Up to this point, I had seen every Big Ten team – except Michigan. Without question, I was looking very forward to seeing the famous maize and blue with their historical winged helmets. On top of that, I was excited that this was my first game that did not involve Wisconsin. I felt like I was broadening my horizons a bit. Last year, during Northwestern’s unbelievable Rose Bowl run, I was unable to attend any of their games. So, I was completely clad in purple looking forward to seeing the new and improved Wildcat team.
The anticipation to see Michigan, however, began to disintegrate on the way to Dyche Stadium. My brother and I took the train from Wisconsin to Central Street in Evanston – the site of Ryan Field. The train was packed with Michigan fans preparing for a victory. They were loud, obnoxious, and rude. When the train pulled up to Central Street and fans began to deboard, one older Wolverine fan stopped in his tracks, turned and bent over to me, furled his eyebrows and grunted, “You will lose!” I felt like saying, “Umm…I’m not playing.” But, I was scared. Why are you talking to me? Why are you trying to intimidate a teenager? I’m just trying to enjoy the pregame with my purple pompon and Rose Bowl sweatshirt. Perhaps they were upset because the Wildcats came to Ann Arbor the year prior and beat them at their house.
When entering Dyche Stadium, I realized that almost every Michigan fan I saw carried that attitude. Needless to say, it made me sick when the Wolverines took a 16-0 lead. Michigan’s band had made the trip as well which resulted in hearing “Hail to the Victors” on repeat for most of the game. But, Northwestern’s Rose Bowl magic from last year had not worn off yet. The Wildcats clawed the lead to 16-14 in the fourth quarter and after completing a fourth and nine with under a minute left, it became apparent that the Wildcats could steal yet another one from the dreaded Michigan Wolverines.
But, not without giving their fans a cardiac alert. With 6 seconds left, kicker Brian Gowins set up for the winning 45 yarder. He kicked it through and the crowd went berserk. But, the refs came charging in raising questions in the crowd. Soon, the head referee came over the PA system and announced that he had not started the whistle to start play and the field goal was waved off. So, Gowins had to try again and the kick was an exact replica of the one before without the wave off. Time expired and before you could think, purple flooded the field tearing down the goal posts in celebration of the 17-16 victory. My brother and I couldn’t resist joining the action and we each touched the goal post as it was coming down. It was our little effort. I was disappointed to see one Wildcat fan screaming profanities at the Michigan band after the game. After he cleared the scene, I approached a few band members and wished their team good luck for the remainder of the season hoping to instill a positive memory for their trip to Chicagoland. It is not like Wildcat fans to express such negative sportsmanship, but I have realized that Michigan brings out the worst in opposing fans.
At the time, I did not realize how valuable it was to be present for a Michigan loss. This game would be the conception of my hatred for Michigan because since then, I have not seen a change in the attitude of Michigan fans and I still have yet to witness another Michigan loss.