Monday, May 26, 2014

Our Michigan Trip, Part 1, or A Visit to The Big House

Regular readers may have noted that The Grandstander has been off the grid for several days. This is due too the fact that Marilyn and I just took a six day vacation "Up North", as the natives say, to Traverse City, Michigan.  It was our first time in this part of the country, and the trip exceeded all of our expectations.  In fact, the trip was so nice, that one Grandstander post is not enough, so our trip will be summarized over at least two, and possibly, three Grandstander posts.

So let us begin with Day One of trip.  It is an eight hour plus drive to Traverse City from Pittsburgh, so we decided to break up the trip by stopping and staying overnight in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Naturally, we had to make a visit to undoubtedly the most famous structure in Ann Arbor.  Officially, it is the University of Michigan Stadium, but, of course, everybody knows it as The Big House.

Now, over the years, I have had no strong feelings about the sports teams of the University of Michigan, one way or the other, but I have to tell you, that it was really neat to visit a place that you have seen countless times on television over the years.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get inside the stadium.  The gates surrounding the place were locked and there were foreboding signs everywhere saying that entrance to the Stadium was ONLY on game days.  (As an aside, I can remember being on the campus of Purdue University back in the mid-nineties and walking right into Ross-Ade Stadium in the middle of the week and sitting in the empty stands.  Of course, that was Pre-9/11, and times have changed.)  Anyway, I was struck by a couple of things about The Big House.

One, it is dug into the ground as opposed to being built from the ground up.  As a result, you get the impression that it is smaller than it actually is.  I pictured standing outside of Heinz Field or Beaver Stadium, and those structures seem much larger than this place, but of course, The Big House, as they will point out to you endlessly in Ann Arbor, is the biggest college football stadium in America.

It sits, literally (and, trust me, I am using that word correctly here), across the street from a pleasant neighborhood of houses.  We parked in front of a house where a father was playing in his yard with his two little kids, and walked right across the street to an entrance gate of the Big House. Picture Beaver Stadium in the middle of a State College field, or old Pitt Stadium jammed in among University buildings in Oakland, and the contrast is startling.  I can't even begin to imagine the disruption to those neighborhoods when over 100,000 football fans descend upon the place.

During our walk around and for several hours afterward, the strains of one song kept running through my mind.....

We noticed that the Ann Arbor Public Safety Department gets into the spirit of the place...

And we saw this very cool monument to the University mascot.....

In the end, of course, walking around the outside of the place is not like actually seeing a game inside the place, but it was pretty neat experience, nonetheless.  I will no doubt feel a little differently the next time I actually watch a football game on TV from The Big House.

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