I was born and raised in Cleveland, the son of an Ohio State alumnus. My parents brought me home from the hospital in an OSU sweatsuit. My first stuffed animal was Brutus Buckeye. My dad would lead Script Ohio around our living room on football Saturdays, and if I was really lucky, I was allowed to “dot the I.” In addition to my father, I had aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins who were former Buckeyes. I was such an OSU fan that the theme of my bar mitzvah party was Ohio State football.
It was destined from day one that I would spend my college years in Columbus, bleeding scarlet and gray.
Then something strange happened as I reached the end of high school—people started suggesting that I apply to the University of Michigan. They told me about the great academics, the beautiful campus, the Big House and the great social life. “Yeah right,” I thought about the possibility of spending four years at “that school up north.”
But friends, teachers, and school counselors pressed and pressed, telling me what a special place Michigan was, so I finally gave in and requested an application. It sat on my desk for some time, until my dad—of all people—convinced me to fill it out. Without ever seeing the school, despite its mere 180-mile distance from my house, I grudgingly agreed to apply, knowing in my heart that I would never, and could never, go there.
Upon being accepted into the University, I had mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety. However, I still held firm that I could never attend the rival of my beloved Buckeyes. The spring of 1998 rolled around, and I had yet to decide on a school. My parents suggested that I could not make an impartial decision without seeing U-M’s campus, so, reluctantly, I made arrangements to visit a friend and embarked on the 2 1/2-hour journey to Ann Arbor.
Little did I know what was in store for me. For anyone who has seen the Diag on a warm spring day, you’ll know how picturesque it can be. Students lying on the grass in the sun, their noses in books. Tables set up, offering information on one thing or protesting another. Kids avoiding stepping on the Block M in the middle. Frisbees flying, dogs barking, and those idiosyncratic Ann Arbor squirrels doing their thing. I was awestruck. I had seen probably 10 college campuses, and never had I felt as at home as I did when walking along State Street or checking email in Angell Hall.
Upon returning home the next day, I informed my parents that I would indeed be a Wolverine. My mom was thrilled; my dad, not so much. But they both respected my decision, and I sent in my deposit and housing information. Word of my decision quickly spread among my friends and family, and I was immediately branded a traitor and nicknamed “Benedict”—as in Arnold. My friends bound for Columbus swiftly began trash talking, but I was not to be deterred.
When I got to orientation a few months later and sang “The Victors” for the first time, I knew my transformation from Buckeye to Wolverine was complete. I would bleed Maize and Blue forever.
Many uncomfortable, and often hostile, November Saturdays have ensued, with the losing side of the Michigan-OSU game buying dinner, whether at Cottage Inn in Ann Arbor or Flying Pizza in Columbus. But all the awkward interaction and lost wagers could never dissuade me from this fact: I have never made a better decision in my life. The friends I made, the classes I took, and the experiences I had were, and are, worth every taunt. My dad, however, may disagree. He never wrote a tuition check to U-M in my four years. He always made my mom do it.
Loren Berger, ’02—who penned this remembrance in April 2002—works in commercial real estate finance in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three kids (all Michigan fans!).