Friday, August 31, 2007

Michigan Football Time

It's that time of the year again. Time for we the faithful to don the sacred colors and make our way to stadiums, sports bars and living room television sets around the country. It's college football season

What? Two football blogs within a week? What? I must be slipping.

Check that, fool: I just loves me some college football. Michigan Wolverines football.

I can't help it. Believe me, I want to write about something worthwhile tonight. I want to write something insightful and thought-provoking about immigration policy or abortion or some other big ticket topic.

But I can't. Because tonight, on the eve of college football's first Saturday of the year, all I can think about is the old maize and blue. Chalk it down to growing up watching the bowl games with my dad (a Michigan alumnus), or to living with Kenesiology (basically the study of sport) majors my whole time at U of M, or to walking among the throngs of blue clad students heading to the massive stadium (The Big House), or to watching in person as the Wolverines picked apart Notre Dame (an enemy second only to those treacherous rapscallions THE Ohio State Buckeyes) or the day we rushed the field from the student section (it was awesome).

Back in high school I hated football. Mostly because I knew the football players from my school and I knew exactly the shade of bastard they wore around the halls on their way to passing grades and a free-ride scholarship to Michigan State. I went to Michigan not because I wanted to be at a great football school but because I wanted to be at a great school. But when those student tickets arrived in the mail and I haphazardly threw the package onto a pile of random papers, my dad was sure to warn me to keep track of them. I was going to be a fan of Michigan football, he said. It was inevitable. I would be helpless.

Sure enough, seven years after my first steps into the Big House, I find myself scrambling to find a bar that will show the Michigan vs. Appalachian State game.

Last November, I watched the Michigan vs. Ohio State game in a tent behind a bar with no sound. I was hung over from a night at the Kingston Mines and I had a huge blister on my hand from falling asleep next to my radiator (don't ask) but I was there bright and early to stake out my seat. I still have the scar to this day - of the radiator burn on my left knuckle and of the heartbreaking loss Michigan suffered. It was still a great football game.

My friend Aaron, an actor currently studying at Brown University, claims that a good football game is better than the best theatre. I don't know that I agree completely, but I certainly can see his point. The problem with football is that the stakes are so specific. If you don't give a damn about one team or the other, it looks like a bunch of grown men dressed up in colorful clothing running around on a square throwing a brown thingy around (which is essentially what football is). But in that regard it's just like in a scene. If I don't care about at least one of the characters the scene just looks like a bunch of people in silly clothing moving around on a square throwing around words they memorized (which is essentially what theatre is too.) You can manufacture an audience's connection with a character through good writing. I don't think you can do that with football.

I definitely prefer Aaron's assessment to Noam Chomsky, by all accounts a very smart man who claims that sports are an institutional method of diverting we unwashed masses from paying attention to world events. Personally, I find it insulting to think that I can't be passionate about more than one thing at a time. It's like saying chewing gum was invented to keep idiots from walking too much.

Besides, football games are only once a week. Given that I have two teams that I would like to watch frequently - the Michigan Wolverines and the Detroit Lions - that's like six hours out of my week where I'm probably not thinking about the slow relinquishing of my God-given American rights to the corporate-fed corruption machine known as the US Government, etc. etc. I don't really want to live in a world where I can't take six hours off a week from being horribly depressed.

So to you, Noam Chomsky, and to you football naysayers, I say this: go get yourself a blue shirt and come along. If you give football a fair shot, you might be surprised how much you enjoy yourself.

And Go Blue!