Hail to My Father

Something incredible has happened, people.

After 20 years, the University of Michigan men’s basketball team is back in the NCAA championship game.

Michigan 61, Syracuse 56. Ho. Lee. Shit.

Michigan 61, Syracuse 56. Ho. Lee. Shit.

They’ve survived five rounds of the world’s greatest single-elimination sporting tournament, and they’ve pulled off every type of victory, from the scrappy-underdog-comes-from-behind (read: Kansas) to the so-dominating-it’s-dumbfounding (read: Florida).

Most bracketologists never favored them after Round 1 of the tournament, and some didn’t even favor them then. But alas, here they are, on the eve of the national championship game.

A game they’re going to win, and I’ll tell you why…

They’re going to win it for my father. LIKE THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE 20 f#@%ing YEARS AGO.

If you’re reading this blog then there’s a good chance you already know I went to the University of Michigan (the greatest school in the land), but if for some reason you didn’t know, well – now you do. My father went there, too. And he was Michigan basketball’s Number 1 Fan.

I AM NOT KIDDING ABOUT THIS.

The man literally smashed furniture in our living room in fits of emotion over bad basketball calls. We had to resort to buying him styrofoam bricks he could throw at the television.

Now, let’s revisit those days using a little something I call the…

{{{SCOOBY DOO EFFECT}}}

During the 1991 – 1992 season, Michigan had the greatest recruiting class ever seen in college basketball: the Fab Five. In fact they were so fab – Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose, and Ray Jackson – they took Michigan all the way to the 1992 national championship as freshman. Buuut… they were summarily spanked by Duke when they got there.

The following year, though, they were back with a sophomore vengeance.

That year – 1993 – my father was 39 years old. He was salivating for a Michigan title. But he was doing it from his hospital bed, where he was dying of cancer.

Dad in his basketball jersey at Harper Hospital, 1993.

Dad in his Michigan warmup jersey at Harper Hospital in Detroit, 1993.

His family and friends brought him Michigan gear to wear while watching the games. We decorated the wall of his room with a giant bracket he could follow from his bed. He traced Michigan’s path to hopeful glory and spent days lying there ruminating not on the specter of death, but on avenging the previous year’s 71 – 51 embarrassment against Duke.

And Michigan crept through that bracket, and they reached the title game again, this time slotted in against North Carolina.

But they did not win.

With :11 left in the game and the Wolverines down by a basket, Chris Webber called a timeout. Only Michigan had no timeouts left.

The worst moment in the history of Michigan athletics. It hurts to look at it even now.

The worst moment in the history of Michigan athletics. It hurts to look at it even now.

Technical foul. Game over.

If you aren’t a basketball fan, you won’t ever understand the epic nature of that mistake; how horrible the end of that game was; the disbelief that it could come to that. But you may understand how horrible this was…

We went to Harper Hospital, quietly took down my dad’s giant wall bracket and packed it away. And three months later… he died.

The only good in that is that he didn’t live to see the added shame Webber eventually brought to the team in the form of a booster scandal. It penalized the program so badly that only now – exactly 20 years later – have they fully dug their way out and returned to the national stage.

If the cancer hadn’t killed him, I’m pretty sure that would have.

So here’s what’s going to happen now…

YOU – Trey Burke, Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr., ALL OF YOU – you are going to go out there tomorrow night and you are going to play like champions. You are NOT going to call a timeout that you don’t have. You are going to channel Rumeal Robinson and you are going to make every f#@%ing free throw and you are going to beat Louisville and you are going to TAKE HOME THAT TROPHY.

For my father.

Because 20 years may have gone by and he may have been dead a long, long time, but it’s not too late.

Because I WILL BE WATCHING.

JERSEYS NEVER DIE.

JERSEYS NEVER DIE.

GO BLUE!!!

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9 thoughts on “Hail to My Father

  1. Margaret Wisniewski says:

    I have no doubt they will win, Lisa. And I have no doubt that your dad will be watching. Some things are just meant to be, like finding that picture after 20 years, in a box, in the basement. I will be watching and thinking of you, and your dad. GO BLUE!!! Love, Mom

  2. Andrea says:

    Love you, Lisa! Big Blue is going to bring home a win for your dad tonight — Go Blue!

  3. Anna says:

    Love the shirt! You should come to Ann Arbor to watch it at Crisler with Vince. You could be here by tip off….

    • lisatemp says:

      It’s my dad’s shirt! I actually told Vince I was thinking about coming to Crisler… BUT, I think it may be a little too late for this year. If they’re gonna be as good as he claims next year, though, I may be crashing at your place during March Madness.

  4. Denise says:

    Thanks for helping us all remember Tim and his love for U of M!!!!!! Great Blog!

  5. […] Okay. It’s been four years now since I bled out maize and blue on the living room floor, watching the 2013 Wolverines ALMOST write the final, glorious chapter in my bitter, bittersweet love story with the team (and, consequently, I wrote probably my favorite blog post ever about it all). […]

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