The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Seeing that it is "Wife Day" around these parts, there's no boxscore to pore over this weekend. So instead, in the spirit of Wife Day, I'll take this opportunity to share with you my badminton story. You might ask, what does badminton have to do with Wife Day? Read on, and you'll find out.
Our story begins, as most of my stories do, with me in the 6th grade. My gym class would spend a week or two on a sport and then move on to the next sport. (The one exception was the week we learned how to square dance. Promenade, two-by-two, promenade, that's what you do.) One week we showed up for gym class and the volleyball nets were set up, but instead of volleyball, we were going to learn how to play badminton.
I have some sympathy for the average grade school gym teacher, because it must be difficult to learn the rules of so many different sports, and maintain order with 25 kids screaming and yelling. However, I'm still a little upset with my 6th grade gym coach. He passed out the rackets, divided the class in half, and put one half on one side of the net and the other half on the other side. He tossed someone a birdie and said, "hit it." You can imagine the chaos that ensued as a dozen 6th graders on one side of the net tried to hit a single birdie. No more than five minutes into the class, I was hit squarely in the mouth with a racket. Three teeth went flying. I felt for my teeth with my tongue and realized nothing was there. Another classmate said, "Dude, you're bleeding" or something to that effect. I took off towards the bathroom to get some paper towel to stop the bleeding and rinse out my mouth.
While I was gone, the gym coach had the rest of the class scour the floor for my teeth, and had someone call my mom. She came to pick me up, and the gym teacher handed her a baggy with my teeth. We rushed to the dentist and told him what happened. My mom gave him the bag of teeth. He looked at it and laughed. Then he said, "What am I supposed to do with these?"
Six months of almost weekly dental visits followed, full of drilling, root canals, temporary crowns, and finally permanent crowns. Except they weren't really permanent because your mouth keeps growing as you get older. When I turned 18, I had to go back and have the whole thing done all over again. The only benefit out of this whole ordeal was I got out of playing the clarinet, which I dreaded.
As a result of this, I swore off badminton forever. At least I thought so.
Twelve years ago, I married a lovely lady from Taiwan, whom I met while we were grad students at UofM. Badminton is kind of a big sport in Taiwan. You might remember a little Olympic controversy with the Chinese badminton team. Anyway, my wife played a little badminton when she was younger, and wanted to get back into it. I said no way and explained to her how I was scarred for life from my dental ordeal. I don't ride rollercoasters and I don't play badminton. So she went to the local badminton club without me. Shortly after that, a friend stepped on her foot while we were playing volleyball, broke it, and sidelined her for a few months. The foot healed, and she went back, without me. Then she tore a calf muscle. Six months in a boot sidelined her again. Then she got pregnant. No more badminton. I tried to tell her that the universe did not intend for us to play badminton, but she wouldn't listen.
Little did I know at the time, but it seems I married the Earl Woods of Badminton Tiger Moms. When the boy turned five, she signed him up for badminton lessons. I told her, you take him, I don't want anything to do with badminton. And for the most part, I stayed away from the club. I did take him to the occasional practice, but that was it.
Then, nearly two years ago, my wife said to me, "ST3, I signed you up for a private lesson with the coach." I said, "You did what?!? Well, you signed up for the lesson, you take it." But I could see how important it was to her, so after a few days of her encouraging me to go, I reluctantly agreed to give it a try. I later learned that the reason she signed me up is that she was worried I had become a permanent couch potato and was going to stroke out at 50 if I didn't get some sort of physical activity in my life.
I went to the lesson and I wasn't good, but I wasn't terrible either. I had played some tennis growing up, and there are some things that carry over. The main thing I realized was that it was a fantastic cardio workout. I find 45 minutes of jogging or running on a treadmill to be incredibly boring. 45 minutes of badminton drills is over before you know it. It's also really fun and leaves you wanting to play more.
I had to admit to the wife that I enjoyed it, so she signed me up for two lessons a week, because you get a discount that way, and wifey is always looking for a discount. Soon enough, two lessons a week wasn't enough. So I started going with my son to his "team training" lessons. This is a group lesson with 10-20 beginners, ranging in age from 6 to about 16. Before I knew it, the coach had me out there hitting with the kids. After 6 months of that, he told me to come practice with the high school team. So now I've got my two lessons, occasional practices with my son, and two more with the high school kids. I'm up to 7 hours a week. In fact, this morning while wifey was taking the boy to baseball practice, I was over at the club sweating through a three hour badminton practice. And I get to wake up at 7AM tomorrow morning for another lesson...
Future Blue Originals: Chris Fox
Apologies to Ace for stealing his title and not emailing him this directly but I thought this would be worthy of a diary. Last night I had a chance to watch OT/DT Chris Fox and his Ponderosa Mustangs travel to Vista Ridge High School.
Both teams came into the game undefeated at 4-0. According to MaxPreps Ponderosa is ranked 29th in the state while Vista Ridge is ranked 14th. Both teams are in the 2nd highest division, so this is probably the best competition Ponderosa will really face until the playoffs. Chris Fox is a beast he was easily the tallest person on the field, standing head and shoulders above everyone. He is listed at 6’6” and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were taller than that.
My only expertise in football is that I have watched it all 37 years of my life. The one play I had in Freshman ball was a false start. Offensive Line is very difficult to predict even for the professionals, much less a lay person like me. I will give you my observations. In addition since this isn’t the biggest school, the stands only went up 10-15 rows in the 1st and 4th quarters I had a lousy angle to watch him play on offense.
Skip ‘The Game’ and just look at ‘The Stats’ and ‘The Observations’
First Quarter: Vista Ridge’s fight song was the same as Notre Dame so I hated them immediately. The game started very defensively with neither side able to pick up a first down on their first 3 series. On offense, as I said I had a lousy angle but I didn’t see Fox getting much of a push. And if I am being harsh he was responsible for giving up a sack. It looked like they were trying to set up a screen to the other side of the field and the QB held the ball too long and ended up taking the sack. On Defense, Fox would just fling the lineman to the ground and fill the hole on running plays. On passing plays, he had absolutely no penetration to the point where I wondered if his responsibility was to sit on the line and watch for the draws. Fox played every non-special teams snap of the first quarter and he looked gassed at the end.
Second Quarter: Fox sat out the first series on defense, when he came back he looked like a new man. On offense he was got a free release to the second level and got his first pancake block on a LB leading to a big run. He got his second pancake when he pulled and absolutely leveled the DE, leading to another big run. That drive led to a TD and a 7-0 lead. At the end of the first half, Vista Ridge was trying to throw the ball and Fox came alive. He got quick penetration and forced a bad throw and an interception. On their next series, he again got in quickly and this time forced a sack, though he didn’t get the stat, he was the man that made the play.
Third Quarter: The second half started with fireworks both literally and figuratively. They set off a big fireworks display at the start of the second half which was distracting for me, and had to be for the players as well. Vista Ridge ran a reverse on the second half kickoff all the way back for a TD, but it was called back for holding. Instead Vista Ridge was forced to punt. One big run by Ponderosa got them deep in Vista Ridge Territory. On the next play Fox got a great seal block on the DE allowing the RB to get the edge and run down to the 1 yard line. They then moved Fox to the H-Back position and put him in motion, snapped the ball and right up his backside two plays in a row to take a 14-0 lead. Fox sat out the next defensive series, but his replacement had a TFL and a forced fumble. Ponderosa settled for a partially blocked FG that slipped over the cross bar. Fox back in for the next series made his best play of the game. He throws off the first defender, splits a second and third defender and gets immediate pressure on the QB who throws his 2nd INT of the game. Ponderosa did the opposite of take advantage of the turnover. A holding penalty, then a sack, followed by a false start, then culminating with a bad snap over the head of the QB leading to a turnover. Minus-30 yards on the drive. On the first play Vista Ridge triple teamed Fox and hit a deep post for a touchdown to make the game interesting at 17-7.
Fourth Quarter: On offense, Ponderosa and Fox really started to play well. For the first time all game I saw Fox really drive blocking with authority escorting his man 5-10 yards downfield. Ponderosa was also able to complete a pass or two (on the QB Waggle). However, they fumbled inside the Red Zone keeping Vista Ridge in the game. Vista went to a spread passing attack, and Ponderosa countered with a 3-man line moving Fox to NT. He was completely neutralized by that move, but Vista was unable to connect on a pass and was forced to punt. On offense once again, Ponderosa moved the ball well but stalled in the red zone and had a FG blocked. Vista Ridge was unable to capitalize once again and punted away. Ponderosa drove into Vista territory again, this time was able to seal the game on a 4th down pass play. The defender was able to tip the ball, but the receiver made a great adjustment and grabbed the ball before it hit the turf. Fox still struggled playing NT on the 3-man line, but they went to a 4 man line and almost immediately he split the double team and forced yet another INT. Ponderosa was able to punch it in to make the final score 30-7 to move to 5-0.
· Very unofficially Fox had about 6 pancakes, though a couple of those were on combo blocks
· On Defense, Fox had 1 solo TFL, 3 assists, and 4 QB pressures (resulting in 3 INT’s, 1 sack)
· The Overall Defense was very impressive, allowing maybe 4 first downs and forcing 4 turnovers.
· Ponderosa put up 30 points on a team that was only allowing 5 points/game coming into the game. They only allowed 7 points to a team that was scoring 31 points/game. Total Yards: Ponderosa 342 Vista Ridge 93; Rushing: Ponderosa 56/277 Vista Ridge 16/0
· Down blocks were good, his man couldn’t get any penetration, but I was a little disappointed in Fox’s drive blocking considering how much bigger than everyone he is, but he was definitely better in the 4th quarter.
· In short yardage situations he was submarined a lot, he kept his feet, but wasn’t able to get off and get to the next level.
· His pad level was pretty good considering he was 6 inches taller than everyone, but he did sometimes come up pretty high
· He was very strong. Yes he was bigger than everyone, but he never moved backward. Ever. Not even a little bit. I did see him block two guys at the same time once. On defense he pretty much threw his man around, and his splitting of the triple team was a thing of beauty.
· He blocked really well on the move and in space. When he got a free release to the second level or when he pulled he pretty much annihilated the defender. Sometimes he did have trouble finding someone to block on screens or clean releases to the second level, but it was rare.
· His lateral movement was pretty good. On pass protection he was able to slide out and handle the speed rushers pretty easily. Bull rushing him would have been futile. He did get beat wide once, but a) it was really really wide and b) it was a rollout to the opposite side so no harm at all. On defense, once he took on the double team and slid down the line square to the ball carrier on an outside run and allowed his teammates to swarm for a TFL.
· An oddity, he struggled with reach blocks to his left. A couple times he completely whiffed on the block. But on reach blocks to his right he was often able to seal the defender giving the RB the edge.
· Overall, I was more impressed with his defense than his offense. While he didn’t make a ton of plays himself, his disruption allowed his teammates to make a ton of plays. However, whenever Ponderosa needed yards on third down or close to the goal line they were certain to follow Fox.
If you have any questions about what I saw let me know and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.
I celebrated my 10 year anniversary with my awesome wife this year, and we just had our second child 3 weeks ago. As a man who is up to his neck in family obligations every day - not just Wife Day - I feel the need to render some advice for tomorrow's bye to those who have yet to enter this chapter of their lives. You will find no "/s" tag here; I'm seriously...
First, sleep in. When you wake up to the glorious mid-day sun across your bed, go right back to sleep. Can't sleep any longer? Just lay there and do nothing until you're hungry.
Once hungry, go to the fridge and pull out something that no self-respecting human being would eat for breakfast/lunch. See that left over piece of chocolate cake? It needs a side of kettle chips.
Bring your meal to the couch and see how the noon games - which at this hour should now be in full swing - are going. "But Michigan is not playing today!" Stop right there and listen to yourself. There is football on. College football. The Saturdays where you actually have the time to watch a full slate of games that does not include your primary rooting interest are numbered, and this is one of them. It expires no matter how you choose to fill your day, so embrace it. Enjoy it.
Now it’s time for the 3:30 games. Hopefully by now you're realizing just how good you have it. Things are only about to get better as now you are guaranteed to watch either Sparty or Ohio lose. Any other week you probably take in at least part of their games in hopes to revel in some sweet schadenfreude. Well today's your lucky day because one way or another, it's happening.
Hungry again? Fight the urge to cook something. You have a device within arm's reach that you can speak into and people will bring you food. I suppose it doesn't really matter what you order, but again I would highly recommend anything that you will undoubtedly enjoy now, and likely regret later.
By the time your food arrives, you should be ensconced in session three of today's games. You may be thinking that this is an awful lot of football to watch, especially with Michigan absent from the schedule. If so, I ask that you think back two months to when you would have done anything to see a live football game...let alone a conference game with division race implications. Bonus: rumor has it that both 'Sconsin and the Huskers will be wearing awful unis. Laugh at their Wow Experience. Laze with peace of mind that it isn't our team playing dress-up this week.
As the games come to a close, start drinking (if you haven't already, which of course you have). Libation of choice should be something that makes you happy, or better yet occasionally leads to adventure and/or trouble. The night is young - go out, stay out, and don’t come back until the next morning after a sunrise breakfast at some greasy diner before sleeping through the NFL games and easing into next week.
If this advice strikes you as lazy, gluttonous, overindulgent, or all of the above, you're absolutely right. There are certain things in life that you are able to enjoy now, but will be superseded by other priorities in future years - be it quality time with the kids, a memorable afternoon with your loving wife, or simply avoiding "that look" from the mrs. any time you sleep more than her, eat too much of anything unhealthy, turn on your third game in the same day, etc.
Don't get me wrong - these priorities (the first two, anyway) are awesome in their own right and more than justifiably replace (most) football games when the time comes. But for you, single reader, Wife Day is still on the horizon. This is your time. As I said, it expires no matter how you choose to spend it. So embrace it. Enjoy it.
I have to go change a diaper.
Back in August anyone who looked at September’s schedule knew a trip to Dallas against the defending national champions and a trip to South Bend made a 2-2 a very real possibility. Here we are in that place and the realist in August doesn’t feel nearly as good about this 2-2 team as he thought he would. 6 turnover days and another Denorges disaster of a game leaves a bad feeling for a lot of Michigan fans.
But maybe it shouldn’t. Alabama appears to have moved into full-on Borg mode, replacing missing pieces and getting stronger together no matter what happens. Michigan’s game may strangely end up being one of the better performances of the season. Notre Dame we all know what happened, but hey, seven point games on the road against quality opponents, especially while going through so much self-inflicted adversity, that’s something that can be built on. And the B1G sucks.
How do all the factors come together, here a look at where the numbers indicate each team versus where they were projected coming in:
Purdue (++): Gone from also-ran to potential spoiler in the Suspendeds division
Minnesota (++): Far from a great team, but a huge step forward from the Gopherquest days
Indiana (+): Still pretty bad but should be more competitive
Michigan St (+): That’s a slight plus from my projection which is probably a double minus compared to most others
Nebraska(0): About where I projected them to be
Ohio St (0): Shaky at times, but still looks like the best in a down conference
Northwestern (0): The wins are great and there will be more, but still not a major player
Iowa (0): A pretty mediocre football team
Michigan (-): Down some, but not a significant variance
Wisconsin (-): Performance has been sloppy to say the least, but the record still holds up
Penn St (-): Have looked a little better the last two weeks but still far from a great team
Illinois: (- -): Getting beat down by Louisiana Tech is not good for the rep
If Ohio wasn’t sitting in timeout and Michigan had gone the cupcake route, no one would be talking about the B1G’s troubles right now. It doesn’t mean they aren’t real but it does skew them. Ohio is the clear-cut favorite to have the most wins in B1G play. They are the only team projected to have more than Michigan’s 5.8 conference wins, with 7.0. Nebraska and Wisconsin are both within a half of the Wolverines while Sparty sits a full game and a half back. Purdue is within a half of game on Wisconsin then it’s a whole pile of garbage. Doesn’t mean a Northwestern or someone couldn’t make a run, but based on current performances, your most likely B1G championship game is Michigan vs Wisconsin.
With high win-probability versus Illinois (98%), Minnesota (84%), Northwestern (96%) and Iowa (92%) still on the board, Michigan’s success is going to come to flipping some of the close ones. Purdue sits at 65%, a low take on the Spartans has that game at 80% (although I can’t imagine anyone has that confidence right now). Nebraska is at 45% and Ohio finishes the year at 20%. That leaves a 3.5% chance of running the table. Beat Nebraska and Ohio and the odds jump tenfold.
Despite two massively frustrating games, with Ohio out of contention, I would still install Michigan as both Legends division and B1G favorites. And this based on in-season performance! If Michigan is able to right the ship, their chances only go up and they are still the most dangerous team eligible for the championship game. With that said, there’s probably another two losses out there for this team. Ohio and Nebraska will be tough road matchups and Michigan isn’t good enough to show up and win the other games on the schedule. A win next week against Purdue would serve as a great firewall for the season.
On to the carnage:
The weekly game probabilities chart
Can you spot the turnovers?
Despite all the big drops in the first half, Michigan was building probability before the critical third quarter fumble.
D. Robinson: –5 EV and –21% Win Probability on 50 plays (was +8 and +12% on 45 of the plays)
F. Toussaint: –1 EV and –6% on 13 plays
E. Golson: –9 EV and –24% on 9 plays
T. Rees: +6 and +14% on 12 plays
Wood/Riddick: +0 and +8% on 24 plays
Could have been nice if Kelly would have stuck with Golson a bit longer. Didn’t have the volume of bad plays of Denard but managed worse before getting pulled for what turned out to be a huge gain in Tommy Rees. As you can see, the running game and Notre Dame offense in general weren’t great, its just the negatives on Michigan’s offense that were the difference.
I can't have been the only one cringing towards the end of halftime last week in expectation of a personal foul penalty about to be wasted by blasting the upcoming kickoff through the endzone.
Can't just complain about it based on intuition, though--what do the numbers say?
There are basically three choices when kicking off from the 50 after a personal foul:
1) kick it through the endzone for the easy touchback
2) kick onside
3) kick short of the goal line, either high or squibbed.
I'll compare (1) and (2)--I have no data on kicks in play from the 50 so I can't analyze (3). Mathlete? Anyone?
The essential and oft-copied graph:
Case #1 is easy to analyze: the receiving team gets the ball at the 25 That's somewhere between 0.5 and 0.6 expected points for the receiving team. Since I go into this convinced kicking onside is the right choice I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the other side everywhere, so we'll call it 0.5
For case #2 I'm going to assume that the ball ends up at the 40--the average is probably a little over ten yards on an onside kick but again I want to err on the conservative side. There's also a tiny possiblity of the kicking team actually returning the kick instead of falling on it; if anyone has any data that indicates this materially impacts the calculation please let us know in the comments.
Let the probability of the kicking team recovering the kick be x. If the receiving team recovers they get the ball at their own 40, worth 1.4 expected points. If the kicking team recovers they get the ball at the opponents' 40, worth 2.5 expected points.
Expected points for the receiving team, then, are (1.4) (1-x) - (2.5) x, or
1.4 - (3.9)x
Breakeven is when this equals 0.5:
1.4 - (3.9)x = 0.5
x = (0.9)/(3.9) = .23
give or take 2 or 3 percentage points from any errors I made eyeballing the graph.
That's pretty close to the actual rate of recovery on onside kicks, but remember that most onside kicks are taken in desperation mode at the end of games when the receiving team fully expects them. According to advancednflstats.com the rate of recovery on a surprise onside kick is 55-65%. (That, of course, is for NFL players and NFL rules; I'm not aware of any NCAA data on this.)
If the receiving team doesn't defend the onside kick like they would in an end-of-game situation, kicking onside from midfield is a little over one point better than the touchback.
If the receiving team does send the hands team on and defend the onside kick, it's just about a push, with perhaps a very slight advantage to the touchback.
My proposal is:
1. kick onside, always, from the 50 until teams start defending it.
2. if the receiving team sends out their hands team to defend the kickoff, kick short of the goal line and cover the kick, making use of the short field and the absence of the usual blockers.
Under the pre-2012 rules, with the touchback only coming out to the 20 and the onside kick going to the opponents' 45 instead of the 40, the break even point was somewhere around 35%. It probably still made sense to kick onside, but the situation wasn't as clear-cut as it seems to me to be now.
I wrote this after my favorite Notre Dame trip, 2006, though, 1978 comes close.
I plan on going for the finale (?) in 2014.
TRAVELS WITH ERIN
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2006
Up at 6:30 with my 15 year old high school sophomore, Erin, to catch the bus to South Bend for the BIG game on Separation Saturday.
She packs her lucky clothing, but forgets the digital camera. Fortunately, they dispense the tickets on the bus, so I won't be able to lose them.
We are to meet the bus at UM Dearborn, it leaves at 8:00. Per plan, we stop at Einsteins for bagels, and have a cooler with chopped up pineapple, water, gatorade, and brownies from Mom for Erin.
I buy papers to read on the bus. Have my laptop with me to do some work and maybe watch “Hidalgo” a DVD we have which I have not seen.
Still not light, Erin not quite perky, so I drive.
Donna calls to advise she heard on the radio that I-94 is closed at the Jeffries, so her directions must be amended.
Arrive about 7:45, drive around until we see a bus, park, try to enter and are told UM buses in a different lot.
Clock ticking, but another appropriately attired driver asks us directions, so we figure they won't leave without us.
Whoah, four buses. We have no instructions on which number bus is ours. Rejected by captain one, I have to go all the way to the back to find the captain of bus two, who has our names on his list.
Back for Erin, we take the seats all the way in the back, in front of the bathroom, which face each other. The buses are stopping in Ann Arbor to pick up more people, so we may lose our extra area there.
Leave after eight, of course, massive fog. Plan A was for Erin to drive us, so glad we took the bus trip.
Only four or six more hop on at Domino's Farms, so we keep our four seats.
I tell Erin we will see lots of sandhill cranes, remembering the 1998 trip from Lake Bentley to Notre Dame. That was with Janell, but we lost, along with losing in 98 in Columbus and the Spartan Bob timekeeper game, so she does not make road trips anymore.
The fog persists, and we are not on I-94 due to construction, and see not one crane.
Though the announcement was that we would stop only for the driver's personal comfort, the caravan stops at a large rest area with restuarants and a coffee place, and all are allowed to exit.
The announcement also included the statement that it was the first time the driver had navigated anything longer than four feet.
I buy a cappucino as long day looms. Woman in front of me buying candy in spite of her confessed sugar problems. Many patrons express delight at the prospect of real rest rooms.
In between Erin naps, I muse that there would be plenty of time to leave Ann Arbor after next week's Wisconsin game, noon kick off, and get to East Lansing well before eight o'clock kick off against Notre Dame. Erin instantly gives me a big hug and endorses what she takes to be an invitation.
Upon further reflection, driving back around midnight through hordes of inebriated Spartans does not sound nice. If we stay overnight, Sunday will be half over before we get back.
Erin says I shouldn't have mentioned it unless we were going for sure.
Stop and go at a construction bottleneck in Indiana, short stretch.
Fog has lifted and it is clear.
All of the passengers are quite calm. No choruses of the Victors or chants of Let's Go Blue!
I share another thought with Erin. I am not attending a seminar which is the weekend of the game at Indiana, maybe we could go to that. This is greeted with the same enthusiasm as my commitment to bring her on this trip.
In South Bend, we are joined by the fifth bus, which left Friday.
Trip leader Roger has arranged for State trooper escort for all five buses. This accounts for the stares of most pedestrians we pass.
I tell Erin, this is the friendliest place we will visit with the Wolverine team.
She says, “You mean I won't be sworn at, thrown up at, or told my team's quarterback stinks after we win?” These recall incidents from 2004 Columbus trip, and last year's Madison and East Lansing sojourns.
I say no, the fans are passionate but polite.
12:30 we disembark, 30 minutes behind schedule.
It takes the usual ten minutes for Erin to don the layers of lucky clothes and accessories she has worn to the games forever.
Had she accompanied Hillary to the peak of Mt. Everest, he would have told her to remove a few layers.
I am much more comfortable in shorts and UM club T-shirt.
Some of the veteran travelers are unloading grills and other tailgate gear from the storage area under the seats. We have tickets to the official alumni tailgate, which has already started, and is on the other side of the stadium from where we parked. The plan is to walk past the stadium to the south, then wander north through the campus, then east to the tailgate.
Fellow students have told Erin she must tour the lovely campus. We do, and it is.
Our progress is blocked by a line of people on each side of the east-west sidewalk. As we approach, I see it is the Notre Dame team, dressed in coat and tie, walking to the stadium.
Erin is disappointed to find out, reading the paper the next day, that Steve Yzerman was somehwere close to us observing the ritual.
We come upon a large fountain spewing green water. It has four sets of Stonehenge like rocks, one facing each direction, the water spurting up over the height of the formation, landing in a pool.
The rectangular pool is only about three inches deep around the edge, extending a couple of feet into the pool.
Numerous pro Notre Dame slogans and exhortations have been scrawled by finger out of the green algae growth.
This is not acceptable to Erin. She searches for a clear spot, and inscribes a “Go Blue!” in large letters. She takes a picture with her cell phone camera.
Next up, the famous Golden Dome. In the brilliant sunlight, it is almost too bright to look at directly.
We move to the east and pick up the main north-south road, verified by asking a friendly parking lot attendant. I am using a map that came with the bus itinerary.
Wondering if we will be able to spot the tailgate sight, I see a mammoth tent, surrounded by huge UM flags, about a quarter mile away across groomed fields. Some kids are playing soccer.
I bought online, so we pick up the tickets and head inside.
Free peanuts abound, the cash bar is just inside the opening, large screen TVs with the green and white weenies playing at Pitt in every corner.
After finding seats, we return toward the front and buy tickets for food, which is good.
There is a raffle for various prizes, which we do not win.
The last is a Lloyd Carr autographed football.
It is won by a full figured man. Erin thinks, I feel sorry for whoever has to sit next to him.
After the UM cheerleaders fire us up, the party is over.
Just outside the tent, Liberty Mutual insurance has a table with a wheel of fortune style spinner for various prizes, beads, megaphones, pom poms.
Of course, permission is granted for Erin to spin. It hits pom poms. Four of them already adorn various parts of her already. The man suggests megaphones, she gleefully takes two.
He then states they do not want to take anything home, and giver her pom-poms too.
Someone else already gave us maize and blue beads.
It is an hour before kick off, I think, not familiar with NBC time, as actual kick off ends up being 3:45.
We traverse south on the main road. A group of a dozen or so youthful Irish supporters start a chant on seeing Erin.
And so on.
Something that would make any father proud.
Erin is delighted at those who ask what year she is in at UM.
We do hear some cross words from inebriated Irish, all but one appear to be students.
As we get to the stadium, Erin spots a stand for Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Donna had said she had a date with Ben and Jerry Saturday night, while we would be bussing back.
I have Erin take a cell phone picture and send it to Donna.
I guess the wrong direction to our ticket gate, so we walk all the way around the stadium.
When they expanded, they built concourses at each end, on the outside of the old stadium.
Not having had the tickets in hand until boarding the bus, we did not have the chance to look up the location on the internet. Row 26, so I told Erin we should not be too high. I said visiting team seats are always in the end zone or corner, but we did not care.
After climbing to our seats, we find ourselves in the top row. This is great, because the sun is behind us, and we are among the maybe 50 seats in the stadium that are in the shade.
It is hot!
I am on Erin's right. As she looks to her left, there is the winner of the Lloyd Carr football.
Next to me is the woman who bought candy at the rest stop.
She sets it on top of the concrete behind us. Sometime during the first quarter, she accidentally knocks it over the top.
No problem, she says, I can buy more.
The announcer states the winner of the game will have the all time best winning percentage in college football. This fact has been repeated to me, oh, at least twice a day all week by Erin.
They are honoring Heisman winners this year. Johnny Lujack's likeness graces the tickets, and he is there in person for the coin toss.
On the ride back, I point out to Erin that she has now seen the 1943 (?) Heisman winner on his home field, so her college football connection stretches far back.
These late kickoffs are brutal. We are so anxious by the time the game begins.
The Burgess interception for a TD certainly bodes well.
Then the Henne interception. My heart sinks.
Erin points out Henne made the tackle, on the four right in front of us.
Turns out to be one more category in which he bests Quinn.
Then we score 27 unanswered points. Without allowing them a first down in the entire quarter.
Most likely, a once in a lifetime experience.
Amidst the Michigan throng, sheer ecstasy. Cannot recall so many hugs from Erin.
The TV timeouts seem endless.
We let them march down the field to score just before the half.
Twenty point lead. I recall them catching State last year after being down 21 in the fourth quarter. Though I picked UM to win, (in overtime) I am not over confident.
Best T-shirt, solid blue, maize letters on the front "RESTORING THE GLORY SINCE 1993".
I grab frozen lemonades and water for us at halftime.
Apparently, Erin could not pick up the game on the radio. I think she would only listen to the UM broadcast.
However, thanks to cell phones, she is calling her sister for comments on reviewed plays, as there is no screen at ND stadium.
One fan stands up and yells that a call our way will not be reversed. At least according to his father-in-law, who always tells the truth.
Someone (?) yells out, “What does he say about you?” but he does not respond.
Too bad we don't have a go to receiver, I tell my fellow Wolverines after Super Mario hauls in TD number three.
After some noise during the short time the game was tied at 7, the home fans turn mute.
After half time adjustments from offensive genius Charlie Weiss, we hold them without a first down for the entire third quarter.
Fans head for the exits.
We soak up every second. Erin takes a picture of the scoreboard on the way out.
About 50 male UM students have formed a mob, jumping on each other and yelling. Their mood infects the crowd.
The acoustics walking down the concourse are incredible.
“It's great, to be, a Michigan Wolverine!” repeated again and again. Let's Go Blue!”
At the flat area at each turn, there is another group jumping, chanting, exhorting. Everyone is high fiving everyone all the way down.
Other than the euphoria after winning the national championship at the 1998 Rose Bowl, I have seen nothing like it.
I made sure to watch the beginning game of the renewed rivalry in 1978. The contracts had been signed years earlier. I think 1943 had been the last time UM and ND met on the field.
We won that game, but lost when I returned in 1980, and 82, as well as the 98 game.
28 years. Must be wrong.
We walk toward the buses. I think. We could see them from our seats looking back over the parking lots.
After several false alarms, I fortunately see another UM club member who points the way.
Passengers are noisier than before. Our box lunch is handed to us as we board. It is good.
I listen to post game call in show on the radio.
“Do you think this will affect Brady Quinn's Heisman chances?”
Geez, these guys are as smart as Buckeyes.
One delight after another.
At the rest stop on the way home, there is a rush to the facilities. A decked out Notre Dame fan, seated next to his decked out Notre Dame son, is waiving people away.
I think he is mad because of the outcome, he says the rest rooms are the other way, everyone is coming this way by mistake.
I say I thought he was mad, he said, no, we are nicer than Ohio fans, half of whom, like their team, are headed for prison. “And I'm from Ohio.”
Erin explains a difference she has witnessed.
“When I went to my seat in Columus, dressed like this, the usher said to me, “When someone gives you a hard time, let me know.”
“Today, when I went by the usher, he said “Welcome to Notre Dame, we're glad you're here.”
We exchanged more pleasantries, bought something to drink, and resumed our trek.
Erin slept, I watched "Hidalgo" until the laptop battery died.
Other than the DVD mishap, all went well.
Voice vote selected "The 40 Year Old Virgin" to be shown on the screens scattered throughout. Erin said she had already seen it. Was not my choice, but not a lot to do on a dark bus.
After the character tells about his Tijuana trip to see the human horse interplay, the screen goes black. Seems there was a 12 year old somewhere in front of us. Must not have been around when the vote was taken.
I was then able to pick up Florida-Tennessee on the radio, if I held it by the window.
Well after midnight, pulled into Dearborn, loaded the car and made it home after 1:00 am.
According to the game program, which I read on the ride back, Notre Dame's football player graduation rate last year was second only to the Naval Academy.
That is the kind of school I want to keep playing.
UM 47, ND 21. Great!
Spending the entire day, from 6:30 am to one the next morning, with your 15 year old daughter, priceless.