In my last column for The Michigan Daily, I have a confession to make. Like many of you, who may be too scared to admit it, I was one of those people who jumped on the Northwestern bandwagon after it headed to its second-straight bowl game. Four years ago, my first choice of colleges was not this great university in Ann Arbor, but one in Evanston instead. I was the most enthusiastic applicant for The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University or so I thought. The admission”s office did not seem to agree. But that was their loss, not mine.
Instead, I happily began my college career here. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I chose a pretty damn good year to enter The University of Michigan. And just a few short weeks before my graduation, it is hard not to reflect upon what once was. There was a time, not too long ago, when national championships at this university seemed easy to come by. Undefeated seasons and national championship overtime goals were my introduction to Michigan sports. And not to be left out was that year”s Michigan basketball team, led by Louis Bullock and Robert Traylor, which won the first Big Ten basketball tournament and was granted a No. 3 seed in the tournament.
But now there are only two weeks remaining for the last class to be here during the 1997-“98 Michigan sports season the first time since the late 1940s that two major sports at this university captured national championships in the same year. What is unfortunate about my class” departure is that we are the last ones to remember how a good sports season positively influences the mood of the entire campus. The parties were incredible, people would actually smile at one another while walking to class, and most of all, each sporting event I attended was an unforgettable experience.
I will never forget the endless crowd surfing at football games (I must admit, I did almost drop a couple of people.) I will never forget sitting in the stands at The Rose Bowl and glancing behind me to see the scoreboard read 21-16 when the time on the clock hit zero or the screaming of “It”s great to be a Michigan Wolverine” as I walked through the tunnel to my seats before the game. I will never forget rushing the court when the basketball team beat No. 1 Duke. And I will never forget that just hours later I watched the hockey team stop play during its 4-1 victory over Western Michigan to allow the crowd to stand for a round of applause after it was announced that Charles Woodson won the Heisman.
But the people who were around to experience what a joy Michigan sports truly can be won”t be around to spread that joy for much longer.
That”s why I make a plea to the rest of you. Don”t be disillusioned because you haven”t seen a basketball team in the NCAA tournament, a football team in the Rose Bowl or a hockey team play in that final game. Don”t lose faith in Michigan sports. Not because Drew Henson left, not because the hockey team loses nine players to graduation and not because the Michigan basketball team starts the season with a new coach who isn”t Rick Pitino. The year before the hockey team won the 1998 national championship it graduated nine seniors, including the Hobey Baker winner and three All-Americans. The football team had multiple four-loss seasons before it won it all. And none other than a new coach one that wasn”t the fans first choice led the basketball team to the tournament championship and the NCAAs. My class was given a gift by the athletic department, and we appreciated it, believe me. But it”s a gift that can be given again and again. And for the sake of all those remaining at this University after I leave, I hope that a major national championship is something you get to experience it will define your years here at Michigan and is something that you will never forget.
I will take those memories from my freshman year with me wherever I end up. And I thank Northwestern and the 1997-“98 athletic teams for making it happen.
Stephanie Offen wants to thank her roommates, Brookwood (and all), most of all, her coworkers/friends for also helping to define her Michigan sports experience. They will be greatly missed during Super Bowls, World Series and of course NCAA Championships. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.