No words necessary. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Waking up in the morning is always easiest when you've got something on your mind. Something more than brushing your teeth. Something more than putting on your shirt and tie to crawl into your cubicle at the local company offices.
Sports have the tendency to be that something, and college football is the something of all somethings. Why it's that tantalizing is a complete mystery to those on the outside looking in, but only until you've laid eyes on it.
I had the privilege of living directly across the IM building on Hoover Street roughly two blocks away from Michigan Stadium, and I guarantee if any outsider could see the street before a Wolverine contest they would immediately ask how they could join the festivities. Picking your head up off of the pillow to witness thousands of similarly-colored bodies move has that effect.
Walk anywhere within a two-mile radius of Michigan Stadium and you'll find something to do, regardless of age.
Are you a newly-minted freshman seeking cheap beer and loud noises? State Street is your liver's death row. Frat boys and sorority girls might be a bit pretentious, but damn can they party.
Maybe you've got grey hair, a career that can support real drinks and a gut you jokingly take pride in. Say hello to your clones at the Michigan Golf Course.
Or maybe, just maybe, you're dedicated enough to show up sober after watching enough hype videos to make the average fan squirm. In that case the maize streets are just icing on a very big cake and you can't wait to lose your voice to the constant ups and downs of the contest. Such is the life of an overly dedicated fan.
No matter what category you fall under Michigan's pregame experience will find a way to please you.
Then comes one of the greatest visual spectacles in all of sports:
The stadium is half the reason why Michigan football is so electrifying. We love to flaunt the championships, the Heisman winners, the recruiting classes and the rankings, but no matter how successful Michigan is the stadium will always be its most impressive piece to flaunt. Hard not to be when no one else can match the ridiculous capacity of 109,901. That's twice the population of my home town piled into one facility.
Walking into the stadium on game day isn't easy to forget. After you've navigated the noisy crowds in the streets of Ann Arbor you find yourself glaring into the distance at something that doesn't quite look big enough to fit an entire city in it. It seems to sit atop Ann Arbor like an old home in a dramatic Greek film.
As you approach each step seems to be easier than the next despite walking uphill. The crowd you could hear from thousands of feet away becomes very real and your inner fan begs to become a part of it. You're this close to becoming part of the largest crowd in all of American football.
Things slow down as the masses of people attempt to squeeze through the gates, making the wait in line feel twice as long as the walk up to it. You inch closer and hear the banter of the knowledgeable fans, the drunken fans, and even the drunkenly knowledgeable fans.
Closer. Closer. Closer.
Finally. If all students showed up with their ID in hand you would have been through the gate ten minutes ago, but that's beside the point. You're in, and it's still unclear where all of these fans are at. The slope gets steeper yet the walk a bit easier. It's motivating.
Twenty steps later you're at the entrance to your section and a middle-aged woman asks to see your ticket. You nervously flash it, hoping she doesn't point her finger in an upward direction as if to send you as far away from the field as possible. What's the cutoff for the upper deck again? 60? 75? Who cares, she waved you in and...
Holy cuss words.
Insert any cuss word you want in exchange for "cuss words" and you've got yourself 95% of the reactions that come out of the mouths of both Michigan fans and opposing fans alike. This will be my fourth year going to Michigan contests as a student and I'll still mutter it occasionally.
You look down and behold 109,901 people hiding in a massive man-made ridge in the hill. The maize on the streets has been lifted and used to paint a once blue stadium. You feel sympathetic for those who sit behind the glass of the press box. Who wouldn't want to celebrate a team's success in this crowd?
A few moments later you're pumping your fist and the hair on your arms stands tall with the pride of "The Victors". Seeing that amount of people sing in unison gives chills to the likes of Kate Upton and the Dark Darth Vader. They've both experienced it, and now you're in the same boat. Congratulations.
The next few minutes go by in a flash. Suddenly eleven winged helmets are rushing down the field to chase a man wanted by 100,000 souls. Get him.
The battle moves back and forth, with the wings chasing and the wings running away. Gifted athletes move almost unnaturally; your father's back is thrown out just from watching it. If you're lucky you see dreads and the number 16 before the snap of the ball. You won't see him after it.
Eventually the game comes to an end and you're scarred for life. It's a feeling similar to the one you get after eating a prime steak at a luxurious New York City restaurant: nothing could ever possibly match this taste.