BY J. BRADY MCCOLLOUGH: THE SPORTSMONDAY COLUMN
Published November 17, 2003
COLUMBUS. Nov. 18, 2000. We were
surrounded by thousands of rabid Bucknuts. Just measly freshmen at
the time, my friend and I were the only Michigan supporters in our
section of the Horseshoe.
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With a light snow falling around us, the Wolverines fell behind
9-0 early in the game. We were edgy. The Bucks around us were
letting us hear it.
Then it happened. Quarterback Drew Henson hit running back
Anthony Thomas on a screen for a 70-yard touchdown pass. As Thomas
rumbled down the field, I was jumping up and down hysterically, and
in the process, my hands were apparently coming a little too close
to the crazy Buckeye fan sitting in front of me.
In his 60s, decked out in scarlet and gray, his hatred of all
things maize and blue was embedded in his wrinkly face. After the
run, he turned around to me, grabbed my jacket and threatened
“If your hand hits my head one more time, you’re
f***** going down,” he scowled.
Welcome to Columbus, where old men drop the F-bomb on college
students who are supporting their school.
Fast-forward three years. The Buckeyes, after years of futility
against Michigan, are trying to take control of this historic
rivalry with their third straight win.
And with thousands of Bucknuts coming to town this weekend, the
onus is on you to make them, as well as their players, feel as
unwelcome as I felt three years ago in Columbus.
I’m not advocating threatening their lives. But students
of this University, if there was ever a time for you to turn the
Big House from a symphony into a rock concert, it’s now.
There will be a lot of pressure on you Saturday, because at the
Big House — unlike the Shoe — either the students make
noise or no one does. In other words, there aren’t many
60-year-old alumni in Ann Arbor that are willing to come to blows
with an 18-year-old.
It’s on you. If you can’t get up for this game and
make noise before and during every single Ohio State offensive
play, I’m finally going to give up on you.
The players will, too. They’ve got to be wondering how
their stadium is so quiet compared to 59,000-seat Autzen Stadium in
Oregon. During games such as Indiana and Illinois, the atmosphere
feels more like a practice than a game.
The Big House is seen as a joke by the rest of the country, and
I guarantee the Buckeyes don’t respect you. Why would they?
That crowd in 2001 was one of the most apathetic Michigan crowds
I’ve seen, and your team was playing for the Big Ten title.
There was no excuse then, and there’s no excuse now.
I know, I know, it’s a noon start. You won’t be able
to sleep in. You won’t have time to get as drunk as
you’d like. Cry me a river. Real fans don’t need
alcohol to make noise; they do it because they will do anything to
help their team win.
The bottom line is that whether you want to make noise or not,
this team deserves your best. Shaking your keys isn’t going
to be enough to help your team beat Ohio State for the first time
Do it for Chris Perry, who’s been running his ass off all
season. Do it for John Navarre — make up for three years of
boos and will him to Pasadena with your enthusiasm. Do it for these
2003 Wolverines, who’ve turned their season around by winning
five straight games. Do it for your fellow students, who will get
to cherish Michigan’s first outright Big Ten title since 1997
and celebrate it together.
We all want Michigan to go to the Rose Bowl. But will you give
something in order to get what you want?
The player-fan relationship is similar to our romantic
endeavors. Reciprocation is the key. Lend the Wolverines your
voices for three-and-a-half hours, and they’ll give you your
trip to Pasadena.
Still not convinced you should make more noise Saturday?
You’re a tough sell.
Try this. Each night before you go to bed this week, think about
what it was like to watch Ohio State celebrate its 26-20 win over
Michigan in 2001. Think about that huge scarlet flag waving in the
far endzone. Think about the realization that your team was headed
to Central Florida. Think about the Michigan seniors with their
heads down, tears rolling down their cheeks after their last game
at Michigan Stadium.
Then think about it happening again.
J. Brady McCollough used to be quite the fan and wishes he
could be in the stands with you Saturday to prove it (he’ll
be in the press box). He can be reached at "mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org.