You go on a plane and get off of it and eventually you end up in the upper deck of a stadium far more vertical than Michigan's and look down at everything and in that moment you get the full weight of college football.
When it's your fandom, you've got a lifetime of dog-kicking and air-walking that tethers you to the larger institution. On Sunday I ended up watching most of the Falcons-Panthers game with a couple of Falcons fans who had mostly contempt for the larger NFL*. When you're just there to catch some football, you can appreciate the thing itself. On Saturday, I wiped the corners of my eye when Georgia put that Herschel Walker run on the screen and saw Orson do the same when they put a solo trumpeter in the corner of the upper deck to play the opening notes ofthe Battle Hymn of the Republic as Larry Munson said the same thing he always has.
Neither of us gives a damn about Georgia; both of us are pledged to other outfits. Doesn't matter. The weight of the institution is heavy, and genuine, and involves weird things that evoke Ghostbusters…
…and that Herschel Walker run. There's a dog on the opponent's sideline with an air conditioned house, and Tyler Bray is about to take the field. Football.
I was pretty sure the guy who would leave the lasting impression would be Jarvis Jones, Georgia's missile OLB/DE. He'd spent most of Georgia's game against Missouri flossing Tiger QB James Franklin's teeth and promised to do so again against college football's leading artillery piece, Tyler Bray. That was not to be the case. Jones did little, and I left thinking "I saw Tyler Bray play."
Bray is not great. He may be good, but it's hard to tell on a Tennessee team that can't run the ball or stop the run or maintain leverage even one damn time in a three-hour football game. This only increases the enjoyment of watching Bray play as he tries to cover up for Tennessee's myriad other flaws. Bray is gonna Bray. We have Derek Dooley to thank for this.
Several times a game you will see Bray decide to unleash the dragon well before it's clear this is a good idea. If you see Bray lean back, the ball is going 40 to 60 yards. He will do this ages before it's clear this is a good idea. Bray don't care. You will see teams of orange-pantsed gnomes wind the kid up as the play develops. He'll sidestep a rusher (or fumble) as the gnomes get a satisfying CHUNK out of Bray and he clicks further back. Once sufficient chunks have been chunked, the ball will zing out of Bray's hand at lethal speeds, destination unknown but awesome.
After Georgia rolled out to a 27-10 lead that was one fluky pick-six away from being game over, they did neutrals a favor by taking a shotgun to their foot repeatedly at the end of the first half. After the first of these, the game became a series of spectacular MMA knockouts. Orson and I ended independently going "OHHHHHHHHHH" and jumping up and down and laughing when Bray would laser a flat-footed pass 60 yards downfield into coverage for a completion, or do the same for an interception, or fumble, or throw a perfect deep ball that Cordarelle Patterson would drop, or chop a linebacker down as Patterson turns a failed trick play into a knee-slapping did-you-see-that winding touchdown run that took him from one side of the field to the other.
By the fourth quarter, the Bray lean was Christmas morning. On Tennessee's second to last drive, he tossed a back-foot laser to Patterson 30 yards downfield (dropped), then leaned back to hurl a spectacular NFL interception twenty yards downfield on a line. On UT's last drive he scrambled around in the pocket, leaning back the whole way until he fumbled, ending the Vols' hopes. Bray finished 24 for 45 with two touchdowns, a third eighty-yarder dropped, three interceptions, and a lost fumble.
I have seen Tyler Bray play football, and it was everything it could have possibly been. He's three hours of jumping up and down and going "OHHHHH" as you feel a stadium you don't belong to lurch back and forth queasily, in a place that puts the weight of Herschel Walker on your shoulders.
*[As they should, since this is a league that looks at fourth and one for the game with Cam Newton at QB and says "punt." Rod Gilmore swells with pride, NFL.]
Obligatory Comparison Bullets
Apparently I only do this when Michigan has two losses. M was 1-2 in 2008 when I went to Auburn.
Auburn test: passed. The weirdest thing about that Auburn game a few years back was preparing to stand and yell on what would eventually be LSU's gamewinning drive, looking around, and having to sit down sheepishly because no one else in the section thought this might be a good moment to yell their throat raw. I really needed "they s'posed to be SEC!" to be invented already to describe that.
Anyway, on two different Tennessee fourth quarter drives to tie, Georgia passed the Fans S'posed To Be SEC test. Auburn, you're on notice.
Bands. For the second straight week I was about as far away from a band as I could be—this time it was Tennessee's—and could hear them loud and clear. Unlike Notre Dame's, this had nothing to do with amplification. They were just loud as hell. Michigan either needs to figure their amplification out or start blasting it as loud as other folks, or they won't recover their lost status. The piped-in music at Georgia was significantly less frequent than it is at Michigan Stadium, FWIW.
I asked Orson, BTW, and he related that virtually all SEC games feature both bands. They're more tightly packed than the Big Ten—or at least were before expansion—but not busing the MMB down to Northwestern or Indiana or Purdue is pretty lame.
Also the MMB should play "Paint it Black," as the Georgia band did.
Chants. Georgia fans are short on them. They have a couple of generic GO X and GEOR-GIA chants but I didn't come away from the game with anything else in my head at all. Auburn was considerably different, and Michigan has a lot of inscrutable student stuff and Let's Go Blue and the wave and whatnot. [Ed-S: They bark a lot. There's also a "Who's that comin' down the line?" responsive chant the students were doing during the walk down to the stadium]
Georgia fans. A collared shirt tucked into khakis is their equivalent of OSU fans wearing jerseys. Median names are "Tad," "Chad," and "Brad." In general looked like a group of folks keenly interested in Ryder Cup updates. Extremely friendly—didn't see anything approximating crap given to Tennessee fans, or vice versa, though there weren't a whole lot of opportunities because Volunteers seemed scarce.
Michigan similarities are obvious.
Athens. Like Bray, everything it was supposed to be, at least insofar as that can be determined in a day. Gorgeous, seemed packed with things to do, kind of like an Ann Arbor that happened to be the best place in the state to catch a show. A college town with adult things in it.
SEC tailgating: great until you turn campus into Fallout. This was also a thing at Auburn I noticed: there's a lot of extremely pretty tailgating going down on the campus itself. The equivalent would be if a large portion of Michigan's tailgating was on the Diag, which is not possible because Michigan's main campus is extremely compact and the football stadium is a hike.
By contrast, a lot of Big Ten tailgating takes place in parking lots. Michigan: golf course or parking lots. Ohio State: all parking lot. ND: parking lot. PSU: not a parking lot because it is an open field. Northwestern: parking lot. Etc.
This makes for excellent tailgating, and a lot of dead grass on campus.
Desire to play Georgia: significantly incremented. I would love to go back to see winged helmets run out of the tunnel. That would be a wow experience.
Auburn now does the thing where the team doesn't huddle, lines up, looks ready to snap the ball, relaxes, and then looks to the sideline for the call. Whenever Auburn would do this, an elderly Auburn fan was visibly, I-can't-set-the-time-on-this-damned-VCR agitated, throwing his hands in the air in disgust. This obvious discontent seemed to spread to the other oldsters around him as the game continued.
This was during Tony Franklin's brief tenure as Auburn OC. Four years later Auburn has won a national title with a spread option and both of these teams spent a majority of their snaps in the shotgun, refusing to huddle and looking to the sideline for play checks. Now, this spread does not equal a Rodriguez spread 'n' shred or Oregon or the Air Raid or whatever, but I was struck by how much different the conventional wisdom is now. No one had a conniption fit about any of this; it was just natural.
One scoreboard graphic is the shell game cartoon most stadiums use as interstitial entertainment. In UGA's case, a bulldog puts an order of fries beneath one of three small doghouses, and then shuffles them around quickly while fans scream out "THREEE! IT'S UNDER THREE, Y'ALL!!!"
At one point the cartoon came to a stop, and UGA pulled up one doghouse to reveal a tiny UGA. A guy behind us, in the thickest Georgia accent imaginable, cried out:
Maybe it's because Tennessee fans have been beaten down by life, but I did not see a single angry word exchanged between Dawg and Vol fans in Athens on Saturday. It was really the best that the SEC can be in terms of a passionate crowd that does not spill over into being Philadelphian assholes.
I saw a game in SEC country against an SEC team, even if it was a bowl game and thus not at all the same thing. (The '87 Peach Bowl, Indiana and Tennessee. This was back when my allegiance was divided among hometown and 10 years of childhood and current school, and only one of those three was providing relatively cheap bowl opportunities.) I don't recall anything obnoxious from Tennessee fans - quite the opposite, actually - but of course Indiana, so even in the Bill Mallory era, I mean, why bother? (And still the Knight era, so anything like "you should go back to playing basketball" would backfire spectacularly.)
I saw two other bowls in SEC country, but neither against an SEC team (Florida State and then-independent South Carolina). It would be fun to go back and see one in a real stadium.
Looks like the Tennessee band was also pointed directly at you. That makes a big difference, even at that distance. A band is much louder to a person 100 yards away who they're pointed directly at than they are to a person 30 yards away and behind them or to the side.
I went to NC State v South Carolina in 2009 when they opened the season on Thursday night. The group I went with was there at 8am for a 7:30pm kick to start rosting the pig. They literally had half a pig rosting on a rotisserie for 10 hours. One of the best meals I've ever had at a Tailgate.
The Tennessee band is seriously one of the best I've ever seen. They're huge, they travel a ton, and they play loud. They're a lot of fun to watch, especially when they do circle drill (which they didn't for the Georgia game).
Also, Tennessee and Georgia are friendly rivals. Georgia fans don't cause much of an issue when they come to Knoxville, and Tennessee fans tend to be friendly back. I think I'm one of the only Tennessee fans that hates Georgia (long story how I got there, but I definitely hate the whole state). The same would be true of Tennessee fans with any team except Florida and Alabama--those fans are obnoxious. The first Bama fan I ever saw in my entire life I found peeing off of a balcony while singing "Sweet home Alabama."
University of Tom Brady, B.A. '10; University of Peyton Manning, J.D. '13.
I went to NC State v South Carolina in 2009 when they opened the season on Thursday night. The group I went with got to the Stadium at 8am for a 7:30pm kick to start rosting the pig. Yes, they literally had half a pig on a rotisserie for 10 hours. Best meal I've ever had at a tailgate.
I took in the Thursday night spectacular featuring Stanford at Washington last week. How could I not, seeing as (i) Husky Stadium is under renovation, so UW is playing at the professional arena (now dubbed "The Clink") that is literally across the street from my office, (ii) it was Thursday and (iii) it was Michigan's bye-week anyway? Here are my impressions:
1) The vertical stadium thing is real. I used to have season tickets to the Seattle Sounders (MLS), but as those were in the lower bowl, I never ventured upstairs to the vertigo-inducing upper deck. Great view of the game, but man--don't look sideways if you've got a thing with heights. Clink does have a nice view of the Olympic Mountains and skyline (obligatory on pretty much anything in Seattle that faces west and is over 3 stories) though.
2) The piped-in music was bad enough just during timeouts or other long stoppage is play. But now they even play it while teams are trying to line up for plays. I thought the ND thing was just a one-off, but I guess not. On the other hand, it does drown-out a lot of uninformed fan bitching, which is kind of nice.
3) I couldn't hear the UW band at all, except during their halftime show. Granted, the band was in the south end zone (lower deck) while my seats were in the upper deck around the 30 yard-line at the north side of the stadium. This was particularly disappointing, because my favorite UW tradition is this quick (somewhat taunting) song the UW band likes to play after TDs and big plays. Mike that shit.
4) The main UW thing--remember, their mascot is the Huskies--is to chant "woof, woof" after big plays. I'm normally all in favor of these local fan things, but canine behavior really is a second-rate tradition IMO. I feel sorry for them, re: that, but I suppose that's to be expected when all they have to work with is a dog. They also have this weird way of contorting their fingers into a "W" shape, which is kind of like "Hook'em Horns" but much trickier to accomplish. I give them kudos for that. Then on kickoffs, people do kind of a chopping motion, like with "Temptation" only faster. I could get into that, but not too many kickoffs in a 17-13 game, so...
5) It's west coast, so naturally everybody was cool to the Stanford people and vice-versa.
6) In all, it's still college football and everything, but there's just something missing when the game is played off-campus, the home team has limited expecations compared to past greateness, and it's not your own team.
"You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area." -- The Onion
"Weird" is a good way of putting it. I've also been to two games at Husky Stadium and both of those were also weird. I think it's probably because the fan base is really confused about how they are supposed to feel about their team.
"You will suffer humiliation when the team from my area defeats the team from your area." -- The Onion
Hey, that's where I was for my Wife(Girlfriend) Day! People are saying that Georgia has no defense but you can't just look at this game and the boxscore. A pick-six and the two turnovers inside the Georgia 20 which led to Tennessee TD's stopped this from being the blowout it could have been at halftime. Also, what other times can you remember a defense making such good and bad plays in one game? They scored a TD and put the offense in position for two more but also gave up 51 points with some long TD's where they got manhandled. I guess as one annoying woman kept saying near me, "Anythang can happen in the ESS-EEE-CEE!"
Attended the Washington Stanford game last Thursday
during Michigan's bye week. Here are some of my observations of the environment:
Washington played at CenturyLink Field (Seahawks' stadium) while their stadium has work performed (I had been to Husky Stadium before to see Michigan play Washington and it was a much more fun experience)
6pm start right after work in downtown Seattle and only 55,000 people showed up to see the Huskies take on the 8th ranked team in the country (at least one person attending was a Michigan fan who didn't care who won the game)
The Huskies had a "blackout", where the fans wear black instead of purple. For a night game. Didn't work in person and probably made the stadium look even more empty on TV
Tickets were readily available for a third of face value -- against the 8th ranked team in the nation
I sat at the 20 yard line and 3 seats on either side of me were empty the whole game, as were the two rows in front of me (I was about 30 rows from the field)
Band was continously drowned out by their version of Special K
Food at CenturyLink was excellent
Loud? Unbelievably so. My ears were still ringing the next morning. I have never experienced that level of noise at the Big House.
The "fans" were universally predicting a blowout by Stanford, most were hoping the game would be "respectable"
A fourth of the people left in the third quarter during an unbelievably close game that was not determined until the final minute of play
The Huskies have a strong football heritage, but, it seems like a string of weak teams and coaches have taken their toll on fan enthusiasm. Big Ten and SEC games are MUCH better experience (from my limited sample). Finally, I hated watching a college game in a cushy pro stadium. Leaning back against my seat back, crossing my legs, and resting on my arm rests between reaches for drink in the cupholder . . . something was lost. I will gladly keep riding the Big House benches for decades to come.
I married a UGA profs daughter, so I've gotten to learn a fair bit about Athens and the surrounds. In short, Athens is a fantastic place to do an away game
1) Very easy to get to, about 90 min (or quicker depending on when you go--definitely skip gameday driving).
2) Great, great local culture. I see the REM guys all the time, who play locally a fair bit not to mention the B-52s who still come around as well as the Drive by Truckers. Lots of great local artists as well.
3) Great Southern food (had my "last lunch" before my wedding at Weaver D's, which has great southern food and a famous sign (Automatic for the People)
4) Good school, with top 3 programs in a number of areas like journalism and some weird stuff (Insurance).
5) Most importantly from FB perspective: secure fan-base. No other in-state rival (sorry Tech fans, it's not about your relative quality, just perception) to annoy them. Coaches have almost always been pretty upstanding guys (Richt especially) who don't trash talk. While some people might have horror stories from the liqour fueled UF tailgates, I have found them to be quite gracious fans to everyone who comes to town.
And i would love to see Michigan play Georgia more then anything. I am constantly harassed (in good nature mostly) for wearing my maize and blue proud at tailgates and during the game.
In response to Brian's posting about Georgia fans, they are much much louder this year then they have been in the past. It actually seems like two completly different fan bases. Most Georgia fans are nice though you have your ass holes of course. They tend to treat every team with respect except for Florida when they are in Jacksonville then you will see fights and shit talk every ten yards (if you have never been to Jacksonville for Georgia-Florida make it a bucket list item. I would compare it to idocracy but I am not sure that is extreame enough).
The chants at Georgia are prettu par to the course. During kickoffs and good plays the fans bark. Also the cheer is led with who is comin; down the track. The choris answers A mean machine in red and black. Leader: Ain't nothin' finer in the land. Choris: Then drunk, obnoxious Georgia fans and barking insues.
Georgia fans are the polo wearing frat boys and the sundress wearing girls. While I support a tradition where beautiful women dress up nice, i would prefer to see more painted insanity then are actually at the games. Also, a huge amount of the student section left by halftime this game. That is pretty par to the course.
Tailgating at Georgia is fantastic if you have a designed sport with a fraternity or you are willing to pony up big bucks to be near the stadium but I have heard it can be a nightmare otherwise. Also if you are worried about dead grass you should have seen it before they banned tailgating at North Campus. The business schools really did look like fallout.
I am biased because I go down town every weekend but the city of Athens is amazing for nightlife. The music scene is amazing and the bars are awesome. I love seeing all the old alumini in the college bars on Saturday night.
In conclusion, Michigan playing Georgia would be about the greatest thing ever. I pledge to be in the front of Georgia's student section, painted in Maize and Blue and thinking about Brunette girls if this happens in 2015.
I'm surprised to learn that Tennessee didn't travel well; in my experience, the SEC is very much a road travelling experience, and in my forays into the south one of the fun parts of the trip is seeing all the car flags of different SEC teams passing each other on the highways. My trips to Tennessee and LSU both involved huge contingents of visiting fans.
As mentioned in the quote, I think Tennessee fans are just getting beaten down by life. 10 years ago Neyland was a crushing environment and Tennessee was perennially dangerous; now a sellout is unusual and the fans have nothing to believe in. Just a reminder that we have it good, going to a BCS game after those three years of miserable mediocrity.
Going to a great college football environment when Michigan is not involved is a fantastic experience and I recommend it to anyone who loves college football if they have the resources to do it. College football is a magnificent sport, and the best home environments are the equal of any sporting experience in the world anywhere. And you can have a blast drinking in the experience without the jeopardy of having your own team's fate at stake.
And occasionally you'll see something amazing, like the A&M-Tech game in College Station I went to in '02 that finished something like 51-48 in OT for a game that wasn't even televised. This was the early Mike Leach era.
Go and see the traditions, and the atmosphere, and the action.
That is interesting because the reason for the Red out was Tennesse fans travel notriously well to Georgia. It is always implimented for this game so the players cant tell how many opposing fans are in the stands because the color is so close.
I laughed out loud for 10 straight seconds reading that bit about the 3-Doghouse Monty with Fries thing and the fan reaction. Classic.
I've also been to Sanford Stadium before, but for an Olympic soccer game back in 1996. I completely agree with your assessment of its verticality. I'd love to go back for a Michigan-Georgia game as well. Let's hope...
I'm a bit surprised by your comment on the lack of Tennessee fans there. I spent 4 years at Vanderbilt for medical school, and was continually amazed by how SEC fans travelled. RV's and campers and cars would start to arrive on campus on WEDNESDAY each week from the various SEC opponents. For the game against Vandy. Wow. They always seemed to come in droves, perhaps because they knew they were virtually assured that they could witness a victory. Nashville's great and all, but really? Spending 3 days there before the game? Anyhoo, I'm surprised that the Vols didn't represent like that in Athens.