Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's a Michigan Man?

Through all the drama that's unfolded with the firing of Rich Rodriguez there's been one question that keeps popping up when asked about a new coach.

What exactly is a Michigan Man?

As a fan with more than a few years of rooting under my belt, I thought I could give a proper answer.
Your a Michigan Man if...

You follow the Michigan Wolverines Football team with an deep sense of pride, passion, and respect, respect of The University of Michigan, the Michigan Football team, it's players, the coaches, and the program, win, or lose.

I have heard a lot of  fans say that former coach Bo Schembechler wasn't a Michigan Man when he came to Ann Arbor in 1969, and while that's true, it is also true that Bo himself is the one who coined the phrase :Michigan Man."

When Bill Frieder decided he was going to leave Michigan to become the basketball coach at Arizona State it was Schembechler who fired Frieder immediately, saying
"...a Michigan Man is going to coach Michigan..."
Being a fan of the Wolverines requires dedication to the team in more ways than just wearing t-shirts, hats, and watching games.

It requires a certain spirit, a spirit that flows within you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, until the day to are passed and gone onto Maize and Blue heaven.

The spirit of being a true Michigan Man is the way you handle yourself as a Michigan fan, the excitement when a fan of another team asks you about the Wolverines, the way you look when you see another Michigan fan and you both reply "Go Blue!"

When you describe yourself as a Michigan Man, you are letting the world know that you are 100% vested in the team, the players, and the coaches.

100%, not anything less.

Your either "All In," of your not, and if your not, I suggest you take a good hard look at yourself and figure out who you are, because being a Michigan Man requires an unwavering respect and love of Michigan Football.

Michigan Men are proud of the tradition that is Michigan Football, proud of the men and women who have served the University and the football program for 131 years of intercollegiate athletics.

 A young Michigan student riding on a train back to Ann Arbor after a Michigan game against the University of Chicago in 1898 was so full of spirit, Michigan spirit, that he wrote these words that would become Michigan lore...

                               "Hail to the Victors Valiant
                                 Hail to the conquering heroes,

                                Hail, Hail, to Michigan, the leaders and best, 

                               Hail to the Victors Valiant, 

                               Hail to the conquering heroes,

                               Hail, Hail, to Michigan, the Champions of the West."

The spirit flowing through young Louis Elbel that night as he wrote "The Victors" is the same spirit that every Michigan Football fan should be feeling each and ever day.

From the days of Fielding Yost, the "Father of Michigan Football," through Fritz Crisler, the famed Michigan Winged Helmet, the Mad Magicians, Tom Harmon, old 98, through Bennie Oosterbann and Bump Elliot, through Rose Bowl victories, and through defeats, Michigan Men are the force that keeps the spirit of the Michigan Football going.

Bo Schembechler once said "we will win more games with tradition than anything else."

What he meant by that is quite simple.

With tradition comes respect and honor to the players and coaches who have blazed the Maize & Blue trail to the present day.

Every point a minute team of 1901-02-03-04 lead to the "Benny to Bennie" show of the mid 1920's, which led to Harry Kipke and two National Championships in the early 1930's, a team led by a future President of the United States, Gerald Ford.

Every Big Ten Championship means something to the generation of Michigan players that follow them.

Every All-American, every All Big Ten player, every Rhodes Scholar, they all stamp their mark on the Wolverines for all generations.

In 1969 Michigan Head Coach Bump Elliot was removed, and the spirit of Michigan Football was re-energized by a tough, hard nosed man from Barberton, Ohio named Glenn "Bo" Schembechler.

"Those who stay will be Champions"

For the past 34 years Michigan Football has been a part of my life, it has become my identity.

People know I'm a Tiger fan, a Red Wings fan, a Pistons fan, and a Lions fan, but if you asked them about me they would tell you that I'm a Michigan fan first and foremost, and the rest are all tied for second place.
From Bo and the Big Ten Champions of the 1970's, through the great Anthony Carter, Bo's 1st Rose Bowl Champions, through Jim Harbaugh and Jamie Morris, through two Heisman winners Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson, through Coach Mo and Coach Carr, and yes, Coach Rodriguez.

34 years.

34 years of losing Rose Bowls...the first three I ever saw the Wolverines lost, and yet I remained a fan.

34 years of gut wrenching defeats, from Charles White's phantom fumble in the 1978 Rose Bowl to Notre Dame's Harry Oliver's game winning kick in 1980 and Reggie Ho's in '88, from losses to South Carolina and Heisman winner Charles Rodgers, to BYU and Robbie Bosco, National Champs of 1984, and through the Kordell Stewart Hail Mary in '94, and now through 7 straight years of losing to Ohio State,

They were all terrible days, but I'm still here.

Michigan Men never, ever waiver in their love, their support, their allegiance to the Maize & Blue.

Losing flat out stinks, and I'm the first to admit that I never thought the Michigan program would be this bad.

Being a fan isn't supposed to be easy, as Tom Hanks character Jimmy Dugan says in "A League of their Own"

           "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great"

The hard times have been a long time coming, 40 years, and now we are knee deep in the most difficult times of a generation of fans.

What are you doing, as a fan, to keep that Michigan spirit going?

What are you doing to keep the spirit of Michigan Football alive and well?

What are you doing to make the Wolverine Nation and the spirit of Yost, Friedman, Kipke, Ford, Harmon, Crisler, Oosterbann, Elliot, Kramer, Schembechler, Leach, Carter, Harbaugh, Howard, Moeller, Carr, Woodson, Greise, Brady, Hart, Henne, Graham, and Robinson?

A new era begins, but the spirit of Michigan Football has been there for forever.

Go Blue!

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