This is going to be long. It will contain a lot of elements that are probably only personally important and may at times be only slightly related to the title of the Diary. So, I apologize in advance for that (but, hey, it's a diary), and offer up front a link to the auctions. It begins with Lot 261 and ends with 290. Contained within is the greatest collection of Michigan Football programs in the world. More extensive than even the Bentley Historical Library. Even if you have no intention of bidding, it is a fascinating look at a collection that, for at least a few more days, I can proudly claim is a party of my family.
This post has three purposes, I suppose. First, I would like to recognize and honor my father's uncle for compiling this amazing collection. Secondly, as mentioned above, I want to share the digital likeness of the collection to those interested in Michigan football enough read diary entries composed by complete strangers on a blog dedicated to a collective passion. Finally, I'd like to simply mark this as a somber turning point in my relationship with Michigan Football (or rather, Michigan Football's relationship with me). Note: that last point has nothing to do with on-field results.
The reason I am here now, typing this, is because my father carried me into Michigan Stadium on his shoulders before I was able to walk up all those steps myself and continued to bring me along for the following 16 years. The reason he did that was because his father did the same for him.
My grandfather and his brother had been going to games for 60+ years each until their minds and bodies failed to allow them to continue. Throughout this time, my great-uncle took up collecting programs. I'm not sure if he started with the intent of amassing a Michigan Football Program Collection and in the process branched out into other sports and events, or if he started with a broad focus and decided to pay particularly close attention to the Michigan Football programs. Either way, he ended up with a program collection to rival any other, private or public. A couple of stories to illustrate just how impressive it is:
- There are only two copies of this program known to be in existence. At one point, he had both of them. He gave the other to a friend of his who also collected programs, and that friend still has it.
- I remember walking through Crisler, probably about 15 years ago now, and they always had those somewhat cheesy museum-like display cases in the concourse. There was one with the Little Brown Jug and a program from the game where that legend was born. The University borrowed that program from my great-uncle.
- He had duplicates of many of his programs. On one occassion, someone inquired about a 1950s Red Wings/Maple Leafs program, and since my great-uncle had two of them, he was willing to sell. They had not yet discussed a price when gentleman came to his house to pick up and pay for the program. My great-uncle allowed the man to name his own price, which he did, at "seven fifty." He wrote a check and left. My great-uncle was shocked when he looked at the check and saw $750.00, as he was happy to let the guy buy it for $7.50.
Even after he stopped going to games several years ago, his connections in the M community and the program collecting community were such that people would buy and mail him copies to ensure that the collection continued to grow. It had long been a hope of mine that when he decided he could not keep up with it, he would entrust my father and I with its upkeep. I probably laid waste to those hopes when I decided to leave the state for college. Despite his own daughters attempting to dissuade him from selling the collection, even putting in a good word for me without my solicitation, he has, obviously, decided to sell. While this saddens me deeply, my respect and reverence for him will not allow me to question his decision. But it does sever the last special tie to the Michigan program and community that my family had.
The first in a series of unfortunate events was my great-uncles fraternity brother committing suicide around 1999-2000. Mr. Calhoun and his bus doubling as a mural to honor the vast history of Michigan football (parked in front of Crisler, right by the main entrance, I'm sure some of you were familiar with it) was the epicenter of my Michigan tailgating experience. It was never the same tailgating without "The Bus."
A few years later, when I moved south for college, my parents shortly followed and my dad was forced to give up our Section 18, Row 20, Seats 9-10. The ones where I cheered for Jamie Morris and learned more players' names at age 4 than most of the grown ups around me; The ones I cried in when Miami came back to win in '88; The ones I watched some other team from Florida tear us apart a couple years later; The ones where I saw Kordell's prayer answered in '94; And the ones where I saw Desmond streak down the sideline against OSU in '91 and Charles do his finest recreation six years later.
That was difficult enough to let go of, but when my gradnfather gave up his season tickets a few years later, after sixty-some-odd years of going to games, it was nearly devastating.
And now, with the program collection being auctioned off, my special connection with Michgan football has probably come to a close. Now, I'll just have to be happy being a "normal" obsessed fan and be content with sharing stories of days gone by.