Why Fab 5 at 25?

This is the text of my opening remarks for the Fab 5 @ 25 round table symposium.  The University video taped the event and will be making that available to the public, hopefully before too long.

screenshot-2016-10-10-06-44-48The impact of the Fab Five on basketball and our cultural landscape was immeasurable.  As we’ve just heard it was felt even by a young Hoosier attending a small liberal arts college who would grow up to become a quantitative political scientist and our Dean.  He was not alone, of course. Their superb and electrifying play, their exuberant and authentic self-expression, and their courageous outspokenness transformed not only college basketball, but, in some ways, all of sport, and sparked challenging and increasingly urgent conversations about race, money, and education in big time college sports.  But you know all that.  You know, too, that their legacy was left in limbo as a result of investigations uncovering the loans that one member of the team accepted.

We are here, as Dean Martin explained, to address these topics openly, in an academic setting, in keeping with the mission, and best traditions, of the great community of students and scholars that comprise the University of Michigan.  We have here an opportunity to lead by continuing and deepening the challenging and urgent conversations these players and their teammates helped amplify:  how can universities like Michigan preserve their educational mission and safeguard the well-being of their students in the context of the rapidly expanding commercialization of college sports? What sort of opportunities do college sports provide us for addressing and overcoming social inequalities and cultural stereotypes? What is the legacy of the Fab Five in Michigan’s own history, and what is the most appropriate way for the University to mark that legacy?

But, even as we take up these questions today, I know from experience that our event offers another, deeper opportunity for all of us.  I met Jimmy King in March of 2012, when he accepted my invitation to speak to students in my undergraduate Cultures of Basketball class.  He has come every time I’ve taught the course since then and has even played in the intra class 3 on 3 tournament the students organize at the end of each semester.  Now, I pride myself on being an effective teacher. But I know they feel that the hour and a half they spend with Jimmy is the unforgettable highlight of the semester and that the challenging and inspiring lessons he imparts will stay with them forever.

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I understand why they feel that way.  I feel that way too.  It’s because Jimmy is, among many other things, a superb teacher.  In fact, though I don’t know Ray as well, nor Jalen or Juwan at all, I believe that all four of these men are, and were when they were students here, superb teachers. In fact, I view them as one of the University great treasures: a trove of unique life experiences which they transform into accessible lessons. These are lessons not only about basketball, or college sports.  Not even only about race or class or exploitation.  They are deeper life lessons about joy, creativity, and integrity, about solidarity, trust, and loyalty and, perhaps above all, about freedom.  We should consider ourselves fortunate that we have here today something life doesn’t often provide: a second chance; a second chance not only to hear their voices, but to listen to them and so to learn what we may have missed when they first offered it 25 years ago. I for one, plan to make the most of it.

As the fellas used to say before stepping into the arena: let ‘em hang.

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5 for the Fab 5 @ 25

The Fab Five first set foot on Michigan’s campus 25 years ago.  The first group of freshman ever to start for a major college program, they led their teams to consecutive NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship games in 1992 and 1993, and sparked a cultural revolution in the sport and beyond.  In time, a scandal led to sanctions imposed by both the University and the NCAA.  The Final Four banners came down and were tucked away in the Bentley Library and a shroud of silence settled over the players and their era.

Until now.

The Fab Five are returning to campus on at 2 pm, October 8th to discuss their experiences in Hill Auditorium.

In honor this group of teenage black men whose messages of brotherhood, community, joy, and freedom has never been more resonant, here are 5 links to things I’ve written on the Fab 5 shared in celebration of the 25 year anniversary of their arrival at Michigan.

1.“Free the Banners, Free Discussion” – (2013)
Op-Ed piece I wrote for The Michigan Daily in which I called for the kind of public discussion we will finally be holding this Saturday.
2.“Uphold the Heart” – (2012)
A reflection on Jimmy King’s first visit to my Cultures of Basketball course, and on the impact of the Fab Five.
3.“Where is 1968?” – (2013)
On some of the lessons about race and social activism we can draw from the Fab Five. Never more urgent than now.
4.“Alphabet Soup” – (2013)
On hype, names, and numbers.
5. “_______________” – (2013)

Still today, the most viewed thing I’ve ever written, my open letter to Chris Webber asking him to join his former teammates in the stands at the 2013 NCAA Championship game to support Michigan, and five of my freshman students, in the game against Louisville.

I have mixed feelings about reposting this because I don’t feel exactly the same way I did when I first wrote and posted it three and a half years ago. Chris showed up at the game, but never responded to my letter and, more painfully, elected not to sit with his teammates.  Recently, I once again invited Chris to join his former teammates, and brothers, at a public event—Fab 5 @ 25—and once more he has not responded. So I thought about not reposting this, and even about taking it off my site—after all, the University came through by sponsoring, and paying for, this discussion. That means they would’ve bought Chris a plane ticket to get him to campus. If it he’d been willing to appear.

But so much about this conversation is about how we look at history, memory, and our own past.  And so much of what is painful in this derives from people trying to erase or ignore or deny the past.  I understand why this is tempting. But I think it is deadly.

There has been enough erasure and denial.

“An Open Letter to Chris Webber”

One Shining Moment: Yago’s A-Town Throwdown Edition

Probably anyone reading this knows by now that my Cultures of Basketball course ends with a student organized intra-class 3 on 3 tournament.  What started as an off-hand comment by a UM basketball player in 2011 has become, over the several years I’ve now taught the course, into an integral, culminating experience of the course in which students take responsibility for their own desires, incorporate an embodied, hands-on component to the academic study of basketball culture, and bond strongly with one another, softening a variety of barriers that can make it hard for them to recognize and respect each other as peers—not least the one separating varsity athletes from students who are not varsity athletes.

Over the years, the organizational process has evolved in the wake of the preceding year’s experiences. This year, students formed themselves into a number of committees charged with locking down the various aspects of the event (Jersey Committee, Logo Committee, Naming Committee, Program Committee, Venue Committee, Bracket Committee, Draft Day Committee and Documentation Committee).  Drawing upon their own specialized talents and the feedback I’d given them about what had worked well and not so well in previous tournaments, each committee executed its responsibilities superbly, often informed in doing so by some of the cultural artifacts and issues we’d been talking about in the course.  I want to share with you just one bit of special awesomeness that emerged from this process.

In 2011, the first year of the tournament, there were no committees and documentation was limited to some photos that my wife and one of the students who couldn’t play took with cell phones.  In 2012 we had a lot of wonderful still photos and the first-ever video documentation of the event: a couple of shaky clips taken by a student’s friend on the sideline.  Last year, a member of the first-ever Documentation Committee recorded a few, higher quality clips, to go along with superb photos.  This year, in addition to all these elements, one Documentation Committee member brought a GoPro to the tournament and she and some other students filmed the whole tournament.  I’m not sure who had the idea in the first place, but the student decided to edit the raw footage into our very own One Shining Moment montage and, even though the class over, and the grades in, she followed through and shared the results with us last night.

I’m so grateful to and proud of these students for coming together in the way that they did over the course of the semester.  I hope you enjoy the video as much as I think they enjoyed not only the course and the tournament, but the experiences of autonomy, responsibility, and friendship they thereby created for themselves.

That’s a Bad Prof Right There

A couple of clips from last night’s Yago’s A-Town Throwdown, the 2015 Cultures of Basketball intra-class 3 on 3 tournament, without further commentary.


Reason # 50 to Support @theallrounderco – Understanding the Donald Sterling Story

The Donald Sterling story that has filled sports pages and overflowed into mainstream news coverage and water cooler conversations over the last week provides reason #50 why we need the Allrounder and why you should support us today.

From the tactical to the cultural to the historical, from the political to the legal to the economic, Sterling’s case exemplifies perfectly the sort of complex breaking event in the world of sport that arises out of the intersection of a variety of forces in human society and that the Allrounder, with its pool of teachers and scholars from different disciplines will be poised to cover, as I explained to The Classical’s David Roth last week.

Leonard After Artest Just imagine, if the Allrounder already existed, you might have read Professor David J. Leonard (author of After Artest: The NBA’s Assault on Blackness) contextualizing Sterling’s taped remarks and backhistory within the broader framework of the league’s racial history.

Szymanski SoccernomicsBut what about the economics of the case?  Without a search or even a change of website, at the Allrounder you might see Professor Stefan Szymanski (sports economist, director of the Michigan Center for Sports Management at the University of Michigan and author of Soccernomics) break down the bewildering legal and economic issues and implications of the NBA’s response in ways we can all understand.

bass not the triumphOf course, we all know that sports aren’t only about the bottom line. What might the Clippers and other NBA players be thinking about their options?  How do these options fit into the history of Black athletes and political protest? Professor Amy Bass, historian and author of Not the Triumph but the Struggle the 1968 Olympics and the Making of the Black Athlete, would provide you with thoughtful reflections on these questions.

Sure, there have been, amidst the din of noisy jackassery that is the mainstream sports media, a handful of clarifying pieces by smart journalists. But they are scattered across the web and, besides, who helps you think critically about even the best journalism?

(Bad) Prof. and Allrounder editor Yago Colás teaching his Cultures of Basketball class at the University of Michigan in 2013.

(Bad) Prof. and Allrounder editor Yago Colás teaching his Cultures of Basketball class at the University of Michigan in 2013.

Your professors! Think back to when you were in school and some news event broke that touched directly on your professor’s area of expertise. How excellent was it to be able to ask her directly in class what she thought of what going on? Don’t believe me, then ask POLITICO, which just yesterday phoned yours truly, Allrounder editor Yago Colás, for his views on the Sterling affair.

That’s who we are at The Allrounder: your sports professors! And we will give you just what professors can give: an informed expert’s opinion on what you care about. But it’s even better because it will be more like a team-taught course by some of the most experienced, accomplished and accessible individuals teaching about the world of sports in all its many dimensions.

The Allrounder will give you this, but we can only do it if you first give to the Allrounder. Please give $5 or $10 or, if you can $25 or $50 today, right now. And then make sure you brag about it and tell all your friends and framily by clicking on the Facebook and Twitter links after you’ve donated. Send them e-mails too.

Jimmy Then and Now

Jimmy King, with Fab Five teammate Jalen Rose in 1991 (L) and (R) with Old Skool Ballerz teammate and Allrounder editor Yago Colas in 2014)

Or, if you’ve got some major sports fans among your loved ones, consider making them the gift of a sports fan’s lifetime: imagine the basketball fan in your life upon hearing that they will be playing in a 3 on 3 tournament alongside the legendary Jimmy King of Michigan’s famed Fab Five! You can make that happen for a slightly higher donation.

But whatever the amount, the important thing is for you to please give today and help us continue to move towards our goal of providing the best single stop source for intelligent, accessible writing on all the breaking news that you care about from the world of sport.

What is Hoops Culture Class For? Unleashing Humanity

In my research and teaching on the culture of sports, I’ve oriented the intellectual tools of my discipline toward helping my readers and students understand and reflect critically upon how the language and stories that prevail in the culture of sports have taken shape, how and why we consume and purvey them, and, above all, how we may empower ourselves to become, as Nietzsche put it, the poets of our lives; how, I mean, to take a more active and creative role in shaping the language and stories, including those pertaining to sport, that circulate around and through us.

“Cultures of Basketball,” which was my first effort in this regard, is an advanced undergraduate humanities course with a typical enrollment of around twenty five. Because demand for the course is high, and given the way registration operates at Michigan with athletes and more advanced students having priority in course selection, the course usually has a high percentage of seniors from a variety of disciplines and varsity athletes including members of the men’s varsity basketball team.

The Problem

Here’s what I see when I walk into Cultures of Basketball on the first day:  a certain number of “basketball players,” whose names I usually already know, and a certain number of “students” or “non-players,” whose names I don’t. I’m certainly not proud of this, but I think it’s worth reflecting upon. To begin with, it’s clear to me that I’m not alone. The students who aren’t basketball players (including many who are athletes in other sports) appear star-struck to varying degrees, somewhat disoriented by the flesh and blood presence of these young men who until now, as fans, they’ve primarily seen on a television screen or from the stands in the Crisler Center. The basketball players, meanwhile, tend to sit together, as do the athletes from other sports. But unlike those other athletes, the basketball players seem shy and almost suspicious, or at least cautious. Perhaps they are aware of their status in the eyes of other students, aware that they are—on this campus anyway—public figures, who must weigh their words and actions carefully. Perhaps they have internalized or are at least sensitive to the common public view that they are somehow not “real students.”

All in all, that first day feels tense to me, fraught with division and a kind of defensive, mutual wariness that strikes me as emblematic, if not symptomatic, of the strain that our model of intercollegiate athletics and the social values it expresses can place on education. For it’s not just a matter of a simple, superficial impression. Rather, undergirding that superficial impression, a number of other dichotomous categories are at work. I’m thinking, for example, of how those “students,” as fans of the players, are consumers in the entertainment industry and thus relatively passive, whereas the players, in that same industry, are producers and so relatively active. I’m thinking, too, of the presumption that the students at the University are primarily there to do something with their minds, and the basketball players to do something with their bodies. Finally, it’s difficult and probably undesirable, not to notice that the majority of the basketball players are African-American (and, moreover, that the majority of the African-Americans in the class are basketball players), and that the vast majority of the rest of the students are white.

The Conceptual Toolbox

In a lecture first delivered in 1909, when basketball was really taking off, the American philosopher William James warned against what he called “vicious intellectualism” or “the abuse of naming.” He defined this as “the treating of a name as excluding from the fact named what the name’s definition fails positively to include.” Offering an example of how it works, he said you might as well argue that “a person whom you have once called an ‘equestrian’ is thereby forever made unable to walk on his own feet.” James is describing how we turn partial impressions of things and people into confining pseudo-definitions. So, we might as well argue that a person whom we have once seen as a ‘non basketball player’ is thereby forever made unable to shoot a ball at a hoop. Or we might as well argue that a person whom we have once seen as a basketball player is thereby forever made unable to write an academic paper or formulate an argument in a class discussion.

I think James nicely captures the deforming impact of the way my students and I see at the start of class. We basically strip away from all the students all the capacities and potentials that are not positively included in the labels we’ve placed on them. I sometimes think of these names or labels as filtering lenses. And whatever change I need as a teacher to make in myself is a change I need to make also for them, one that entails getting my own deforming, reducing lenses off so that I can do all the other things I’m supposed to do as a humanities professor: get them to see that they have lenses too, get them to see where the lenses come from, get them to see the goodness that is obscured by those lenses, and then help them to cultivate and draw forth—through the layers of fear, the inhibition, the shyness—all those abilities, capacities, potentials, and desires that the lenses kept me (and to various degrees each of them) from seeing, knowing, and activating.

A kind of philosophical teammate of James, John Dewey (who, incidentally, was teaching philosophy at Michigan around the time that James Naismith was inventing basketball), argued for the need to come up with a better way of modeling how we know things. The problem, as he saw it, was with what he called—so aptly in this context—“the spectator notion of knowledge.” In that way of defining knowing, we would-be knowers imagine ourselves standing outside the world, passively observing the stuff we would like to know about; the way we might watch and analyze a basketball game on television. That stuff becomes a fixed object to us and we figure that by analyzing it deeply enough, perhaps by running it through some experiments to see how it behaves under different conditions, we will come to know it.

Let me return to my class: player versus student, producer versus consumer, active versus passive, bodies versus minds, black versus white: I think it’s fair to say that these make a good start on a list of troublesome dichotomies defining intercollegiate athletics; certainly, but perhaps not only, the revenue-generating sports.  At least, that’s how economist Roger Noll seemed to see it when he wrote that big time college athletics were a system whereby “poor, primarily black students are used to finance the educational and athletic activities of wealthy white students.” I see overcoming these dichotomies as they operate in all of us in the classroom as one of my primary educational responsibilities in the course.

To do so, I find useful Dewey’s description of the alternative he proposed to the spectator theory of knowledge: “the self becomes a knower . . . in virtue of a distinctive way of partaking in the course of events. The significant distinction is no longer between the knower and the world; it is between different ways of being in and of the movement of things.” In other words, Dewey proposed valuing knowledge as a hands-on process of getting mixed-up in the things we want to know about, and recognizing and reflecting upon the different ways we have of doing so. In that sense, the significant distinctions to be explored in Cultures of Basketball lie not between so-called players and so-called students, but among the two dozen or so different ways of being in and of the movement of the culture of basketball as it unfolds in real time before our eyes in our classroom.

Fixing the problem: the classroom

It seems obvious to me that facilitating this process of becoming knowers ought to begin with me. That means, first of all, sharing my initial perception with my class, as well as sharing why I believe that perception is something to struggle to overcome I’m talking about calling this out in an informal way: “I can’t help but notice that I’ve already divided you up mentally into ballers and fans. And I assume you see yourselves the same way from the way you’ve segregated yourselves in the classroom. I hope that through this course we can figure out why we’ve done that, what’s wrong with it, and how not to do it in the future.” In doing so, I’m trying to model for them the kind of openness and desire for integrity that I hope they’ll be able to achieve in their own class participation. Of course, I’m also beginning to draw attention to the fact that in this particular course, our own attitudes and experiences are inseparable from the ostensible subject matter of the class and that this is a good thing, not a problem.

Meanwhile, I try to create conditions in which all students themselves can practice fixing what might be wrong with their way of seeing. This entails some of the practices that most people probably think of as at least reasonably appropriate for a college classroom in the humanities. In other words, students read scholarly perspectives, listen to lectures, and participate in discussions about the history of the culture of basketball and the ways in which it has put lenses in front of our eyes that lead us to see what we see when we walk through the classroom door for the first time. They also select from a menu of individual and collaborative assignments, including both traditional papers and more unconventional tasks, to begin to practice doing for themselves what they, hopefully, are noticing that I am modeling for them: the effort to take the lenses off, exchange them for others, or at least polish them up a bit.

In this way, students, who are also fans, transform themselves into active producers, rather than merely passive consumers, of the culture of basketball and, in the process, perceive the celebrity athlete in their midst as a peer, a student, a human being, a vulnerable adolescent in transition like themselves. Meanwhile, those “basketball players” become the students they always have been, challenged to reflect intellectually on what they do and the broader social and cultural context in which they do it and to articulate their positions in discussion with classmates or in papers for me. Everyone learns to craft their own story and to respect the story of others. But, as indispensable and valuable as these activities are, they aren’t in my view the most important way that we in the class become active knowers.

Fixing the problem: the court

I’m pretty sure that probably nothing we do in Cultures of Basketball looks less academically rigorous or important than the intra-class 3 on 3 tournament we hold at the end of each semester. That’s right.  And yet if we take seriously Johan Huyzinga’s argument that play, which he saw as the substrate of all human civilization, is, essentially, freedom, you might begin to see why I feel that our little tournament embodies, culminates and, eventually, supersedes all the “traditional looking” academic work that has come before. So that I’ve come to believe also that perhaps nothing I do as a teacher does more towards realizing my educational goals as a humanities professor.

For the sake of brevity, let me quickly summarize how the tournament works: first, the idea comes from the students and is not a course requirement; second, the students organize the tournament entirely, forming themselves into committees in charge of creating teams and brackets, selecting nicknames, securing a venue, designing logos, printing jerseys, documenting the event, and creating and distributing awards; third, I play in the tournament; fourth, the UM basketball players and other, especially large elite athletes who volunteer, are distributed evenly among the 3 member teams; and finally, the tournament is played during our free time after the semester has ended.

The tournament takes what we’ve been doing in the classroom all semester and shows students that this same thing can happen on a basketball court, with our bodies and with fewer words. In that sense, it is, as I sometimes jokingly call it, the laboratory or workshop component of the course. But that’s not really right. It’s really just an extension of the classroom: we sit at desks, we read books, we write and talk with words, we set picks, we catch bounce passes, we shoot jumpers, we help on defense, and we talk with dunks. We think and act, we cooperate and compete. And then it expresses our overcoming of deficiencies in our perception, our thought, and our practice. It becomes a celebration of humanity, growth, connection, and friendship.

I’d like to conclude by sharing three brief anecdotes that I hope will convey what this experience can mean.

Fixing the problem: three stories

A couple of years ago, for the 2013 version of the tournament which the student naming committee had dubbed “CoB 2.0: Unleashed,” I walked into the Central Campus Recreation Building with my teammate, nicknamed “Jam” and also known as Jimmy King, member of the famed University of Michigan freshman class of 1991 known as the Fab Five. Jimmy, who had visited the class as a guest lecturer a few weeks before, shook his head and said something along the lines, of “Damn! I haven’t been in here like twenty years! We used to have some great games in here.”

Of course, the two teams Jimmy played on that reached the NCAA championship game have received from the University no official acknowledgement or recognition for their achievements. On the contrary, the banners remain tucked away, a reminder, former President Coleman said, of a shameful period in Michigan history. But walking on campus with Jimmy, its obvious to me that he is moved in complex ways by this visceral reminder of his college experience.

And official disregard notwithstanding, it’s also obvious that Jimmy and his teams still mean a great deal to people at the University. At our tournament, he was asked to sign countless autographs: by other students in the CCRB, by parents of my students who were attending the tournament, and even by CCRB staff members. He did so not only patiently but with enthusiasm, posing for pictures and engaging everyone in conversation. Here’s Jimmy signing one of I don’t know how many autographs he was asked to sign by current UM students, parents, staff members who recognized him instantly.

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Our team, Old Skool Ballers (Gil aka G-Baby Naamani, and fourth man and Cultures of Basketball alumnus Ron “The Professor” Beach joined Jimmy and me), made a solid run. We went into the semi-finals having won our first three games. In the semi’s we faced WTF Are You Ewing? also undefeated, consisting of Lauren Brandt, Mitch McGary, and Evan King. But we were stiff, tired and really our bodies just couldn’t keep it up.

Now, at a certain point in one of our games that year, Mitch McGary, at that time a freshman on the UM team whose breakout performance during the NCAA tournament put him in a position to make a decision about whether to turn pro or not during our last week of classes, inbounded the ball to his teammate Lauren Brandt who began the semester as a non-player in my eyes and whom I was guarding. Mitch, guarded by Jimmy, cut around Lauren, who dropped off a little bounce pass to him as he passed her. Jimmy followed Mitch, but was partially screened by Lauren. I remained rooted by age and infirmity to my spot on the floor, thus failing to provide help defense. Mitch saw that he’d gained a step on Jimmy along the baseline went under the basket and then up for a reverse dunk. Mitch, who had been idolized by his classmates, in turn idolized Jimmy King, proudly telling me later that Jimmy was following him on Twitter. Mitch, Lauren and their teammate, tennis player Evan King went on to win our tournament championship and the awards committee named Mitch Most Valuable Player.


But it wasn’t just Mitch’s time. One of his teammates, Lauren, also known as Sweet n LoLo, wrote me that she’s always loved basketball but for most of her life she’s been a spectator and when she does get to play it’s shooting games like horse or around the world. Here is Mitch placing the Championship medal around her neck:

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She told me:

I loved that I didn’t feel like I was letting anyone down in this tournament. I could shoot and miss and that was okay. I tried. We were in it together. The last game, Mitch told me I was “clutch”. That’s right! He also kept saying that it was the team and not him (which I am not so sure that is true…like at all, but he really made me at least feel like the three of us did it together).
After the tournament the first thing she did was call her dad, who called her Champ and Sweet n LoLo (her official nickname) for three days. That weekend, after the tournament was over, she went home and she and her dad went down to the park on the corner to shoot hoops.

At the end of the tournament, after the awards have been handed out, after everyone has friended each other on Facebook, we all pose for a class picture.

 

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I’m proud that when I look at that picture, all of us squeezed together, sweating and smiling, in our brightly colored jerseys with the tournament logo printed on the front, I really have to try hard to pick out the basketball players in the group. I just see “Speedy” and “Ratboy Genius,” “Wild Bill” and “Chicago,” “C-Love” and “Cage” and, well, you get the idea.

How the Fab Five Saved John's Life: A Reader's Letter

time

Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive.  ~ John Dewey (Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan, 1884-1894)

A man I’ve never met or heard of, a stranger, 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, and vivid was it in its declaration of why and how things like the Fab Five, their banners, and Michigan basketball matter.

They saved John Gorman’s life. Read more

Now what? Reflections on My Final Four

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Today is Tuesday. But it doesn’t feel like any Tuesday. I’ve been through something, though I’m not yet sure what it is. I’ve been through it with my wife and family and friends, with my students and colleagues, and — through this blog and social media — thousands of strangers. Read more

An Open Letter to Chris Webber: You Are Loved

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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. Read more

Alphabet Soup, or, Not "Fab," Not "Fresh," but Just "Five"

Alphabet-soup

When Jimmy King visited class last week, one of the things he advised the students was to treat negative publicity  “like alphabet soup.”  I won’t directly reproduce his salty metaphor, but the gist of it was that you take the negativity, digest it as fuel, eliminate the waste product, and move on.  He’s really, really, really good at that.  I don’t know how many times some outrageous, negative thing has been said about Jimmy or his teammates or about some of the current Michigan players that I’ve taught over the past two years, and I begin to blow my stack about it and Jimmy always comes back to calm me down with some version of “alphabet soup.  It’s not that I don’t understand it.  I do.  And if I were the target of the negativity I think I would find it easier to follow Jimmy’s advice.

But when my friends or my students are targeted by the negativity, I’m unable to tolerate it. Read more

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