I was more excited than usual for this past weekend’s football game. It wasn’t because I was waiting for a big win, and it wasn’t because Dartmouth is a terribly exciting team.
It was because junior tailback Michael Gratch was playing.
Any of you who showed up this weekend saw the Michael Gratch that ran for 141 yards and three touchdowns. What most Cornellians for about three hours on Saturday was a hated enemy trying to keep us from our rightful title.
Sitting up in the press box though, I saw a different Gratch.
I saw the Michael Gratch who taught me to wrestle when I switched to the wrestling team in eleventh grade. I saw the Michael Gratch who I sat with in Mr. Cordell’s AP Physics class as a high school senior. I saw the Michael Gratch who’s support probably put me over the top for Student Council Representative. And I saw the Michael Gratch who kicked my butt every day in Mario Kart.
As you’ve probably guessed, Gratch and I were friends and classmates back in high school. When you attend school here from Long Island, you are likely to know a bunch of people who both came here and went to other Ivy schools.
Your friends may be all over, doing important things at Harvard, running some group at Yale or running on the student assembly here.
When you’re from Texas, specifically a high school with a graduating class of only 69, you tend to keep tabs on where everyone went. I can still probably name where 95% of my fellow classmates went to college, and I can without any hesitation name the four people who ended up in the Ivy League from the good ol’ Country Day class of 1998.
Gratch is one, and probably the only one in college football right now. He was quite a talent in high school, both as a scholar and an athlete. He was fun to watch then, and he was fun to watch Saturday, (if you could, for a moment, suspend your realization that Cornell had to win the game). I visualized him in the green of Dartmouth actually back in the red and blue of my high school, catching the same passes, running through the same defenses, carrying people as he dragged the line forward another few yards.
He got his chance to run Saturday, and he took advantage of it. He had his best game ever, giving what I imagine what he would call his best performance since high school. I hope he’s given another chance to carry his team, as long as his team ends up on the short end of the stick against Cornell, as Dartmouth did this weekend.
When I spoke to him after the game, I realized of course that we were just people doing our jobs. I was a journalist, there to ask questions. He was a football player, standing before a hostile media in defeat. Yet, as he walked away from the table when the interview was over, he gave me a small smile and a salute, as if to say, “Thanks for being there to watch.”
I can’t wait to see him run next year. I’ll of course be in Hanover, N.H., covering the game, and watching him run in one of his last home games.
Perhaps he’ll do as well as he did Saturday, breaking through tackles like he did in high school.
As long as Cornell wins, he can do just that all he wants.
Archived article by Charles Persons