Sports are about numbers, and that isn’t just because scores are kept. A player’s height and weight matter, they’re ages, too. But the best moments are when things occur that haven’t happened in a long time, as sports are also a marker of time. We just witnessed the best seven days that a place with two peninsulas has ever had in sports.
Any real Michigan native will tell you a secret that most outsiders don’t realize — Michigan is a basketball state, not a football one. But that wasn’t the case when an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary-like run for the 26th state started and ended with decades-long worth of frustrations replaced with euphoria due to football.
First up, the Wolverines.
When Michigan beat Ohio State for the third time in November, it was a precursor for what was to come, given that the last time the Wolverines had a three-game win streak over the Buckeyes, they went on to win a national championship. Welp, last Monday night, history repeated itself when Michigan’s defense showed the world why Michael Penix Jr. didn’t win the Heisman after all. The Wolverines’ 34-13 win over Washington gave them their first national title since 1997, as they went 15-0 in arguably the wildest season a college football team has ever endured. Their head coach was suspended, twice. There was a sign-stealing investigation that caused many to question their resume over the last three seasons. The NCAA and the Big Ten were breathing down their necks, and a gauntlet of Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa, Alabama, and the Huskies stood in their way.
How did it all end?
With a parade down the streets of Ann Arbor. As I previously wrote, “Michigan vs. Everybody isn’t just a catchy phrase on a t-shirt. It’s more than a rallying cry when the entire sports world is cheering against you. It’s a declaration that anybody can get it — line ‘em up and knock ‘em down.”
Next up, the Lions.
I’m not a Lions fan, but as a Michigan native, I remember the last time it happened and where I was when I watched it — in our living room looking at our floor-model TV as an 8-year-old. That was the last time the Lions won a playoff game until history was made on Sunday night when they beat the Rams, 24-23, at Ford Field. I watched it on my flat-screen TV, on my couch, as a 40-year-old.
“If you want to text a Lions fan congrats on the playoff win. Do it, it’ll be the first they’ve ever gotten, texting wasn’t around the last time the Lions won a playoff game,” said Mike Tirico during the broadcast.
Dan Campbell and the Lions actually did it. And now a franchise that’s never been to the Super Bowl, and only has two postseason wins since 1957, is two wins away and they have a shot.
Wolverines, come on down — again.
After what Michigan’s football teams had accomplished on the field, it felt as if nothing could match it. But, in a week in which the unimaginable had already occurred twice, it decided that three would be the magic number.