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September 29, 2005 - Image 21

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-29

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4 ~

grandkids pile into a 30-foot camper
and make the half-hour drive from
Plymouth to Ann Arbor (Werth,
because of a bad hip, follows behind
in his car). No matter what time the
game starts, Werth and his family
are in their spot by 6:30 a.m. "The
game could start at eight o'clock at
night and I would be here at 6:30,"
he says, sitting on a stool with his
walker in front of him.
Werth has been attending games
since 1941, when he took the Wabash
train from Detroit to Ann Arbor. He
remembers when game tickets cost
$5 in 1973 and it didn't cost $420 a
year to park in the Victor's Lot, like
it does now. Today, at age 76, he is
unable to go into the games because
of his hip and watches them on a
plasma TV that sits right next to a
large assortment of pre-game food.
Werth is a prime example of
another aspect of Football Saturday:
the fans, who provide not only the
nation's largest crowd, but a sense of
togetherness and family. All around
the stadium, fathers and their young
sons, wolverines-in-training, can
be seen throwing a football back
and forth, while at nearby houses,
students teach their parents how to
play beer pong. Portable barbecue
grills, tents and cold beverages are
everywhere you look, as if food and
football are inseparable (to most,
they are). It's a time to hang out with
110,000 friends, united by a love of
football and the joy of being with
loved ones.
"Instead of my kids going every
way but loose, I bring them here. It's
a family - a whole day of the family
being together," Werth says.
Not far away from Werth, in an
adjacent parking lot, Tom Suther-
land, a physician, and his wife, Ann,
sit quietly outside their car, reading
the newspaper and waiting for their
friends to arrive. A graduate of the
University of Kentucky and an Ann

Arbor native, Sutherland converted
to Michigan football fan when he
saw legendary Michigan coach Bo
Schembechler in his church.
"I don't know what it is about
Michigan football," he says, which
sums up the feelings of most fans.
They know they want to be inside
that massive stadium on Saturday,
and they know they're part of some-
thing special. In 1903, according
to the Bentley Historical Library,
a football ticket for an important
game - played at the old Regent's
Field, located at present-day Schem-
bechler Hall on State Street, could
sell for upwards of $3 and tremen-
dous fan interest caused Ferry Field
to be built, the precursor to Michi-
gan Stadium. One hundred years
later, prices may have changed, but
the dynamic remains the same.
It helps explain why Michigan Sta-
dium has expanded its seating capac-
ity six times since it opened in 1927
and the waiting list for season tick-
ets, according to Associate Athletic
Director Marty Bodnar, has approxi-
mately 7,000 people on it. It's a reason
why students and alumni alike wake
up at the crack of dawn and party for
six hours before the game starts and
six hours afterwards. Each person
leaves a game with enough memories
to keep them coming back for more,
addicted to both the atmosphere out-
side the stadium and the happenings
inside of it.
Everybody has a story. Werth
recalls the time he had a heart attack
during the Michigan-Michigan State
game in 1996 and remembers hear-
ing "The Victors" while he was
being wheeled out of the stadium.
Sutherland's friend, Bob Graves,
School of Business '81, remembers
his first game in 1942 where the
men wore gabardine pants and long-
sleeved shirts, and the women wore
dresses and large hats.
Students use game days as an

Two hundred sixty-five marching band members participate in the halftime
show of each Michigan home football game.
(And you don't want to leave your room and computer?)
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opportunity to party, paint their
faces blue and play cowbells inces-
santly. At 6:30 in the morning before
the Notre Dame game, in front of a
fraternity house on State Street, LSA
freshman Adam Coleman, dressed
in, among other things, a blue cape,
was throwing a football around with
his friends. Why was he partying so
early in the morning?
"It's not worth it if you don't start
early," he said.
"I'd rather sleep on a
When the march-
ing band was fin-
ishing up their
pre-game show
against North-
ern Illinois, LSA junior Alexander
Jacobson was just waking up. He
left his house on Thompson Street
around 5 p.m. and headed to a nearby
coffee shop for coffee and a pastry.
At 6 p.m., he traveled home to have
dinner with his family and then ven-
tured back to Ann Arbor for a night
of drinking with his friends.
Jacobson has not attended a foot-
ball game while at the University,
admitting that "it's kind of a pain
to go and get accosted by drunk
freshmen everywhere." Instead, he,
like many other students, chooses
to relax, catch up on work or expe-
rience the other activities that Ann
Arbor has to offer.
While at first, this concept seems
inconceivable at a sports-obsessed
school like the University, Jacob-
son is not alone. According to Bod-
nar, 20,988 students from the Ann
Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses
applied for football tickets this year,
up from 18,971 the year before. But
entire student body from the three
campuses is eligible to apply for
tickets, which amounts to more than
54,000 people. The fact is that fans
are more vocal about their love for
football than nonfans are about their
indifference. On TheFacebook, the
group "Michigan Football" has more
than 5,000 members while "Not
Obsessed with Michigan Football"
has slightly more than 100.
But there's still something to be
said for those who choose not to
attend the games. A Football Sat-
urday is a surreal experience foi
students, one filled with excessive
pre-partying, nonstop screaming and
clapping and an inevitable nap after
what, in the end, amounts to just a
football game. Throughout the week,
play-calling is analyzed, coaches are
scrutinized and victories are consid-
ered the norm. For students who opt
out, there's hardly a sense of loss.
"I don't feel as if I'm missing out
more on the culture than the energy
that (goes) with it," Jacobson said.
Music senior Danielle Ibrahim
- who spent the weekend of the East-
ern Michigan game up at North Cam-
pus practicing the French horn for the
concert band - summed up her feel-
ings easily, saying "I'm not interested
in football. I can have fun elsewhere,
and it doesn't involve football. I'd
rather sleep on a Saturday."
"I feel it is a waste of my time and

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10B - The Michigan Daily Thursday, September 29, 2005

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