Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reflections: The Name of THE GAME

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXThings fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXMere anarchy is loosed upon the world...

Today is the day of THE GAME, the annual Big Ten football season-ending contest between my alma mater, The University of Michigan (Go, Blue!) and the hated Buckeyes of An Ohio State University. To sum up the significance of the rivalry, for those of you who have lived in blissful ignorance to-date, the Wolverines strive for God’s approval, while the Ohio State coaches and players are juiced by demonic powers. It is Black vs. White, Good vs. Evil, plain and simple.

However, as a microcosmic metaphor for God’s Team in the world-at-large, the Michigan football program is, most unfortunately, in a state of sad decline. To extend the spiritual metaphor, Michigan has become the Western Europe of big time college football. This season, more than in any previous season in the 109-year history of the Michigan football program, the outcome of THE GAME is not in question: the Bad Guys will kick ass, big time.

Michigan, my birthplace, the state in which I spent my childhood and early youth, has been troubling my mind lately. The death throes of the automobile industry and the agonizing in Washington over the choice between attempting a heroic intervention or allowing these hamstrung beasts to die a natural death, is much in the news. As symbolic of THE GAME and the difference in stature between Michigan and Ohio, one could point out that in Michigan they design and build the cars; in Ohio they only make the tires. When Michigan goes over the cliff, therefore, can Ohio be far behind? I find myself crushed between the Scylla of sic transit gloria mundi and the Charybdis of reality bites. (For you OSU grads: “between a rock and a hard place.” )

I also remain deep into my study of the poet, Jane Kenyon, who was born and raised in Ann Arbor, and who—although she was my classmate both in high school and at the University—I never knew. The more I read of Kenyon’s poetry, the more I retroactively suffer this loss of opportunity. I particularly recommend her collection Let Evening Come, the title poem of which I judge to be perfect. In reading both her poetry and her biography, Ann Arbor and Michigan are brought repeatedly to mind. Jane Kenyon’s early death—and the leukemia that killed her—seem ominously symbolic of the decline of the state of Michigan and of Michigan’s team.

Which brings us back to THE GAME. In this week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review, there is a review by Jonathan Chait entitled Turf Wars, of War As They Knew It, which is a history of the Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry during the Vietnam years. It looks to be an interesting read. The review itself includes a paragraph describing the legendary OSU football coach and arch fiend, Woody Hayes (Wuck Foody!) that is the first thing I ever read about the man that, part of which, I have to grudgingly admire:

Hayes was less a conventional right-winger than a fanatical proponent of social order. He inspired his players to pursue their education and even lectured them on military history, of which he was an autodidact. He had no interest in money, regularly declining raises and leaving some paychecks uncashed. News of gasoline shortages prompted him to walk almost three miles to work daily.

Far from that Homeric era when legendary Michigan coach, Bo Schembechler, led the Maize and Blue onto the field, Michigan is coached this year by a micro-cephalic hillbilly mouth-breather imported from some infernal West Virginia slag heap by a Michigan A.D. who must be on crack. This Appalachian moron is well summed up in this article, thoughtfully emailed to me this week by an already gloating dickhead who was born and raised in—you guessed it—the state that dare not speak its name. Aw, fuck it—