A Dilemma: Can I Root for Michigan if I Didn't Attend Michigan?

I told BHGP that this would be an offseason piece, so here it goes (I also rapped a couple Biggie verses from Mo Money Mo Problems in that podcast, so that's worthwhile). I've had a bit of an identity crisis this offseason while people argue about what a "Michigan Man" is and whether Rich Rodriguez could have ever been a "Michigan Man." I struggle with this for a simple reason: I didn't attend the University of Michigan for either undergrad (Miami OH) or law school (Detroit Mercy). I am not from Ann Arbor or the surrounding areas. I do not have family that has attended UM. And yet I am a huge Michigan fan. And with that disclosure out of the way, I confess that I sometimes feel that I'm not allowed to root for Michigan football, as if I don't truly belong in the Michigan fan base. Maybe you all can help me through this identity crisis, so here's some discussion.

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My Christmas gift: Replica Team Helmet Autographed By The 2009 Michigan Football Team...

Rooting for college football teams isn't like "cheering for laundry" as Seinfeld says. You form a connection with a program through certain variables, some stronger than others, and then you are "allowed" to put stock in that football program. If you attend a school, there is no doubt that you have the right to cheer that team on for life. In some states, just growing up or living in that state gives you a "rightful"connection to a program. Grow up in Iowa? You can cheer for the University of Iowa football team, no holds barred, no questions asked (I hear that some Ames residents might dispute that, but, they'll get over it). Grow up in the state of Ohio, the Bucks can be your team no matter what. Reside in Wisky, you're a Badger if you want to be. Alabama? Roll Tide pretty much no matter what.

But I feel like the University of Michigan program may demand more. I've had about four conversations this last year that went something like this:

Person: So Jim tells me you're a big Michigan guy.

Me: You bet.

Person: When did you go to school in Ann Arbor?

Me: Oh, I'm a Miami guy.

Person: What's the connection then?

Me: I saw Tyrone Wheatley go apeshit against Washington in the Rose Bowl and since then, it's been all Michigan.

Person: Intriguing...

My dedication to Michigan sports, my connection that I formed when I first saw the Fab Five play, when I saw Ty Wheatley and Elvis Grbac star...the games I attend, the interview I did with Coach Rodriguez...doesn't seem to be enough for some people. So I ask: Is this just a Michigan thing?

Everyone has heard the "Arrogant Assholes from Ann Arbor" saying, especially if you reside around the East Lansing area. And Michigan has its share of alums and fans who view Michigan football as a sacred, sacred thing that only the fortunate can have the pleasure of sharing in. But this whole "Michigan Man" controversy during the past year only illuminated my struggle, especially framed around people claiming that Rich Rodriguez wasn't a Michigan Man. "He swears too much during practice and he's from the backbackwoods of West Virginia. Plus he doesn't run the ball with a big back. He must not be a Michigan Man." Man, Bo Schembechler was from Ohio ("the only thing good to come out of Ohio is I-75" Ohio) and he cussed like hell. So the hypocrisy exists...

I remain dedicated to the Wolverine football program (I watch the basketball team also). I remain enthralled by the helmets and the eventual return to respectability. I get chills when someone wearing Maize and Blue finds their way into the endzone. I will wear that helmet to a game or two this Fall. But should my fandom truly be in question?

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