By Jeff Glick
The Game, as it has been referred to for decades by those “in the know”, has been a defining part of the Ohio State Michigan rivalry, with legendary coaches and legendary performances, where one team, or even one individual player, rises to the occasion. This is the stage where the stakes are higher than the score or a team’s record are played. This, instead, is a stage which emboldens and embellishes the whole of the institution. And it certainly did that last Saturday.
The raucous crowd at Michigan Stadium, at first, appeared to be another gathering of the faithful. The “colors” even more evident with the colder weather as scarfs and hats and gloves were donned, evidencing the trademark hues of scarlet or maize, all the more so visible due to the added layers of protection from the weather.
But something transformed the Michigan faithful on Saturday. This became more than just a football game, but instead a rekindling of pride and a swelling of compassion for the University in Ann Arbor. The storybook plot of the native son coach, maligned over the last 7 years for “not winning the big one” was exchanged for the determination of a team, yes a cogent and committed group of student athletes, united by the singular purpose of victory. The pride that every partisan attendee feels when UM alum, James Earl Jones states in the now-traditional pre-game video, “the best university in the world”. The chill of goosebumps, the welling up of tears, the institutional pride that manifests itself in the faithful as the team takes the field.
This year, the game marks a return of Michigan pride that was palpable in the stands and across the country from TV viewers. The pride that literally spilled over the stadium walls and onto the field, with such gusto that one seasoned observer noted “ that you could not fit one more body onto the field”. This was the unifying moment, of one of the largest alumni groups of any college or university and the students and faculty and staff of the university, of the fans and friends of the University of MIchigan, who have for so long been proud of their school, demonstrating their allegiance in a multitude of ways, from attendance to the wearing of the colors to the contributions, both in verbal and financial support.
This was a defining moment, for the team, of course, but even more so for the entire University of Michigan community. A simultaneous moment of pride and of a recommitment to what the meaning of a great and hallowed university tradition means in times when many institutions, those that have formed the bedrock of what we expect and anticipate as Americans and as people, have eroded and experienced diminished meaning. This was the day that Michigan solidified its relationship with all of its faithful anew.
Perhaps, and without assigning too great of a task to this moment, this phenomenon, this unity of purpose and vision, is something that could translate to our entire country. The loss of direction and ambition and national purpose could coalesce around a unifying event. The dramatic and clear demonstration of a singular goal emboldened by a unique moment in time, eschewing the pains and disappointments and failures of the past for the hope and the promise and the bright expectations of tomorrow.
The University of Michigan is back. Not just the football program, but with the swelled pride of the entire alumni nation. What a difference a game makes.