Being a Michigan supporter during Jim Tressel's tenure at (THEEE) Ohio State University was a lot like dying a thousand deaths. In the present, I want to say I'm overreacting a bit with a comment like that, but as I reflect on the last decade of experiences, that comparison almost doesn't seem close enough to what it was actually like.
The Senator only lost once to the Maize and Blue. He spent most of his time at Ohio State straight-up killing Michigan, being boring, and wearing sweatervests. It was truly awful.
But today I woke up to find things changed forever. Officially.
Before the Michigan-Ohio State game in 2009, I wrote a Tremendous Upside Potential column that essentially said Tressel had possession of my soul in a chest at his house. This actually happened:
If you ever find yourself in the worst state in the world, probably somewhere near the Columbus area, head over to Tressel's mansion. Come in through the front door, walk past the foyer, and probably through a hallway or two until you find his study/chamber area. There, you'll find an old wooden chest, probably in a corner. There are two locks on the outside of it. Inside is my soul.
Not just mine, either. Lloyd Carr, Mike Hart, Chad Henne... all the rest. We're all there.
Fighting for dear life to keep his soul out of Tressel's death chest is one Rich Rodriguez. I'm terrified it's a futile battle, but all I can do is stay optimistic. And as they say, when there's nothing left to believe in, believe in hope.
I was pretty strung out then, and it didn't change much over the last two years. Tressel's dominance over one Rich Rodriguez -- a coach I loved and admired -- helped sign and seal his death certificate in Ann Arbor. While I might be hard pressed to find real evidence of this, his winning streak streak against former UM head coach Lloyd Carr surely increased the pressure that would lead to Carr's eventual resignation. Tressel simply hung over ever major thing that happened to Michigan football.
Heck, look at this reaction of current Michigan defensive lineman Mike Martin (via Twitter, via ESPN):
The head of the scarlet and grey Demon has been cut off!
To outsiders, it might sound ludicrous to compare Tressel to a demon or say he possessed people's souls, but in so many ways, it felt like the man had a real power or hex over the University of Michigan. It was like he always knew something that we didn't. Turning on The Game every year and seeing him on the sidelines was depressing and deflating. Games felt over before they even begun. While the SEC and company have had their laughs at Ohio State's expense over the years, the Buckeyes never had a problem rolling through the Big Ten, and they never ever had a problem dispatching Michigan. The Tressel era was a continuous and perpetual aura of invincibility and control.
But that no longer exists.
And that's why I will always remember Memorial Day 2011. Not because Michigan is now "better" than Ohio State. For all we know, the Wolverines could still be years away. But today is a day of hope and a day of change. And even a loss to Ohio State in The Game this year will not erase that positive feeling. Not even the hiring of Urban Meyer could change that. Even though Meyer is a potentially better head coach than Tressel, he still isn't *Jim Tressel*. No matter what happens next, good or bad, everything is different. And for Michigan, when the last decade of Ohio State has basically been complete failure, a change or difference of any kind is going to be met with open arms.
Goodbye, JT. You will not be missed. But you certainly will not ever be forgotten.