Doc Gonzo: Halfway There

A good sports weekend was almost great, but in the end we're still "that guy"...

"Death be not proud, though some have called thee  
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so"
– John Donne


A good weekend was almost a great weekend.

Almost. But before we get into Sunday's disappointment, let us delve where few scribes have dared tread, especially those of us living in Michigan, where the wails of mourning and lamenting still echo through the hills.

Let us correct the record.

Millions of words and countless hours have been spent praising all things Bo Schembechler. They say you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but they also say the truth shall set us free, or some such nonsense.

Me, I'm disgusted by the revisionist history. The mawkish, fawning tributes are filled with odes to his greatness as a coach and saintliness as a human being.

Was Glenn E. "Bo" Schembechler a good coach?

Sure. His record speaks for itself. And I trust the reports he was an excellent father, husband and grandfather.

But he also was a tyrant, a petty dictator prone to embarrassing sideline histrionics, a petulant bully given to cheap theatrics.

Just like Woody.

All that Bo was, good and bad, dark and light, was shaped by Ohio State's grand old man, for whom Schembechler played at Miami and coached under both as an assistant with the Redskins and Buckeyes. Let's praise the man, but let's be honest about history.

Bo was Woody's creation, for better or worse. And Michigan fans tend to ignore that fact.

Simply put, the University of Michigan's most revered personage amounts to being the Buckeyes' sloppy seconds, a second-tier son of a bitch. He was a Buckeye that fell from the Hayes coaching tree and rolled north. Or, if you will, rolled into hell. Without Woody and OSU, there is no Bo, no Ten-Year War.

Ohio State defeating Michigan just a day after Bo dropped dead in a Detroit television studio heralded the start of a bad weekend for the Maize and Blue faithful. Many UM fans I know believed Bo's death would be the missing element their beloved No. 2 Wolverines would need to overcome the terribly frightening machine that is Jim Tressel's No. Buckeyes.

They marched into Columbus with that annoying and misguided Michigan swagger, confident that Bo's spirit and their dominating defense could quell the nation's best team. But as is typical with all things in this state, they were wrong. Nearly right, perhaps, but nearly right is the same as "a little bit pregnant." You are, or you are not.

And this morning, Michigan is not. Bo's dead, the Wolverines are left with the somber realization they are not the best and life goes on.

Lost in the breathless coverage of the latest Game of the Century was the game that used to matter nearly as much: the Cleveland Browns vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The luster of the game has been dulled, to put it mildly. Cleveland has done little more than act as a speed bump for the Steelers since 1999, and this year, Pittsburgh's fall from grace has relegated them to the inside of the sports pages. On sportscasts, the commentators didn't even bother to include this game among their celebrity picks.

That said, to the faithful, it still means something. In fact, when you're struggling to find meaning in an otherwise lost season, it's everything.

Beating Pittsburgh would have gone a long way toward re-establishing this wayward franchise adrift in the NFL's sea lanes. Defeating the Steelers always lessens the sting of whatever else is happening.

Alas, it was not to be. Perhaps we can take solace in the fact the Browns made the defending Super Bowl champions work desperately for the win, and that Cleveland had victory dancing on the end of Braylon Edwards' fingertips as time expired, a significant improvement of 2005's disgraceful blowout.

Braylon Edwards' fingertips. Not the weekend to rely on anyone connected to the University of Michigan.

Cleveland remains in the AFC North basement. And we don't want to be that guy living in the basement, working part-time at Radio Shack, collecting comic books and wondering what it's like to kiss a girl. Let's not be him. Let the Lions and Cardinals continue to be him.

This week, we remain that guy. Sunday is another chance, maybe another step toward redemption.

Toward an absolution that's long in coming.

Amusing note: On Friday, I went to work in downtown Detroit adorned in Buckeye paraphernalia. A few hours later, I was assigned to write Bo's obituary for our magazine's Web site. I stuck to the facts (including that Bo's an Ohio native). Several coworkers are Michigan fans (there are more MSU Spartan grads up here than Wolverines, which most folks don't know, because the Sparties have no reason to cheer). The UM fans were sure Bo croaking was the edge they needed, and they boasted of his coaching prowess and records, blah, blah, blah. What shut them up? A simple question: "How many national championships did Bo win?" None. Woody won three. End of story. And I noted a famous Woody quote applies perfectly to Bo: "A guy from Ohio can make it in life if he works hard enough." Bo did work hard enough, but it wasn't enough to overshadow that man who made him.

Former Ohio newspaper editor and reporter Bill Shea has written the Doc Gonzo column each week for The Orange and Brown Report for six years. He now writes for a business magazine in Detroit and was recently named vice president of communications for the Port Huron Pirates of the Continental Indoor Football League. E-mail him at docgonzo19@aol.com.


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