One of the milder debates among Buckeye fans is Michigan's preferred condition.
Some of you relish the idea of a winless or objectively pitiful rival clinging to distant hope of a postseason invitation from a credit union or a DVD vending machine. You enjoy a Michigan led by a delightfully smug, tacky and grifting athletic director with all the syrupy confidence of a 5th grade poet. An almost-too-perfect pastiche of the honorary alumnus hurling academic superiority comebacks at colleagues in the Quaker Steak & Lube break room.
We've recently seen this Michigan. A lot of you enjoyed those wobbly Wolverines along with the other 48 states, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, USVI, Guam and most foreign countries. It was fun while it lasted.
That Michigan is preferred by a significant portion of the Ohio State fan base. We’re Not Champions Only Because of What We’re Unwilling to Compromise is almost too relatable and endearing of an excuse for not winning, even if it comes from a university that over-brands everything in its reach while funneling the majority of athletes into an academic eligibility track.
Everything and everyone ever associated with the Big Ten is compromised, except you, University of Chicago *wanking motion*. Michigan in particular sucks out loud at losing. You can't help but respect it. Like looking in a damn mirror.
It was a tough season IF YOU'RE still missing Brian Ellerbe, Tommy Amaker, Rich Rodriguez giving Josh Groban sermons and free football tickets with the purchase of two Cokes. That Michigan doesn't exist at the moment.
Still, there are others who prefer a soaring or threatening-to-make-the-Victors-song-lyrics-true Michigan for the sole purpose of waterboarding their hopes and dreams while delivering a pain multiplier on top of the standard agony of defeat. These fans tend to be German or fluent in as many as one German word that captures their fetish appropriately.
Bo Schembechler's teams went undefeated during the regular season between 1972-75 if you don't count the Ohio State game. Lloyd Carr was heading back to the Rose Bowl in 2001 until he ran into a comprehensively mediocre 6-win Buckeye team at home. The 2006 Wolverines lost the de facto national semifinal in Columbus to the only team ranked higher than them, and the worst one possible.
Those of us who were alive during the 1990s know what the receiving end feels like. The business end is a lot more fun.
Some of us find those soul-crushing wins more enjoyable than, say, Tate Forcier delivering a one-man Yackety Sax tribute while turning the ball over 87 times during the 2009 game in Ann Arbor, when Jim Tressel was so confident the game was unloseable he had his offense running out the clock with 11 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter.
This is only a mild debate because....haha, just beat Michigan. The rest is details.
Anyway, it's been a pretty good year for those who prefer the latter end of it. Michigan's run of tumbling off mountaintops has even lent itself to accidentally enjoying the triumphs of other schools. The ending of the 2019 basketball season is the closest I’ve ever personally come to participating the manufactured tripe known as Conference Pride.
Consider that Michigan State is returning to the Final Four this weekend, a realistic destination for a Michigan basketball program enjoying a renaissance under its best leader since
Ed Martin Steve Fisher Johnny Orr. A year ago the Wolverines won 14 straight, marching through the Big Ten, its tournament and their first five opponents on the big bracket before losing in the title game to Villanova in their worst loss since 2016. For an evening we almost knew what it felt like to be a Michigan fan witnessing the Glendale Massacre 11 years earlier.
Sparty reached the current Final Four and will face the same Red Raiders who very nearly took a magical and comforting 62-39 lead in what was Michigan's final game of the season; a scoreboard moment with a buildup so tantalizing that only Ohio State’s refurbished store brand roster making it to the tournament and then relieving the Big XII tournament champions of their stretch goals was more satisfying.
In the end we were this close to schadenfreudenirvana, an imaginary German-Hindu fusion coffee house:
Prior to this opportunity to kneecap the same Lubbock Menace that bullied Michigan out of REM sleep, Little Brother won in East Lansing, Ann Arbor and Indianapolis, taking two title games from the Basketball School an hour to the southeast. Had the Wolverines been able to make all 33 of the shots they missed that night, they could have been presented with a very rare Fourth Time’s the Charm opportunity - and in a return trip to the Final Four.
Pessimistically, Michigan State was denied an opportunity to hit for the pain cycle. But we now know this volume of Charlie Browning for one school in a single season/single sport is mathematically plausible. It's as if scientists discovered a new, faraway planet that looks like Michael Jordan's crying face.
But let’s be clear - there’s no pleasure to be found in Michigan State winning anything, let alone returning to the Final Four; this is about the preferred condition of the Michigan Wolverines whom this academic year had realistic championship aspirations in the two sports we generally care about the most. It began with Michigan’s offensive line being turned inside out in South Bend, setting forth the conditions that married all of the peaks and valleys necessary to tilt Ohio State’s mild debate in favor of waterboarding.
The football team bounced back quickly and consistently, producing win after win that shifted The Victors from song lyrics to game recaps. Puffery returned to fan base and the locker room, and a Revenge Tour was publicly conceived to celebrate the impending justice en route to the undeserving vandals from the 2017 season.
Some of you prefer this Michigan, drunk on confidence. It was a tough season for those of you still missing Brian Ellerbe, Tommy Amaker, Rich Rodriguez giving Josh Groban sermons and free football tickets with the purchase of two Cokes. That puddly Michigan doesn't exist at the moment. You should get used to the one delivers shattering disappointment while getting just a little too close to the brink of its early 20th century greatness.
It's past time for all of you to brush up on your quadrisyllabic German. This mild debate will continue, but as long as Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back - the rest is details.