Saturday, November 18, 2006

Loss of a Legend

Yesterday, the legendary and beloved Bo Schembechler passed away, finally losing to the bad heart that troubled him for so many years. Sigh. Even as an alumnus of Michigan State, I grieve. But through it all, a couple moments of joy seep through. First, the joy of having seen many Michigan football games, albeit almost exclusively on TV. But at least I remember Bo, unlike too many today.

I actually had the chance to meet him once. "Had the chance" indeed. I didn't take it. I was working in a store in Ann Arbor a few years after he retired, and he came in with his wife. I wanted to go over and say something, but I couldn't think of anything. "Hello coach I'm a big fan" seemed too trite. I couldn't come up with a clever pro-MSU comment. "Thank you for it all" would have been the heartfelt thing to say, but how do you explain to a man that coached football- a game you never really played- at your Alma Mater's rival school, that you appreciate him beating your team so often? It would be a simple matter of "thanks for being you." But that just doesn't seem right either.

Silly me. Having read a lot of things about him today, I don't think it would have mattered in the least. Whatever I could have mumbled, he would have been gracious.

In truth, I think that it was of course a fear of imposing, coupled with a fear of making a fool out of myself. I'm very much the type that wears my heart on my sleeve-credit my Mediterranean heritage- and I might not have been able to sustain anything for more than a second before I fell apart. The man represented strength, integrity, honor, hard-work, etc. And for a lesser man, it would be impossible for me to explain my feelings. And for someone like him, it would be hard to understand how he could be such an Icon to a grown man for no real reason.

Other thoughts came to mind today as I read every article I could find online. As my cousin mentioned last night, perhaps like Obi-Wan, he had to give up his life to pass his strength onto his protege Lloyd Carr and the rest of the Wolverine team.

Ohio State and the city of Columbus have a well-deserved reputation for hostility to Wolverines. A few years ago, I was in Ohio on a work project. It was a Friday morning, and I was talking to a customer and mentioned that I would be in Columbus the following week. I mused that, perhaps on the way home for the weekend, I would stop off in Ann Arbor and pick up some Michigan clothes to wear. The person said. "I wouldn't do that." I shrugged and said something about how it would be fun, and no big deal. She stopped, turned to face me, looked square in my eyes, and said "No, I REALLY wouldn't do that."

I took the hint. While in Columbus, I did mention sometimes that was from Michigan, but would also point out that I was an MSU grad, and therefore we kind of agreed on Michigan... Thus proving that we aren't as dumb as Wolverines claim. So I was kinda concerned, given that today's game is the biggest in the 100+ year history of the rivalry, that people in Columbus might be rude and obnoxious. Well, the game is, as I write this, about 3 hours away. Don't know what'll happen in the stadium, but to this point the locals there have been classy, and shown an understanding for Bo as an icon- part of what made the rivalry truly the greatest in college football. So I was smiling through my tears as I read the following statement:

"This is an extraordinary loss for college football," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. "Bo Schembechler touched the lives of many people and made the game of football better in every way. He will always be both a Buckeye and a Wolverine and our thoughts are with all who grieve his loss."


Then there is the OSU favorite, punk band "The Dead Schembechlers". They announced the following on their MySpace page: TONIGHT'S SHOW WILL BE THE FINAL AS THE DEAD SCHEMBECHLERS: The band has announced that tonight's show will be their final under their name. If they do continue as a musical entity in the future, it will be under a changed moniker. They have also announced that all of their profits from tonight, along with those of Watershed and B.A. Baracus, will be donated to a charity of the Schembechler family's choosing

And also this post:


The band is crushed to learn of the death of Bo Schembechler. We named this band after Coach Schembechler to honor him as the face of Wolverine football. We have never wished ill will upon him in any way and have always wished him the best. When we learned that Bo had seen our web site and was amused by it we were delighted. We were simply delighted. He said to those with him as he read it, "See, I still matter in Columbus!" That may have been the greatest understatement in football history. We believe that he took the band's name as the compliment that it was meant as and that he was flattered by it. We wish to extend our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to his family. We are truly sorry for their loss

There is hope yet for the world. Here's a nice article about Columbus yesterday, when the news broke. Again, kudos to the Dead Schembechlers, for requesting a "God bless Bo' sign be hung up Friday at their concert site.

One final thought: I read an article in the U of M newspaper, about reaction on the campus. It ended with a mention of a comment someone wrote on a board outside of Schembechler Hall: 'Let's win this one for Bo." All I could think was that the writer, while meaning well, doesn't understand the Essence of Bo: don't win the game for him or anyone else. Win the game for yourself, and for the school you represent: The University of Michigan. For Coach Schembechler, that's what matters.