Bo and Honor

When I was twelve years old, I fell in love with Michigan Football. I didn’t love Michigan football because of the program’s winning history, the amazing players, or even the winged helmets. Sure, those aspects associated with Michigan Football were awesome, but not what made Michigan special in my eyes. In a word, honor. The reason I loved Michigan Football is because of the principles of honor, leadership, and dedication that was implemented by coach Schembechler, and remains a special characteristic of the university today.

We discussed honor numerous times in class. Whether it be a psychological evaluation of Achilles’s motivation to host the Games for Patroclus, the Melians’ defending their homeland from the invading Athenians, or the Grasshopper accepting death as an inevitable facet of life, honor has been cherished quality of the human experience throughout history. Each of these works presents a refreshing perspective of honor. To the Melians, honor meant fighting for justice and the preservation of their civilization. In the eyes of Achilles, the participants of the games competed to honor the deceased as well as to entertain others with their amazing athletic abilities. To the Grasshopper, honor meant acceptance; it involved a mature understanding of life and one’s own purpose in it.

The same season I fell in love with Michigan Football, I read an autobiography of Bo Schembechler by John U. Bacon. My young mind was astounded by Bo’s leadership qualities. Small moments of inspiration and adversity reflected Bo’s genius. Bo helped a group of young men believe in something greater than themselves. He led them to believe in one another and in the human spirit. Bo also taught accountability. He taught his players that they needed to play for the team, and not for selfish reasons. “The team, the team, the team.” More importantly, Bo taught his players what the word “honor” truly meant. I can still remember Bo recounting a story about a particular practice squad player. Bo was attentive to every single player on the team, not just the starters. Bo watched this player trot onto the field: the first one on and last to leave every practice. Bo promote the player to the varsity squad because of his hard work and dedication. Although he was not the most talented player, Bo saw great potential in him because of his outstanding work ethic. This practice player knew how special it was to play, and made the most of the opportunity to be on the field. This player was honorable.

The University of Michigan Football team played to the best of its ability every Saturday because they could. They had the opportunity to be a part of a team: a community of like-minded individuals striving to achieve the same goal. Opportunity. Honoring the opportunity to live, to learn, and to play at the University of Michigan is what makes Michigan Football special.

Today, Bo’s words echo in my mind as I roam the halls. Opportunity remains the greatest freedom of modern society. Focusing your efforts, with the help of others, to achieve a goal while making society better is the greatest aspect of life. The beautiful life we live is short. We, as people, can choose how we spend the limited time we have. Some choose to live in order to fulfill selfish desires. Others live because of fear. They fear death and cling to life, paranoid by probability, staring at the clock as the minute hand slowly ticks. Bo made choices because they were honorable. He declined a larger salary when his contract was renewed because he only cared about teaching his players important life lessons. He used the game of football as a way to connect to people, and improve lives. Opportunity. How will you make the most of your opportunity to attend the University of Michigan?

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3 thoughts on “Bo and Honor

  1. What a great, relevant, and applicable definition of “honor!” There are multiple aspects that represent the “honor” affiliated with the Michigan football team- from loyal tail-gaiters, season ticket holders, devoted fans; both student and non-students, and especially the Michigan Marching Band! You nicely used Bo to describe what the word “honor” truly means, and using his “The team, the team, the team” quote was a perfect way to do so. Also in your description of Bo and “the team” I was reminded of the idea of “The Magic Circle.” Especially in your words, I got the feeling of the Big House being a magic circle where all else is forgotten, and the real world a disconnection from the play of the game.

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  2. I enjoyed the connection between the games of Patroclus, and modern day athletics. As a student athlete myself, I know that a majority of athletes that I have been around are selfish. They do not always display the honor that Bo preached to his athletes. Society has an expectation of student athletes to display honor. Though there are some athletes that needs coaching and guidance to show the right qualities. I think that this is important because a lot of athletes do not have gratitude for the opportunity that they have been given. They also do not realize that they are roll models for younger generations, especially in football.

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  3. Your connection to “honor” is great. Bo truly instilled in his players and coaches the importance of honor. He taught his players the importance of “the team” which is the theme of this years football team. Joining together and reaching a common goal is one of the greatest accomplishments in sports. It is more satisfying to win as a team than as an individual because you can share you’re achievement with the rest of your teammates.

    Recent “scandals” in college sports challenge the honor that society assumes college athletes to have. Many of these “scandals” have to do with football players signing autographs and charging for these autographs. This violates NCAA bylaws and tarnishes the honor of these athletes. Bo would not deal with these players because they are dishonorable and do not follow the “Michigan Way” that he set forth.

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