Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Michigan Experience

I venture a good bit north of the Mason-Dixon line today...

Driving to the gym this morning, I was listening to Bill King's Rivals Radio on Sirius. This show is not good which is disappointing given the high quality of Bill's Nashville radio show. This morning Bill had the Michigan AD, Bill Martin, on the show. I was shocked with what I heard him say.

Now, I have always wanted to watch a game in the "Big House," but after hearing the interview, I must admit my expectations for the gameday experience at Michigan dropped immensely. Bill stated that they don't like playing night games at Michigan because it tends to lead to fans tailgating too long and promotes excessive drinking. At Michigan, they prefer the noon to 3:00 start time.

I fully understand the game and action on the field is the most important aspect of a college football Saturday. However, watching a game is often much better via a television than in-person. The reason fans pack the stadiums and cities on gamedays is because of the atmosphere, and nothing can top the atmosphere both on campus and in the stadium of a night game. Tailgating on campus is one of many aspects of college football that makes the experience so great, and evening kickoffs create the ultimate opportunity for tailgating. Throw in the fact that Friday nights often entail a good time, and a noon start makes for a crowd that is often sitting on their hands hoping their cobwebs will clear.

College football was traditionally played between noon and 2:00. Had Bill Martin used that for the reason that Michigan, given the program's excellent tradition, plays their home games during that time slot, I would fully understand his reasoning. Throwing in excessive tailgating as the reason was bush league. So Michigan fans, take advantages of the night games in Happy Valley and Minneapolis.

7 Comments:

At 6:24 AM, Blogger Becky said...

Trust me, it does suck to never have the opportunity for a good night game. And Bill Martin of all people should know that the one thing the Big House could actually use MORE of is crazy, screaming fans.

You should still go if you get the chance, as it is pretty impressive to see, but please leave expectations for craziness at the turnstile!

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger CrimeNotes said...

The only tailgating that goes on at Michigan involves middle-aged/elderly alumni with caterers, the occasional family barbecue, and a few houses where people drink a beer on their front porch before walking to the game. All things considered, it's stuffy compared to other schools and (the point that I think is key) very, very reverential about the game itself. I've never been to Michigan Stadium without being completely focused on the game, and the only time I've ever been drunk inside the stadium was for college graduation. Michigan football has its own stoic and self-righteous culture.

Another factor -- Michigan is not a party school by any stretch. Northwestern is probably the only Big 10 school that's more mild. If Michigan played night games I have a hard time picturing an atmosphere like Baton Rouge or Madison. Half the students' section would be drunk and the other 90% of the stands would be asleep.

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been to a few games and the crowd is an interesting mix of rowdy college students (most are from the east coast and have no idea of the history of the team), loyal local fans which seem to be either upper middle class to rich or blue collar types that despise the student, and alumni who are tailgating from the back of Range Rovers drinking imported beer while their trophy wives drink wine. Definitely not the typical college scene. The local loyal types I can respect. The rest ended up at Michigan for the academics and the football is secondary. Ask them about a player that played ten years ago and they'll have no idea what you're talking about.

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger Johnny U said...

I've been to a few games and the crowd is an interesting mix of rowdy college students (most are from the east coast and have no idea of the history of the team), loyal local fans which seem to be either upper middle class to rich or blue collar types that despise the student, and alumni who are tailgating from the back of Range Rovers drinking imported beer while their trophy wives drink wine. Definitely not the typical college scene. The local loyal types I can respect. The rest ended up at Michigan for the academics and the football is secondary. Ask them about a player that played ten years ago and they'll have no idea what you're talking about.

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger Johnny U said...

I've been to a few games and the crowd is an interesting mix of rowdy college students (most are from the east coast and have no idea of the history of the team), loyal local fans which seem to be either upper middle class to rich or blue collar types that despise the student, and alumni who are tailgating from the back of Range Rovers drinking imported beer while their trophy wives drink wine. Definitely not the typical college scene. The local loyal types I can respect. The rest ended up at Michigan for the academics and the football is secondary. Ask them about a player that played ten years ago and they'll have no idea what you're talking about.

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger CDB said...

I think that crimenotes, which is a great name by the way, nails it. Michigan crowds are very very focused on the game, very intent, very concerned. It's not better than an SEC crowd (which I have always enjoyed watching on those night games on ESPN), it's different.

Now, all of that said, two of the loudest and rowdiest crowds in recent Michigan history were faux-night games against Michigan State in 2004 and Penn State last year. Both were amazing games in their own right, but something about them being in the gloaming made it that much better.

Anyway, great entry, I look forward to stopping back in during the season.

 
At 10:17 PM, Blogger Tom said...

JohnnyU, I'm not sure I've ever heard Michigan fans characterized so well.

I'm a loyal local fan (this is an understatement), having grown up in Ann Arbor. I now find myself a sophomore at UofM, and since starting school, my local loyal peers and I have become disgusted at the lack of knowledge of Michigan football history by those east-coasters.

I have many east-coast friends from school, and many of them explain that college football just isn't a sport that people follow on the east coast. Makes sense. With much of Michigan's out of state population (which already makes up 35 % of the student body) coming from the east coast, its little wonder they don't know who Charles Woodson is (I actually have friends who purport to be real fans, but they didn't know that Woodson won the heisman).

The fact of the matter is that the Michigan student section is a joke, no matter how you put it. The sport-type, blue collar kids in Michigan usually go to MSU, to make a vast generalization.

The rest of the stadium is another story.

The lack of "quality atmosphere" at UofM is much more an issue of demographics, culture, etc. than it is an issue of game scheduling.

 

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