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Oklahoma family behind Michigan T-shirt flap prepares for a 'Hail to the Victors' welcome

COMMENTARY — Remember the kindergartner who an Oklahoma City school forced to turn his Michigan T-shirt inside out? An international uproar and a Michigan outpouring will carry Cooper Barton and his family to Ann Arbor Saturday, where a Big House welcome awaits.
by Jenni Carlson Published: September 12, 2012
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Of course, older brother, Nathan, had worn Michigan shirts to the very same school and never been told to turn them inside out.

The whole thing left the Bartons scratching their heads.

Now, though, they're shaking their heads in amazement. There has been an outpouring of Michigan support. A guy in New York sent a box of shirts. A gal in Michigan mailed a shirt to Cooper's school. A season-ticket holder called and offered his tickets to a game. The alumni association, which started a scholarship fund in honor of Cooper and Nathan, shipped a box stuffed with everything from Michigan pencils to Michigan backpacks to Michigan mini helmets signed by coach Brady Hoke.

“Can I go get mine?” Nathan asked when the helmets were mentioned.

“Me, too?” Cooper asked.

Given the nod, they raced up the stairs to their bedrooms and returned to the living room moments later with the helmets bearing the coach's Sharpie-scrawled signature.

“They think that's so cool,” Chris said.

Nothing was cooler, though, than Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon calling to invite the family to Saturday's game vs. Massachusetts. The school is handling the all of the costs, including the flight, the rental car, the hotel and the tickets.

Of course, the Bartons, who will have a chance to visit family in Michigan that they don't often see, are getting special tickets — seats in the luxury suites.

Who knows what else is in store for them? What they do know is that at some point during the game, they will head onto the field where they will be introduced to 109,000 of their newest friends.

“I'm not sure what these guys are going to think of all those people screaming for ‘em,” Chris said, nodding toward Nathan and Cooper. “They're getting pretty excited. They've been talking about it for the past two weeks.”

“We are going to have a great time,” Cooper exclaimed with the unbridled exuberance of a 5-year-old.

Chris and Shannon laughed and smiled. So did Nathan.

These are happy days at the white two-story house in Mesta Park. By the way, there is now a second maize and blue flag hanging on the porch.

Another gift from an adoring Wolverine public.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125 or at jcarlson@opubco.com. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.

by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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