The date is January 2, 1998. #2 Nebraska is putting the finishing touches on drubbing Peyton Manning and his #3 Tennessee Volunteers in the Orange Bowl. Meanwhile, the night prior, #1 Michigan barely eked by #7 Washington State in the Rose Bowl on a questionable circumstance of timekeeping. Pollsters, unimpressed by Michigan's five-point victory, have publicly stated that if Nebraska excels in the title game, then the Huskers would be given the #1 spot.
One of the most concerned of the Michigan faithful is Glenn Edward Schembechler, or simply "Bo." Though his reign was one of the best in college football history--he's 10th on the list of winningest I-A coaches--Bo never won a title with the Wolverines during his 20-year tenure at Michigan. Now, 8 years after his retirement, here his team has come so, so close to glory.
Bo sits in front of the television alone, drunk with fear and bourbon, and he makes one very critical error. This man of high personal integrity yells aloud, "Anything so these kids can win the title, damn it all! Anything!"
Naught but a few seconds later, the room is filled with wisps of smoke, and a doddering middle-aged man.
"What in the hell is going on?!" Bo asks. "Sorcery! The damnable black magicks!"
"Hold on! It's just me, the Coop. Listen, Bo. I can make sure your boys win the title."
"Like hell, John. You know some voters?"
"I can change some minds, Bo. This title can be yours... but it will cost you."
Bo laughs. "Okay, John. You got it. You deliver us the title, and you can take whatever you want."
Cooper's face twists into a wry grin. "Anything else, Bo?"
Bo laughs again. "Sure, Santa. Michigan never loses again."
"I can't do that."
"Sure you can. Just schedule us 12 times a year. Look. I'll take 10 wins a year and no major scandals."
"So it shall be," the Coop hisses. "Caveat venditor, Bo."
"Hava Nagila, you weird old bastard." Bo gulps the rest of his bourbon, sees Cooper out the door, and passes out on the couch.
The next morning, Bo is enjoying breakfast with his wife, and the newspapers are lauding Michigan for all but securing the top ranking for holding serve against Washington State.
"Hon, wasn't everyone saying Nebraska was going to pass Michigan last night?" Bo asks.
"Don't be silly," Cathy says. "Everyone knows we won the title when we beat Washington State."
Fast forward to 2006. Bo has lived the past ten years in comfort, aging as gracefully as one can at such an age. He has no recollection of what he had for dinner a month ago, much less the encounter in his living room late that Wednesday night. He certainly sees no reason to be concerned about the Wolverines' consistent level of success on the field; indeed, he is hailed on a near-daily basis as the patriarch of the Michigan football family.
The day before his Wolverines fight Ohio State for a spot in the national title game, his heart gives out (as old men's hearts so often do), and he dies a happy, loved man.
Once in heaven, he is stopped at the gates by St. Peter. Cooper stands by Peter's side, arms crossed triumphantly.
"I'm sorry, Bo," St. Peter says, tears in his eyes. "It appears we have a problem."
Stay tuned for part 2, coming later this week.