When I first moved to the Upper Peninsula in 1973, it didn't take me long to realize two things:
How beautiful the peninsula was and how much sports meant to the U.P. in general and Superiorland in particular.
Neither has changed in the years since.
There's no question U.P. residents take their favorite teams and sports seriously. Just visit a fast-food restaurant or coffee/donut shop and there will be people talking about the game/meet the day before.
Northern Michigan University is planning to showcase some of the most outstanding athletes, coaches, teams and moments in U.P. sports history through a temporary Sports Legends exhibition at the Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center on campus this fall.
Directed by Daniel Truckey, director/curator of the Center, the ambitious project will not replace the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame, which has inducted 420 people since 1972,.
The exhibition will, however, enhance the region's sports history.
"We see this exhibition as focusing on the great contributions that Yoopers have made in athletics, both here in the region and beyond, and that it will contribute to a greater knowledge of the U.P.'s history," Truckey said before the first meeting of the project's advisory committee in December.
I was asked to be a member of the committee, along with several other people from across the peninsula with a history of sports involvement.
It's a privilege to be asked to help in some small way in the formation and direction the exhibition will take. It's also a daunting challenge.
How do you decide what goes into the four-month exhibit, which will be broad in its scope, but limited in its size.
What criteria do you use? Do you include only athletes and coaches born in the U.P., or perhaps include some who aren't native Yoopers but made a significant impact on sports in the region?
Former Westwood High School boys basketball coach Irv Dieterle comes to mind as just one non-native example. He posted an impressive 434-201 record with the Patriots.
In my nearly 39 years writing sports for The Mining Journal, I've seen thousands of athletes in action. How does one go about recommending a handful of the best for inclusion in the exhibit?
Kevin Tapani of Escanaba, the lone Yooper to win a World Series game, should be a lock for the exhibit. So should Laurium's legendary George Gipp, who may have put U.P. sports on the national map.
But what about Weldy Olson of Marquette, a member of silver and gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey teams?
Or the "Flying Bietila's" of Ishpeming/Iron Mountain who ruled ski jumping for years.
Should the 1975 Ishpeming High School team that stunned Hudson in the state Class C title game in football be showcased? Or how about the several state championships Crystal Falls has won in prep football?
NMU has won national titles in football (1975) and hockey (1990-91), but Lake Superior and Michigan Tech have also claimed national crowns. How do you pare the list?
Everyone who follows sports in the U.P. has their opinion(s) of the most impressive athletic performers or stories over the last 100 years. When the exhibit is opened, it will no doubt spawn debates over who or what didn't make the final cut.
But that's also a part of peninsula athletics. Passion is what fuels our sports landscape and keeps us all interested.
The exhibition is a tremendous undertaking. But if the Sports Legends committee through Truckey does a good job, it should be memorable.
Nominations for the exhibit may be submitted to Truckey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is email@example.com.