History informs us that, on January 5, 2013, the day after his puzzling absence in Texas A&M’s dominant triumph in the Cotton Bowl, Christine Michael boarded a chartered bus departing from College Station, heading to a training facility near Beaumont, Texas, his hometown, in order to prepare for the 2013 NFL Combine. History, however, is, in this instance at least, a vicious and spiteful liar. (But a lover of commas, apparently.)
Not just a liar, mind you, but vicious and spiteful. Because most of those statements are true. Christine Michael, now Sr., did, indeed, board a bus that departed from the southeastern Texas campus. Moreover, the explosive athlete was certainly eager for the Combine, confident that his testing would validate his being awarded Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2009, and would vindicate a collegiate career that some considered diminished and underwhelming after a season-ending lower-leg injury in 2010. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Michael was indeed perplexingly absent from TAMU’s juggernaut offense, saying of the experience “I never experienced changes like that”, continuing “I went into my own tunnel and got a little stubborn and was just in my own world”, finally characterizing the game as “shock[ing] me to this day”. A story appearing on September 15, 2012 remarked that “[t]here is no indication of what the violation” that resulted in the suspension consisted, evincing just how clearly C-MIKE DID NOTHING WRONG YOU FUCKS.
No, the lie concerns the destination. For C-Mike did not train at a standard facility near Beaumont, Texas; rather, the bus took him to a private airport. There, he boarded an airplane that bore him to Seoul, in South Korea; he subsequently embarked on a nautical voyage across the Yellow Sea to Qingdao, from which he traveled by bus, bicycle, and even donkey to an undisclosed location among the heights of Taihang Shan, the Everlasting Peaks of Taihang. For there was a temple that had been guarded by the radical Red Lotus sect of the Monastic Order of the Shaolin for a millennium, and its current master was none other than Wu Dian Baozha, Sage of the Interchangeable Handedness and Protector of The Inviolate Five Point Exploding Body Blow. And it was Christine Michael’s destiny to learn from him.
C-Mike toiled there for months, perhaps years; among the mysteries well known to the Red Lotus is the bending of time. By the end of his training, however, his mastery of the fatal Five Point Exploding Body Blow was so vast and deadly that Wu Dian Baozha encouraged him to adopt a more incremental application of the technique. To do otherwise, he counseled, would unleash a body blow of such monumental proportions and explosiveness that it would carry a force so powerful as to be “legit,” an uncontainable incineration that would make no distinction between opponent and teammate, killing wantonly as they were consumed by that thundering conflagration.
And yet, it wasn’t Wu Dian Baozha who Michael would consider his truest mentor: that honor rested with Peter Clay Carroll, whose conversation with the young back would last well into the night. While not an official interview, Christine would ultimately demonstrate the Five Point Exploding Body Blow technique for Coach Carroll, who was so impressed that he threatened to breach his contract and quit if Schneider didn’t draft the back in the 2013 draft.
But Carroll’s instruction focused on a more strategic than philosophical component of the technique. The goal of a body blow properly executed was not, Carroll advised, to kill or maim a defensive player, but merely to tire him. The object of a running play is thus not to accumulate yards, or at least not significant quantities of yardage, so much as it is to exhaust. It is the greatest of follies, Carroll would explain, to try to win games by scoring more points, when you can win games by negation: the disruption and ultimate reversal of time, the theft of an opponent’s will to play, the elevation of the idea of competition such that it transforms into its own eternity, a never-ending recurrence of winning over and over and over again, winning in each quarter, each drive, each snap, even every moment of each snap.
We know that C-Mike did nothing wrong: entering the league having mastered the Five Point Exploding Body Blow, he merely followed the dictates of his coach. For as Carroll had famously uttered before, “the only thing a person ought to fear is fear itself,” and the world-tilting epiphany that Petey helped Michael understand was that, to truly defeat an opponent, one must not merely render upon them an infinity of body blows, one must paralyze their mind, their very cognition, even their will to act, with the fear of a body blow.
Of course, Christine reacted to this aphorism with appropriate skepticism, wondering how one could impose such a fear without also landing a mighty blow of the body. To wit, Carroll proffered a final instruction: how to accomplish two seemingly opposite purposes simultaneously would be left to Mr. Michael himself.
Without an acceptable alternative, Christine turned to the most fear-inducing, the most four-dimensional tactic on which he could call: falling down. While those simpletons who believe that watching the film necessitates watching only the film may fall prey to the idiocy that Michael often accidentally slipped, or fell, or dove face-first, the truth of the matter is that C-Mike never acted without deliberation and purpose. With each ostensible slip or fall, he taunted his adversaries; no one knew when he would deliver that most ferocious and chilling of body blows! Would a lineman or backer be kissed by the gentle movement of air, or suffer an exploding strike that could end his career, even kill him? None could say.
Consider, for example, the cries of lamentation emanating from the stacked box of the 49ers defense in the first quarter of the Week 3 contest in 2016: so afraid of the mere hint of such a devastating body blow, the line allowed C-Mike to run into the endzone, untouched. But what incited that madness of fear? A four-yard gain from a draw play on 1st and 20 in which the mastermind dove to the ground rather than deliver a body blow, confining them in a torment of confusion, trapped somewhere between rapture and panic. Indeed, his performance was so heralded, and his technique the source of so much fear, that on the third play of that game, the 49ers hapless defense allowed C-Mike to charge 41 yards.
Or take the following week, when Michael demonstrated that his prowess could extend even to the passing game, when the terror that his presence implanted on the Jets defense gifted him almost 40 square yards of space; the only Jets defender who could have stopped him had to settle for merely placing a hand on his back, a cautious congratulation obviating his horror at the prospect of being smashed to death. But again, to what should this acquiescence be attributed? On just the previous drive, C-Mike gained nine yards, again on a draw between the rookie Ifedi and the basketball player Gilliam; but just before those defenders were sure to face immolation at the hands of a legendary master of body blowdom, he slipped, as if in jest, laughing: perhaps you’ll die today, perhaps not.
Or again in Week 6, when perplexity so consumed the Falcons defense that the back ran 9 yards to the house, untouched except when the rookie Neal, who knew no better than his elders, grabbed him from the back, and was dragged into oblivion. Indeed, in that game even the possibility that he may fall to the ground unexpectedly was so destructive of the Falcons ability to defend that they allowed Alex Collins to score. Touching the ball for the last time during the drive in which the Seahawks would score their last six, C-Mike falls to the ground mere inches before the endzone, transporting his opponents to a realm in which tackling itself becomes impossible, delivering a blow upon the very concept of scoring itself, an equivocation of the purpose of the game.
The examples are so many as to be almost numberless: against the Saints, fear granted him the power of flight, as he effortlessly sailed past defenders; against the Bills, it allowed him so much empty space that he was able to spin in a pleasing circle before running it in for the touchdown; and against the Patriots…
Well, let’s not dwell on that franchise.
The Seahawks had done much to signal that Michael’s time with the franchise in 2016 was, like all great things, temporary: drafting three running backs in that year’s draft, and clearly waiting for the much-anticipated return of Thomas Rawls. With the improved health of both Rawls and C.J. Prosise, the bulk of the backing duties was turned to those youngsters.
And what could C-Mike do?
As much as he tried, valiantly even, to educate the younger back, Rawls refused to grasp the power of falling, diving, slipping; a failure no doubt caused by the nefarious instruction of Tom Cable. With each hit, Christine could see Rawls’ body failing, the blows themselves less and less powerful without the pathology of terror that occasionally falling to the ground caused.
Indeed, he could do nothing: it was his purpose to execute and make manifest that vision of an identity, not to imagine it in the first place. For body blows are ever fickle beasts, and clearly, even his mentor was not immune to the charms of the newer and fresher.
And thus did the Five Point Exploding Body Blow pass into legend.
And thus it falls to us to remember his awesome majesty, lest the world grow old and weary, and forget: that C-Mike did nothing wrong.