Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Where have you gone Steve Grote, a Wolverine fan turns his lonely eyes to you

The Michigan Wolverines are ranked in the college basketball top 25 for the first tine in what seems like decades. The poll hit the streets Monday afternoon with the Wolverines in the 20th position. Holy mother of God! My first thought? Antoine Joubert must finally be living up to the hype. My second thought? How about those wacky "Fab 5" kids with their crazy long shorts and nutty black socks!

Seriously, there's a generation out there that doesn't remember when Michigan hoops actually mattered. Curses to Ed Martin, Ford Explorers, and Brian Ellerbee! Considering the Tommy Amaker led Wolverines look like a team that might do some post season damage, it seemed like a good time to talk about my allegiance to the Wolverines.

I'm your typical Wolverine fan, the type that Sparty fan hates. I didn't go to Michigan due to family circumstances. Neither did anyone else with whom I'm close. But I was exposed to the Lord and saviour that was Bo Schembechler at an early age. It was the Big 2 and Little 8. I had boy crushes on Billy Taylor and Rob Lytle. Hanging out in our remodeled basement with my buddies watching Keith Jackson call the Michigan - OSU game on our state of the art 19" black & white TV. Discovering Bob Ufer on the radio and wondering just what in the world I had stumbled on to. The 10 year war was at the dead center of my formative years. I thought those winged helmets were NIFTY!

You have to factor in that all the other Detroit teams were absolute bottom feeders. It was "Darkness with Harkness" and "The Dead Things." The Tigers were in midst of their worst years ever (up to that time, obviously) and hit rock bottom with their infamous 19 game losing streak. The Lions were forever hovering on the bad side of .500, never able to beat the Vikings and make the playoffs. Save for Dave Bing and Bob Lanier, the Pistons were literally an afterthought, the LA Clippers of their day.

It added up to a perfect storm that allowed for a generation of Michigan fanatics. We young kids rooted hard for Michigan. I know I'm not alone. Every one of my friends are Michigan fans. Even the couple that attended MSU... I believe that the entire Michigan male population thet grew up in Schembechler era became dyed in the blue Wolverine fans. I'm one of them...

College basketball was something that was pretty much off my radar as a kid. I didn't know Johnny Orr from Bobby Orr. It was the Michigan teams of the mid 70's led by Rickey Green, Steve Grote, and Phil Hubbard that caused me to check out college hoop for the first time. 1976 was my first real exposure to the NCAA tournament. That Wolverine team and their run to the championship game is the reason I'm a fan of the college game today.

I root for Sparty. I really do. I cheered for MSU over the years, I'll admit more so in hoop, but football as well. How could you not? I never understood the idea that you can't, at the very least, root for both teams in football and basketball. Especially if you weren't an alumnus. But scratch the surface, not all that deep down, I'm a Michigan fan. The Wolverines are the team that truly stirs my passions.

A female friend once asked me about my feelings in regard to the two schools. (She was an EMU grad, for what it's worth) I told her that it came down to this, especially in football,but hoop as well. If Sparty wins, that's cool. If they lose, well...Bummer, that's too bad. But when it comes to the Michigan Wolverines? It's life and death. Hide the women, children, and the dog if they lose. Which has been all too often for the football team, but that's another post...

In a prefect world, the Wolverines and Sparty would both get high NCAA seeds and make serious tournament noise. Sparty making their typical run would be damn cool. Somewhat expected, but cool. But...the Wolverines making the Sweet 16 would make me much happier. I can't help it, I just can't. If you make me pick between the two schools? It's always going to be the Wolverines. Always...

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