Trip Report: Michigan Stadium
warning: this is long, and has little actual football content, because the other stuff makes for a better story..
so the day begins promptly at 4:45am, when the alarm is telling me to get out of bed. it wasn't until 4:46 that my girlfriend got tired of listening to 'bells and whistles' and pushed me out of bed that i began to stumble to the bathroom, and begin my journey to my mecca, Michigan Stadium....
one short, 15 minute drive, 3 cups of coffee and about 5 cigarettes later, and i'm at my buddy's house, purposely late by 10 minutes so that i wouldn't have to sit around and wait. unfortunately, my other buddy, whose car we were taking, had the same plan. so i spent 20 minutes or so listening to buddy A's dog barking at me...anyone who has ever been barely awake at 530am and had a dog barking non-stop, let me be the one to tell you that it sucks. i tried sticking my hand in front of it's face, no dice. it just barked louder. i tried going out onto the porchswing, no dice, it head-butted the door open, and began barking again. only after a handful of doggie jerky did it finally settle down to an occasional growl.
630am, and we're off. well, off to the convenient store to buy beer, donuts, more coffee, extra cigarettes, and 2 bags of gummi worms. we're on the highway at quarter to seven, only an hour and 15 minutes later than we planned, which if you don't know my friends, is about par for the course...
you may be asking yourself why we were on the road so early for a 12 noon start...the simple and glorious answer is that we have field passes to be down on the sideline during warmups, only then to be ushered up exactly 1 row, to be sitting on the 48 yard line, row 1, right behind the michigan bench. the head basketball coach at our school is alumni, who also ushers all of our top athletes to michigan, so he's acquired some perks, and through him, so have we.
we settled into our 3+ hour drive the way most males do, by cracking mercilessly on each other. big head jokes (the only way your hat stays on your head is from the gravitational pull) and short jokes (sammy's just two knees and a nose) aside, the drive went fairly well. my personal favorites were the 'lord helmet' cracks, which led to lord helmet salutes (quickly covering your balls) 'hot, toooo hot' jokes, and of course, 'ludicris speed'...we had the foresight to hold off on the beer until around 830am. gotta get the process right...
we pull into ann arbor around 945am, park in the first pay-lot we can find, and quickly decide that finishing the first 18 pack is much more important than actually getting to the gate on time to pick up our wristbands to go down onto the field...
the walk to the stadium was one i'll not soon forget. the first half of it was spent trying to download the michigan fight song onto my phone for the small fee of $2.49. seemed like a good idea at the time, like i'd listen to it constantly all day long...if you divided the total price of the download by the number of times i listened to it, you'd get $2.49...
the second half of the walk (yes, dividing it into halfs means that it was a HELL of a walk) was more than even i could ask for...the school golf course doubles on football weekends as the tailgating area. picture walking onto a perfectly manicured 8th fairway, and seeing 20,000 drunk people, with tents and michigan-helmet grills, frisbees and satellite dishes, and beer by the keg seperately doing their thing, but at the same time seemingly all doing the same thing. that's the only way i can explain it. every direction you looked you could see old alumni drinking crown royal out of plastic cups, fraternity kids doing keg stands, and a sea of maize and blue.
i quickly realized that i was home.
along the way, i bartered a bud light for a shot of wild turkey, traded another warm bud light for a cold busch light, and stopped to piss 3 times, twice in a porta-potty, once in a sand trap.
seeing michigan stadium for the first time is unreal. by the time you actually get to the gate, it wears off a little. it's like seeing mount everest, getting excited, and then realizing that you still have 20 miles to walk to get to base camp. (again, i can't stress enough the walk we had, maybe it was nerves or being intoxicated, but i'll definitely be paying the extra 30 bucks to park closer next time)
so because we're sweet and have (supposedly, as you'll see) field passes, we go in a different gate than everyone else. 3 old people at 3 separate tables later, we're directed to gate 2, where we are to get our wristbands. turns out gate 2 is the janitor's area.
we ask a cop (ummm, excuse me officer sir, sir....yes, officer sir, could you kindly direct me...) what to do, and he points to another senior citizen. he tells us that we went the wrong way, and that we were supposed to be in the victor's club, which, is outside the gate. he graciously ('you guys got 5 minutes!') allows us to leave, and come back through if the wristbands fall through...
by now you know, the wristbands fall through.
the kid tells us that 'ncaa regulations' state that the only way we could get down on the field is if we have a recruit with us. we try to pass our buddy off as a kicker, but he's going bald, his teeth are faded from tobacco, and he's got a beergut. he had the short part down though...
so, denied, we go back into the stadium, to kill time. thinking we were going to be down on the field for a couple hours, we've got an hour and a half to kill. 2 cigarettes, 1 bratwurst and 2 $25 t-shirts later, i decide to hell with walking around the outside, i'm ready to see the Big House.
this is where my story may get a little sappy...
first off all, even though the field passes fell through, we still have honest-to-goodness first row seats. since michigan stadium is basically a bowl built for the most part underground, you enter at about row 70 out of 100. 30 rows up, 70 rows down.
i couldn't even move for a second, the place is fucking HUGE. it doesn't have separate levels like just about every other stadium everywhere. it's just a concrete bowl, where you can walk from the field to the pressbox if you felt like having a heart attack...
ticket guy: first time?
ticket guy: awesome, isn't it? don't trip on your way down..
i don't trip, but it surely is 74 rows down, and i'm wondering how many times i'm going to have to piss, and how long i can hold it.
the seats are ridiculous, a dream come true. the stadium is still virtually empty, but that doesn't matter to me...i'm still shaking my head at how big it is, and looking forward to seeing it full.
fast forward about an hour, 148 (74 x 2) steps up (small bladder i guess) and an awesome, awesome pregame by the band, and it's gametime...
okay, so central michigan isn't exactly notre dame, but the crowd is pumped. 100,000 people in unison are waving their hats around as the opening kickoff gets in the air. up until this point, it's been 75 degrees and sunny, a perfect day for football....in a few paragraphs, you'll know why i'm giving a preliminary weather report.
quickly, we're up 7-0. central michigan then gets the ball, drives, fumbles, and michigan grabs it at midfield, and we're off to a fast start.
i also have to add that whenever an opposing team has a 3rd down, everyone takes out their keys and jingles them. at first, it was the most terrifying 'nails on a chalkboard' sound i've ever heard. the 2nd third down, i had my keys out.
then, seemingly out of nowhere, lighting. not your ordinary run-of-the-mill heat lightning, but a bolt from God, who apparently hates me.
for the first time in Michigan Stadium history, a game is suspended due to weather. what are the odds, right? 80-some years of football in the crazy-weather midwest, and the only time a game gets suspended is my first trip.
the lightning was the easy part, and this is where row 1 kinda gets you in trouble. the first rain drop i saw was the size of a football. fitting, actually, because the only footballs i saw the rest of the day were coming from cumulous clouds. (sorry if that's not it, i got D's in science)
as the announcer is saying, 'the game is being suspended due to inclement weather, everyone go back to your cars, and anyone with a ticket will be allowed to re-enter', we glance up at our chances of escaping the downpour. again, no dice. picture 100,000 people, all trying to get into the same set of steps, and you're at the bottom, that was us. might as well enjoy it.
so, we sat the mother of all rainstorms for 1o minutes, then it tapered off to a steady rain.
actually, it was then that i had the most fun.
enter the University of Michigan student section.
probably 10-20,000 strong, all in one corner of the field, all wearing maize shirts (slogan: go blue, wear maize) every time you heard thunder, it was followed with equally thunderous cheers. chants of 'let them play', 'we want football' and 'let's go texas' (osu looked tough later that night, not looking forward to our last game) filled the air coming from literally every set of lungs in the stadium. the other thing was, out of 107,000 people, probably 90,000 said 'fuck the rain, we're staying'...
so, the trainers and other assorted team-types start to come out after 30 minutes. literally 5 minutes later, another lightning bolt, and another 30 minute delay.
it was at that point that we made the fateful decision to try to run back to the car, drink some more beer, and then come back.
i start our journey through the jungle of the golf course tailgating area with twice-worn white adidas sneakers. i end it with a pair of beat-up beige colored throwaways.
several things happened during our journey back to the car...
--we tried to tip over the porta-potty our buddy had gone in, or at least shake him up a little, only to hear the protests of someone that wasn't him...whoops. we quickly crossed over to the 7th tee box to hide.
--we were 10 feet away from a 1 on 1 drunken fraternity wrestling match that ended with a emphatic powerbomb through a wooden table. you should have seen it...this kid literally went straight through a metal-enforced wooded table, the crowd goes absolutely silent, and the first sound you heard was the kid on the bottom going, 'ahhhhhh, fuck! somebody get me another shot!' to which the crowd, along with us, shrieked at in laughter.
--right about at the 8th fairway, we run into the same guy from before that traded me whiskey for beer, shoot the shit with him for a brief moment, and then raid his cooler when he turns his back. two pockets and both hands full of cold budweiser, we're ready to finish the walk back to the car.
at that exact moment, we hear from the stadium announcer that 'five minutes will be put on the clock for warmups, and then it's FIRST AND 10 MICHIGAN'...
faced with a pretty big decision, we decide we better finish off the rest of the beers before we decide...knowing it was already getting to be a blowout, and we'd get back to the stadium just in time to waste away our buzz waiting for the 2nd half, we continue to the car, still with the intention of journeying back to the game.
so we're at the car, trunk open, drinking beers, and trying to negotiate a hot dog or two out of the old guy grilling next to us. someone eventually asks if we're ready to head back.
now, walking TO the stadium wasn't as bad as i made it out to be. i was floating to my destiny, and didn't really notice how much ground we covered. coming back was another story. thinking about having to traverse the mile and a half back made me drink another beer.
drinking the beer made me lazy.
being lazy made me sit down.
sitting down meant that there was no way i was getting back up.
i also should say that all 4 of us left the stadium with the intention of going back, but once we got back to the car, drank beers, and ate 2 hot dogs each, we were starting to second guess that choice.
after sitting there for another 40 minutes or so listening to a blowout happening on the radio, we decided to hit the road and find a sports bar to watch the rest of the game.
so we're sitting at bennigan's, dinner's gone, and we're watching the last seconds of a 41-17 game.
a kid in a pink (yes, pink) central michigan shirt was celebrating a late touchdown. normally, i'd just quietly clown him for both infractions, but today, i was drunk enough to go over to his table and ask him if he'd like to trade his pink shirt for a brand new 'Big House' shirt i bought at the stadium, still in the plastic, because 'my brother's gay, and he likes pink'. his dad laughed, but he didn't...but at least it did remind me that i won 9 bucks by betting $10 that michigan wouldn't cover the spread. (head over heart, we never cover huge spreads against mac schools)
finally, we head home. i have shotgun because of my rock/scissors/paper mastery, so quickly, the only two awake in the car are me, and my buddy driving. about 45 minutes into the ride, he's dozing. yawning once every 30 seconds, closing his eyes for a second or two, and at one point, he stretched 10 times in 2 minutes. he's going 85mph, and having to correct his lane-drifting a little too much for my tastes, so i tell him to pull over and let me drive.
the male in him made him object for a minute or two, but the 'coming down from a buzz 36 year old' in him made him relent.
if you've ever seen the video clip of the 6 guys coming home from a bachelor party, where the fat guy is asleep, and the other 5 wake him up by screaming at him, you'll know why tears were coming from my eyes about a half hour later.
he's out, we count to 3, and scream.
he doesn't budge for about 3/4ths of a second, and then...
he screams too (just like in the video) and makes the face of a guy who just woke up next to a 1-night stand that now looks like jessica galford. (she was mine, use your own experiences to fill in the blank) i had to slow down to about 80mph because i couldn't see through the tears coming out of my eyes, funniest thing i saw in the day.
we finally get home a little before 8pm, just in time for the osu-texas game. about 8 of my friends, my brother, my mom and dad and 2 aunts and uncles are at the bar we go to, so even though i'm tired, i go up there to tell a couple stories, to get off a couple 'hook 'em horns' in a 100% ohio state crowd, and to drink another beer or two so i was awake enough to drive home. got home around 10pm, recounted the day's adventures to my girlfriend, and promptly passed out for the night...