November 21, 2008

#9 Michigan Stadium


For your tracking convenience, here's #10 and #11 on the "slowed to a crawl" Countdown. At this point, you have full permission to call me Eric Moussambani for the current snail's pace.

Ahh, good ole Michigan Stadium, aka The Big House. Though this year, the House faithful have scattered like underagers at a kegger, lamenting the growing pains of a system change without a QB. Whether or not Dick Rod rights the ship and stops the bleeding (I should say hemorraghing with news of significant transfers) is a topic for another day. We're here to discuss the merits of the grounds where the Wolverines do battle.

On the positive side, there's a sincere respect for this structure since it served as the model for The House That Rockne Built in 1930. Also, anytime you can count yourself among the "largest crowd to attend a football game," it registers on the cool scale - right below spotting Manute Bol at a Bulls game trying to "blend in." The sheer mass of humanity that fits inside is a spectacle unto its own. 111,000 people in one place is hard to fathom. Ann Arbor itself is a great college town, but not too close to the stadium, which hurts their overall score. I'd be remiss not to bring up the fond Irish memory of Bo having the audacity to kick to the Rocket not once, but twice, in a rainy #1 vs. #2 contest in Ann Arbor. Finally, the history associated with the edifice is long and storied, as detailed by this in-depth library page.

But, lest I paint too rosy a picture, this is the same Michigan Stadium that serves as homebase for the team Irish fans love to hate. Too many heartwrenching defeats have been witnessed in the cavernous bowl, particularly the 1999 edition. I'm sure Michigan fans will swear by their automobile that the stadium is a holy place of worship, but the overall experience is rather sub-par. The location is rather remote from campus proper, so there's no "walking around the quads" or mingling with undergrads unless you know somebody (or know someone who knows somebody, as is wont the case) at the neighboring houses. Consequently, the sprawl leaves little gameday buzz or concentrated intensity that should accompany a powerhouse program.

You park at a middle school or on the golf course and roam around aimlessly, until you stumble upon an intersection with a large mass of people waiting to cross. Look across the street and, "Oh. There it is." Pardon the lack of exclamatory impact, but that's the normal reaction for first-timers. Due to the stadium's architecture, the structure "towers" above us at a lofty height of 30 feet or so. It's quite the befuddling realization - that's it??

Once you enter the gates, there's a painfully long and slow logjam of a line waiting for you to get in your section. Then, you walk down, and down and down to wherever your seats are. Once you sit, you can appreciate the size of the place. But due to it's curvature, or lack thereof, the noise drifts out of the stadium. What should be a deafening roar when the team runs on the field or when the defense is trying to get a big stop is nowhere close to that. Nothing like the rabid SEC crowds and the headache-inducing drone.
Well, there is one cause for headaches, but for all the wrong reasons. With the relative tame noise level, your privvy to one of the more annoying "superfans" and his incessant cowbell. I know the guy is trying to rally the crowd, but if those are the gimmicky lengths it takes to get Michigan fans loud, I'm sorry. In the words of the principal in Billy Madison, "I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul." If I were a Michigan ticket-holder, I couldn't imagine hearing that racket for 6 games a year. Once every two years is quite enough.
To summarize, one of the rankings' contributors best expresses the feelings toward the impressively average Ann Arbor experience: "As with Bo Schembechler's legacy, Michigan's academics and the Wolverines' 'championship' tradition, the game day experience at the "Big House" is only considered great in the eyes of Michigan fans."

1 comment:

ND Alum said...

This is by far the best Michigan Football Stadium to this point. Obviously there's only been two but I'm in love with it. I don't think that Notre Dame can say anything bad about it.