Sympathy with the devil; a few thoughts on Michigan football and Mike Hart

Mike Hart Michigan loss to Oregon

You know, last week it was sort of fun. All the preseason hype, the sports illustrated cover, the classic LLLLLLoyd Carr breakdown, the sudden desire to buy Appalachian State T-shirts, it was all mere fodder for a rival’s cannon. But today, it just seems to lack the same luster. The problem with watching a car wreck is that sooner or later, you will see something that you didn’t want to see. Sure, it makes you turn your head at first but suddenly, that image is branded on your mind and you can’t shake it no matter how hard you try.

Maybe the image brings back memories that are much to painful to bear. Maybe it is because deep down, we fear that it could be us. Maybe it is just because you get that sense that if you stand too close to it, people will begin to think you’re a part of it.

Whatever it is, watching Michigan lose just wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. And I tell you this now, my gut bordering on deep spasm as I say it, I almost feel sorry for Mike Hart.

And why wouldn’t anyone. Hart is the only one left on the entire Michigan team who even appeares to care. Chad Henne, the leader that was to take them all to the big dance, wouldn’t even come out of the locker room for the second half. Injured…sure, that’s it. When Carr was asked about the injury post game he responded, “I don’t want to get into that.”

Henne wouldn’t even come out of the locker room second half.

I don’t know who’s decision it was, Henne’s, Carr’s, maybe Ron English but when you’re losing the race, the last thing you do is sail off the course and quit. Even if he was injured (an injury that at worst left him limping through the next play) you come out on crutches, you cheer from the sideline, you do whatever it takes, the game was not over.

Hart did it for you last week. He had his own injuries but even when the rest of the team had packed up and gone home, the guy you so desperately hand the ball to kept running. He put up 115 desperate yards by himself in the fourth quarter (App. State). He barely practiced all week because of that same injury yet there he was again against Oregon. Pretty much the only one on the team who played at all.

This team has asked a lot of this kid over the years. Hart kept Michigan in the game last year against Ohio State and he has pulled their sorry asses out of the dump more then a few times. When he had the chance to go pro, making millions, he came back, dreams of glory in his eyes, and was left standing, holding the ball, all by himself. His friends, fellow teammates, and the entire Michigan defense had left the field before the game even started.

But worst of all, worse even than Chad Henne’s inability to face his defeat with dignity, LLLLLLoyd Carr and Ron English should be licking the mud from Hart’s cleats. I can only imagine the begging and pleading that went on at the end of last season–the promises of glory, a national championship, maybe even a Heisman trophy. All Hart had to do was give up a lifetime of financial security, risk a career ending injury and give his all to “The Team.” And what have they given him in return?

As Carr said in his post-game press conference, “I’ll be alright.” Of course you will Lloyd. You have a million dollar contract, the retirement package, the 401K. And more than anything, you’ve continued on in the lap of luxury even though you have failed to prove yourself, other than an occasional abnormality, for the past five years. You seem to handle failure well Lloyd. You even seem to relish in it and truthfully, as an Ohio State fan, I have been glad that you’re around.

But how many times will you test the character of this young man. How many times will you make him get up in front of that podium and try to explain away your incompetence. He’s done it twice now. How much more do you think he’s got in him.

And he hasn’t given up on you yet either. He got up there, alone, even after the rest of you had abandoned him and told the world,

“This is MY team, and I want to lead this team to victory. At the end of the year, when everybody says, wow, this team turned it around, I didn’t think they could do it – that’s going to be my team.

“Just like it’s my team now, when we’re 0-2.”

He also guaranteed a win against Notre Dame.

But now I fear the worst (for Michigan) is at hand as that guarantee falls through. While I’ve often wished it possible that both Michigan and Notre Dame would lose this annual game, I may actually see it happen. What happens when a team with no defense goes up against a team with no offense? It could go on for ever, back and forth from 40 yard line to 40 yard line.

Thankfully, Penn State was there last weekend because this is starting to make all of us in the Big Ten look bad.

As for Hart, how many times will he be able to be knocked down? How many times will you continue to hand him the ball hoping that you can somehow take credit for his effort, his heart.

Every Ohio State fan knew that Michigan had it in them to choke. We all knew that they would have trouble with the pressure of a high preseason ranking. None of us however, had any idea how bad it would be.