[Taken from part one of "Bob Ufer: A Life In a Season". A true testament to how important college football is to all of us, and why it will continue to be so in the future.]
“It’s only September, but as we look down and daydream a bit, we can’t help but notice that the field is a green, tinged with brown, and a white chalked line laces it together. The athletes have been moving gingerly, packed firmly in dashing uniforms, where padding and muscle meet.
“The stand offers a stage for fashion here in [Ann Arbor]; men in shirt sleeves and colorful sport jackets, ladies all lovely, a combination of soft curves and bright hats. There are the program hawkers, the deep-voiced peddler with his hot dogs, the soft drink boy making change, and the smiling cheerleaders. There are uniformed men in striped shirts, and of course a dog.
“What is it? It’s football!
“Yessir, there are five seasons across this country every year: winter, spring, summer, fall, and football. Football season makes the barber cut hair just a little bit better, and it makes the butcher slice the steak a trifle thicker. The shoeshine boy pops his rag with more gusto; the landlord doesn’t mention the overdue rent.
“The pilgrimage is on: old cars, new cars, and motorbikes are jammed with riders, wheeling for the stadium, from north, east, south, and west, and the backroads are jam-filled. The gentleman steers with one arm, explaining a forward pass with the other. Ladies think about their figures and men compromise that it’ll only be one weekend. So stop the car, get some hot dogs and drinks from the roadside stand.
“On grassy lots and asphalt sidings, high school lawns and golf greens, the cars line up with the hood ornaments pointing toward the main gates. Trunk compartments fly up to supply sandwiches, sliced cake and pickles, and a few pints after touchdown, even though the game hasn’t begun yet.
“The insurance man waves and doesn’t mention his newest policy; rather wants to know who’s favored. Old friends are greeted, and new friends are introduced between bites. The old grad may look older, but he’s beginning to feel younger than his freshman year.
“There’s the band with the drum major, and maybe they’ve got seventy-six trombones, and maybe they haven’t; but the music sounds good, and if you’re walking the steps come quicker. The ex-halfback tells himself he can pull a helmet over that bald spot and look as good as any of the college boys. The bad knee feels like new.
“There are folks seated on the 50-yard line, and they have that little edge in prestige because there aren’t many such seats available. They really can’t see the game any better: it’s the symbol of success, and football games are social games as well.
“They’re the loyal and disloyal, and the fella who really doesn’t care who wins, but wants to see some action. There’s something in football for everyone. Some can cheer the players, some can second-guess the coach, some can listen to transistor radios and see how wrong we radio announcers can be, while some just enjoy the ballet of young bulls in battle.
“There’s a beauty of sound in a punt, and a spine-chill from the thud of a fullback being hit head-on by a red-dogging linebacker. There’s magic on the campus sprawling beyond the boundaries of the stadium. There’s a pleasant emotional letdown after a game is over: a tired but happy feeling for the winner, a tired but resolute challenge to avenge by the losers. The stands empty, and the fog of battle lifts, and there’s a stillness and a grandeur, and a look to the future.
“No sir, there’s nothing like collegiate football, and it happens all over the country. It’s happening here at [Ann Arbor] this afternoon…as once again small college towns across the nation become part of the big collegiate football scene.”
Enjoy today as the start of another glorious Michigan football season. We've only had 135 of them so far - here's to another 135 glorious years, starting with Team 136 as they take on the Utah Utes. Go Blue!