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April 22, 2019 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily

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2B — April 22, 2019
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com


very email I’ve ever sent
to the sports staff has
ended with some varia-
tion of “I love
To some,
that probably
seems like
an unpro-
overuse of
the term “I
love you.”
Under other
stances, I might agree. But I
don’t agree here, because: a)
it’s absurd for anyone to limit
their allotted number of “I love
yous” in this lifetime, especial-
ly if you really, truly mean it,
and b) I really, truly meant it.
My “I love yous” were never
included on the basis of say-
ing it just to say it. They were
included because I meant it,
from the bottom of my heart,
every single time.
I have so much love for The
Daily, for the sports staff and
for everyone who has ever con-
tributed in any capacity to this
institution. It’s kind of hard to
explain why, because to a lot
of people, this is probably just
a student newspaper. It’s just
like any other organization
on this campus: It’s a creative
outlet, it’s an extracurricular,
it adds a little spice to students’
resumes, something fun to talk
about in interviews.
Not for me.
For me, The Daily is so, so
much more. For being a student
journalist, it’s a little ridiculous
that I’m sitting here struggling
to string together coherent sen-
tences that accurately convey
The Daily’s importance to me.
It should be easy to explain,
but it’s not. The only way to
explain it, I think, is to explain
why The Daily is a large part of
the reason I’m graduating from
Michigan in two weeks.
In high school, my plan was

commmunity college. I applied
to Michigan on a whim, and
only decided to come here after
the love of my life (financial
aid) came through. But when I
first got here, I realized I knew
no one, and I was as academi-
cally ill-prepared as humanly
I quite literally hated it.
Everything about Michigan
was different from my little
village back home — my econ
class was bigger than my high
school graduating class, by a
lot. I knew maybe three people?
The lowest-level math class you
could take was pre-calculus,
which was still two levels too
high for me. I failed two of
those exams in a row, and nei-
ther of my parents had gone to
college, so I felt like I had no
one to talk to about it.
And, to top it all off, I got
sunburnt at every single god-
damn football game.
I was ready to transfer. I
was going to go anywhere else.
Michigan was not my home. I
hadn’t even planned on going
anywhere other than commu-
nity college in the first place. I
did not sign up for this.
Instead of transferring,
though, I signed up for The
Daily. It was
kind of a last-
ditch effort
to stay at
Michigan, and
I did techni-
cally only join
because I was
Gilmore Girls
at the time and
Rory wrote
for her school
paper, but that’s not important.
Because when Ted and Kevin
started offering to help me
with my math homework, and
when Avi offered to meet me
at South Quad for lunch before
volleyball, and when Kelly gave
me every piece of advice she
had, I realized that there was

a reason for me to stay on cam-
pus and give it another chance.
My rocky start wasn’t at all
indicative of the life I’d have
at Michigan, and that chance
I took on staying has given me
the best four years of my life. I
flew with the hockey team to
Madison and State College, and
I drove to Ohio State my senior
year to cover a football game
with four amazing friends. We
went to the Peach Bowl last
December where we met Mel,
and if you haven’t met Mel
(which you probably haven’t),
just know he makes mean
peach booze slushie.
Joining The Daily carried me
through Michigan. It taught me
that going out of my comfort
zone and attending a four-
year university had been hard,
but exactly what I needed to
grow as a person. It gave me
the chance to start collecting
coffee mugs at every school I
went to, whether that was to
cover a sport or for some other
random, unimportant reason,
in hopes that my future kids
will grow up and see these
mugs and not think twice about
going to college.
(I don’t have an Ohio State
mug, but that’s not my fault. I
tried to buy one
at both a hockey
and football
game. Their
stores only car-
ried fake buck-
eyes and foam
The Daily
gave me a home
in a place where
I felt like I
didn’t have one,
and now I can’t imagine hav-
ing gone anywhere else. That’s
why I have an absurd amount
of love for these people, and
why I don’t care that ending
every email with “I love you”
was probably unnecessary and
What I do care about is that

everyone on this staff — every
freshman, every senior, every
junior and every sophomore —
knows that they are a part of
one of the best experiences on
this campus.
At this point, it’s important
to note that I tried to write
this column a million times
and couldn’t figure out what I
wanted to say. A couple nights
ago, I asked a former MSE how
to best approach this column,
and he said to write it for your-
self — not for anyone else.
I kept thinking about what I
wanted to say. What I needed,
not what anyone else needed.
All I could think of, though,
was how much I loved every-
one, how grateful I am that I
got to be a part of something so
special for these four years.
So, really, this column is just
a 1,000-word extension of my
senior goodbye from back in
December. Oops.
In reality, that’s probably
because I wasn’t really ready
to say goodbye back then. I
couldn’t write that goodbye
in its entirety because saying
goodbye meant I was done here

at Michigan, and I wasn’t ready
to be done.
But, I think I am now. So, let
me finish by wrapping up a few
things I left unsaid:
Megan and Lauren, thanks
for putting up with me (and
The Daily). I can’t believe we
made it through four years
together even though we went
in blind freshman year. I’m
happy none of
our fights over
plastic bags
and dishes ever
had serious
Mrs. John-
son and Mrs.
Jarrad, for
calling Michi-
gan’s office of
financial aid
every day after I got accepted
to find a way to get me here.
Thanks, Christopher Loben-
herz, for picking up the phone
one of those days and helping
an unaccompanied homeless
youth get to college.
Turns out, I don’t have any
big-picture theme or advice to

give, mostly because I’m 22 and
really don’t need that kind of
liability on my hands. But I do
want to say thank you, and not
just to The Daily. Thank you if
you read a story, if you were a
professor who went out of your
way to help me, if you were a
GSI who didn’t fail me in pre-
calculus even if you probably
should have.
Thank you all
for being here,
for being a part
of this commu-
nity, for reading
this incoherent
goodbye col-
umn. Thank you,
everyone, for
doing whatever
it is that you did
to help me get to
where I am today.
I love you.

Laney can be reached on

Twitter @laneybyler or by email

at dbyler@umich.edu. She wants

to thank you (obviously) for

reading this incomprehensible and

ridiculously emotional last column.

You’re all rockstars. She loves you.

“I love you”


Time to turn the lights out

fter a basketball game
is finished, and the fans
have left, some media
members prefer to work in the
media room.
I always
try to go back
to the press
box, partially
because I
work better
by myself,
but mostly
because there
is nothing
like an empty
Where there was deafening
noise and heart-stopping action
mere hours earlier, now there is
It helps my creativity for
working and fuels my nostalgia
when I’m done.
Over the last four years, from
hockey to football, I’ve been
lucky enough to walk around
Joe Louis Arena, the Dean
Dome, Mackey Arena, Madison
Square Garden, the Alamodome,
Mercedes-Benz Stadium and
yes, Michigan Stadium. All
empty. All magnificent.
In the basketball arenas,
I think of my dad, Mike. He
taught me how to shoot a jump-
shot and drove me all around
hell and back for tournaments
and games over the years, shar-
ing stories and advice like only a
dad can do.
In the football stadiums, I
think of my mom, Martha, who
I remember yelling at the televi-
sion on fall Saturdays and tear-
ing up at the Michigan marching
band during post-game perfor-
mances when we came to games
in Ann Arbor years ago. She has
always been there for me, in the
stands for the easy times and in
the trenches for the hard ones.
I look around these stadiums
and think of my parents, the
role they’ve played in getting
me here and how much I wish I
could show them these experi-
ences in person.
I liked to sit for a while by
myself after running produc-
tions at The Daily last year, too.
The posters around the room

from past Managing Editors are
a little like jerseys hung in raf-
ters. I think of myself here, and
how I’ve somehow found a place
in the history of this 128-year-
old newspaper.
Both experiences settle me
down and give me the slightest
sense of imposter syndrome.
They are my two first thoughts
when I think of my “happy
The difference is that, if all
goes well, more stadiums will
be in my future. A silent, empty
Stanford Lipsey Student Pub-
lications Building at 2:00 a.m.
will not.
From a young age, I would
wake up early in the morning
to watch SportsCenter. When
it ended, I would watch the
next episode, which was just an
exact repeat of the one I had just
In those days, sports were
synonymous with Michigan
sports to me, and I never really
had a choice.
My grandpa — Gumpa, as his
grandkids called him — attend-
ed Michigan, and from there, I
think my fate was preordained.
So I grew up with maize and
blue everything. In Sunday
School as a child, I colored a
picture of Jesus Christ maize
and blue.
I used to play catch with
Gumpa in my grandparents’
living room with a little, blue,
plastic football for hours. I’d say
I was Marquise Walker (the real
ones will remember) or Braylon
Edwards or some other Wolver-
ines receiver, as I dove into their
couches making one-handed
I always thought I would be
a Michigan athlete one day. Of
course, that dream was dashed,
because I am not close to
D-1-caliber at anything, though
I do hold my own on the IM
Time passed, and it eventu-
ally came time to apply for col-
lege. I thought for a second that
I might want to go somewhere
else. I knew sports journalism
was my interest and that Michi-

gan didn’t have a journalism
But when I actually got
accepted here, I don’t even think
I had to tell my parents where
I wanted to go. They probably
knew I’d end up in Ann Arbor
before I did.
The sports journalism aspect
took care of itself, too.
At Festifall my freshman
year, I was actually looking for
the WCBN table — I thought
I wanted to do radio or televi-
sion. But I stumbled across The
Daily’s table, where then-MSE
Max Cohen was standing.
He asked me if he could be
honest with me, and his pitch
was something along the lines
of, “We’re the best fucking stu-
dent newspaper in the country,
and we’ll get you a job.”
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,
I was sold, and the rest is his-
Gumpa passed when I was
nine. I’d give anything to tell
him about the last four years.
I remember when my Dad
was laid off. He is a press opera-
tor, and I was too
young to have it
explained to me
fully, but he spent
time at home for a
while. Mom is an
elementary school
teacher, and we
got by.
I also remem-
ber taking a
drive one day.
My parents, my
two sisters — Katie and Mary
— and I packed into our car and
drove about five minutes away
from home, pulling down a long
driveway into the woods. At the
end of it was a small house. We
were moving here, away from
my childhood home, to this air-
condition-less, fresh-water-less
I know I didn’t take that
change well, and I imagine my
reaction didn’t make things easy
on my parents. I realize now
that the move was partially for
Mom and Dad have always

told us kids not to worry about
the costs of things, because we’ll
make it work.
When I wanted to play AAU
basketball, they figured out a
way to pay for it. When Katie
decided on Western Michigan,
and I decided on Michigan, they
figured out a way to pay for it.
When Mary gets into Harvard
or Oxford or something, they’ll
figure out a way to pay for it.
When I got my first internship
in Colorado Springs, my Dad
got in my shitty, old car with
me and drove through the night
to Colorado to make sure I got
there safe.
I don’t write any of this
because I think I’m special, or
for pity’s sake. I recognize there
are thousands of kids and par-
ents who have to grind to make
ends meet.
I tell these stories because I
am so, incredibly lucky to have
the parents I do. They deserve
so much credit. Truthfully, they
deserve so much more than that.
No matter how many times
I’ve been down to my last dol-
lar, scrambling to pay rent, they
kept a promise.
We’ve always
made it work.
So I’ll repeat
what I said
in my Senior
Mom and
Dad, one day I
swear it will all
be worth it.
I’ve said a
fair number of goodbyes in my
life, and I’ve sucked at all of
The last football game I
attended as a fan was Michi-
gan’s loss to Ohio State in 2017.
My friends went home before
me, and when the final whistle
blew, I made my way to the
50-yard line. In the shadow of
the press box, I watched the
marching band’s postgame show
and cried.
At the end of my MSE tenure,
I went home for a family wed-
ding. I was tired. A year of this
job takes something out of you. I

had a long talk with Mom about
school and The Daily and my
own mental health, and I cried
then too. I wasn’t ready to be
done with The Daily, and I’m
still not. I’m certainly not ready
to be done with Michigan.
And that’s why this goodbye
is especially painful.
Because, even if those other
ones were “lasts” for specific
situations, I still had time left.
For this one, I have two
weeks, and then nothing will
ever be the same as it was these
last four years.
When I would sit at The Daily
on those late nights, I would
leave and walk through the
silent campus. The walk was
better before The Union was
under construction, but it’s still
pretty good.
Maybe after the stories I’ve
already told, it’s a surprise I
didn’t cry. Instead, I would well
up with pride.
For all the hundreds of thou-
sands of people who walked this
campus, I am one of the relative
few who was Managing Sports
Editor of The Michigan Daily.

Years from now, I will be able
to walk back into 420 Maynard
St. and find my bylines from my
time here.
I’ll remember The Daily for
being the thing that got me
through the hard times. When
things were at their worst, I
never once dreaded walking
into that building. Turning the
corner from the stairs, entering
the newsroom and seeing the
sports staff at the first desk on
the right washed away whatever
else was going on in my life. For
a year, that staff — the best god-
damn student sports section in
the world — was mine, and that
means the world to me.
It was the biggest factor in
the best four years of my life.
But at some point, the sta-
dium lights go out, and you have
to leave.
It is the worst part.

Persak can be reached at

mdpers@umich.edu or on Twitter

@MikeDPersak. He would like to

thank anyone who has read any

of his articles, no matter how

ridiculous they may have been.


Senior Mike Persak promises his parents that their sacrifices will be worth it.

It was the
biggest factor
in the best four
years of my life.

Senior Laney Byler bought a coffee mug at every school she’s ever visited, except Ohio State because she couldn’t find one.

Joining The
Daily carried
me through

But I do want to
say thank you,
and not just to
The Daily.

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