As he reviewed the divorce settlement his ex-wife's lawyer handed him earlier this year, Michael noticed an inequity he hadn't anticipated.
His ex-wife requested custody of their son and daughter for four Jewish holidays and half their Christmas vacation. The only Catholic holiday he'd intended to ask for in the custody agreement besides Christmas was Easter.
"I'm thinking to myself, 'This is highly unbalanced,'" said Michael, who requested only his first name be printed in this story to protect his kids. "I'm not a very religious person, so I tried to think of culturally some other things that are important to me that I wanted to make sure I share with my kids."
Two of the three days Michael requested to have 7-year-old Julia and 5-year-old Liam were St. Patrick's Day and Super Bowl Sunday, nothing too out of the ordinary. His third request, however, was one neither his attorney nor his wife's had ever encountered before.
Michael asked for Julia and Liam to be with him on the day of the NCAA men's basketball title game if Syracuse is one of the two teams playing. A lifelong fan who grew up in Syracuse but now lives in the Chicago suburbs, Michael passionately supports the Orange and hopes to pass that down to his children.
"Even though Syracuse has only won the title once and it may not happen for another 20 years, it's something that's really important to me," Michael said. "It's not a holiday exactly, but it is holy to me. Other people define themselves by their religion or race. Frankly, Syracuse sports, especially basketball, football and lacrosse, are a big part of my heritage."
Michael did not actually attend Syracuse, but he feels his connection to the school is deeper than many graduates because it was forged at an earlier age. While he was in grade school, he and his family would gather to watch Syracuse basketball games featuring the likes of Derrick Coleman, Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens and Rony Seikaly.
One of Michael's first sporting memories is a football game between Syracuse and Texas at the Carrier Dome in which he and his family had to sit with the visiting fans because those were the only seats left. Inebriated Texas fans spilled beer on Michael, which led to a memorable exchange between them and his dad.
"My dad and my uncle were about to punch these guys out," Michael said with a chuckle. "We happened to be seated a few rows behind the Texas band. When they finished playing, my old man turned around and shouted to these guys, 'You know your band is pretty good but your football team sucks.'"
Michael has tried to impart that same passion for Syracuse in his own kids even if they live 700 miles away from the university now. He dressed them in Syracuse gear soon after they were born and began watching Syracuse basketball and football games with them once they were old enough to appreciate it.
Since Syracuse has only one national title under Jim Boeheim, Michael considered asking for custody of his kids if the Orange make a Final Four or an Elite Eight, but he backed off when his ex-wife said he'd have to give up something else to get that concession. In the end, he's just happy that if Syracuse cuts down the nets on the first Monday in April, he'll get to share the moment with his kids.
"Neither attorney had ever seen anything like what I requested," Michael said. "It was completely foreign to them. My wife's attorney was a bit indignant, but eventually through negotiations it worked out. It was definitely something that was highly unusual to a divorce proceeding, but to me, sports is about celebrating with friends and family. That's why it was important to me."
(Thanks, Cuse Country)