window for this post. I do apologize for this.

I have been watching Michigan football for quite a while. I don't know exactly when I started, but I do know it was probably before I was potty trained. I wish I could recall more of the great games and performances of the past, along with the players that have been enshrined in Michigan lore.

I remember vaguely watching the 1997 national championship game (I was in Arizona visiting family during Christmas break of 4th grade) and how I was confused about how there could possibly be two champions at one time (Pro-tip: there can't. We won. Sorry Nebraska.), but I can't for the life of me recall anything about Charles Woodson's dismantling of Ohio State that season.

I remember leaving to go trick-or-treating with Michigan down two touchdowns to Michigan State, only to discover through garbled Nextel Direct Connect messages from my dad that Braylon Edwards was doing the unthinkable. I got back to a friend's house just in time to catch the third overtime and the umpteenth miracle play of the game. I was elated.

I remember Mike Hart playing through pain and defenders, refusing to stop moving forward, refusing to let go of the ball, until he had gained enough yards for a first down or a touchdown.

When these things happened, I felt happy. I never have figured out why, but maybe that's the point. I'm hooked. Michigan football was dangled in front of me and I bit. I didn't get snagged through the lip, I swallowed the hook whole. Sports are strange like that, and it's not explainable and I don't care.

This season is different though, and for once, I can pinpoint exactly why. It's not the fact that I'm a student, although that helps. It's not that we've won a couple of games, though that also helps. It really all comes down to Denard Robinson. Shoelace. Number sixteen. Dilithium incarnate.

In an email exchange with my Dad this morning, I passed on the following link: http://umichedme.blogspot.com/2010/09/all-wine_14.html. If you're a Michigan fan, read it. If you're a football fan, read it. If you're a creative writing fan, read it. Really, if you're a fan of anything, read it. Whether the topic is your cup of tea or not, you'll understand. It was hard for me to get through because the author says exactly what I feel, and in a way I am completely incapable of.

Over the last few weeks, we've seen Denard Robinson do a lot of things. He's run a lot. He's thrown a lot. He's been on NBC and CBS and BTN and ESPN and a dozen other acronyms. School children and grandmothers and college athletes and businessmen know his name.

But what he hasn't done says more about him than what he has. He hasn't gloated or called for praise. He doesn't like to be interviewed, and he certainly doesn't want to hear your Heisman predictions.

I concluded that email exchange with my Dad by saying: "I have never been so purely happy for someone I've never met than I am for Denard Robinson right now." That's the truth.

The closest I've ever come to this feeing before was also related to Michigan football, but didn't involve a player. When I saw Lloyd Carr carried off the field after defeating Tim Tebow and the Gators three years ago, I was happy. I was happy because he was happy, and that's how I feel now.

The thing is, a person like Denard Robinson is rare. He wears his faith on his sleeve without being pushy. He kneels in the endzone after a touchdown without making a show of it. He doesn't taunt the opposing fans or players, he goes and finds them after the game to congratulate them on a good fight. He deflects questions about himself in order to praise his teammates. His heroes are his offensive line, his receivers, his running backs, his defense, and anyone else on the team not named Denard Robinson.

He says things like: “I mean, uh, when they call my number, and the offensive line is blocking like that, and it’s God willing, and God engineering, I mean, I can do whatever.”

Who knows if he'll stay healthy all season, or if he'll win the Heisman, or if Michigan will win 10 games? All I know is that Denard Robinson and people like him are what sports should be about, and it makes me proud to be a Wolverine.

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