By: Jeff Riger
When news came out that Michigan basketball was ranked No. 1 in the AP poll Monday afternoon, I felt myself get a little giddy. Yes, I’m a ‘Walmart Wolverine.’ To this day, I really don’t understand the meaning of the term, but who the hell cares; I’ll admit if you want me to. I fell in love with Michigan hoops just before the Fab Five came on the scene in Ann Arbor. Those were good times, Michigan was always on TV, they were good and no matter what the record books say, they went to back to back national title games.
It was fun watching the Fab Five!
Was I a Walmart back then too? I wasn’t old enough to go to college and I rooted for Michigan. Is that allowed?
I find it hysterical when I speak well of Michigan hoops or talk about how impressed and happy I am with the program, people immediately feel the need to shout me down and ask where I went to college. Why does it matter? It used to irritate me but now I just laugh.
Yes, I’m a Walmart. In fact I was just in Walmart the other day, which seems quite fitting I guess.
Now getting back to that giddy feeling of Monday afternoon…
Everybody watched the Fab Five, but stopped watching once they got caught cheating and those people never came back. I don’t want to be patted on the back for continuing to watch. I wish I would have stopped. Some of those years were awful. But I continued, wondering how long it would take to get back to the NCAA tournament on a consistent basis or how many games did Michigan have to get throttled in a row before they could actually hang with Michigan State?
The Spartans owned the state. They went to Final Four after Final Four while Michigan refused to even build the necessary facilities that would even attract a recruit to make a visit. Izzo got to play at Ford Field for a national title while Michigan was talking spring football and the fan base was fine with that.
Fans had to put up with the likes of Josh Moore, Leon Jones, Courtney Simms and Dan Horton while the Green and White were crushing people in East Lansing. It was flat-out miserable! Why would anybody put themselves though that? I know it’s dumb, but I did.
I remember the day that I was sure Michigan was going to hire Rick Pitino after Brian Elerbe was fired, but he went to Louisville instead and the Wolverines settled for Tommy Amaker.
I could go on and on but why bother?
Things have officially turned around. Michigan hired the right coach with a weird offense who eventually brought in guys that could actually play. The facilities were finally built, they made the tournament and even won in the first round and yes they even beat Sparty at the Breslin Center. Hell, they won a Big Ten title last season! It all was a nice change from the usual crap and complacency year after year.
But, when they got that number one ranking on Monday, that, to me was the moment when Michigan fans could finally put the past behind. Being top ranked in January means absolutely nothing to most teams, but to Michigan it means a ton. It’s an indication that the program is respected enough that voters would bestow the honor on them. It means that they have started recruiting with the big boys, And, most of all it means that the effects of the Ed Martin scandal have worn off
Being No. 1 does mean something, and if you say it’s doesn’t then you no doubt will call me a Walmart!