Let’s all be honest – no one was as excited for the Eastern Michigan game as for the Notre Dame contest the week before. I was thinking in the week prior to the game that this could be the least cared about game in my four years here. That was painfully clear. In fact, I found out just how true this was well before the game even started.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I wasn’t greeted by the sounds of girls yelling, horns honking or music blasting. No, I was stirred by my own restlessness. That hasn’t happened on a football Saturday since I’ve been at Michigan. As I walked down Packard to meet with fellow football writer Ian Herbert, we recognized that something was amiss. There was hardly a beer bong to be had and no more than a couple games of beer pong being played. It’s like we had been transplanted to a Division III school – not one of the premier college football schools.
As we strolled along, I noticed that the sun wasn’t even shining. Yeah, I’m all too aware that Michigan is a cloudy state, but not in September during football season. It was like Mother Nature was either hungover or still pissed about the loss the previous week. It was dreary, wet and all-together gloomy. Not even the weather was cooperating.
But that wasn’t going to stop the Leaders and Best, right? We were going to cheer the mighty Wolverines to a victory before the Big Ten season started. Well, not exactly. I know way too many people that decided not to go to the game. I know a guy that could’ve had a ticket for a dollar but didn’t buy it. What was he planning on doing with the dollar, saving it and buying a slice of Sgt. Pepper’s pizza and chilling on the couch? Nice school spirit, bud.
So there were a large number of students sleeping in or watching the game on TV. Well, forget them. Walking with the people actually going to the game wasn’t that encouraging, either. Most were just going through the motions, like this game was more of a chore than fun.
“It’s more of a hassle than anything else,” my pathetic friend Jack said.
But evidently he wasn’t alone. Probably the saddest sight of the day came as I headed toward the gates. A dude – who I know sits in the front row – was yelling at the flock of people. Wearing a “Michigan Fired Up” shirt, he pleaded and begged the crowd to, not just be loud, which is a common request, but to stay for the whole game. How depressing is that? This really was a different game.
As I left the masses to go to the media entrance, I felt as if I could just walk in and no one would notice. And sure enough, as I headed through the gates, the person didn’t even seem to look at me. To be honest, maybe they did and I didn’t notice, but the security just didn’t feel as tight. It didn’t stop at the gate. I went to the pressbox and the usual security wasn’t there, either. I kind of just strolled in.
So even before the game started, the game was definitely not hyped. Then I get to the press box, and there aren’t any chicken salad sandwiches left. That’s the only pressbox food that’s decent, and they didn’t even have them before the game. What was going on with everyone? Where was the thrill?
I know that the person who decides which players go on the game program wasn’t thrilled. The program featured the special teams unit picture. Seriously, a group shot of the lonesome kickers. Nothing says excitement like the guys who kick extra points and punts. What the deuce?
Was there a single person who was excited for this intrastate showdown?
I think that, of all the Michigan players, only one – Willis Barringer – seemed visibly excited.
I can’t blame the players though, it has to be tough getting up for an Eastern Michigan team that doesn’t even compete well in the MAC.
“The truth is every time you step on the field you can get beat,” coach Lloyd Carr said in the postgame press conference. “They’re not my favorite kind of game because sometimes kids that are 18 and 19 years old read the newspaper and they make decisions based on what they think is going to happen or should happen. So there are a lot of things there.”
So the players would have to rely on the crowd to inspire them. Well, the student section was spottier than the top of Hulk Hogan’s head, so that didn’t help. The rest of the stadium, already known for its quiet reputation, didn’t get rowdy either; they couldn’t even give a full fist pump during “The Victors” or “Let’s Go Blue” cheers.
In the end, it didn’t matter that no one cared. Michigan took the Eagles behind the woodshed, 55-0. Business was taken care of handily. But maybe at the next home game, against Minnesota, I will be woken up at 8 a.m. to the sounds of a hyped campus. We can only hope so.
Venegoni, who is going to Madison this weekend, is so excited he could wet himself. He can be reached at email@example.com