I should have known you were temptation. [WH]
What's the first Michigan game you remember going to, or if that pre-dates memory, your earliest impressions of going to a Michigan game? And what would that kid/adult kid take away if he went to his first one this year?
Ace: I can't talk about my first Michigan game without discussing what was scheduled to be my first Michigan game. My family moved to Michigan in 1993, and my dad, an alum, got us a pair of season tickets low in the North end zone for the 1994 season—we apparently bypassed much of the waiting list due to a clerical error. My brother and I would switch off going to games with my dad; Jack took the first game, a win over Boston College. I was crestfallen to learn a couple weeks later that my dad would be on a business trip for the next game, and my mom had zero interest in going—at six years old, I wasn't going solo. Instead of getting my first taste of the Big House, I got my first taste of the secondary ticket market when my mom drove as close to the stadium as she dared on the day of the game and sold our tickets for face value.
A few hours later, Kordell Stewart connected with Michael Westbrook, and while I had a good cry on my couch, not being at Michigan Stadium that day probably saved my budding fanhood.
For some reason (ill-timed Rec&Ed soccer game, most likely), I couldn't make the next home game, so my first game ended up being a titanic matchup between #5 Michigan and #3 Penn State. Most of what I remember of that game is everything but the actual game. Walking to the stadium, hugging my dad's hip so the the sea of people with stomachs at eye-level wouldn't whisk me away. Huddling at the main gate, wondering how all these people could possibly fit in a building that barely crested above ground level. The most memorable moment, and I'm sure I'm not alone here, was the breathtaking step through the gate and into the stadium; if you haven't been to the Big House, it's tough to describe walking through a concrete tunnel and seeing the vast majority of 105,000+ seats laid out below you, when from the outside—at that time, at least—Michigan Stadium looked downright understated.
|Vague memories of going "Wheeeeeeeee!!!"|
I vaguely remember Tyrone Wheatley and Ki-Jana Carter playing very well. I definitely remember my immediate fascination with Tshimanga Biakabutuka, whose name I would repeat while running through my backyard for years to come. I remember being somewhat disappointed with the loss, but not crushed, in large part because my dad let us walk on the bleachers to get back up to the gate and out of the stadium, and it felt like we were getting away with something even though half our section took the same tack. I'd say I remember the walk home, but the many walks I made with my dad to and from Stadium and Main over the years run together into a blur of walking across the railroad tracks, cutting through the athletic campus, and passing that ever-changing pizza place on Dewey and Packard.
Despite the loss, I loved it. I loved that everyone in our section seemed to know each other, and even if they didn't they sure acted like it after touchdowns. I loved the pure electricity of a hundred thousand strong singing the same song. (A song I actually knew, even!) I loved how the laws of society seemed to loosen just a bit on those fall Saturdays—crosswalks became irrelevant (at six, this was a major development), lines were navigated with little regard for who arrived before whom, and standing on the seats was encouraged, not something that would lose me dessert privileges.
I don't think much would change for me today. While the additions to the stadium take away from the "hole in the ground is far bigger than I imagined" effect while walking in, that effect is by no means gone, and both Kid Me and Adult Me would/does love the updated concourse and overall look and feel of the Big House. The walk is still the same. The song remains the same. The camaraderie and feeling of connection, while perhaps not as strong after a trying decade, is still a big part of the experience. Seeing 100+ winged helmets fly under the barrier of the M Club banner still sends chills down my spine.
Kid Me probably wouldn't pay much attention to Special K, but he'd have been fascinated by the hype videos. They should play more of those.
[After the jump: fuzziness]
Brian: When asked this question I exhaled something that kind of sounded like "whoof." I do not know man.
I do know:
0. I went to most of them after I moved back to Michigan for sixth grade. Before that I was in Colorado.
|You can't make Michael Taylor into confetti; only WE can make Michael Taylor into confetti. [UM Bentley Library]|
1. When I was young I was prohibited from going to Notre Dame games because those tickets were reserved for adults who were important adults. Which fair enough, now. As a kid I was INCENSED.
2. When I was in the stadium my cousins and I made paper airplanes out of the free programs and tore up the pages to make confetti we could throw in the air whenever Michigan scored a touchdown. At points the paper-related activities were more important than the game; I remember getting impatient when Michigan did not score touchdowns particularly quickly because I wanted to discharge my confetti.
3. There was a game we lost against Illinois where I shot my hands skyward in exultation because I thought we had won because I was short and could not see we had lost. A quick googling indicates this must have been 1993, when I was 14.
4. Punt-Counterpunt in those free magazines was IMPORTANT. I hated Punt on his week to be pessimistic; I hated Counterpunt on his week to be pessimistic. We all flipped to the back of our free programs to read P/CP weekly. I divined legions from its eccentric prose.
5. Michigan losing was a seismic disaster. It happened, of course.
Seth: I'm another of the impressionists. I have no idea what my first Michigan game was—I have an oddly strong memory of everyone's clothes. I was wearing a gray and blue jacket vest with zip-off sleeves that were zipped off, and a lamb's wool hood that zipped down the middle. Someone came up with the idea for a zipper right down the middle of kids' jacket hoods, and this idea couldn't have lasted much longer than it takes consumers to get their hair stuck in it, so if you can date doggie-eared zip hoods, that's the year. We parked in the lot across the street from the Fleetwood—a tradition that didn't last much longer than dog-eared zip hoods—and I watched everybody walking by in their sweatshirts. I remember walking the train tracks to the game, and after it the pumpkins outside the houses.
|Nine of ten doctors do not recommend making the Fleetwood part of your gameday tradition.|
I went to a handful of games, but more often we drove up just to tailgate on some family friend's lawn while the dads went to the game and we threw footballs across the street to each other. I had a half-size blue football with a Michigan 'M' on it that was my prized possession, even though I spent car rides picking away at its rubber fake-stitches.
The first game that really sticks is when I spent a weekend with my cousin Larry, or Irwin as he points out every time I call him Larry, or Larry as I still call him anyway, who was a grad student at the time. It was the 1991 Indiana game, and we had pancakes at Frank's just the other side of the Nickels Arcade (years later I thought the bicycle shop had been the restaurant so I didn't get a Frank's pancake again until last year). Even then most people wore gray sweatshirts and I was one of a few in Michigan gear--a navy longsleeve 1990 Rose Bowl shirt.
From here Desmond Howard takes over. He returned a kickoff that's 71 yards in the stats, was probably more like 100 yards on the hoof, and has gone well past a million counting all the playbacks in my head. Michigan would hand it off to Powers or Johnson (or plow ahead with Burnie) until it was time for Desmond to score a touchdown, which he did every which way: a vintage short Dez-slant where he catches it then runs right by everybody, some other TD that I remember as a lot of large bodies leaping up around me, and a fingertip catch over the middle that finally gave Michigan more than a score's lead. After that last I announced to the grad students around me that Desmond Howard was my favorite player, and figured they were probably really impressed at such an astute observation by this 11-year-old.
Today I'd complain about the MANBALL gameplan, rue Bo's WR recruiting that left Michigan with just Van Dyne opposite Des, fret that Indiana converted 12 third downs, and use the eight-point final margin to evidence fear. At the time I probably forgot the final score half-way to the State Street book vendors; certainly it was gone by the first mug of hot cider at the Brown Jug. Michigan won, Desmond Howard, and by the bottom of that cider--blissfully ignorant that college football players had finite eligibility—I was decided to get back to Ann Arbor by any grades necessary.
Tahuwai la a tahuwai wai la
BiSB: Believe it or not, I didn't attend a Michigan game until 1999. I grew up in a Michigan State household, so my Michigan fandom (which spontaneously generated itself somewhere around my early teens) was not internally supported until my sister became an athlete at Michigan. My first game was the 1999 Illinois game, in which Michigan turned a late 3rd quarter 27-7 lead into a stunning 35-29 defeat. I had watched Michigan games on television for years, so the early drubbing of a probably-mediocre-because-it-was-Illinois Illinois team seemed expected, not in a "Michigan is better than Illinois" sense, but in a "this is what Michigan does" sense. The Illinois comeback sucked, but in a very different way than did more recent blown games. Losses in 2014 feel like a blow to a thing that I like; when Michigan loses, it sucks because I like Michigan and I like when it does well. It was more personal back then; the outcome ruined MY experience, which was too bad for ME.
|The recording here has to go back to the early '90s if it's Gary Lewis.|
My fandom back then was stunningly different then than it is today. I knew much less about football Xs and Os, as well as about the players. Learning the personnel in those days was a matter of showing up on game day and listening to Carl Grapentine recite names and accomplishments after every play, or sitting at home and listening to (and underappreciating) Keith Jackson. I'm with Brian that the free programs were all, especially Punt/ Counterpunt. I would arrive early, read the rosters and the stats and get up to speed on what I needed to know. What I now spend months doing in the off-season, I accomplished back then in the time between when I sat down and the moment the 235 member Michigan Marching Band took the field.
I don't know which is better. Back then, I could watch a comfortable victory over a bad opponent and feel good about it without overanalyzing. Who cares if they couldn't generate any organic pass rush with their front four against East-Western Central State. They won, so yay. But I also couldn't appreciate the finer aspects of the game, like when a linebacker got great depth on a drop or if a guard pulled deftly on a power play. Sometimes I wish I could watch a game again as a casual fan, just to see what it feels like. But I have all of this useless knowledge, which is a blessing and a curse.