SportsMonday Column: A plan fulfilled and a reluctant goodbye

Sunday, April 17, 2016 - 7:58pm

Max Cohen’s path to Michigan started at a young age, when his dad got him hooked on the Wolverine football team.

Max Cohen’s path to Michigan started at a young age, when his dad got him hooked on the Wolverine football team. Buy this photo
Courtesy of the Cohen Family

 

This column, I’m fairly certain, is the product of a long and arduous brainwashing process by my dad.

It started when I was 6 years old. I’d noticed that he always read The Philadelphia Inquirer every day before he left for work and I left for school. He’d tell me what was in the paper, and by the end of first grade, I wanted to read it, too.
 
So every single morning at 6:30, we’d sit at our kitchen table to split the sports section and discuss its contents. I wanted to know everything, and when I held the newspaper, it seemed as if the world was at my fingertips. I wanted to hold on to that feeling forever.
 
Simultaneously, my dad, who had earned his MBA from Michigan, had another plan. He’d give me a few pieces of Michigan clothing every year for Chanukkah and then, on Saturdays, he’d turn on Michigan football games. We’d watch together, dancing around the living room after every Braylon Edwards touchdown. 
 
When I was 11, he took me to the Big House for the first time. The game was a relatively boring blowout of Eastern Michigan, but I was hooked anyway. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I wore Michigan T-shirts three days a week (I was really freaking cool).
 
When it came time to pick a college, my mom forced me to look at other schools, convinced I only thought Michigan was the best fit because of my dad’s prerogative. I ended up here anyway, writing about Michigan sports for the newspaper.
 
And now, four years later, it’s time to say goodbye. And shoot, I’ll admit it, I really don’t want to.
 
Saying goodbye means no more walking through the Diag exchanging fist bumps with passing friends while complete strangers offer free hugs. It means no more nights at Red House full of Admiral Nelson and beer pong until everyone is too drunk and too tired to do anything but sleep. It means no more sitting at the Daily until 4 a.m. with Max and Jake, ranting and yelling and talking about life until we remember we have to go to class in just a few short hours.
 
Sure, it hasn’t all been perfect. Simon and I (somehow) never met our wives at Rick’s, and I wish we had shut out The State News every year instead of merely embarrassing them. There were times I could’ve studied more, and there were times I ignored my non-Daily friends for way too long. Even worse, people still don’t believe I’m actually in Ross (tell them, Henry).
 
It’s funny how life works out sometimes. Because of the Daily, I’ve done things I would have only dreamed about as a little kid. I’ve played catch under the lights on the field at the Big House, I’ve driven all over the Midwest to cover football road games and I even had a summer internship at the newspaper I grew up reading.
 
I’ve also spent the last four years listening to athletes and coaches utter platitudes about toughness only to realize the best example of it has been in front of me for my entire life. 
 
My mom has had multiple sclerosis since 1983, when she was 22 years old. In 1992, one year before I was born, the disease rendered the left side of her body numb. On the rare occasions when she feels it’s necessary to mention the disease, she says the sensation is comparable to a normal person’s foot falling asleep. The only difference is that her affliction is permanent.
 
When she was diagnosed, she didn’t know how much longer she’d be able to walk. She’s 55 now, and she isn’t stopping any time soon. For that, I’m truly lucky.
 
I’ve been fortunate, too, to have friends who have helped me along the way. It doesn’t feel as if it was all that long ago when Austin had to convince a scared freshman to drive across the country with him to the Final Four. 
 
But the problem with college, it seems, is that it’s so fleeting. One moment Spike Albrecht is scoring 17 points in the National Championship game and then, in the blink of an eye, he’s a graduate transfer. 
 
I suppose we’ll all go places after graduation, too. We don’t really have much of a choice. Matan’s moving to Africa, Karly’s going to Boston and I’ll go to New York. It will be weird, being so far away from this big, beautiful, confusing place.
 
They don’t have Zingerman’s out in the real world, I’ve been told. The same goes for the other places we’ve all grown to cherish, from Hill Auditorium to the Diag to the Law Quad. Sometimes, I’m quite confident, the most frequent reminder of Ann Arbor will be seeing Jim Harbaugh in the news.
 
But when Lev comes to visit or when I get a text from Marc, it will be as if we never left this place that’s known for a 107,601-seat football stadium but has given us all so much more.
 
The day before classes started my freshman year, I sat by the Cube and waited for Wass to take me to my first sports section meeting. I was sweaty, nervous and had no idea what I’d say when I was meeting new people. I thought writing for the Daily would be a hobby, a nice little way to spend time outside of pursuing a business degree. 
 
I ended up having more fun than I ever thought I could. And now that it’s all over and I’m writing my final sentences for this newspaper, I’m once again at a loss for words.
 
So I’ll say this: Thanks, Dad. Your plan worked to perfection.
 
Cohen can be reached at maxac@umich.edu and on Twitter @MaxACohen. He wants to thank his mom and Rachel, too. He will be writing for the sports section of The Wall Street Journal this summer. Thanks for reading.