Being that I travel a lot with my job, I have friends sprinkled all over the country. Not surprisingly I have a few Michigan drinking buddies out west who always give me a hard time when we play them. After they lost to Appalachian State this year I figured there would be a mass unloading of tickets by people who figured maybe they should go to their sister-in-law's wedding since Michigan's season was already going down the tubes. So I told my Michigan buddies to put the feelers out for two tickets for me figuring I'll take PSUncle along. After that I didn't think anything of it.
Then last Thursday afternoon I'm sitting at my desk and the phone rings. It's Michigan buddy who we will call
douchebag Bill. He tells me he knows a girl who knows a guy who has two tickets available. Do I want them? Does a cat have an ass? I tell him I'll take the tickets. Then I hang up the phone realizing the game is 48 hours away and I have no plans. Immediately I call PSUncle.
BSD: I got two tickets. $60 each. You in?
PSUncle: Uh. Ok.
BSD: I'll call you when I get more details. Plan on my picking you up tomorrow after work.
PSUncle: Ok. I have to figure out how I'm going to break this to my wife.
BSD: Yeah me too.
So then I called the wife. It went something like this.
BSD: Hi sugar baby snookums.
BSD: I have a huuuuuuge favor to ask you.
BSD: Can I go to the Michigan game this weekend?
PSUWifey: I thought that game was in Michigan.
BSD: It is.
PSUWifey: And you want to drive there?
PSUWifey: Are you crazy? Who are you going with?
BSD: PSUncle and my friend Bill.
PSUWifey: Did you talk to PSUncle yet?
BSD: Yeah. He says he'll go.
PSUWifey: So you talked to him before you talked to me?
BSD: Err ahh but...
PSUWifey: Do you have tickets?
PSUWifey: What do you mean?
BSD: I don't physically have the tickets yet, but we have an arrangement.
PSUWifey: With who?
BSD: Bill knows this girl who knows this guy who has two tickets.
PSUWifey: Bill knows a girl who knows a guy? So you're going to drive all the way to Michigan without tickets?
PSUWifey: What if you get all the way out there and you can't find the guy?
BSD: Uh...I'll take some extra cash.
PSUWifey: How long of a drive is it anyway?
BSD: Somewhere between 8 and 14 hours. I'm not sure.
PSUWifey: Where will you stay?
BSD: I don't know yet.
PSUWifey: Will you drive home after the game or stay out there?
BSD: I don't know. Depends on how I feel.
PSUWifey: Have you worked out any of the details of this?
BSD: Not really.
After about a half hour of begging and bargaining I got her to go along with it. So Friday afternoon I left for Williamsport, PA to pick up PSUncle. I got to his house around 4:30 PM and by 4:40 PM we were heading West, young man.
We were flying high all geared up for an impromptu road trip. We didn't even get to Bellefonte before we hit our first obstacle: PennDOT. We sat on I-80 for an hour in a construction jam. Finally that got moving and by 7:00 PM we were getting hungry around Clearfield. So we stopped at McDonalds.
The kid behind the counter was your typical goober. We'll call him Travis. I swear they take the least trainable kid behind the counter and put him in front of the cash register. I ordered a #3 with no pickles or onions. If I'm lying may God strike me down, but I swear it took him a full minute to hit the four buttons necessary to enter the order. As I stood there waiting for my food to come up Travis decides he wants to make small talk.
Travis: So where are you from?
Travis: Is that near Philadelphia?
BSD: Uh. Yeah.
Travis: Have...have you ever heard of the Arena Football team that plays there?
BSD: You mean the Soul?
Travis: That's my favorite team right there.
Thankfully my food finally came. My burger had onions on it, but I wasn't about to take it back.
We drove through the evening with a small detour due to a wrong turn around Youngstown. We got to Toledo and got a hotel room near Bill's house sometime around 12:30 AM. That's where I posted the open thread from.
The plan was to meet at Bill's house at 6 AM. We set an alarm for 5 AM, but PSUncle hit thought he hit the snooze and turned the alarm off instead. So we woke up at 5:50 and scrambled to get our stuff together. We were still at Bill's house around 6:30 AM.
I introduced Bill and PSUncle since they had never met before. We loaded our cooler and stuff into Bill's SUV. Then PSUncle asked if he could put his PSU magnet and flag on Bill's car which was already adorned with Michigan gear. Bill looked at me and said, "You got to be kiddin' me." We worked out a deal where the driver side half the car could be Michigan and the other half Penn State. I told him at least that way if Michgan loses only the right side of the car will get keyed.
After a quick stop on the way we rolled into Ann Arbor around 8:15 AM. We got a fantastic parking space maybe 150 yards from the main entrance to the stadium. Here are some pictures from the tailgate.
|Distance from our tailgate to the stadium.|
|PSUncle and Bill chillin' at the partay.|
|Tailgating Ann Arbor Style.|
Tailgating has a different feel there. It's not like Penn State where the stadium is surrounded by 100 square miles of cow pasture. The stadium in Ann Arbor is kind of in a residential area, so things are much more broken up and compacted. There isn't much room to spread out unless you bring a few cars and park alongside one another claiming a large area to yourselves.
I was surprised at the Penn State turnout for this game. Being my first away game, I imagined I would be terribly outnumbered and planned on just keeping my mouth shut and my eyes down the whole day. I would estimate there were at least 10,000 PSU fans on hand. In the parking lot where we parked I would guess it was may 25% Penn State people.
You could tell the tightness of the quarters kind of annoyed the Penn State party goers. We parked next to a couple young Michigan guys in a pickup truck. They were nice guys. Very friendly. But you could tell they were getting on the nerves of the Penn State people around them. They fired up Van Halen on their CD player and walked away for a while leaving us there to listen to it. Some PSU people nearby got annoyed as they couldn't hear their own music. So one of the PSU guys walked over, opened the truck, and shut the music off. We thought that was pretty ballsy. Then later after the game these two guys broke our a frisbee and were tossing it back and forth. One throw got away and intruded a PSU tailgate party hitting the side of the grill a lady was cooking on. Didn't do any damage, but she gave them a dirty look. A few minutes later they hit the grill again and she starts yelling at them to knock it off. Again, didn't do any damage. She was just annoyed that her space was being invaded. By contrast, another throw got away and got into a Michigan tailgate party. It landed on a table spilling beer and a bottle of Goldschlager all over the place. The Michgan people laughed it off as if it were no big deal. Maybe if we had won the game the PSU people would have probably laughed it off too.
Anyway, our tailgate party consisted of Captain Morgans and Coke, a case of Coors light and a case of Busch light. For food we cooked up some double stack sausage and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. When in Rome do as the Romans do, so for the early afternoon meal we cooked up some brats. They were quite tasty.
We met up with the dudes with the tickets without a hitch. Around 1 PM Bill had to go up to the willcall box to get his ticket. He bought a single off the University on Friday. So we have to walk maybe a quarter mile. I do what we always do at Penn State when you have to take a walk. I open a fresh beer and put another one in my pocket for the road.
We get up to the street corner and you have to wait there to cross the street. It looks like this.
|Waiting to cross the street.|
There's a guy there with a microphone telling you when it's ok to cross the street. While you're standing there he's cracking jokes and stuff to keep you entertained. Finally he gives us the ok and we start to cross the street. A cop stops us in the middle of the street and points to me and Bill. "You can't leave the lot with those," he says as he points to our beer cans. I go to hand him my open container and fish out my other can to hand him. I don't want to get in any trouble. "Just the open one. You can keep that one," he says pointing to the closed one. That sucked. Definite mark against Ann Arbor on that one. If it were Yuengling I would have turned around and told Bill I'll meet you back at the tailgate.
So around 2:30 we made our way into the stadium. Pictures? Pictures.
|Unlike the offense, the Blue Band marched up the field ok.|
|For the record, the drum major nailed the flip. Unfortunately this guy got in my shot.|
|The Maize Out was meh. There's Lydell Sargeant 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. grrrr...|
As you can see our seats were right on the goal line about 22 rows up. They were great seats, but unfortunately not. It just worked out that most of the action seemed to be at the opposite end of the field all day.
The fans around us were very friendly. The old guy next to me kept asking me questions trying to compare Michigan to Penn State. At one point they announce Ohio State was killing Northwestern and he said something about hating Ohio State. Then he turned to me and asked, "Who is Penn State's biggest rival?" I wanted to say we're kind of playing them right now, but instead I kindly told him, "We don't have one."
They had instituted a "Maize Out" for the game. As you can see from the pictures, the student section pulled it off well, but the rest of the stadium was pathetic despite the fact they were handing out free Maize Out T-shirts to everyone at the gate. I was surprised how many people showed up to the game in neutral clothes that didn't say Penn State or Michigan. I couldn't tell who they were rooting for.
I thought the stadium was pretty loud, but it wasn't intimidating at all. Even when you walk up to the stadium it isn't very imposing since it's sunk into the ground. From the outside it looks like it's only two or three stories tall. Inside it's very spacious. The fans aren't on top of the field like some places. For the most part the fans were very knowledgable. They got loud when Penn State had a third down, but they were pretty quiet on first and second downs. They broke out the "Key Play" thing The M Zone is always complaining about. I could barely hear the keys jingling. I thought the flickering lights coming off the sunlight hitting the keys in the student section were more distracting. I did notice the people jingling their keys felt like they were doing their part, so they weren't making any other kind of noise. I was actually hoping they would break out the key play signs more often because of it.
We had one fan in the row in front of us that was pretty obnoxious. He motioned first down on every single one. He flipped off the refs and yelled obscenities on every questionable call Michigan didn't get. I'm sure the Dad with the two pre-teenage sons sitting behind him was thrilled. He kept trying to rally the whole section to get up and make noise. "C'mon (section) 42! C'mon 42!" he kept saying while he waved his hands around. He had some weird hand gesture where he put his thumbs together and pointed one hand up and the other one down. It was like a little gang symbol he made up just for his section. I saw nobody else doing it. He looked stupid. No doubt a subway alum.
PSUncle and I were grossly outnumbered where we sat. I cheered for my team very vocaly and quite loud and nobody gave me a hard time for it. I don't even recall a single dirty stare. After the game I was offered several handshakes and well wishes on the rest of our season. I snapped the picture of the scoreboard you saw yesterday. I took the picture specifically with the blog in mind. The old man next to me asked me if I wanted him to take our picture to remember our trip. I politely told him no and we left.
Getting out of the stadium took forever. I think there are maybe four exits out of the gated area outside of the stadium, and with 111,000 people it takes a while to filter them all out. We finally made our way to the street corner where the traffic guy cracks the jokes. Before the game he was quite humble. After the game he wasn't. We stood there for five minutes as traffic went by waiting to cross. And for five minutes straight we listened to, "Nine in a row. It's going to be a loooooong drive back to Happy Valley." By the time I crossed the street I was ready to punch a wall. The PSU fans around me were not amused either.
After the game we sat around a while before we packed up and got out of Dodge. We dropped Bill off in Toledo and headed back East. We drove for a few hours and hit Youngstown, OH around midnight. We were too tired to drive anymore so we stopped and got a room. Then we got up the next morning and drove the rest of the way.
Overall it was a great experience despite the loss. It was the first roadtrip for PSUncle and I. I would definitely do another one and I'm already thinking about how I'm going to ask PSUWifey if I can go back to Michigan in 2009.