Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hail Michigan. Champions of the what?

Hats off to the Michigan Wolverine men's basketball team. After former #1 Duke bit the dust in a large way (a 27 point loss) and UM knocked off Illinois on the road -- it's a mere formality that the Wolverines will wake up being the top-ranked team in the nation. Hail, hail. But something's wrong, and has been for quite a while. I'll get back to that.

The University of Michigan has been around for a very long time. It goes all the way back to 1817, when a guy named James Monroe was the President, and about 20 years before Michigan even became a state. Hard telling what they did for sports back then. It certainly wasn't football or basketball. American football didn't come into existence until about 1876, and hoops was invented by a Canadian doctor names James Naismith in 1891. They didn't have a famous fight song back then, because they didn't play any sports to fight over.

But that changed in 1898. By then, football had become the rage. The Michigan team travelled to their arch-rival Univ of Chicago for a championship game, which they eventually won 12-11. Along the way, a music student from UM named Louis Elbel got so caught up in the excitement, he sat down and penned the Michigan fight song that we are all so familiar with to this day.

The actual lyrics are quite lengthy, but most of us remember the refrain the best.

Hail to the Victors valiant
Hail to the conquering heroes
Hail, Hail, to Michigan
The Champions of the West.

And that's the thing. Back then Ann Arbor and Chicago might have been on the western edge of "civilization", but that hardly applies these days.

Champions of the West? Just what are they west OF? Michigan's east of the Mississippi. It's in the eastern time zone. Until Penn State came into the conference a few years ago, the Univ of Michigan was the easternmost school in the Big 10.

Nevertheless, congrats to Michigan for being #1 in men's college hoops, if only for a little while. They seem to be as good as anybody, but the way things are going this year, every time somebody gets to #1, they quickly get knocked off and the merry-go-round continues. There's probably at least a dozen top teams in the country that could beat each other on any given day. How all that will play out in the NCAA tournament is anybody's guess.

Here's wishing Michigan the best, though yours truly somehow isn't convinced they're an elite team. Though they're highly skilled, well coached, and have a lot of things going for them, when watching them it just seems like there's "something" that isn't quite right.

Or maybe it just that stupid "champions of the west" thing I keep hearing.

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