Sometime after its owner has gone to bed, a Michigan jersey sprawled on the grass becomes indistinguishable from any other uniform. The blues fade into green then scarlet then nothing at all; the burst of maize flirts with the audacity of Nittany white before settling into a muted gray. The colors play their tricks and all that remains is crumpled fabric.The uniform is not actually different in those hours after it was cast aside in triumph or defeat, but to a nocturnal observer its identity can feel temporarily misplaced.
Some colors just float on the light.
If rocks could swim, pigeons were toasters and the lunar cycle affected Michigan football, we would be experiencing those silent hours that are neither dusk nor dawn but that uphold qualities of both. Today's Michigan fans are like those nocturnal observers, watching the same winged helmets crown the same fervent players in the same Michigan uniforms, but somehow the team's identity, that ineffable thing that makes it whatever it is instead of something different, has been temporarily misplaced.
This is not to say we find ourselves in, or anywhere near, the proverbial dark ages of Michigan football. Instead we bask in the entropic calm of night, that recuperative time only partially remembered in the infancy of the following day. The night comes and it goes and it is not good or bad; while it's here our visibility is diminished and our perception is skewed and identities might become misplaced, but in the morning we are usually stronger because of it.
Michigan may have the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year, but the sharpest weapon in its arsenal at the moment is a newfound sense of self-definition. Six months remain to dissipate the lingering darkness, but already the contours of the future program are becoming visible.
Sing to the colors that float in the light;
Hurrah for the Yellow and Blue!
Yellow the stars as they ride thro' the night,
And reel in a rollicking crew;
Yellow the fields where ripens the grain,
And yellow the moon on the harvest wain; Hail!
Hail to the colors that float in the light;
Hurray for the Yellow and Blue!
-Charles M. Gayley, 1878
Just about everyone knows the chorus to the fight song, but many fail to recognize the above words as those to the alma mater. It's said that these words earned Gayley the sum of ten dollars after he entered them into a contest at the University of Michigan. Today they seem to hold a certain magic, a special meaning for a team battling the haze of the early morning and struggling to find its identity. As this team rides thro' the night, these words offer a reminder of what awaits in the coming dawn.
The light is coming, and the colors are beginning to float.