Nine years ago this week, Michigan played one of its most famous football games in recent history. 

On Sept. 10, 2011, the Wolverines played their first game under the stadium lights of Michigan Stadium. Now dubbed “Miracle Under the Lights,” Michigan’s matchup against Notre Dame consisted of a 24-7 fourth quarter comeback by the Wolverines, 21 points scored in the last 90 seconds of the game and a Michigan victory that many alumni and fans remember today.

This fall, Michigan fans won’t get to experience the Big House under the lights like they did nine years ago. I sympathize with that.

This time last year, nobody expected a pandemic to seriously inhibit college sports. It’s disappointing. Nobody disputes that feeling of disappointment as unjustified. Students are upset by it. Parents of athletes are protesting. We’re all dealing with it, like we’re coping with the coronavirus itself — in different ways. Not seeing Wolverines take the field in various sports this fall is upsetting, but after that initial shock, the lack of college sporting events this fall may actually have a silver lining: a new appreciation of past games, the small moments within them and the seemingly routine excitements of college sports. 

Two years ago this week, the Michigan field hockey team narrowly edged out Pacific, 2-1, in overtime. Last year this week, the Wolverines’ men’s soccer team beat Cornell, 3-0, at U-M Soccer Stadium. The next day, Michigan football led a comeback against Army to secure a win in overtime. 

I watched all of those games. I observed players’ routines warming up for matches, noticed smiles from Wolverines after touchdowns and big wins and saw the anguish of defeat in losing players’ eyes after giving up an overtime goal. I watched them all, and yet, once the players returned to their locker rooms, I moved on. 

In the hustle of our daily lives, an endless revolving door of sports games and years of back-and-forth rivalries, sometimes we forget about the great moments in college sports. 

Like when now-sophomore midfielder Inaki Rodriguez assisted his first official goal for the Wolverines’ men’s soccer team. Or when the field hockey team won two games in overtime in the span of two days. And nine years ago this week, when Denard Robinson led Michigan to a true comeback win over the Fighting Irish in its first outing under the lights of Michigan Stadium. 

This fall certainly isn’t normal for sports fans and athletes across the country. But as Sept. 10 rolled around this year, maybe the silence of Michigan Stadium meant more than just an empty stadium and the disappointment of die-hard college sports fans. Maybe that silence leaves time to appreciate college sports’ moments of the past. And maybe that silence in itself helps us recognize just how special college sports can be — whether they be on Sept. 10 or any other Michigan gameday in history.

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