My trip to “The Big House”

If you’re going to live in Ann Arbor (and within the realm of Detroit, for that matter), there are a few “cultural events” you have to experience, even if you’re not actually that interested in the event itself. For example, in Ann Arbor, you’ve got to go to Art Fair at least once– and, unless you are a fan of huge crowds and sweltering heat, you’ll probably only go once. Another example: a couple years ago, I went to the Detroit Auto Show, even though I don’t see cars as much more than an appliance and, at times, a necessary evil.

Another one of these sort of events is attending a football game at the University of Michigan’s stadium, referred to by the fans as “the big house.” We did this yesterday, and to add to the experience, the game we were at was against my alma mater, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. Annette and I got these tickets from my friend Bruce, who I met about 20 years ago in the Quadrangle Hall dorm at Iowa. He lived right across the hall from me and had air conditioning in his room, so we got to be friends in a hurry and have remained friends ever since.

Anyway, Bruce is a HUGE Iowa football fan, had tickets to this game, and couldn’t make it. So I bought them and Annette and I went.

Let me first set the context here regarding our “relationship” with football: I am not that big of a fan. I never actually went to an Iowa football game when I was an undergraduate, and while I’ll watch it on TV once in a while and I certainly cheer for Iowa, I don’t watch it that much. Annette, on the other hand, is not even remotely a fan; in fact, I think it’s fair to say that she barely gets the rules of the game. What I’m getting at is we aren’t exactly the rabid and involved type, the kind of guy who yells “THROW THE BALL!!!” at the top of his lungs, despite the fact that he is literally a quarter of a mile from the field.

So, how was it? Well, a bit like the Detroit Auto Show: it was something we were glad we went to at least once, but I don’t think we need to do it again. Here’s a “play-by-play:”

* We’ve experienced “game day traffic” in Ann Arbor, so we well understood the need to park far, FAR away from the stadium. We parked on the State street commuter lot and walked through the golf course. It took us about a half-hour to get there, and, for Annette in particular, it was one of the most pleasant parts of the day, with great views and lovely scenery.

* When we got to the gate, they wouldn’t let Annette take in her purse, which really REALLY pissed me off. We emptied it out and left it by the gate (and happily, it was still there when we left).

* I thought about wearing some sort of “Iowa” outfit, and there were plenty of people who were there to visibly support the Hawkeyes. Annette of course didn’t care one way or the other, and while I wanted Iowa to win, I didn’t want them to win so badly as to experience the sea of Michigan fans yelling things at me. I saw more than my share of signs and shirts that said stuff like “Iowa Sucks” or “Fuck Iowa” or something like that. So I thought I’d make a wardrobe choice that would be difficult to anger anyone, and who can get mad at Spongebob Squarepants?

Even this outfit had risks, though. I got a lot of looks from people along the lines of “what the hell is that?” and one guy I walked by outside the stadium yelled over “Is Spongebob a Wolverine or a Hawkeye?” I said he was kinda neutral.

* These seats were both bad and good. They were “bad” because we were in row 93, three or four rows from the tippy-top of the stadium, and we were in a corner. On the other hand, they were “good” because it was in a pocket of Iowa fans, which meant we could cheer for the right team and not get beaten. Incidentally, that blond blob in the lower left-hand side of the picture here is the top of a dramatic helmet-head hairstyle on an old lady in front of us.

* Michigan Stadium seats 110,428– thus the term “The Big House.” A few years ago, the stadium only sat 105,000 or so. How did they add 5,000 seats? Did they build more of them somehow? No; what they did was they rearranged the numbers on the bleachers so people are even closer together than they were. Let me put it to you this way: a full coach flight was positively roomy compared to this. And just to add to it, we were being squished on all sides by drunk men of various ages, all of whom seemed to be giving off fumes that smelled of beer, chilli, and fart. And testosterone: some drunk Iowa undergrad seemed willing to “take it outside” with all of “you Michigan fucks.” What made this behavior all the more charming was this idiot was right behind a guy with a little kid. Lovely image, huh?

* The Michigan Band’s halftime show was covers of 1980’s metal and hair-band rock– Guns ‘n Roses, Poison, Bon Jovi. I kid you not.

* How was the game? Well, Iowa lost, so not so good. We left near the start of the fourth quarter after Michigan intercepted, scored, and went ahead 20 points. Iowa did score again, so they tied the spread of 13 points. At least the gamblers broke even.

* All in all, it was fun, and I might do it again if it involved some pre-game and post-game tailgating. But by and large, I think the best way to watch one of these games is in front of the TV with a beer and a bag of microwave popcorn.

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