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