An Open Letter to Chris Webber: You Are Loved

April 3, 2013 § 137 Comments

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Dear Mr. Webber,

You don’t know me. And I don’t know you, though I know some of your close friends. So let me first introduce myself. In 1993, when your heart was broken in front of a national television audience, I was 27 years old and near the end of my first year as a professor at the University of Michigan. I watched the game and when it ended I cried — not because of Michigan’s loss — but because of what felt to me like the enormously unfair tragedy that had just befallen you, a young man the age of my students. Yes, you were already a celebrity baller, but in that moment, I just felt what it was to be a kid making an honest mistake under a terribly harsh spotlight. Years passed, and as my own career at the University unfolded, the scandal erupted, and once again I could only feel sympathy for you. Maybe you made a mistake, maybe you did or said things you shouldn’t have. But I still could only see a young man, a human being like myself, who, like myself was trying to navigate the harrowing waters of life — except the world was watching you do it, and feeling entitled to judge your every move. I too watched as you moved on with your brilliant professional career, your philanthropic efforts, and, more recently, your charismatic, sensitive, and informed work as a broadcaster.

As for me, I’m still at the University. I teach a course called “Cultures of Basketball.” It’s pretty popular. As part of the course, I have my students — most of whom weren’t even born in 1993 — watch the “Fab Five” documentary. I want them to learn about — I want them to feel — the beauty of what you and your teammates did on the court and the enormous impact of what you set in motion off the court. In fact, in just a few hours, I’ll be going to teach that class. This semester, I have five freshmen in the class who are members of this year’s UM Men’s Basketball team (that’s them in the picture above, I’m in the middle, with my head shaved as part of a deal I made with them if they made it to the Final Four – I promised them I’d show up for class with head bald, Fab Five style. They were excited.). They are respectful and sensitive and fun-loving kids, and intelligent and diligent students, probably a lot like you were. You probably know who they are from the news media. And maybe, because you seem sensitive and empathetic yourself, you probably have a sense, better than my own, of how they are feeling as kids, as young human beings, heading for what is probably the biggest weekend of their lives to date.

I’m writing you to ask you a favor. I’d like you to go to their game this weekend Monday tonight.
It’s not that I think they need you to. Like the elite athletes they are, I thinkthey are focused on their team and on the individual and collective tasks they are preparing to undertake with a nation watching them. But I know from the discussions we’ve had in class — some of them with your former teammate Jimmy King, who was generous and gracious enough to take time away from his job to come and speak to them — that even if they don’t need you to be there, it would mean the world to them if you were there. One of these young men was even wearing a “Fab Five” snapback lid to class on the day of Jimmy’s visit, and also the day after.  And, you know what else, it would mean the world to the rest of the students in the class who aren’t basketball players. It would mean the world to me too. Because, however the institution may present it, and however the media may paint it, you are loved.

I imagine it must be hard to be you right now. Everybody is talking about you like you’re not a real person, like you’re some doll or character in a drama they are playing out in their minds and in print. Many are judging you in anticipation of what you might or might not do. I don’t mean to be adding to that with this letter, but I didn’t know how else to communicate with you. I’d have written you a private letter but I didn’t know your address or e-mail. I can imagine how you might be feeling, but of course I don’t know.

So let me just speak to you from the heart of my own experience. I know that I have experienced estrangement from people that I love. It was terrible. I don’t want to exaggerate. Life moved on and I did my best to try to remain whole despite the sense that a part of me had been taken and that, at least partly, I contributed to it. I was lucky to have others in my life who loved and supported me and helped me to keep moving and to feel as whole as possible. But still, at quiet times, I could feel that pain well up and threaten to split me apart. It might have gone on like that forever. But it didn’t. For recently, I had the experience of finally capturing — through a combination of luck and virtue — the opportunity to reach out and begin to heal the pain of that estrangement. It was terrifying and it is not done, but it is begun, and all that was already great in my life is just that much better now that this process is underway.

So I’m thinking that maybe you could see this weekend Monday today as such an opportunity. I’m not talking about apologies to the University of Michigan or any of that nonsense. I’m not talking about some spectacular gesture. I’m just talking about the opportunity to go catch a game with some of your former teammates (who are already there and have made impassioned public pleas for you to join them) and, in the process, inspire a young group of ballers who feel themselves to be connected to what you and your teammates did. I bet you’d feel better, maybe only a little bit better, but still, unquestionably better if you did.

Forgive me if it sounds as if I’m lecturing you or telling you what to do. It’s not what I mean. I mean to be encouraging you — grown man to grown man — to consider all this from the vantage point of seizing an opportunity to show love and to be loved in a short life that presents all of us with precious few such opportunities.

You no doubt have many people in your life who let you know you are loved, and so you probably don’t need this, anymore than the ball players, or my students, or me, really need this. But I can’t help but feel that if you went to the game in Atlanta, it would be like a massive, overwhelming flooding statement of love and humanity that would sweep away, like so much irrelevant garbage, the judgment and villification you have endured and the pain you have experienced.

Whatever you do, Mr. Webber, please know that in my classroom, you are loved. And that in my heart, now, as twenty years ago, you are also loved.

Sincerely,

Yago

Santiago Colas

Associate Professor

Comparative Literature and Arts and Ideas in the Humanities

The University of Michigan

P.S. Thursday, April 11, 2013.  You went to the game on Monday night.  Thank you.  I still don’t know if you read this letter, or, if you did, if that had any influence on you, but I was happy you went to the game, as were many other fans I know, and as were — most importantly to me — the students I mentioned above.  I hope that next time you come to a Michigan event you will join your former teammates.  It is good to be among one’s brothers.   I know that the University you attended and represented on the court twenty years ago, the University whose undergraduates I have been teaching since you were one of them — that this University cannot officially “associate” with you for another month or so.  And I don’t know what they will do when they can.

But I want to say here publicly, in a place that many people still seem to be finding their way to, two things.  First, I think it took courage for you to come to the game.  I think it was the right thing to do, but I still think it took courage.   The right thing is not always the easiest thing to do.  

Second,  I recognize that it will take courage  for the University’s administrator’s to seize the opportunity of the ban ending.  Just from the bitter, hateful comments I received to this letter, I know that many alumni, fans, and others connected to the University still cling to their pain.  So I know it would take courage for President Coleman and Athletic Director Brandon to publicly embrace the 1992 and 1993 Michigan basketball teams, hoist the banners, and engage in genuine community discussion of the meaning of those teams and their legacy. But, it is the right thing to do.  

I’ve told them this before here and — more pointedly — here; but I’ll keep saying it anywhere and everywhere. It’s not because I”m hung up on the Fab Five.  It’s not because I don’t appreciate this year’s team.  It’s not because I can’t or don’t want to move forward.  It’s because it’s the right thing to do for a group of teachers of young people, for an institution dedicated to the formation of young people, to show those young people that moving forward with integrity can only occur when we move forward with our whole selves, even the parts that are scary or embarrassing to talk about, even the parts we fear others won’t like.

On every page of my Cultures of Basketball syllabus I have written:  “Notice your fear.  Now go there.”  It’s there for me as much as for the students.  It reminds me that my own fear — of being wrong, of being thought foolish, of being wounded by meanness –can turn me away from the very words and deeds that will most fulfill me and most inspire my students.  And I hope it serves as that sort of reminder for the students.  I hope they notice their fears: acknowledge that they have them and that those fears may be barring them from their potential, and I hope they go toward their fears: exploring and examining them and even, courageously, confront them by doing exactly what they are afraid of doing.  

That’s what I want my University to do now with the 1992 and 1993 teams and their legacy. Thanks again for going to the game, hope to see you around campus one day soon.

Yago

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§ 137 Responses to An Open Letter to Chris Webber: You Are Loved

  • Hugh Miskel says:

    Wow! Pretty amazing.
    I hope to see Chris at the game.

  • Michael says:

    If you are not trying to “lecture” Mr. Webber or tell him what to do, then why make it an “open letter?” Why not send him your letter privately (which I imagine you can do if you know his close friends), a few discreet words of advice that would not be a possible source of embarrassment for him if he chooses not to take the advice?

    My sense is you are publishing these words on the internet not with any purpose to give Chris Webber heartfelt, well-intended advice “grown man to grown man” (this letter, after all, is not man to man but instead man to many thousands of people), but instead for some other inscrutable reason.

    • yagocolas says:

      Thanks for reading, Michael. Actually, I was unable to get any sort of private address for Mr. Webber. I’m sorry to hear that you suspect me of other motives than those I stated. I’d like him to go to the game and I felt that this was my most effective means of communicating that to him and of encouraging it. I sincerely hope it does not embarrass him. Thank you again for reading.

  • Ulysses Robinson says:

    I loved this letter and I agree 100%! I am the biggest Michigan fan, since I was old enough to understand the concept of sports. We moved to Illinois from Michigan when I was in grade school and I always felt different. Even the kids at school said I talked and acted differently. But one day my dad bought me my first Michigan basketball Jersey and it happened to be Jimmy kings number! I wore that thing almost everyday. Everyone at school thought I was so cool and people that know me to this day identify Michigan athletics with me! The Fab five changed my life because since that day, whenever I wear my maize and blue I feel cocky and comfortable! Til this day I always wear my go blue gear when I need faith in the most worse of times! Thanks professor and thank you Fab 5!

    Sincerely,
    Les (Ulysses Robinson) Go Blue!!!!!!

  • CP says:

    Love the letter and agree, however isn’t he still banned from any UofM functions?

    • Matt says:

      No, he is disassociated with the University. Meaning that he can’t be there as a representative of them. I also think he could go because it is not on campus. I’m not a lawyer but this is my interpretation of the ban.

      • Jordan Smith says:

        I think in the Fab 5 documentary it says the ban will be lifted at the end of 2013. He can still go to the game, he just can’t be associated with UM in any way until the end of the year.

  • Aaron Haeck says:

    I would also like to thank Santiago Colas for writing such an amazing letter to such an amazing figure in Michigan Athletics. Whether Mr. Webber attends the game or not, I feel that this letter is an invitation to attend. Some people accept invitations, while others decline them. I, too hope the Fab Five attend, to show their loyalty for a program that dually benefited from each other. Go BLUE!!

    Chris Webber was a young man who paid a price for his mistakes. The school, too paid for his as well as others mitakes. People deserve a second chance. Chris Webber deserves a second chance, at a Final Four.

  • Silvia says:

    Beautifully written letter. I hope he reads it; hope he is able to make the game. GO BLUE!!

  • Jason Covitz says:

    I’ll buy him a seat! We miss you, Chris!

    • yagocolas says:

      Haha! That’s awesome! I’m guessing the price of the tickets won’t be the problem (though it is for me – wanna buy me a seat? oh, and one for my wife?). For real Jason, thanks for reading and lending your voice of support!

  • Dick McClain says:

    Professor,
    Your letter was beautiful. The word that came to my mind was atonement. It underlies our culture, as we celebrated this past weekend and to me it was a key point of your letter. You, sir, are a Michigan Man.

  • Jeremy Knoester says:

    Very well written, I love the idea. GO BLUE!

    Tell Gerbens I say hello! :)

  • Brandon says:

    I was a freshman and soph. in high school at a small high school on the west side of Michigan when the Fab Five made their back to back F4 runs. It would be great to see them all there in Atlanta. I hope your letter reaches C.Webb and he realizes that most Michigan share your opinion on the matter.

    • yagocolas says:

      Thanks Brandon! We’ll just have to see what happens. Either way, props to Jimmy and Ray and anyone else who shows up to support this great group of young guys. Go Blue!

  • JR says:

    Very well written letter. I’ve been a huge fan of Chris Webber since his days at Detroit Country Day and continue to be a fan of him today in his post professional playing career. I sincerely hope Michigan reconnects with him. Those two are inter-linked forever, and the University should reach out.
    He will always be loved in the D and at the University of Michigan (if not at the administration level, definitely at the fan and student level, which is really all that matters)!

  • Rick Phillips says:

    Professor,

    Just this morning I ran into a woman who like me is a UM grad. (We were dropping our boys off for a Boy Scout campout and she noticed my sons’ M hats and sweatshirts.) I asked her what year she graduated and she said ’92. The first words out of my mouth were, “Awesome, the Fab Five!” She smiled and gave me a high five. The point is that both in terms of their substance and style the Fab Five are huge for the UM community. The separation has been so tragic and I mainly have felt terrible for C Webb and the others. No doubt mistakes were made and consequences were paid, but there has to be an opportunity for grace and love. Thanks for doing your best, given your position and connections, and I hope it bears some fruit. Sounds like a great class, too.

    • yagocolas says:

      Thanks Rick for reading and for sharing your story as well. You understood me perfectly. The class is certainly great for me, I hope it is for the students as well.

  • iamweinstein says:

    Yago, this is interesting. As a buckeye fan, I read this with interest. we, at tOSU have our own “Chris Weber”. Someone we looked up to, but ultimately was torn down by his own doing. tTme heals all wounds, and it probably shouldn’t have taken UofM 20 years to heal on this one…….I am glad to see Michigan faithful rally around Chris, because he brought more good to the university than bad……

  • Christina Mitchell says:

    Beautiful letter. The only thing I wonder is if his attendance would outshine the team. Thoughts?

    • yagocolas says:

      Thank you. I think that certainly in the instant of his appearance, the media attention would go to him, though I believe the overriding story will be the team and the game.

      In fact, I can imagine the media narrative self-consciously emphasizing, in a self-congratulatory ay, its own shifting emphasis of attention from the Fab 5 to the current team. But I don’t really know, of course, how it would play out in the media.

  • GOBLUE91 says:

    An amazing letter. I know from a long conversation with Mr. Webber over 1.5 years ago that he wants to reconnect with Michigan. I would love to see this as I share the same emotions you do and I also have his private email address (at least the one from when we met). I don’t want to publish his or my email in a public forum. Perhaps you can provide me yours and I will contact you via private email so that you can attempt to get your letter directly to Mr. Webber.

  • Joe says:

    Yago,

    Excellent written article. Wish I could enroll in your class even though I live in Columbus, OH.

    Heading down to the games this weekend and hope to spot C-Webb there. Wouldnt mind giving him a standing-ovation.

  • Jamie says:

    Luv this open letter! People are so judgmental. I wonder how some could handle having there teenage and early 20’s mistakes televised and printed in the media?! I think the letter was heart felt and sincere. Professor you are speaking for many of us true Michigan fans! Go Blue!! #fab5fan4life ;)

    • yagocolas says:

      Man! Thanks for the support Jamie! I was just trying to speak for myself and for my students, but it’s blowing me away to realize that I was able to find words to say what so many more UM fans are feeling. Thanks again!

  • BlueNColumbus says:

    Wow! This letter is right on target. I don’t want to make this into a sermon, but the Bible has a parable about the prodigal son who was given a second chance to be accepted and loved by his family. I hope the vast majority of us Michigan fans can forgive, forget and move forward. At this point I’m sure Chris will be willing to offer a brief public apology. I hope members of the Fab Five can resolve any lingering issues they might have with each other, and Wolverine Nation opens up to receive the Fab Five back into the fold. We all need closure on this issue, especially after 20 years. The future of Wolverine basketball is brighter than direct sunlight in a mirror factory. What the Fab Five did or did not do should not be the headliner, or subtitle, during a championship run.

  • ArCone says:

    This is exactly the type of sentiment that sets our University and student athletes even further apart from the rest. Genuine thank you for taking the time to put these thoughts into a letter that we can all read and share with our family and friends who know exactly what you’re talking about here. I have been a Michigan fan for as long as I can remember; I am the fifth generation Wolverine in my family though none of us are from Michigan. I can’t make it to ATL but will be one of a large contingent of Wolverines cheering on our boys from New York City, donning the very same outfit I wore against VCU, Kansas, and Florida. The quintessential article of clothing: a NIKE #54 Tractor Traylor jersey. GO BLUE!!!

  • Brittany says:

    I really hope he accepts the Invite, what a great encouragement to the kids and to the fans of the University of Michigan basketball program.

  • Marc Klein says:

    This pretty much echoes the sentiments of many Wolverine Faithful I’ve spoken with on this issue. We miss you CWebb.

  • Darrell says:

    Outstanding… I’ve been a MICHIGAN fan all my 58 years and this letter really gets to what it means to be a WOLVERINE. We need closer to this issue and time to put that past behind us. We all made mistakes when we were young and not one of us what to continue to relive them.

    “”GO BLUE””

  • John Ludlow says:

    Thanks for your letter. I loved it. But, I still have never heard Chris Webber’s side of the story. I’ve heard just about everyone else’s opinion and conjecture and vilification but I think I need to hear his side before I make any particular judgements. And even then, those judgements really don’t mean much. In truth, a lot of mistakes were made by a lot of people other than those players but, in the end, they received the brunt of the criticisms and I know that was far from fair. I’ll thank the Fab Five for doing what they did, for having the guts to do what they did despite being unfairly judged by so many who, ultimately, had no right to judge. I’m looking forward to hearing Chris Webber’s side of the story.

  • yetivedder says:

    I loved every word of this letter. From a kid that grew up LOVING the Fab Five it would be awesome to see C-Webb at the Final Four. Well said Yago, and keep up the great work with your students! Any person that would write a letter like this goes above and beyond on a daily basis. Kudos!

  • Sarah says:

    Love this SO hard. No one ever regrets providing such kind and encouraging words to another person like you do in this letter to C. Webber, it’s just good karma and a good all-around thing to do. And so heartfelt. I really hope he reads this, connects with it as much as I did, and shows up to the game to support the team. I grew up in A2 and went to UofM, remember that game in ’93, and also have love for the fab 5, no matter what all the haters say. Thanks for sharing this.

  • kb says:

    Thank you Professor. It’s been more than two decades. How many of us at 20 years of age made choices we regret today? It is long past time to forgive and to embrace CWebb for the man that he is and for the great basketball memories he provided. Unfortunately, I won’t be at the game on Saturday but if he shows up you better believe the tears will be flowing! I’ll be standing in my family room joining in the richly deserved ovation that will envelop the Georgia Dome and beyond as Michigan fans everywhere say “Welcome home CWebb, you have been sorely missed!”

  • Claudette says:

    I was an undergrad here during the Fab Five freshman year and am now back at the U doing my PhD in social work. I had a connection to the basketball team, as my housemates and I occasionally hosted Rob Pelinka at our dining room table. While the Fab Five documentary does a good job at capturing the ethos of the era, it’s hard to capture the unbelievable amount of pressure those guys faced that year – and Chris had been under a lot of pressure since he was in the eighth grade at Detroit Country Day. It’s very hard to remember, while witnessing the social construction of a phenomenon, that these young men are or were precisely that – young men. Despite being bigger than life back in the day, the guys needed more emotional and relational support than they were given. I thought about that too on the occasions when I’ve run into Denard Robinson on campus (and compared him to Desmond Howard, who I also remember and even met once or twice back in the day due to student government activities). I appreciate this letter. I, too, hope Chris – and the rest of the Five – show up in Atlanta this weekend. Thanks for extending him the invite.

    • yagocolas says:

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. I think you’ve put it very well and added important context. Obviously, I don’t have any idea what Chris will do. But I know that Jimmy and Ray will be there and that both of them have remained publicly vocal supporters of UM basketball and of the generations of players that have followed them.

      And, as I mentioned in passing in the letter, Jimmy has gone so far as to be take time out of his schedule of work and philanthropy to visit my class on two occasions, asking for nothing in return. He’s fielded all manner of questions from the students with grace, honesty, intelligence, and respect for them as fellow members of the UM community. Whatever Chris may or may not do, I wouldn’t want my letter to cause people to lose sight of the many UM basketball alumni (from Jimmy and Ray to Stuart Douglass and Zach Novak) who have never let anything prevent them from supporting the young men on the current team.

  • Ted says:

    Would gladly buy his ticket. Hope he sees this as the opportunity it is. Would be an amazing and selfless gesture to show his support when the University has not shown theirs in return. You are loved, Mr. Webber. Show up and let the ovation wash over you and you may realize it too!

  • Joe says:

    As a Wisconsin alum, I will be rooting for UM in the Final 4 this weekend to bring back a title to the Big Ten. I agree with your article entirely and would love to see Chris Webber in attendance at the game. The Fab 5 had an indelible impact on Big Ten sports and it only seems fitting for Chris to be there as your program has taken itself to the pinnacle of NCAA basketball once again. I too also love Chris’s approach to covering the NBA on TNT and NBAtv; it is extremely insightful and refreshing.

    • yagocolas says:

      Great to get some love from Badger land — I too am a UW alum (’87)! Thanks!

      • Joe says:

        Class of ’09 here…I love to see someone embracing the teams of the schools that they are associated with post undergraduate. I received a graduate degree from U of O and have also grown to love the Ducks along wit the Badgers; much to the dismay and condemnation of my bitter Badger brethren. If possible, would you be willing to provide a copy of the syllabus for your course? i would love to see the reading list and topics covered. My e-mail is JFerrero41@gmail.com. Thanks again!

  • Rob says:

    Kudos Professor Colas! I was 16 years old that infamous night in 1993. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I was upset and emotional for the entire team, let alone Chris. A close friend, who I didn’t know then and was younger than me told me he cried forever after that game. I think that moment had a profound experience on any and all who watched that game and had the smallest clue of who the Fab Five were. That said, the documentary that Jalen did, in a way, only re-opened that wound when they showed the walk back to the locker room and the way it was silent for so long. I felt like I was 16 again watching it. It hurt, not in a selfish way, but really to see that be relived for Chris in film, let alone in memory for anyone who saw it again. I couldn’t imagine being 19 or 20 years old and going through that.

    That all said, I think the hardest part of anything is the first step. I hope this is the first step for Chris. Best of luck on your idea of the letter.

    regards,

    Rob

    • yagocolas says:

      Rob, Thanks, first of all for reading, and for honestly sharing the feelings. I sympathize. I found the documentary heartbreaking as well. Like you, I think the fact that it hurt showed me that I, for one, wasn’t done “dealing” with the Fab Five and their legacy. The way to do so, in my opinion, is to begin to connect and to talk again. Thank you for doing so in your comment.

  • Jamie S. LSA '87 says:

    Professor,
    I only wish u were teaching when I was an English lit major in the 80’s. I have always been a huge fan of Chris Weber and the Fab Five and the was at the finals in their freshman year when they lost to Duke (what a great first half). I have always felt the Fab Five got shafted and it is a shame that their banners and jerseys don’t hang somewhere prominent at Crisler. I would live to see C Webb and all of them in the arena this weekend and can’t wait for this year to end and hopefully for Dave Brandon & co. to normalize relations with all of them. If you look at the careers post UM of each of the Fab Five there is a lot for the University to be proud about and to celebrate. Why not start his weekend? I agree.

  • A.J. says:

    Professor Colas, as a UM grad who was at the school to experience the Fab Five, I appreciate your letter a lot. Thank you for sharing it. It definitely expresses a lot of how I feel, with maybe one exception, and that’s about the apology. Now, I don’t think this needs to be public, I don’t think it needs to be grandiose. In fact, I don’t need to know that he apologized, really. But I do think he needs to be the one to reach out to Mary Sue Coleman or Dave Brandon — or, heck, even John Bielein — and extend the olive branch.

    I think with everything you said, the key is that he is human, and humans DO make mistakes. I realize he made mistakes in the past, and I also think he’s doing good things, charitable things, now. But to mature and become adults, humans need to learn from their mistakes, which is where I think I struggle with how Chris has handled things since then.

    Humans are also a forgiving people, when we think that someone wants forgiveness. All I think people need is some acknowledgement that he recognizes the mistake … and even if one of those people I mentioned above were to come out and say that “Chris made contact, and we’ve made our peace” … that would go a long way.

    • yagocolas says:

      A.J.: thanks for reading and your thoughtful and subtle reply. We may not see eye to eye on every point, but the more important thing, in my opinion, is the thoughtful, and emotionally honest tenor of the dialogue. Thanks for adding to that.

  • jeremy says:

    I was in 6th grade and cried as well…….. Come Home Chris!

  • Benjamin says:

    If you don’t have his e-mail, or address, how is he going to read this? I support it 100%, but how do you anticipate this message gets passed to him? We should reach out to the major local news channels and see if they can put a peice on the news about this letter!

  • Carol Kopca says:

    Sir….very well said. I was 17(fyi i wasnt an athlete at all! Not to jention female ha ya), and wasn’t a big fan if basketball but a huge fan ofmichigan football and hockey. At that age I let that moment define my love for all things maize and blue. Shame on me. Chris has always deserved respect as a great baller. I hope he considers your offer. As a big fan from Illinois, my license plate proves that ( says HAIL X 2,,,, only true wolverines will know it’s meaning!) and so does my heart. Much respect to you and for you always Mr Weber. GO BLUE!

  • Steve Waligora says:

    I am a die hard Michigan fan and I just wanted to say that I feel the same way. I do hope that the Fab Five can get.together soon for a Michigan game. If it somehow manages to be the Final Four this weekend it would be fantastic! I am going to get a new #4 jersey for McGary and my childhood hero Chris Webber. Hail and Go Blue!

    • yagocolas says:

      It’d be great if they could get together for sure. Regardless, Mitch is a terrific kid and a straight up beast of a baller and I’m glad you support him. And don’t let anyone tell you different, he know his history and he knows who has worn that number before him.

  • DH says:

    Yago this is a boss letter. I’m so disappointed the fan base is so polarized by that team. That group did a lot of good for college basketball as well as Michigan basketball but they get blamed for all the ils of Michigan Basketball over the last 20 years. Never mind the money they brought to the program was not reimbursed back into facilities. Never mind the bad coaching hires after Fisher. Webber was 14,15 to 18 years old when whatever happened (nobody knows the entire story) yet he is villified.

    Notice 1 person who hasn’t said anything about this team. Chris Webber doesn’t comment on anything concerning U of M.

  • m@ says:

    I didn’t become a Michigan fan until 1999, when I matriculated at the University, so with that caveat in mind, I provide the following:

    I certainly can find space to forgive someone for their mistakes, particularly when the one that committed an error has a contrite heart and wants to remedy his ways. What this year’s team of young men has accomplished is remarkable, and I’m proud to don my maize and blue and support this team with every breath I have.

    However, what you fail to note here is that Chris Webber is not the person that most deserves to be redeemed. I don’t think we owe him an apology. We owe it to our former student athletes like Lavell Blanchard, Lester Abram, Daniel Horton and Graham Brown — Michigan men in their own right that played with passion for the maize and blue, but didn’t have a singular sniff of the success that our current student-athletes are now experiencing. And the reason they didn’t is because people like Chris Webber made incredibly selfish, misguided decisions to capitalize on their prowess as successful basketball players without considering the massive implications they would have on their successors. His decision nearly torpedoed the opportunities those young men — whom he probably has never met — had to succeed on the basketball court.

    Now, you will never hear Daniel or Graham or Lavell blame Chris Webber or Ed Martin or Robert Traylor (RIP) for the incredibly trying times they experienced while at Michigan. But I witnessed the heartache they experienced through Michigan basketball’s darkest periods, and I knew in my heart that they didn’t deserve the cards they were dealt.

    Yago, your letter is heartfelt and I appreciate your attempt to extend an olive branch to one of Michigan’s most enigmatic sports figures. However, if I were to extend an invitation to anyone and invite them to celebrate in this year’s success, it would be guys like Lavell and Daniel and Graham. They are the true Michigan men then persevered in the midst of trying times, and they did it without a shred of regret.

    • yagocolas says:

      I’m sorry if my letter appeared to diminish the struggles of Michigan players who participated under NCAA sanction. That certainly e wasn’t my intention. I heartily hope they too feel welcome to support the current squad in Atlanta.

      My aim was not to exclude anyone, but rather to express my personal wish, based on my own personal and professional experiences, that Mr. Webber attend the game on Saturday night in Atlanta. I expressed that wish as directly, succinctly, and honestly as I could.

      i trust and genuinely hope that others who wish to express similar sentiments towards other Michigan players will find their own means to do so, in the media or online in blogs of their own.

  • angie says:

    I’m from Sacramento and love Chris Webber! Loved that era of the Kings! Good luck blue!

  • Jennie O. says:

    Love this. Chris lives in Atlanta, at least part of the time, since he’s on NBA TV which is housed in the Turner Broadcasting complex. A few years ago the University of Michigan Alumni Club of Atlanta invited him to be the “celebrity” at our annual fundraiser and he graciously agreed. To my surprise, it was the first fundraiser he had ever been asked to do for any University group since everything shook out. He was overjoyed to help us because he truly loves the University, he says. He stayed longer than expected, took photos with everyone and simply enjoyed being back in the maize and blue glory.
    I myself was wondering if he would make an appearance this weekend. I think he will. I think he knows at least us here in Atlanta still love and appreciate him and what he and his teammates did for UM. If he’s there – that smile will truly light up the Dome and I, in the crowd, will stand and cheer for him and with him. Go Blue!

  • taneal says:

    Met him at a UM alumni even here in Atlanta. Classy guy. I still remember watching that game and feeling like you did. No anger or resentment. Just empathy. Been there.

    Going to the UM pep rally right after work to meet the team! Hopefully Chris Webber shows up there too!

  • Mike says:

    Thanks so much for writing this Professor Colas. I was 7 years old when this happened – still unbelievably vivid. I like Jalen’s idea of having some sort of ceremony next year and instead of rehanging the Final Four Banners, they can hang a “Fab Five” banner (or do some sort of commemoration). It would only benefit everyone involved to mend these fences.

    • yagocolas says:

      Thanks Mike for reaching out with positive words. Whatever they finally do, I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment about the need for constructive dialogue on the way to mending fences.

  • Terri Sams says:

    What an inspiring letter to Chris Webber. Hopefully Chris will take heed.

    Regards,

    Terri Sams
    UM ’85

  • brewonsouthu says:

    I’ll take the contrary view here: C Webb never did anything wrong. He broke an NCAA bylaw — not a criminal or civil statute — just a voluntary rule passed by greedy NCAA schools, an NCAA which is a private for-profit organization pretending to be not-for-profit. It’s primary function is to spin these myths: 1) that it is non-profit, while generating billions in profit off the labor of its’ young athlete/entertainers; 2) the preposterous notion that being unpaid for one’s work as an athlete/entertainer is a good thing.
    Besides, some third party wanted to donate money to C Webb: why is that donation worse than a “donation” by an alum to “rent” a luxury suite at the Big House? It isn’t. Someone wanted to give him money. Big deal. Guess who was getting payments (bribes to get them to force the athlete/entertainers to wear shoes) from shoe companies going back to the late 70’s — Michigan FB and BKB coaches. Those payments were illegal and in violation of state statutes. C Webbs payments were not.

    In addition, C Webb deserves praise for being truthful. (Jalen has since admitted, long after the fact, taking some money.)
    C Webb’s labors earned tens of millions of dollars for U of M. All you “small sport” athletes owe him a letter of thanks, because he has helped fund those sports.. He doesn’t owe anyone an apology. Brandon, Rich Rod, Hoke, Beilein: you all owe him thanks, for helping to build the “brand” of Michigan entertainment sports over the years.

    • yagocolas says:

      Not sure why you pose this as a “contrary” view (unless you’ve somehow seen the comments of self-styled Michigan “fans” that I haven’t let through). I agree with you completely and so, I think, do most of us: certainly most of my students have expressed admiration, pride, and gratiitude for what CWebb did for UM and for basketball. I hoped that my telling him he is loved and empathizing the injustice was my way of saying thanks. But thanks for making it more explicit!

  • Kristy says:

    Wonderful letter. I am a alum and fan of the University of Kentucky, but there are few teams that impacted this great sport more than the Fab 5. Everyone makes mistakes. I think that Chris Webber has gone on and done great things…many of which your University should be proud. I Hope that he attends. Not only for UM fans but for college basketball.

  • Leroy Covington says:

    Professor Colas,

    Thank you. I appreciate your letter and of course it wasn’t addressed to me. As an alumnus, a fan of U of M since childhood and a Christian, I appreciate the transparency you displayed by reaching out to Mr. Webber. I believe it and genuine and filled with all sincerity. It will be my prayer Chris Webber has the opportunity to read it. And like sooooooo many instances in people’s lives where bad decisions and mistakes are made, I would hope that both the University and Chris Webber will move toward mending their currently non-existent relationship and healing their tumultuous past.

    Well done Professor Colas…well done!

  • Dear Prof. Colas,

    Thank you for writing this letter, as it brought it a tear to my eye. I was 11 years old during that game and cried my eyes out afterward. I was a UM fan, by way of my older brother. Neither he nor any member of my family had ever even been to the state, but he declared UM his school and thus it was mine.

    We finally made the pilgrimage to the school for the UM/MSU football game in October. It was a dream come true with a last second win and being able to run onto the field. Everything about the campus and A2 was better than in my dreams. We’ve both encouraged our parents to move there, so we can have reason to visit more often.

    I feel an instant connection with anybody I’ve ever met who’s a UM fan or is lucky enough to have attended/work there. You’re all my friends. Thanks for teaching the guys, I wish I could’ve attended one of your classes.

    I met Jalen at an ESPN Zone in Anaheim last night. The only physical connection I’ve had with the Fab Five, though C-Webb’s twenty-year -old jersey has been worn periodically throughout the years and has been donned during every tournament game this year and sure as hell will be worn again tomorrow and hopefully Monday. If C-Webb shows up, I’ll cry again.

    Thanks again. And Go Blue.

    Kevin

    • yagocolas says:

      Thank you Kevin, for reading, for your kind words about my letter, for sharing your story so sincerely, and for supporting the University community so strongly. I’ll be right there hoping with you tomorrow night. But if Chris doesn’t appear, let’s not let that take the air out of our appreciation for the players – past and present – who do. They are more than worthy of it.

  • Julie Sarne says:

    Love the letter. I was born in 1994, so like the students of your class, I only know the pain of that moment through media like the Fab Five documentary (and the repeated Michigan bball history lessons from my older brother). For as long as I can remember, I’ve shared the empathy you expressed for Chris in that moment, regardless of everything else that occurred. And I can’t think of a better way for Chris to embody the phrase with which I’ve come to identify as a lifelong Michigan fan and, now, as a freshman here at UM: Forever Go Blue.

    I’m looking forward to getting into/taking your class someday soon! Go blue.

  • Cornelius says:

    Yago, thank you som much for saying what most of us feel, amazing. You both are loved, thank you.

    Chris,

    You were so much more important than the outcome of one game. We love you!! Go Blue!!!!

  • harper2 says:

    Never been blown away while reading an open letter until I read this one. What a great, well written story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Whether or not Chris decides to attend the game or not, I would love to see this letter/your story recognized by the national media. It is very cool and extremely fascinating to read about a Fab Five story through the eyes of an outisder, but also insider. And props to you for that class you teach at Michigan where you still embrace a huge part of Michigan’s basketball history, even if it has been erased. I am sure if/when Chris reads your letter he will very much appreciate it. Well done sir!

  • Stephanie says:

    Professor Colas, like so many others who have commented, I love your letter. I was a sophomore in high school in 1993, and will never forget hearing a replay of the post game press conference in the car the day after the championship game. What seemed like every reporter asked Chris Webber a variation of the question, “Why did you call that timeout?” Without even seeing the look on his face, you could hear the raw emotion in his voice when he responded with variations of, “I don’t know.” I felt so sorry for him.

    Wouldn’t it be great for him to be reunied with the fans, the team, and his fellow Fab Five teammates at the first championship game in which Michigan has played since? I’m curious if you caught Jalen’s podcast with Bill Simmons yesterday (http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/57413/b-s-report-jalen-rose-on-chris-webber-and-the-fab-five-includes-video)? Let’s hope they’re all sitting together in the stands tonight!

    GO BLUE!

    Stephanie, UM ’99

    • yagocolas says:

      Thanks Stephanie and for taking the time to post your story as well. I’m sure that if they see this, all the guys will be warmed to hear testimonials of the deeply personal impact they had.

      I did catch the Jalen thing – lets hope. It would be wonderful. But I’m also really grateful to Jimmy, Ray, Jalen, and Juwan for making the effort to vocally support my students, the team, and the university by going to the game. They’re awesome!!

  • Perrin says:

    Terrific letter Prof. Colas! And I’m glad that this viral link introduced me to your blog, which is also great. I would be interested in seeing your syllabus as well, if it’s not too much trouble please email it to theperrinshow@hotmail.com. I was RC class of 2002, UMLS class of 2006, so I’ll be cheering and clapping along to the Victors tonight along with the whole Wolverine nation (and our crowded bandwagon) from my corner of Los Angeles.

    • yagocolas says:

      Thanks for your support! It means a lot to me. And I’m not sure I would’ve come up with the class had it not been for the openness of the RC. There should be a link to the syllabus on the bottom right hand side of the blog. If you can’t find it let me know. Go Blue!

  • Tom says:

    Dear Professor Colas. My son Caleb just called to tell me about your open letter to Mr. Weber. It was very moving to the two of us. Hopefully it will move Mr. Weber enough to go see his former teammates/friends, cheer for his team and feel everyone’s love. Then, hopefully Michigan wins the NCAA Championship and the celebration (and healing) begins. Cheers. Tom

  • Reno Ursal says:

    Professor Colas,

    Great letter. Although we lost tonight, all of this reminded me of why I love being Wolverines alum. The Fab Five era, undoubtedly, shaped the resolve and determination of a Wolverines generation. We were all heartbroken by 1993 and the ensuing scandal, but as more years go by, college basketball was forever changed.

    I’m now a basketball coach in the San Francisco Bay Area doing the best I can to teach my players basketball (and sports) is a metaphor for life lessons.

    I’m one alum who will always cherish Chris Webber and the Fab Five era. I’m forever a proud Wolverine! So much so, my AAU travel club is called the Wolverines!!!

    And BTW, I sure wish your class was offered when I went to U-M!!!

    Thanks for your open letter!

    Sincerely,

    Reno Ursal
    LSA, Class of 1995

  • Kdubs says:

    He showed up! AWESOME!

  • bob guilfoil says:

    Do they teach “Cultures of Basketball” at Harvard?

  • Kdubs says:

    By the way – I was a freshman at Western Michigan University when the Fab Five were freshman and rocked the world of college basketball. I have always been a wolverine fan since my dad listened to the football games on many fall days while raking the leaves. My bro and I would mimic Anthony Carter catching TDs in the corners of the end zone or at the edges of the field in true AC fashion. The Wolverines have electrified the field for many years. The Fab Five joined that rich history of spectacular sports entertainment.
    My roommates in college were from the Ann Arbor area, had season tix to Fball games and we all were just huge Maize and Blue fans.

    The greatest attribute those guys brought though and something the world connected to was that they were just having fun playing ball. I will never forget the laughter, smiles, pure joy they had ballin with brothas! I have played street ball for years (I am a tiny Albrecht type) and that is one of my favorite things to watch – park ball and all the fun those guys have playing the game! So often sports can become so serious, hateful, vicious and it was like the Fab Five just ignored it all and had a riot while obliterating teams on the court and creating crazy plays just like they had done growing up. The nation went wild and loved it! They reminded us all why we love to play the game and why we love to watch players like them play the game.
    In fact – look at the one time before they started this year’s finals game – they panned the camera over to the Fab Four sitting together in the audience and they are all smiling, laughing, having a good time, Jalen with his big puffy Michigan hat on. I love that stuff and love that they love life and the spirit of it all!

    They are unforgettable! The world knows Michigan because of those guys. I suspect tonight’s game will be unforgettable as well. Michigan electrifies! It’s just what we do!

    KW

  • harper2 says:

    I saw a tweet you wrote but I don’t have a twitter so I am replying back to it on here! The one about the letter having 46,000 views and not knowing what to write about, i have just a ‘few’ ideas….

    I would be very interested to read a piece from a Michigan insider about C-Webb, Michigan, and where to from here. How big of a deal is it that c-webb showed up to the championship game last night after all these years, and all of the ‘hurtful’ things Michigan did like taking the banners down? Does it mean anything? Show he’s moved on? Give us hope that this is the first step for him with Michigan, and more to come after the disassociation period ends? What about if him showing up meant anything to Michigan alumni/baord/president/athletic director? How do you think it is going to play out in May, who makes the first move C-Webb or MI? As someone who is part of Michigan, what do you really thing the school will decide? And to what extent do you think Webber will reveal details about the scandal in his upcoming book? Do you honestly ever see him apologizing? Why or why not?

    Sorry so many questions I know! I enjoy writing myself and would love to write an article with all of this since I have not seen much that has touched on these questions. I think somone like yourself who has emotional ties to the Fab Five, and already has the media sharing your writing, would probably know more and therfore could write a better story. I would definitely be the first to read it!

    • yagocolas says:

      Don’t be sorry. Thanks for the ideas. These are some very good questions and I will give them some thought.

      Though I can tell you already that what comes of that thought will have more to do with what I feel and think should happen than any prediction based on some kind of inside knowledge of the institution and its administration (which I really don’t have).

      I appreciate the encouragement.

  • Dan G Hacker says:

    Simply put…thank you. When I think of the most extreme examples of how an amateur athlete ever took responsibility for a mistake, it is hard to top Mr. Webber.

    Of calling the timeout his team didn’t have, he said over and over; “…and it probably cost our team the game.” He went out to meet the reporters when he didn’t have to, and “manned up”. I have never been prouder of a Michigan athlete off of the field/court than at that time.

    It is up to him what he does…but it should be up to us to let him know that he is loved.

  • yagocolas says:

    Reblogged this on Between the Lines and commented:

    The time has passed. But people still seem to be finding their way to this page. So I thought I’d add a postscript: for Chris, in part, but especially to the University of Michigan: we still have unfinished business with our past.

  • [...] wrote me a letter on Saturday morning.  It’s not the only one I got in response to my open letter to Chris Webber.  But this one, more than any other, stopped me absolutely cold in my tracks so simple, direct, [...]

  • Later she created the foundation for WIPE OUT Hunger raise $1, per person, per household, per year to help eliminate hunger throughout the world.

  • Bart Truchanowicz says:

    Sir, this is so well written. I was also watching the game and the dismay on his face at that moment ate right through me! They were truly one of the best group of guys to play the game. I too am very lucky to have had the chance to become friends with Jimmy King. He is awesome. I am a 37 yo Disabled Veteran of the US Army, and as my brothers have fought for this country, they fought on the floor for all the fans of the Maize and Blue! Thank you for this letter and I do hope that ALL of the Fab 5 know that they are truly LOVED by their fans. Again thank you and GO BLUE!

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