Because It's Ohio State

Has someone taken your faith?
Its real, the pain you feel
The life, the love you'd die to heal
The hope that starts the broken hearts
You trust, you must

It has been a harrowing week for not only the Carr's, but the entire Michigan football family.

The passing of Chad Carr on Monday has cast a shadow on this game in much the same way the passing of Bo did nine years ago during Ohio State week in 2006. Except this time the circumstances are far more tragic and heartbreaking.

Chad's life, and his continuing legacy, were defined by his inoperable brain tumor. But of course, the only reason we all knew of Chad was because of his family's ties to Michigan football. His grandfather was former head coach Lloyd Carr. His dad is Lloyd's son Jason Carr, a former Michigan quarterback. And on top of that, Chad's mom Tammi Carr, is the daughter of former All-American defensive back Tom Curtis. Chad's numerous ties to Michigan football brought us all closer to him. Those ties, the same ones that bind you and me and all of the maize and blue faithful together, gave us all a window into Chad's battle against this horrible disease and the impact it had, and will continue to have on his family.

Despite all the anguish, a football game will still be played on Saturday. Sports goes on, as it often does in the face of unspeakable tragedy. For some reason, we find comfort in sports sometimes, when real life becomes too grim to bear. Nothing is more grim than a young child losing their battle with cancer. Nothing can assuage that heartache.

Without coming across as too much of a shill, if you haven't already, please take a moment to visit the Chad Tough Foundation website. The ONLY way we're going to cure this horrible disease is with research and that research costs money.

So we do this thing. We gather together, people from all walks of life, to watch sports and cheer our teams. The catharsis of coming together starts the healing process. I didn't know Chad personally, and most likely the vast majority of you didn't either...but you felt like you knew him. If you're a parent, you probably felt an even deeper connection.

Last week, before Chad passed, Michigan State and Ohio State both wore Chad Tough Foundation stickers on their helmets. I'd wager that not many of those players probably even knew of Chad before that. But they do now. We all do now.

That's the power of sports.

That's the power of this rivalry.

College football rivalries create moments no other sport can create. Like last night when Jim Harbaugh led a group of 200+ fans on a walk to the grave sites of Bo Schembechler, Fielding Yost and Bob Ufer at Forest Hill Cemetery. The graveyard walk began some 20 years ago by Michigan's original "superfan" Jeff Holzhausen when he was a student at UM. Back then, Bo was still alive and Lloyd Carr was just starting his career as head coach. Now, they honor Bo, and last night they honored Lloyd's grandson Chad.
Harbaugh also honored his former coach by smashing a buckeye with a maize hammer. I swear, I absolutely love college football. No other sport in America can offer this level of eccentricity but at the same time, this amount of passionate celebration.

This rivalry, this's different. It has been for generations. You feel this game. When it's over, as a fan, you're exhausted, like you've played in it. There's actual pain when Michigan loses, which unfortunately has happened all too frequently lately...12 times in the last 14 years.

But despite recent struggles, nothing else compares to Ohio State week.

It's The Game.

It's the rivalry which has defined both of these storied programs for over a century.

For the 111th time dating back to 1897, Michigan and Ohio State will meet on the gridiron to either make or break their season. For the first time since 2006, a potential Big Ten championship is on the line. And as always, bragging rights and the glory of victory await the winner in this most epic and grandest of college football rivalries.

This is a defining game. And because it's always at the end of the season, every championship run for either team always includes a landmark victory in this matchup. It just so happens that this year, when a toe meets leather at high noon at Stadium and Main, both teams will still be in the hunt for a potential shot at Iowa in the Big Ten Championship.

The 2015 edition of the The Game has been one of the most anticipated matchups in recent series history ever since Jim Harbaugh was hired on in December of last year. And even though the Buckeyes lost to Michigan State last week, removing the "winner-take-all" element from this contest, that doesn't lessen the importance of winning Saturday afternoon. You never know what's going to happen 60 miles away in East Lansing once this game ends.

Hell, I don't know what to expect in this game. I don't think any of us really ever do. But that's whats so great about it. Records and past success have little bearing here. Often, it's the underdog that shows up wanting it more. Line 'em up and 3 and a half hours later one team is left standing. That team gets the glory, while the other gets 364 days to formulate a plan to not feel this pain again.

For the seniors, this is it. This is it for AJ Williams, Desmond Morgan, Joe Kerridge, Joe Bolden, James Ross, Blake O'Neill, Jarrod Wilson, Jake Rudock, Graham Glasgow, Chris Bryant and Wayne Lyons. For some of these guys, this is their first and last time playing in this game, for the rest, this is their 4th. Either way, this will be the one they remember for the rest of their lives.

Heavy hearts will be everywhere in that stadium on Saturday. On top of the fervor attached with this game every year, there's an added emotional element now, as if this game needed any more. Sports is trivial in the grand scheme of life, especially in the context of inexplicable loss. But often, that's when sports is at it's most needed. Chad Carr left this world peacefully, surrounded by his family while being held in his father's arms...and of course, he was wearing his Michigan pajamas.

No comments

Post a Comment