My earliest Michigan memories are of Bo Schembechler coached teams that featured the likes of Rob Lytle and Rick Leach. I was a running back on a below average high school football team and would lay in bed at night and dream of running back kick offs for the Maize and Blue. I knew I had no chance of ever playing for Bo. I was undersized and slow, but lying in bed with my Michigan fantasies on Thursday nights provided extra motivation to try that much harder on Friday nights playing for my home town team. I have continued following the Wolverines since the early 70s but my best memories are of the last 10 years sharing the games with my little brother.
My brother and I were not close growing up. Probably due to the 6 year difference in our age. We were both born in Southeast Michigan but moved to Georgia when I was 13 and he was 7. For a middle school kid getting ready to take on the excitement of high school, I didn't take time to bond with my elementary school brother.
I left home right out of high school before my 18th birthday. He was 11 at the time. I was young, independent and just wanted to get away from my strict, conservative christian parents. This meant I only saw my brother on his birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The years went by and as he grew into adulthood I continued on my own track. Jobs, family, kids our own and living in different parts of the south kept us from really bonding until about 10 years ago.
It was around 2005 when we were living in the same area of N. GA that my brother and I bagan getting together every fall Saturday to watch Michigan football together. He had also been a diehard Wolverine fan all his life. It was our love for the team that brought us together and was the foundation for the strong bond between us. Together we shared the passing of Bo, the end of the Lloyd Carr era, the ups and downs of the coaching changes since 2007 and the unbridled excitement of the beginning of the Harbaugh era. We had an unspoken agreement. If Michigan was playing football, we were going to watch the game together.
We had our crazy traditions too. Of course we were always decked out in our Michigan jerseys and caps, the Michigan blanket would be draped over the couch and the Michigan bobble head would be on the table in front of us. Our drinks were always wrapped in Michigan coozies and sitting on Michigan coasters. At the kickoff of every game, we would raise our beers high and as the ball was kicked would yell "GOOOOOOOOO BLUUUUUUUUUE!!!!" at the tops of our lungs until the ball came down into the returners hands. We high fived every big play and for the exceptional BIG plays, broke out the double high five. If we had a particularly poor first half, we would have to change something up at halftime. Change a jersey, cap or reposition some of the Michigan gear we kept around us. During late drives fo close games, we would wiggle our spirit fingers at the TV, rub the bobble head, toast to every little positive play for our side or call for our favorite player to make the next big play. After a disheartening loss (such as the game never to be mentioned that occured last October), we would be known to crumple to the floor in front of the TV and not so much as speak to each other again until the following Saturday when the excitement and comradery would begin anew.
It was November, 2015 that he received the diagnosis. It was already stage IV. He underwent the treatments all while continuing to run his own business. He worked hard and he fought harder. Fought like a true Wolverine, but this was one opponent he could not beat. I lost my brother on July 6, 2016.
I had been so looking forward to watching team 137 and their march to a National Championship. A part of my brother will still be there with me but this year it will just be his picture, a Michigan urn and a tribute bottle of Budweiser sitting beside me. I'll still watch the games but somehow I know some of the joy will be lost. I am grateful that it was Michigan football that brought us together but that opening kickoff of each game will just never be the same again.
To my brother Ken, January, 1970 - July 2016; GOOOOOOOOOO BLUUUUUUUUUUE!!!!!