FUTURE LOOKS LIKE PAST FOR BUCKEYES’ COOPER

THE YEAR 2023, COLUMBUS, Ohio — “Well, folks, it’s a humdinger of a ballgame between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines! I’m Keith Jackson Jr., alongside Robert Griese III. We’re in the fourth quarter, one minute left in the game, and Ohio State is ahead by four touchdowns! As my daddy would say, ‘It’s a barn burrrnnner!’ “

“So, Bob, is this the year John Cooper finally breaks the curse of Michigan?”

“Gee, Keith, I don’t know. He’s been in this situation before, up by 28 with a minute to go. Funny things happen.”

“You’re right. That’s why Cooper is 360-50 in regular-season games at Ohio State, but is 1-33-1 against Michigan.”

“He hasn’t beaten them since 1994.”

“Folks here call it ‘Camelot.’ “

“The Buckeyes kick off…. Look, Keith! There goes Chucky Woodson!”

“Holy Moly! He …yes …he could go all the way! A 97-yard kickoff return for the freshman, Chucky Woodson!”

“That kid reminds me of somebody . . .”

“And just like that, the lead is down to three touchdowns.”

“Keith, look at that. Buckeyes fans are leaving. Half the stadium is emptying out.”

“Well, Bob, you can’t blame them for wanting to beat the traffic.”

“But Ohio State is still ahead by 21 points!”

“Heh-heh…. Folks, forgive my young partner. He’s still a little new to all this…. Anyhow, while there’s a break in the action, let’s go down to the field, where Lynnette Swann has some special visitors. Lynnette?”

Frustrated and disappointed

“Thanks, Keith. I’m here with several Michigan alumni. To my right is 56-year-old John Kolesar, who years ago played receiver for Michigan. Don’t be fooled by that cane, folks. Once upon a time, John was quite a jumper.”

“Well, thanks, Lynnette. Actually, I use this cane only to open the lid of my space ship, the new Porsche Lunar IV. I’m very rich, you know. After all, I’m a Michigan grad.”

“So, John, do you remember 1988?”

“Of course. I made a leaping catch in the end zone in the closing seconds to win the game.”

“And that was John Cooper’s first loss to Michigan. After the game, Cooper said he was ‘disappointed’ and the game was ‘frustrating.’ He used those same words, ‘disappointed’ and ‘frustrating,’ in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1997.”

“Lynnette, I can’t believe he’s still coaching.”

“Well, Cooper has promised to keep coaching until he defeats Michigan. Under his current contract, he gets paid one dollar a year, with a $17-billion bonus if he beats U-M.”

“That’s money well-saved.”

“Thank you, John. Now, to my left, we have Desmond Howard, the former Michigan Heisman winner who played many years in the NFL before buying the Oakland Raiders from the late Al Davis. Desmond–“

“Call me Mr. Howard. I’m an owner.”

“Mr. Howard, do you remember 1991?”

“Certainly. That was the season I procured a punt against Ohio State and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. I believe we were victorious by 28 points.”

“That was also Cooper’s fourth straight loss to Michigan.”

“YEAH! WE KICKED HIS BUTT!”

“Uh …right, Mr. Howard. As you recall, Ohio State had given Cooper a three-year contract extension that week as motivation to beat the Wolverines. Instead, he lost by the biggest margin in 45 years.”

“Money can’t buy everything, Lynnette.”

“Indeed.”

“By the way, if you’d like to use a luxury space box at my new stadium, I’ll arrange it. I’m very rich, you know. I’m a Michigan grad.”

“Back to you, Keith.”

“And just in time, Lynnette! Michigan’s kickoff is fielded at the 14, and
…FUMBLE! FUMBLE! Michigan has the ball, and Jimmy Harbaugh Jr. runs it in standing up! Touchdown, Michigan! How about that, Bob?”

“There goes the other half of the fans.”

Buck stops with Cooper — one buck

“Just 44 seconds remaining now, and Ohio State’s lead is down to 14 points. Michigan will kick off again to Jughead Griffin; he goes to lateral — WHOA, NELLIE! The lateral is stolen in midair by Michigan and returned for a touchdown! The Wolverines trail by seven, Bob!”

“With 31 seconds left. Too much time as far as Ohio State is concerned.”

“Let’s jump down to the sidelines with Lynnette.”

“Thanks, Keith. With me are former Ohio State players Terry Glenn and David Boston, who played for the Buckeyes back in the 1990s.”

“Lynnette, what’s with all those policemen?”

“Protection, Keith. You may recall, in 1995, Mr. Glenn gave his infamous quote, ‘Michigan is nobody.’ The Wolverines used it as motivation to beat Ohio State and ruin the Buckeyes’ perfect season.

“Two years later, Mr. Boston ‘guaranteed’ a victory over Michigan. The Wolverines used that to beat the Buckeyes, again ruining their season.

“So gentlemen, can your team hold on today?”

“Mrrrzzzzyp …yyyurpll …arreee!”

“Well, it must be hard to talk with that tape across their mouths. Keith, back upstairs.”

“Thank you, Lynnette. And after the touchback, it’s first-and-10 for Ohio State at its 20. It’s a handoff to the fullback — WHOA, BABY! The handoff is STOLEN by Michigan and returned 20 yards! TOUCHDOWN! …And they’re going for TWO …and they CONVERT! The gun sounds and once again, Michigan wins by one point!”

“Keith, look at those fans crying in the stands. You have to feel sorry for those five people.”

“Down on the field, Lynnette is with an anguished John Cooper. Lynnette?”

“Thanks, Keith…. Coach, this one had to hurt.”

“It’s frustrating, Lynnette. It’s disappointing. I can’t tell you at this moment how frustrated and disappointed I feel. The game was surely frustrating and disappointing for all our fans, as well as our frustrated and disappointed players.”

“What’s next?”

“We have to come back next year and try again. And hope we don’t get frustrated and disappointed.”

“Is there anything that can make the pain go away?”

“Well, I’ll take my dollar now.”

“Keith, back to you . . .”

To leave a message for Mitch Albom, call 1-313-223-4581 or E-mail albom@freepress.com

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