Before Tuesdays with Morrie and Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom co-wrote Bo. My father just called me at work with the news that on the eve of one of the biggest games in the history of University of Michigan football, Bo Schembechler died of a heart attack.
Bo Schembechler, former head coach and athletic director. Bo, who had a 194-48-5 record over his 20 years at Michigan. When my mom got her copy of Bo autographed, it was not Mitch Albom's signature she sought; it was Bo's. Albom was "just" a sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press back then.
I grew up in Ann Arbor, home of Schembechler Hall, with season tickets to U of M football and basketball games. You can't grow up in Ann Arbor and not know about Bo. Especially when your mother is the former president of the U of M club of Ann Abor, the alumni booster club for Michigan athletics. It is true that when she stepped down as president, Coach Lloyd Carr presented her with a glass-encased autographed football that stayed on our mantlepiece for at least a year. She has a Bo Schembechler bobble-head.
And you can't talk about Bo without talking about his rivalry with legendary Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes. And tomorrow is the Michigan-Ohio State game. Both teams are undefeated. The outcome of this game determines who gets to go to the National Championship. Take a deep breath.
Even if this game didn't have so much riding on it, Ohio State is still Michigan's biggest rival, beating out Michigan State and Notre Dame. When my parents went to Buckeye country for a Michigan/OSU game once, they got all the way back to Ann Arbor before they noticed the red bumper sticker on the back of the mini van. And then wouldn't go into the house until it was removed. Our neighbor Steve, who ushers all Michigan basketball games and is also a member of the booster club, has a cottage in Ohio. In the weeks leading up to the game, he gets repeated phone calls from his neighbors down there. They even started calling and harassing my mom and she doesn't even know them. He once got a Woody Hayes bobble head in the mail.
The conversation with my father quickly turned to how Bo's death will affect the game tomorrow. I suggested it would inspire the team to win the game. Win it for Bo! My dad is concerned that Coach Carr will be distracted all day with the haunting question, "what would Bo do?". For a moment, we cringed at ourselves. A man has died. Think about his family, it is just a football game. But like I told my dad, I guarentee you, wherever Bo is now, he's horrified at the timing of his death. He was superstitious and the last thing he'd want for a U of M/OSU match up are distractions of any kind. One thing is for certain, he won't miss this game no matter where he is.