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Fab Five exploited again by ESPN/Paul Peterson

March 22, 2011
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette

Upon first review, the recent ESPN docudrama on Michigan's "Fab Five" drew my interest.

After all, the exploits of the group of five freshmen who created a stir in Ann Arbor in the early 1990s was a compelling story.

But as the two-hour-long show went on, I couldn't help but think that ESPN was once again exploiting a group of then-18-and 19-year-old kids for good ratings.

When you consider what the Fab Five ultimately accomplished at Michigan, you have to wonder if they deserved to have a special show made about them at all.

The story, which included input from Jalen Rose (a prominent member of the team) had its good moments.

It told of some of the team members' struggles to escape the ghettos of the inner city - no easy task at best.

And how the team marketed its trademark baggy uniform shorts and their own shoes was amusing.

But the bulk of the show centered too much on the antics of the team, which included often showing up outmatched opponents. All-American center Chris Webber and Rose best typified that trash-talking personna.

It's safe to say that Michigan team would have racked up technical fouls at an alarming rate in today's game, which frowns on such antics.

But back in those days, it was considered in vogue to showboat. And the trend-setting Fab Five did it better than anyone else. Coach Steve Fisher did little to discourage the practice.

Rose told of how most of his team held a true hatred for NCAA powerhouse Duke, drawing the instant conclusion that racism was the main reason for that feeling.

And while the Blue Devils did have a solid corps of white stars at the time, they also had black standouts like Grant Hill.

In the show, Rose said he and his teammates considered Hill and other black players on the Duke team to be "Uncle Toms."

That comment has aroused the most ire from the public, which thinks that sort of thinking should have disappeared by now.

Let's be honest. Racism - in one form or another - will be around as long as humans are around. Plain and simple.

But Hill, one of the classiest players ever to play the game, didn't deserve that labeling by Rose.

That fabled Michigan team never won a NCAA title, although they reached the Final Four twice. And they never did beat Duke, which won all three games the two teams played.

Within three years, Webber, Rose and Juwan Howard all went off to play in the NBA.

And the banners the team won were ultimately stripped away by the university to avoid NCAA penalties when it was determined an overzealous booster made illegal payments to players.

Less than 10 years later, Tom Izzo's Michigan State "Flintstones" showed how a championship team should act when they won the NCAA title.

Which again proves that substance will always win over style.



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