An Ode to Rich Rod

October 29th, 2012 by | Print

Although I played basketball in college, people are often surprised to find out that my first love is college football.  I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was a young boy and remember sitting around the radio listening to Bob Ufer call the games – with a football in my hand.  When I finally went to my first game in middle school, I was already a diehard fan of the maize and blue and 100,000 screaming fans helped to seal the deal.

Michigan football provided me with some of my favorite childhood memories.  When I went away to college in Ohio and was feeling homesick, I would watch the game and it would lift my spirits.  When I lived in California, I would wake up at 9am, eat a bowl of cheerios, watch the Wolverines and think of home.  When I lived in Baltimore, I would travel down to the ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor and plunge into one of the large recliners in front of the biggest TV screen in America.  Michigan football was more than just a sport to me, it was my passion – my obsession.

When things didn’t go well in my life, I turned to Michigan football to soothe my pain.  It has most certainly been my favorite escape.  Like any good drug, I’d get a temporary rush from a Michigan football victory and then a few hours later I would want another fix to keep the thrill going.  There’s a fine line between a seemingly harmless hobby and an all out sports addiction.  Can anybody relate?

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of my physical time and emotional energy watching, talking and reading about the Wolverines.  I’m one of those guys who loves the recruiting battles and scouring the internet to find out whether the maize and blue have a shot at landing the five-star recruit from Los Angeles.  I’d literally count down the days until I could find out where an 18-year old kid was planning on going to college.  I’d pour over the depth charts and injury reports so I could be up-to-date on the latest news.

When I moved back to Michigan ten years ago, the first thing I did was to order some season football tickets.  I remember dragging my five-year old son to the games and bribing him with snacks (he’d get one treat a quarter if there was no whining).  I told myself that we were spending quality bonding time together, but I think I was mostly giving him a sweet tooth. 

It was great to be back in the Big House again every other Saturday.  Even as an adult my emotions would hinge on whether the Wolverines were victorious over their weekly opponent.  A loss would take a good four days to get over.  A loss to Ohio State or Michigan State could take a month or so

Things changed for me when the University hired a new coach a few years back – Rich Rodriguez.  From Day 1, I didn’t like the guy.  He left West Virginia with an entire state ticked off at him.  His recruiting tactics seemed shady and his ethics appeared misguided.  And everything that came out of his mouth seemed off base or just plain arrogant.  To make matters worse, the guy couldn’t seem to get anything right on the field as he compiled a slew of lopsided losses.  It was downright painful.  But still I persisted

My drives to and from Ann Arbor became more discouraging.  After awhile, I wasn’t even happy when Michigan occasionally won a game!  All of a sudden one of the biggest joys in my life felt like just a big old waste of time and energy.

What happened to me?  I was no longer finding my sense of “life” and purpose from Michigan football.  I stopped pouring over the internet for recruiting tidbits and reading about the big games.  I stopped scheduling my Saturday activities around the Michigan games.  I even gave up my season tickets and started watching all the games on television!  Heck, nowadays, I just DVR the games and watch them in less time.  And I’ve become much happier.

Looking back, I’ve come to realize that my Michigan football addiction was tied directly to my longing for home and family.  For 20 years, I lived away from my home state and Michigan football was always my connection point.  No matter where I was living, I could always cheer for the Wolverines and it would anchor me.  When I moved back to Michigan, it took me awhile to realize I was home and I no longer needed a placeholder.

As a result of my epiphany, my Saturdays look very different these days – trips to the library or zoo with my three-year old, cheering on my boys at their sporting events, family brunch, a date with my wife, and oh yeah – an occasional trip to Ann Arbor for a game.  I’ve come to realize that my emotional tank is usually running pretty close to empty and I need to conserve what little I’ve got for the things that are most important.  I still enjoy watching football but I don’t invest so much of myself in the process.

 In life, pain seems to be the greatest driver of transformation.  As humans we tend to go along with the status quo and we rarely make big changes unless something rocks are world. I’d like to tip my hat to Rich Rodriguez for three horrific seasons of Michigan football.  He helped restore my sensibilities and re-direct me back to what life is truly all about.

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