If there is one thing I love, it’s walking
down State Street Saturday mornings during football season. It’s
like running a gauntlet of parties. The journey has got it all –
sights, smells and more stops than you can imagine. What could be
better than the smell of hot dogs and burgers, footballs being
thrown from every direction and seeing opposing fans getting
taunted as they sit in traffic trying to get to the Big House
without getting a hot dog in their faces?
Well actually, there may be one thing. Imagine having a
congregation of all students at one spot as they head down to the
stadium? It would be as if every single tailgate at every house
moved to one location. It would be a sight to see.
Where could this happen? How about Elbel Field? Most students
heading down to the game cross through the field as it is. Why not
just get there a little early and get ready for the game with
thousands of kids around you?
I’m not a fan of using ideas from other schools unless I believe
it would make Michigan better. But this idea of tailgating all in
one location is something that I saw at Iowa, and it amazed me.
Let me set the stage for you. As you head down to Kinnick
Stadium from the campus, you pass a large parking structure before
you reach the stadium.
Connected to the parking structure is a regular open-air parking
lot. This is where the party’s at.
Hundreds upon hundreds of fans were packed into this square lot.
Seriously, there wasn’t much room to get around.
People were laughing, eating, drinking and waving their Iowa
flags around – all getting ready to head down to the stadium in a
few short hours. I didn’t feel threatened because I was walking
around with Michigan people, but if they wanted to, they could
easily have given us a hard time. I don’t know exactly what time
everyone got there, but when I passed through the lot three hours
before the game, it was packed.
Of course, it was a 2:30 p.m. start.
Still, I couldn’t help but think to myself how this would play
out if it happened in Ann Arbor.
Students do one of two things Saturday morning: They either wake
up a few hours before the game and tailgate at their house or a
friend’s house, or they take full advantage of the fact that the
Big House has assigned seating and wake up 15 minutes before the
game and run down there at some point during the first quarter.
But what if everyone assembled on Elbel Field? Wouldn’t it be
If you’ve ever had a chance to go to the Michigan golf course or
the parking lot of Crisler Arena on Saturday morning on gamedays,
you would see that the Michigan Alumni have a very mellow version
of this massive party. They’re all in one place, but just like the
game itself, they don’t make much noise.
Just being together in a huge maize-and-blue blob, though, makes
it a special tradition.
So picture this. You wake up. You throw on your Michigan gear,
wake up the rest of the people in your house and start walking down
to (not the game!) Elbel Field. You arrive an hour-and-a-half to
two hours before kickoff, only to see that the field is already
crammed with Michigan fans. You squeeze through the gate and make
your way out on to the field.
There are people everywhere, as far as you can see (assuming you
can only see to the end of Elbel Field). You grab a couple hot
dogs, talk some Michigan football with your buddies, do the claw –
just have a great time.
All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, the band strikes up, and
everyone starts singing “The Victors.”
As the song ends, everyone picks up and heads to the stadium. Of
course, they would have to jump the fence, because it would take
forever to squeeze through that little opening.
That would be something to see.