Today we have an unusual occurence–a guest post from the Husband. Hope you enjoy.
I am often asked why I am such a big Michigan fan. You may as well ask why the sky is blue or why maize has its color. Bob Ufer famously said that “Michigan football is a religion, and Saturday’s the holy day of obligation.” I believe this—many in my life do not.
Growing up, Saturdays were reserved for Michigan football. I got hooked in 1995; I became fanatical in 1997. No friend or event could tear me away from the television. I remember watching the 1995 Michigan-Virginia game (score 18-17) at a friend’s birthday party at Discovery Zone. Mercury Hayes caught a touchdown with no time left. I cheered while my friends played in some obstacle course. I remember taping the Michigan-OSU game because my dad had to work (It was worth it. Tim Biakabutuka ran for 313 yards; my brother, who likes OSU, did not talk to me for 2 days). The first time I cried after a Michigan loss occurred on January 1, 1997. Alabama won 17-14. I had a lucky shirt and still do (commence jokes about how lucky it’s been the past 3 years).
But I crossed the barrier from fanhood to obsession in 1997. Multiple factors played into this development: the undefeated season, a Heisman trophy winner, etc. The main reason though was I attended my first game at Michigan Stadium.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, you typically do not find a lot of Michigan connections. My mother was heavily involved with the PTA and, luckily for us, so was the Howard family. I grew up with their daughter and her dad just happened to be a Michigan alum. Not only that, he played cornerback there in the 70s. The Howard’s had season tickets and offered to sell my parents a game they were not attending. My parents decided to give me these tickets as a birthday present—despite the fact the game was in October and my birth took place in November. I received this present at a PTA dinner function at my sister’s elementary school. We ate spaghetti. My mom handed me an envelope with a University of Michigan seal. Confused, I opened the best birthday present I have ever received.
It was set that my father would attend the game with me. We left Cincinnati at 6 am. Ann Arbor is 4 hours away. The game started at noon. We arrived a tad early. Having never been to Ann Arbor, Dad and I walked around the stadium area. My excitement was palpable. Life not be better for a twelve-year-old.
Michigan played Northwestern that day. Northwestern had beaten Michigan the two earlier years (I watched both and was crushed). I felt nervous. But the game was wonderful. I remember some details vividly (like the people who sat in front of us and kept flipping off the NW band; the heat of the day; taking off my jersey when Michigan was doing poorly so my lucky shirt could do its work). What I remember most though is my dad. It continues as one of my favorite memories with him—the excitement, the closeness, that it was he and I and no one else.
Since that game we have been to one almost every year. It’s a pilgrimage we make together. We have had some hard times in our family. Dad and I are extremely alike—we internalize and avoid emotional conversation. But those Saturdays in the fall connect us in an unspeakable way. Despite that I am now married and live in a different state, we are kept close by Michigan football. We talk and text continually throughout games.
My first Michigan game was the last present my mother ever gave me. It did immeasurable things for my relationship with my father. After her death, my father raised three children alone. I can think of no one better suited for the task. Every noble trait I have is a direct result of my parents. Someday I’ll be a father. I will make mistakes and probably give them complexes they’ll have to deal with later in life. But everything I do right will be because of my dad.
What will my son’s birthday gift be when he turns twelve? A fall Saturday in Ann Arbor with his dad and Pop Pop.
Happy Father’s Day and Go Blue.