by | Mar 21, 1986 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

KANSAS CITY — I am confused. I am seeing strange colors. I am walking through the hotel where the team is staying, the team with the big NCAA tournament game tonight. The team that will win. The team from my state.

“When did Michigan change to green and white?” I ask people.

“Pardon?” they say.

Must’ve done it while I was on the plane. There are green and white jackets, green and white posters, green and white faces. Very strange.

“Does Bo Schembechler know?” I ask. “Pardon?” they say.

Well, the main thing is they’re here, just as everyone predicted. The Wolverines, in the NCAA regional basketball finals, just as everyone predicted. Only two wins away from the Final Four, just as everyone predicted.

Where is everyone, anyhow?

“Have you seen Bill Frieder?” I ask people.

“Pardon?” they say.

I shake my head. The folks here sure are hard of hearing. I am glad I arrived early.

My boss said, “Wait until the second round games are over. Let’s see who wins.”

I said why bother? Michigan was the Big 10 champ. Michigan had been ranked No. 2 in the nation earlier this season. Prestigious magazines like Sports Illustrated and Inside Sports had been very high on Michigan. Those magazines are never wrong. “What about Michigan State?” he said.

“Nobody’s picking Michigan State,” I said.

I wonder what happened to Michigan State, come to think of it. Where are all the Wolverines?

I am seeing strange things. I am walking through an empty Kemper Arena, where they’ll play the big game tonight. There are no Wolverine banners. Hanging over the rafters is a huge poster that reads “GO STATE!”

How about that? People rooting for the entire state. Soon there’ll be “GO COUNTRY!” And maybe “GO CONTINENT!”

Very nice. But there should be at least one with a picture of a wolverine. Shouldn’t there be one? No matter. I am ready for a good game. I am ready for the Michigan defense. I am ready for passes to the big man.

“How’s Tarpley looking?” I ask people.

“Who?” they say.

I walk outside. People are talking about the team from Michigan. They are talking about the guards. The guards? They are talking about the running game.

The running game? They are talking about Skiles and Johnson.

Skiles and Johnson?

Must be new recruits. That Michigan sure can recruit. Even during a tournament. Very impressive.

“And how about that Terry Mills?” I say.

“Who?” they say. Nice of MSU to root for rivals

I am waiting for the buses. The buses full of Wolverine fans. They should be here any minute, screaming and hollering and eating Wolverine bars.

Here comes the bus. Wait a second. There is a sign in the window. It says
“Spartans.” How about that? The Spartans have come all the way down here to root for their rivals.

Very classy. Especially because, as all the experts said, the Spartans had too small a team, too average a team, too weak a recruiting season to go very far this year. And here were their fans, getting off the bus.

“You guys are good losers,” I say.

“Pardon?” they say.

Must be something in the air down here. Nobody can hear a thing.

I walk to the hotel bar. There are people from Kansas there. They are wearing Kansas hats and Kansas sweaters and Kansas sunglasses. They are talking about how they will clobber that team from up north in tonight’s game.

They drink soda pop and talk about how Jud Heathcote’s team will not be able to keep up with them. They say it’s too bad, because Jud Heathcote has done a splendid coaching job this season.

I am chuckling. I should tell them that Jud Heathcote does not coach Michigan. But I figure they probably can’t hear anything, like everyone else around here.

I walk into the credentials office. I will pick up my badge, take a shower,

then go to the arena. I am looking forward to the big game.

There is a man behind the desk.

“Who are you here with?” he asks.

“The team that’s going to win,” I say. I am being confident.

“You mean Kansas,” he says.

“No, I don’t,” I say.

“Oh, then you mean Michigan State,” he says.



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