I couldn't believe what I saw from my seats, late in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame had just taken back the lead, 34-31 and Michigan was getting ready to punt with five minutes to go. I was sitting in row B behind the ND band in section 4, and THREE Michigan fans, sitting in row A in front of me, got up and left the game. They were grumbling and so forth, and just got up as soon as Michigan couldn't convert the third down that led to the punt. I was so pleased with the intensity of the crowd so late in the game, even though it was a Notre Dame game which automatically makes the hardcore fans infinitely louder.
Brian used to write about "badges of fandom" after some of the great Michigan comeback wins after being down late. Namely the Wisconsin game last season and the Penn State game in 2005 and the MSU game the year prior. It made me so sad to see those three people leave such a great game early, especially when they probably pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of sitting in the front row, in section 4. Everyone who bought tickets both for the whole season and who came to this Notre Dame game definitely earn badges of fandom in my mind. There was a shockingly high turnover of people not renewing season tickets for this year, because they had given up on Rich Rodriguez after only one season...but in a way it is like a great purge of all the old codger Michigan fans who complain about missing the old days, and never stay for the times that Michigan has a memorable comeback win. They are the ones who missed out on this game, and if the only drawback is giving the true Michigan fans the chance to buy a ticket to a game or finally move up the season ticket waiting list, then it is fate that we all got to witness the defining moment (so far) in the Rodriguez tenure and start to believe that Michigan will be OK.
I salute everyone who was inside the Big House until the end, making it the loudest I have heard in as long as I have been going to games (since about 5 years old in the Desmond Howard days).
But on to another thing that struck me, and that was the Irish band. I had to sit two rows behind them for four hours, and they really earned some respect from me. They were loud (but respectful), never sat down, and definitely overpowered the faint sound of the Michigan band coming out of the other corner. And at the end of the game, even though some of them looked like they had just had their kitten thrown off a skyscraper, they lined up, and raised their instruments to play the Notre Dame alma mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother" as all their remaining fans joined in singing. Ohio State does the same thing after games, even after ones they lose, and it always gives me pause at the undying love these bands and fans have for their schools.
I *always* stand there in silent respect and watch these traditions, out of a love for college football, and it also always reminds me that Michigan foolishly doesn't do their own version.
I have been quietly hoping for years that someday, Michigan would take up the same tradition...to especially overshadow the shameful "You Suck" chant after third down stops...but it never happens. I think this might be the year to start that tradition, because Michigan only ever plays "The Yellow and Blue" once at homecoming, and that's it. Rich Rodriguez has done a fantastic job getting some new things going at games and pumping some new life into a somewhat sleepy fanbase. I hope there are others out there who would join me in possibly getting RR to start an alma mater tradition to go along with singing "The Victors" in the student corner after games. After all, we want to show up the Irish and Buckeye bands in every way, don't we?
Go Blue, and here's to hoping for some more magic before the season is done!