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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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The reflections of a redshirt senior

BY CHRIS BURKE: GOIN' TO WORK

Published April 18, 2005

I was one phone call away from becoming team manager of the Michigan men’s basketball team.

It was early on during my freshman year, and I had just started writing for the Daily. I saw the flyers on the Diag advertising a meeting to choose new team managers, and decided to check it out. A couple of days later, I was offered the position. It took me a minute or two, but I finally declined and made the Daily part of my college life.

Now, five years later — thanks to what I like to call an “academic redshirt” — I’m finally hanging up my … pen and paper, I guess.

Outside of this column every other week, my time at the Daily effectively ended in January, when the new class of editors took over for the outgoing seniors. The months since then have been unusual.

That’s because the Daily had completely dominated my free time during the last few years. I worked around 50 hours a week during this past football season — I think my roommates even subletted out my room because I was gone so much. Thanks for not throwing me out.

And thanks to my girlfriend, Amy, who put up with the late nights here more than anyone — to the point where she created her own “Daily time” formula. If I said I’d be done working in 20 minutes, it meant I’d call her in three hours. If I said I’d be done at midnight, I’d see her at 2 or 3 a.m. I appreciate you not breaking up with me.

But with the space on my final column rapidly drawing to a close, I’ve got some thoughts that I’ve wanted to get into print and have just run out of the time to do so. So here’s what I’ve got left:

 

Confessions

My freshman year, I covered the women’s gymnastics team. My friends tried to get me to ask out Elise Ray because “How many chances do you get to hook up with an Olympian?” I never asked her out, but, if she’s reading this, I may have succeeded at the rare opportunity to creep out an Olympian.

And while I’m on the topic of women’s gymnastics, my trip to the Super Six competition at the University of Georgia during that 2000-01 season still marks one of the best trips I’ve taken in my time at the paper.

I respect the hell out of Tommy Amaker … but I was disappointed when Rick Pitino, at the last minute, shunned Michigan and went to Louisville.

I hate Chris Webber. Loved him when he played at Michigan, even through The Timeout. But he’s turned his back on the program when he’s needed to show himself the most.

Willie Heston — Michigan’s best running back during a 43-0-1, four-national title stretch from 1901-04 — was left out of our list of the top-15 Michigan football players ever because we deemed him less a talent and more a “system player” like B.J. Symons at Texas Tech.

I can’t believe Illinois thinks it’s our rival, Champaign is the worst college city in the conference, and Assembly Hall looks like the spaceship from the end of “E.T.”

 

Thoughts

I think NASCAR is the stupidest, most pointless “sport” ever created. They drive for five hours so one guy can pass another guy on the right at the finish like I’ve done 1,000,000 times on the freeway, and I’m supposed to get excited because they’re going fast?

I think I miss the NHL playoffs more than I thought I would. It’s probably because the NHL playoffs are the best professional playoffs around.

I think the men’s basketball team will win a Big Ten title in the next three years.

I think former women’s basketball coach Sue Guevara got a big time raw deal when the University let her go — and I’ve always felt guilty about the story the Daily ran that set the whole thing in motion.

I believe Braylon Edwards is the greatest receiver ever to play at Michigan, and I expect that he’ll be a great ambassador for the University — he’s well spoken, intelligent and a poster child for not going pro early.

I think anyone who doesn’t go to football games in November because it’s too cold or too early should have his or her season tickets revoked. There is nothing like a game at the Big House.

 

Memories

I can’t fit them all in here. It started at that Super Six competition. I covered Michigan’s CCHA title in 2002, and then was in the press box a week later when I thought Yost was going to collapse under the crowd noise as the Wolverines clinched a Frozen Four spot.

The next year, I sat unable to cheer, but smiling nonetheless, as Michigan rallied from 15 down in the final five minutes to beat Wisconsin in basketball. Days later, I envied the people storming the court after Michigan finally knocked off Michigan State.

I got to sit front row at Madison Square Garden as Michigan won the NIT in 2004, and it almost made up for the feeling I had sitting in a room at the Michigan Union as Bill Martin announced with tears in his eyes that the championship banners would be coming down from Crisler.

And this year, I had to endure standing there while the Notre Dame and Ohio State student sections rushed past me onto the field to celebrate wins over Michigan.

But I’ll always remember being within 10 feet of Damon Dowdell’s final incomplete pass in Michigan’s overtime win over Michigan State in maybe the greatest college football game in the University’s history.

 

So that’s it. To the hundreds of people I’ve worked with over the years — I hope you’ve had as much fun as I did. We’re the only ones who will truly know what it feels like to work for 15 hours on Sunday, only to see people ripping out the crossword puzzle and discarding the rest of the paper on Monday.

To those of you that have read my work — and especially to those of you that have taken the time to write me after reading — thank you. I’ve never met most of you, but I hope I’ve been able to put a smile on your face, or make you think a little.

Mostly I hope that I’ve been able to capture in print those things that we all have had the privilege of experiencing here.

Now, and always, Hail to the Victors.

 

Chris Burke can be reached at chrisbur@umich.edu. If you choose not to write him, he’ll see you at The Big House come September.


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