Sharpley: Series ending sad for Michigan kid, Notre Dame grad

Evan Sharpley
NDI Correspondent

“The Times They Are a-Changin’” — Bob Dylan

Tears, albeit hypothetical, drip onto the page.

As I scribble down these parting thoughts on the ending of the Notre Dame-Michigan series, it is done with a heavy heart. With no foreseeable renewal at this current juncture, it is a sad, sad day for college football. Football fans across the nation are losing a matchup between two of the most storied programs — rich in history, and masters of victory. Unfortunately, times are a changing as conference realignments adjust the college football landscape.

For me, this day is even sadder. See, I’m from Michigan. Before having an Irish transplant, I bled Maize and Blue. I don’t love Notre Dame any less, it is simply a fact of my life. I can assure you that I’m not the only Irish player that grew up rooting for another team, but perhaps that team wasn’t the Wolverines.

Watching the University of Michigan play while I was young caused me to fall in love with college football and fueled my flame to play at that level. The University of Notre Dame was the realization of those dreams and forged an unyielding love for the Fighting Irish.

I agree, the Michigan “rivalry” does not create the same animosity and hatred that USC does, but over the last 20 years, this series has provided us with many memorable moments. For me, and many of you, there are countless memories.

I have memories from my youth, from my adolescents, and from my adulthood all draped in winged helmets, gold helmets, blue and gold, and maize and blue. How can fans, on both sides forget the “Rocket” returning two consecutive Michigan kickoffs for touchdowns, Desmond Howard’s dramatic catch in the end zone on 4th-and-1, Reggie Brooks scoring Notre Dame’s first touchdown after being knocked out as he fell into the end zone, or a last-second field goal by Remy Hamilton enabling the Wolverines to escape with a victory.

More recent, Brady Quinn leading the Irish to a 17-10 win, Tate Forcier throwing a last-second touchdown to seal the victory for Michigan, Denard Robinson leading a last-second touchdown drive culminating a huge come-from-behind win, and Manti Te’o’s two interceptions in a turnover-marred Irish victory on their way towards the BCS National Championship Game.

As fans, we have seen players and witnessed games that have brought us jubilation and sorrow. Be grateful for all of the moments — good and bad — that have forged a deeper love for the Irish.

To see the series end is heartbreaking. Two storied programs that have “dated” on and off over the years are now calling it quits. Let’s hope, for the Irish and Wolverine fans the separation does not last long. Notre Dame and Michigan will never find a game that will replace the history, electricity and national relevance that them playing each other did. It is, and has been, a barometer for testing a team’s success on a yearly basis.

The atmosphere this Saturday will be electric, unable to explain unless you are there to experience it. If you are lucky enough to attend, do not take this for granted. As you see shimmers of golden helmets intertwined with maize and blue in the “House that Rockne Built,” take a moment to be thankful for what the Notre Dame-Michigan series has brought us.

Rest assured, we will once again be in for an exciting college football game. For one last time, the Fighting Irish from Notre Dame will suit up against the Wolverines from the University of Michigan. This year’s matchup will once again set the tone for the season. Go Irish!

In addition to his weekly column, former Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley previews upcoming games each Friday at 7:50 a.m. on WSBT’s JT in the Morning Show (960 AM and 96.1 FM). On Mondays, Sharpley co-hosts WSBT’s Notre Dame Football Final, which airs from 9-10 a.m. He’ll also be an occasional contributor to WSBT’s Weekday SportsBeat and Gameday SportsBeat radio programs. Sharpley owns and operates Sharpley Training in Mishawaka.

Former Notre Dame quarterback Evan Sharpley throws a pass against Michigan in 2007. (SBT File Photo)