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I never really met Bo Schembechler, but, in an important way, maybe I did.
I played against his Michigan teams 3 times. Back then the games meant something different to me, to us. No matter what we were always dogs to Michigan - they were 4 yards and a cloud of dust and we were the soft warm weather surfer boys. (That always bothered me - I was the only guy on the team who surfed regularly, and I never understood why it was meant to be disparaging).
We won all three games against Michigan. It was always special. I'm not talking about the significance of the game itself but in the way it was played.
To be the best you have to play the best. That's one thing that will never ever change.
Schembechler's teams were the best. We won those games but on the field it meant something.
You had to play your best every second of every play. Your concentration couldn't waver because sure as hell the Wolverines were going to play their best and any mistakes you made, a wrong half turn or a misread on your block meant that you were going to pay.
Every play was a game in itself and to beat Michigan you had to win an awful lot more of those plays than you lost. There aren't many games where that's the case.
The thing was that the Wolverines didn't cheat. They didn't play dirty. I had to wear rubber goggles, during most big games my glasses were smudged with blackout, rosin and spit. Against the Wolverines my glasses stayed clean, they weren't jabbing fingers into my face trying to blind me to get that little edge.
Schembechler taught them that to win they had to stand up and be proud of themselves, proud of what they did. They wanted to beat you but they wanted their wins to mean something, something more than just what was on the scoreboard.
They played so proud that you played proud.
Each time we beat Michigan the reporters never talked about us as being great. The reporters always wondered what the problem was that a clearly superior team got beat by the likes of us. That made me and my teammates angry.
Since our opponents on the field just played outstanding football the only place to direct the anger was at Schembechler himself. That's unfair but we were just kids.
The last time I saw Schembechler was the 1990 Rose Bowl. I got to stand on the sidelines and watch USC beat Michigan. It was like old times.
Out of my ten fave games playing football Schembechler was responsible for three of them. He raised the game up to a level where it was awesome to step on the field because you knew that to step out there you were among the best and to win you would have to not only be your best but you would discover that you could be better than you ever imagined.
There are few people who can bring that into your life and to do so on a regular basis means that Bo Schembechler was a greater man than I was then able to acknowledge.
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Last week I was a dismal 6-10 in my NFL picks. This dumped me down to 1,481 in my quest for the Big Screen TV and may almost have put the iPod Nano out of sight as well.
As usual there were some wonderful great moments and a lot of really bad bad games. I didn't mind losing.
My picks are in bold
at Houston - Both teams looked improved last week, but this is still a contender for cruddy game of the week. I hate the Houston front office so I'm taking the Bills. This is a better method of picking then a coin flip I guess.
at New York Jets - The Jets looked great beating the Patriots last week. The Bears looked better routing the Giants. Without a great running attack the Jets are playing into the Bears strength.
Atlanta at Baltimore
- Last week the Falcons showed just how unreliable they are. The Ravens, even without Ray Lewis, should have enough to stop VIck when it counts. Steve McNair will keep adding to the legend.
Cincinnati at New Orleans
- The Bengals did their part to make last weeks loss to the Chargers be the game of the year. They showed that they don't have near enough defense. I think the New Orleans Offense is better than the Chargers (except that no one is better than Tomlinson). As brilliant and entertaining as Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson are and will be the Saints defense will be a decider. This is a game of the week contender for sure.
at Miami - The Vikings need this game to stay even thinly in contention for the play offs. The Dolphins are improving but not enough.
at Carolina - The Rams are not great but the Panthers are looking dreadful. The Panthers have all the talent but have done nothing with it, while the Rams keep making something out of nothing.
Oakland at Kansas City
- My Ho Hum game of the week. The biggest interest is seeing how many yards Larry Johnson can wrack up!
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
- If I bet football I'd take the Browns and the pints and not even think about it. The Steelers are still off track, their defense is too banged up and they are still too cocky, “the best 3-6 team in the game”?? I like the Browns D and the offense can do just enough to keep this interesting.
at Green Bay - My dreamy game of the day. Brady against Favre. The Patriots showed just how vulnerable they are and Favre is still Favre which means highly entertaining and dangerous. You have to take the Patriots even if I found Bilichick's antics after his defeat last week to be revolting.
Tennessee at Philadelphia
- I never figured a team with Donavan McNabb would be a contender for cruddy game of the week. Norm Chow gives the Titans a slight edge in this one, what other coach could make Vince Young look almost respectable. But you have to figure that the Eagles have some pride left.
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Washington at Tampa Bay
- Joe Gibbs is starting a rookie QB against the Buc's . . . I guess he's trying to show the world he's still a genius . . . Tampa Bay will eat him alive.
Detroit at Arizona
- Cruddy game of the week. Matt should finally get his first win. As much as I like Detroit and as good as they looked last week getting the win everything says the Cardinals should win. But never discount the Denny Green factor.
at San Francisco - So the 49ers announce they're leaving San Francisco and the whole Bay Area yawns. The Seahawks are so beaten up its sad. The 49ers are just sad.
at Dallas - Game of the week contender. Payton against an over rated under achieving defense. Tony Romo and Julius Jones against a nonexistent Colts defense. You still have to take Tony Dungy over Bill Parcells and Manning over anybody.
San Diego at Denver
- My game of the week!! As much as I like the Chargers Mile High Stadium is the decider here. I'd love to see the Chargers win and they could wreck the Broncos dreams today.
New York Giants
at Jacksonville - Seriously ESPN deserves a rebate for these Monday Night fiascos. Two badly beaten up teams. I'm picking the Giants because their O-Line is setting them up for a beautiful running game. David Garrard is now the starter and the banged up Giants D will be fully prepared for him. At least a month ago this looked like a choice game. But now . . .
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