Reading Ace's post (http://aceofsports.blogspot.com/2008/09/overheard-in-student-section-wis..., sorry for length, link won't embed), I got goosebumps, the kind I normally associate with the '04 MSU game and '05 PSU. I have a hard time trying to think which of these was the greatest. In their own way, each was very special I suppose. This one was exciting because, for the first time, I was in the student section for a huge comeback win, as opposed to with the band. The four years in band were amazing, and no one should doubt that they are some of the best and loudest fans in the stadium, week in and week out, regardless of the outcome. But this week, as a grad student, with all of the fairweather students gone and only those who believed in the team too much to leave left, the student section underwent a magnificent transformation.
Those who left , though we should mock them, we should also excuse. Most of them simply don't know yet. Any non-seniors would not have had the opportunity to see such a comeback. The seniors deserve no such compassion. They were here in '05, and they know what can happen. This may have been their last chance. Those non-seniors who fled have their one strike now. They have the opportunity here to learn their lesson, and make sure they are in the stands next time it happens. My Michigan experience is inextricably linked with Braylon Edwards and MSU, Manningham and PSU, and now the '08 rebuilding team and Wisconsin.
No longer did I have to hear a dumb frat guy declare that he "never wanted Lloyd fired in the first place" or hear the girls behind me argue about white, wheat, or no buns on their hoof and snout wrapped in guts. Err, hot dogs. This student section had an entirely different mentality. This Saturday it was the die-hards. The insane people who are so far gone down the Michigan football spiral of self-destruction to do anything but watch, even if it was exquisitely painful.And it was in this atmosphere that I was reminded of something I had forgotten in band; the student section is fundamentally good. Are there people who suck in the maize(ish) corner of the stadium? Sure, and they're typically the most vocal. But after the weak and wounded had left, the core that remained was determined, serious, and tough. They knew the players, they understood the halftime adjustments, and down 19-0, with nothing happening for even most of the third quarter, they yelled. Lord did we yell.
Then, when a bulky impostor Mario Manningham caught a TD up the seam, the points didn't seem so daunting. We were down by 12, but a giant pile of hugging erupted in Section 28. My ex-band friends grin with a combination of hope and anger at the team for bringing our minds back into the game with our emotions. If we could score, we thought, we can do anything. Including score more.
The rest of the game unfolded as a series of snapshots. The defense was crushing, the noise had alumni turning down their hearing aids, and goddamnit, some even stood up. The offense started to click, with newfound hope and support from their peers. A fantastic zone-read handoff, as Wisky brought a blitz the entire section read. John "the Machete" Thompson pick-six. Hugs everywhere, my eyes are welling, I'm jumping up and down holding hands with a girl I've never met. Dual Threet goes 58 improbable yards. McGuffie gets it done. Steven Threet pumping up a crowd that he could just as easily been giving the finger to. Fumbled at the eight. Students brining the noise as Wisky drives. The TD drops the noise level for seven seconds, then it ramps up to the loudest yet. Caught. Flag. Incomplete. Bedlam.
It wasn't just that the team had done it. They had, but so had we. We cheered even harder when they threw a false start flag. We cheered when Threet implored us to, because it was the right thing to do, and he was our Quarterback. We cheered the drumline cheers, as other students briefly looked at us like we were insane, then joined in. We cheered because we needed to, because we had bit our nails and cursed and sighed and cringed to get to this amazing moment.The band's postgame was heartfelt and joyful. We sang the Victors and it didn't feel hollow, because against all odds, we were. We sang the Yellow and Blue arm in arm, and then headed off into the night, as Wisky drowned their sorrows in the brassy blasting of the Fifth Quarter.
I hope there were plenty of underclassmen who stayed. The outpouring of human emotion, sadness, desperation, and joy is what makes college football what it is. I never felt more like a Michigan Wolverine than have felt on these special Saturdays in fall. It's a feeling that is so deep and fantastic you want everyone in the country wearing maize and blue to share it with you. It's an irrational, unpredictable, intense emotion, and for the first time in five years, I felt it in a new way on Saturday.