An Open Letter to Angry, Vitriolic Michigan Fans Raging on Social Media

michigan head coach jim harbaugh

An Open Letter to Angry, Vitriolic Michigan Fans Raging on Social Media

Football

An Open Letter to Angry, Vitriolic Michigan Fans Raging on Social Media

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When Michigan lost its season opener at Notre Dame on Saturday, how did you feel? Were you moderately dismayed, but not enough where it ruined your evening and enjoyment of college football at large? Or — was it catastrophic? Borderline catacylsmic? Were you impossible to be around as your family and friends retreated to areas in your household where you were not?

If you’re the latter, this is for you: no one was more upset about Michigan’s loss on Saturday than the players who actually lost the game.

Okay, those in the well-adjusted category certainly know that but are just passionate. Absolutely fine and understandable.

But let’s go ahead and narrow the focus to a subset of fans who were upset after the loss beyond just being inconsolable: were you one of the people who wanted blood afterwards? Couldn’t withstand a dropped pass or a missed tackle, so you took to social media to voice your anger? That’s not necessarily terrible, depending on how you did it.

Wait — you tagged one of the players or responded to a tweet or Instagram post they were tagged in and left them tagged? Okay, let’s back things up there, junior.

Let’s take a step back, a deep breath and repeat: no one was more upset about Michigan’s loss on Saturday than the players who actually lost the game.

You were? No, you weren’t. Promise.

You see, the players who take the field, they actually put in the time and preparation to play in the game. They spent those days that you were sleeping in or having beers on the boat up north all summer doing pretty much the exact opposite of that. And then, when the clock counted down with 15:00 left in the 1st quarter, they set out to achieve their dreams, what they aspired to starting January 2nd.

Except, for Michigan, it took all of 7 minutes and 51 seconds to realize that maybe the 2018 season that these Wolverines had prepared for throughout the grueling winter, spring and summer months wouldn’t be an unblemished, dream season.

Michigan tight end Sean McKeon, who led the team in 2017 in pass receptions in just his first season of on-field play, has heard the vitriol from an unhappy fanbase before. After some miscues in the Outback Bowl, the voices of the lynch mob wielding pitchforks became all too prevalent.

McKeon caught 2 of the 3 passes sent his way on Saturday for 10 yards. But you’ve seen that person on social media when that third pass didn’t come into his grasp. The two good things are negated by the one bad thing.

So out comes the anger, the rage. He has to do better, you vent on Twitter.

But, say it with me again: no one was more upset about Michigan’s loss on Saturday than the players who actually lost the game.

“I’m frustrated, too,” McKeon said. “You don’t want to lose – ever. But you can’t change that. You’ve just got to learn from it and we’re moving forward.”

McKeon hears the noise, but he’s quick to tune it out. In this game, you have to. You have to have thick skin. These players — especially after the anguish that came following an 8-5 season marred with injuries and mistakes — have quarter-inch, impermeable hide.

But they still hear it.

So when you take to social media and tag those players and spew your venom, vocal subset of the fanbase, know that you’re not really doing anything but ripping someone who tried their damndest to make you happy. And this is how you repay them?

Still, that leather than engulfs their senses is there to shield them, block everything out. They hear it, but they do their best to not let the elements freeze the tendrils.

Since before even Jim Harbaugh took over the program in 2015, there’s the stock saying: we’re (the players, not the fans, media, etc.) in this together. And we’re the only ones who have each other’s backs.

“We’re not really worried about that,” McKeon said. “Coach Harbaugh says it’s just us. And it really is just us on the team – all the coaches, all the players. Outside noise doesn’t have any affect on what we do.”

Of course, by now, you’ve heard that you’re not the only one voicing your displeasure.

Former Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards just got suspended indefinitely from his analyst job at BTN for being a part of the aforementioned subset. The vocal, but rabid, minority.

He was roundly chastised by the media and the broader portion of the fanbase, and rightly so. But still, despite his lesson being learned the hard way, with every picture of an offensive lineman, every mention of Brandon Wimbush escaping the pocket and making his way downfield, every sentence from a coach who insists that pass protection is improving, there’s still that person who looks at the bridge spanning from critical to unhinged and sprints across it with the fervor of someone possessed.

This is the only way that players such as Oliver Martin are coming to know the fanbase. He’s in his second year with the program, and just played in his first game this Saturday — pulling in three catches for 29 yards.

Like everyone else on the team, he doesn’t live in a vacuum. He hears the wrath, the anger, the disparagement. But, in order to press on, he and his teammates and coaches have to live in a bubble.

“Yeah, some of the coaches talked about it, too,” Martin said. “The only people that matter are within the program and what they have to say.”

“Our main thing, we’re kinda blocking all that out,” fellow second-year player, linebacker Josh Ross said. “We just want to play football. We want to move on to Western and have our best game that we possibly could have and that’s the main thing.”

See, and that’s the thing — they have to move forward. There’s 11 games left on the schedule. And just because the team lost in Week One doesn’t mean it can’t press on and do something special with the season.

But they looked horrible on Saturday! you exclaim? So did Ohio State in 2014, getting destroyed in Week Two at home by a mediocre Virginia Tech team. Those Buckeyes won the inaugural College Football Playoff.

But they haven’t been competitive and should be further along! That was the case made against Penn State head coach James Franklin, who, in 2016, was expected by many to be fired in-season after being 2-2 after Week Four, having just been dismantled by Michigan, 49-10. But the Nittany Lions persevered and won the conference.

This isn’t to say you can’t be critical. That you can’t voice your opinion. That you can’t make observations or have moments where you temporarily lose your mind. That’s impractical and unrealistic. Fan is short for fanatic. When your team loses, of course you’re upset. Of course, you watch and see an offensive line that doesn’t look improved from last year and you wonder aloud if 2018 could be any better than it was a year ago.

That makes sense. That’s life and football.

But, try to have some perspective. It was one game — and it wasn’t a great one. But it’s still just one game. It counts as one. It was against a pretty good team in Notre Dame, who is now ranked No. 8 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Other teams around the league — they may have won, but they gave up, like, 31 or 38 points to teams they were double-digit favorites against.

Programs aren’t built in a day. Or a year. Or three years. Harbaugh’s on year four, you shout, well yes, that’s right. He now has his players. They’re mostly in their third years now. “You get better at football by playing football,” is a quote we’ve heard from Harbaugh and his cadre of coaches.

As far as the problems that seem to be persisting, realize: there’s not an overnight fix, per se. I may have taken to these pages and prognosticated an 11-win season, and that might have been premature and gotten your hopes up. And for that, I’m sorry.

But know that whatever problems you see happening on the field, the coaches are 1,000 times more cognizant of them than you are, casual, but (hopefully) knowledgeable football fan. And I guarantee you one thing is 100% certain:

They are doing everything in their power to fix it.

And if they can find a way to pull a 2014 Ohio State or 2016 Penn State and win out, assuredly, they and the players they coach will do just that.

“Everything’s still in front of us, we’ve just gotta go get it,” Ross said. “We’ve just gotta go fight, we’ve got to get better every day. And once we do that, the sky’s the limit for us.”

Maybe they’ll win a ton more games. Maybe they won’t. And if they don’t, it’s okay to be upset. It’s fine, really. But, remember: the people who maliciously malign on social media, they actually put their blood, sweat and tears into this. They want to make you happy. Just because they let you down doesn’t mean that you should target them and try to make them feel like less than.

They know better than you do what they have to do. And — promise — they’re doing everything they can — players and coaches, alike — to make all your dreams come true.

Contact/Follow @WolverinesWire@isaiahhole

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