by Robert Haddad
The summer months, and for that matter most of winter and spring, are affectionately known on this site as "the off-season." And despite the valiant efforts of our non-revenue sports like baseball, softball, track and field etc...it will take a rejuvenation of our hoops team for that to change. So what do you do in the off-season? Undoubtedly this year has been different than most because of the change in coaching staff. The football team has clearly stayed in the news longer this off-season than in most. After the '09 class was announced in February and the spring game came and went, there were discussions on culture, family and organizational change as well as the pontifications of position starters most intriguingly at quarterback and running back.
And yet here we are in June, seemingly at the same place we would have been if we had finished 10-2 under Lloyd with a loss in the Rose Bowl. College football can be analyzed for only so long until the saturation starts to drown us. Naturally we push to the surface in an effort to grasp for air. We need some occasional breathing room from the game we love. Much the same as anything that demands the attention of tailgating and college football.
So we arrive at a historical distraction. And it doesn't involve donations or jerseys. It's simply an opportunity to honor one of the greatest athletes of this generation. Ken Griffey Jr is approaching a historic landmark this year. His next home run will give him 600 for his career. He has six on the year, in this is 20th season. At one point Nike suggested we "vote for Griffey" in 1996. An obvious indication of his popularity in the 90's. At that point he had finished his seventh season in the league and was widely regarded as the best player since Mays. In fact, he often made it into our baseball discussions when talking about the best player of our generation and the best player to ever play the game. By 1999 Hank Aaron had declared Junior as the front runner to break his esteemed career home run mark now held by Barry Bonds. A record that used to roll off the tongues of every mother, father and child in this country, 755. That same year as Aaron's proclamation, Junior was voted to the All-Cenutry team ahead of Bonds and Roberto Clemente (neither made the fan voted team). "The Kid" wasbaseball even in the midst of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's assault on the long standing single season record of 61 home runs in 1998.
The game might not light your fire anymore. It may never have. But its' records are the foundation of its' tradition much like the winged helmets (and not the "one" jersey) are the foundation of Michigan football. When Ken Griffey Jr hits his 600th there will be little celebration. I suspect because of the cloud of suspicion the game is still under and partly because Junior doesn't seek the attention some athletes demand. But when he hits 600, he will be one of the last to do so. Alex Rodriguez is on his way but the others on the list are closer to retirement than they are 600. And if you take into consideration the games he lost to injury, we could be talking about his 700th instead.
Our games change. Our teams change. Our opinions of both constantly change. And as we continue our transition to the new let us take a brief moment to celebrate our past by continuing to succeed in the present and the future.