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Thursday, March 12, 2015


Wolverine Nation woke up this morning with the hope of seeing their men's basketball team win at least one game in the conference tourney, ostensibly so that their season record will remain at or above ".500". They consider themselves to be 15-15, but they are counting their exhibition game against Hillsdale College as an actual, regular-season victory, despite the FACT that Hillsdale is a Division Two school.

Oh well, those folks are always counting up numbers and throwing them around at people. The paragon of their numbers-games is the so-called "All-Time Wins Record" in football, a sport that used to be successful in Ann Arbor. In order to stay on top of that vaunted list of really old schools, they have to count up events that took place just after General George Armstrong Custer met up with Sitting Bull in a major upset defeat. Without those rugby games counted as "all-time wins", the UM numbers drop off considerably.

But you have to admit Michigan was very good at
playing rugby in the days before electricity!

But not necessarily in 1883, when the University of Michigan Rugby Club won their only game of the year on this date in history, March 12.

Wait, March? For "football"? Who plays football games in March? Nobody does, but back in the covered-wagon days, the rugby players had an exhibition scrimmage, reportedly attended by zero spectators. And they won the game, 40-5, over the "Detroit Independents". There is no recorded information available about the "Detroit Independents", leading us to believe that they were a very independent group, indeed! So independent that they really didn't exist beyond that field on that day.

The proto-wolverines badly needed a win,
as their "all-time wins record" at that point was 2-3-1.

So they lined up a group of bodies and got the win.
Hail to the victors, eh?

It would be neat to say that they won one for their Coach, but there was no coach of that team. They like to keep track of the "event" as a football win, but there was no tackling below the waist allowed, and no forward passes, either. Those five points by the nobodies was probably a field-goal, which was worth more than a touchdown on that day and for two decades to come.

The rest of their season was played eight months later, with three games between November 19 and November 27. They lost to Wesleyan, got pummeled by Yale, clipped by Harvard, and finished off by Stevens Institute. So they were 1-4, with only that one memorable triumph over the motor city nobodies.

Of course, this was before there was a "Motor City", because there were no automobiles. No cars, no coach, no fans, not really football at all. But the Michigan faithful ardently believe that it was a football game, and a victory, no less. Um, okay, whatever.

Keep this one in mind the next time you see one of those yellow shirts with the silly "all-time wins" claim.

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