The Wolverine

2020 Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 31 of 163

BY JOHN BORTON I had a little bird Its name was Enza I opened up the window And in flew enza. — Children's rhyme during 1918 M ichigan football fans long to gather in The Big House Sept. 12 to see the Wolverines take the field — just like normal. Of course, there's nothing normal about 2020 so far. Fans might not be there that day. Jim Harbaugh and his players might not, either. They're all at the mercy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decisions of politicians, uni- versity presidents, the medical community and others regarding how to best protect against it. It feels unprecedented for generations used to seeing the Wolverines play football each fall. But it isn't. Michigan's five-game campaign of 1918 wouldn't slow many readers, while they're thumbing through the list of Maize and Blue seasons, except for some second-glance facts. The Wolverines played only five games, tied for the fewest in the Fielding H. Yost era. They won them all, resulting in the desig- nations "national champions" and "Big Ten champions" in Michigan's official documents. This isn't the championship year anyone talks about, like Yost's dominant early run (1901-05), the Mad Magicians of 1947 or the Lloyd Carr/ Charles Woodson-led perfection of 1997. No, 1918 involved a swirl of national and interna- tional events far more weighty than football. World War I (1914-18) raged on, eventu- ally claiming more than 16 million lives. The specter of the Spanish Flu pandemic dwarfed that number, infecting an estimated one-third of the world population and killing some CHAMPIONS CHAMPIONS Michigan's Pandemic-Plagued 1918 Season Remembered AMID CHAOS AMID CHAOS 30 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2020 FOOTBALL PREVIEW

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