Intimidation courses through the veins of those who come to Ann Arbor wearing the opponent’s colors. This quaint town can appear harmless to visitors, but the closer to Michigan Stadium, the more daunting it can be. Of course, this is just what Wolverine fans want for their home turf. Get ready to be heckled, teased, and pushed around for not wearing the coveted maize and blue. Michigan fans will act contentious to show their superiority.
Upon Wisconsin’s visit, there was little love for the red and white. ESPN’s premier pregame show, College Gameday, set up in Ann Arbor for this top 25 matchup. Michigan fans unpleasantly reminded Badger fans of their humbling loss to Northwestern the week prior. They really showed no mercy. My group enjoyed being in the crowd again for another College Gameday experience. The show, anchored by Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit, was as rowdy as ever. Due to his handsomeness, most adoring female fans hold up signs that read, “Marry Me Kirk!” We wanted to veer from the trendy and have our female friends display a sign reading, “Marry Me Lee!” Both Kirk and Lee spotted the sign and offered a thumbs up accompanied by laughter.
They also both chose Michigan in their final picks and they certainly had good reason. Wisconsin struggled through their first four games dealing with NCAA suspensions and starting lineup chaos. The Badgers nearly survived undefeated through the fiasco, but suffered a damaging loss to Northwestern last week. Now at full strength, Wisconsin is a difficult team to read. Their response to adversity and their team chemistry is in question. As a result, Michigan was the favorite.
Entering the stadium gave the sense that Wisconsin’s chances were tenuous. Michigan Stadium is the largest football stadium in the country holding over 111,000. From the outside, it appears to be of average size. However, the arena is dug deep into the ground making the entry gates about eighty rows up. Finding our seats was a challenge and staying there was worse. We were the last row in forty rows of Badger fans who were standing to view the action. Of course, we had to stand to see which is commonplace in Camp Randall. However, the Wolverine fans behind us were not accustomed to watching on two feet. Through nearly the entire game, they yelled, shoved, and swore at us for something we could not control. We were like the front line of an army protecting the thousands of red colored soldiers behind us. One Michigan partisan even had the police take away one of our friends for standing. The experience was dreadful.
The game was rough for Wisconsin, as well. They led for a good portion of the contest until Michigan quarterback Drew Henson tossed a wild one to David Terrell in the end zone to take a 13-10 advantage with six minutes remaining and they wouldn’t look back. Wisconsin continued to hurt themselves by missing scoring opportunities. Kicker Vitaly Pisetsky summed up the day by missing a field goal at the end that would have tied the score. After the game, Wolverine fans puffed out their chests like they had won by fifty. The heckling continued and we hopped in the car and darted out of the war zone. Experiencing Michigan was rewarding in many ways. After all, Ann Arbor is one of the greatest places to see a game saturated with tradition, history, and size. The trick is seeing past the boorish fans and focusing on the factors that make the atmosphere special.