Better at the Big House
Watching a Michigan game is fun, but in my opinion, the best parts of the game aren't the 60 minutes that take place between two endzones. While that is still a lot of fun, going to a Michigan football game is all about the atmosphere before, during, and after the game.
Our game on Saturday wasn't very exciting, but that didn't matter. I was just glad to be back at the Big House!
Michigan Stadium doesn't have a giant parking lot for games, so most people have to park on the streets and lawns of the surrounding neighborhood. I am quite familiar with the area around the Stadium - I pass by there whenever I attend one of our churches. Normally, it's a pretty quiet neighborhood, but on football Saturdays, the area is completely different.
Pauline Boulevard, where the church is located, is clogged with cars going down the main street and weaving around the surrounding streets to find a place to park. My dad and I used to park at the church for free, but now they have pay parking, so on Saturday we parked about 100 yards away on the street.
Parking over here is perfect for us; we have easy access from where we live, and when we leave, we barely hit Stadium traffic that is spilling out.
The tailgating parties start almost after we turn the corner from our parking spot. People around here don't treat tailgating as a fun party - instead, they treat it as a way of life! Even though this wasn't a high-profile game, there were still lots of front lawns, porches, and driveways full of tables laden with Wolverine-themed food, drink, cutlery, plates, cups, and more.
Something that I've added to my dad's and my trips to Michigan Stadium is our travels through what I call Tailgate Row. The parking lot that Michigan Stadium shares with Crisler Center has a lot of cars, vans, and trucks dedicated to hours-long parties. I love seeing the kitchy stuff that people bring along to celebrate their love of Michigan football. And sometimes, just the vehicle is enough to incite excitement among Michigan fans!
My favorite kind of football weather was exactly the weather we got on Saturday. Too early in the season and you're roasting, and by the Ohio State game you need 6-7 layers.
Saturday was in the 50s and nice and sunny. By the time of kickoff (3:30) the sun was behind the stadium wall where we sat. I needed an athletic long-sleeved shirt, a t-shirt, and a hoodie to keep my torso warm, and at the last minute I'd thought to check my parents' house for a hat. I'm glad I did - it was needed!
However, even with all my layers, I wasn't shivering - that's what mattered the most!
Not only was the temperature and conditions perfect, the trees were nearing or at their peak of colors, as well! The streets were dotted with yellow, orange, and red trees, which just added to the wonderful feeling.
We got into the stadium very early, and we walked around the stadium first, taking in everything. We went into one of the M Den stores and looked around before it got too busy. I did some winter hat shopping, since I'd lost my beloved Michigan-tassel hat in an unfortunate parking lot incident a few years ago. (The incident being that it dropped out of my coat pocket when I was walking in a parking lot.)
There are food stations wherever you look - most of which are pretty overpriced. (It's kind of like being at Walt Disney World!) Dad and I each bought a pretty decent-sized bag of chocolate covered peanuts for $6, and that's all we spent. (I usually save those for Michigan hockey games, but was in the mood for it today.)
Once we found our seats we had an hour to sit back and watch the players warm up. We were where the Illinois players were warming up, and it was quite comical. When they were doing passing-and-catching drills, we saw 6 out of 7 Illini receivers drop the ball!
But my favorite part of a Michigan game is watching the Michigan Marching Band take the field. They enter so quickly, all of them high-stepping onto the grass without a hint of hesitation. And there's over 230 members and they race on as fast as possible! The drum major then steps out, and the tradition is that he/she bends backwards till the plume of his/her cap touches the grass. Nowadays, though, the drum major takes off the cap and bends until his/her head touches the grass - and then gets right back up! This year was no different - she was great!
After the band warms everyone up with a rousing version of "The Victors," the M Go Blue sign is put up and the football players march through!
The Michigan Marching Band came out with a program featuring a bunch of contemporary (i.e. the last 50 years) songs that feature four main chords: the I, IV, vi, and V. It was nice - someday I'd like to see them go crazy, like (dare I say it?) the OSU Marching Band. (Seriously, their routines are crazy!)
However, it was Homecoming, so their routine was a bit short so they could get the Alumni band out there again and do some of the classics like "Maize and Blue," "Temptation," and "The Hawaiian War Chant." Those were fun to hear; Dad has a Marching Band CD with those on it, and I learned those songs from that.
The Blues Brothers. There's choreography to it and everything! I first learned it at Michigan hockey games, but now I recognize it at basketball and football games, too. (Actually, I'd forgotten that they used to do that song on the field in a tight circle, and got faster and faster! I'd love to see that again.)
After the game it can sometimes be hard to exit the stadium, but considering how far ahead Michigan was at halftime, quite a few people were leaving even at the start of the third quarter. The couple next to me and the people in front of me were all gone by the time I returned to my seat in the 3rd quarter. It didn't take us long at all to get out of the Stadium.
As you get further from the Stadium, the crowds start to dwindle and go their separate ways, until you kind of feel a sense of normalcy again. By the time we got to our car, it kind of felt like an average October Saturday again.
On a crisp fall football Saturday, it's always wonderful to arrive home to the smell of something hot. In my case, it's gotta be some sort of soup, stew, or chili. I'd asked my mother to make her famous Beef Stew for our postgame meal, and it was the perfect way to end the day. Any lingering chill was eliminated after the first bite, but the delicious taste remained!
I love Michigan football Saturdays, and I look forward to doing a few more now that I'm closer to home!