Last week, the University of Michigan football team beat up University of Massachusetts, 63-13.
Okay, U-Mass was pretty bad. Even lowly Indiana crushed them.
But the Wolverines did exactly what they were supposed to do, and did it very well. Many Michigan fans complained anyway.
This is not uncommon.
A few years ago, Michigan blew out 15th-ranked Notre Dame team 38-0, the first shut out over the Irish in over a century. The next day, I challenged listeners on a sports talk show to find something to complain about.
I thought I was joking. They did not, and had no trouble filling two hours with complaints.
Michigan fans are intensely loyal, but some act more like opera critics, eager to point out where the coaches and players could have done better. They are not happy unless they are not happy.
So I was not surprised to hear fans, the day after Michigan slaughtered U-Mass, complain about quarterback Denard Robinson’s performance. Mind you, Denard ran for over one hundred yards and a touchdown, and passed for almost three hundred yards, and three touchdowns.
And that, to one caller, was the problem: “I’m tired of living and dying with Denard.” In other words, Robinson was too good for that fan’s taste.
This is Robinson’s third season as Michigan’s starting quarterback, and every fall, he’s been a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Still, the fans complain that he runs too much, that he can’t pass well enough, and he doesn’t beat enough of the big teams.
All these points obscure a far bigger one: How lucky Michigan fans, students and alumni are to count Denard Robinson as one of their own.
Denard grew up in Deerfield, Florida, the son of good parents, but lost a brother when he was just ten, and then a talented cousin went to prison for armed robbery. Denard realized he had to make better decisions – and did.
When other schools offered to give him money and cars and girls and even his sister’s tuition, he decided instead to go to Michigan, where he was offered a scholarship, a chance to compete for the starting quarterback position, cold weather, and long, expensive flights home. He took it.
Robinson backed up Tate Forcier throughout the 2009 season. But the following spring, Robinson outworked Forcier to become the starting quarterback in 2010. He has broken just about every Michigan record since.
Robinson’s legacy started on the second play of his college career: he dropped the snap, then went the wrong way. When he stopped and looked up, he saw a rush of defenders headed right for him. And then, just as suddenly, he seemed to remember he was the fastest man on the field.
What happened next was something Michigan fans should long remember.
From a dead start, Robinson simply took off, flying past would-be tacklers like they were treading water and he was driving a jet ski.
Robinson probably wouldn’t have gotten into Michigan without football, but he’s made the most of it.
He often quotes his parents: “Denard, they can take football away from you, but they can’t take your education!” He will graduate on time – and he has been unfailingly kind to every single fan.
I’ve seen more than a thousand Michigan players, but only four singular talents:
- Anthony Carter,
- Desmond Howard,
- Charles Woodson,
- and Denard Robinson.
And that’s more than most teams ever get.
So, my advice to Denard Robinson’s critics is simple: enjoy him while you can. You might not see another one like him the rest of your life.