111,000 Fans Screaming, And Then, Silent

The Big House

The Big House

I finally get all the fuss over college football: it’s really, really fun. 111,000 people singing and waving maize (not yellow) pom-poms. Pretty cool.

As a long time NFL fan and season ticket holder, I have to admit that my first real college football game was overall superior to the NFL. Better product on the field and better fan experience all around. Of course, I’m a long-suffering fan of the Washington team (aka Redskins), so maybe that explains the (questionable) quality of the product on the field …

This past weekend, G and I headed up to Ann Arbor, MI to attend the Michigan-Michigan State game at The Big House. Already a great rivalry, the last second flub and dramatic ending made it one of the most memorable college football games in recent history.

In addition to the ending, several other things stood out:

Superior logistics in and out of the stadium – There was a ton of traffic in Ann Arbor as tens of thousands of people descended on the town to attend the game, and I’m sure it’s an annoyance for the residents. That said, game day was incredibly well-organized. There were signs, cones and people directing traffic everywhere. There were clearly marked shuttle pickup stops, buses and cars neatly parked everywhere. And maybe because parking was spread out into the local neighborhoods, businesses, parks, golf courses, etc., it made for a more staggered entry and exit from the game. At least for us.

No alcohol in the stadium – This is a tough one. I mean, who doesn’t like a beer at the game? Then again, there’s something more civilized about an experience where you don’t have to worry about the person next to you throwing up or starting a drunken fight. Sure, people were good and liquored up from the tailgating. And the orthopedic surgeons sitting two rows behind us weren’t just sipping diet coke out of their cans throughout the game. But it wasn’t the mass drunkenness and frankly, rudeness that plagues NFL games.

It also made the game more family friendly. Plenty of grumbling about the plays and players, and of course, the refs, but very little profanity or no slurs. And while Michigan fans were certainly dejected at the end of the game, there wasn’t the sense of drunken rage.

Some college teams are considering beer sales to raise revenues – and who wouldn’t be tempted by that take – but I think it would change the tone and tenor of the games. Not for the better.

Engaged fans – If the NFL didn’t sell beer, how many people wouldn’t attend the games? Sad, but probably a good portion of the fans. Particularly for the crappy 3-13 seasons. Here, fans were really into the game. Did I mention that it was loud?

Service-oriented concessions – The concession stand nearest our seats was well-run and speedy. In contrast to the intermission-long lines at both the ‘Skins and recently, at the Caps. There was a sign that a portion of the proceeds benefited a local Ann Arbor team, so maybe it was the kids and parents who ran the stand at the game? That might explain the pleasant attitude and efficiency? What a change!

The band was awesome – I love the college football band! Of course, I also loved Drumline and Bring it On. The halftime band and sideshows they put on were fun, creative and pretty impressive. I mean, I like the band the ‘Skins have, but maybe teams should have real marching bands, designing moving logos and messages.

We had a great time, really enjoyed the sights, sounds and atmosphere. Despite the ending. And I hope to go to more college football games in the future, although I’m not sure the next game can live up to this one!

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