Well, Aaron Wymer, a classmate of mine, wanted to see my face when he told me that Bo Schembechler had died. I'm not sure what he expected, but if the expression was glee or happiness, then he was profoundly disappointed. I'd never wish ill-will on anybody, and lest we never forget, Bo not only graduated from Miami of Ohio (my alma mater), but was Woody's protege. It is a truly a sad day.
See, here's the thing... without Woody and Bo there is no rivalry. Other teams in the Big Ten matter, and this game, while important, isn't what it is now.
Want to know why I love this game so much? We made the decision to go home today for Thanksgiving week largely so I could be at my Dad's to watch this game with him. After hearing we were going to be home, my brother and his wife decided to drive down from Toledo to watch it with us. Hopefully my Uncle Jack and his wife will surprise us and stop on by and together we'll all tell stories about past games, and specifically, about my grandfather, how he used to come down to Columbus when I was a baby and go with Dad to the Shoe, or how he taught us all to scream at the TV to root the Bucks onto victory. For our family, and for friends across the states of Ohio and Michigan, people come together, even sometimes people in red and people in blue in the same room, and there is as much talk about the past as there is about the now.
While I worked in Goshen, my boss, Dick Lyndon and his entire family were huge Michigan fans. Dick and his lovely wife Karen, grew up in Dexter, Michigan which is a 15-minute drive from Ann Arbor. For the five years I lived in Goshen, ours was the only church in all of Indiana where the congregation got caught up in the game, if only because Dick and I let them in on the rivalry. We used to watch the game together each of those years at his house, where I could give the Lyndon's extended clan ample crap. Dick is gone now. Every year I think of him and those wonderful days where we served the Lord together in that special place. Now, usually every year, Karen and I will still call one another on the day of the game. Apparently, a rivalry can even deepen friendships even if one guy grew up rooting for Bo, and the other for Woody.
And let me say this... when the rest of the country shouted Woody down after slugging that player from Clemson, Bo never went that way. Even though Woody's reputation was tarnished from that day on, Schembechler always spoke of the man with a mix of great respect and animosity... and you wouldn't want it any other way. As a matter of fact, even though he was still as intense as ever when The Game was about to be played, he always made it clear that it wasn't the same without Woody on the other side of the field.
Because in the end, what the two men taught us was that you hated to lose this game, more than just about anything else, but you didn't personally hate one another. It is still, after all, a game. A game that year after a year inspired both men to do their best with a passion that became so contagious that the rest of us couldn't help but get caught up in it. That's the most you can ask out of game. It can't give away anything more.... and nor should we want it to do so.
Tomorrow, then, join me in a toast... not only to Bo, but to Woody, and to all of those with whom we are bonded together because these two men demanded the best out of their teams, and one another, every single time.
That being said, I've thrown my prediction out for tomorrow. Anything could happen.