March Sadness: Coping with Michigan’s Brutal Defeat

I don’t know if there was a definitive point where Michigan’s fate was sealed on Thursday night against Texas Tech. It could have been the 16 points scored in the first half, or the 5% shooting from three, but you couldn’t have predicted these things as a the game unfolded. It was, in some ways, almost poetically tragic how bad the 2-seeded Wolverines played. At one point I truly believed they could have won the national championship.

So did many of the Michigan fans watching the game with me at the bar. What started as optimism turned quickly into the five stages of grief. Observe:

Stage 1: Denial

This occurred around the 11 minute mark of the first half, when fans suddenly started to realize the game wasn’t “clicking” like many had seen teams go through with slow starts. Sure, they miss some shots in the beginning, but they have to fall eventually right? Not so with Michigan, who had just fallen behind to Texas Tech, 6-8. That’s right, with over 10 minutes of game time the Wolverines had managed to score only six points. It didn’t get much better, but fans were insistent that this was just an abnormally slow start and that things would turn around.

Stage 2: Anger

This happened with five minutes and 34 seconds left in the first half. By now, fans were seeing the reality unfold, and they were not in a pleasant mood. This was the time on the game clock when Michigan broke double digits and got 10 points on the scoreboard. Many started ordering drinks. Heavy drinks. Sarcastic claps echoed through the bar hollowly when Michigan managed to – somehow – score a bucket. One fan in a blue hat with a yellow ‘M’ on it began cursing at every missed shot and lost rebound. Some fans had food in front of them, but they had lost their appetite as they seethed with frustration.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Halftime. Michigan is down by eight, 24-16. They aren’t quite out of this yet, though after a serious misfire on offense in the first half those eight points may as well be insurmountable. But no, fans aren’t focused on that. They’ve had their drinks and they’ve begun processing what was the first half. But there are two halves in college basketball. Michigan had a rough first half, but so what? Teams can play bad. They’ll come back. They’ll come back! They’ll come back…right?

Stage 4: Depression 

The entire second half of the game was basically a symphony of depression among fans. Many would shuffle their way to the bar only to have a sympathy shot poured for them as their team on the big screen missed yet another three pointer. Many started wondering if they were to blame. My friend had Michigan pants she always wore for big games, but they ripped this morning. Was this destruction of school spirit apparel to blame for Michigan’s loss? Someone mentioned they had washed their lucky hoodie in preparation for this game. Was it the detergent, the fabric softener, or the accursed cleansing of clothing that resulted in this poor play? Mirth was nowhere to be found as they sat, stoic and sullen, while Texas Tech continued to run the score up.

Stage 5: Acceptance

I mean, it’ll come at some point right? The game’s over now, and the winners advanced while Michigan will return back to the Midwest a bit earlier than anticipated. Nobody is happy. Nobody wants to talk about it. They just want to move on. We’ve all been there. Maybe tomorrow it’ll be alright. Maybe by the time they read this article they’ll have a laugh about the game and be onto next season. Or maybe not. No judgement either way, Michigan fans!