I’m a third generation graduate from The University of Michigan. I thought, despite all of the pessimism that has been instilled upon me by elder generations, that Michigan would defeat Oregon and continue its improbable run towards a national championship. Watching the team brick threes off the front of the rim and leave bunnies short, I still thought that their tired legs could somehow carry them past Oregon and further, but the reality of the situation is that this team survived a goddamn plane crash less than three weeks ago.
Crises bring people together, sure, but there’s always a limit to how much anyone can take. We saw that limit against a really good Oregon team.
There’ll be plenty of time of to dissect how, exactly, our boys in blue lost that game (which will undoubtedly be explained by better basketball minds than mine).
I’m not here to revel in this team’s insane run or to despair in their heart crushing loss. I’m here to remind us how, for at least a moment, this team was able to bring the Michigan community together.
Case in point: I’ve always been very close with my father, and he and I speak frequently about Michigan sports. He met his best friend during his freshman year of college in Ann Arbor, and ever since they’ve existed as an old man version of something between the Workaholics dudes and Tim and Eric. When the phone rings during a Michigan game (basketball, football, or hockey (softball, even)), it’s Uncle Greg, calling to reassure my father’s screaming at the television about a missed spot or nonsense charge call.
Also, and more importantly, when the phone rings at night in my parents’ house during a time of crisis or a time of need, it’s almost assuredly Uncle Greg, trying to figure out how he can help.
Sure, Michigan sports will always be entertainment, and a way for a bunch of arrogant know-it-alls like me to connect with each other, but it seems like more often than not, those connections translate into something meaningful—in one way or another, stilted as they may be.
I have no way of truly knowing, but it seems like this year’s team, with its two seniors that never truly found their strides until it was a little too late, along with a bunch of promising and fun and overachieving youngsters, resonated with them in a way that successful squads before this year hadn’t, for better or for worse.
Jamie (my father) and Greg have probably been through more trying times than they’d like to admit, and I would never ask either to admit such a thing, or things, as it were, so seeing their affection meter effectively break the needle after this team’s plane crash two weeks ago, which of course came after the most scrutiny Walton and Irvin had ever withstood, was eye-opening.
It laid bare the fact that this team was an analogue for hard times seen and hard times overcome by Michigan grads, and even though the team fell to Oregon, there’s still hope on the horizon.
So, here’s to hoping that everyone finds a best friend, especially one that’ll travel halfway across the country to watch a Michigan game or two with you.