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Thursday, September 29, 2011

25 Things We Love About Michigan Football Saturdays: #16 The Turnstile & Tunnel

After a longer-than-expected delay, we continue counting down the 25 Things We Love About Michigan Football Saturdays.  Today, we jump back in with...

#16: The Turnstile and Tunnel

Must have been Bachelor Party Day at The Big House
Where the hell are the female fans?
Number 16 on our list could have just as easily been called "Anticipation."  Because that's what going through the turnstile and heading down the tunnel toward your seat are really all about.

It started when I was a kid going to my first games at The Big House.  The moment I went through the turnstile and saw the perforated portion of my ticket get torn off was the moment that everything changed: I was no longer going to the game, I was at the game. My excitement, which had been building all day, immediately went from 10 to 11.  It was one louder.

Moving past the turnstile, I was instantly confronted with the criss-cross of people whizzing past, left to right and right to left.  And just beyond them was the promised land.  No, not the stadium (not yet, at least).  I'm talking about the guy selling game programs.

The frog had it easy compared to
fans at The Big House
That's when things turned into a human game of Frogger as I attempted to slice through the cross-current of maize and blue bodies to get to Senor Program Guy.  I'm convinced that such a risky and tricky endeavor would be an excellent test of a young running back's skill set.  If one can make it through the crush of (maize and) blue hairs and sometimes-drunk students without getting knocked over, he just might have a future in football. 

Once my program was secured, we'd head for the stadium and our seats.  Depending on the section and our arrival time, we'd either be able to walk right up to the stadium or we'd have to wait in line to get to our seats (Memo to the folks who'd always try to race across the grassy knoll to sneak in at the front of the line after I'd been waiting for 20 minutes with my family: Go fuck yourselves).

Then we'd begin the trek down the tunnel in our section.

This all brings me to one of my favorite things about The Big House, probably even more so before the recent upgrades: how deceiving it looked from outside.  Because so much of "the hole that Yost dug" was concealed below ground before one entered.  So much so that many people often don't think it looks "that big" -- until they reached the end of the tunnel.

For me, making that walk and seeing...something...up ahead truly was "the light at the end of the tunnel."  I couldn't see the stadium...yet.  I couldn't really hear anything...yet.  But it was there, just steps away. 

And then I would reach the stadium staff in their yellow jackets.  "Ticket, please."  But I was barely paying attention at that point as my dad showed them our tickets and the Man in the Yellow Coat pointed up or down.  I was in awe.  There were the Michigan Wolverines warming up down below.  There was Schembechler - Bo Schembechler! - arms crossed at midfield, eying his troops.  The block M.  The press box.

And me.  Heading to my seat.  About to watch a Meeechigan football game.

Hell, I get chills just typing these words in a blog post.  All these years after those first games.  Sitting here late at night, I'm honest-to-God smiling as I write and remember some of the specifics that began my journey as a lifelong Michigan fan (yes, Dave Brandon, even without a mascot).  And you know what?  It hasn't changed.  The little boy still living inside the man who writes these words continues to feel the same excitement on game day.  When my ticket is taken, each time I walk down that tunnel.

So because of those memories and more, the turnstile and tunnel are #16 on the MZone's list of the 25 Things We Love About Michigan Football Saturdays.

"Then I saw a bright light at the end of the tunnel,
and I knew everything was going to be okay."

(U-M pictures via Ann Arbor.com and Wuebbling @Flickr)


Dennis said...

I really enjoy these.

I would enjoy them more if the subject line and body agreed on the numbering. :)

Seriously, I'm hoping what you are writing is similair to what my boys will someday write about Football Saturdays we spent together in and around the 'Shoe.

GoBlueBob said...

I have been going to games for 35 years and still feel the anticipation walking in through the turnstiles, walking around the stadium concourse to my section and entering the stadium through the section tunnel. I really like it when I take someone who has never been to the big house and seeing the expressions and comments they make. I have been able to do that twice this year already.

Mikoyan said...

If you think it is cool walking through one of those tunnels....try walking through THE tunnel. You want to talk about anticipation.

and yes, one of the things I used to like about the stadium is that it looked so small from the outside. No so much anymore though.

Bigasshammm said...

Can't wait for Saturday. I'll have to pay close attention to my niece's face as we walk out of the tunnel the first time. It does take your breath away. As I'm sure they'll be much higher on this list but my favorite thing of anticipation is the band coming out of the tunnel. The rhythmic pounding of the drums and the sea of bandmembers that never ends is awesome.

GoBlueBob said...

Hammmm... the band coming out of the tunnel is one of my favorite things and I am sure it will make this list close to the top. Pay attention on Saturday.... it takes less than one minute from the time the announcer says "Band, take the field" until they are all out of the tunnel and in the block M formation. The backbend by the drum major is also very cool.

Mik.. I have also been through the tunnel and you are absolutely right that it is one of the coolest things ever. I got to be on the sidelines for a game a couple years ago and it was fun. Saw you on the sidelines during the Eastern game. I noticed the Michigan hat and pants with the Eastern shirt.

A2saint said...

The marching band will be even more powerful this Saturday when they remember Patrick Fleming... http://www.annarbor.com/news/u-m-plans-memorial-tribute-to-patrick-fleming-marching-band-trumpeter-killed-in-us-23-crash/

Yost said...


Oops. That's what happens when I write these things waaaaay past my bedtime. Fixed.

Craig said...

There is nothing, nothing, quite like walking through the tunnel into the game. It is the moment between becoming and being and I'm glad someone else captured that notion.

Michigan Sports Girl said...

Yost, this is an amazing post! I feel like you were writing about my OWN experiences at the Big House. Chills. Just another reason that I love the tradition and pageantry that IS Michigan Football. Thank you for sharing your memories with us! GO BLUE!

Mikoyan said...

The pants may have looked like MIchigan pants because that's where I had to put the pass....

And the Eastern shirt because well that's where I went...

GoBlueBob said...

A2saint... what a sad story. Sounds like he was a great person. I will pay even closer attention to the halftime show now. Thanks for mentioning this...

Ramona said...

The turnstile... the tunnel... God I love this blog.

Sorry to hear about the marching band student. Such a promising life cut short. Our time on this earth is so precious my friends!