I don't know what it was about watching Michigan football growing up that attracted me the most: the colors, the helmets, the uniforms--quite frankly it was probably all of it. What I do know is that over time I started to learn about the history and pageantry of the team and the sport, and I was sold.
My obsession with college football and offense grew while I played football in school and grew even more after I hung up the cleats for the last time. I just had to be informed, I had to understand what I was watching, I needed to consume the game in a way that went beyond the casual fan screaming at the screen to, "run the ball, tackle 'em!"
What I failed to appreciate while first getting into the Wolverines was the historical success the team had enjoyed. It wasn't necessarily elite success, but it was relatively well sustained.
At the end of the Lloyd Carr era I was entering adulthood with quite a large obsession still brewing. Any Michigan fan knows the era that came next, and it was awful as a fan. Two coaching staffs that produced terrible to mediocre results and years of pain against bitter rivals Ohio State.
Once Jim Harbaugh was hired, the general mood around the program was that things might finally settle into a more respectable place and for the most part they did. You could expect eight to eleven wins a year, a bowl appearance, and generally decent football--but it wasn't elite, and that was fine if not a little annoying heading into the weird COVID year that was college football.
Post the disaster that was college football being played in 2020, Harbaugh made some changes in the program that would lead to three years of some of the best Michigan football I have had a chance to enjoy in my lifetime.
Three straight wins over Ohio State.
Three straight B1G conference championships.
And, until this year, appearances in the college football playoff with the initial round exit and demoralizing defeat.
This year's semi-final was different for Michigan. It was being played in the Rose Bowl game, one with a ton of history attached to it for the program. A game they last won when they earned a share of a national championship for the 1997 season. A game I barely remember because I wasn't as obsessed at the time.
All of that to say, the nostalgia hit pretty hard when Alabama was stuffed on 4th-and-goal to end over time and send Michigan to the national championship game. For years Michigan has lost a game like the one that was played on Monday, January 1, 2024. But players like Corum, McCarthy, Sainristil, and Barret proved to be more resilient than my nerves. And thank god they were the ones playing the game instead of me--just a fan at home.
I just wanted to write about this, get my feelings out there. One of the hobbies I just don't discuss online, but takes up so much of my attention, and it happens to be going really well for the first time in 17 years.
I wanted to embrace it. I wanted to remember it. I don't want to take this era for granted while I'm living in it.
One more game to go, and while I would love to see a national championship win, I'm content to watch one more game no matter the results before the core of this team becomes something new. The culture of the team here and now is something I just can't help but embrace.