I thought I might share some background on my first experiences with deep dives into MGoCulture, if you will.
It began in the early 1980s on an unassuming street in Northville, and it began with a 1977 Ford Econoline and its owner –both pictured on this page for the University Of Michigan Club Of Greater Northville (LINK). I spent many hours, when I was a wee lad, sitting in this van as it sat in a driveway wondering what it would be like to be at a Michigan game before I actually went to my first one in 1985.
Lou was our next door neighbor, and his daughters babysat me and my sisters quite often, so we spent an awful lot of time at their house. Actually, we even spent mornings before school there once in a while, waiting for the bus, whenever my parents had to go into work especially early. I was in elementary school, and like so many kids in southeast Michigan, I was a Michigan fan, but I suppose at the time that I didn’t know what this meant precisely. Lou knew in meticulous detail, and it still impacts my life to this day.
Most of their house was similar to the colonials around it (including ours). At the time, most of us on the street had not graduated from 1970s décor, so browns and burnt sienna were not uncommon, and linoleum floors ruled the day along with the odd shag carpet. There was one room in that house next door that was an aberration, but a beautiful aberration – the office.
I still remember first stepping into that office and being awestruck – if it had a block “M” on it, or Bo’s likeness (even Bump’s likeness, as Lou went to school mostly during Elliott’s tenure) or if it was simply Michigan-related, it was in there. There was a board on one wall with dollar bills signed by names as diverse as Dan Dierdorf, Reggie McKenzie, Don Canham and even Bennie Oosterbaan. It was just dollar bills, but also signed photos, a few game balls from different decades, pennants and so on. Even though he likely had better things to do than explain all of these things to me, that is precisely what Lou did – the beginnings of my knowledge of MGoHistory and MGoCulture begin in that office just off the kitchen of the house next door.
Lou taught me “The Victors”, and not just the chorus. He even taught us “The Yellow And The Blue” and even let us attempt to play these songs on the organ in his living room. Actually, when we came over to the house sometimes, we would be quizzed on our MGoKnowledge. He took his self-imposed role as the neighborhood purveyor of all things Michigan quite seriously, and I know he still does even now. When I find myself buying MGoGear and supplying MGoTrivia to my niece and nephew, as well as my kids and my meighbors, I know exactly who I am channeling.
The Michigan flag flew proudly on the flagpole in Lou’s front garden. When the pole was ripped from the ground and thrown into the street by a June 1983 storm, it was actually the first thing that was replaced. Not even nature would prevent Michigan from reigning supreme over Morgan Circle. I watched as he installed the new pole, saying not a word, and at the end of that back-breaking day, in a ceremony to which we were all invited, the new Michigan flag (the old one was never found after the storm) went up with a “Go Blue!” and then some grilled delights on his back porch. He was dedicated to his university, and I think I picked that up as well, for the first thing that goes up every game day is the flag.
I don’t think I ever told him, and maybe I should this season as I walk past Edgewood and Snyder, where he tailgates more often than not, but I credit him primarily with starting me down the path that made me not just a knowledgeable Michigan fan, but a proud alum and MGoFanatic. Indeed, there are times on MGoBlog when, in the middle of a post, I stop to ask myself how Lou would respond.
Like many on this board, I come from a family that has Michigan ties from within as well, but when I think about who inspired this level of fandom and who inspired me to want to be part of that culture, I think of that house next door to ours in Northville and its resident Wolverine.