With a 49-24 victory over the Golden Gophers, a little bit of normalcy returned to Saturdays in Ann Arbor. I tailgated with friends (in my place of residence), analyzed the betting lines and which team was favored to win, and screamed in front of the TV when Zach Charbonnet’s 70-yard touchdown changed the trajectory of the game early in the first quarter. For once this semester, I was able to forget the stress of classes and midterm exams, the coronavirus pandemic, and the related lockdown for undergraduates.
2020 has been a bizarre year. A viral pandemic of this magnitude has not affected the West since the Spanish Flu a century ago. All non-essential classes, research, and jobs have been moved online, revolutionizing the way in which we communicate with and learn from each other. Most of all, Michigan delivered that crushing blow to Minnesota while Harbaugh was khaki-less.
One of the most exciting statistics from Saturday’s game is that two of our touchdown runs were over 50 yards (Charbonnet and Haskins); we had zero 50+ yard runs in the entirety of last season. This victory wasn’t a guarantee either; Minnesota is (was?) a ranked team and the money line was only MICH -3. In a game unlike any recent Michigan game I’ve attended, we had zero fumbles or interceptions. Minnesota had one of each. It was good, clean, American football, and it was just what we needed this year. If there was anything the game lacked, though, it was fan participation. Cheering as the team runs through the tunnel onto the field, watching the marching band make bizarre shapes on the field during halftime, and hugging my neighbor after a touchdown are all experiences that complete the game for me. Furthermore, there was never a time to sing “The Victors” or “Mr. Brightside,” two songs that are necessary at any Michigan football game. In my eyes, if I don’t lose my voice by the end of the game, I didn’t attend the game with the proper spirit. With this in mind, I would urge ESPN to give each school time to sing their fight song at halftime. I would gladly sing “The Victors” to my television and look ridiculous but feel connected to the team than sit, disengaged, while little men score little touchdowns on a little screen.
I cannot thank Jim Harbaugh, Joe Milton, and our excellent football team for providing just enough hope, excitement, and athletic dominance to inspire its fans. This victory against a ranked opponent in our conference was exactly the spark of hope that we need to make it through the stay-at-home order and the remaining months of virtual classes.
Although I was elated to finally have good ole’ football back, it was bittersweet watching from my couch rather than with 110,000 of my closest friends. On Sunday morning, I ran to the Big House. After a mile and a half, the stadium that I love so much came into view; it was not the welcoming sight that it usually is. It was too still, shrouded in a cold, silent haze with an empty parking lot and shuttered gates. The Big House offered moving symbolism of the closed schools, businesses, and homes in America while the coronavirus pandemic rages on. I hope that next weekend, there will be some signs of life during our home game against Michigan State.
Looking at the rivalry (is it a rivalry if they’re awful year-after-year?) matchup next week, I am confident that we will put our little brother in his place yet again. Losing to Rutgers, a team that lost to every single conference game last season is shameful; Michigan State will have to drastically change its offensive line strategy to avoid repeating the seven turnovers it had on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights’ victory proves yet again that 2020 is the year of the surprise. I, for one, hope to see a Cinderella story come from Rutgers this year until we play them on November 21. All that aside, I cannot thank Jim Harbaugh, Joe Milton, and our excellent football team for providing just enough hope, excitement, and athletic dominance to inspire its fans. This victory against a ranked opponent in our conference was exactly the spark of hope that we need to make it through the stay-at-home order and the remaining months of virtual classes. We are a top 25, Division I, Big Ten football school; no pandemic can take that away from us. That is just the consistency I need to find joy in the fall semester, khakis, or no khakis.