This past weekend, we visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, so my Wolverine-loving son could cheer in the immense stadium he has only seen on TV and in video games. How could he have known, consumed with anticipation and delight as we purchased the tickets last week, that he would be among 109,000+ people watching the annihilation of a college football institution? Would we have still gone if he knew he’d be witness to one of the greatest sports upsets ever, one that would leave a city and surrounding areas--as well as hundreds of thousands of far-flung alumni and supporters--numb with disbelief?
The “Big House”, the nickname for the University of Michigan’s football stadium, holds more than 107,000 persons on an average game day. This past Saturday was above-average, as they sold a few thousand standing-room seats as well. Readers know I have been to Stanley Cup playoffs, World Series and other playoff games, but never in my life have I experienced the single-minded frenzy of an entire city and a sizable portion of a state all clad in
maize (even those without tickets to the game). yellow
The game was exciting but I had no rooting interest, so I was able to just observe the people and actions around me. I found it amusing that the crowd yelled “Who cares?” at the mention of each of the Appalachian State’s starting team, but was not amused when adults--men and women equally-- started yelling terrible things as Michigan began to fall behind. They were cursing students in their teens and early 20's, not professional athletes. That was most distasteful to me, as was the nature of the T-shirts worn by little kids, such as the one that said of Michigan’s arch-rival, Ohio State University: [front] WHY OHIO STATE SUCKS [back] THEIR GRADUATES CAN’T EVEN SPELL O.S.U.! The kid wearing that was 8 or 9 years old, tops. It is one thing to be immersed and intense, but this was borderline maniacal.
There was a family seated in front of us that was intensely focused on the team and grew increasingly despondent. As the game ended with a loss that was unfathomable to most in the Big House, I was surprised and touched when the fanatical father softly explained to his daughter, who looked about 5, that both teams deserved to win and the Wolverines had nothing to be ashamed about. “Remember, Michigan never loses,” he consoled her, “they just run out of time.”
Walking and driving about Ann Arbor afterwards, there was a shared sense of shock and support shown by most of the maize-clad fans wandering the streets. But there was also a groundswell of anger and hostility towards the Coach who I guess singlehandedly lost both last season’s Rose Bowl and this Saturday’s game. In less than one hour after the game ended, a frat house was festooned with a profane banner directed at the Coach, and there was no shortage of suggestions about how he should be made to suffer as he lost his job. I know that people in some areas feel as strongly about their college (and high school) teams as many of us do about the pros here, but I was extremely disturbed at the level of frustration and verbal violence directed towards college students and a college employee, their coach.
Finally being in the same state as my friends Nancy & Ed, we got to catch up in person for the first time in years that evening. When I expressed my surprise at the intensity of the community within the Big House during the game, and the outpouring that followed the loss, they were totally nonplussed. “Oh, you have no idea”, Ed told me. He was right.
I know, this had nothing to do with real estate! Stop by tomorrow and I promise to get back on track.