Sunday, November 18, 2012
For the past year or so we have been Spartans - Michigan State fans (mainly because all of our friends are) but recently we were offered tickets to see the University of Michigan play at their home stadium - the "Big House" so we jumped at the chance and headed to Ann Arbor this weekend with a couple of Jeremy's colleagues from work.
We had perfect weather - sunny and cold but not too cold... Especially when you are packed into a stadium with 113,016 other people! It is the biggest college football stadium in the country, built like a bowl with some of the stadium above ground but most of it built down into the ground. They pack the spectators in onto concrete bleachers. When you sit down your knees touch the back of the person in front of you and you are shoulder to shoulder with your neighbour.
I had never been to an American sporting event before so it was very exciting for me. To be able to experience tailgating which is the custom of parking up your car, opening up the trunk (boot) and setting up food and drinks out of the back before and after the game. Some people just brought a few beers in a cooler but most people had an amazing spread using grills or crock pots, they served steaks, pulled pork, chilli and finger foods like tortilla chips and dips. There were blue and yellow chairs and gazebos all along the road, flags flying and people walking round with bright yellow pom poms hanging out of their boots.
We were very lucky to be able to park in a lot right next to the stadium! A guy our friend knew, owns a house right outside the stadium that has been in the family for years. Recently he set up a parking lot with a barn that has been done up with a heater, lights and a tv. They even have a heated porta potty (porta-loo) with air fresheners! He sells season tickets to the parking lot and hires young guys to man it. Some people don't even make it into the game, but just 'tailgate' all day. I heard that U of M students get up at 6am to start tailgating for a 12 o'clock game! There is a huge section in the stadium for students - a sea of yellow - and they did a good job of dancing along to the band during the breaks.
I am not going to even attempt to explain the game or the rules as I don't really understand it myself. I knew enough to spot a touchdown or a field goal, and the commentary over the speaker system plus the big screen helped me keep up with the action. We had really good seats so the action was not too far away from us.
The atmosphere in the stadium was very different to Old Trafford. It's much quieter and everyone is listening to the announcer rather than chanting. There is no foul language and the ref only got heckled once. But maybe there just wasn't many fouls handed out during the game.
One thing I found very funny was the slow mexican wave. A couple of normal mexican waves went round the stadium and then the most bizarre looking slow motion one!
There are 4 quarters to the game and a few timeouts thrown in. The whole game lasts about 3 hours but the time absolutely flew by. There were cheerleaders out on the field during a couple of the breaks and the marching band and dance groups did a fantastic show at half time. The band is huge! There must be at least 300 people in it. The show was called "The end of the World". They played and danced and formed letters and shapes on the field. They must practice for hours to be so perfectly in sync.
I have watched a couple of games on the tv and noticed there were a lot of ad breaks. What I didn't realise is that in 'real life' during the ad breaks, a man in a red cap walks out onto the field at the start of the ad break and all play stops. The cheerleaders or dance group come out to entertain the crowd. When he leaves the field, play can continue.
There are an abundance of food outlets in the stadium. The best time to grab some snacks is after half time so we squeezed our way out of our row and headed upstairs. It made me laugh to see a huge line for the men's toilets and nothing outside the ladies'! We weren't too hungry but we love kettle corn so we bought a couple of bags and hurried back to the action.
Michigan were playing Iowa and beat them 42 - 17. It was an action packed game and a great result! It is nice for us to have a new, positive association with the University of Michigan after the last year of hospital visits.
I loved everything about it and would love to go again sometime. I am also hoping we can make it to a local ice hockey game with the kids this winter and a big baseball game too. I am determined to experience as many American things as I can whilst we are here!
Here are a couple of photos of the stadium.
The top one is just one end of the stadium - the short side! The photos don't do justice to the number of people there!
The bottom right was taken from our tailgate party and the red brick building is the back of the press stand and boxes.... The bit that looks like it is really high up (see top left part of the top photo) but in reality is actually only a few stories off ground level!