ANN ARBOR, MI (WAVE) - I have been a sports broadcaster since 1994, and part of the job is getting great seats at various sporting events.
Whether it's courtside at the Final Four, in the first turn for the Kentucky Derby, or at the 50 yard line at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, I'll be the first to admit that I have been spoiled. Just about any major sporting event that has happened in Kentuckiana in the past 18 years, I've been there.
Kentucky's 1996 NCAA Championship, I was in the Meadowlands. Patrick Sparks' three to force overtime in the 2005 NCAA tournament regional final in Austin, Texas. I was sitting courtside. Edgar Sosa's buzzer beater to beat U.K., I was on press row. The final game in Freedom Hall, courtside again.
The thrilling U.K.-I.U. game last December. I was in Assembly Hall. The Kentucky-Alabama football game in 1997. In the press box at Commonwealth Stadium. Tiger Woods' victory in the 2000 P.G.A. Championship at Valhalla. I was sitting behind the 18th green. The 2008 Ryder Cup. I was there.
I think you get the point. After a few years, you become somewhat numb to the action. It all tends to run together.
However, on Saturday, October 20, that changed for me. I was fortunate enough to get tickets to my first game at Michigan Stadium, also known as "The Big House."
I have been to college football games at Ohio State and Tennessee over the years, so the large crowd was nothing new. Like a trip I took to Fenway Park in 2004, I knew this experience was different the moment I saw the stadium.
It's like going back in time, to a simpler era when sports were a way for fans to come together and celebrate a common interest. Before the luxury boxes and cushioned seat backs.
Don't get me wrong, modern amenities are great, but for one chilly fall day, this was college football at it's finest. Two teams, archrivals.
I took my 12-year-old nephew, Taylor Wilson. We rode from our hotel on a shuttle, a shuttle full of fans dressed in Maize and Blue. There were a few green clad Spartan fans on the bus, and yes, they were treated with respect.
As we were approaching the stadium, thousands of fans were milling about, hundreds of RV's were parked in one lot. This was an event. An event recreated 6 or 7 times every fall in Ann Arbor.
First things first, we hit the team store to get Taylor outfitted in a Michigan sweatshirt. After that it was time to enter the stadium. Talk about waking up the echos, walking in, I could hear Bo Schembechler screaming. I could see Woody Hayes on the opposing sideline. For a stadium that seats over 110,000 fans, it was cozy. Maybe that's because the all-bleacher seating isn't exactly spacious.
Every fan was given a yellow pom-pom and every fan waved it during the playing of the most famous fight song in all of college sports, "Hail to the Victors."
I went to a football game in which only 1 touchdown was scored, and it was during a bathroom break in the third quarter, that's right, we didn't even see it, but I don't care.
Michigan won on a field goal in the final seconds. The final 12-10 Wolverines.
It turns out the win was the 900th in program history, and that meant fans were allowed to celebrate by rushing onto the field. Since we have no idea when we'll get back to the "The Big House", we climbed over the brick wall, and hopped onto the field turf.
The attendance was 113,833, the third largest crowd in Michigan history, and getting 113,833 fans out of a small area isn't easy, but the plan worked. We got in the back of a shuttle line that stretched for what seemed like a mile. After about 20 minutes of waiting, we were on our way, had made a few new friends, and were back at the hotel in no time.
Life is all about experiences. As busy as we all tend to get, don't get me wrong quiet time at home with the family is at a premium, but when the opportunities do come up, make sure to take advantage of them.
I had had opportunities before, but always had something I had to do. This time I made time, and am better off for the experience. Special thanks to Dr. Morton Kasdan, M.D., and Dr. Dean Louis, M.D., for the tickets.