What does gameday mean to you?
February 18, 2019
Marching to Victory
Olivia is a sophomore majoring in English and Program in the Environment.
I think that game day from the perspective of a member of the Michigan Marching Band is very different from how other students experience it. There’s so much that goes into our game days, and a lot of it isn’t seen by most people. They’re some of the longest days of my semester, but also my favorite, and I have so many wonderful memories of Saturdays in the Big House.
My typical gameday morning begins at 7:00 am (if kickoff is at noon). The band practices for two hours on Saturday mornings, giving a short music performance at Elbel field for parents, friends, alum, and fans who come to watch. It can be cold and hectic as we pull the show together, but afterward we are rewarded with warm food from our wonderful parents who set up a tailgate for us. We get to enjoy down time before dressing in uniform. Then, at 10:15 my section, the trombones, gathers in Revelli Hall for
“Buttercup,” a singalong event including renditions of “Build Me Up, Buttercup,” “I Want it That Way,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” and “All Star,” where we get dressed quickly and loudly. At 10:30 the whole band has “visualization”, where we sing through our pregame and halftime performances and practice our step-offs for the show. It’s our last chance to rehearse through things (in our heads) before go-time. At 10:45 we have the “Revelli Exit” where the band runs onto the street and plays “The Victors”, then marches to the stadium.
I think a lot of people, especially those coming late to the game, don’t know we do any of that. Most people probably just see us on the field for halftime, but by the time we get to the stadium I’ve been awake and on my feet for a few hours. I’m tired already, but we rally ourselves for pregame, indisputably the most challenging part of being in band. Inside the tunnel, the band has many traditions that I love, but nothing compares to the exhilaration of running out of the tunnel, doing entries, and playing the M-Fanfare. Pregame is the hardest 8 minutes of every Saturday, but it’s Type-2 fun--miserable in the moment, but joyous, bonding, and worth it in the end--and I wouldn’t give up for anything.
Eventually my lungs recover from the trials of marching up and down the field, and I get to spend the first half watching the game (or wishing I could sit, wishing I had chapstick or sunglasses, or wishing I brought more handwarmers). I get to play for the entire stadium, do the chants with the student section, and watch the game from incredible seats. Halftime is always great, and I love to look for my parents in the stands as I’m marching on the field, even if they can’t find me (who can blame them? We all look like little maize and blue ants).
Though I play “The Victors” more times than seems possible during a single Saturday (last time I counted, it was close to fifty times), I really get to have the coolest game day. I get to play my instrument with people I love, travel with the team to rivalry games, and hang out with my best friends all day. It’s such an honor to wear my uniform on Saturdays and support this university and team. Words don’t do justice to my experience during gameday in Ann Arbor. I get to feel the support of 110,000 people and do what brings me joy with support from incredible staff and students beside me. There’s really nothing else like a Michigan football game in the Big House, and I feel so lucky to be a part of that.
After our last home game, my section came over to my house (I live with three other trombones). We ordered Cottage Inn and played euchre late into the night. We spent fifteen hours together that day, and hundreds of hours with each other throughout the season.
A lot of times when I tell people I’m in the band, they say “Oh that’s so cool, I love the band!” I think back to band week muscle pain, to pregame run-throughs every Wednesday, and how we put in the countless hours of time and energy to create just a few ten minute performances every season. But I also remember running out of the tunnel, performing for the best university in the world, and being surrounded by four hundred band members who always look out for me. My Saturdays are long, but every minute of them is wonderful. “Yeah,” I tell them, “I love the band too.”
Michigan Football: A Lifestyle
Ben is a sophomore studying Political Science and History. He enjoys long walks to the Big House and romantic candlelit dinners.
If Michigan football was a religion, then I would consider myself a devout follower. Since before I could walk, I’ve been decked out in maize and blue, singing “Hail To The Victors” along with my family, and, eventually, shouting unspeakable expletives about that other team in Columbus. I made my first pilgrimage to the Big House when I was in second grade, and was blown away by the amount of people who were somehow more passionate about Michigan football than I. Watching Jake Long and Chad Henne obliterate lesser teams to the tune of the fight song are some of my fondest memories. Sitting on my mom’s lap amongst a sea of devoted fans, I was certain that I would be spending four years worth of Saturdays in the Big House. I had closely followed the team’s ups and downs since the Lloyd Carr era, and when my season tickets arrived in the mail the summer before my freshman year, all my time spent fantasizing about standing, not sitting, in the student section was finally validated--I would actually be watching the team kick ass in front of my own eyes.
For some people, a new season means more opportunities to get up at 6 in the morning to tailgate for hours before kickoff. For others, it means settling in at an empty library on Saturday afternoons while everyone is out at the game. For fanatics like me, a new season means a new preseason ranking, a new starting lineup, and a new hope. After long months of reading piles of scouting reports and following Jim Harbaugh on his extensive recruiting trail, it is finally time for everything to come together, for us to see what this new team is really made of. It is this hope that keeps us so invested in a handful of young men, some even younger than I am, violently butting heads on a field of grass. The sense of pride when our Wolverines run out onto the field and underneath the “Go Blue” banner to the tune of the marching band is overwhelming, the vast array of sounds and colors creating an intense sensory experience. A new thought enters the mind of every fan watching the game: This could be the year.
Some people might find it outrageous to be so invested in a team and a sport which have little effect on my life. These people lack the inexplicable bond to a team and a university that offers such a unique glimpse of hope. When Jim Harbaugh arrived on campus, there was a new feeling--a feeling of relief that the Brady Hoke years were finally in the past. With every statement he made, every recruit he persuaded to commit, the light of that hope continued to grow brighter. Even in recent years, as Harbaugh fails to win big games against rivals and bowl game opponents, his eccentric style of recruiting and aggressive, outgoing personality continue to inspire devoted fans.
This sense of hope is not one that can be easily threatened. Although we have had our fair share of down years, true fans know that the night is always darkest before the dawn. After Hoke’s embarrassing 5-7 season, Harbaugh came in and immediately put on a show, finishing with a 10-3 ranking, including a dominant bowl game win over Florida. Now, after another disappointing season, albeit with a much better record, the same criticisms that fell upon Hoke now fall on Harbaugh--an inability to lead an offense or win big games, the list goes on. Yet we have still managed to pull in a top-five recruiting class, and hire esteemed Alabama offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, inspiring new hope for what could be another successful season.
People tend to remember small details from notable events in their life, details they would not remember about ordinary moments, such as where they were when they turned twenty-one, or what they had for lunch after high school graduation. I remember exactly what I was doing when Shea Patterson announced he would transfer to Michigan. I know where I was when Harbaugh signed the biggest coaching contract in the Big Ten, what I was wearing during my first trip to the Big House. For religious followers of Michigan football, these are all major life events. Through the ups and downs of the team, I have stayed faithful, with full confidence that the next game day will instill new hope in us all.
Every time August comes around again, the same ambitious thought creeps into our heads- this could be our year. Every game, regardless of ranking, coach, or opponent, we regain that mindset- this is our game. Every Saturday offers more hope than the last, every new team brings more excitement than the last. It’s going to be a long winter and spring of waiting, but as the next game day approaches, that sense of hope will grow. Predictions and reports of progress will keep me occupied, but I won’t take my eyes off the prize. August thirty-first is just over seven months away, and I can hardly wait.
What's a Gameday?
Leah is a freshman in the College of LSA. She occasionally attends clubs, such as Dead Pizza Society, but mainly focuses on her schoolwork and hobbies.
It’s the same routine each gameday. While my fellow Wolverines are heading to the stadium, I am heading in the opposite direction, avoiding the crowds like the plague. This is not because I don’t enjoy football, nor is it because I lack school spirit. I simply don’t have the same burning desire to go to the game that everyone else seems to have.
The game is no doubt the highlight of Michigan-devotees’ weekends; however, for me, it is a dreadful obligation— one that I don’t find entertaining. I have never been remotely interested in national sports, let alone college sports. Starting college hasn’t suddenly sparked that interest in me. To put that into perspective: sitting through a football game is like a humanities major sitting through chemistry (assuming that he or she has no atypical interest in chemistry, anyways).
Besides—and forgive me because this will sound blasphemous—the game is quite overrated anyways. The hordes of people are not enjoyable, the tailgating is obnoxious, the weather is never that great (this is Michigan, after all), the game is terribly long, and there is always the chance that we might not even win. Not everyone finds these aspects, especially in conjunction with each other, enjoyable and/or entertaining. I know I sure don’t.
People are always surprised when I tell them that no, I didn’t buy the season tickets and so no, I don’t go to the games; it’s like I’ve personally offended them when they hear this. It is seen as abnormal to have, not necessarily better, but other things to do instead of devoting one day to going crazy in a stadium. How absurd is that? I wasn’t aware that enrolling in university meant giving my well-earned, long-awaited Saturdays to the football team.
It’s disheartening that going to the football game is seen, almost universally, as the foremost way to show your support for the University of Michigan l. While the campus is already a sea of maize and blue, it is taken to a whole new level on game day. It’s actually a little scary how fervent people can become when Saturday rolls around. It makes me wonder if they get so invested because, if they didn’t, the money they spent on the season tickets wouldn’t seem justified. Or maybe they just do it because everyone else does it.
And why is it that football is nearly synonymous with the so-called college experience? I came to college to get a degree. None of my prerequisites mention anything about football, nor do they encourage me to get blackout drunk at a tailgate. To me, honoring your school means so much more than just wearing its colors and going to its games, and it lasts so much longer than just the Saturdays during football season. Taking the tools and knowledge that Michigan provides to you for the purpose of impacting something, anything, in any way, is one the best ways to show passion for your school.
My idea of a good Saturday is one that is spent catching up on homework (or sleep), hanging out with friends, visiting family, allotting time to indulge in my hobbies, or even working a job - all of which, personally, seem like a more valuable use of my time. That said, almost always when I try to make plans with my fellow Wolverines on those forbidden Saturdays in the fall term, I get declined. They’ll say, “Oh, but that’s game day.” And just like that, the sheer thought that they could do something other than attend the football game is dismissed. Why would we, or should we, spend our Saturdays going to the game, simply because “it’s what people do”? Who made that the standard?
This is not to criticize the people who do enjoy the game. If you can endure the ramifications that come with it all for the sake of the game, more power to you. While I do not envy the people who religiously attend each game, they possess a strength that I do not. There’s plenty of other ways to support my school, ones that better fit my preferences. Football just isn’t it for me. I’d rather leave being a football fanatic to the professionals.
Wake Up, It’s Gameday!
Sara is sophomore in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance and College of LSA. She is a Razor scooter enthusiast and professional tailgater.
It's 8:30 am. I am fully dressed and already out the door with a decent buzz. I’ve been up for 2 hours preparing for the day ahead of me. It is football Saturday.
You’ll never be able to find a Michigan student who wakes up as early, and is as happy, than they are on Saturdays. Gamedays at Michigan are special. Hill Street bleeds with crowds of maize and blue. Spray-painted bed sheets mocking our unlucky competitors drape over balconies of “affordable” student housing. Students, alumni, and fans yell “go blue!” as they pass one another, possibly exchanging a high-five bred from comradery. The University of Michigan is a legendary institution but our biggest claim to fame: no one can do gamedays like Michigan does gamedays. Our football record could be dwindling, but we will never lose a tailgate.
Every Saturday is different. The ultimate gamble: will I make it to the game? I almost always do. If an exhausting few hours of running between the frontyards of random houses and dancing to “Mr. Brightside” and/or the “Wonderwall Tremor Remix” physically prevents me from making the trek to the Big House, you can find me napping. Waking up at 6pm is a challenge but the question must be asked: can I rally for the night ahead?
Parent’s weekend was especially memorable. Given that many parents are alumni themselves, the craziness only increases on weekends like this. My mom, who is not an alumni but has however sent multiple kids to Michigan, is quite the fanatic. She understands the importance of a good tailgate and that elevated surfaces exist to increase the energy and improve the overall dancing experience. I often turn around to find my mother, a 76 year old doctor, up on one bouncing around. That is, until she falls, which has happened on multiple occasions. On my first parent’s weekend, it was raining and the game didn’t start until 4pm. I was apprehensive that my mom would be able to last. I found her to be the biggest Michigan fan, outlasting all of the other parents at the tailgates and even some of the students. She wore her favorite, and notorious, Michigan bucket hat with a maize boa. Only she could pull this off. Just when you think my mother can’t get any better, this year for parents weekend she decided to “ice” to me; and I have the pictures to prove it. Coincidentally, I iced her as well. She, however, promptly refused. Proven time and again, the Michigan difference.
The infamous Ohio State game is the biggest game of the year by far. It was ahome game my freshman year and my brother, a senior at the University of Illinois at the time, visited me in Ann Arbor. This was my biggest mistake but also my most memorable game day by far. My brother and I began to dance, as one commonly does at a tailgate. Suddenly, he lost his balance and fell, taking me down with him. But fear not, my brother was okay because he landed on my ribs, effectively knocking the wind out of me. I was unable to breathe for a good minute or two. On our way to the game we got hungry and ended up at one of his friend’s houses. Once we arrived, it became clear that no one was home, assuming they had all left for the game. Naturally, this didn’t stop us from raiding their freezer. Luckily, we hit the jackpot and found the holy grail of drunk food: pizza rolls. We poured the whole bag into the microwave, omitting a plate, and added extra shredded cheese, as you can never have too much cheese on pizza. We were rightfully stuffed and made our way to game just in time to watch the opening hype video, a true cinematic masterpiece. Although we lost, thanks John O'Corn, it was still amazing to share the Big House with my brother.
The atmosphere of the Michigan Stadium will always be something that I take away from this school, in addition to the academics of course. But honestly, no place can evoke a similar feeling. It’s the only college stadium that exceeds 100,000 occupants. We may not beat OSU but can OSU’s stadium hold over 100,000 people? I think not. This was just a little ~censored~ insight to some of the fun that Michigan students have on game day.