When the rapture comes, I hope it takes Ann Arbor, Michigan first. In fact, I hope it only takes Ann Arbor in a fury of fire and brimstone. The screams of the assholes that live there will echo throughout the world as they get sucked into eternal damnation, while everyone else sits comfortably at home sipping hot coco or something of the nature. Sound a bit harsh? Not to me, it sounds like they got off easy.
In my four years attending the University of Notre Dame I only took one road trip to an away football game. In the fall of 2009, my Junior year, to see our then 2oth ranked Fighting Irish take on the unranked Wolverines of the University of Michigan. For the first time in three years there was a sliver of optimism surrounding the football team as the highly regarded Jimmy Clausen had a ton of weapons surrounding him and “Strategic Genius” Charlie Weis was ready to guide the high powered offense to glory.
When my buddies mentioned the idea of driving up to attend the game I was immediately on board. Michigan has always been my least favorite college football team. Growing up in the heart of Big Ten country I had a lot of unpleasant run-ins with Michigan fans. Since both my parents also attended Notre Dame, I’ve been a fan since before I was born. As soon as they heard that they immediately judged me in a negative light. “You damn Domer. Is Jesus going to come down and play quarterback this year. You suck”
There were a few harsher words thrown in that I would not understand for a few more years, but the main one was always ‘Domer.’ This word always pissed me off because I hate Domers. They’re arrogant douches who spend their free time refreshing the Irish Eyes blog to get updates on this week’s defensive schemes. They think Knute Rockne is a deity sent to Earth to invent football. Worst of all they think that everyone else is beneath Our Mother’s University and that the only reason it is been 25 years since the Irish won a National Championship is that they cheat, which Notre Dame is so above. I am not a Domer, I am a fan, supporter, and alumnus of Notre Dame and much like a famous Chris Rock stand-up bit I see a clear distinction between the two.
But did Michigan people ever bother to find this out about me? No, because their arrogance dwarfs even the large egos of Domers. Always talking about being a Michigan Man. “There is no greater compliment than being called a Michigan Man.” What the hell does that even mean? Being a Michigan Man? Why is this some big accomplishment? Does Michigan have some special citizenship test that is really hard to pass? Are males from Michigan State also Michigan Men? Technically, yes, they are men from Michigan. And what about Michigan Women? Do you not have those? Or are they an off brand, inferior group that is not worth mentioning. Please, enlighten me.
As we hit the road Friday afternoon, I was bristling with excitement. I couldn’t wait to kick their ass. It was going to be so fun to make a stadium with over 100,000 Michigan fans go absolutely silent. We arrived in Ann Arbor around 3:30 and went right to my buddy’s cousin’s frat house, where we were spending the weekend. Perhaps I should’ve been more worried about staying at a Michigan frat house, but never having been to a college road game I was not aware of any potential danger. “What’s the worst that could happen? A little good natured ribbing. A ‘fuck you,’ ‘fuck you too,’ perhaps?”
As we walked into the house I overheard one of the frat bros say, “We’ve got some Notre Dame pussies again. They can’t drink for shit.” Now, I fully admit that my actions that followed were completely immature and dangerous, but to 20-year old college Junior me this was like calling Marty McFly chicken. It could not go unanswered. I became determined to show them just what a powerhouse drinker I was. 40s at 4? Better add another four at the beginning, Daddy’s thirsty. Want to shotgun a beer? Why just one? A beer bong too? No problem. Time to chill and scarf down some pizza, you know what goes great with that? Bourbon, neat, straight from the bottle. Alright, lets play some drinking games, beer pong. You know what this bourbon taste so good I’m going to have some more on the side.
By the time we arrived at another fraternity for a party I had consumed a weekends worth of alcohol in four hours. I couldn’t tell you what happened at that party because while my body was there my mind completely checked out. Black Out City. The next thing I remember was waking up on the couch in the frat house we were staying at covered in my own vomit. My vision was hazy, but I remember people standing over me, quite literally getting the last laugh.
I soon passed back out and did not awake again till the morning with a splitting headache. As I slowly came back to life I began to realize that my back felt really sticky and then noticed the remains of the vomit on my shorts. I went into the bathroom to discover so much sharpie marks on me that for a second I thought I became black in some weird body switching curse. But it was just a series of dicks, ‘fuckfaces,’ ‘faggots,’ and ‘pussies’ drawn all over my body. My buddies woke up and found me staring in the bathroom mirror. They had a good laugh, as they should’ve. I asked if there was vomit on my back because it felt so sticky. They told me there was not, but one of them had seen a guy spraying Pam on my back last night. Pam? What the fuck? Who does that?
I took a shower and got as much of the sharpie off as I could, at least in the areas that would be visible, arms, legs, and face. The shower felt amazing, but when I collected my clothes and pulled out my wallet I discovered that all the cash I had brought was missing, which was over $150 since I still had to pay for my ticket to the game. Panicked, I asked if anyone had seen my money. When the answer was a resounding, “no,” the realization flowed over me that someone had stolen it. The severity of my hangover all rushed back to me. It was brutal.
All I wanted to do was lie in bed. Fuck the game. I felt like shit and just got robbed, the last thing I want to do is stand in the heat of an opponent’s stadium for 3 and half hours. My buddies all worked me over to convince me to change my mind and go to the game. “We came all this way.” “It’s such a big game.” “I’ll loan you money for the ticket.” After 15 minutes of this badgering, I gave in and agreed to start tailgating with them. We all stepped out, clad in our Notre Dame jerseys of varying numbers, something that should’ve been thought through a bit more, perhaps.
The front yard of the frat house was packed with people and I made my way to the keg to get my first beer of the day. As soon as I arrived, a girl in a Michigan jersey stepped in front of me, said “fuck you Notre Dame,” and proceeded to spray me right in the face and chest with champagne. I guess that answers my question as to why they never mention being a “Michigan Woman.” What a lovely start to the morning.
We stayed for another hour before starting to make our way towards the stadium. The path to the “Big House” goes right down Michigan’s Frat Row. It is an excellent walk for any evolutionary scientist to take as the combination of alcohol, testosterone, and douchiness makes one wonder if these people forgot to get the memo on evolving. For the next two hours we received a verbal onslaught of all the things written on my body. “Fuck you ND faggots” was a particularly popular phrase.
The verbal assault was getting off easy compared to the Notre Dame fan we saw get physically assaulted when he was cold cocked by a Michigan fan. I’ll never forget the image of blood flowing on the sidewalk. This daunting hell march was only made possible by telling myself, “We’re going to kick their ass. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when we kick their ass.”
Game time finally arrived and I looked forward to finally receiving my solace, but after a terrible start by the Irish, Michigan jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. No! This can’t be happening. What happened to karma? All that I’ve been through, we can’t loses this game. Notre Dame settled down and slowly inched back into the game eventually gaining a 20-17 lead in the third quarter. Alright, we’ve got control back, now let’s finish these bastards off.
A brutal Clausen fumble on a handoff exchange prevented this from happening and Michigan ripped off two touchdown drives in a row. Including Quarterback Tate Forcier busting out a 41 yard touchdown run right through the middle of our defense, untouched. Suddenly Michigan was up 31-20 with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. Again, Notre Dame remained calm and fought back into the game. A 24-yard Jimmy Clausen touchdown throw to Golden Tate was followed by a Forcier interception that gave the Irish the ball back in Michigan territory, down 31-26. Notre Dame wasted little time converting the mistake into a seven yard Armando Allen touchdown run, followed by a statute of liberty play for the two-point conversion, giving Notre Dame a 34-31 lead with five minutes to play.
After forcing Michigan to punt on its pursuing drive, Notre Dame failed to convert a first down and punted the ball back to the Wolverines around midfield with 1:45 left in the game. My seats were in the nosebleeds behind the end zone that Michigan was driving towards for the winning score. Like a deer in headlights, I saw them coming, but there was nothing that I could do to stop them. Forcier scrambled around at the 30 yard line before finding a wide open receiver down at the five with :26 seconds left. After a Michigan receiver dropped the ball in the end zone on the next play, a sliver of hope for overtime crept back into my mind. But it was all erased on the very next play as our cornerback, Darren Walls, did what he did best, get burned, and Michigan scored the winning touchdown with :11 seconds left.
The walk back down Frat Row would’ve been worse than the walk there had I not been too demoralized to care. It also helped that I delivered one of the best and quickest responses to an insult in my life. When a Michigan frat bro danced around me in joy and asked “Do you need a tissue Notre Dame?” I responded, “No thanks, your mother swallows.” Unfortunately he was too drunk and euphoric to even register what I had said as he simply just kept dancing down the street in joy.
This Saturday I’ll be attending another Notre Dame vs Michigan football game, but this time in the safety and comfort of familiar South Bend. It is the last scheduled game between these two rivals for the foreseeable future as conference expansion has made it too hard to keep them on the schedule. Long gaps between games is nothing new in this rivalry as there have been several hiatuses, including lengthy ones from 1909-1942 and 1943-1978. Most fans are disappointed the rivalry is taking a break, but I for one am relieved.
Michigan is the only team in sports that I genuinely hate. There are plenty of teams that I “sports hate,”the Packers, all of Detroit, Minnesota Twins, Miami Heat, and recently LA Kings, but that is an irrational hate that is built on the fanaticism of sports. Michigan is all pure venom. It is exhausting hating one team so much and frankly it is also disturbing. I do not want to waste my time with hate, life’s too short. This Saturday I will unleash all the hatred, venom, and disgust I have for the University of Michigan, then leave it all behind me, win, lose, or draw. The rivalry will be over and I can move on with my life. Perhaps someday it will be reignited as it has so many times in the past, but I hope it never comes back. I want to move on, get past all this anger and forget about it for the rest of my life. I want to be an old man, spending time with my grandkids and barely be able to remember any details of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry other than, “Man, we sure did kick their ass in that final game.” Go Irish!