Hokepoints: Am I Living it Right? Comment Count

Seth October 2nd, 2012 at 9:28 AM

It's been two weeks since Michigan's last home game, and for me and the wife it meant two Saturdays at someone else's stadium: Notre Dame and—unrelated to the Great Meeting of the Bloggerati—Georgia. The first I went with my cousin and her kid, who's about the age I was when his father took me up to campus and I got Desmond'ed. The second was with two of my best friends from college, one of whom married a major Bulldog fan and couldn't bring his kid because you don't bring kids to SEC conference games—maybe Florida-Atlantic, but people still look at you strange.

I thought I'd use the bye week opportunity to share the experiences as compared to Michigan.

Notre Dame

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South Bend and Notre Dame du Lac vs. Ann Arbor: If not for the signs (which you should ignore because they tell dirty lies) you wouldn't realize there's a city here. Northern Indiana once you leave the part you pass to get to Chicago is right out of Rudy: small industrial belt homes nooked close together right up to the point campus has to start. We parked (for free) on the south side of Coquillard Park and at this point you notice or somebody informs you that Notre Dame is a fifth of the size of your IMG_1670median Big Ten school. The closest thing they have to a State Street or South University is a one-block collection of chain-ish restaurants in a pair of newer building complexes that straddle Eddy Street.

Their Main Street/downtown is about 2 miles southwest of the stadium and reminds me of Kalamazoo or a smaller Grand Rapids. The College Football Hall of Fame is here but we wanted to tailgate and it's something you rope Greg Dooley into doing with you but probably not a 12-year-old.

Coming from the south you are hitting a collection of buildings constructed or heavily renovated after 2004. The stadium owns this area. Once past (and to the left of) that and the new stuff you're in something a late Bourbon king probably commissioned. And it's here you remember or someone tells you that despite the mascot this started as a French institution, and was designed to French tastes. Having been to Ireland extensively and lived in France, this is a good thing.

On to the stadium and such, after a  jump.

Game Day:

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As Brian mentioned, it's in a big parking lot. It is a BIG parking lot, and unlike the haphazard, equal-sized tents at Michigan or East Lansing there's an air of permanence to many of their sprawling, 20-parking-spot (complete with tables) tailgates that could pass for upscale rehearsal dinners. Michigan had these too until the Victors Club washed away old timers' 20-year land claims and parking restrictions on the golf course broke up others.

The stadium gets about a 100-foot buffer zone from this. Entrances are named after their great coaches and come with statues of such. The players enter from the Knute Rockne gate, which faces TD Jesus. Fans line up from here down around that whole square to greet the players; the away team got a separate little corridor of fans. It's here I met the only four douchebags all day: one tall, drunk, braying old man who was escorted away before Lewan took him for a donkey, and three Ohio State fans, because wherever you are Ohio State fans want you to remember they are the worst fans.

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That's our equipment bus saying "Mine's Bigger."

Once inside your designated gate you can see the old brick bowl now housed inside the modern megalith. It's a stark contrast with the oodles of modern "tradition"—the statues, banners, displays, names, etc.—they put everywhere else, like finding Fenway housed inside the exterior and amenities of Comerica Park. Of those amenities are not listed "enough bathrooms." OTOH their concession prices are reasonable.

When you see inside, well, that's the thing you come for. It's really one the things college football fans ought to see:

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I sat in the Michigan section high in the South end zone, 10 rows from the top, and felt as close to the action as in Row 45 of the Big House. There's the one tiny scoreboard over each end zone that doesn't have much more than the score. One side has the pressbox/box seats, the nominal upper deck is cut off by a concourse akin to Michigan Stadium's new layout, and the super-expensive seats have backs. People filled in about the same rate as Michigan fans, many the worse for wear; you could tell the earlier tailgaters because they'd been drenched earlier in the day, and used that as an excuse to replace enough blood with alcohol that wearing a t-shirt in 40-degree weather seemed like a good idea. The bands are made to squish into the corners. Not ever being able to hear ours was about the only thing that a visiting fan can complain about.

You are reminded of their athletic department's reputation for fumbly incompetence when they do silly things like send their band into a clear night in Zoltanist raincoats or try to get ND students (their section goes to about the 40-yard line behind the seatbacks) to synchronously unfurl three 50-yard pieces of an Irish flag. As mentioned in last week's Dear Diary, the most NDNation thing about them was Notre Dame itself: they miked up their band and did a bunch of other obnoxiously homer things to make up for the non-threatening nature of flowerbeds, 80,000 pleasant folk and a mural of someone's savior. Their attempts to be SEC-like looked especially pathetic when compared with…

Georgia

 

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The way is shut. It was made by those who wear red, and the red keep it.

Athens vs. Ann Arbor. Brian already provided The Full Bray and I co-sign on many of his observations. Though we stopped by and walked to the stadium together, my party was separate from the Great Meeting of the Bloggerati, so this is a little different perspective than the one all over college football blogs this week.

What you see in the picture above is the dividing line between campus and the city. Athens has a lot of bars, enough that even right after the game you can easily get a table for six and a couple rounds of drinks at the one that leans toward a grad student/professorial clientele. Preserved in its 19th century grid, Athens is what modern city planners wish they could make A-squared: about 6x6 city blocks of continuous neat stuff.

Like most Southern towns, you can still visibly identify where the segregation lines once stood—for example a barber shop and a barbecue mark the old Hull Street community—but this city always had a few mixed neighborhoods, and proximity was close enough that it largely avoided tarnishing from that history.

Game Day: One thing you need to understand about ESS-EEE-CEE schools is that they're tied inextricably with the campus towns they dominate. The cities are IMGP4955cultural oases that grew up around the universities, and the universities are learning oases that grew up around the football stadiums. From the air Sanford Stadium looks like the core of a planetary nebula. What transpires "between the hedges" is both literally and figuratively at the center of regional life.

The clever t-shirt du jour in Georgia is to declare themselves the brand of "Grown Man Football," because apparently a Missou player said Richt's team plays "Old Man Football." The spread is dead meme is gone now so I have no idea how deeply it penetrated. Richt is a late-Lloyd figure to them except blogdamn naysayers are not tolerated. If not expressing the maturity of their football brand, the men wear advanced synthetics golf shirts tucked into khaki pants, and the women wear dresses from sun to cocktail (more common). As our guide noted, Michigan fans dress like shlubs and act like gentlemen and ladies; in the SEC they dress like gentlemen and ladies and act like buffoons.

Those last I saw very little of—more from Tennessee fans than Georgia—however we were warned on multiple occasions to keep witty comments to ourselves as wit is unappreciated and liable to start fights. What we take for well-behaved fans, seen close up, is not the same breed of "I'm too snarky to start a fight"-ness we practice, but rather a kind of tribal politeness—the kind soldiers use with each other because they all know 19 ways to kill you.

I was strongly advised against wearing my Woodson-Heisman shirt; trolling the visiting fanbase isn't totally frowned upon, but temp an SEC thing and the South Shall Rise!

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They stand.

Though bringing a kid to the game is anathema, the mean age of Georgia fans has got to be at least 10 and maybe 20 years lower than Michigan's. It's a massive school, thus there are masses of students and alumni. The amount of standing and walking involved plays a role too but our guide blamed this on Georgia being unwatchable from WWII to Herschel Walker; this explains why the equivalent of our Bo die-hards weren't around. Churches and political groups, the latter all Republican, have multiple tents set up to proselytize. A Tennessee fan was handing out T-shaped cookies and nobody bit.

Nobody enters the stadium until 1/2 an hour before kickoff, because there is too much beer to be consumed first (I didn't once smell pot). Then it instantly fills. I like the more extensive pre-game rituals of Michigan, but it seems this "everybody in!" style does a good job of preventing any period when seats are half-full. There's no such thing as an empty seat at kickoff, and in the lower bowl there is no such thing as a seat with a butt in it when the game is happening. Through some machinations not shared because they're not very repeatable, we managed to get our group into the student section.

The stadium has ads, mostly on ribbons between the decks, and mostly ignorable. Fraternities and sororities have buttons they wear to announce their houses and serve as another opportunity to express their desire for canine motion. Other methods include the "Who's that walkin' down the line?" response cheer, the standard "Go Dawgs!" and barking at each other. There seemed to be specific times when this was appropriate, but other than kickoffs I couldn't figure out when. They believe they invented holding up four fingers to signify the 4th quarter is theirs, and there's music to punctuate this fact, and I couldn't argue that with them, but the Georgia D was happy to get my back.

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Still standing.

After 4 hours and 95 points, Dooley's over-matched squad was duly dispatched, and we made a beeline to this free-standing bell they ring whenever they win. It reminded me of Grease and a thousand other movies that have football teams that ring victory bells, and made me envious that we aren't one of them. The chatter on the way out was all about Steve Spurrier, whose Gamecocks visit this week, and who has been poking fun at them in past and recent press conferences. A few yelled "Spurrier is a cock." Because it's so true.

Comments

MGoCombs

October 2nd, 2012 at 10:11 AM ^

Reading this and Brian's post makes me want to go on a little college football gameday tour someday. I've been to all of the FBS stadiums in Michigan, ND and Maryland, but I would love to get a different geographic perspective. I am moving to San Diego soon so next year I plan on hitting up USC, UCLA and SDSU if the schedule permits for still watching Michigan games. Still, I'd love to see a game or two in the south or in Texas. It's really interesting to see how different regions approach the culture of college football. Thanks for these posts. I think you and Brian should do an annual MGoBlog trip to different football places and write about the experience.

Seth

October 2nd, 2012 at 11:03 AM ^

Brian does his thing with Spencer from EDSBS. Maybe next year I can get in on that. Finally did get to meet Braves & Birds in person, since I'm a big fan of his writing, and then of course I got all stupid making my not-best comments about Woodson while he played Peyton devil's advocate too well. Stupid stupid stupid.

m1jjb00

October 2nd, 2012 at 12:11 PM ^

 

 

  Att Comp Yards Int TD Eff
Manning 477 287 3,819 11 37 148.4
Leaf 410 227 3,968 11 34 158.7

 

Manning beats him in completion %, but Leaf crushes him in yards per attempt.  Manning's 3 extra TDs were bought with a lot more attempts.

GoBlueGladstone

October 2nd, 2012 at 10:27 AM ^

...and Notre Dame (City/campus) is pre-fab antiquity.Tastefully done, but lacking true character. Not unlike the school.

Once you're over the Touchdown Jesus view, it's all very commonplace.

Yes. I really hate Notre Dame. Can't wait to go to a Dawg game, though.

M-Wolverine

October 2nd, 2012 at 10:58 AM ^

You might not have been as impressed lower in the bowl, because since the expansion you can't see Touchdown Jesus from everywhere in the Stadium (you can even see the seat line in different colors in the photos above). Before that, he was visible from just about anywhere.

And what's with the wall and gate for Georgia's campus? Are they trying to keep the zombies out...or keep them in...?

Johnny Blood

October 2nd, 2012 at 11:27 AM ^

The picture is a little misleading... it is actually very easy to walk onto campus from town.  There is some sort of tradition about the gate (I think you aren't supposed to go through it until you graduate?) but you can easily pass by it to get onto campus.

We live just south of Atlanta and go up to Athens for a game every now and then.  It's a very good game-day experience (not quite as good as Ann Arbor, but definitely better than other SEC games I've been to) and the fans are pretty friendly.  I would obviously love a home-and-home with them.

And I have really enjoyed these traveling game-day experience write-ups... would be fun to collect our aggregate experiences from different stadiums around the country.  I'll bet among the group of us, we have been to most if not all the major stadiums.

ziggolfer

October 2nd, 2012 at 11:15 AM ^

My second major in undergrad was French. I could never understand why an Irish school had all the French relationships other than that the 2 countries are related by the predominance of their catholic faith. 

My only question is that why you didn't go to the ND pep rally on Friday? In my experience, this event is the most revered pre-game event for ND fans even though it is the day before the game. I should note that I have been to a game with each coach ND has had since Holtz, and the event sucked every year except when I went for my first game when ND pounded Purdue when Purdue was respectable. With that said, ND Saturdays are blahh and when you've been once there is no reason to go a second time. 

Great insight on a game in the south. I've been to ACC games, and they sound slightly different unless people have pic-nics on the lawn inside the stadium (Wake Fores, UVA, etc). I'd be curious if they go on inside the stadium at bigger and better football programs. 

Seth

October 2nd, 2012 at 12:58 PM ^

I didn't even know about the pep rally, not that it could have made a difference with our schedule tight as it was. We drove in Saturday late morning (shout-out to Wazers who were texting the words to the Victors all the way) and drove home after the game, ending up behind M's team buses and the police escort who was falling asleep. But it was hella fun either way.

ziggolfer

October 2nd, 2012 at 3:54 PM ^

To be honest, you didn't miss much. In retrospect the only pep rally that was entertaining was Holtz's in the 90s, but it is funny being the opposing fans at the event because you get called out by the speakers but not normally the ppl sitting around you. ND people like the event because it reminds them of the well you know, and we thankfully do not have an equivalent. I go to these games with too hard core Notre Dame people, so I have to do the whole routine every time.

To be honest though, I prefer the pre-game events even at Wake Forest or any others I mentioned. Their game atomosphere is lame because Wake has literally zero student section, but the school, like the others I mentioned, provides a better atomosphere for the tailgate. I may have attended so many ND games that my opinion is skewed at this point. 

Since85

October 2nd, 2012 at 12:59 PM ^

went very well.  I took the fiance and we parked south of the Linebacker Lounge, an instituion in and of iteself.  Parking cost us $25.00 in a private home's front yard, which was owned by a UM grad and her ND husband.  Really enjoyed the campus buildings, design, grotto, the library.  The fans were nice, only a few rude comments.  I've been hardened by many trips to Ohio for games.  Nice stadium, but they have one heck of a homer announcer, which, Ok i guess but not what I normally expect.  Piped music deep into our gameclock when on offense I thought was bush.  The miked up band was very loud and again, is this what visitors get when they come to the UM?  I don't think so, at least from my biased opinion.  The one item the really stood out at ND was that after the game the surrounding area was an absolute mess, just terrible.  Made us appreciate the bottle law in Michigan and the people who pick up the cans and bottles.  The way out of South Bend back to the turnpike east was a great surprise as well.  I thought we'd have to go back the same route, exit 77,  as we came but we followed route 23 east and came to an entrance at mile marker 83.  I'm glad I went, especially since the series will be ending.  Now on to other venues!  Next year's road trip will be NW and a 3 day Chicago weekend.

Seth

October 2nd, 2012 at 3:23 PM ^

Well first of all I'd say get the most awesome wife in the universe but since I've got her locked up to a long-term contract that's not going to be repeatable. Other than that, it's all about how you present it.

When my friend got married 4 years ago in Athens my other best friend and I both had relatively new girlfriends and we asked if they could come--No ring, no bring. Well we both married those gals, and have been giving him shit about it ever since. So, hey, great idea: during Michigan's bye week we should have a COUPLES WEEKEND where we get together and have a dinner party on Friday night, and then go do a recreation of the wedding in Athens that they missed. And oh, wouldn't you know it, they have a big game that weekend and wouldn't it be fun to see Athens on such a special day, and OF COURSE we have to go to the game, right? Maybe we can do some antiquing and have a nice dinner there.

Anyway Misopogal loved the game--said it was the most fun she's ever had at a football game.

Seth

October 2nd, 2012 at 5:00 PM ^

Enough that I did a double-take when I saw a girl in the photo because the family always has boys! Also I hear the mother of these children is super nice.

The request came via my parents, from the wedding this weekend. They're best friends with Robbie and Annie.

UMgradMSUdad

October 3rd, 2012 at 7:57 AM ^

Great write up.  I really liked your guide's sentiments, too: 

As our guide noted, Michigan fans dress like shlubs and act like gentlemen and ladies; in the SEC they dress like gentlemen and ladies and act like buffoons.

UMgradMSUdad

October 3rd, 2012 at 7:57 AM ^

Great write up.  I really liked your guide's sentiments, too: 

As our guide noted, Michigan fans dress like shlubs and act like gentlemen and ladies; in the SEC they dress like gentlemen and ladies and act like buffoons.