The Fab Five,
1997 Football Season and
2013 Championship Pre-Game
(part one here) (part three here)
The Fab Five:
debuted at now destroyed Cobo Arena against the University of Detroit. Seating under 12,000, Cobo was still a bigger venue than U of D's home court, Calihan Hall.
I decided to go to see the show. I believe they were on the floor together for less than two minutes. I remember lots of turnovers, but we won easily.
Most of the Fab Five games were on TV, and they were great, and fun to watch, back to back Final Fours, off to the NBA.
And then. The scandal. Ed Martin, somehow identifed as a UM "booster," had given money to Michigan players.
A rally for Steve Fisher was held at the Michigan Theatre featuring Jim Brandstatter, among others.
Two days later, he was fired.
So, I tell my daughter, here is my recollection suffused with what I was told by reliable, or maybe not so reliable, sources.
Ed Martin was supposedly a UAW retiree who just liked to be nice to the kids in the hood, though, the better you were at basketball, the nicer he was.
He was never a guy who said, if you go to such and such school, I will reward you. He also gave some kids, like Mr. Webber, money before they were even in high school.
He gave money to kids who went to other schools, like Missouri.
But he was on the Michigan coaches list for comp tickets to some games.
The feds were after him for running a numbers game, an illegal lottery. Turns out gambling profites were the real source of his largesse.
That investigation took forever.
Pure hearsay, as they say in my business, is that the U. S. Attorney in charge of the investigation was a Notre Dame grad who hated Michigan, and so dragged things out on purpose.
Martin himself even died before he could be tried.
It seems to me that, at some point, the focus of his gift giving changed from buying big man on the street status, to laundering his gambling gains. The Webber and post-Webber beneficiaries are alleged to have received hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of Webber's problems was that Martin was trying to get his money back, and Webber said, what money?
Grand juries are one of the least democratic institutions still allowed in our democracy. There is no right to have your attorney present while you are being questioned as a witness. You can be subpoenad, that is, forced under the contempt power, to appear as a witness. If you decline, you can be jailed for contempt until you do testify.
Now, the first rule of practicing criminal law is, get your fee up front. The second rule is, never let your client testify before a grand jury until he is granted immunity for prosecution for anything he testifies about. If the government balks at immunity; your client invokes his 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refuses to testify.
Alas, Mr. Webber's attorney botched this simple rule and allowed him to testify without immunity, and, for reasons still unknown, he lied about getting money from Martin.
Now, there is NCAA law/rules, whatever, which readers of this blog know to be Byzantine, archaic, unfair, unevenly applied, et cetera, and, there is criminal law.
It is perjury to lie to a grand jury, and Mr. Webber copped a plea to that.
Jalen Rose did testify, and freely stated that Martin gave him a few dollars here and there on many occasions. Far as I know, he did so without immunity, but told the truth, so no criminal issue.
However, NCAA issues remained.
There is nothing illegal, or, even immoral, about accepting a gift of money from, anyone. The other three of the Fab Five were not from the Detroit area, and outside the influence of Mr. Martin.
So, the ten year ban on contact from Michigan with the Fab Five ended May, 2013.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon has said Webber has to come forward and take responsibility for his actions. Jalen Rose has intimated the same. Who knows how it will turn out.
Like many others, I have had enough of the Webber drama.
Now, team 84 of Michigan basketball said they welcomed the support of the Fab Five, even donning haircuts honoring them before one game. I believe the Maize hoodies they wore for the Indiana home pre-game were a sort of tribute. So, I yield to the team's wishes on their attendance at the title game.
But this Webber drama, will he or won't he? In our seats before the game, tweets from everyone that Webber was there with his girl friend, but, NOT sitting with the rest of his former teammates.
To whom, according to King and Rose, he has not spoken in over 20 years.
Message to Chris: get over your bad self.
* * * * *
Fortunately, Erin did not fall asleep during this fascinating factual recital from her father.
The weather was great. At one gas stop, I bought a sub and posed with it in front of my face while wearing my "We had subs It was crazy" M Go Blog shirt.
Erin switched from listening to me to her preferred young country music on the radio.
No calls or emails on tickets.
I texted Matt, host of our football tailgate, that I planned on meeting him at his hotel. I figured if I scored some tickets off Craig's list, I would need to print them out somewhere, and I could get that done at the hotel.
My oldest, Janell, could not make this trip, but she saw the 1998 Rose Bowl with me, so she said she had her championship, and this would be Erin's turn.
* * * * *
That game was a BIG ticket issue. I wanted to set up the Rose Bowl trip before the Ohio game, but my wife said oh, no, remember that one year, you got tickets for me and my cousin, and Iowa ended up going. Bad luck to count your chickens before they hatch.
So, we end up with flights that routed through Philadelphia. Whatever. We get there, free lodging at my aunt's house in Arcadia, home of the Santa Anita racetrack.
We left with both girls and without any game tickets.
On arriving at my aunt's, we discover that my dentist's son has a pair we could have. Alleluia!
Turns out he bought two as a Michigan employee, for his brother to use, as he had a conflict because of a wedding to attend. The brother already had tickets from another source, and the dentist, a long time family friend, knew we were looking. Cool.
Erin was not yet 7 at the time, but I still looked for two more tickets, so that we all could go.
Staying out over night on the street on Colorado Boulevard to have front row seats for the parade was part of our plan. I had done this on all three of my prior Rose Bowl trips, and my wife was with me the last time, the loss to UCLA.
I made a sign that said "Need Rose Bowl Tickets" and walked up and down the middle of Colorado Boulevard, a couple of hours before the parade, in front of, literally, tens of thousands of people.
I had two offers, for single tickets, $300 each. I declined.
Should have taken them, turns out they were going for $1,000 a piece before kickoff.
Anyway, my wife said too much money, I will just stay with Erin, you and Janell go.
And lifetime memories were made as we won an exciting game and rejoiced in a perfect season and national championship, and the end of my 0 and 5 personal bowl record.
A Michigan fan sitting next to us thought to offer to take our picture, and it sits proudly on the shelf, each of us smiling broadly and holding up a finger signifying Michigan: #1.
* * * * *
So, we make it to the Atlanta hotel, which is the team hotel, crammed with Michigan fans. The whole interior is an open atrium to the top floor. From the 5th floor, Matt points out where the Robinson family hung out, where the Hardaway family gathered, where the band studied, and so on.
Still no tickets.
So I call my friend back in Ann Arbor, hey, don't have any yet, does your friend still have two?
Let me check, he says.
Back and forth on cell phones, leaving messages, eventually hook up, yes, still available, you can have them, meet us at 8:30 at a specified spot at the stadium.
Matt says hey, we are on the first bus, which, for some reason, leaves before the team, but you can stay and watch them board the bus.
Cool, says Erin.
There is an L shaped line, cordoned off, with some of the band inside, playing our favorite tunes. Maybe 70 or 80 Michigan fans press around the edge. The players and staff enter from the long end of the L, and walk to the corner turning left along the short section of the L that leads outside to the bus. Applause and camera clicks greet each personage. Horford picks up a 3 year old girl from the front row and hoists her above his head, much to her delight.
Of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I notice Mr. Brandon, decked out in a striped blue power suit, just behind me to my left, wearing a puzzled expression as he looks around at the folks in front of him.
My first thought is, he must know how to get on the bus, he would have been on it Saturday, what is the deal?
So I say: May I help you, sir?
We have spoken at events before but I am sure he will not remember me.
And he says, well, I am trying to figure out, how to, -
Then he realizes there is no restraint, just people standing along the short side of the L, and he works his way through.
Damn. I was going to jump in and part the sea for him. Oh, well.
The fan to my left, pushing age 70, says Who was that.
Dave Brandon, says I.
Who is that?
The athletic director for the University of Michigan.
Excited utterance: "He just brushed my clothes!"
* * * * *
The team is off and so should we be. Let's stop and eat, save money over stadium concession prices, and we have enough time.
As I am buying, Erin's agreement is readily secured.
Turns out I got half of a free salad at Wendy's; I stopped eating after pulling a six inch hair out of my meal. No time to order another.
Vehicles multiplying as I approach our parking lot goal when the phone rings.
My ticket connection says: Hey, traffic was not bad for us, we are here early. I look at the clock. Yeah, I think, over half an hour early.
She starts giving directions after I state my location. I am being spoken to as if I were a lifetime Atlanta resident familiar with each street instead of someone who stopped here once for a few hours in 1972.
I see an open lane and veer into it while trying to explain no, I do not know the northeast corner of whatever, when I realize the lane was free because the oncoming traffic was stopped on the other side of the light.
I yell that I have to get off as I am going the wrong way on a one way street and drop my phone on the floor.
Ahh. Calm restored as I am allowed back to the correct side of the thoroughfare, and we proceed to our destination, which looks full already.
No problem, says the parking lot attendant, just follow my directions, leave enough room for the car in the corner next to the entrance to get around you, and you will be fine. OK, spatially challenged as I am, I figure it out, I will be unblocked, in front of the other car, next to the driveway. A perfect location for the quick getaway we need.
One of the great things about Michigan is the extended twilight at our latitude, and, that we are on the edge of the Eastern time zone, so the sun sets later.
Conversely, in Atlanta, it is getting dark much earlier, as we try to locate the folks who still have our tickets, or so I think, having been told only that it is "complicated."
We eventually find each other in the increasingly massive throng pressing into the cordoned off lanes that lead into the stadium.
I am told by one of the four, two couples, that we have to get to the gate before the tickets can even be printed. Yes, that qualifies as complicated.
Even though these tickets were purchased a year ago, they can ONLY be printed when the charge card used to buy them is scanned through a contraption on the belt of the usher, which then prints out four tickets, each the size of a business card. Cool.
We are inside the stadium with the tickets in hand, having yet to be told the price. I am hoping I have enough cash to cover it; Stub Hub prices were not below $245 when I landed these.
Let's see, one of the women says to her husband. They cost $270, and there were two games Saturday, so three games in all, is $90 OK?
Uh. Yes. I pay the $180 and, so far, everything is breaking our way.