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The Entire Nation Should be Rooting for the Wolverines

By Matthew Walther at the New York Times

Photo by Brad West / Unsplash

Unless you are in a Covid detention facility in China or are playing along with cable media’s desperate attempt to make the World Cup a thing on American television, you are probably aware that Michigan indeed finished the regular season undefeated, beating Ohio State 45-23 on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Here at Rooster’s we have long known what the rest of the country was going to come around to understanding sooner or later: In this year’s College Football Playoff, which begins on New Year’s Eve, every American has an obligation to root for the Wolverines.

This is not just because everyone is sick of seeing Alabama (thankfully eliminated from playoff contention) or Clemson (ditto) win, though everyone is. Nor is it because Michigan is arguably the biggest TV draw in college football. And it certainly isn’t because of our coach, Jim Harbaugh, the anti-abortion, pro-Colin Kaepernick madman whose unclassifiable politics, painfully dorky fashion choices and inexplicable animosity toward poultry have made him, though cherished in our household, a figure of more mixed reputation in other parts of the country.

No, the case for Michigan is a simple matter of restitution: Since 1997, the last time we won a national football championship, this country has been nothing but cruel to our state. It is time to make amends.

Some of my happiest memories from my Michigan childhood are from that glory year of 1997: four small children in the lap of our 26-year-old father, shouts, beery kisses, Charles Woodson’s 77-yard punt return touchdown in the Ohio State game, the ever-present voice of ABC’s legendary play-by-play announcer, Keith Jackson. But 1997 was also the year in which General Motors announced the closure of Buick City — once the largest auto factory in the world — where generations of my family on both sides had been employed. When the doors were finally shut two years later, my maternal grandfather was forced into early retirement.

By early 2009, after the Wolverines went 3-9 following a blowout loss to Ohio State, G.M. and Chrysler had declared bankruptcy. Detroit itself would follow suit in 2013, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in American history at the time. Halfway through the middle of the Obama administration, the world of broad-based prosperity that manufacturing and trade unions had made possible in our state had become as distant a memory as Bo Schembechler, the greatest football coach in Wolverine history, whose wariness about money once led him to reject an offer from Texas A&M that would have roughly tripled his salary.

What else has happened since the 1997 championship? Thousands of doctors, nurses and pharmacists took part in lavish “pain management” training junkets put on by Purdue Pharma; as recently as 2016, more than 10 million opioid prescriptions were being written in Michigan each year. Tens of thousands of mostly nonunionized auto manufacturing jobs began cropping up in the South, an arrangement with which the Big Three automakers are not likely to ever be able to compete. Recreational cannabis use was legalized here in 2018, soon to be joined by online sports and casino gambling, the two industries that (if the preponderance of expressway billboards is any indication) together make up Michigan’s economy. Decline in religious practice neatly tracked an increase in so-called deaths of despair. By 2019 a Michigander was committing suicide every five hours, and drug overdoses were even more frequent.

Read the rest at the New York Times (subscription is probably required)