by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

LEXINGTON, Ky. — You find me in the basement, under a long-haired wig, strumming a guitar in front of a video camera.

“What’s up?” you ask.


“I beg your pardon?” you say.

Come on. I am preparing. We all should be preparing. By “we,” I mean people who are over 30, and, therefore, soon to be put out to pasture.

“What are you talking about?” you say.

“Michigan,” I say glumly.

Michigan. The Fab Five. The freshmen quintet. The youngest team to ever threaten the Big Enchilada of college basketball. Already the Wolverines have won two of the six games needed to capture the NCAA crown. Tonight they go for No. 3 against Oklahoma State.

And the more you look at them, dunking and flying and three- point gunning, the more you think, “You know, maybe they really could win it all . . .”

Which wouldn’t do much.

Except change the world as we know it.

* APRIL 6, 1992: In the most stunning upset in college basketball history, the

Fab Five of Michigan shock Duke, 97-95, to become the youngest team ever to win an NCAA title.

* APRIL 9, 1992: Saying “it’s been a great career, but it’s time to move on,” all five of Michigan’s starters leave school to enter the NBA draft. Coach Steve Fisher is disappointed. “I had hoped they’d stick around long enough to finish Freshman English. But you know kids . . .”

* JUNE 10, 1992: The LA Clippers, calling it “the dawn of a new era,” trade their entire team and their arena for draft rights to the Fab Five of Michigan, who immediately sign, as a group, for $300 million and a year’s supply of M & M’s. “We don’t expect to win the NBA championship our first year,” says Chris Webber, in between rounds on his new Nintendo, “but you never know . . .”

* SEPT. 15, 1992: Webber, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard host “Saturday Night Live.”
* OCT. 15, 1992: Webber, Rose and Howard host the MTV Video Awards.

* NOV. 15, 1992: Webber, Rose and Howard publish their autobiography, “We Shoot, We Score.”

* JUNE 20, 1993: Webber, Rose, Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson complete their miracle rookie season by sweeping the Chicago Bulls for the NBA title.
“They said we couldn’t do it!” screams King, 20, dousing himself in Gatorade.
“But we proved them wrong! Just like we did back in college at . . . at . . . hey, where did we go to college again?”

* AUG. 4, 1993: Michael Jordan retires from basketball, saying the sport has passed him by. “I’m too old,” sighs Jordan, 30. “It’s time to give the younger fellas a chance. Like my son . . .”

* SEPT. 17, 1993: Nike drops Jordan, John McEnroe, Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson from its ad campaigns, citing “lack of recognition from the marketplace.” They are replaced by Shaquille O’Neal, Jennifer Capriati and Webster.

* JAN. 3, 1994: President Bush is chosen Time magazine’s man of the year.
“Big deal, who did Rolling Stone pick?” Bush says.

* FEB. 15, 1994: The Senate introduces a bill to replace the Star-Spangled Banner as the national anthem. “It’s been around long enough and nobody can sing it anyway,” says Sen. Axl Rose. The new song suggested is “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

* MARCH 24, 1994: At the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, the Lifetime Achievement Award goes to actor Macaulay Culkin in recognition of “a body of work that is, you know, just really good, and stuff.”

* JUNE 13, 1995: Queen Elizabeth of England finally steps down from the throne, handing the country over not to her son, Prince Charles, but to her 10-year-old grandson, Harry. “He’ll make a better king,” Elizabeth says. “He’s more in touch.” When asked what advice she would give the young monarch, she says, “Be wise. Be just. And make sure you wash behind your ears.”

* NOV. 5, 1996: Jerry Brown is elected president of the United States. An exit poll shows the No. 1 reason as “used to date Linda Ronstadt.”

* JAN. 21, 1997: The governments of several Soviet republics are overthrown by guerrilla exchange students, who promise “a new and cooler way of life for you Soviet dudes.” The names Latvia, Astonia, and Lithuania are immediately changed to Metallica, Frangelica and Wrestlemania . . .

“Wait a minute,” you say. “Don’t you think you’re being a little extreme?”

“Extreme?” I say.

“First of all, Michigan hasn’t won anything yet. And even if it does, that doesn’t mean the whole world will suddenly be convinced that young is good, teenage is better and everyone over 30 is useless.”

“It doesn’t?”

“You’re overreacting.”

I think about what you say. I think about overreacting. Then I think about Jalen Rose jamming the ball, and Chris Webber dunking the ball, and Jimmy King flying over people’s heads. I think about what the world will be like if these five kids really do cut down the nets on that Monday night in April.

I pick up the guitar.

“Hope you feel better,” you say, leaving.

“Party on, Garth,” I reply.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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