None of us wanted to leave the Quad-Cities in 1987. However, when we moved to Michigan, at least for me, it was with open arms and an open heart. We all loved living in Davenport, but Iowa’s economy had tanked. Michigan’s economy was booming. Staying in Iowa just wasn’t in the cards for us. We did want to stay in the Midwest and Big 10 country. What were we thinking? Crazy. I must not have despised winters nearly as much as I hate them now. I was pumped and ready for a new adventure. Months after our move, the boys were adjusting fine. Shannon, who had just turned 16, not so much. She had a chip on her shoulder the size her hair, circa 1988. She let us know how unhappy she was. Often. In her defense, it was a tough time to move a sophomore. Beautiful. Hormonal. Smart. Snotty. Girl. She missed her friends, school, cheerleading and boyfriend. But that’s a few blogs for another time.
|There’s something about Shannon…|
When you grow up in Iowa, there’s just not a lot of sports teams close by to love and support. I’m not going to name a bunch of teensy-weensy colleges that 1% of the folks adore. Basically the state had the Hawkeyes and Cyclones. Iowa’s answer to the pros. Iowans are a devoted bunch to our college teams. If you wanted a pro team of baseball or football, you were just kind of out of luck. Your closest choices were St. Louis, Chicago or Minneapolis. All still pretty far away for a Saturday or Sunday jaunt. And not one in the state of Iowa. We did have a farm club of the Chicago Cubs in Davenport. I went to several games every summer. Saw the aging right-hand pitcher Rick Reuschel rehabilitate from an arm injury. Also watched rookie Shawon Dunston as a young punk. He got called up to the Cubs and duked it out for a while with Larry Bowa before winning the starting shortstop position.
|Go Cubs go. Go Cubs go…|
In comparison, Michigan was like hitting the professional team’s lottery. Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh my! Oops, sorry, not the stinking Bears. It’s Red Wings and Pistons. And we went to watch them all. John would keep his loyalty tightly tied to the Minnesota Vikings. Me to my hapless, hopeless Cubbies. But the kids were young, impressionable, and so easily swayed. Both boys did the unthinkable after a few years. They became American League fans. Oh the pain. I don’t dislike the Tigers. Like my Frosted Flakes, they’re great! But switch to the American League? Come on. Poor little pitchers only make a piddly half a million dollars per start every 5 days. Why that’s just not a good reason to hold that heavy bat a couple times a night. Might hurt your widdle arm. Spare me please. Just not right. You’re professional athletes. Pick up the dang bat. End of baseball rant.
It was our first game to watch the Hawkeyes play football other than Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. They were playing the University of Michigan’s Wolverines in Ann Arbor which was about 40 miles east of Jackson. We’d been living in Michigan less than a year. Proudly sporting our black and gold duds. Well the Hawks got the snot kicked out of them. Duds indeed. We were harassed in the stands through the whole game. Not a friendly or civil face to be found. I don’t remember the score, but it was something like 38-10.
|Granddaughter Ariana in her Hawkeye clothes, about 1994…|
When the shellacking was over, we were making our way to the car. We were stopped by some “gentlemen.” Except they weren’t gentle. Or men. At the time I was 36. These were old guys to me. Meaning they were about my age now. All sporting maize and blue plaid pants. My eyes, my eyes! Everyone of them so stinking drunk they could barely walk. But luckily for us, they had not lost their ability to converse. Looked at us and shouted, “what the f/*¥ you think you’re doing in our stadium?” Honest these were 60 year old men. I snapped back, “geez guys, you clobbered us. Can’t you be gracious in your win?” For being alumni from such a snippity school, their vocabulary was really quite limited. They followed us for a little ways. Vulgar, taunting and swearing. Pleasant. But they were lumbering along in such a drunken stupor, we were soon out of their range. On the way home I stated emphatically, “don’t ever ask me to set foot in that stadium again, cause it won’t happen. And I never have. John’s gone back for a few games over the years. He actually should go every time the Hawks play. They’ve won like the last 3 times he’s gone.
A couple years later, Shannon’s in her freshman year at Michigan State. Lansing’s about 30 miles north of Jackson. We took the boys, picked up Shannon, and went out for supper. Then headed to the old Breslin Center for MSU-Iowa basketball game. Again, all of us in Hawkeye clothes. Maybe not Shannon. A few minutes after we sat down, the gal sitting next to the boys taps me on the shoulder and asks, “did you drive all the way from Iowa to watch your little Hawkeyes play us here?” Yeah, that’s the difference between U of M and MSU.
Since that unfortunate incident at U of M over 25 years ago, I’ve found it hard to feel bad when unpleasant things happen in their mighty “institution.” When I get a sniff of a scandal, I’m rather happy. Ok, the billboards, infomercials, TV spots advertising their indiscretions might be a little over the top. During the mid-90’s a terrible scandal hit. (I might have worn a smirk for a couple months) A wealthy U of M booster was caught handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to basketball players. At least one of the players (then in the NBA) lied to the grand jury about it. Because of this, their basketball coach at the time, Steve Fisher got canned. The basketball team withdrew from post season play. They removed all or part of 5 seasons, players names, and achievements from the record books. (Good times Denise) Plus they were put on probation by the NCAA.
|My favorite Michigan shirt. Worn for all painting and dye jobs…|
There’s been several other rumored or reported “indiscretions” at Michigan over the years. A professor who routinely offered independent studies in his class to athletes. Their grades averaged over 3.5 when they were lugging around 2.5 in the rest of their classes. Keeping their eligibility. Recently a quarterback suffered a concussion, but was left in the game to play. Not one staff member bothered to watched that play. Last straw for coach Brady Hoke’s tenure as the Wolverine’s coach. He took the biggest hit, got fired. Besides he was a lousy coach. I wanted him to stay for like another 10 years.
But this is 2015. I’ve been hauling around my own set of baggage for years. Each suitcase filled with regrets, guilt and resentment. I’m embracing the overwhelming need to rid myself of the personal stash of poison being held inside. Letting go of my animosity towards U of M should be an easy “to do.” The harder stuff about Mom, Dad, my sister, and my 4-in-a-row-not-so-hot-bosses-who-all-happened-to-be-preachers will be tougher. But I’ve started. Making some headway. Once I get my Red Fish, Blue Fish typed for a blog post, my soul will be considerably lighter. I hope.
We went to many Iowa football and basketball games when we lived in Davenport. The best one ever was a football game in 1985. Iowa was ranked #1, Michigan #2. The Hawkeye’s won it in the last few seconds, 12-10. The only game I’ve ever attended where NOBODY WANTED TO LEAVE. Honestly the fans were delirious. We just stood there cheering in the freezing drizzle. Watching Hawkeye players on the field who didn’t want to leave either. Amazing, electric feeling. Chuck Long was our quarterback and Jim Harbaugh played for Michigan. Now Harbaugh has been hired as Michigan’s coach for their beleaguered football team. (Isn’t beleaguered the coolest adjective when describing any and all of U of M’s teams?) I might still have some unfinished business in the “I’m loving those stinking Wolverine’s to pieces department.”
|Jim Harbaugh now U of M’s head coach. Wonder if he wears plaid pants???|
I don’t know much about Jim Harbaugh besides he’s an incredibly intense person who’s coached both college and pros. I liked him in the ’80’s as long as he was losing to our Long and the Hawks. I read a neat article on him recently. As a 9 yr old kid living in Ann Arbor, he was just starting to play football. His first opponent was “Ralph.” And Jim was supposed to tackle him. According to Jim, (ha-some old TV trivia, Belushi) “Ralph outweighed him by 50 pounds, was sporting a 5 o’clock shadow and had a unibrow at age 9.” Jim closed his eyes, prayed to God that when he opened them, Ralph would at least be playing in a different position. Well Ralph was in the same spot, which put Jim in a tight spot. He had promised his dad he wouldn’t quit because he just had gotten new $13. football cleats. So he stayed and played. First play, Ralph’s knee slams into Jim’s chest-hard. Jim’s head hits the ground. Ralph’s running, dragging Jim along. Jim’s hanging onto a chubby Ralph thigh for dear life. Plowing a deep row with his shoulder in the football field that would make an Iowa farmer and his John Deere envious as he’s pulled through by Ralphy. Finally Ralph poops out and falls down. Jim checks all his little body parts, making sure nothing’s broke and smiles. He’s just recorded his first ever tackle.
I really admire someone who can tell a good story. And Jim’s was hilarious and touching. It’s just hard to hate a guy who can relate to a story like that. Yup, I kinda admire Jim. Except when his team’s playing the Hawkeye’s. All bets are off. If I find myself fawning over (not counting on it) the nasty Wolverines too much, I’ve got an easy plan in place to yank me back to my senses. Two words. I only need to conjure up these 2 words and any fondness for U of M flies right out the window. Tom Brady…