Many Michigan fans have doubts about this upcoming football season. The Wolverines graduated three NFL-quality offensive linemen and both its all-time rusher and star wide-out from last season are now with the Chicago Bears. To make matters worse, the man they expected to be their quarterback is currently hitting .201 for the Columbus Clippers.
After the exodus of all this offensive firepower, Michigan fans needed someone to give them hope for this year.
Fortunately, the Wolverines have a faith-giving prophet, Father John Haldane and his ” Altar Call,” which predicts a 12-0 National Championship season in the literary style of the Bible”s Revelations.
“Football is a religion and Saturday is the Holy Day of obligation,” Father John said.
The Altar Call has become an annual staple on a number of Michigan football websites including: The Victors Valiant, The Wolverine Den, The Workman Poll, Jag”s Top 25, and UMGoBlue.com.
“I”ve been entertained by Father John”s writings for several years now,” said Phil Callihan, who works as the webmaster for UMGoBlue.com. “He”s is a true “Michigan Man.” His spirit and love for the Wolverines is infectious. Every year my visitors and I look forward to his Altar Calls.”
Here is his description of this year”s Michigan State game.
“And I saw the Lloyd appear beside the TEAM And the maize glow of the sun was upon him And the TEAM was singing the Victors And the Green Giants trembled. And the sky grew dark and the acclamations and shouts of the Giants turned to great bellowings as of calves before the slaughter. And before them were four beasts anchoring a line of warriors. And those beasts gave glory and honour and thanks to him that stood on the sidelines to him that leadeth, and was reviled by Brent. And then the two and twenty giants fell down before him that stood on the sidelines, and they cast their crowns before him, saying, “We”re not worthy, we”re not worthy” And the Victory was complete that day and the Red Cedar ran Blue. And so it was, and so it shall be, 8-0.”
But this is not the first time that Haldane has seen a perfect season coming. He wrote his first Altar Call in 1997.
“I wrote it because of the Michigan fans” disappointment with the (No. 14) preseason ranking,” Haldane said from his Mesa, Ariz. home. “There was a lot of criticism of Michigan and fear of a poor season. I wrote this to stir their blood.”
In addition to predicting the Wolverines” first National Championship in 49 years, Haldane also foresaw a number of other less-than-likely events.
He correctly anticipated that Michigan State would visit Ann Arbor after losing to lowly Northwestern. He predicted that the Wolverines would meet a Penn State team, with its only loss coming against Ohio State. He even named the exact date that Michigan would first be voted No. 1 in the country before the season started.
“It was almost spooky,” Haldane said. “All those things that I said came true.”
He did everything but predict the Nebraska vs. Missouri kicked ball incident that vaulted the Wolverines to the top of the poll.
And he punctuated his vision in dramatic fashion:
“DO YOU BELIEVE? SAY YES!!! Amen.”
This Year This Team
Today, he will answer the call of the Michigan faithful once again. After opening the season at No. 10 in the Coaches” Poll, the Wolverines are certainly not the favorites to take home the Sears Trophy but neither was the 1997 team.
That year, the Wolverines started three new offensive linemen, the quarterback situation was unresolved in the summer, the running game had no big-name tailback and the defense was the strength of the team.
Sound familiar? It does to Father John.
“Not much is being expected of this team,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in (quarterback) John Navarre, and we have a young but experienced defense that could really carry them a long way.”
Haldane pointed to three games that could be problematic for the Wolverines: Washington, Ohio State and Michigan State.
“Traveling all the way to Seattle could be difficult on the players. Remember Miami (Fla.) lost up there last season,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of hype for that game, too.”
Haldane is confident that Ohio State”s new coach Jim Tressel will revitalize that program and the rivalry with Michigan, but his successes against the Wolverines are still a few years away.
“I”m also a little concerned about the Michigan State game,” Father John said. “That team is loaded with talent, but the question is: Will they be able to perform at their top level against Michigan? I don”t think so.”
Altar Call Futures
All of Father John”s fans can breathe easier knowing that the 2001 Altar Call the fifth time in a row he has predicted an undefeated season for Michigan will not be his last.
“I”m going to do this every year,” Haldane said. “Every season the fans start off with anxiety, and its my job to pump them up and get them to believe.”
Father John will continue to take his football gospel to the fans for as long as he can write.
“Stand and cheer for your team with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind,” he said. “Believe!”
The Man Behind the Picks
Father John was born and raised in Jackson, MI, and in 1977 he was ordained at the First Congregational Church in Pittsford, MI.
His father and grandfather were also ministers, and all three of them attended Bangor (Maine) Theological Seminary. But Father John” days in the pulpit have been numbered.
Twenty years ago, he and his wife, Laura, moved to sunny Arizona.
The Grand Canyon State houses very few Congregationalists, so while Laura studied at Arizona State, Father John worked as a bartender.
“Can you make me a Presbyterian (grape juice and vodka)?” one customer asked.
“I don”t think so. How about a Congregationalist?” Haldane replied.
He would later serve as an environmental specialist at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, and he currently works for the City of Mesa as a computer specialist.
But wherever he has gone and whatever he has done to earn his living, Father John remains a minister and a Michigan fan.
Haldane”s interest in Michigan football can be traced back to a Boy Scout trip in 1964.
The 12-year-old entered Michigan Stadium as a fan of the visiting Navy Midshipmen and their quarterback, Roger Staubach.
“But when I got there and saw the crowd, the helmets and the band, I got goosebumps,” Father John said. “I switched my loyalties before halftime.”
Today Haldane is a season ticket holder at Arizona State and he uses satellite television, the Internet and The Michigan Daily to keep up with his Wolverines.
But there is more to the life of Father John than football. In addition to his many and varied working experiences, the man who traces his family tree back to eight members of the Mayflower also enjoys dressing up as a clown.
In September of last year, Father John and his wife traveled to China with 40 other clowns in an expedition led by Patch Adams the real clown-doctor portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie, “Patch Adams.”
“We spent two weeks clowning at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, orphanages, a hospice and many other places,” Father John said. “We believe that humor is healing and that people touching people around the world is the key to peace and the survival of humanity.”
Whether he stands behind the bar or behind the pulpit, in a clown-suit or a radiation suit, Father John Haldane is a special fan with a message for all the Wolverines around the country and the world.