It was 1969, a year Iggy Pop would immortalize in song. A year in which many a body bag got filled in ‘Nam. Some guy called “Bo” came up from Ohio to replace some guy named “Bump”. The whole freaking world was changing at a rate hard to measure without an electron stopwatch. Hippies were promoting free love and revolution and drugs. The White Panthers and the Rainbow People’s Party had houses on Hill Street. Black people were demanding to be treated like actual human beings; not asking, demanding. Walter Cronkite was still cool, but so was Joe Namath.
Me and Allan, my best bud, walked from Melrose Street to the stadium. No tickets. Didn’t have a nickel between us, but we were going to the Game. Our friends would be there, like always, in the south end zone about sixty or seventy rows up.
With our best pathetic faces, we stood at the corner of Stadium and Main begging for tickets--for all of about twenty seconds. Some drunk rich guy staggers up to us. “Here ya go, boys!”, he says. “Have a good time!” Allan looks over the tickets. 45 yard line, fifty rows up, west side. WTF! Ten minutes later we’d sold them for ten bucks apiece, had climbed under the fence by Crisler Arena and after a quick stop at the hot dog stand, were on our way to our rightful spots amongst the Tappan Junior High congregation. Life was good.
Some idiot, I don’t remember who, was handing out free apples. Jim Lampley, then a budding cub reporter, was standing on a riser in the southwest corner of the playing field doing some advance work for the TV. Well, he was making an attempt. Suddenly a hail of apples descended upon him like cluster bombs out of a Tomahawk Missile. I must admit that I did in fact aim for his head, but was pleased with the chest shot that connected—along with several other young apple snipers. Jim Lampley relocated. We laughed and taunted.
Back then they had no end zone nets. They had the hated Yellow Jackets—the guys responsible for retrieving footballs out of the crowd after extra points and field goals. We hated them. They hated us. We both knew the battles this day would be fierce. Our resolve was strong that day at the start, but after the Wolverines started chewing up some Buckeye ass—well, we would have stomped little old ladies into the ground to secure that pigskin manna falling to us from the heavens. And yes, we liberated more than one trophy that day.
Few people around today are witness to the thundering roar heard for miles that used to crack the atmosphere Saturday afternoons—that is, the stomping of feet on the steel bowl girding the concrete pit of Michigan Stadium. It sounded like a nuclear bomb attempting to extinguish an F5 Tornado hovering over a burning fireworks factory. Opposing teams used to experience anal pucker level 10 the first time they were beseeched by this auditory and vibratory assault. Wolverines used to jack up like crack heads air lifted into Peru. (Key Play? We would have kilt you and ate your young!) I’m telling you, the Wolverine Army could have taken Moscow that day and still had enough left to bum rush Peking.
As the human wave crashed the field after the boom of the final gun, and assaulted the goal posts at the north end, it was evident all intelligence had evaporated in a radioactive cloud of fanatic lust that remains lurking even today. We brought down the goal posts. Toppling over the shared gravitational pull of the goal post brought with it every fan whose muscle, sinew and brainwaves had propelled them into history. A mere two feet from my face, as I was crashed to the turf by the tidal wave of screaming fans, the corner of the goal post dug a good 9 inches deep. It was truly a miracle no one was kilt.
As Allan and I watched the frat boys carry those goal posts out of the stadium that day the sun was slipping behind some clouds and a grayness befell the Earth as if to say, you will never again witness such a contest. Be grateful. Though I had been to many Michigan games before then, that day, I felt truly baptized. I knew then, the Wolverines—win, lose or draw—would be my team forever.