Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Victors: Team 137, Game 9

Saturday, 5 November 2016 / Michigan Stadium
(№ 2*) Michigan 59-3 Maryland
9-0, B1G 6-0

In the late summer or early fall, Red Patton contacted me with an offer of inexpensive tickets to the Indiana game (Saturday, 19 November). I had not been to "the Big House" since the Big Chill hockey game 'twixt Michigan & Michigan State in December of 2010, & had not seen a football game there since 2000 or 2001; so, I accepted his offer enthusiastically. Only days later, he informed me he'd meant the Maryland game, not Indiana; this was unfortunate, as it precluded my attendance at a Knights of Columbus event I should like to have attended, but I was still very excited to return to the hollowed ground of Michigan Stadium.

I was a season ticket-holder for four years while a student at Michigan, so I'd never really tailgated. While eat & drink out of the trunk of a motorcar when you can eat & drink in your dorm room or rental house? Super Mario, the Trojan Horse, & I gathered at Red Patton & Mrs. Red Patton's Ann Arbor apartment (Mrs. Red Patton is a mad scientist at the University) & from there drove to the University Michigan Golf Course in Red Patton's aging chariot. With the game set for a 3:30 kickoff, we had plenty of time to grill & drink beforehand without feeling like degenerates. (Yes, it's always five o'clock somewhere, but no respectable nor self-respecting gentleman imbibes before noon.) We sat in lawn chairs & joked with strangers, we played Cornhole (on the dustiest boards known to man, with equally dusty beanbags) & grilled on the trunk of Red Patton's motorcar, we sought shade from the bright Indian Summer sunshine & debated the manifold virtues of the valiant Wolverines under the enthusiastic leadership of Coach Harbaugh. It was altogether a nearly perfect early afternoon. Super Mario had some trouble getting Red Patton & the Trojan Horse to recognize when it was time to pack up our stuff & walk over to the stadium (of which we had a lovely view from where we were parked), but my voice carried more weight & we were soon sauntering amidst the growing throng filing into the House that Yost Built.

We attained our seats in the southeast corner of the stadium (opposite the student section in the northwest corner, from which I saw all the games back in my day) shortly before the pre-game festivities began & hooted & hollered along with the crowd as the Michigan Marching Band took the field & played the sacred strains of "The Victors." We thrilled as the valiant Wolverines of Team 137 streamed out of the tunnel & leapt to touch the M Club banner. I was the old hand, the sage answering the many excited questions about what was to happen next from my companions, some of whom were experiencing their first game in the Big House & others only his second. It was a joy to be there with Red Patton, Super Mario, & the Trojan Horse, even aside from the on-field action.

The game wasn't much of a game, to the supreme delight of the Maize & Blue faithful. Under clear blue skies & weather conditions that felt more appropriate for a September non-conference game than for a November B1G slug fest, the valiant Wolverines dominated the terrible Terrapins, much improved under first-year head coach & former Michigan defensive coordinator D. J. Durkin, but still no match for the undefeated "Fighting Harbaughs." Everyone was in such a good mood & having so much fun that it was only a minor shame when Maryland kicked a field goal & Uncle Don's Murder Machine lost the shutout. As the poet wrote (Robert Browning, "Pippa Passes"):
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!
After the game, we ambled back to the car in the gathering dark, waited for the outpouring of traffic from the golf course to slacken, & took a very circuitous route back to the Red Pattons' apartment, where pizza was consumed & much fun was had. Super Mario & the Trojan Horse stayed overnight with Red Patton, while I was due to make a presentation at church early upon the morrow, & so had to bow out of the festivities to drive home. Just as well, because they started talking about fantasy football & playing Madden, twin activities that I find mind-numbing. What an altogether grand day!

Next: The tenacious Hawkeyes of Iowa, & the death of the dream.

Go Blue!

*In the first College Football Playoff (C.F.P.) ranking, Michigan was ranked № 3 behind № 1 Alabama & № 2 Clemson. Michigan remained № 2 in the Associated Press (A.P.) poll, for which we here at The Secret Base have more respect than the C.F.P. selection committee. In the A.P. poll, Michigan was sandwiched betwixt № 1 Alabama & № 3 Clemson, so its not as if the C.F.P. rankings were way out in left field, but we maintain our tradition of using the A.P. rankings to the exclusion of all else.

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