March 16, 2016
Sitting on my couch on Sunday night, my foot was in a frenzy, shaking nervously as my eyes were glued to the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. Turning to talk to my friend, my head involuntarily snapped back to the TV as I heard the name I had been waiting for: Michigan. We had been given a chance at an 11 seed in a playoff game for the tournament. Breathing a sigh of relief, I pumped my fist in the air as the “Victors” fight song danced through my head.
As most of my friends know, I am a diehard Wolverine. I bleed blue through and through. I’m not one of those people who only gets along with other Wolverines, though. Lots of my best friends are Spartans and, yes, even Buckeyes. However, even if we cheer against each other on Saturdays, the thing we all have in common is a fierce sense of allegiance to our respective teams. And it makes me wonder, why? Even as we prepare to go to college, almost none of us will be attending the schools we have devoted our loyalties to. I will be heading to Alabama, many of my Spartan friends will be heading to schools outside of the Big Ten, and my Buckeyes will be heading to places like Iowa, Indiana, and the better (not Columbus) part of Ohio. So why did we ever waste our time cheering for schools we would never attend? The answer is simple: it is because it was never a waste of time at all.
I’ve realized lately that if you put aside all of the sporting aspects of sports, what’s really left is the team you cheer for. We defend the team we are loyal to as if they are our own, and in a way they are. We make up the fanbase that drives them, and they in turn acknowledge us as one of them, as a part of the team. And don’t we all love to be a part of a team?
I may be biased, but I think Bo Schembechler, former head football coach of Michigan, addressed this idea better than anyone ever has in his speech ‘The Team.’ While talking to his players at the Big Ten Championship in 1983, he highlighted why being a part of a team is so special. “No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team. And if we think that way, all of us, everything that you do, you take into consideration ‘What effect does it have on my Team?’ We’re gonna win it.” Being a part of a team, whether literally on it or not, is being a part of something much bigger than yourself; and that special bond and feeling is something I think Bo really understood.
So, yes, I will be cheering for my Wolverines this March Madness season. But for the first time, I’ve realized that even though I may not be a Wolverine next year, I’ll still be a part of the team. And in the words of one of the greatest football coaches of all time, “…think what a great thing it is to be a part of something that is, The Team.”