Column: Hail to the memories
Like almost all things, it began simply with an idea; an idea that slowly solidified into a concrete plan. Then, months laterm that plan transformed into a trip of a lifetime–witnessing arguably sports' greatest rivalry played out in a cathedral of college football.
Last weekend, I enjoyed the great fortune of standing as one of 114, 132 strong who watched Michigan and Ohio State battle in the Big House. Accompanied by two first-class friends, the 23-hour roundtrip was completed largely thanks to a fourth pal who goes to school in Ann Arbor. Now, I will admit that upon leaving late Thanksgiving night, I did expect our voyage to be unforgettable.
But looking back, that single, cliché word doesn't seem to do those memories even a shred of justice. Our trip was overall surreal, at times hilarious and, reflectively, one of the best of my entire life. Now, lucky for you, I managed to keep a running diary of everything we did before heading home. Do enjoy.
12:14 AM The obligatory humblebrag of a Facebook status has just been made as we depart from nearby Willington–I'm heading to Michigan/Ohio State and it's going to be great. Here, let me tell you about it in nice fashion.
12:48 AM After the realization that Dumb and Dumber has been omitted from our DVD collection for the trip, a seven-minute back and forth of reciting quotes ensues. This lifts my spirits as we're not even through Connecticut yet and the missing movie is already depressing me.
1:01 AM A quick debate pops up as to whether or nor not I should use an occasional hashtag in the diary entries. #guesswhichsidewon
1:28 AM I just discovered the western Connecticut formula for naming towns: Use the word "New", a cardinal direction or body of water as a pre-fix for either "field" or "town" and boom–you have yourself a town.
2:13 AM We pass the 45th exit sign offering a route back to New York City. How desperate is that city for attention?
2:15 AM I spot in the distance our first traffic sign listing the distance until Scranton, PA and decide to hold my breath until a mention of The Office is made.
2:15:11 AM After an astonishingly long wait, I finally exhale.
4:56 AM The towns of Jersey Shore and Mile Run in the great state of Pennsylvania are now in the rearview. Now, if you just wondered whether or not the town is named after the TV show, please kindly punch yourself square in the face.
6:02 AM After a brief nap, I just awoke to a couple new status likes. Though I have to ponder what my 85-year old grandmother is doing online at such an ungodly hour. I now recall my theory that Farmville indeed has her by the diaper and this sadly just confirms it. #livelongandharvestgrandma
8:07 AM We stop briefly at an Ohio rest area. I race into the restroom and begin brushing my Mountain Dew and Peanut Butter M&M warped teeth before realizing I have an audience. A pre-pubescent punk sporting the most botched Mohawk I've ever seen glares at me, thus inducing a short staring contest. Now drooling into the sink, I finally break the pipsqueak's stare and he moves on to find mommy. Victory. #backtotheroad
8:36 AM I feel a big, warm welcome to the Midwest as Cracker Barrel billboards are popping up seemingly with every mile marker. This welcome takes the form of a rising cholesterol level and a good deal of sudden pressure on my chest. #goodthingimbehindthewheel
11:29 AM We finally arrive in Ann Arbor after being trailed by a red Honda Element for the last 125 miles. Not sure if he's going to the game too or is in search of approval for buying such a heinous looking car. Either way, we made it and it's time to call home.
12:55 PM A trip to the best U of M apparel store is made and then followed with a feast at Five Guys. I'm now obscenely full, satisfied and in need of some sleep. Thanksgiving part two? Anyway, time to head to our friend's place and crash.
5:36 PM After playing catch up and watching LSU take Arkansas out to the woodshed, we head out for dinner; Chinese it is and so continues the most abominable day of eating I've ever had. #scratchthat #bestdayofeatingever
6:23 PM General Tsao picks a bad time to wage war in my stomach as we enter to play basketball at their school gym. Word is his forces are moving northward; hopefully they can be contained.
11:47 PM Tsao's advances were stopped however, I could not be contained out there on the court. After knocking in a three to start both games, I refuse to take another long jumper as I don't want my court respect to fall from its now all-time high. Though the stat sheet still gets filled with a handful of assists, steals and boards. #showtimedrew #goodnightworld
6:34 AM The Michigan marching band serves as a premature wake up call, practicing loud and proud just blocks from our friend's apartment. But, it's hard to be pissed about being woken up. ‘The Game' is now just five hours away.
9:07 AM We leave for breakfast and manage to hear a certain girl shout above the rest at the party going on across the hall. "I think my first drunk night was like seventh or eighth grade!" #youstayclassyannarbor
9:52 AM Having downed a bowl of oatmeal, a plate of eggs and couple pieces of toast at a terrific local place called Angelo's, I feel ready to take on Ohio State all by myself. Or maybe just the nearest restroom. #letsgowiththelatter
11:04 AM Our fake Michigan student IDs have now finally been prepared. Problem is, as good as our small pictures look pasted on the plastic cards, the identities we've assumed are three of our host's best Asian girl friends. Apparently everyone else is out of town, soooo…. yeah.
11:21 AM Walking to Michigan Stadium is an alcoholic straight man's dream. There are parties everywhere with beer flowing like wine and the women flocking like the salmon of Capistrano. #stillquotingdumbandumber
11:35 AM At the student entrance I pick out the sweetest little old lady scanning tickets, who looks like she could get blown over by a solid sneeze. Smiling brightly I reach out to show her my bogus ID and very real game ticket. She glances, beams back at me and scans away. Ding! Yours truly, Ann Liu-Yung, has just entered the Big House.
11:54 AM The world famous Ohio State marching band comes out on to perform after some Senior Day festivities. The ensemble finishes by "dotting the i", at which point 110,000 Wolverine fans react as though the band just sacrificed a small Dalmatian puppy at midfield. Then, in comes the Michigan band and everyone in maze and blue responds as though they've each been handed a free pup. Gotta love fanhood.
12:06 PM Kickoff is now seconds away. The thought occurs to me that there are only two things in this world that could possibly congregate so many people together in one place: religion and football. And when the two become one and the same, as they've been for over a century here in Ann Arbor, it's a remarkable thing. Go Blue!
12:28 PM The hated rivals trade touchdowns on their opening drives after Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson scampered for six just moments ago. During the commercial break, the Ohio State fan nearest to us becomes a magnet for a blowup doll that's being hit up into the air by the crowd like a beach ball; you know, except for the part where everyone's deliberately aiming for his skull.
12:37 PM A safety is called against Ohio State for offensive holding in the end zone. 9-7 Michigan. The best part of this is that the entire student section knew the unusual consequence of the flag even before the ref made the announcement. Quite the change from the student section I frequent back home that argues false start calls and thinks the game ends after three quarters. #letscutthatout
12:48 PM Denard strikes again, this time through the air. The Wolverines are now rolling with three minutes left in the first quarter. Just decided on my favorite signs, which read "I bought this sign from Terrelle Pryor" and "Voldemort was a Buckeye"
12:49 PM Holy crap. There's a forced fumble on the Ohio State kickoff. The refs just signaled its Buckeye ball but I'm now putting the over/under on heart attacks sustained during the course of the game at 1,731.
1:51 PM Ohio State takes a slim one-point lead at half as they respond to two Michigan touchdowns with three of their own, plus a field goal. Then, a nearby girl halfway to Margaritaville asks how they're the ones winning. Since her BFF Jack Daniels can't answer, my friend from home has to suffice with a reply of "Well dear, they've scored more points". She slumps and sits, thankfully for the next hour.
2:21 PM The Wolverines open the second half with the ball and more third down magic. The whole offensive unit rides Denard Robinson down the field like a pack mule for another touchdown drive to go up 30-24 with 9:05 in the third.
2:42 PM Ohio State is knocking on the door as the fourth quarter begins and every fan sings to "Lose Yourself" by native son, Eminem. Chilling moment. Huge series upcoming, Buckeyes could take the lead.
2:47 PM The Big Blue defense lives up to its stout billing, stonewalling their visitors three times inside the ten yardline. A field goal makes it 30-27 Michigan as the official attendance is announced at 114,132 crazies on hand.
3:08 PM Yikes. After the Wolverine offense flies down field for another touchdown, their defense blows it by allowing Ohio State to go eighty yards in as many seconds. With the eerie quiet this place has just turned into the Big Funeral Home.
3:21 PM I've decided to make a petition for Denard Robinson's nickname to be changed from Shoelaces to "The Answer". It's former owner, Allen Iverson, hasn't played meaningful basketball since the Bush administration and Michigan just scored again. The rushing touchdown is now under useless review. Time to celebrate.
3:22 PM A Guinness world record was probably just set for the largest out of tune rendition of Don't Stop Believin', currently being blasted through the speakers. Strangely enough, Buckeye fans are the ones who should be singing loudest, as an inexcusable overturn is the only thing saving them for defeat.
3:23 PM Jesus H Christ. There's the overturn. No touchdown, no celebration. Journey, you suck. #itakeitback #onlysortof
3:26 PM Sweet Mary and Joseph. Two Michigan penalties on the subsequent retry denies them another touchdown and pushes the offense back to a 3rd and 26 with roughly two minutes remaining. The "boo" might've originated in Ancient Greece but its making its home right now in Ann Arbor. People are beyond ticked.
3:28 PM Field goal try on fourth down is good. 40-34 Maze and Blue.
3:34 PM Ohio State takes over at the twenty yardline and converts a first down thanks to a miraculous run on fourth down by freshman quarterback Braxton Miller. Kid is going to be special one day.
3:36 PM After an incompletion and quick gain of four yards, Miller shows his inexperience with an inexplicable spike on third down. Over forty seconds still remain yet the Buckeyes have now just one shot to go six yards or it's over. Here comes fourth down. Time to bring the noise.
3:37 PM Interception! That's it! Michigan beats Ohio State for the first time in eight years and potentially lines itself up for an at-large BCS bowl bid. What's that? Storm the field? Don't mind if I do!
4:09 PM Now lounging around on the turf with thousands of other fans, my friends and I take pictures as the sun begins to set in Ann Arbor. What a game, what a day and what a trip this has been thus far. I don't know if this script couldn't have been written but, I'm confident that if you told me this morning that my day would end with laying in the south end zone, I would've said you were batsh*t crazy.
9:21 PM The Michigan fight song "Hail to the Victors" plays for the final time, now through our car speakers. Our GPS tells us we'll arrive back at 8:06 AM Sunday but it could be 8:06 PM for all I care. The grin I'm sporting isn't going to wash away for days. It's finally time to head home and chase tomorrow's dawn, which even with twelve hours of driving ahead– is no problem. Today's wildest dreams have been caught and lived.
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