Thursday, December 27

In Defense of the Bowl System

It is officially the season of the outraged interloper in college football. Pundits from all corners of the sports journalism profession love to spend their holidays complaining about the game so many of us hold dear. Whether they have written about or discussed the game at any point during the season is irrelevant and it’s time for everyone to jump on their soapbox. Permit me a moment to climb atop mine.

At the end of the most surprising and remarkable year on record, many have claimed that the bowl matchups leave much to be desired and that playoff brackets are the only solution. Even my friends over at SI.com devoted a series of columns addressing this supposedly broken system. Several weeks ago, they stated that pretty much every college football fan in the nation can agree on at least one thing: The BCS needs a makeover. What followed was an online symposium on how to fix it. But I must beg the question, how broken is this system?

First of all, we do have a playoff. It is a one game, two team playoff for which all I-A teams are eligible. As many people have pointed out, no matter where you draw the line, someone will gripe about their relative worth, saying they deserved to be above the cut line. The greater the number of teams included in a playoff, the more teams can reasonably argue that they belong. The BCS is now ten years old. In those ten years, there has been one and only one team that had a legitimate gripe at their exclusion. In 2004, Auburn went undefeated and finished third. Every other team that was “shut out” lost a game somewhere along the way. If they wanted to point fingers, honest people would have to start with themselves. Did Auburn “get screwed”? Probably. One can only assume they would have fared better against USC than Oklahoma did. But at least their fans didn’t have to sit through Ashlee Simpson’s halftime performance. Small consolation, I know. Adding even two more teams to the mix makes choosing the participants that much more complicated. If there were four this year, who would the other two be? Virginia Tech, USC, Georgia, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Kansas…? You get my point.

Due to its remarkable nature, this season should not be used to make any long-term decisions. That said, didn’t the BCS get it right? Does anyone really have a clear case ahead of the two teams we ended up with? Ohio State lost by one score to an (ahem) BCS bowl-bound team. LSU lost two games in triple overtime and has some pretty darn good wins on their resume. An argument for any other team would require some rather tortured logic.

Both SI.com and ESPN.com had a users “pickoff” where they set up playoff brackets and had people choose who would win hypothetical games. On SI.com, USC defeated Oklahoma. ESPN had the Sooners winning. Let’s say that this is what actually occurred. USC would have become the only team in college football history to win a national championship despite having lost a game at home in which they were favored by 42 points. Oklahoma's resume is hardly championship caliber either. My point is that allowing more teams a crack at ultimate victory is a fundamental change to a sport that has been awarding titles for over 100 years. To institute a playoff with more than two teams means that we are no longer awarding the title to the team that has had the best season, but rather the one that has had a good enough season and is playing the best at the end of the year. Like them or not (and most of you don’t like them), USC is not a title-worthy team. Not according to what the college football national title has meant for the last century. We’ll come back to this point.

In the course of my travels, I’ve met fans from 24 different I-A programs. I’ve been able to note some overarching trends. Regarding the prospect of playoffs, every single person I spoke with aged 28 and under avowed that “we need a playoff.” Fans 29 and older were split, with roughly 70% of them in favor of the current system and 30% demanding playoffs. (Note: At Auburn, it was pretty much 100% playoffs for obvious reasons.) What can we glean from this? Jon from Tennessee pointed out that when the BCS came into existence, people from the younger group were 18 at the oldest. They have essentially been raised in the era of the BCS. However, they’ve also been raised in the era of outraged interlopers. Have they been brought up as frustrated, tortured fans, or has the media persuaded them to be frustrated? Have they really given the concept proper consideration or are they simply repeating what Skip Bayless and Michael Wilbon have told them? It’s a chicken or egg thing to be sure.

A comment I heard frequently from pro-playoff fans was, “Look at the NCAA basketball tournament. It’s great! Who doesn’t think a football tournament would be great?” Certainly, a bracket full of football teams would be exciting. However, no one ever seem to mention the flip side to that coin. What about the basketball regular season? It’s on right now. Are you watching it? Does any of it matter? Compared to say, Rutgers/South Florida? Are you going to watch the Rutgers/South Florida basketball game this year? March Madness gives us all three weeks of excitement and makes Vegas a fortune. But its impact on the regular season cannot be underestimated. I was at LSU/Virginia Tech in Week 2. If we had an eight-team playoff, that game wouldn’t have really mattered. With the BCS, it served as the Hokies’ elimination. You don’t think that added to the excitement level?

What of the Northwesterns, Arizona States, and South Carolinas? Let’s be realistic. These teams will rarely, if ever make a playoff slate of 16 teams. A bowl game is their goal, and if they somehow make it to New Years Day, they’ve had a heckuva season. With a playoff tournament, the lower-tiered bowls would not only lose the small level of relevance they currently hold, the money for them would shrink to the point where we would lose them. Northwestern would have little to play for and their program would likely dry up. If you believe people would still tune in for bowl matchups, my counterpoint to you would be the NIT. It is completely ignored – a consolation game relevant to no one.

I close by simply stating, this is college football. It is different. Every game matters. It’s the difference that makes it the greatest sport on the planet. With even a four team playoff, Ohio State vs Michigan last year would have been just another rivalry game. Kansas vs Missouri this year would have merely been another border war. Ho hum. Interlopers may not understand that it is precisely what differentiates this sport from the others that makes it so incredible. But that’s because they don’t watch it. Not like we do.

Finally, check out this recent article from the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein in support of the same argument.

Please feel free to refute, discuss, and argue in the comments section.

Monday, December 24

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I suppose if Terry Tate can take a break, maybe we all can. I hope all my readers have a happy and safe holiday with family and friends. And try not to work too hard. At least not until Terry's back in the office...

Friday, December 21

Looks Like I'm Home Tonight

Odometer: 21,635
Location: Chicago, IL

States Visited: Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois
Total States Visited: 43
Total Pounds Gained: -1.5


I grew up in Chicago. I took drivers ed during the winter. I know how to handle the snow. But I’m not stupid. With blizzard conditions predicted for Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, I opted to take the long way around. A trip along the length of Tennessee meant that I would fittingly pass by Knoxville, the city I’ve encountered more than any other along the way. The early part of the drive was made difficult by powerful blasts of wind. Just keeping the car on the road became a challenge. I feared an incredibly long day and perhaps another stay at Motel 6. But once I got into the Volunteer State, it was smooth sailing.

Tennessee passed without issue, and my time in Kentucky was brief. My first thought after crossing the Ohio River with over five hours remaining on the trip, “Illinois is really long!” A little before I got to Champaign, I encountered the results of the storm I chose to avoid. It was clear I had made the right decision. Illinois had become a hazardous tundra, particularly in the left lane. Once again, I saw cars being towed out of ditches. This was nothing compared to my ordeal in Nebraska and Iowa the previous week, but I was beset with concern nonetheless. I returned to find my city shrouded in relatively fresh snow and in hibernation due to temps in the teens. Of course, after 14.5 hassle free hours behind the wheel, my car got stuck in the snow while entering my garage. So the road trip wasn’t truly over until I shoveled the Corolla free. At least I finally got some exercise.

Somehow I lost 1.5 pounds on this trip. My original plan was to go jogging at every stop along the way, but the wrecked knee changed all that. I’ve eaten more fast food than at any point in my entire life, bracketed by tailgate chow and beer every Saturday. Before you get excited, ladies, the pounds are somehow less, but the presence of a belly shows that I’m clearly not in the kind of shape I was when I hit the road. The only viable conclusion is that I’ve lost a ton of muscle. Or maybe it’s just one of those mysteries that we’ll never fully understand. Knee surgery is set for early January. Hooray!
My trusty steed

I have yet to mention the various ginormous crosses that can be found along America’s interstates. I saw my first one in Tennessee en route to Clemson way back on September 2nd. I encountered at least three others in various parts of the country. The original, I believe, is the one in the Texas Panhandle. Signs in advance of the structure urge motorists to stop at the “Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere!” The one in southern Illinois has a website. They all appear to have the same dimensions, and I don’t believe any of them has a church at their site. Call it advertising, a beacon of hope, grandstanding, a heartfelt sign of devotion, or whatever you like. I’ll just say the same thing I said about Bipin and Rebel being colleagues at the Harrisonburg Econolodge. Only in America.So now I’m home. For good. That first game in South Bend doesn’t even feel like it was part of this season. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I figured it would be a fun time at the very least. This experience has surpassed every possible expectation. I was able to see so much of this wonderful country, something that everybody should take the time to do at some point.
The first photo

Of course, the football was fantastic, and the uniqueness of each stop was even better. The history and tradition on display at Notre Dame. The southern hospitality (and southern belles) I encountered at Clemson. The all-day party that is LSU football. The devotion to the game of football in Lincoln. The aggressive drinking and fabulous fifth quarter in Madison. The picturesque setting and fanbase craving better football in Seattle. The deep-fried goodness of the Red River Shootout. The small-town appeal of Bridgewater College. The new kid on the block enthusiasm of Rutgers. The old kid on the block appreciation for the finer things at Harvard. The raucous cultural opposition at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The unbridled devotion of Buckeye backers. The charming and endearing Volunteer fans at The Hill. The day I got to be a fan again in Ann Arbor. The radiant animosity on display at the Iron Bowl. The multi-cultural multiplicity in South Central. The greater community at the Stagg Bowl. With all those stops behind me, you’d think I could be cured of my wanderlust, but if anything, I now have a new urge to hit every college campus to see a game. Who’s with me?
New York Cares

The greatest thing about this endeavor, though, is surely the people I met along the way. Better than all the wonderful sights and terrain is the populous of our nation. I talked with more generous and friendly people than I could possibly count. At each of the above stops, I can claim somebody I encountered as a new friend. Many of them are listed above in the “Friends of the Program” section. I urge you to check out their work. They’re far better bloggers than I, and their devotion to their respective teams knows no bounds.
I finish this journey a bit in awe of everywhere I’ve been. I sometimes still can’t believe I did this, and am so incredibly glad I did. In fact, I find myself asking why I didn’t do it sooner. Though I’m staying put in Chicago for the foreseeable future, the season continues, and so will posting in this site, though it may change a bit. Please keep checking back for updates.I’ll close for now with a phrase I saw on a Nike running poster years ago, but is apropos for me today. For all of us, actually. “There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.” Amen.

Thursday, December 20

Stagg Bowl Pregame Radio

Audio from my appearance on D3football.com's Stagg Bowl pregame show is here. I, uhhhhh, didn't do as well as I'd, ahhhhh, hoped. But feel free to give it a listen by clicking here. Note: the audio starts off a bit crackly, but then gets better.

Monday, December 17

Stagg Bowl Highlights

I'm not sure who put this together, but they did a bangup job. For those of you who missed the game, catch most of the significant highlights here. The moment comes at 8:30 and still gives me chills.

Sunday, December 16

Stagg Party

Odometer: 20,692
Location: Salem, VA
States Visited: Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia


I was safe at home. Ready to pursue next steps and all that. My bed, my shower, my electric toothbrush – it all felt more comfy than ever. After that last drive, I would have to be insane to hit the road again. But I wasn’t ready for this season to be over. Are you? Isn’t the only thing better than football… more football? I wanted to hear those cheers one more time. I wanted another game. One I could cherish, savor and just enjoy, dammit. In my visit to Bridgewater College, my new friends told me of the fun they have each year at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the championship game for Division III. It’s an eleven hour drive from Chicago to Salem, but I considered that a small price to pay. Without spending too much time thinking about it, I found myself driving south on the Kennedy Expressway before the sun came up on Friday morning. When the Corolla’s odometer ticked 20,000 precisely at the Illinois-Indiana border, I chose to view it as a sign that I’d made the right choice. After all, I hadn’t been to a national championship game in ten years.


I have found throughout these travels that any trip under ten hours is no big deal to me. Anything over ten is another story. After eleven hours at the wheel, I arrived at the Quality Inn a bit out of it, though it was a peaceful eleven hours with relatively open roads and calm weather. Reuniting with the Stone Station folks, we hit a bar in Roanoke. I quickly found that the Stagg Bowl is more than a mere championship game. Fans of Division III travel from all over the country to take in the experience. I may have driven the farthest, but some had flown farther. It’s like a corporate convention, but way more fun. People compared notes, bought each other beers, and of course talked about the next day’s matchup. The weather report for Saturday was an ominous one. Freezing rain with temps at or below freezing. Lucky for me, my job entailed traipsing around the parking lot, which kept the blood flowing. For nearly everyone else, their job only required wearing purple and tossing back some brews. That led to many hiding out in idling cars to keep warm.

The gang at Stone Station, however, was hard at work from the time they arrived at 8am. All the fantastic food I had remembered from my trip to Bridgewater was on display and then some. There’s no way I’m going to adequately list all the delicacies available, but it included some of Llama Guy’s special recipe chicken, Skoal Train’s pulled pork sandwiches, Religion Major’s crab and vegetable soup, Peggy’s fried potatoes, Chris’ deep fried turkey and was topped off by O-Line Mom’s homemade brownies. I’m sure I’m leaving a ton of people out here – it was an incredibly impressive smorgasbord and was free to all. Please leave comments for the ones I forgot! People from all across the parking lot lined up for the grub throughout the day. This included the Whitewater band and dance team, the game’s radio broadcasters, families, and Mount Union and Whitewater students. After stuffing my belly like everyone else, I appeared on D3football.com’s pregame show to talk about my road trip. Ideally this will be the first of many broadcasts where I discuss what I have seen and experienced. It was very nice of them to have me on. Hopefully I did a decent job. I haven’t heard a recording yet, so I have no idea how it came off. Anybody tune in? If so, leave a comment or shoot me a note. Anyway, it was great fun, and show host Gordon Mann did a great job of making me feel comfortable and asking good questions. We focused mainly on the D-III and the Stagg bowl, and a big topic of conversation was the wide array of fans present in Salem. Aside from the large groups of folks from the two teams playing, I met and talked to people from Christopher Newport University, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Huntingdon College, Wesley College, and saw others sporting Randolph-Macon College and Ferrum College gear. What an array! I guarantee you won’t see that kind of participation January 7th in New Orleans. A huge percentage of the people here for this game are simply die-hard Division III fans. Of course they all joined in for communion.

Taste the rainbow

After sixteen other contests this season, you’d think I was burned out. Or maybe just jaded or something. The kids in purple helmets on both sides of the field played so hard, and with such determination, I can safely declare that this was the best game I saw this season. Better than South Florida/Rutgers. Better than USC/Washington. Better than Oklahoma/Texas. Better than Florida/Georgia. Those were all great games, but this one had everything. Monster hits, huge game-altering plays, major swings in momentum, multiple coaching adjustments, and passionate fans on both sides. It certainly didn’t hurt that the Stone Station gang saved me a seat with them in row 2 at the fifty yard line, but the game earned all the praise I’m giving it. When Justin Beaver scampered for a game-sealing 66 yard run, I found myself jumping up and down, cheering my head off. It was one of those football moments that makes this sport so incredibly special. A simple run up the middle began with the hope that Beaver could reach the first down sticks, and ended with one team’s euphoric understanding that they were about to be crowned national champions. Of course the flip side to that understanding was that Mount Union realized they were about to lose their fourth game this century and come just short in their bid for an unprecedented three-peat. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I came down to Salem to witness it.
After having their team photo taken with the championship trophy, in unison the Whitewater team shouted, “Miller Time!” I blurted out, “It’s a Wisconsin thing,” and a woman standing near me said, “That’s right – we don’t drink Budweiser!” Ah, Wisconsin. It’s not quite the “fifth quarter”, but hearing that took me back to my trip to Madison. That was my fifth game, but nearly 16,000 miles ago which makes it feel like forever and a day. It was at that moment that I realized I already missed this season. And it had only been over for ten minutes.

Everyone retreated to the parking lot just before a major torrential downpour. I helped the Stone Station gang pack up, but not before we all dug in to some more of Llama Guy’s chicken. Plans were made to go out and grab a drink, but I think in the back of everyone’s mind, we knew that we were cooked. The bitter cold takes a lot out of you, especially when coupled with a thrilling football game. So goodnight from the parking lot also served as farewell. I’m going to miss those folks, but only so much. I plan to return to both Bridgewater and Salem – maybe as soon as next season if I can swing it. I’ve got one more drive, and horrible, nasty weather is predicted directly in my path. Looks like it’ll be a long one. I don’t mind. I don’t want this trip to end, anyway.

Friday, December 14

Auburn Tailgate Report Card and Stagg Bowl Update!

We're going just slightly out of order, but only by a day. The Tailgate Report Card from the Iron Bowl can be found at SI On Campus by clicking here.

Also, I took a video of the players' on-field entrance. Dan Fouts would tell you that it's the last game of the year, and you can't hold anything back. Looks like those fans were ready. video

Finally, I'm in Salem, VA this weekend for the Stagg Bowl (D-III National Championship game - broadcast on ESPN at 4:30, Eastern). Look for me embedded with the Stone Station folks wearing red near the 50 yard line. Additionally, there's a chance I may be on a radio program with Pat Coleman from D3football.com on Saturday afternoon sometime between 2 and 4 pm, Eastern. The broadcast is on ncaafootball.com, but I am not sure exactly where to pick it up.

Update: If you go to this site, you should be able to get the stream. Again, no idea if I'll actually be on or when that would happen, but I'm sure it will be a good show either way.

All right. I hope I'm ready for my last hurrah. As Dan Fouts would say, "Last game of the season, can't hold-" "We know, Dan. We know..."

Thursday, December 13

USC TRC up at SIOC

Check out the latest Tailgate Report Card on USC here.

Unfortunately, I didn't see this guy or he probably would have made it into the report somehow:

Saturday, December 8

If you find yourself falling apart, I'm sure I could steer on...

Odometer: 19,952
Location: Chicago, IL
States Visited: Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois


After some much deserved friendtime and funtime in the wonderful city of San Francisco, it was time to make the long trip home. My last trip. This season has been the craziest on record, and I’ve managed to catch my fair share of nailbiters, upsets, and blowouts. When I started this project, I envisioned many of the moments. Aside from Michigan being held without a touchdown in my personal homecoming game, there’s not one thing I can complain about. So many fans have said to me, “Man, I wish I had your job.” I have not taken this experience for granted. But I was ready to be done. This trip has been simultaneously the most fulfilling and most exhausting experience I’ve ever had.

The timing of my west coast departure was dictated solely by the weather forecast. I had no interest in driving a Corolla over the Rockies in the middle of a blizzard. There appeared to be a clean window between snowstorms with a Wednesday morning departure. I beat most of the bay area traffic climbed over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and began my cruise through Nevada. After powering through some fatigue early in the day, I found myself feeling strong and cruising at a comfortable 88 mph. I said to myself, “Man if there’s a cop here, I’m definitely going to get a ticket at this pace.” Five miles later, Smokey stopped me in order to deliver said ticket. In my haste to beat the weather, I had gotten greedy and foolishly tempted fate. Ah, well, “Cost of doing business,” I decided.
A Gulf-Western company?

The sun began to set as I traversed the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. They are yet another stunning American scene to behold. In every direction, the land is impossibly flat for miles, but then surrounded by mountains. I desperately wanted to get out of the car and take in the view, but concerns over impending storms remained front of mind. By the time I arrived at the Great Salt Lake, night had fallen. Before I knew it, I was out of Utah, still feeling wide awake without any help from caffeine.

Driving along the southern Wyoming border, recurring billboards for a “family hotel” called Little America reminded me that this was the same road my brother and I took en route from Seattle to Dallas. That drive was six games into the season, but now feels like it happened two years ago. I can only imagine that I’m quite the changed man since then. Perhaps more gregarious and bold, but certainly more well traveled and appreciative of my own experiences. Somewhere between Salt Lake City and Cheyenne, I began reflecting on various moments from the trip; all the friends I’d seen, the new friends I’d made, the beautiful places I’d been. I began to get a little giddy, even giggling to myself just a bit. The trip was finally ending and it had been more worthwhile than I could possibly have imagined. Perhaps those thoughts gave me extra fuel because I powered well beyond my original goal for the day, not pulling over until a rest stop near Cozad, Nebraska. Having not slept in my car anywhere along the way, and given the fact that it was roughly 5:00 AM, central time, I figured it was high time. This probably would have been a lot more fun in the early part of the season when the temperature wasn’t hovering around 20 degrees. After two hours of bundled up sleep, I awoke to find blocks of ice where my feet should be. The fact that I was wearing shorts (more comfortable for driving) and rather thin socks (hadn’t given that one much thought) were likely to blame. I turned on my car and let it idle with the heat running, wasted gas be damned. At 8:30, I felt refreshed enough and pointed the Corolla eastward. Grandma claimed that I should be home in my apartment by 3:00, the thought of which being all I needed to push me the last 700 miles.

As I stared my last day, the roads appeared clear and relatively empty. Flashing signs warned of winter weather, but I figured that they were always in use during the winter months. I was wrong. Within 20 minutes, I caught up to an unexpected snowstorm that had made its way from Canada when the jetstream plunged southward. What followed was an absolute mess. Far from a blizzard, the weather channel would probably have declared the conditions “wintry mix.” The preponderance of ice could not be assuaged by the sand dispersed by Nebraska Public Works. Tires failed to grip, and cars spun out all across the heartland. I was genuinely terrified of losing control and winding up off the road or worse. Tractor trailers had no such concerns, cruising past me and other nervous autos at 65 mph. It was their turn to be the speed demons. The hope for improved weather on the other side of the Missouri river and the implementation of salt in Iowa kept me going. While the salt helped, the snow worsened and I immediately decided that I would stop at the first hotel I saw. 70 miles, three instances of losing contact with the road, and two and a half hours later, a Motel 6 appeared in West Des Moines. Exhausted and thankful for safe passage, I gladly paid for a room and ordered a pizza. It was 3:00 pm – the exact time I was supposed to have arrived home. In all, I probably saw 120 cars either wrecked or resting in ditches at odd angles, persuasive reminders that I had made the right choice. My only conclusion is that God wanted me to extend this road trip by one last day. I’m not complaining. I didn’t have to urgently be home for anything. Had I been a younger man, I may have been foolish enough to soldier on, hoping to make it back to my bed. My final leg passed uneventfully on Friday. I was still ahead of the storm that initially caused concern, and the unexpected one had already passed.

I kissed the ground when I arrived because that’s what you do when you’ve been gone for a long time and finally get to your home. After such a trek, I can only appreciate my home that much more. Not just my home in Chicago, but my home in America. I’m sure I’ll have some more profound things to say in the coming weeks, and will certainly share them here. For now, I’ll end this posting with a quote from the John Wayne western Red River: “There’s three times in a man’s life when he has a right to yell at the moon. When he marries, when his children come, and when he finishes a job he had to be crazy to start.” If that’s the case, then listen for me howling my head off tonight.

Thursday, December 6

We've Been on the Run, Driving in the Sun

Odometer: 17,678
Location: Coalinga, CA


Note: This posting should technically be dated the morning of Sunday, December 2. Just pretend that's when you're reading it.

With my fourth quarter about to come to a close, I had one last game to meet, greet, and eat. Fatigue had really gotten the better of me at this point, and while I knew I was going to miss this wonderful experience, it was hard to keep my focus with only one game to go.

I wanted to check out the USC campus and its coeds on Friday, but it rained the entire day, causing me to hole up in a bubble tea café. On their flatscreen, they aired Poetic Justice followed be The Last King of Scotland. Does anyone know if it’s normal to show R-rated movies feature violence, nudity, profanity and liberal use of the N-word in Los Angeles eateries? ‘Cause I can’t see this flying too many other places. Anyway, Saturday’s weather was much more cooperative – it was beautiful, actually, and I was surprised to see that it full of revelers by the time I arrived at 8am.
I still had no idea where anything was in Los Angeles, but Grandma knew the way and got me to the campus before LA traffic had a chance to slow us down. Ominous electronic signs declared the Coliseum lots “JAMMED”, even at my early arriving hour. All open lots were charging 50 bucks a car which is the most I’ve seen this entire season. Furthermore, it’s not like you’re going to tailgate in the Shrine Auditorium parking lot, so it’s truly highway robbery. Safety concerns be damned, I opted for street parking a mile away from campus, figuring the daylight would keep any folks with evil intent away from my car and its contents.
My trip to USC was a bit different than all the others because I had no contacts set up before my arrival. Usually, a blogger or friend of a friend, or a random person I met on the internet acts as a partial host, giving me the tips on what to see and expect. But no matter, at this point, I’ve become quite accustomed to crashing people’s tailgates and sampling their food in addition to their thoughts, feelings and concerns about the wonderful game of college football. When I saw an entire lamb turning on a spit, I knew I had to chat with the people doing the turning. In my conversation with a man named Jack, I asked one of my usual questions: “If you could change one thing about the game, what would you like to see be done differently?” After sixteen games at various levels all across the country, Jack was the first person to express his disapproval of the college overtime format. I happen to wholeheartedly agree with him, and have been consistently surprised that nobody else shared this opinion with me earlier. We bonded immediately. I also learned that they squeezed 32 lemons for the lamb’s marinade. I said, “that sounds like a lot of work,” to which the main squeezer replied, “You don’t want to know.” The campus was packed with people of all ages, genders, and races, with plenty of UCLA fans to boot. The crowd was in full revelry mode, but in a more laid back fashion than most of the places I’ve visited. That may have been in part due to the home team’s status as heavy favorites, but I have to think that it’s a SoCal thing as well. The diverse fan base meant diverse food as well, and I was lucky enough to sample various meats, many of which were served in tortillas. One Trojan fan chastised my choice of corn tortillas over flour. In Chicago, only the gringos go for flour, but perhaps in LA, things are different. Anyone have an inclination on that? I was also pleased to find Patron and Modelo Especial, a major step up from the Jack Daniels and Coors Light I’ve encountered across the rest of the country. Unfortunately, I never made it back to taste that lamb. I can only assume it was succulent and delicious.
Couldn't find my cardinal and gold shirt

Everyone told me I had to go see Tommy Trojan, the statue located in the heart of USC’s campus. Apparently there was great concern over UCLA pranksters because when I found him, Tommy was covered in duct tape so that he would not be painted in blue and gold. That’s right, the Trojan was wrapped for his protection.
Insert condom joke... now

I have to give major thanks to my doppelganger, Jonathan who managed to set me up with an excellent ticket for face value. At the gate, the woman working security told me, “You can’t bring that bag in because it’s a backpack.” I have brought my black shoulderbag in to 14 other stadiums this season without issue. I said, “It’s not a backpack, it’s a shoulderbag.” “Well, you can’t bring it in because it’s bigger than 14 inches.” “It’s exactly 14 inches, those are the dimensions. It’s been 14 inches since I bought it.” Not wanting to argue with me anymore, she allowed me and my bag passage. Turns out it’s 15 inches, but I’m glad she didn’t break out a ruler because my car was over a mile away. The Coliseum always looks huge on TV, but in person it has an intimate feel. Their mascot, a white horse named Traveler, sprints down the sidelines chasing a scrawny guy with a flag in his hat who surely runs for the cross country team. The band is quite good, though the sunglasses look comes off as rather cheesy to me. Between the third and fourth quarters, they light the Olympic Torch at the end of the stadium. It’s a pretty sweet tradition that no one else in the country can claim. UCLA played sloppy and erratic. There’s clearly some talent on the team, but they’re so horribly coached that they never stood a chance in this game. The home crowd never really made much noise or seemed overly engaged in the game. I’m sure the Bruins deserve part of the blame. The game ended on a four yard run by Hershel Dennis. The last play of my season. No profound thoughts came to me at that point. I’d had my share of wistfulness near the end of the Iron Bowl. But this time I was pretty much just satisfied with the journey. Relieved to be done, and more than anything, glad that I’ve done this. Had UCLA made it more of a game, perhaps there would have been some sort of climactic end for me, but the game just ended and that was that. Poo tee weet and whatnot. I returned to revel with some of the fans I’d met before the game. They were all pleased and eagerly looking forward to the Rose Bowl matchup against Ohio State. Apparently I missed a pretty significant brawl between friends at the next tailgate over. Nobody knew what sparked the incident, but all who witnessed agreed that it was surprisingly violent. Fight On, indeed.

And so that’s it. Well, sort of. I’m heading up to San Francisco to see some friends and have some fun. I think I’ve earned a little R&R.

Wednesday, December 5

Risky Business

All right gang,

I'm leaving San Francisco for Chicago early in the morning. I have a window where there appears to be no snow for one day. The plan is to get from SF to Cheyenne. It's 16 hours over the mountains. Wish me and the Corolla and Grandma luck. None of you people in Wyoming do any rain dances tonight, 'kay?

USC posting and further punditry to appear in this space upon my safe return home. Keep watching SI On Campus for tailgating insights and evaluation.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for joining me on this amazing journey. See you on the other side of the divide.

Friday, November 30

Where the Clouds Take Their Places for You

Odometer: 17,457
Location: Los Angeles, CA
States Visited: Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California


Well, I made it to the Pacific again. I can’t believe this is the end of the season. As the Iron Bowl came to its close, I found myself melancholy at the thought of no more college football games. This new life for me has been every bit as exciting as I hoped it would be. I’ve made new friends, visited 43 states (and counting), and will soon have no more games to watch. I’m going to miss all the fans extolling the virtues of their schools, towns, and teams. Pretty soon there will be no new places to drive. And there’s nothing quite like the “yyeeEEAAAHH!” from crowds at a big third down defensive stop. I don’t know what I’m going to do in a week when this is all done. I’m certainly a changed man in many ways, and I know I’ll look back on these days with nostalgia and perhaps a bit of pride.

At least there is one game remaining. I left Lake Martin, AL with over 2,000 miles ahead of me. The initial part of the drive was a frustrating one. State roads in, out of, and through Birmingham featured many lights and stop-and-go traffic. It was an unfortunate reminder of my hated commute back when I made an honest living. Once free of Birmingham’s congestion, the interstates were smooth sailing, save a pit stop. It struck me that Mississippi is one of the slowest places on the planet. Both at the gas station and the sandwich shop, the customers, employees – heck even the gas pumps moved a pace far too leisurely for this city boy from the north. Perhaps with so many miles in font of me, I grew overly impatient, but I certainly didn’t expect to be in New Albany, MS for over a half hour.

When I visited my friend Rob in Charleston, he said he had a question for me that he assumed no one else had asked. His question: “What do you fear?” Astute as ever, Rob's query was a new one. It took a second to give him a response, but only a second. My greatest fear is getting into a horrific car accident. I’ve been lucky with weather, construction and all other traffic issues to this point, but that all evened out over my Arkansas leg. Mother Nature was delivering some much needed rain to the South, but the timing and velocity couldn’t have been much worse for me. I could barely see ten yards in front of me and the bumpy road was full of tractor trailers. I would have exited, but without any tail lights in front of me, I feared missing the off ramp. After two hours of white-knuckled, fearful driving, I made my Motel 6 in Russellville, Arkansas. Of course, as soon as I exited, the rain abated and the wet roads intimated a serene calm. Incidentally, long ago, I mentioned a shower that resembled a low-quality time machine. People asked for a photo which I neglected to take. I give you, the Time Machine 2:
Beam me up, Scottie

I made the mistake of allowing a very sick girl to serve me dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I asked, “Are you sick?” “Yes, I can’t even swallow.” I said to myself, “I’m taking my vitamins. I’m going to get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll be fine.” Ooops. Two mornings later, I was clearly coming down with a cold despite the fact that I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

But I chose to ignore any illness for at least 24 hours because my next stop was at The Grand Canyon. When I was 20, I spent a summer in the UK and visited Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher. I was blown away by their enormity and beauty. The Grand Canyon is a whole different thing. I can’t fathom anything on the planet that s better defined by the world “awesome.” When you first look at the canyon, you get the feeling that it’s looking back at you. It’s totally motionless and everything is quiet. But after enough time, you realize that it’s not doing anything. It just is. The Grand Canyon cares not of your worries, your life, or how your team fared in the Iron Bowl. It’s six million years old and will be here long after all of us are gone. Many tourists chattered loudly with one another while looking over the rim. It was wholly irritating. As I said, there is very little sound and no reason to shout. I met a man from Tyler Texas who was there with his wife. He spoke quietly of the awesome visage in front of him, “It’s amazing. You can’t put it into words, you can’t put it in a picture, you can’t capture it. Your brain’s trying to take it all in, you can’t even describe it.” I nodded, not wanting to break the silence. A moment later, he stated, “It’s eye candy, that’s for sure.” “No doubt,” I said.
Grade: A++

I took in as much pristine air as I could, knowing I was heading to Los Angeles, where I would be forced to fight my cold along with smog and cat dander. The drive from Arizona is all downhill and tranquil as can be. My friends who are putting me up are unfortunately out of town, and I quickly realized I know hardly anything about this city. No better way to experience it than to just get out there on my own. With one game to go, I’m staring my fatigue in the face, longing to be home and be finished. All I can say to myself is, Fight On!

Tuesday, November 27

Michigan TRC up at SIOC

The Tailgate Report Card from Ann Arbor is up at SI On Campus and can be found here.
Some photos I took at Auburn are up as well. Here and here in the "Superfans" section.

Sunday, November 25

Iron Souls

Odometer: 15,190
Location: Lake Martin, AL
States Visited: Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama

Thanksgiving is typically a time for family. Being at home was unfeasible, so I opted for time with my “road” family of Erik and Chrissy in Atlanta. They had relatives coming, but generously offered me a seat at their table. Unable to cook anything myself, I could only provide a cherry pie from Bigg’s Market. Luckily, it perfectly complemented the pecan and pumpkin pies, giving us a trio of options. The Publix pecan garnered the most rave reviews.

I’d be lying if I tried to claim that I’m not feeling some fatigue. It’s been a long road and though the season is almost over, I still feel like I’m in the middle of it all. Perhaps the looming trek to the west coast is affecting my perspective. But someone did something right when they put the rivalry games at the end of the season. The Iron Bowl is nothing if not a rivalry. In fact, the fans and participants would argue that it is the rivalry. The increased intensity due to the opponent rejuvenated fans who otherwise would be licking wounds and focusing on recruiting season. That has in turn made it easier for me to do my job and find more energy myself.
A fine publication.

On a gorgeous Saturday morning, spots were staked out early, but most tailgates didn’t get rolling until around noon. When I approached people, they generally greeted me by saying “War Eagle,” words whose significance I understood, but whose usage confused me. Almost a muttered “good day”, to which I repeatedly replied with a blank, puzzled expression. It reminded me of visits to a foreign country where you know the textbook language, but have no idea how to apply it. Fortunately, enough people took pity on poor, bewildered me and took me under their awnings.

After hearing the legend of the original War Eagle, we discussed great games of Auburn’s past, with everyone’s favorite being the 1989 Iron Bowl. Alabama came to town with a top five ranking, but lost to a team with the support of fans who’d been waiting for the game for four decades. Pat Dye was also reverently recalled by all. I have always liked both programs and hadn’t made any conclusion about which side I was on. On January 1st, 2001, Michigan played Auburn in the Florida Citrus Bowl. My interaction with Auburn fans online ranged form pleasant to affable. The year before, Michigan played Alabama in the Orange Bowl and relations were similar, plus the Tide did me the favor of missing an extra point in overtime. I found myself feeling very dirty. I hoped by the end of the day that something would compel me one way or another. There weren’t as many ‘Bama fans present as I anticipated. Losing to Louisiana-Monroe surely had an impact. The ones that showed had to endure epithets and vitriol, but all of it hollered in good fun. Some Tigers privately intimated that they “just hate them,” but true altercations were few and far between. One group of young alumni set up shop on Donahue Drive and employed a toy megaphone in hopes of getting a rise from Crimson-clad visitors. They were collecting as many “birds” as possible. The over-under was six. When I checked in with them three hours before kickoff, they’d reached nine and were clearly satisfied with their work. A show of exuberance not to be missed is Tiger Walk. Two hours before kickoff of every home game, the players walk from the athletic offices to the stadium. There are other places that do something similar, but I haven’t seen the passion from fans like this anywhere else. The 1989 game featured the most renowned Tiger Walk. Current students lament not being around for it, and those that were can’t stop talking about it.

Immediately after Tiger Walk, some seniors mentioned to me that some friends of theirs were stabbed by some Alabama fans at a bar two years ago. You hear stories like this all the time, but this one surprised me. Throughout a long day of tailgating, all I saw was good-natured ribbing. I know that the Auburn and Alabama fans will take issue with this statement, but last week in Ann Arbor, there were hateful shouting matches every fifty feet, many featuring beer showers. I was lucky enough to have a pres pass for this game, and that meant entry to the field for pregame. Technically, I was supposed to head up to the press box or find an open spot in the stands once the game commenced, but I figured I could get better photos and get in touch with more fans from the field.

Auburn was clearly the better team, but ‘Bama brought their best effort and made it a tense contest. The late start time and a steady breeze created a chilly environment. At halftime, with their team up 10-7, the students huddled together for warmth. Most were optimistic, though a quick score to start the second half would go a long way to easing concern. The third quarter passed without any points from either side despite some decent drives. When Auburn scored a late touchdown giving them a ten point lead, everyone went nuts. Alabama cut it to a one-score game, but couldn’t secure the onsides kick, giving Auburn their sixth straight Iron Bowl victory. I turned to take some photos of the student section’s glee and was nearly knocked into the turf when the players came running through to celebrate with their fans. I should have known they were coming, but was too busy taking snapshots. The players are big enough on their own, but when they’re wearing shoulder pads and gleefully running to the wall, my narrow frame was that much more inconsequential. But I kept my feet and took some more pictures.
This broadcast brough to you by the number six…

…and the letter d?


Some time during the revelry, a mass of photographers came zooming across the field, and I was struck again. This time, I was more put off as I couldn’t fathom any reason to run around at this point. I grew angrier once I realized these were other media people knocking me about. Tommy Tuberville had decided to take a victory lap of sorts, waving thanks to each section of the Auburn crowd. The fact that he did this in haste made for paparazzi racing to keep up, unconcerned with anyone in their way. When Tuberville made his turn for home, he came right at me. I was sure that I would get swept up in the wake of working press, but they dodged me and followed him around. Incidentally, back in September, I interviewed an older LSU fan named Bill Sharkey who owns a Cajun restaurant in Atlanta. One of the comments he made was that Tommy "always has that smirk" and that was enough to make Auburn a rival. Judge for yourself:
The Sharkey Smirk?

Of course, no visit to Auburn is complete without a visit to Toomer’s Corner for the great unraveling – provided Auburn wins the game. A jubilant throng celebrated by “rolling” the trees, signs and anything else around. All were well behaved, taking pictures with six fingers on display. Apparently someone lit the paper on fire later in the evening, but I was long gone by then. I stayed with extremely gracious friends on Lake Martin, most of whom were Bama fans and rather distraught about the outcome. I didn’t have the gumption to tell them that I eventually leaned in the Tigers direction, if only a bit. I was more than grateful for the hospitality they showed me, and similarly pleased to see another fine contest with passionate fans on both sides. I also want to give a special thanks to Jay of Track Em Tigers who provided me with an introduction to all things Auburn and spent a long lunch talking football. Jay, I wish we could have had more time. It was a pleasure.This amazing journey is winding down for me. Just one more game to go. It happens to be over 2,000 miles from here, so it doesn’t exactly feel like the end.

Angry Dawg!

Well, I finally made it on Sportscenter, not that that was a goal or anything. In the clip below, Jerraud Powers get his hand chomped by a guard dog. If you pause the clip right at the eleven-second mark, you can see my head just above the 17 in the scoreboard. I'm the dude in the black jacket with brown hair.

I bring this up not to say "hey look at me", but rather to mention that the dog in question had been jumpy from the moment they brought it down to the field. I actually considered moving farther to the corner because the mongrel was making me nervous. I didn't see the bite, and had I known they were walking the thing right behind me, I might've run out on the field and risked security tackling me en masse.

War Eagle Soon

Odometer: 15,???
Location: Lake Martin, AL
States Visited: Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama

I'm departing for Los Angeles in a few minutes. It's a 31 hour drive, so I'm not sure when the Auburn update will show up here. But I promise that it's coming. It will start with a sunny morning and nervous parties on both sides concerned about the game. It will end with my nearly being tackled by Tommy Tuberville and his posse of aggresive reporters.

Thursday, November 22

Thanks For All The Giving and You're All Wrong

Odometer: 14,436
Location: Cincinnati, OH
States Visited: Ohio


Over the course of this trip, I have found myself extraordinarily grateful for the hospitality so many people have shown me. From tailgaters who share food and drink to athletic departments who provide learned resources for interviews to bloggers who take time out to speak with me. But I am especially grateful for those who have housed me along the way. Nobody has done this more than my aunt and uncle who are quite literally putting me through college. I am currently in the house where I spent every Thanksgiving as a child, and unfortunately have to hit the road on Thursday morning. But again I am fortunate because I am joining Erik and Chrissy in Atlanta for dinner. Actually, they’ve come darn close to matching the care and support that my aunt and uncle have provided. This will be my third trip to visit them in their new digs. So seriously – a sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who’s helped me so far. I couldn’t have done this without you.

Back to football… Clearly, this is the most surprising college football year on record. The season began with Appalachian State defeating Michigan and hasn’t been normal since. South Florida beat Auburn, Syracuse upended Louisville, Kansas State throttled Texas as Colorado came back to beat Oklahoma, Stanford won at USC, Vanderbilt surprised South Carolina, and now Arizona topples Oregon and Louisiana Monroe beats Alabama. Meanwhile, Mississippi State is decent and Kansas is the lone undefeated major conference team. What are we to make of all this?

The short answer you hear on ESPN and in various other places is parity. It’s the age of parity, right? Historically, college football is the most static sport in terms of who’s good and who’s not. If you looked at the top teams from 50 years ago, you’d get the same list of teams we expect to be good now. There are certainly exceptions, but for the most part, the teams that can win a national title at the start of any given year are Texas, USC, Florida State, etc. As we know all too well, 2007 is not any given year. This is the rarest of years no matter who you ask (and I’ve asked a lot). The conventional wisdom says that this is a new era of college football where parity will reign on into the future.

Not so fast my friend. Instead of this year being about parity, isn’t it possible that the senior class just isn’t that great? Look at the Heisman race. The only seniors involved at any point have been Dennis Dixon, Matt Ryan, and Mike Hart. Two of those players have sustained injures that affected their teams’ success. It is pretty darn clear that Tim Tebow, a sophomore, is going to win the award. In its 70 year history, that has never happened. But let’s delve deeper. The best receiver in the country is a freshman, Michael Crabtree. The best return man is a freshman, Jeremy Maclin. The best running back? Nobody can definitively say, but odds are he’s not a senior. When 2007 is in the books, we’ll look back on a season where a lot of crazy stuff happened, and there wasn’t any dominant team.* This season is an anomaly and not the sign of a larger trend. Many point to the 85 scholarships as the reason for parity, but we’ve been down to 85 for thirteen years now. Would it really take this long for Appalachian State and Stanford to happen?

The truth is, wild upsets happen every single year. It’s one of the reasons we love this game. We’re just not used to so many of them. The word parity is clearly originating from the NFL, where it’s been a goal of the league for some time now. Teams with good records are penalized the following year with a tougher schedule. The best draft picks go to the worst teams. College football still has its pecking order and nothing’s changed that. The top programs get the best recruits. Teams that go to bowl games get an extra month of practice. The major leagues have more money to throw around for better facilities. None of this has changed. With the minor exception of teams like Boise State and Utah making BCS bowls, none of it is going to change. Kansas’ stadium still only holds 46,000 people. Mangino will eventually be hired away to a big name program if his ticker keeps working. And it will all go back to normal, no matter what they think on PTI.

Whether that’s a good thing is certainly debatable. For now, it’s best to appreciate this crazy season because we’re not going to see anything like it ever again. LSU’s just lucky they’re not playing Troy this week. In 2007, no game is a gimmie.

*If Kansas blows out Missouri, Oklahoma and LSU, I will obviously rescind the above comment.

I’m off to the Iron Bowl which does not take place in Pittsburgh. For a brief overview loaded with highlights, I present a man after my own heart:

Roll Tide! War Eagle! And everything else...

Sunday, November 18

The Whisper of the Towering Tree

Odometer: 14,181
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
States Visited: Indiana, Michigan

At this point in the trip, I’m not accustomed to finding myself in familiar surroundings. A drive I’ve probably completed 100 times in my life passed by more quickly than ever. Unsurprisingly, my perspective on what is far has definitely changed. My first stop was at the house where I spent my senior year. My how the times have changed. While I’m sure my standards for what makes a good home are different, I was kind of shocked at the poor shape in which I found the house. I don’t think they’ve put one iota of improvement into it since I graduated. Carpet, new when we moved in, was ripped up exposing pretty shabby hardwood floors. The most striking thing was that certain rooms seemed a lot smaller than I remembered them. It could be that the people currently living there have more stuff, but I can recall fitting dozens of people into rooms that now seem like they could only hold eight comfortably. It was an odd feeling to say the least. I know it’s been ten years since school, but it really hit home when I saw the inside of that house. After stopping by a fraternity house where they were sledgehammering scarlet and gray cars for charity, I had a choice on which restaurant to hit. This would be my only opportunity on the trip to hit one of my old haunts. I wish I could have eaten six meals instead of just the one. I opted for Maize N Blue Deli, a place I had not visited in over ten years. The food was every bit as good as I remember – in fact, maybe even better as I’d forgotten how much meat they pile on each one of their sandwiches. China Gate, Backroom, University Café, and Coffee Break – you’ll have to wait until next time.
Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.

The school held a pep rally in the Diag (Michigan’s version of a quad), something I don’t ever recall happening in my tenure as a student. Like most pep rallies, it was loosely planned and went on far too long. Jamie Morris and Marcus Ray fired up the crowd, while Mike Hart appeared somewhat low-key as people shouted questions about his ankle. The Diag was completely packed. I’d never seen this many people congregate in that area before. Friday night was spent watching the HBO feature on Michigan/OSU at a friend’s house in Plymouth, just to get us extra fired up. We rose early and made it back to Ann Arbor by 7:45. Every time I’m back in town, I get a little nostalgic as the memories, good, bad and otherwise, immediately return. Hitting the tailgate scene, I first stopped by to see some friends who I hadn’t seen face to face in a decade. Everyone pretty much looked and certainly acted the same. It was extremely hard to pull myself away from that group to go do my job, but duty called.
Finest barbershop quartet on campus

The enthusiasm around town surprised me. After traveling around the country, I had a feeling that my return to Michigan would unveil a fan base that just didn’t care as much. I was pleased to discover that was not the case. Tons of students had their faces painted and many went well beyond that. I started to believe that maybe we did have a chance to find victory. Maybe Hart and Henne were rested enough that we could compete. Maybe the players would win one last game for Lloyd. I knew Ohio State was the better team, but perhaps we’d find some “old ghosts” just like in 1995.
Banned by Disney. AOK here!

Banding together with a couple buddies, we managed to snag three student seats for 160 bucks. Not bad considering the going rate was about a hundred per seat. Plus, I wanted student section anyway. If we were going to win this game, I wanted the maximum excitement, and if we were going to lose, I didn’t want any geezers yelling at me to sit down. The only way to utilize a student ticket is to pay 27 bucks to get it validated or have a valid student ID. For the next three hours, my name would be Olivia, the student kind enough to loan me her card. I was assured that they didn’t really look at the IDs, but sure enough at the gate, the woman taking tickets asked for it and said, “Olivia??” Then her supervisor came over and said, “You know, she’s supposed to confiscate the ticket.” I ably played off that I had accidentally brought my girlfriend’s ID, but they didn’t believe me. Feigning a trip home to get the right ID, I moved on to the next gate. This time, the guy saw the ID, gave a brief chuckle and let me in. By this time, the ball had been kicked off and the student section was swollen with kids. I stood in the aisle for the entire first half, sliding between fans standing on the benches whenever security stopped by. The second half view was much better as we positioned ourselves directly behind the Michigan Marching Band. Unfortunately, the game was a total stinker. I can’t imagine that the Buckeye fans found it to be anything special, either. While I’m sure they love beating Michigan, the second half was one of the least entertaining football games I’ve ever witnessed. If it weren’t for Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko, there would have been nothing worth paying attention to. But the fans stayed loud throughout the game, showing their Michigan pride. That’s a lot more than I can say for Mario Manningham who looked every bit like he wasn’t interested in playing football for Michigan anymore. After 14 games, and 14,000 miles, I’ve seen nearly a million fans cheering for their respective teams. I had hoped for at least a touchdown. For one of those moments that throws the audience into disarray with people falling on top of one another in a beautiful, joyful mess. Alas, it was not to be. My one weekend where I get to be a true fan and root for my guys ended up miserably.
Moving to Oakland upon graduation

The students left the game defeated and cold, knowing that Lloyd Carr had just coached his last game at Michigan Stadium. I have no idea how they felt about this fact. I’m sure it varied. I couldn’t help but get a bit misty-eyed thinking about Carr’s tenure. I’m going to miss the guy, and I hope he stays with the program in some capacity. He’s earned it.

From there, it was on to meeting up with more old friends to drown our sorrows at various watering holes. We told the old college stories that everybody already knew, but wanted to hear again. We called friends who couldn’t be there. We reminisced about the great times in Michigan football and raised a glass to Lloyd Carr. Every time I return, I feel a little older, a little more removed. But I also feel like a college kid again. This season keeps rolling along, and though my homecoming weekend featured a disappointing football game, I couldn’t have asked for a better return.

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