On Saturday, the Michigan football team would have been opening its season against Washington in Seattle. Next week, it would have been opening its home slate against Ball State in Ann Arbor. And The Daily would have been there for it all. Instead, like everyone else, well be sitting at home, missing the joys of fall.

So on the day that Michigans season would have started, heres what well miss most:

Daniel Dash: A certain smell of waffles, French toast, eggs and biscuits wafts toward the Big House press box elevator on the morning of each noon gameday, but it’s what comes before the first bite that always stands above the rest. The walk through central campus, down State Street and into the sea of maize and blue flowing toward Michigan Stadium never fails to energize the soul. When I sit down for my first plate of Big House breakfast, I’m never able to shake the sense of appreciation. And without football this fall, the classic college town camaraderie that’s become synonymous with Ann Arbor for over a century is what I’ll miss most.

Next Saturday, I’ll be sitting in my apartment instead of filing through fans, tailgaters and marching band drummers on my way to what would’ve been Michigan’s home opener against Ball State. As ironic as it may be, the football game itself is the most replaceable component of a game day in Ann Arbor. I’ll miss the two hours leading up to kickoff and the two hours after the final whistle infinitely more than the three in between, and most of all, I won’t be the same without the lasting memories and relationships that only a football season can create.

Aria Gerson: Being on The Michigan Daily football beat is a constant refrain of telling people you can’t do something, except instead of a normal excuse, you’re telling your professors, roommates and friends, “Sorry, I can’t, I have to go talk to Jim Harbaugh,” or, “Sorry, I can’t, I’m gonna be in Indiana.”

One of the coolest things about covering Michigan football is that in 2019, I had the opportunity to attend every away game and the Citrus Bowl. I felt the press box shake at Camp Randall Stadium. I saw Beaver Stadium all lit up in white. I even saw that Quinn Nordin 57-yard field goal. Each school had its own little quirks. Memorial Stadium at Indiana has a ton of stairs (which isn’t so great when you injured your achilles the week of the game). Illinois serves frozen custard, hot cider and beer in its press box. In Madison, we got heckled by Wisconsin fans for the block ‘M’ bumper sticker on our rental car.

The Big Ten is one of the oldest conferences in college football. Every game was a new lesson in history, culture, tradition and occasionally absurdity. This year, I was excited to see the gopher on the big screen at Minnesota, watch tailgaters in Husky Harbor and — yes — watch Michigan lose again in Columbus. 

So that’s what I’ll miss the most. Yes, I love the game of football. I love getting frustrated by short-range field goals and sack celebrations and rivalry trophies. But most of all, I love the experience of immersing myself in a new slice of college football culture every Saturday. I hope I get to do it again.

Theo Mackie: The walk from my house to the media entrance at Michigan Stadium is 27 minutes, according to Google Maps. On fall Saturdays, it feels like about five. Every time, my routine is the same. I start the walk with my earbuds in, trying to put myself in my own world before kickoff. But then I get to Hill Street, where throngs of tailgaters walk around by the dozen, all clad in maize and blue, and I realize what I’m missing out on with earbuds in. So I take them out and listen. I listen to the tailgaters stressing about which party they should go to. I listen to the party songs blasting from behind the blue tarps walled up around every yard. Later, walking down Hoover Street past Elbel Field, I listen to the drumline. When I get to the corner of Hoover and Greene, I listen to the middle-aged graduates returning for their annual visit to Ann Arbor, reminiscing on the glory days. Sometimes, I even listen to the crazy guy screaming about Jesus for a second before tuning it out.

Next Saturday, when Michigan would’ve played its home opener against Ball State, that’s what I’ll miss most. Of course, I’ll miss the football too. I’ll miss the constant debates and controversies. I’ll miss the early-morning and late-night McDonald’s stops on road trips and the desperate searches for the media parking lots in Bloomington or Champaign or State College. I’ll miss putting the finishing touches on my story amid the serenity of an empty stadium, three hours after 110,000 people have headed home. But most of all, I’ll miss the energy of Ann Arbor on a gameday. And when it returns some day, I’ll leave my earbuds in my bag and never take it for granted again.

Ethan Sears: Each week before a home game, Dave Ablauf, the team’s main spokesperson, sends a form email with media policies and procedures. I don’t read it anymore, but when it lands in my inbox, there’s a little jolt of excitement I get. It’s one of those small things that you take for granted, a tiny little reminder on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon that there’s football happening on Saturday. I’ve been missing that email this week, and on Saturday I’ll miss the walk to Stadium and Main, the ride up the elevator and the hours before and after the game in an empty, silent stadium — back when that felt special and not like a reminder of everything bad in the world. 

Being in the part of the country that’s chosen not to play football while others do feels like your best friend didn’t invite you to their birthday party. Instead of having fun, I’m running through memories and imagining what it would be like if things were normal — instead of writing this on Friday afternoon, I’d be on a flight to Seattle. I don’t know if I’ll watch any of the games on Saturday or how it’ll feel if I do. It’s probably not healthy to have this much of your life tied into football, but here I am thinking about a form email and wishing it would come.

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