I sat on my couch. I cursed inside every time a 9, a 10 or an 11 seed got posted on CBS and it wasn’t Michigan. Every name that wasn’t ours made me more and more nervous. I couldn’t have been a pleasure to be around (just ask my girlfriend.) I was tired of always watching other schools get their time on TV, jumping around, screaming and beating their chests in pride as they got to head to the dance, while we wallowed in our pool of mediocrity and sanctions over the past decade. I got especially angry as I watched Memphis get their 2 seed, and offer up a half-hearted celebration. Don’t they know how bad a team like Michigan wants to be there?
As CBS cut to commercial before announcing the South region, I looked down and realized I had on a white Michigan shirt. Why is this important? I don’t know. All I know is I looked down and was wearing it and immediately felt like a little kid; hoping that today was the day it finally went our way.
And ten seconds later, it was our time.
“Coming out of Ann Arbor, the seventh Big Ten team: the Michigan Wolverines.”
Seth Davis said something about a “long wait.” I didn’t care. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the celebration unfolding in Ann Arbor. In a word: perfect.
I doubted this team. And when they surprised with wins over UCLA and Duke, I got excited. But then things seemed to slip and I continued to doubt. The Big Ten was a minefield that didn’t bode well for us. But somehow, some way, we made it.
I’ve since eaten my crow, and I am okay with that. For the last decade I was one of the fans that dealt with the unlikeable teams of Ellerbe and Amaker. I kept hearing that Belein would get it done. I’m sorry I didn’t listen. 11 years of pessimism doesn’t just disappear.
But then it did. With a simple 10 seed.
I suppose it’s fitting that I watched Michigan finally exorcise their demons from Seattle, where Rumeal Robinson and Glen Rice won Michigan’s only basketball national championship in 1989. And I suppose it’s also fitting that San Diego State, coached by Steve Fisher of previous Michigan fame and shame, got snubbed by the committee.
But in the end, today is the day for all of us to finally say ‘goodbye’ to the ghosts of Michigan basketball past. Au revoir, Steve Fisher. Peace out, Fab Five. Maurice Taylor, Robert Traylor and Louis Bullock: don’t let the door hit you in the ass. Yes, your accomplishments and failures will always be remembered. But the time where Michigan basketball was associated with illegal gifts, money laundering and scandal is over.
John Belein and this team have done it the right way. They have worked and been doubted and been counted out. But in the end, they have a 10 seed and probably cherish it more than any other team in the tourney.
So here’s to you, John Belein. Here’s to you DeShawn, and Manny, and Stu, and CJ, and Zach(s), and Laval and everyone else on the team. You’ve done it the right way, and you’ve made us all proud along the way. No matter what happens against Clemson or in this tournament, you have made the statement: we are Michigan basketball and we are here.
Thank you for giving this bitter fan something to believe in again.