BY PAUL RAYKOV
Published January 18, 2012
Last Sunday, the University hockey team went to Cleveland to face the Ohio State Buckeyes in an outdoor venue at the Indians' baseball stadium, Progressive Field. The park had been transformed into a winter wonderland including an ice skating course billed as the moving mile, a sledding ramp with inner tubes and a hockey rink. The Wolverines won the game convincingly 4-1 over the Buckeyes. Another story remains to be told.
At 3:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, a small contingent of the Michigan band came to Houlihan’s restaurant where the faithful were gathered prior to the game organized by the Cleveland chapter of the Michigan University's Alumni Association. The band knew they were in the right place when they saw a sea of maize and blue in the land of the Buckeyes. They played “The Victors” of course, followed by “Let’s Go Blue,” and the place erupted with emotion and pride. You could have blinked and thought you were in Ann Arbor.
Every time I hear “Let’s Go Blue,” I think of the first time I heard that song. No matter what venue I am at, the song is played. I was a freshman at the University in the fall of 1972, living on the fifth floor of Bursley Residence Hall. I was in the floor lounge, typing my English 150 paper that was due the next morning.
When I was halfway through the paper, Albert Ahronheim — who lived two doors down from me — came in with a tuba. Albert was the drum major for the band, and he could do 40 yards of back flips as the band marched down the field. I have never seen anyone do that since. Albert wanted to play a tune for me that he wrote on a brown paper sandwich bag. Of course, I thought, how am I going to finish writing my homework assignment with a guy playing a tuba?
Albert played the first four notes and the tune sounded like nothing. Then he realized that the brown paper bag was upside down. He borrowed a pencil from me and wrote an upward arrow on that bag to indicate the proper orientation. Albert played a very short tune maybe 10 notes on his tuba. He asked me what I thought of it. I said it was short but catchy. The band played “Let’s Go Blue” at the Big House that weekend.
When I heard the song at Houlihan’s, I was instantly transported back to being a freshman in 1972, hearing it for the first time. In retrospect, I was a witness to University history being made.
I went to the game at Progressive Field, and I was given a ticket by another Michigan alum. Game time wind chill temperature was only 9 degrees, and you had to clear snow from your seat. The familiar baseball field had been transformed. I had seats low and close to the rink near Michigan’s blue line. The band was placed in a corner, and their battery powered field microphone — if it was on — was turned down very low. The stadium system favored the OSU band which made the “Script Ohio” on the ice between the second and third period.
I went over to the band because you could sit anywhere. In all of my student days, I had never been that close to the band. I saw the band director give hand signals to cue up the band. “Let’s Go Blue” is cued by putting your hands to your head and waving the fingers like moose antlers. Can you imagine playing frozen instruments with fingers exposed to single digit wind chills?
One of the band members asked me what program I was in. I thanked him for thinking that I was a student. I told him that I was an alum. When I answered such questions during my University days, I would say LSA pre-med. He asked me if I was successful and I said yes. I told him his University education is highly respected and that he would be able to do great things. I would give anything to relive my days at the University, so I told him to enjoy it. You might not notice how fortunate you are to go to a school like the University with academic pressures like tests, classes and papers. But someday, you will miss it.
Both our hockey team and marching band represented Michigan well on that frozen Sunday. I thank the Michigan community for bringing a little of Ann Arbor to Cleveland. Hanging out with the band, I even learned a new cheer: “I am proud to be, a Michigan Wolverine.”
Paul Raykov is a 1976 University alum.