While most pre-gaming activities are restricted to rounds of beer pong, flip-cup, or “Star Wars” drinking games (for engineering majors), there is one game often ignored by the masses on football Saturdays: Mullet Math. The rules are simple enough — take a drink every time you see a Michigan fan rocking a hairstyle a la Billy Ray Cyrus. And if your motive is to get as drunk as possible, I assure you, the number will get so high that you won’t remember how many times Denard flashes the Heisman pose Saturday afternoon.

The variances in the breeds of Michigan fans seem a little strange. After all, as anyone wait-listed by an Ivy League school will remind you, the University is one of the best schools in the country — perhaps in the world. We are, of course, a community created by the leaders and the best. We stand at the forefront of scientific exploration, justice, intellect and reason. Such a world-class institution should have world-class fans, right?

Maybe not. The walk (or for some, the stumble) to the Big House is, to put it delicately, perhaps one of the largest freak shows in all of sports. The journey from State Street to East Stadium Boulevard isn’t simply filled with students looking for a break from biology class, alumni looking to reminisce or red plastic cups. It’s a stage for fanatics from all walks of life to show their true colors, which are, conveniently enough, maize and blue.

Take, for instance, the “Walmart Wolverine,” as coined by a Pure Michigan spoof video. This thirty-something fan, representing his pride in a pleather letterman jacket from the now-bankrupt Steve and Barry’s chain, spends those chilly October mornings alternating between slurring “Hail to the Victors” and grilling outside the Big House. Never an alum but always a fan, he’s eager to curse any one who even utters the name “Dantonio.”

Head toward the intersection of State and Howard and you’re bound to find the next breed of fan, the “Van Wilder,” conveniently located outside a frat house. A semi-recent-ish graduate, this Wolverine zealot (colloquially known as “the creepy old dude”) currently passes time doing keg stands with strangers or shouting that he really doesn’t need to look for a job — he can just “hang here with these cool girls!” Excitement in responses is usually not reciprocated, but the general uneasiness fades once he begins a “Go Blue” chant.

And of course, there’s always the freshman. Marked by the spotless 2010 football season shirt, this little guppy of the University food chain generally has two options for game day festivities: stick to hanging with kids from high school or attempt to make it big by becoming the notorious “Freshman Drinker.” In either case, the young freshman is characterized by a general look of discomfort, uncertainty and an inability to hold one’s liquor.

At any rate, fans from the strange to the squares come together for that slow-moving saunter to the Big House. And while it may seem that a walk to a stadium is nothing more than a time killer, this proud parade of screaming yellow is, in some respects, the highlight of the very occasion.

It’s next to impossible to feel disjointed from the maize frenzy (unless, of course, you’re wearing green). Suddenly that old guy at the frat house isn’t so obnoxious, the freshman isn’t so awkward and the guy in yellow and blue overalls isn’t so rowdy. For the next fifteen minutes of your life, these complete strangers are your surrogate family members, your temporary best friends. You may never see them again once lost in the sea of over one hundred thousand, but for now, it’s not really important where anyone is from, when they graduated or if they did, for that matter. As long as the scathing hatred for Ohio State is shared, the camaraderie will hold strong.

So on Saturday, when the Wolverines take on the Spartans, don’t fret over how ridiculous you look in the face paint your friend insisted you wear. Don’t worry about the beer that someone spilled on you. And don’t freak out about how crazy the guy in the blue and yellow wig seems to be. By 3:15 p.m. that afternoon, you’ll be walking side by side in one of the greatest displays of school pride known to man. And if you’re still a little embarrassed, don’t worry: by Sunday morning, no one will remember it anyways.

Melanie Kruvelis can be reached at melkruv@umich.edu.

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