This Guy Gets It

By Johnny Ginter on July 30, 2011 at 6:17 am
Brady Hoke: Voted lumpiest in class, 1977.

Brady Hoke was born about 10 minutes away from where I was, meaning that not only was he raised on the traditional southwestern Ohio diet of Skyline Chili, root beer, and pork products, he also developed a finely tuned squinty, angry kind of look endemic to the region. It's the kind of look that says "I will never be able to comprehend what you're trying to tell me, and that's 100% your fault. Also you're wrong."

He claims to have grown up a Michigan fan while living in Kettering, Ohio, which I believe for several reasons. One, that would make him a pretty big douchebag. Two, it makes him incredibly easy to dislike (more on this later). And three, being a Michigan fan from an early age while also being a native Ohioan forces you to carry a very special kind of mark of Cain; doomed to wander forever in the barren wasteland of contrarianism. Naked. Shivering. Alone.

What I'm saying is, Brady Hoke is, from a cultural standpoint, the perfect guy to coach the Michigan Wolverines football team. He is a pompous toad who squats upon the lilypad of elitism. Everything he has said after opening that gaping maw he calls a mouth has infuriated me to the point of violence, and I am starting to believe that nothing short of Ann Arbor being terrorized by Woody Hayes' rotting corpse would get him to stop talking about how awesome Michigan football is. More than any Michigan coach I can remember, I want to see his jowls shake with shame and sadness after yet another loss to Ohio State. His very existence has made me into a worse person, more vengeful and petty than ever before.

God bless you, Brady Hoke.

First: the "Ohio" thing. It's stupid. Incredibly, amazingly, brilliantly stupid. It's so stupid that it starts out stupid, gets even dumber, and finally circles back around to complete non-sequitur. And therein lies the genius.

See, the thing about rivalries, and I think Brady Hoke knows this, is that from the outside looking in they make zero sense whatsoever. To me, there is no difference at all between an Alabama fan and an Auburn fan. The fact that fans of those two schools can somehow differentiate themselves when they are both are stuck in what I imagine to be the exact same kind of Deliverance-esque hellscape is beyond me. But somehow, they figure out whose jorts are more faded and whose mullets are thicker and draw up battle lines based on whatever arbitrary ridiculousness they can come up with.

So when Brady Hoke insists on saying "Ohio" instead of "Ohio State," it doesn't even matter that it's the wicked kind of ice burn you used to dish out in the 2nd grade. It's part of a long legacy of inane BS that people latch onto and repeat until eventually the other side bursts a blood vessel in their eye. He has found his own "that state up north." You may not care now, but I want you to try something. Imagine Hoke, after the OSU game, sweat pouring down his poached egg face as he grins and recounts his team's victory over "Ohio." Now google "DIY drywall repair" for a quick and easy way to fix the damage your fist just did.

Another thing that I think Hoke understands is that, as the fabled Michigan Man, it's his duty to be completely oblivious to history or reality. If he wants to be the guy OSU fans actively plot the death of and UM fans sacrifice the children of Ed Martin to, he has to say completely insane things like "I don't think we're rebuilding. Period." and that he doesn't think that the OSU/UM rivalry has taken a hit from Michigan being generally terrible for the past three years or so.

Of course Michigan is rebuilding, and of course the rivalry has suffered as the Michigan football team was slowly replaced by the surviving cast of Cocoon. But a good coach ignores that, and a great blowhard denies it outright.

What Hoke has done is this: even if he doesn't actually believe it, by refusing to compromise the idea that Michigan is completely amazing and awesome forever and ever, he has endeared himself to every UM fan who suffers the kind of delusions of grandeur that allows them to convince themselves the '97 team would've beaten Nebraska that year. College football fans have long memories, and UM fans maybe even more so. Hoke telling them that Michigan is as good as it ever was is hilarious at face value, but it also helps wash away the stink of the last three years and reminds UM fans that their team was at one point pretty good (just like The Cardigans).

Finally, all of Hoke's talk and bluster has turned myself and many of my fellow OSU fans into sad little people who prepare pathetic and immature jokes to offset any potential success that his team might have on the field, a sacred rite of passage not practiced in OSU fandom for far too long now. And for that, Brady Hoke should be congratulated. He hasn't even coached one game, and already he has made huge contributions to the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry.

So thanks, coach. Thanks for bringing the hate back.

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