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Friday, December 30, 2005

Why It Hurts

I realized during my six hour drive back to LA today why the last play of last night's game is bothering me so much, and why I expect it to continue to do so for some time.

No one will remember in three years who won the 2005 Alamo Bowl, or, most likely, who was even in it. Even Michigan fans will have little more memory of it than they do of the 1995 Alamo Bowl, for example. But if we had completed that miracle play (and by no means am I reasoning that we SHOULD have or that we should have even been in that situation), no one would have ever forgotten it.

EVER.

That play probably would have gone down as one of the top three plays in the history of college football, mixed in somewhere (in my opinion) between The Band and Flutie. It was outrageous, it was unlikely, it was incredible, and, most amazingly, it was almost succesful. It's already been the most played Bowl Season highlight on ESPN despite the fact that it (A) Happened less than 24 hours ago and (B) didn't even work. Imagine if it had. Michigan fans and casual fans alike would have marvelled for decades over it; it would have become a moment in history. Bennie posted a day or two ago that the Alamo Bowl provided no opportunity for Michigan to come out as "winners," and in retrospect, he was almost right. A win wouldn't have felt like much, we know how the loss feels. But what none of us could have imagined at the time is that we would come so close to pulling off a play for the ages. If THAT had happened, even Bennie will surely admit, we would have come out winners, and BIG.

For not only would it have been an amazing moment for fans of sport, it would finally have erased one of the greatest pains of Michigan fandom. I don't see any need to name names or years or dates, but we all know that as UM fans, when we see our team on ESPN Classic, there's only ever one reason. It's either an instant classic that we lost, ie Northwestern a few years ago or the Rose Bowl last year, or it's...well, you know. How many times have you caught the maize and blue on the Classic only to realize, "OH GOD THEY'RE SHOWING IT AGAIN." If we had completed that play last night, we would have never thought about it again. We would have surpassed it with one greater, rewritten our own history of being on the losing end of the impossible.

Of course, as Michigan fans, we should have known the moment that play started...that's impossible.

18 comments:

remy hamilton said...

That's just silly. Cal beat their archrival and kept them out of a bowl game, BC upset the previous year's national champions on the road and clinched a Cotton Bowl berth. Those games meant something. If Michigan won that game, all it would mean is that they had to resort to a trick play to beat an overmatched has-been program in a fourth-rate bowl game. THAT'S what you should be complaining about, not ESPN Classic (which doesn't show sports telecasts anymore anyway).

The King said...

Really? And what did Colorado get out of Hail Marying us in 94, smartass?

CrimeNotes said...

I think the play was borderline embarrassing. For a program like Michigan to be reduced to a sideshow-quality last gasp against Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl (the Alamo Bowl!) is humiliating. Kind of like when the Detroit Tigers sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel to the plate in order to get a walk. I can do without that kind of legend.

IC said...

Crimenotes:

Firstly, Eddie Gaedel made his famous at-bat for the St. Louis Browns, not the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have suffered enough humiliation recently without this one being tied to their tails.

Secondly, the final play was Michigan's effort to WIN A GAME! Who gives a shit if it had a "sideshow quality"? Would you have been happier if Henne simply took a knee?

The only thing "borderline embarassing" about the final play for Michigan is how it proved that the team has fans who are so arrogant that they think never quitting is somehow beneath them.

Yost said...

Well said, IG. Agree 100%.

Although must say, I love "CrimeNotes" blog name. And on this site, the way Michigan plays now, it's so appropriate.

CrimeNotes said...

Thanks for the Gaedel correction. My bad.

But goddammit, I wasn't arguing "never quitting is somehow beneath" Michigan fans or that Henne should have taken a goddamn knee. One thing to think I'm full of shit and call me out on it, it's another to distort what I wrote, attribute some kind of ill will, and try to set up strawmen. It's a disincentive to read this site, much less leave a comment.

I will, however, cop to being 1.) snotty about it, and 2.) frustrated by the argument that the play could have been a pinnacle moment. Out of all the explanations of "why it hurts," missing out on some kind of mystique from a final flukish, somewhat chaotic play is at the bottom. It wouldn't have become classic play because it evidenced Michigan players not giving up, but because of the (yes, sideshow quality) mayhem of the 500 Nebraskans on the field while the play went on. I don't see how it would have "rewritten our own history of being on the losing end of the impossible" (the premise of which I don't agree with at all -- I would have thought the Henne-Manningham pass in the Penn State game, and even the Phil Brabbs kick at the end of the 2002 Washington game would qualify for that, but whatever, apparently I'm arrogant).

What hurt was losing, not being deprived of any mystique from that last play.

That's not an argument that Henne should have taken a knee or anybody falling on their swords, thanks.

IC said...

Good post, Loeffler.

I too was bothered all day yesterday. Getting over the loss wasn't too difficult, as sadly I have a lot of experience with that this season. But the failure to make history with the final play, after coming so close, left lingering sadness.

I kept imagning Breaston grabbing a quick pitch from Ecker, cutting left, and striding into the end zone, before collding with an unsuspecting photographer whose body and equipment are flung parallel to the Alomo Bowl turf. I see the wild celebration of white-clad Wolverines and the confusion and ultimate disbelief of the already Gatorade-soaked Bill Callahan.

Then I try to make myself feel better by imagining that after all this, that Mensa group of an officiating crew convenes and tosses a late flag for illegal participation, before scurrying into the tunnel: Final score Nebraska 32 Michigan 28.

remy hamilton said...

Loeffler: My point is I DON"T CARE what's on ESPN Classic, there's no reason for Michigan fans to feel proud about beating an inferior team in a lousy bowl game on a fluke play. If Colorado fans are genuinely proud of beating a mediocre '94 Michigan team, it just goes to show how little they have to brag about.

Ian Gold: Of course Michigan should have tried to win the game. Of course winning by any legal means is better than losing. But that doesn't mean winning would have justified building the final play into some kind of pseudo-legendary status. The game was never going to be a feather in Michigan's cap from the get-go, whoever wrote that on this site had it right the first time. Only ESPN Nation would have considered it significant had Michigan scored on that play, and since they're wrong about EVERYTHING else, I hope you'll agree they'd probably be wrong about that too.

Hopefully everyone involved with Michigan has let go of this steaming pile and started thinking about next year.

Yost said...

Can't we all get along?

Crime, I think everybody who is a Michigan fan is frustrated, myself included. We've fallen far and fast.

And keep in mind, it's so hard to read tone in emails, posts and comments thus IG's comments weren't some sort of personal slam, merely strong disagreement with your previous entry which is what this site is all about.

Thanks for your comments, we appreciate them. Doesn't mean we'll always be gentle if we disagree. And feel free to rant, defend, critique in kind. As long as it's not personal, we welcome strong points of view. Hell, some of my biggest arguments on this site are with Wangs, that playoff-wanting m'f'er. :)

Yost said...

Remy,

I think they point is, whether we would have liked it or not, that last play would have gone down as legend. Period. And there would be no shame in that. Think Cal minds when their play is shown 6,000 times a year? Hell no. I'm sure it brings a smile to ANY college football fan, Cal grad or not. Same here.

ALL of us that are commenting on this agree that a) it should never have come down to that type of play against this Neb team and b) the season was a disaster even if we did win. BUT, like it or not, pulling that off would have gone down as the greatest play in Michigan history - as well as college football history - and those only come along once every couple of decades.

PS Re: the BC/Flutie pass being so special b/c it was against the previous national champs, I totally disagree. It is memorable b/c it's an amazing, almost impossible play between big time programs. The mystique of Miami and being the previous nat champs that year ('84) was over the first weekend of the season when they lost to Michigan. In fact, Miami only went about 7-4 that year. Beating them was no big deal. It was all about The Play.

CrimeNotes said...

Yost: I know. Thanks. It's been a bad 36 hours, culminating with getting on Ian Gold's shitlist. Not to mention that I was already running late for my fight with Rob Swett.

Yost said...

LOL!

Yost said...

IG,

Would have been almost poetic had we made the play then had it called back. In fact, you just know that's what would have happened. The lone ref who was still on the field would have dropped a flag, lol.

IC said...

Remy:

I understand what you mean and far be it from me to avoid taking a shot at what you cleverly call ESPN Nation.

But you've got to admit (for the reasons Yost points out) the final play, though not necessarily very meaningful, would have been legendary--discussed and shown for its famously unique qualities as long as men spend Saturday afternoons in front of the television watching snippets of college football in between ads for Chili's and the all-new, full-size Chevy Silverado.

That noted, I will take your advice to let go of this "steaming pile" of a season and I have already begun thinking about next year (see my comment under "There's Always Next Year.")

IC said...

Crimenotes:

Your points are well taken.

Rest assured that you are not on (nor anywhere near appearing on) my shit list, which continues to include Geraldo Rivera, the scorching-hot ghost of Woody Hayes, and the a-hole cel phone salesman who told me the Sony Ericsson T637 is a good phone.

Yost said...

IG, LOL!!!

The King said...

Crimenotes:

You think Phillip Brabbs' kick against Washington erased the public perception of Michigan being on the wrong end of crazy finishes? SERIOUSLY?

I was at that game and I didn't remember it until you mentioned it.

As for Manningham's catch against PSU, I have bad news for you. Most people don't even know who Penn State's one loss came to this year. And why would they? That play was a great fourth down clutch play for the win...which only happens about 5-10 times every Saturday, albeit in smaller games than ours. That play wouldn't even rank in the top 100 in Michigan history.

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the original post. If we'd scored, it would have become an all-time legendary play, up there with the Cal-Stanford one. (In response to Remy, I seriously doubt that most people know or care that Cal's play kept Stanford out of a bowl--they just think it's a cool play.)
In fact, this play (if it had been capped with a TD) was arguably even more incredible than the Cal one; there were more laterals and it seemed even more improvised.