The most anticipated season in Michigan Football history is one month and five days away according to the ticker over at umtailgate.com. That’s just close enough for the excitement of the season to start creeping in and just far enough away to incite boredom amongst a fanbase that would probably pay $200 per person just to get the season started today. It has been 251 days since Michigan last played a football game and there’s still over a month of waiting to go. There were only 243 days between games entering Rich Rodriguez’s debut at Michigan and that seemed like an eternity. We're already eight days beyond that. By the time Michigan suits up against Western Michigan on September 5, it will have been a whopping 288 days since Michigan played its last football game. That’s 45 additional days of wait over last season. One can only hope that the coaching staff has made better use of those days than the media and fanbase.
Every possible story about Michigan football that could have been written has been ten times over. Every possible debate that could have been argued has been ten times over. The sheer magnification of the microscope that has been placed on the football program has ratcheted up expectations exponentially for 2009. Pick up a college football preview magazine at the newsstands or Google “2009 Michigan Football Preview” and you’re likely to find someone proclaiming this to be a “make or break” year for Rodriguez. You’ll probably see a mention of “disgruntled Wolverines faithful” which is almost always accompanied by Rodriguez being placed on the “hot seat.” When people with ink write things enough times, readers start believing it. Last season was brutal in every conceivable way. Nobody could ever deny that. Considering the cast of characters at quarterback and the overall incompatibility the roster had with the spread offense, 2008 might as well have never happened. It’s in the record books. Fans had to endure it. In terms of what it means moving forward, though, 2008 is a non-factor. It means nothing. For all intents and purposes, 2009 is a mulligan for Rodriguez. Nobody knows what this year will bring but it doesn't take much thought to realize this year will be different. Legitimate optimism based on new personnel should preside whereas last season was filled with the “we are Michigan how bad can it be?” type of optimism. This should be a year of hope and growth with eyes set for big things in 2010. Instead, the salivating inkmen have fooled many into thinking that 2009 is Rodriguez’s final exam.
It would be one thing if what happened in magazines stayed in magazines. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Perception is often reality. College football writers and idiots alike (see; the blowhards at Maxim who I won't even bother linking to) have painted a dire picture of the Michigan football program and Rodriguez’s subsequent tenuous job security. Neither is true but because of what has been written, many fans think they are. Instead of anticipating the de facto beginning of the Rodriguez era at Michigan with hope and optimism, much of the anticipation has shifted towards tension filled reservations. That’s where the extra 45 days are not helping things at all. Message boards have turned to cannibalistic behavior with maize on blue crime increasing daily. Recruiting has been dissected and criticized more than it ever has been before despite an impressive haul. Player departures are treated as if they’re just another block removed from a teetering Jenga tower. The announcement of Connecticut being the dedication game for the Bigger House in 2010 was met with near universal dissatisfaction. To be a Michigan fan right now is to navigate a breeding ground for negativity. Those who have GPS are probably staying on the periphery but far too many have been influenced by the Phil Steele’s of the world who have obviously forgotten how unimportant and meaningless “year ones” are for coaches. He may want to look up a few guys by the name of Pete Carroll, Jim Tressel, and Nick Saban to get some perspective.
No amount of logic or reasoning is going to bring peace or perspective to fans who remain unconvinced of the storm that's brewing in Ann Arbor. The only thing that will change anyone’s opinion is “wins.” Unfortunately, there’s not much the team can do about that right now. Michigan fans might be well-advised to take a mental vacation until September. The next 36 days are going to feel like 36 viewings of last year's Ohio State-game.