By Eric Thomas
The Wolverines celebrated their first championship game in 20 years, but it was still clouded by their name. The Fab Five were mentioned in hushed tones, the legendary freshmen and sophomores who last took the maize and blue to the final game.
The cheering had barely stopped after Michigan’s victory in the Final Four before the call came out from many in the media for them to appear, but I think we should leave them out of this. The Fab Five had their run and it’s time to leave that legacy behind. They were transcendent figures in the culture for a moment, their moment, but we do no favors to these young Wolverines by staining their name with a team that was riddled with such scandal. If the Fab Five want to repair their legacy they should stay far away from the Georgia Dome on Monday night, because this is not about them.
We all were swept up back then, many of us had No. 4 maize jerseys and some of us paid extra to have Webber’s last name stenciled on the back. When they were Wolverines they were kings, their tournament runs were watched by all of us in an area where college basketball isn’t nearly as popular as other sports.
The Fab Five is a fond memory, even given all the problems with their legacy.
The banners were removed, Chris Webber was indicted, we all learned Ed Martin’s name and we realized we had been duped. It made sense in retrospect, how else would all of the best freshmen in the country just decide to go to your school without some other incentive hiding in the shadows? The Fab Five owe the area nothing, we still have those memories even though the banners were removed. The scandal isn’t why they should avoid the national championship game.
The Fab Five had their time. If they reassemble in Atlanta later today it will immediately be all about them and not the team already assembled on the floor, in the midst of their own possible championship run. They will steal a spotlight that they don’t deserve. When they walked away the program was in irreparable shambles, why do we want to invite them to the party now that everything has been cleaned? Why should they be able to stand on the shoulders of this team, who we assume was assembled without the malfeasance and grand jury deceptions? The current team should stand alone in their shining moment, without the reflected glow of the ruin the Fab Five brought the University.
When Jalen Rose even suggested that Webber attend the championship game, he stole a piece of something he didn’t earn. The conversation immediately turned to the past, along with the controversy associated with it. Rather than spend even one minute discussing the team whose banners and record were vacated under the poisonous haze of the Ed Martin scandal, lets celebrate the new kids who have absolutely earned our admiration.
If Michigan wins this game, the legacy of the Fab Five will be largely erased. For all praise heaped on them, they never won the tournament. They made it to the final game and lost to teams from North Carolina on both occasions. There will be no reason to remember the five freshman whose off the court actions led to scandal.
It’s time to put away the Fab Five and celebrate the fact that after twenty years the program has finally fully recovered from the damage they did. It’s probably harsh to place all the blame on the players themselves when there were so many who were responsible for that scandal but they were complicit in its execution. Everyone involved in that scandal deserves scorn.
The new team provides a clean break from the past, take the opportunity and stop reliving the past.