I got dressed early on Friday afternoon and sat down in my parents’ living room with a couple of hours to kill. My father had passed away earlier that week and I was nervously awaiting our departure for his wake. As I waited, I surfed the hype threads and tailgaiting threads on MGoBlog and realized that my game day experience was going to be unique. I wanted to share some thoughts with all of you about life, loss, and sports.
Last Monday my dad succumbed to a two and a half year battle with leukemia. He was 61. My sister and I were by his side as he drew his last breath. A year before he was diagnosed with cancer he had an attack of acute pancreatitis, spent 2 weeks in a coma, 4 months in the hospital, lost 1/3 of his pancreas, and lost his abdominal wall due to the multiple surgeries. I thought we had seen it all. Little did I know that his struggle was just starting. The next 2.5 years were filled with chemo treatments, transfusions, a bone marrow transplant, and too many procedures to count. During the last 8 months or so we had to bring my dad to the hospital on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule for blood and platelets transfusions. The hospital was an hour away in Boston and the transfusions would take all day. I never looked forward to bringing him in but I couldn’t complain in the face of the bravery and resolve that he displayed on a daily basis. My dad taught me many lessons in life. The final lesson was how to die with dignity.
My dad raised me as a Boston sports fan. I don’t have a definitive first memory of Fenway Park because I was too young and was going there too frequently. From the cold bleachers at Foxboro Stadium, to the obstructed views of the Garden, to the cigar smoke in Fenway, my childhood was largely spent watching and talking sports with my Dad. His favorite sport was baseball but when I started focusing exclusively on soccer he tried to immerse himself in the game. We took a couple of trips to visit family in England and saw two Arsenal games. I got a VHS highlight tape of the 1994 World Cup for Christmas and watched that thing too many damn times to count.
Whenever the conversation paused or we couldn’t figure out what to say next one of us would bring up sports. I watched countless games with him in the hospital and they provided a welcome distraction and a good excuse for me to visit constantly. I’d call him up to remind him that the Sox were on tonight and he’d better get his game face on. His new hospital didn’t carry the channel that our beloved Celtics were on so we dived headfirst into the Bruins during the winter. The tv’s were standard definition and impossibly small but I enjoyed every game that we saw. Well, except for 2009 against Ohio State. I think I might have scared one or two nurses that day.
I was fortunate enough to attend the same university as my dad and we commiserated with each other about the frustrations of following a middling mid-major basketball program. In the last ten years we saw them play in two conference finals for a ticket to the Big Dance but they couldn’t bring it home. I called him from the conference tournament last year. We finally had the #1 seed and home court advantage but got bounced in the semis. “We’ll get ‘em next year”, he’d always say.
My dad viewed my increasing obsession with Michigan with a sort of curious fascination. Being from the Northeast he wasn’t much of a college football fan. He cheered for Notre Dame because we are Irish Catholics and he also had a soft spot in his heart for the Wisconsin Badgers. He’d laugh as he listened to me rave about the Maize and Blue. When Denard was setting the world on fire last year I couldn’t wait to see him on Sunday and make him watch the latest jaw-dropping play. He told me, “It looks like Rich Rod has found his guy”. We wanted to get out to the Big House to see a game together but it wasn’t to be.
On Saturday we held his funeral. I tried to stay stoic for my mom, my sister, and my aunt. After the burial and the reception my mom and I went back to the gravesite for some closure. We talked about what he meant to us and I was finally able to cry. Then my friends picked me up and we went out to a sports bar in town and saw the most amazing football game of our lives. As Roundtree came down with the game winning TD I got up and screamed “that’s what I’m fucking talking about baby yeah!!!”. I know my dad was up there laughing and smiling at my reaction. I’ll never forget the range of emotions that I went through on that day.
Sports are such a big part of the bond between a family. Do me a favor and go watch a game with your old man or give him a call. A lot of you are fathers yourselves. Take time to share with your kids what Michigan means to you. It may be the most important thing that you ever share with them. I’ll close with a quote from one of my dad’s favorite bands, the Moody Blues:
Time, take this sadness from me
Time, bring my heart back safely
Hold on to warm September
Cause life can be like December Snow.
I made a pre-gaming video this past Saturday. I am an idiot and can not embed, watch below:
Let's just take a short, much deserved moment to step back out of the normal game week things we do, and look at the big picture. Now, I understand that the big picture has been looked at multiple times on this blog, In fact, my eyes are burning. But please permit me this.
Last Saturday was a surreal experience, even when witnessed from my couch in Evansville, Indiana, 500 miles south from where most of you got to sit. I'll just say that I firmly believe most of the Irish fans that are calling us lucky. No matter which way you look at it, when there were 30 seconds on the clock, I knew that even Christ Jesus couldn't pull it off by himself, but I knew we were going to, somehow.
This whole season is one big transition, which is kind of awesome, and kind of blows. On one hand, while there is still a glimmer of hope that we'll be smelling roses in a few months, most of us realists have come to terms with the fact that that just won't be the case, no matter how wrong we'd like to be. On the other hand, we don't have to spend every minute of every game tight-sphinctered wondering if we're finally going to have ten wins, if this is the game that got our coach ousted (whether we wanted it or not) or who was going to be the next man to take the field as Head Coach this coming September.
Folks, we are indeed playing with house chips.
We've already played a game that officially never happened. We also played another game that was so exciting that inmates in third world countries are talking about it. But as far as the rest of the season, what say we just enjoy this short amount of time when irrational expectations, over amped theories on what WE SHOULD DO THIS YEAR, and the general hub-bub of those amazing ESPN sooth seers who can not only predict the future, but don't lose their head at the request of the king after they are wrong year after year, when all of this nonsense that is sure to come, has decided to leave us alone for at least a little while.
Let's just sit back, and crack open our cans, and sing "The Victors" for the first time in a while, without a doom cloud hanging over us.
Here's to Hoke, in all of his stoic glory.
Here's to Denard, who I'd let date my daughter and I don't even have one yet.
Here's to that defense that wants so badly to be better at what they do.
And here's to waking up at 8am on that chilly late-November morning, my stomach wrenched in nervous tension, waiting for Ohio, and the only expectation i have of this season, or any season ever....winning on that day, that can be both macabre or marvelous, in every sense of the word.
Great interview by Chantal Jennings at WolverineNation of former Michigan tailback Butch Woolfolk (1978-1981). For a long time he was Michigan's career leader in rushing.
Now he's ranked 5th historically.
Linked by our friends over at MVictors. If only the technical what have you's existed to have a spot on replica of Ufer's voice saying "Roundtree" instead of "Wangler" (perhaps it does, anyone here work on the Dick Cavett scenes in Forest Gump? no? ok).
I used to spend my time on here defending RR, but since he's gone let me try to find other unpopular stands.
Roh's play- After watching him on every snap I've come to the conclusion he just isn't getting any action. I couldn't find any instance of him making a bad play. He faced some doubles, most of the plays were run away from him. I guess he could have made a superhuman pass rush, but most were quick passes and he had no chance.
Roh's Use- He dropped off into coverage a lot. I know everyone hated that last year, but the new staff does it as well.
RB play- I know this sounds illogical but it appears to be the case again. ND overloaded toward the RB's daring Denard to run. We all know the big runs but the short and few rb runs were bad reads by Denard. He should have kept those as well. There was no room to run for the rb's in this game.
Borges playcalling- At 1st glance I was fuming and agreed with Brian that it seemed like a grab bag of bullshit calls, but between Denard's reads, dropped passes and poor accuarcy several drives we're doomed from execution not play calls.
This isn't unpopular as everyone seems to be calling for it, but I must say for the 100th time Denard has got to learn to run. Yes I know that sounds insane, but time and time again he has wide open spaces and he throws low percentage passes instead. Check out the space open on the waggle at 4:55 of the 1st qtr of Boys n da pahokee every snap video. Also look at 3:00 2nd qtr on Hemmingways TD. Both plays he just needs to turn on the jets and pick up an easy 20yds and who knows how much more.
Denard should have had 200+yds rushing in this game.
As a side note watch the ND zone reads. You thought GERG was insane. What can they be thinking? That d staff was lucky. Denard really botched at least 3 more 20+yd runs for himself. He knows it immediately as he claps his hand in disgust that he made the bad read. Why teams continue to do this really baffles me.