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Holy Day: The Life of a Michigan Fan

For many people here, today will be sacred: the match between two of college football's biggest rivals, the University of Michigan, and Ohio State University. There will be moments of anger and bliss. I'll watch it all in Ann Arbor, Mich., at what those of us who love the Wolverines call the Big House.

My distaste for Ohio State began during my sophomore year at Michigan. I'd just transferred from Oakland University, in the Detroit suburbs. Oakland didn't have a football team – which made life at the school boring. I got sick of hearing people there say, “But we have a great basketball team.” I even wrote a midterm paper about why Oakland needed football. The central argument: Football is one of the best ways to build school pride. Shortly thereafter, I packed my futon and mini-fridge and left for Ann Arbor.

As a transfer student who ended up in one of the farthest dorms from campus and was uninterested in joining a sorority, I found it difficult to make good friends during my first year at the U. of M. Any sadness I felt for my lack of friends forced me further into the happiness that Michigan football brought—I became obsessed and tried to teach myself everything I could. I learned about the Snow Bowl of 1950, when Michigan and Ohio still played – despite 10-degree air, five inches of snow and 29-m.p.h winds. I learned that former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes preferred to “coast” in his car over the state line than to buy even gas from a station within Michigan's borders.  I stopped wearing red – Ohio State's main color – and risked my job as a server at a campus sports bar by refusing to work on game days.  My managers said every server was required to be available on Saturdays; I said that it wouldn't be fair to make me work in place of any of the other 15 available servers, who didn't get as excited as I did when Chad Henne (the starting QB at the time) came in for takeout on Wing Tuesdays.

Things changed after that sophomore year: I began making great friends, and my passion for Michigan football grew. I began to dislike the entire state of Ohio (with the exception of Sandusky, which I still prefer to think of as its own separate Cedar Point-owned territory). I even began preparing for the last game of every year by playing Ohio State myself, via NCAA Football on PlayStation 2. Oh, and I found a boyfriend who used to play football for Michigan—a crucial component in my decision to commit to him. When he surprised me with tickets to my first Michigan bowl game, I knew it was love.

To some of us, this rivalry is more than entertainment. It has to do with me publicly confessing that I'm still grossed out when someone says they went to Ohio State.  It has to do with my attempt to explain Saturday's significance to Wolverine fans.

Although Michigan football is no longer my only friend, it is still one of my best friends, and when you know that your best friend's worst enemy is coming to town for a faceoff, you have to be prepared. I'll be prepared when I get to the golf course to tailgate early Saturday morning with my lucky maize game-day gloves.  Mid-tailgate, I'll spend just the amount of time it takes to cook a hotdog to conduct pre-game reflections, alone with my grill.  Then, about 20 minutes before kick-off, I'll take a deep breath and make my way to where I'll watch the game, from a seat inside of the Big House.

Go Blue.

(Kristy Erdodi, 24, is a special contributor to TIME's Detroit Blog.)

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  • 1

    Oooooo, bad year for this. It's gonna be ugly tomorrow. :(

  • 2

    Football. One of my oldest friends too. Funny how hate is ok when it comes to our past times.

  • 3

    You are a true fan !
    I am a fan as well, I feel the emotion - GO BLUE
    great article !

  • 4

    this could only come from a football fan and it rings true for the rest of us! College wouldnt've been college without football!

  • 5

    We certainly grew up as avid Michigan football fans -- and haters of Ohio State. How many people here had "Happiness is crushed buckeye nuts" t-shirts?

  • 6

    Michigan and Ohio football's greatest all time rivalry. No other two teams could provide the motivation for fans to cringe - sometimes verbally expressing their disgust - at the mere sight of one another. Let's go blue baby!

  • 7

    Advance warning: I know this is one of those "back when I was young" kind of comments, so please don't reply just to remind me I'm getting old...

    I wasn't a football fan when I arrived as a transfer student at U-M in mid-year (thus missing my first football season). But it was nearly impossible to avoid becoming one in Ann Arbor, especially when as a student I could get season tickets for less than $100 if memory serves. Of course, undergrad in-state tuition was under $500/year, so it's all relative.

    I went to very Michigan-OSU game I could, and managed to get tickets for various relatives over the years. This actually paid off quite well, when in his excitement over watching us win in 1971, my father said he'd pay my way to the Rose Bowl as a Christmas gift. That was the game during which the OSU coach(whose name I will not speak) tore up a yard marker in a fit of bad sportsmanship. It did make the victory sweet...

    Kristy, I can only assume by "one of the farthest dorms from campus" you meant either Bursley Hall or the Bates complex. I understand how that could be isolating, but my experience at Bursley was that the isolation fostered a lot of camaraderie among the residents, both in the lounges and on the North Campus Bus.

  • 8

    Been there-- done that! Kristy it has been a while but you certainly did bring back memories of "the game". Thanks for sparking some thoughts about some great times..

  • 9

    Kristy, yes, college football and those days of beautiful fall weather and the cheering crowds are so amazing! Your feelings of the rivalry between U of M and OSU are the same as mine when MSU and your team meet every year! I am sorry that your team and mine lost yesterday!
    Keep up the emotional, from-the-heart writing!

  • 10

    My mom went with this fella from Garden City for 9 years -- they never married, but he was like a step-dad to me and my brother. His oldest son was a huge U of M football fan. Sometimes we'd drive him to the games when his dad was tied up -- we never had the money to go ourselves. We'd have a nice picnic in the beautiful and peaceful cemetery they have their in Ann Arbor, but I am awfully sorry I never got to see a game.

  • 11

    Being a Michigan Man, it is exciting to hear how important this day is to you. Although the rivalry has been a little lopsided recently, it truly is a special day. I am glad that you take so much pride in our school and know that things will turn around for the better soon. By the way, I am glad you grabbed the two most important items that make up a college dorm room. Go Blue!

  • 12

    I actually went to Oakland University, and I definitely agree that they need to get a football team! You mentioned how football builds school pride- so true! Oakland is missing out big time!

    Many of my family members have graduated from Michigan so I grew up being a fan. Even though I didn't have the chance to root for my own school's football team, I was lucky enough to be able to head to Ann Arbor for the weekend to tailgate and cheer for U of M! Saturday's game was unfortunate, but we will never give up on our Wolverines!!

  • 13

    Thankfully, you found a U of M football guy. Imagine the heartbreak if you accidentally fell for some OSU dude? There might have been a family and friend intervention stagged!

  • 14

    [...] since we all love Michigan area sports, I want all my fellow NFL Lions fans to check out detroit.blogs.time and tell me what you think about[...]

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