It’s Saturday morning, Oct. 20. It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I wake up to face the day with a sense of great anticipation and hope juxtaposed to a high level of anxiety.
It is a day of two significant events that are about to take place, and I have no control over either of them. It is the day of the Michigan-Michigan State football game, and I am on edge about my Wolverines, especially when they play Sparty. Yet, I have a feeling that the Jim Harbaugh-era is finally kicking in at Michigan, and it is going to be a Maize and Blue day. I am so sure this is true that I resolve not to watch the game live because I always seem to jinx the Wolverines when I watch them on TV. So much for confidence.
It is also the day that local veterans William and Bobby Berger are about to be squired around Washington DC by my daughter Stephanie who lives in Richmond, Va. William is a World War II vet and son Bobby is a Vietnam veteran. The Gonzales Inquirer, along with a number of proud citizens of Gonzales County, helped pay their way to DC to see the WWII, Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials as a reward for their service. I am hoping for the best possible experience for these two men, but I have a high level of nervousness wondering if everything will go the way I planned their trip to Washington.
I get up, hit my knees, and immediately start praying. I say a prayer asking for a good day for the Bergers. Then I whisper a lot more prayers for Michigan to beat Michigan State. I have to have my priorities in order, you know?
I call my daughter to make sure everything is good on her end in Washington. She is on her way to the hotel to pick up Judge Berger and Bobby, and she is excited about meeting these two heroes and showing them around DC. She is the marketing and education director of the Museum of the American Civil War in Richmond, and this is what she does for a living. I feel better. The judge and his son will be in excellent hands.
It is nearing noon, and I am a nervous wreck. The Michigan game is on, and all my good luck charms are arrayed throughout my apartment. I am purposely not doing things I normally would do because I do not want to hex the Wolverines. My friend Gary Henderson calls me and asks: “Hey buddy, are you watching the game? I’ll buy you a beer and let’s watch the game.”
I recoil in horror. I can’t watch the game—the Wolverines will lose. I respond to Gary: “Uh, I’m grocery shopping and running some errands, maybe I’ll stop by on my way home.”
I get in my car and drive to the office. It’s more to kill time during the Michigan game, and I fiddle with some papers in my office. My phone beeps. It’s from Stephanie. She has sent me pictures of the judge and Bobby at the World War II Memorial. In one the judge is somber. In another he is grinning from ear-to-ear. There is another of both men standing by the Texas part of the memorial. And there is another of people coming up to the judge and thanking him for his service. I smile. Things are going great in DC. I am proud as a peacock.
I get up, and drive to HEB. On the way, I heard on the radio that Michigan was leading 7-0. My heart leaps with exhilaration. “Go Blue!” I yell. The person in the car next to me stares at me like I am a leper.
I buy my groceries, and Gary calls again. “Are you coming or what?” he asks. “Okay, I’ll be there in a few but I can’t stay long,” I respond. Again, I can’t jinx the Maize and Blue.
I go to the watering hole, and Gary is sitting there watching the Michigan game. They are still ahead 7-0, and they have the ball. Gary orders me a beer. In a matter of fifty seconds, Michigan fumbles inside their own 15-yard line. Two plays later, Michigan State scores to tie the game. “I’m a fricking jinx,” I scream. “I told you I can’t watch them play or they will lose.” I immediately walk out and go straight home to put my straight jacket on. Total time at the watering hole: 70 seconds.
It’s later in the day. My sister calls. “Are you watching the Michigan game,” she asked politely. “Heck no, I want them to win!” I yell into the phone. My sister is disgusted with me. She hangs up. I feel bad. But I still don’t turn on the TV.
I am back at my apartment, and now I’m pacing. Who’s winning the game? I wonder. I won’t cheat and peak. Stephanie sends more pictures. The Bergers have been to the Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. They are wearing big grins. They are on their way to Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I am so happy for them, and for a few seconds, I am overcome with emotion at how happy I am for those guys.
It’s getting late. It is a text from my sister (notice, no phone call). I know it’s the final score of the game. I hesitate to look at it. I’ll be crushed and miserable if they lost.
All it said was: Go Blue!
Victory! I google the score. Michigan 21, Michigan State 7. There is a God. There is joy in Ann Arbor. There is joy in Gonzales. I call my friend Philip Moore and we go smoke a victory cigar.
It’s now 11 p.m. Time to go to bed. Michigan has won and all is right with the world. The Bergers have had an incredible day and all went well on the trip this day. I turn on ESPN.
And there it is: the coup de grace!
Final score from West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue 49, Ohio State 20. God bless those cotton-picking Boilermakers. The cheaters from the worst state ever just got beat.
A perfect ending to a perfect day.