The “Fortuna” of Michigan Football according to Machiavelli

It was Saturday Night, October 4th, and I was sitting in my living room watching a team I had put my soul into since birth go into battle in Piscataway, NJ against Rutgers University. This team of course is our own, University of Michigan Football Team. I have spent a vast majority of my 19 and a half years of living analyzing, studying, and memorizing the trajectory of College Football’s winningest program. So it goes without saying the amount of hardship and disappointment I have faced these past couple weeks with the speculation surrounding the program and the university as a whole. My whole life existence almost coming into question (its that serious).


The face of agony







For whatever medium you receive your news, it has been impossible to not be inundated with all of the terrible media swirling around Ann Arbor. Whether that be on social media or on ESPN, a team that I have close near lived my life for has been dismantled. So as I was watching my heart being ripped out on Saturday Night, our discussions this past week on Machiavelli’s Prince and the topic of “Fortuna” crept into my mind. According to Machiavelli, Fortuna is all circumstances in a human’s life that they simply have no control over which in turn have a direct correlation to a human’s success or failure in whatever capacity. Whether these events are a gigantic typhoon wiping out a city or your new puppy running away from your house, all these instances are outside personal decision making. In Chapter XXV and beyond in The Prince, Machiavelli also addresses this idea that no matter what Fortuna will take its course leaving the Prince with little to no chance at mitigating good or bad circumstances.

My question in this blog is to reason whether Machiavelli would believe that the Michigan Football Program’s current ghastly trajectory is the direct result of Fortuna or does the human aspect of “virtu” outweigh with decision making dating back to the end of the Bill Martin Era. While many throughout the blogsophere contend the relationship between Machiavelli and Fortuna, no one truly classifies this in relation to sport. Whether it was Rich Rodriguez or Al Borges making the decisions, the misfortune of Michigan Football is not only disappointing, but it is a national punchline. To make matters worse Rich Rodriguez’s University of Arizona Wildcats are ranked #8 in the Associated Press Poll after beating the #2 Ranked Oregon Ducks last Friday. All these instances out of Michigan’s and current Head Coach Brady Hoke’s control.

Bites Towel.. Beats Oregon

Bites Towel….. Beats Oregon

Talk about Fortuna….

Most recently, as of today, according to multiple sources starting RB Derrick Green has broken his clavicle and his out for the rest of the 2014 season. The only bright spot on the entire team is out for the season. Fortuna? Machiavelli what else would you classify this as? On Saturday, in the 4th quarter, Michigan faced a 3rd and 8 with the ball in Rutgers territory in position to take the lead. Quarterback Devin Gardner dropped back and fired a dart to WR Amara Darboh who caught the ball put two feet down then lunged forward to the first down marker. Clearly making the first down, Darboh ran back to the huddle. But by Michigan’s outstanding Fortuna, the sideline referee 20 yards down the field ruled it incomplete. After Coach Hoke challenged, replays clearly showed that Darboh made the catch and first down. The referee confirmed the call and the Wolverines faced 4th down. Next play, Kicker Matt Wile’s field goal was blocked. Game over.

Help Us Machiavelli!

Help Us Machiavelli!

At this point, Machiavelli would be jumping out of his seat (whatever they sat on) claiming all of this to be Fortuna kicking (no pun intended) the Michigan Football Program, Brady Hoke, Athletic Director Dave Brandon, and the University of Michigan as a whole to the ground. Machiavelli would be arguing to all of the news mediums across the country that this is not on any one single person, and that scapegoating Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon is simply not the answer for our demands. A quote that we talked about in class struck me particularly when thinking about Fortuna’s relation to Michigan Football’s long standing demise:

“I conclude, therefore that, fortune being changeful and mankind steadfast in their ways, so long as the two are in agreement men are successful, but unsuccessful when they fall out” – Machiavelli (Chapter XXV)

Machiavelli is saying that Fortuna can change at any moment, but there are going to be times when mankind and Fortuna are not in agreement forcing unsuccessful results. This is the case in the winningest College football program of all time, the Michigan Wolverines. Many including myself throughout the blogosphere contend Michigan CAN be dominant again.  In the previous 100+ years of Michigan Football, Fortuna has always been with the Maize n’ Blue. While I will continue to be saddened by the recent trajectory, I know that there will be better days. After all, we must never forget an incredible lesson from the face of Michigan Football (below). I for sure as hell won’t ever stop believing Bo.

Fortuna will again be on our side

Fortuna will again be on our side

3 thoughts on “The “Fortuna” of Michigan Football according to Machiavelli

  1. Pingback: Fantasy Football – The True Modern Sport | THE BIG HOUSE OF IDEAS

  2. I understand your argument, and I find your application of Machiavellian principles to Michigan football fascinating, but I think there is more to the lackluster performance of the Michigan football team than just “fortuna” and “virtu.” Ultimately, there were many plays in the Rutgers game in which the team didn’t perform up to snuff. Though the team is suffering from a sort of bad luck, I think our misfortune is more a result of poor execution and poor play on the field. This is, I believe, one danger in Machiavelli’s discussion of “fortuna” and “virtu”–it becomes easy to blame one’s own mistakes and shortcomings on things outside of one’s control. Ultimately this is the case with the Michigan football team; we are unlucky, but at the end of the day, we (I am saddened to say it) kind of suck.


  3. I really enjoyed this post for several reasons. I totally agree that in the case of Michigan football “fortuna” and “virtu” are occurring. However, in my opinion I believe it has more to do with virtu and less to do with fortuna. I will say you do make valid points though about how terrible that call late in the game was. Believe me I was furious. However, let’s be honest with ourselves, Michigan football is a storied tradition and Rutgers is the newest addition to the Big Ten, in no way should that game be close. So to a degree maybe it was unlucky that the referee made such a terrible call, but overall Michigan football should not leave that game up to the referees.

    Virtu, or the impact on something that is in someone’s control lies in many different hands in this case. When we think of the problems with Michigan football we often think of Brady Hoke, Dave Brandon, Devin Gardner and the rest of the Michigan athletic department. But what about us as a fan base? We have just thrown these people under the bus. As fan’s shouldn’t we be supporting these guys, not starting rallies to get them fired. I will admit it’s not easy to support Devin Gardner when he is throwing an interception or when he is missing targets that we all think we could hit but, in the way Machiavelli describes virtu it is almost an osmosis effect of positive or negative energy.


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