In the year 2006, I was anxiously biting my nails in the basement of Fletcher Hall while watching the Michigan vs. OSU game. It was the final game of the season, and it was the first time in the historic rivalry that two teams faced off while holding the top two spots on the college football ranking. It was an away game for us, so most of Fletcher Hall crammed in front of the TV feeling invincible as Michigan was undefeated. The Game was as good as advertised, and the matchup was fairly competitive until a questionable penalty call against Michigan late in the 4th quarter. Michigan lost The Game by three points, and it was the first defeat I witnessed as a Michigan Wolverine. I was heartbroken. I was angry at the refs. I decided to hate everything that was scarlet and gray.
Then, I received a dreaded phone call from a friend of mine at OSU. The phone call was a screaming cacophony of mockery and profanity from a dorm room full of OSU students. It lasted way longer than my fragile body could take, and it ended with my friend’s satisfactory and condescending laughter. And that laughter ushered Michigan into the dark age of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke.
Through the peaks and valleys of Michigan’s dark age, my allegiance to Maize and Blue never wavered. I patiently waited to make a return call that would usher OSU into its dark age. I concocted every insult I knew to script the return call. After 16 excruciating years, the history finally rhymed. Michigan and OSU, both with unblemished records, faced off for The Game No. 2 a couple of weeks ago.
I thought Michigan had a very little chance of winning as Michigan was without its starting running back. The perfect season would come tantalizingly close, but it would end with the usual gut-wrenching disappointment. The kick-off was scheduled for 2 a.m. Korea Standard Time. All my previous attempts to watch the Michigan football games in Korea failed miserably as I couldn’t stay up all night. I knew it was just better to sleep through the night for my sanity, and I went to bed expecting a probable loss while desperately wishing I was wrong.
My son rarely wakes up in the middle of his sleep. Inexplicably, he woke up crying at 5 a.m. and quickly went back to sleep. Thanks to my son, I was awake early enough to catch the 2nd half. I couldn’t resist the urge to check the score. I unlocked my phone and typed “Michigan vs. OSU”. To my surprise, Michigan was down only by three points. I decided to forgo my sleep (unwise? Yes, Completely justified? YES YES YES) and started to watch the game in complete silence by myself. I was anxiously biting my nails in my living room while my wife and my son slept. I screamed in silence. I chanted in silence. I sang my alma mater in silence. I was giving imaginary high-fives and hugs. Michigan dominated the 2nd half and won The Game №2 decisively. I had never been happier that I was wrong.
I picked up my phone to make the return call except there was no one to call. My friend at OSU passed away 9 years ago, and I found out about his death a few months after he passed. Unfortunately, I did not get to say a proper goodbye to him; I still don’t know how he passed. I wasn’t gloating in joy after the victory. Rather I couldn’t stop thinking about my friend and how much I missed him. For the past couple of weeks, whenever I read about Michigan’s win against OSU, I had to accept the fact that I would never make that return call. I think It is time for me to say goodbye to him, and I will.
Thank you for making that phone call 16 years ago. Not going to lie, I scripted a nasty return call for you. I just wanted to call you and tell you that I miss you. Thank you for welcoming me when I first moved to the high school. I had no clue how to fit in then, and you made the whole thing a lot easier. You probably don’t know how much it meant to me. Thank you, buddy. Goodbye, and see you again.
A lot has happened in the past 16 years. I finished school. I got married. I started my own family far away from Ann Arbor. Thankfully, some friendships are still thriving even after we have all moved on to new stages of life. Hope I make a habit of expressing my love and gratitude to those around me as frequently as possible because life is short :)