As the clock strikes noon on Saturday, four F-16 fighter jets will soar from south to north over Michigan Stadium. Hundreds of feet below, 65,000 fans will create a massive American flag in the stadium’s first-ever card stunt project.
A live feed from the lead jet will play on the video boards until it zips over I-94, when a camera from field level will take over, showing the jets cross over the magnificent patriotic display.
On the field, the Michigan football team will wear a patch of the American flag on the left side of its blue jerseys.
The Athletic Department has the program’s second Military Appreciation Day planned down to the second.
The only question remaining is: Will you be there to see it?
Brady Hoke and Michigan are an unbeaten 6-0 at home, outscoring opponents 222-65 at the Big House. But most games have featured an underwhelming number of students in attendance at kickoff. Consider this a challenge.
It’s my turn to inspire and ridicule you. There’s a reason the card stunt won’t include the student section, and it’s not just the fear of the cards becoming boomerangs, like a military representative suggested. It’s also because the student turnout was for the Purdue and Minnesota games was a joke.
Show up on time. This game is going to be special — and not because of football.
On Saturday, the Wolverines won’t be highlighting any particular legendary Michigan moment, they’ll be creating a memory.
During the first timeout of the game, Michigan will honor former cornerback Bryan Williams. He made seven tackles in six games from 1994-96. Insignificant then, Williams is being honored on Saturday because today he will be commissioned into the Air Force.
If that can’t make you set down your cup a few minutes early and make your way to the stadium before noon, you’re a disgrace. This is bigger than your frat party or your tailgate.
Just like the four pilots rocketing overhead, Williams is leaving to fight for your freedom. If Bryan Williams isn’t a Michigan Man worth recognizing, we can officially shelve that term.
This is about respect.
Prior to the game, former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr — Williams’s former head coach — will be recognized for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Ann Arbor was the first and only stop in his head coaching career. Carr’s 122 victories as a head coach rank him third in Michigan history, trailing only Bo Schembechler (194) and Fielding Yost (165).
Michigan coach Brady Hoke took to the Internet to plead for a respectable showing to honor Carr.
“Fans, please make sure to be in your seats by 11:45 this weekend,” a smiling Hoke said in a video released by the Athletic Department. “We face Nebraska and we have a special tribute planned for coach Lloyd Carr. As part of our tribute, we will need your help, so get there early. Thanks, and Go Blue.”
Hoke had to put on a pretty face to urge you — don’t make him beg.
Carr was a disciple of Schembechler, who lived and breathed “The Team, The Team, The Team.” Like it or not, the fans are a part of that team. The students are that weakest link.
But hold on: Michigan is starting a “Shred the Red” rallying cry to span the last two weeks, hoping to limit the red in Michigan Stadium against Nebraska and Ohio State. So if you need another reason to show up on time — and you shouldn’t — there’s a maize towel giveaway.
Notice that sudden urge you just felt to get yourself one of those towels? (Well, it would go nicely with your Under the Lights pom poms.) That should make you a little disappointed in yourself. But let’s move on.
They don’t have 110,000 towels, so if you’re late you’re missing out.
And with Nebraska making its first trip to Ann Arbor as a member of the Big Ten, it’s appropriate to heed the words of Yost, the legendary coach and athletic director who spearheaded the construction of the Big House in the 1920s.
“Let me reiterate the Spirit of Michigan,” Yost said in his farewell address in 1940. “It is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways. An enthusiasm that makes it second nature for Michigan Men to spread the gospel of their university to the world’s distant outposts.
“And a conviction that nowhere, is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours.”
That deathless loyalty isn’t a half-filled student section at kickoff. Nebraska certainly qualifies as one of the world’s distant outposts, so spread the gospel of Michigan. Those Cornhusker fans aren’t driving across the Midwest to be late to the game.
The beauty of Michigan football is that 110,000 fans will show up at the Big House — eventually. Michigan fans are blessed enough to be able to make that guarantee. But don’t be the weak link, be there on time.
Do it for the military and Bryan Williams. Do it for Lloyd Carr. Do it for the Spirit of Michigan.
This time it’s about respect.
— Though he was born in France, Nesbitt recognizes America as the Land of the Free and back-to-back World War champions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.