Throughout the season, SIOC will travel to different schools and grade the tailgate scene in 10 categories. Today's stop: Michigan
Mid-November in Michigan is pretty much winter, but that didn't stop the maize and blue faithful from meeting, greeting and eating. Tailgate spots are not reserved, so people begin arriving at six in the morning. The only strictly enforced rule is no parking on the greens or in the sand traps. Pioneer High School's parking lot is filled with RVs. Students flock to State Street houses for pregame parties on packed front porches. Grade: B
Big Rivalries tend to bring out the diehards and fair weather fans in equal measure, but nearly everyone in attendance was quick to discuss the importance of the Ohio State game. While some younger students were somewhat in the dark on certain issues everyone was, for the most part, very much up on the entire landscape of the college game. In a season with so much to keep track of, the fans had stayed on top of things. Maybe after you lose to a I-AA team to start the year, you revert to following another squad.Grade: A-
The early morning start meant that breakfast was a required phase of the Saturday smorgasbord. Scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and doughnuts made fresh on the grill more than made up for bagels rendered rock hard by Mother Nature. As the day progressed and the temperature rose slightly, chefs moved into lunchtime fare. Homemade chili, probably the most sensible choice given the frigid conditions, was everywhere. Other main courses included fried turkey, chicken fried steak, lamb chops and lobster. Grade: A-
Like most places, cheap beer could be found just about anywhere. Many began the day with a bloody mary, though the garnish often included a beef sausage in addition to celery or olives. Fans prepared hot chocolate or hot apple cider to help battle the elements, and when that wasn't enough, passed bottles of bourbon or rum for a quick warmup. Grade: B-
I had never heard of beer jarts, but apparently they've been having weekly tournaments complete with brackets at Michigan home games since the mid-90s. The game is played by two teams thirty yards apart, each with three empty beer bottles at their feet. The goal is to knock over the opposition's bottles by throwing a football. Beer jarts is no drinking game. The competitors take it very seriously, particularly in this last tournament of the season with bragging rights established for the next nine months. Cornhole and lots of ladder golf were set up, but not used as often. Grade: B+
When you have one of the all-time classic fight songs, you might as well play it frequently. The Victors was applied liberally throughout the morning, and all fans within earshot shouted along with fists raised. In between fight song renditions, the inimitable voice of Bob Ufer could be heard screaming the play by play at the end of historic Michigan victories. When stereos or live bands were lacking, cowbells sufficed with crowds answering, "Let's Go Blue!" And when no soundtrack of any kind was available, passersby greeted one another with a hearty "Go Blue!" Grade: A
Come November in Ann Arbor, there isn't much sun, let alone weather warm enough for sun dresses. Ladies were bundled up in jeans and sweatshirts, and all students wore maize colored T-shirts as outerwear. There were still plenty of cute girls about, particularly if you're into shivering. Grade: C+
Maybe facepaint keeps you warm because countless students had maize and blue slathered across their mugs. Many of the paint jobs weren't of the highest quality, but at least they gave it a shot. A large number of students donned more elaborate costumes including gorillas, a banana, a guy ready to join the Oakland Raiders fan base, and a male student in a fatsuit and wig claiming to be "Mrs. Tressel." Grade: A-
There were plenty of newfangled RVs with all the bells and whistles to choose from, but none of them really differentiated themselves from one another. The award goes to one group of tailgaters who always set up next to each other. They share food and drink, but the most unique quality is a small, camouflaged tent containing a toilet. The facilities are for ladies only and hidden amongst some tall pine trees.Grade: B-
At the corner of Hill and Church streets, a fraternity held a charity event where anyone that wanted to could take a sledgehammer to two red cars parked on their lawn. By Saturday afternoon, they were merely carcasses of of their former selves, but that didn't stop people from taking a few more whacks. Grade: B-
Unbridled enthusiasm was evident from the moment the first tailgate was set up. Being that it was the biggest rivalry game on the schedule, the last game of the season, and Lloyd Carr's last game in the Big House, that was hardly surprising. Fans had been anticipating this game since last year's battle, and it showed. That enthusiasm took some darker turns at times with some ne'er-do-wells tossing beer on Buckeye supporters. Though I was told that each time that happened, a different Michigan fan offered an apology. Heated arguments were common before the game, particularly by the student parties on State Street. But as far as I could tell, there was no real violence. The weather may have deterred certain fan bases, but at Michigan, they're accustomed to the wintry mix that was present throughout the day. Fans stayed warm through a combination of bundled layers and warming beverages. Nobody seemed very optimistic about the game's outcome, but hope was on display all morning nonetheless. They'll get another crack at the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor in two years, when it will surely be freezing cold again. Just the way the Wolverines like it.
To read more of Andrew Reed's tailgate reports, check out his Road Games blog.