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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

FOOTBALL ATHEISTS, by Bert Stratton

Jack Stratton with the U-M women's basketball band, 2008

A simple fall pleasure in suburban Cleveland is walking around Shaker Lakes listening to Michigan football on the radio.

I came by this diversion fairly recently. My older kids went to liberal arts colleges with no football teams. I figured my youngest child would too. I took him to Oberlin on a college tour and said, "Can you see yourself here?"

"In a word, Dad, no," he said. "There's not enough sports talk." Jack, the youngest, wanted rah-rah.

He went to Michigan and got rah-rah. We rehashed the football games his freshman year.

I monitored the university's Web site like a helicopter parent. I told my son to audition for the pep band, the Hillel a cappella group, the school's percussion group and anything else he could think of. I wanted him to find a niche at the Big U.

And I wanted Michigan to win at football, because my son was so rah-rah.

I followed the football games on the Internet my son's first year. I didn't know about the games on Cleveland radio. That was stupefying -- the Internet -- like staring at a tickertape: Joe Blow . . . 3 yards . . . 3rd and 5 . . . M 46 yard line."

Then I serendipitously found Michigan football on Cleveland radio. No more squinting at the computer. The announcer promoted Detroit pizza parlors and grocery stores. I felt like a ham operator picking up an exotic locale. "Gratiot at 8 Mile." CKLW radio -- the border blaster -- was sending out the Wolvervine word from Windsor.

Michigan football isn't on CKLW this year. It's only on a weak FM station from Detroit. End of my fall bliss.

The team used to be good, then suddenly stunk. The university hired a new coach.

I asked my son what he thought of the new guy.

He said, "Who is it?"

He didn't know about Rich Rod! Jack had fallen under the sway of the football atheists at the Residential College and music school.

I knew more Michigan football than my son. I was now rah-rah and he was so-so. Odd.

Reposted with permission from "Klezmer Guy" Stratton's website, www.yiddishecup.com


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