There are a few major milestones in every Michigan student’s life. Your first day alone in the dorms, after your parents have said goodbye. Your first blue book test. Your 21st birthday. Commencement.
But in my mind – and in the minds of those who truly bleed Maize and Blue – a landmark event stands above all of those.
In a heartbeat, I can conjure up images of my first Michigan-Ohio State game in 2003. I remember the delirious excitement building up over the previous week, culminating in a nearly sleepless Friday night before the game.
And then, finally, it was game day.
On an average football Saturday, Ann Arbor is something to behold. From the packed pregame parties on State Street to the masses of humanity heading down Hoover on their way to the Big House, there’s a special feeling in the air.
But, for all the freshmen and sophomores who have yet to experience a Wolverine-Buckeye clash – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The morning of Nov. 22, 2003 (I can remember the date without looking it up), I woke up at 8 a.m. to toss around a football with my friend in front of South Quad. When we went outside, we were greeted by an unbelievable cacophony of sound. Music blaring. People screaming. The unmistakable crash of breaking glass at the Beta house car-smash. State Street was already packed. Eight in the morning, and I felt like I was the last Michigan student to crawl out of bed.
The uncommonly wild party scene is just one aspect of the exceptional nature of the Michigan-Ohio State matchup. Sufficiently liquored up and hyped for the game, most students actually arrive early, an almost unheard of phenomenon in the Big House. And then, of course, there’s the main event.
This year’s meeting is the 102nd between Michigan and Ohio State. ESPN has called it the greatest rivalry in sports. Nationally, The Game is the most anticipated college football matchup of the season, dominating sports-talk radio all across the country. And that’s for good reason – every time these two premiere programs meet, there are conference or national title implications.
This year is no exception. The winner stays alive in the Big Ten race, pending the outcome of the Penn State game later that evening. The loser will lick its wounds, swallow its pride and pack its bags for central Florida or San Antonio.
But Michigan-Ohio State is about much more than jockeying for position in the Big Ten standings. It’s about unbridled intensity, or perhaps outright hatred. It’s about players delivering vicious bone-crushing hits, when they normally would be content with merely pushing their opponents out of bounds. It’s about the coronation of heroes; about Desmond Howard returning a punt 93 yards for a score and breaking out the Heisman pose, about Chris Perry picking up 209 total yards despite a busted hamstring.
In short, for Michigan students especially, it’s an experience like few others in life. Anyone who was in the Big House in 2003 can attest to that. Be prepared to scream like mad for four hours, wear your heart on your sleeve and, if you’re lucky, end up where I did two years ago.
After John Navarre’s kneel-down ended the 35-21 Michigan victory to send the Big House into a frenzy, I slowly wound my way down from my seats in row 94. It took me 15 minutes, but I finally hopped the fence and made it to the Michigan Stadium turf. There, I celebrated with thousands of my fellow students, an experience no Michigan student should leave Ann Arbor without.
Just how incredible is The Game? This year’s matchup should technically be my last one. But in order to see just one more Michigan-Ohio State game, I’m applying to a grad school program that would keep me in Ann Arbor for one extra year. If I get accepted, I’ll be able to watch the 2007 battle.
Pathetic? Yes. Understandable? You be the judge. But whether or not you’re willing to extend your academic career for it, make sure to soak in the atmosphere on Saturday – you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.
– Matt Singer gets teary-eyed watching the 2003 Michigan-Ohio State DVD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.