Sunday, October 07, 2001

Hail to the Victors

Yep, I'm still here, just haven't felt a lot like posting. Partially, not travelling around has left me feeling like I have a lot of time to finish my tale of my trip to Britain. I will finish that story eventually, but since I took a trip of a different sort yesterday, I thought I'd talk about that now.

I got the opportunity to buy some tickets to the Michigan-Penn State game from the UM club of Washington, DC. So I invited Christina, arranged to have Teddy walked in the evening, and headed out to State College, PA.

State College is, according to Yahoo! Maps, about 4 hours away from Christina's in Laurel. (For those of you who are interested in such stuff we took I-95 to I-695 to I-83 to US-322.) In reality, the trip was no more than three-and-a-half hours, which got us there around 2. The trip was mostly uneventful, but for a while I was worried because I hadn't double-checked that the game really started at 3:30, and not earlier. Fortunately, Christina was able to check the Washington Post sports section and confirm what my single-checking had indicated. The leaves were starting to change color on the drive. That was pretty. And for those of you who are interested in this stuff, Pennsylvania has now re-numbered its road exits to correspond to mile markers. Thank goodness! Georgia switched a few years back, and it was about time.

We had plenty of time to walk almost all the way around the stadium looking for our section, wait patiently to get in, find our seats, and get some mediocre hot dogs. Our concession bill came to a reasonable $10.50. Not wanting a lot of bills in change, I gave the guy $21. This mental arithmetic stumped him. Sigh.

The game itself was a lot of fun. We waited to sing the national anthem, because we were told ABC was now airing it live. After that, and some firing up from the Michigan travel band, which was seated nearby, the kickoff began. Michigan performed well on offense, at least until it was time to score touchdowns. They failed to convert on a fourth down early in the game, and then settled for a couple of field goals to lead 6-0 late in the half.

But with the clock running low, Michigan managed to put together an 80-yard-drive to take a 13-0 lead going into halftime. The halftime show appeared to be some sort of salute to "My Fair Lady", so I headed for the restrooms. Let me tell you, I have not seen a worse laid-out stadium in my lifetime. One direction there was a crush of people leading the stands, the other direction was practically empty. I took the other direction and looped around. I thought I was home free when I saw the restrooms, but that was the women's restroom. The men's was on the other side of a snack bar. Who puts the snack bar in the middle of the restroom area? Men headed for the restroom pushed by the snack lines to reach the bathroom. By the time I was making it back to my seats 20 minutes later, Michigan was finishing off another touchdown drive that was to provide the last points of the game.

The rest of the game was still fun. The fans tried to interfere with each other's cheers. Michigan fans would cheer "Go Blue" and the PSU fans would add "And White!" (Though there soon stopped being enough PSU fans around to be heard.) Penn State fans would start the "We Are...Penn State" cheer with "We Are..." and Michigan fans would supply "0-3". Late in the game, I yelled "0-4" and got a bunch of people converted over to that. Also, when they announced the scores of other games, I yelled "What about Slippery Rock?" (At UM games, it was a tradition to announce the Slippery Rock score, and cheer SRU. I, of course, didn't know any of the other Michigan fans, but it was nice to share an "in joke" with them.)

The game was soon over, and Penn State had been shut out at home for the first time since 1965. I felt sorry for them, and for Joe Paterno, their coach. He entered this season needing only one win to tie Bear Bryant as college football's winningest coach, and he may not get it. Still, I was glad to see a Wolverine win, especially after so many Redskin losses this year.

The many fans leaving early did nothing to prevent a much more time-consuming exit. State College is in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, which means that the 2 and 4 lane roads leaving it get overwhelmed by the 107,879 fans in attendance. (Though that number has to be ticket sales -- there were a lot of empty seats.) And of course, the State of Pennsylvania had decided to do construction. I guess I can't make fun of it too much -- when we hit Baltimore, two lanes of I-95 south had been closed down just as fans were leaving Camden Yards and Cal Ripken's last game. The trip back ended up taking about 3 more hours than the trip up.

All in all the day was a lot of fun, though if I do it again, I may just stay overnight.

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