Behind The Scenes

From Ann Arbor to Bristol, a recent Michigan grad cheers from afar for her beloved Wolverines

Ariel Bond is a production assistant for ESPN Communications’ Multimedia Team. Here, she shares what it’s been like to enter the “real world” just as her alma mater reaches the Final Four.

547.

That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Ann Arbor, Mich. It’s the number of air miles that separate me from the town where I used to study at the University of Michigan and cover the Wolverines as a photographer for the school paper. I started shooting on my 19th birthday in January 2009.

I know that number from my boarding pass from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. to Detroit Metro Airport. In March, I was returning to the Michigan campus for the first time since starting at ESPN a month earlier to watch the team play against Michigan State. Lucky for me, they didn’t burn a couch this night.

It was a strange experience, walking into Crisler Arena no longer a Michigan resident or a U-M student. I got to go as fan.

Covering Michigan sports for the Michigan Daily, I never got to wear maize and blue. It was a small price to pay for a seat on the baseline and a lens that took me into the heat of the action.

Almost a year removed from my graduation in 2012, I now watch the Wolverines play from my couch in West Hartford, Conn., a far cry from the seat I used to have.

Saturday, the South Region champion Wolverines are in Atlanta to play East Region king Syracuse in an NCAA Men’s Final Four national semifinal. They are two victories shy of a national championship.

So, what’s that like for me?

If I’m being totally honest, I’m a little bitter.

When I covered the Wolverines, our basketball team never made it past the first round of the NCAA tournament.

One of the first photos that gave me recognition as a photographer was of Michigan basketball coaches John Beilein and Bacari Alexander, appearing exasperated. It hangs in my ESPN cube today with the Michigan Daily headline, “Rock Bottom.”

Now, almost as soon as I leave campus, Michigan advances to the Final Four for the first time in 20 years!

To the current Daily photogs, I hope you know how lucky you are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as ecstatic as the next Michigan fan, but I do miss my old seat under the basket. Life after U-M is a little different now.

In a state where UConn is god’s gift to basketball, Michigan fans are rare. I was one of two people in our Communications department Tournament Challenge who picked Michigan for the Final Four, and the only person to pick Michigan as the national champion.

Did I mention my bracket is in first place?

So, Michigan’s moving on to play Syracuse and I will loyally watch the game from my lonely Maize and Blue island that’s now magically grown to include some UConn fans.

I’m even talking trash with a colleague who is a Syracuse grad, but my spirits are still up.

After all, where else could I work and say “Go Blue” to [ESPN basketball analyst and former Michigan Fab Five star] Jalen Rose in the hallway?

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