The Wolverines had just beaten the Spartans on a last-second field goal when I jumped onto the Michigan Stadium field.
I had only rushed a field once before, and that was for a team I actually cared about. Yet as students started piling over the rail onto the field, I was one of the first. This is the story of why, and why you should always support students storming the field.
Michigan fans celebrating the win on the field twitter.com/MaizeBlueNews/…— Matt Pargoff (@MaizeBlueNews) October 21, 2012
The story begins on Friday. My day job is stressful and this week is no exception. I nominally took Friday off from work so I could travel to Ann Arbor and see my sisters (one of whom goes to UM for grad school). But in reality, I worked the entire time I was below 30,000 feet. LGA-PHL-DTW meant I had a call in LGA, a call in PHL and a call in DTW. I yelled at someone over the phone as my flight to Michigan was boarding and overpaid for in-flight Internet so I could email him to apologize for yelling. What I hoped would be a weekend away from things was spiraling out of control.
But Saturday was a minor miracle. Things at work died down after a few morning phone calls. And the AT&T cell network in Ann Arbor collapsed under the weight of thousands of gameday texts, so I was unable to check my e-mail. Instead of worrying about work, I shrugged and let myself enjoy the festivities.
I spent most of the afternoon before the game filling up with Keystone Light and hot dogs. The highlight of the tailgate was either when people started dancing "Gangnam Style" on top of a dilapidated bus or when the nice new buses carrying the team passed our spot. We cheered loudly, but the players were locked in, staring ahead with headphones on. Also, I felt ridiculous because I was wearing yellow (sorry, maize) and yellow makes me look like a muppet. At UVA I wore a shirt and tie to games. Wearing a maize hoodie made me feel like a Juggalo.
My sister got us tickets in the student section near the front row, so I had a great view of an ugly game. In case you didn't watch, Denard Robinson lived up to his reputation of sporadic accuracy and Andrew Maxwell lived up to his reputation of being a first-year starter. Considering Michigan State had just lost to Iowa, a team whose offense is charitably described as an offense, it would have been an upset if the Spartans won in Ann Arbor.
But the Spartans lost. The Wolverines put together a drive that led to a last-second field goal from a kicker who must have been thinking about Olivia Wilde and looks like he just got back from Sturgis. After the game, the players ran to the student section to celebrate the program's 900th victory and winning the Paul Bunyan Trophy, the only rivalry trophy that looks like a wrestling action figure. One of the players even jumped into the stands in front of me. When he was in that bus, we weren't even a blip on his radar. Now, he was partying with us.
Someone near me yelled, "Let's rush the field!" Now, there are many factors that go into this decision, if you want to be logical in an illogical moment. In favor of rushing the field:
- It was an exciting, last-second finish.
- It was the program's 900th victory, more than any other program. Not even the craftiest Alabama SID can con Michigan out of that.
- It was a rivalry game. While Ohio State is Michigan's main rival, the Wolverines still share a state with the Spartans. There are a lot more families/offices/churches with split affiliations, so the rivalry is more congenial, but in many cases more personal as well. I saw a lot of Spartans and Wolverines tailgating together, and the only real vitriol I heard was when a drunk-by-noon Spartan yelled "Michigan is GAY!" at me (I declined to attempt reasoning with him). This is a civil feud, emphasis on "civil."
- Not only was this a rivalry game, but a rivalry game that Michigan had lost four years in a row. That's a lot of pent-up bragging rights that went unbragged. I can relate when it comes to losing to your safety school that's also an in-state rival.
- It was an ugly, 12-10 win that was the result of misfiring offenses rather than spectacular defenses.
- This is not a good Michigan State team. According to the Internet (I checked), you're only supposed to storm the field against a good team.
That's how I, a 28-year-old, job-having person, rushed the field at Michigan Stadium. And I did it con gusto. I joined in the chants, yelled "wooooo!" a lot and got my picture taken with the band. It might have been the rum and "Coke" (I suspect that the mixer was either another type of rum or a non-poisonous brand of varnish) that I'd been taking swigs of during the game, but it was still a fantastic experience. Please keep in mind that I have no ties to the University of Michigan beyond a sister in grad school there. Never mind that; running around a football field makes you feel alive.
I left Michigan Stadium and went back to the dilapidated bus tailgate. People were still celebrating. So was I. Miraculously, my mind was as far away from work as it could be. Rushing the field was better than therapy, and I felt like I was in college, responsibility-free again. Of course, the feeling didn't last because I had to leave Rick's (Ann Arbor's college-est college bar) at 10 p.m. Back in Charlottesville I could tailgate all day and be at the '80s dance party until last call. Of course, I wasn't picking up any girls while wearing yellow. Seriously, look into shirts and ties at football games, Michigan.