Here We Go
It was a home-at-home series that took the Wolverines and UMTailgate.com to the great northwest in 2001. The Wolverine defense didn't allow a touchdown there, yet Washington still managed to score 23 points en route to a 23-18 upset of the Wolverines. UMTailgate.com's traveling squad looked on in disappointment while continuing to digest mass quantities of some of the best salmon in the world and marveling at what may be one of the most beautiful views in all of college football, Union Bay.
A year later in 2002, Michigan opened the season with Washington at home, and Philip Brabbs connected on a last second field goal to give the Wolverines a 31-29 victory. This after he and Troy Nienburg had combined to miss three field goals earlier in the game.
The Washington Huskies took a turn for the worse after that, going 14-21 since that field goal, including a 1-10 mark last year.
This season marks the arrival of a new breed of Husky into the Big House, as the Wolverines will start their 2005 campaign against the Huskies of Northern Illinois. And right now, the Huskies of the MAC just might be better off than their PAC-10 counterparts in Seattle. Coming off of a 9-3 season that included a Silicon Valley Classic bowl victory, the Huskies are no stranger to big games and big teams. Their recent past includes knocking off Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Maryland in College Park. The Huskies would like nothing more than to add "Michigan in Ann Arbor" to that list.
And We Tailgate
A note to those making the trip to the coveted corner for the game: This week's theme is our traditional first game theme, the Luau. On tap for the seven hour festival is pork loin, back ribs, pulled pork, coconut shrimp, cheesy potatoes, lots of alcohol, and I am sure a bunch of other stuff. So bring a dish to pass or some drinks, as well as leis and coconuts, and weâ€™ll see you there.
The Century Club
It was New Year's Day 1997. Michigan, coming off of an enormous 13-9 upset of the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes, laid an egg in the Outback Bowl in Tampa against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Back in Michigan, a young Stephen and Bubba watched the game...on TV. Not a really significant fact, unless you know them and have been lucky enough to tailgate with them. Since that game, Stephen and Bubba have not missed a single Michigan football contest. To this point, they have attended 99 straight games, and on September 3rd, 2005, they will be the first to be named to the UMTailgate.com Century Club for their 100th straight game. I can't begin to tell you the financial, physical, and mental commitment needed to keep this type of streak going...along with patient wives and families.
To honor their commitment, Stephen and Bubba will be the 6th and 7th tailgate members to be inducted into the UMTailgate.com Hall of Fame. Congratulations go out to them in advance. It has been an honor and a privilege for me to have traveled with them since 1999.
Oh Captain, My Captain
Anthony Carter in 1982, Walter Smith in 1994, and now Jason Avant in 2005. Avant joins a rare and elite group of Michigan wide receivers that were named captain by their peers. Joining him from the defensive side is Pat Massey, a defensive tackle who had a career high in tackles last year and blocked two field goals.
Fan Day Outshined By Ebay
They came from far and wide to visit the beloved Wolverines. Some drove hours just to get an up close glimpse of their gridiron heroes, or perhaps walk on the field that plays host to the greatest college football team of all time. Children walked around bright eyed and excited, perhaps even a little scared to meet the giant men in the blue uniforms. Parents took pictures as their kids politely asked for autographs from the boys whose four month war with a Rosy goal would begin with a battle in just seven short days. But that was just about 25% of the crowd on hand.
With all the class of plaid-panted used car salesmen, the autograph hunters, some with four or five full size helmets in hand, scurried around the field, filling the autograph lines that otherwise would be filled by fans, all in the name of Ebay. The session was to begin at 10:30am, with the gates to be opened at 10am. By the time I entered the Big House at 10:15am, the field was full of people, and the lines to Henne, Hart, and Carr were so long that there was no point in even making an attempt. Freshmen were slightly more accessible, though the crowd around Kevin Grady was impenetrable, showing that both fans and businessmen are buying into the hype of #3.
Never has an event at Michigan stadium been more poorly run. A venue that plays host to 110,000 people every weekend had enormous trouble handling 10,000. They let people only enter through gate 1 near Crisler, and attempted to force them all the way around to the opposite side of the field to gain access to it, resulting in a mass exhibition of people jumping onto the field, completely negating any attempt of mob organization by the staff on hand. But you can't blame the staff. There is no doubt that the planners of this event grossly underestimated the arriving crowd and the amount of people they would need to coral it.
At around 11:30am began the pouring rain. Those who had spent over an hour and a half waiting for just one autograph were turned away with nothing as the team was ushered off the field through the tunnel. Then, as thousands stood in a downpour, they closed off the tunnel exit with no explanation, forcing many to stand in a bottleneck of people and endure the soak. They began to let a few people through as time passed, first the elderly and those with small children, before finally, after the worst of the rain had passed, they let everyone through. In short, they closed the entrance that they forced everyone into to start they day, making everyone find an alternate exit from the field, which was on the opposite side from where most parked.
People were angry. Some cussed out the staffâ€¦staff that was just following orders and seemed to realize the ridiculousness of the situation as much as the people attempting to get out of the rain. Eventually everyone escaped the Big House unscathed, yet wet, and with a bad taste in their mouths about a frustrating experience.
There were some bright spots on this rainy day. Though his players were ushered from the playing surface very quickly, head coach Lloyd Carr never moved, signing autographs for those willing to endure the rain to catch a moment with the nation's 5th leading active coach in winning percentage. I took a moment to catch up with my favorite section 30 security guy Dan before finally making my way up the stairs and out of the Big House. Outside, in the pouring rain, freshman Antonio Bass was all alone signing autographs for fans that took turns holding umbrellas over him. He may not be the best wideout in his class, but I have no doubt he is the one with the most class.