Thanks Dad - Memories of Growing Up a Wolverine

Submitted by Lordfoul on June 19th, 2010 at 4:28 PM


This began as a reply to the Board Post below, but screw it, Dad deserves better.

I didn't stand a chance of being anything other than a Michigan fan.  Dad, Mom, Grandparents, countless aunts and uncles, Sister, Brother, several cousins... most are alums and diehard Wolverines.  Growing up was centered around family every Fall Saturday, with huge parties for the OSU, MSU, and Rose Bowl games.  Wins on any given Saturday were followed immediately by a dash to the phone to call Grandma and scream "Yay!  Yay!  Yay!" 

My Dad did host most of those parties, always setting up a great time by all even if Michigan lost (read: most Rose Bowls).  I can remember joyous yells of "Touchdown Michigan!" filling the house after yet another brilliant play by Bo's Wolverines.  I recall the elation of watching Jamie Morris scamper for a TD, and the horror of watching Tony Boles have his career cut short.  Watching a game on TV still always takes me back to that little TV room in Saginaw.

He also took each of us kids to Ann Arbor for a day on our 7th birthdays.  My day started with the long car ride, early in the morning before the sun came up.  We got to Ann Arbor just after first light and then began with a walk up to and around Central Campus.  I especially remember the feeling of running up and down the stone walls that lined some side streets.  Then it was off to the Big House, a frigid scamper on the Astroturf field (gotta love Ann Arbor in December), and a climb to the top of the bowl. Finally there was a trip to Blimpie Burger, and then into the car for the ride back north. That trip made me realize that Ann Arbor was sacred ground, without Dad ever having to say it outright.  

When Saturday Afternoons were compromised by duck hunting, the radio was always right there in the blind.  Dad took his hunting very seriously and he would stay very still and quiet with me charge of listening to the headphones and giving updates.  I always hated getting up early, in horrendous weather, to hunt the ducks, but I have some of my most enduring memories of my father from those times in the marshes of Shiawassee, Crow Island, and Saginaw Bay.

Notre Dame games are a blur of memories, almost all taken in at a bar in Lovells.  The town village crossroads is right next to the land where we would one day have a cabin. We seemed to always be there on the weekend of the Notre Dame game and the bar/restaurant would be packed nearly standing room only, with all eyes glued to the tiny TV in the corner of the room.  When Michigan scored, things would get rowdy in there.  I think Dad even dislocated Grandma's thumb with a high-five once.

Of course introducing me to Michigan Fandom was really the least of what my Dad has done and continues to do for me.  He is the most upright role model I know to this day. He instilled a sense of morals and dignity in all of his children, and protected and enriched us in countless ways. He gives of himself always to the benefit of all that know him, and many who do not.  If I can end up half the man my Dad is, I will consider myself a success and net benefit to the world.

Thanks Dad, for everything.


Hemlock Philosopher

June 19th, 2010 at 5:08 PM ^

I hope to be the role model that you father was to you to my 3 1/2 year old son and 15 month old daughter.  Thanks for sharing!  Please send this to your dad too, if you haven't done so yet!


June 19th, 2010 at 5:52 PM ^

This is what makes college football great. I'm sure many others on the board will attest to having similar stories. Happy (early) Father's Day and Go Blue.


June 19th, 2010 at 8:02 PM ^

I'm sure a lot of us were brought up Blue by our dads. In my case it was inescapable. I was born and raised in NY, but my dad had three degrees from UM, grew up in Ann Arbor (my grandfather was on the faculty), and married the sister of his law school classmate.

During my teens my dad worked for an airline. We could fly for free -- the greatest perk imaginable. Two or three football Saturdays per year, we would fly to Detroit Metro in the morning, rent a car and head for the tailgate at the golf course, go to the game, head to my grandparents' or my uncle's for dinner, and be back home that night. My first game was 73 Ohio State, the 10-10 tie. I saw Rick Leach score in 75 to cut the OSU lead to 7 before Ray Griffin put the game away. And we saw many blowouts of unfortunates like Navy and Minnesota.

My grandfather, my uncle and my dad were Blue to their bones. My dad regaled us with tales of sneaking into games in the 40s and stopping on the way home from school to watch the band practice. But as a fan he was anti-nostalgia personified. Losses disgusted him more than wins gratified him. On the rare occasions when Michigan got far behind, he refused to watch, saying that football should be like chess -- once the outcome was certain the loser should just resign.

The 70s were glory years for us as well as Michigan. My dad left the airline job in 76, but my freshman year was 78. After two years of ups (Wangler to Carter) and downs (losing to Kirk Gibson and MSU), I had to leave Michgan for health reasons. But our Blueness seem to intensify over the years. I'll never forget the 80 Notre Dame game. I was laid up in the hospital, watching the game. My dad and my brother were on their way to visit, listening on radio. They figured the lead was safe when they parked and headed up to my room. Then Harry Oliver made the 51 yard FG when the wind shockingly died. "They LOST!" I spluttered when my dad walked in. I rarely saw that look on his face, before or since.

My dad and I spent a ton of time together over the next decades. He was immeasurably helpful to me in ways I can't begin to describe, but that he actually seemed to enjoy. In recent years, when we often couldn't watch the game together, the postgame phone call was a ritual: either we won and the world was as it should be, or we'd lost and existence itself was loathsome.

This will be my first Father's Day since losing my dad. Over the years my dad or I, watching some Michigan debacle, would say "good thing Grandpa's not around to see this." One of the main traits my dad passed on to me is a mordant sense of humor, and I know I'll be saying the same thing about him. He wouldn't have it any other way. But I'll never say anything I mean less.

Louisville Wolverine

June 20th, 2010 at 8:34 AM ^

This is also my first Father's Day without my dad and grandfather. They both loved Michigan football and I remember watching so many games with them as a kid, the most memorable being Tim Biakabatuka's rampage over OSU. My dad would get so worked up watching the games that he ended up giving it up for a while (before the the last two seasons). He also was a die-hard supporter of Rodriguez and I wish he could have seen the success that I think RR will have soon.


June 20th, 2010 at 12:48 PM ^

Yes, great post.  I remember the countless times my father would wake me and my brother up at 4am to make the drive from Chicago to Ann Arbor.  Many times he was generous enough to buy extra tickets for a few of my friends so that they could also have the experience.  Hears to him.


June 20th, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

My Dad wasn't a Michigan fan, he was a Northwestern fan. But in indirect ways he allowed me to become the Michigan Man I am today. He instilled in me the work ethic, drive, and desire to become the person I wanted to be. This allowed me to get into the schools I wanted to.

So merely by supporting me and always demanding the best out of me, he allowed me to become a Wolverine.

Six Zero

June 21st, 2010 at 11:50 AM ^

Never thought I'd use the terms 'LordFoul' and 'Filled with Love' in the same sentence,' but you proved me wrong.  Filled with love, not only for the maize and blue, but also the man that bred you as a Wolverine.

Every one of us is shaped by our relationship with our father, and I'm a bit envious that you all can share Michigan with your dads.  Sure, my dad loves college football and there's something great about heading up there every once in awhile and watching the Saturday night game with him, but you guys have something different.  Your dad loves Michigan as much as you do, and probably takes great pride that you are a lifelong fan as well.  Cherish it.  Enjoy it.  And savor the bond.

Thanks again, LF.


September 21st, 2010 at 4:01 PM ^

Somehow I missed this post when you put it out and I have to say it was very well written.  I've been on a couple of those duck hunting trips, though never during Meeechigan games, and been to a couple of those parties. Nice work perm.