NEW YORK — It began as a weekly walk
to see my new best friend Mitch last Monday night. It ended
Thursday night as I cruised through New Jersey in a white Chevy
Impala singing “We are the Champions” with three
friends.

J. Brady McCollough

Writing this column Friday night, safely back in Ann Arbor, I
don’t think I’ll ever fully understand how I ended up
in Manhattan for those three fateful days. The investigation begins
last Monday night at 11 p.m.

Monday, 11 p.m.: I call my friend Seth, a first-year
Michigan grad who works in New York, to tell him that there’s
no way I can make the trip to New York this week.

Monday, 11:10 p.m.: Seth finishes spitting fire through
my cell. DUDE, you HAVE to come. Brady, you are a senior. This
is your last chance to do things like this. Your classes do not
matter.
There should be a commercial campaign about saying
“No” to guys like Seth. Suddenly, the adrenaline rush
takes over. I start to think about my last three weeks of college
passing me by while I do nothing but procrastinate and improve my
relationship with Mitch. Big Apple, here I come.

Monday, 11:30 p.m.: Oh, Claire. Blinded by her
“Jersey pride,” my friend Claire tells me while
we’re hanging out with Mitch that she will be pulling for
Rutgers in the NIT over Michigan because her state loyalty
supersedes that of her future alma mater.

Tuesday, 7 a.m.: And we’re off! After running the
gauntlet of “should I really be doing this?” questions,
I go right to sleep in the backseat with visions of NIT banners and
those huge New York pizza slices dancing in my head.

Tuesday, 10 a.m.: If you are awake at this hour, you have
a responsibility to get McDonald’s breakfast. Is it a
coincidence that McDonald’s employees in eastern Ohio are
wearing maize and blue? We’ll find out.

Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.: Thank you to the Iowa State pep band.
After losing their overtime game to Rutgers, the Cyclone faithful
swirled out of Madison Square Garden. My friends and I take
advantage and are now sitting two rows back at the Garden. I gush
over seeing Air Georgia take off 10 feet away.

Tuesday, 9:35 p.m.: Where are all the current Michigan
students? Most of the Michigan fans are from the New York area. Are
my friends and I the only ones down for the cause?

Tuesday, 9:40 p.m.: Did someone from the athletic
department hook Tommy up with the guys from “Queer Eye”
before the game? I perform the traditional T.A. wardrobe check to
see that he has dropped the polo shirt and gone with the mock
turtleneck and blazer. For the first time in a decade, Michigan
fans everywhere can thank the “Fab Five.”

Tuesday, 10 p.m.: It becomes very obvious early in the
game that the Oregon starting five has more business playing with
Michigan at Hash Bash than in the Garden.

Tuesday, 10:15 p.m.: Luke Jackson might beat Michigan
alone. That is, until I join in a “Luke Jackson sucks!”
chant with these guys who are enjoying the Garden’s $6 beers.
We were clearly in the second-team All-American’s head.

Tuesday, 11 p.m.: The Garden didn’t become the
greatest place to watch a basketball game in the world without
knowing a good thing when it sees it. The Oregon cheerleaders
— hot hot hot — brought the 10,000 strong to their feet
while shaking it to Usher’s “Yay-uh!” As they
walked past the Michigan contingency — including the Michigan
cheerleaders nearby — they stopped for pictures with numerous
Michigan kids. It reminded me of when I got my picture taken with
my waitress at Hooters in seventh grade.

Tuesday, 11:15 p.m.: I remember the feeling of walking
down the Eugene, Ore., main drag after Michigan lost in football
and take some satisfaction in ending their basketball season. But I
still love Autzen Stadium and everything about those crazy
Ducks.

Tuesday, 11:20 p.m.: Who would have thought that there
would ever be chants of “Dani Wahl!” and “Amadou
Ba!” in the Garden? Man, I love this team.

Wednesday, 4 p.m.: My friend Pete, a native of the Upper
East Side, can’t believe I’m dragging him to Times
Square. Excuse me, but where else can you spend an hour in a
Toys “R” Us and be totally entertained?

Wednesday, 7 p.m.: At dinner with some city-dwelling
friends of my friends, we try to explain the significance of this
whole basketball tournament thing we’re in town for. When
we’re finished, the young lady across from me asks “So,
this is the last game of the NCAAs?” Before we can tell her
“Yes, exactly,” her boyfriend explains to her that as
far as college basketball is concerned, this is like the Junior
Olympics. Ouch!

Wednesday, 11 p.m.: The picture of why I am in Manhattan
is becoming clearer. Ken, a fellow senior, joins us at a bar near
NYU after taking an 8:30 flight out of Detroit. Talk about devotion
to your team — or refusing to let the last moments of college
slip by without a fight.

Thursday, 7:20 p.m.: No. 1 from Rutgers looks like Emeka
Okafor, sending back everything our big men attempt. This old
Rutgers fan behind me starts yelling, “Welcome to the Big
East! You can’t go inside against us!”

Thursday, 8:30 p.m.: I sit in silence as the Red Sea in
the Garden has taken over. I would yell, but there’s nothing
to yell about. Michigan looks scared and the Rutgers faithful have
turned this into a road game. I’m dreading another quiet and
depressing ride home to Ann Arbor and immediately start blaming the
officiating. Who else, right?

Thursday, 8:55 p.m.: We are PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY,
PRETTY (imagine Larry David’s voice and inflection) good at
basketball. I look over to my persuasive friend Seth and yell
“I can taste it, baby!” He responds like only Seth can,
“As soon as it hits your lips!!!” I’m sure Frank
the Tank from “Old School” loves the NIT, too.

Thursday, 9 p.m.: I love holding onto comments from
opposing fans early in the game as ammo for later. With the game
well in hand, I turn to the Rutgers fans and yell “Welcome to
the Big East!” a few times. Some old guy responds,
“Where’s Connecticut?” The “good by
association” argument has always been one of my
favorites.

Thursday, 9:15 p.m.: I’m beginning to think that
there is a split national championship, a la college football. I
rush down to the court level so that I can watch our feisty little
Wolverines cut down the nets on the biggest stage. I’m
swelling with pride, until B-Rob nearly falls off the ladder on his
way up. We love you, B-Rob.

Friday, 1 a.m.: On the road back to Ann Arbor, I’ve
got one special call to make as I drive through the armpit of the
world that is New Jersey. Claire doesn’t pick up her phone,
but my friends and I call her a turkey for pulling for Rutgers and
actually gobble incessantly into the speaker for 30 seconds.

Sorry. You probably had to be there.

Friday, 3 p.m.: Time to check my e-mail after my
excursion. Here goes … the reminders have poured in, of
course. Statistics exam coming up on Thursday — OK, I can
handle that. Sociology paper due on Thursday — this is really
going to hurt the chances of hanging out with Mitch on Wednesday.
The nerve.

Two years ago, I would be freaking out, but priorities have a
funny way of changing in your last month as a senior.

Here’s to friends, last-gasp adventures and national
championships.

J. Brady McCollough can be reached at
“mailto:bradymcc@umich.edu”>bradymcc@umich.edu.

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