Hail to the … Irish
Claire Heininger | Friday, September 12, 2003
At the age of nine, I fell passionately in love with Tyrone. Not Willingham – Wheatley. The hero-worshipping crushes of my preteen and teen years also included Brian Griese, Charles Woodson and a distinguished older man named Lloyd Carr.
That’s right, faithful worshippers of the sacred religion that is Notre Dame football, I have a sin to confess – I grew up a Michigan fan.
Before you start throwing things in the direction of Howard Hall, hear me out.
My baptism as a Wolverine was too unconscious to be considered a choice. We moved to Ann Arbor when I was in kindergarten, and by seventh grade my neighborhood practically had the Big House in its backyard.
Like any college town worthy of the label, Ann Arbor’s identity is intrinsically tied up with that of its football team. This obsession extends to all residents, from the maize-and-blue-sweater-knitting senior alumnae to the influx of latte-drinking East Coast students that inhabit the university’s downtown campus for eight months out of the year.
I was an Ann Arbor resident. I was a football fan. I was hooked.
So I cringed with the town when that eyesore of a yellow plastic “halo” replaced the classic brick surrounding the rim of the stadium, and rejoiced a year later when the garish letters were taken down, one by one. I held my breath in the stands at Miami’s Pro Player Stadium as I stood next to my face-painted, shouting superfan little brother and watched the Alabama kicker wide-right us the 2000 Orange Bowl.
And I smiled when I was accepted into the University of Michigan class of 2006 – my backup school was in place.
Tomorrow, almost two years later, 90 of my high school classmates and their peers will pack the Big House and cheer on the team that they, and I, grew up loving. ESPN’s Lee Corso will predict a Michigan victory, like he always does. The winged helmets will take the field to spurts of applause from a largely subdued and seated audience, like they always do.
Meanwhile, I will stand and scream my obnoxious little Domer heart out in a mini-sea of green, savoring the combination of my two worlds. After experiencing the Return to Glory, the tailgates, the pep rallies, and the Irish jig for all of last season, my childhood memories, while still special, have nothing on my new favorite Tyrone. They say you can’t go home again. Let’s see them try to stop me.