so much for that
There is a special fondness for one’s earliest sports memories. They form the backdrop of experience against which all future events are contextualized.
My earliest datable memory is Kirk Gibson hitting a home run in the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Five of the 1984 World Series; from that day until his retirement he was my favorite baseball player. I learned to cheer for Isiah Thomas and Gary Grant. I cheered for Yzerman, and accepted that the Lions were always bad. And I rooted for Michigan football, with Jamie Morris and Mark Messner.
And Jim Harbaugh.
He won the Fiesta Bowl. He beat Ohio State with clutch play. He guaranteed a victory in ’86, and then beat Ohio State again.* He led Michigan to a Rose Bowl. To a young boy, he was a hero, everything that the winged helmet was supposed to be about. To everyone at Michigan, he was a Michigan Man.
*Someone recently argued on the board that Harbaugh essentially rode the coattails of Jamie Morris to the win, belittling his role in the game. That’s acceptable logic, if you’re willing to assert that Denard rode the coattails of Junior Hemingway to wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame last season--any takers?
* * * * *
Fast Forward to 2007. I was visiting Michigan from California, where I was attending school. I was enjoying one of the things I really missed about Ann Arbor--walking around the Ann Arbor-Saline Road Meijer after midnight. As I ambled past the U-Scan lanes, I happened to glance at the newspaper display. And there it was, front page.
Jim Harbaugh Criticizes Michigan Academics
“Jim,” I muttered to myself. “You fool. What are you doing?”
* * * * *
Jim Harbaugh was calling out the academic integrity of Michigan Athletics. He was dropping Bo’s name (after Bo died, something that sat poorly with myself and others) and using it as a cudgel against Michigan. And, by all appearances, he was doing so in an arrogant way to burnish his own program’s reputation.
Nobody in the Michigan camp liked it. Now, I suppose there could be discussion about whether or not he had any legitimate points. Many blogs, including this one, vehemently refuted his accusations and sharply criticized him for making them. I believe it can safely be said that the vast majority of the Michigan family disagreed with both the content and the method of his message.
But this is not about what he said in 2007. This is not about whether or not he wanted to “come home” after Rich Rodriguez left.* I want to address a debate that has bounced around the Michigan family for more than five years now:
Is Jim Harbaugh one of us?
The 1978 game set up as another in the Ten Year War with the winner going to the Rose Bowl. Bo lost to MSC for the first time since his rookie season, and the first time in A2, as QB Eddie Smith and Kirk Gibson rode roughshod over us. MSC lost their conference opener to Purdue, and ran the table after that, but, were on probation for some irregularities under Denny Stoltz, so ineligible for the Rose Bowl.
It was said that when Stoltz MSC assistants went into the lockerroom after the Ohio high school football all star game, some of the players started singing “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
Having had enough of Friday nights on High Street, another scalper friend and I decide to make the trip, but leave the morning of the game. We arrive in plenty of time to hustle tickets, make some money, and get in for the kickoff.
I have also moved to wearing neutral colors.
Our defense, incredibly, holds the Buckeyes without a touchdown, in their own stadium, against their archrival, for the third consecutive time.
Newt Loken, the legendary UM gymnastics coach, had a son who was on the cheerleading squad. My scalper friend, Jimmy, was friends with him.
Holding a 14 – 3 lead with about 6 minutes left in the game, Jimmy says, let's go down on the field and say hi to Newt's son.
I was skeptical, but, went along.
Times being what they were, pre 9-11, and all, we just drew his attention, and jumped on the field, in the corner by the visiting section at the closed end of the horseshoe.
Jimmy had a camera, and imposed upon junior to take our picture. He suggested that we back off the sideline, onto the field. I mean, literally, on the field of play.
The teams were around the 20 yard line at the other end of the field. We moved about ten yards out from the sideline, and the picture was taken of us with the scoreboard in the background.
I lost the damn picture years ago.
(If anyone knows Jimmy Chu, see if he can get me a copy)
This road trip thing seems to be working fairly well, two trips, two wins, so I go again in 1980. Again, the Rose Bowl on the line. Woody is gone, allegedly fired for punching that Clemson player in the Rose Bowl. But the real reason is, he lost to us three years in a row.
Earl Bruce had taken over and gone undefeated in the 1979 regular season, before adopting conference tradition and choking in the Rose Bowl.
1980 was not a good game for Ali Hadji Sheikh, our excellent kicker. He missed an extra point, and at least one field goal, but, again, incredibly, our defense held them without a touchdown, and we won 9 – 3.
In 1982, the conference schedule was supposed to be round robin, but the Suckeyes said they would not back out of any of their non-conference contracts, and so skipped playing a weak Minnesota squad.
Wisconsin came into the snakepit in the rain and stunned them, 6 – 0.
So, we came in at 8 and 0 in the conference, with Ohio at 6 – 1. The Rose Bowl was already clinched. Had the Buckeyes played and beaten the Gophers, would not have been so, but, their decision. And you know what they have for brains.
It rained most of the game, and we could not get a touchdown this time, losing 14 – 9. But Big Ten champs regardless. We lose, but our 8 - 1 record puts us ahead of the 7 - 1 Buckeyes.
So, I now have four trips, and four Rose Bowls.
The 1984 season being what it was, I skipped the trip that year, not wanting to endanger that perfect record.
1986, we are unbeaten, untied, and #2 in the nation for our last home game. Not worried about retaining the Jug, I am deer hunting in the Upper Peninsula when Ricky Foggie breaks lose for a 4th quarter 25 yard plus run leading to the winning score as the Gophers upset us.
That was the only run of longer than 25 yards that the defense alowed all season.
Undeterred by the loss, QB Jim Harbaugh guarantees a win over Ohio.
I go with a rookie, a friend from freshman year at West Quad Wenley House.
As we hit the border, I put the cruise control on 54. He protests loudly about how long it will take to get their at that speed.
I advise him it will take much longer if we go 56, because we will get a ticket. Does he think all those stories are fiction?
He says, the Ohio plated cars are all going 80 or 85 or 90, whizzing past us.
I say yes, they know they have immunity today.
Sure enough, he counts. Seven vehicles pulled over, all Michigan plates.
Being the pro, I make one trip around the stadium, checking the market, and tell him we can get a single for $50. He says that is too much, he will watch at a bar. I suggest that may be a more dangerous environment than the snakepit, but, he says he can buy beer there.
OK. I pick up a single, and stand at the top of the lower deck around the 40 yard line.
It is a gorgeous day, around 70 degrees. I think Jamie Morris has 26 carries, and Spielman has 24 tackles; they are bumping into each other all afternoon.
McMurtry loses a TD pass in the sun on our first possession, or I think we would have smoked them.
With a 26-24 lead, the Suckeyes line up for a game winning field goal attempt, about 43 yards.
I do not have a good feeling about this, but, all the Buckeye fans are screaming to go for it on 4th and long, with absolutely no confidence their guy can make the kick.
Fortunately, they are correct.
Harbaugh is right, we win, I am now 4 – 1 with 5 Rose Bowls in five trips to Columbus.
We go on to lose the Rose Bowl to Arizona State, coached by one John Cooper. The only blemishes on their record, one loss, and a season ending tie with arch-rival Arizona which put them out of the national championship picture.
In another year, tired of losing to Wisconsin, which is a quote from the Ohio AD, and thinking Cooper is a coach who can beat us, they eventually fire Bruce and hire Cooper.
They should have checked his record in season ending rivalry games, as he never beat Arizona.
And let us all be grateful: we are not Buckeyes.
On to law school. Not UM. Their decision, not mine.
But, that costs money too, so ticket scalping, uh, broker, business continues.
Thanks to my baseball buddies, I show up for the pre-season meeting for football program sellers, open to them, and the players on club sports teams. The varsity athletes get to keep their 7 cents per program (which cost a buck back then).
The club sports, like lacrosse, had their money go to their program.
I kind of let them think I was a baseball player (cough) so I got a check in December for my sales for the season.
Yes, this would now be an NCAA violation, as you cannot have benefits available only to student athletes. Program selling is now outsourced.
Hawking programs outside the stadium was perfect cover for hustling tickets. Which my bosses new, but I always sold all my programs, so?
On the first day of Legal Research and Writing class, taught by a recent grad, we were told we would get an “A” if we guessed his favorite number. No one did. Turned out to be #87, for Ron Kremer.
My kind of guy.
We had an undefeated season, except for an inexplicable loss at Purdue. So, beating the Buckeyes makes us the co-champs, with the tiebreaker, winning the head to head game.
The instructor tells me to meet him at such and such bar Friday night in Columbus.
A couple of bros still at the fraternity house are making the trip with me.
The trip down on Friday is uneventful, as, with Michigan plates, we carefully observe all traffic rules. We don't even drink in the car.
The national rule is that fraternity members can stay overnight in any house, so we plan on crashing at the Ohio chapter of our group.
The bar is on the aptly named High street.
In conditions that can only be described as just short of a riot, carloads of people are driving up and down High Street, singing, well, yelling, the obscene words to the greatest fight song ever written, “Hail to the mother----rs, hail to the big c---suckers, hail, hail, Michigan, the cesspool of the West.”
I ask someone what the straight metal poles are, about four feet high, regularly spaced along the sidewalk a foot or so in from the street.
Those are parking meters, is the response.
Where does the money go, says I.
Oh, now they remove that part the day before the Michigan game. Cuz one year you beat us, and people were pulling them off and throwing them through the store windows.
OK, we are not in Kansas any more.
Finally find the bar, gigantic line to get in, so we say the hell with it and head for the fraternity house.
Some Buckeyes start engaging us in conversation, being that I have Michigan attire displayed. No one else around. One guy is predicting glorious events for his team. Hands in my pockets, I calmly respond, well, we'll see on the field tomorrow.
Next thing I know, his fist has left my jaw after chipping two of my upper teeth.
There is a scrum for awhile with the two groups, and they scurry away.
Silly me. A crime has been committed. So, I walk the couple blocks back to High Street and find a payphone. To call the police.
There may be something more naïve I have done in my life, but, probably not.
I wait and wait for a car to arrive, looking at the chaos outside the window. And finally realize, they ain't coming.
At the house, there are actually a couple of football fans from Kentucky, or Tennessee, or both, who came up just for the big event, having heard what a colossal game this is. Cool.
We hustle tickets on the street.
Scoreless first half.
In the second half, Ricky Leach leads that option offense up and down the field. After one TD, our holder decides, on his own, to pick up the ball and run around the end for two points.
A 22-0 shellacking. Rose Bowl bound. Though, Rick Leach completed zero passes.
This is right up there with the births of my two children as a great event in my life.
(fact checkers, knock yourselves out, am going purely off memory)
I walked by the TV my Dad was watching, asked him who was playing. Michigan – Ohio State. About 60,000 in the stands, not a vintage year for UM or Ohio. I watched maybe 3 plays. We lost.
In fact, one week that year Notre Dame, Indiana, and Purdue were all ranked in the top ten.
Purdue, Minnesota, yes, and, Indiana all tied for first. Purdue having gone the year before, it was ineligible for the Rose Bowl.
Next tie-breaker: who went most recently. The Gophers actually subbed for the Buckeyes in 62, when the faculty vote went against Woody, as they saw no reason why Ohio should go out west to play UCLA, having already whomped UCLA out there in the regular season.
Or, maybe they just did not like Woody. You decide.
So, Indiana made its only trip. I believe they were the first second place Big Ten team to lose the Rose Bowl.
That was back in the days when you could rake up the leaves, pile them on the drivewaway, and burn them. Even in the suburbs.
And only one or two UM games were televised each year, so, tend the burning leaves and listen on the radio.
Now, I am a serious Michigan fan.
Now a football player myself, having been way over the CYO weight limit in grade school, with high hopes of running through the tunnel in four years.
The good? I did start both ways.
The bad? We lost all out games.
Listening on the radio. In the upstairs of the neighbors' garage.
UM dropped the opener to Cal, at home, but has won 8 straight.
The Buckeyes are undefeated, consensus #1, the super sophs, who could not play the year before, freshman being ineligible.
Kern. Tatum. Stillwagon, et. al.
Close at the half, 21-14 Ohio.
Then, the roof fell in at Columbus.
48 for Ohio, and Dr. Strangehayes goes for two.
My hatred of Buckeyes begins. Unabated to this day.
I did not know it, but my career had peaked, having been called up to the championship varsity team for a cup of coffee. Though not playing.
My Dad buys us tickets for the showdown.
This is a juggernaut Buckeye team, defending national champs, going for the Big Ten record for consecutive conference wins. They enter the game having never trailed, for even a minute, the entire season.
17 point favorites.
A win sews up back to back titles, as the Rose bowl no repeat rule is still in effect.
If UM wins, they go to the Rose Bowl.
Though WJR sports director Bob Reynolds announced during the week on his 6:15 p.m. Daily radio show that the conference Ads had already voted to send UM
The game is not nationally televised.
My first UM game was a 7-6 loss to Georgia, I think 1965.
(The next time an SEC team ventured north of the Mason-Dixon line was Alabama at Penn State last year.)
I also saw Ron Johnson's record setting performance against Wisconsin in 1968.
Don Canham has taken over as AD and hired Bo when Bump Elliot retired.
Seems hard to believe these days, but NO ONE was marketing college football.
ABC did not even pretend to show the best game each week, and limited the appearances a team could make in one year.
A couple of years later, they telecast Indiana at Wisconsin, 9th and 10th in the league at the time.
Wisconsin won to break a long losing streak, and the fans tore down the goalposts.
So, Canham advertised tickets in Columbus. And sold about 40,000 to Buckeye fans.
I remember having to stop on 94 westbound at 23. Solid Buckeye traffic.
One charter bus covered in a gray blanket with scarlet letters:
Today: Michigan. Tomorrow: The World.
We are there early and seated in plenty of time, for the first sellout of a non MSC game since, who knows.
The Buckeyes score first. They kick the point, but UM is offsides, so Strangehayes goes for two. And misses.
So when we score and kick the point, for the first time that season, Ohio is behind.
Turns out, they were not a come from behind team.
Our 24-12 halftime lead holds up, scoreless second half.
The crowd counts down the clock, the players hoist Bo on their shoulders, and the upset of the century is complete.
And a legend is born.
This time, I sent in for two tickets, take my Dad for his birthday.
One morning he sees in the paper that the game is already sold out, and ruefully apologizes for having missed the boat.
I am delighted to tell him we are covered.
The super sophs are gone, so Ohio is in a rebuilding year. They lose at home to Colorado, MSC, and to Northwestern.
Don't laugh. If you read our media guide, Northwestern was the only ranked team our 11-0 squad beat that year.
The Big Eight reigned, as Nebraska finished #1, Okalahoma #2, and Colorado, losing only to #1 an #2, finished 3rd in the polls.
Why I remember this stuff. . . . . .
So, ten and 0 UM up against 6-3 Ohio. Rose Bowl trip is already sewn up, with narrow win at Purdue the week before.
We trail 7 -3 before getting our only touchdown.
"Touchdown! BIlly Taylor!" one of the most played Ufer recordings. Sprung by a block by FB Fritz Seyferth. What is forgotten is that Fritz made the 4th and one the play before that kept the drive going. As well as scoring our only TD in the Rose Bowl, a 13-12 loss to Stanford.
The Buckeyes are driving when we make the pick that drives Strangehayes into one of his tantrums, breaking the down markers.
We complete an undefeated season.
Overview: the 70s
Bo lost his first game to Sparty. Woody lost at Ann Arbor in 69, 71, tied in 73, and lost in East Lansing in 72 and 74.
He won all the rest of his conference games all those years, plus 1968.
After that MSC loss, Bo lost only to Woody until being upset by one team per year 76-78, and Woody went until a 78 loss to Purdue before losing to a non-Michigan based Big Ten school.
These records will not be duplicated.
And if you think the Big Ten is bad now, after Purdue fell off around 72, the Big Two and Little Eight featured an extremely weak Little Eight.
The way the schedule works, this game is after thanksgiving.
The Ohio game sells out early, again beating my Dad's ticket order.
To get him into the game, I buy the student season tickets of a bunch of friends who are not going to the games.
Back in the day, no student ID required. Students paid half the full price for tickets.
So, I found myself with a bunch of tickets to the other games to sell, and ended up in the ticket broker business through 1981.
So, for the first time, both teams enter the game unbeaten and untied, 10-0.
I am sure I can make a fortune selling tickets on the street the day of the game. But, most students are still home for the holiday weekend, and you can get tickets for face value or less. Another lesson in humility.
Bo gambles early with a pass, which is picked off.
I am told that Bo would say to Woody before the game, “I'm running right. Try and stop me.” Talk about predictible offenses.
Having listened to the replay on WTKA a few years ago, I was struck by one statistic: Ohio penalties: zero. Zip. Nada. Not a one.
Down ten zip in the fourth quarter, fourth and one, as Ufer says, everyone knows it will be Shuttlesworth up the middle, but, No! Franklin takes the ball outside and bootlegs untouched into the end zone!
The crowd reaction is the loudest noise I have heard in my life.
We hold them, get the ball back, and drive for a tying field goal.
And my Dad says, not likely we can score three consecutive possessions, after being shut out all day.
This is the game the Michigan player called time out after an incomplete pass, or out of bounds play. Bo was not happy.
Lantry missed about a 57 yeard FG near the end, but we students all assumed we were going to the Rose Bowl. Ohio had been the year before, conference records even, head to head even.
I was driving home from Ann Arbor when I hear the result of the athletic directors vote. 6 to 4 to send Ohio. By rule, a 5-5 vote would have sent Michigan.
Dennis Franklin broke his collarbone during the game; the Ads did not want to lose to the Pac Eight again in the Rose Bowl, so they voted to send Ohio.
I had trouble maintaining control of my car.
I will see Bert Smith in hell, or know the reason why.
And Ohio went on to beat USC, 42-21. We would have one that game.
I was planning on going to the game in Columbus, but sustained an injury in MSC's victory over Woody.
I was in the student section with my friend, the last time I wore green and white, actually.
Ohio unbeaten, untied, and number one in the country.
13 to 9 Ohio, with a couple minutes left. The punt pins Sparty back at his own 12 yard line.
In a daring call, on first down, Denny Stoltz sends his fullback, Levi Jackson, off tackle. He goes 88 yards for the touchdown. 16-13 MSC leads.
I am thrilled! However, thrilled as I am, I am even more inebriated and am unable to negotiate a landing after jumping in the air, twisting my left ankle.
I was, literally, feeling no pain.
No OT in those days. Woody drives all the way down the field to the one yard line.
No tying field goal for him.
No timeouts. Ohio snaps the ball, one official throws the flag. One official is waiving his hands, snap not off in time, game over. A third official signals touchdown when the Ohio running back crosses the goal line.
It took an hour for the outcome to be determined, as most of the crowd waited. Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke is at the game, and, the powers that be eventually determine that Sparty has, indeed, pulled off the upset.
My friend abandons me to join the crew that carries off the goal post, to a pre-arranged site where it is cut into souvenir sections for the organized team. Which had pulled off the same feat after the 1972 upset of Ohio.
His brother assists my limping ass back to the dorm.
I forget how I got back to A2; I know I did not drive.
One of my roommates took me to U hospital.
I was sure my ankle was not broken, because I could wiggle my toes.
However, when the doctor moved my foot to the left, I screamed.
When he moved it to the right, I screamed again. When he moved it up, the same result was produced. When he pushed it up, I turned up the volume all the way.
In a cast for a month. No trip to Columbus.
So I watch on TV at the SAE house. Up 10-0 in the first quarter. Awesome.
The defense holds Ohio to four field goals.
We move down for the game winning attempt on the last play. And, the kick was good! Way higher than the upright, and called, no good.
The Denny Franklin years are over, my first 3 years at UM, 30 wins, 2 losses, one tie.
No bowl games.
I am not making this up. But I do need to get it off my chest.
(thanks, mom, but we'll have gnome ore of those presents.)
I am not making this up.
I am not making it up when I say that the most serious fight, in fact, the only serious fight, my wife and I have had since we began courting is the fight over our future children, that is, the college football fandom of said future children.
I am also not making it up when I say that at the time I tried to quell my wife's rage by paraphrasing Thucydides. After all, I said, Michigan and Alabama are like Athens and Sparta--a whale against an elephant. They're just not likely to bump heads much, if at all. I mean, honey, they've played all of three times in a hundred-some years. Why can't our kids grow up to support both of them?
That actually worked, for a few weeks, until Dave Brandon Created the Future, or rather Jerry Jones took a(nother) turn as Applegate. Also, We Created the Future, and a Baby Apostle is on the way, whose fandom is at stake this evening.
At least, that's all that was until I told of our arrangement to my uncle, a Domer alum who likes to live vicariously through people who have viable teams to cheer for. He suggested that those stakes weren't nearly high enough. You need more than the fandom at stake, he said. His name should be at stake. "Bo" if Michigan wins, "Bear" if Alabama wins. I laughed it off. Who of us here knows a woman that would go along with such a preposterous idea?
I am also not making it up when I say that after I laughed it off, my wife said that she would actually be fine with it.*
*For those of you who are shaking your heads NoWayWouldAWomanEverEverAgreeToThat I should admit that her sole stipulation was that his formal name, should Michigan somehow hold back her vaunted Tide, would be spelled "Beau". (She is a Southerner, after all.) I said, well, OK. I'm still going to spell (and pronounce) it "Bo".
What if it's a girl? Good question. We've only had one sonogram, at 20 weeks, and that's all we'll have since we go to a midwife at a birthing center, and that's how that rolls. (I guess you could say the girl's got some Ann Arbor in her after all.) I'm told they can sometimes be inaccurate, but if Denard's arm isn't what we hope it can be, that will be all I have to hang my child's name on at the end of the day.
Three chances for me to look stupid in 3.5 hours (and for the rest of my/his life):
- This could all probably have been avoided had I sprung for travel and tickets to the game.
- This could all have been avoided had I just married some girl in Ann Arbor who only was aware of football to the extent that it impacted her UMS tickets or hair appointments downtown.
- This could be my only chance to have a son with the same name as one of Harvey Updyke's.
PREDICTION: This is my son, fergodsakes! GO BLUE!
Don't forget to pay a visit to Bo's grave tomorrow. BEAT OHIO.
To find Bo's grave at Forrest Hill Cemetery, enter the cemetery on Observatory and head toward the back right (or southeast) of the cemetery. The grave is located along the second parallel road away from Geddes.
To find Fielding Yost's and Bob Ufer's grave, stay to the back of the cemetery but head to the opposite side (or to the northeast). This appears to be the highest point of the entire cemetery. Look for a circular section. Yost is inside the circular section and Ufer is directly across the drive from Yost. Facing North, Ufer will be on the left and Yost on the right. Both have grey granite upright monuments. Ufer has a block M in one corner of his.
Those of us who grew up learning and loving Ufer and Bo help keep their history alive, with Ufer and Bo giving us the history of Yost.