I recently posted an article entitled, "The Writing Is On the Wall for Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Football Program", which criticized Rodriguez and the program he has built over the past three years. That article received much criticism from the loyal Michigan fan base.
In reading the comments and feedback received on that article, I could not help but to question my own status as a "Michigan Man".
My first year at Michigan was 1997. As far as football is concerned, I couldn't have landed on campus at a better time. I was not only present at every football game of the 1997 National Championship Season, but I was on the field and touched the Big Ten trophy as it crossed the field.
Each ticket from that season hangs on my wall as a reminder of that year (including the National Championship Rally ticket). The cigar which was smoked on the field that day lies in a case above my desk and the memories of that day lie forever in my memory.
I've been a season ticket holder for both Basketball and Football since I stepped foot on Ann Arbor's campus. I graduated with a BBA from the University of Michigan, one of the finest undergraduate business school programs in all of the United States. Today, my greatest desire is to one day have my daughter attend the University of Michigan.
Reminiscing about the past and thinking about the current state of Michigan's major sports programs (both Basketball and Football) has gotten me to thinking, what does it really mean to be a Michigan Man? What are the criteria for claiming to be one? What are the responsibilities that go along with it and what is expected of a Michigan Man.
Does being a Michigan Man mean swearing blind allegiance to the school? Does it mean that you stand by the team regardless of where the program may be headed? Is it required that you bite your tongue when you don't agree with the decisions being made or the actions being taken, in an attempt to create the image of a unified fan base? To stick by your school, your team, no matter what?
Above all else, I believe that being a Michigan Man means having a love for the school, the team, and the people associated with U of M. It is that love that shows itself in different ways, with different people.
For some, that love is blind, and so is their allegiance. For others, they can only hold their feelings in for so long when they feel that things are headed down the wrong path. In either case, the desire remains the same. They both want the same thing. To be considered the best. To win. To share that feeling of happiness when the school is victorious. To share that feeling with other Michigan fans.
It's getting to the victories that is the difficult part. And just as is the case with any relationship, parties don't always agree on the direction that things are going.
I agree with the majority of the comments on my previous article which stated that all of the disagreement goes away once we start winning. It has to, you cannot argue with results. And when you're winning, everyone is happy.
But our team hasn't been winning, and so the discussion commences about what has been done right to this point, and what has been done wrong. What needs to change, and what needs to stay the same.
It is this discussion that helps to make us better in the long run. It is this discussion that keeps us from accepting the status-quo and raises our expectations. It is this discussion, passionate at times, that keeps us from falling into the abyss of mediocrity.
What does not ever change, however, is the belief by all that our team will eventually return to greatness. I believe that there are so many things that make The University of Michigan great. The tradition, the high expectations, the desire to win.
But most importantly, I think what has made this a great school, and will continue to help us be regarded as the Leaders and Best, are the people that make up the school and it's fan base. All of the Michigan Men and Women.
Bo once said, “When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft; on the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing.”
While we may disagree on the current state of the program, and what it will take to get back to greatness, one thing will never change. I will keep believing. Because, just like Bo, I consider myself to be a Michigan Man. And I know, that "those who stay will be champions".
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