Michigan vs. Michigan State, facing off for yet another year. Who would prevail? Evenly skirmishing to defend the line of scrimmage. Until. It happened. Unfathomable. Irreversible. Hideous. The botched punt touchdown. So diabolically memorable that I have no recollection of any other play in that game.
The Wolverines, with their comeback season, were ahead and had one last play. Ten seconds, ten long seconds until they would defeat Sparty, their higher ranked adversary. It was fourth and two from the opponent’s 47 yard line. The snapped ball whirled through the air at 31 miles per hour, alarmingly low to the ground.
The punter bobbled the snap, and the ball recoiled off his hands tumbling towards the line of scrimmage while the defense raced in. The punter reached to grab the ball and was toppled like a bowling pin amid a swarm of white jerseys. His arm flailed, flinging the ball towards the sideline where it bounced up into the hands of a Spartan defender who immediately headed for the end zone.
Is this happening? Push him out of bounds for crying out loud!
Blocks were missed as a mass of white players guided the ball carrier down the field. Going. Going. Going. Finally, a Michigan player launched into a last ditch dive at the end of the field only to be pushed down like a rag-doll. Touchdown. The clock rang double zeros as I sat dumbfounded in the bar with cheers erupting around me.
I wrote the above after Michigan lost to Michigan State during the 2015 season (last year) in epic style. Go ahead, reader, watch the video of that punt. It still makes me nauseous. Now, though, it’s a year later, and I have hope. The marching of time is incessant and relentless, which can be insidious when thinking about things like standardized tests or wrinkles. But time has many positive attributes as well. Through its persistence, time frequently gives us multiple chances to grow, build, and encounter new experiences.
While we (and by “we” I mean every Michigan fan out there) still remember that game, the slate is now clean and potential redemption presents itself. The Michigan vs. Michigan State battle is on again this weekend. Even though that haunting punt still lives in my memory, the opportunity for a rematch has arrived.
I think there is a life lesson in this (football has taught me many life lessons). Time can work in my favor, too. Life is challenging, and humanity can reside in the shadow of defeat now and again. How wonderful to consistently remember that time and perseverance can produce further chances for success? My failure isn’t always final. There can be a next time. While some things cannot be replaced, frequently time ushers in occasions to build something new.
For in life, as in football, there is always yet another game to be played. Go Blue!