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There is a little video I created at the very bottom of this blog entry. If you are lazy you can watch it and get a quick impression of what game day is like here in one of the best college football towns in the world. If you want to read about the full-on experience just keep on going:
The Big House seats about 100,000 people. What that actually means is that the entire citizenry of Ann Arbor could go watch the game and there would still be empty seats left. That is
crazy and I think it brings about most of the unique atmosphere in the entire town on game days. Everybody is excited on Saturdays.
If you go to the store to buy some milk, the cashier is excited about game day. If you go to the post office to hand in an envelope, the postman is excited about game day. If you are stopped by the police for a document check, you're not, because the police is excited about game day. When everyone is excited about game day, it's hard for you not to be excited about game day as well, so when I pregamed - or tailgated or however you want to call it - with a couple of friends I was very excited! About game day!
Since I live very close to the stadium everybody came to my place to have some alcohol. And by some, I mean loads, because there is no alcohol allowed in the stadium - oh yes you read that correctly, NO alcohol in the stadium. If alcohol was banned from European stadiums the fat, shirtless guy on the barricade, telling the fans which song to sing would be pretty much non-existent, because what kind of sober person would want to sit on a fence for 90 minutes? Exactly.
Since the alcohol ban forces fans to get pretty much downright wasted beforehand, a few of them don't even make it to the game. Obviously I didn't get obliviously drunk, because I wanted to remember my first ever american football game. And man, did I.
We arrived at the stadium about thirty minutes before kick-off. There was no security check so we could walk right in and enter our section (28) in the student area. The student area is the loudest part of the audience. They exclusively use their seats to stand on and they scream their lungs out to drive the team to victory.
Upon entering the stadium, I was impressed. It was colossal. There were no barriers, so you could basically walk around the entire inside of the stadium. I'm going to make this short now, because there are plenty impressions to talk about.
As great as the students were at singing, they were completely dependent on the marching band - which was one of the greatest things about game day, by the way - to dictate the rythm. There wouldn't have been too much singing and cheering without the band. Also, the selection of songs was quite narrow. They added up to a total of about six simple cheers. Here's the best-known one. I mentioned this one in a previous blog already and the version below is the only one I could find with people actually singing the song, so don't be confused about the ice track in the background. That's NOT (!!) what they play american football on.
Beautiful! Moving on, there were commercial breaks, a lack of alcohol - yes I'm back on that again, because it really bugs me - and cheerleading, marching band and dancing performances. All of that made me feel like I was at a carnival rather than a sporting event. It really wasn't too much about the game. Especially considering that the game only takes up one hour of the four hour event. So why does the game last four hours then, you might ask. And you'd be right to do so. It's the interruptions.
The problem with the interruptions was not that there were interruptions. That's just the nature of the game. The problem was that the interruptions lasted far too long for no reason at all. The entire game could have been over in just short of two hours. Everybody would have stayed until the end of the game and could have had a fantastic time. Instead, the game was interrupted every thirty seconds for about three minutes. This makes the event depletively long and hard to endure in full length. That's why most people left the stadium at halftime or a bit later to watch the rest of the game at home, where there's food (so American, right? But who can blame them?). On an average game day only about one third of the audience will stay long enough to hear the final whistle. Considering the mentionable length of the pregaming, the entire day was kind of exhausting. On the upside, we had time to take a lot of selfies:
Michigan won by seventeen points (wohoo) so everyone was quite happy. I was even high-fived by a steward on the way out.
To make the atmosphere and energy in and around the stadium a little more tangible, I put together this badly edited video of my NCAA game day experience. I didn't have too much time on my hands
for this one, so don't judge me for the bad quality. I've done better in the past!
Special thanks go out to Zebrahead at this point for giving me permission to use their music in the video.
So what can I say about game day?
It's great that the entire town goes nuts about it and it is totally fun to be at the stadium! But there is just no comparison to a European soccer game. At a soccer game there is much more emotion, much more fandom there. But nevertheless, the football game kept me entertained for several hours. I didn't exactly expect that going in. I wouldn't pregame as much next time - if there's a next time - though.
If I can manage to get some cheap tickets I'll probably go again, but if I don't I won't really mind either. Actually, I think that is the best way to summarise my football experience.