Last week I had the privilege of attending the Michigan @ Northwestern game with my dad and brother, which is always an experience unlike any other. It is an event that it is always somewhat familiar, but never the same, and an experience that has been a part of my life for two-thirds of my existence. Not a game that I am fortunate enough to attend goes by without thinking about the first ever Big Ten game my dad took me to as an eight year old (1995: Northwestern beats Indiana 31-7. )
16 years later, every thought and emotion I had as a wide-eyed little boy, attending my first major college football game, comes back to me. The atmosphere: waking to the stadium with the freshly fallen leaves on the sidewalk. The smell of burgers and brats on the grill fill the cool, crisp, autumn air. The excitement continues to build as the crowd becomes thicker and louder as we draw closer to the stadium.
The stadium: it doesn’t matter where you go, every stadium is special and is so much more than just a venue for a game. They are temples; tributes to those who have played there before, and symbols of hope for those who aspire to play, or even just watch a game there. I love to get in the stadium early and watch the stands fill with students, alumni, the bands, and parents taking their children to their first college football experience. There is nothing better! I try to take in as much as I can out of every minute of the game, and every moment I’m in the stadium, for there will never be another game played between those two exact teams at that stadium.
I am privileged that my dad never just took me to a game as I grew up; he took me to a day-long, or even weekend, event. We would go on the campus and he would teach me about what made a certain university special, and the history about the teams we would see. (How he just naturally knew so much about where we were and the teams we saw baffled me.)
As I grow older, I am able to experience more GameDay has to offer…whether it is being at a bar by 9am in Madison and getting plenty in me by an 11:30am start, pulling an all-nighter driving to Ann Arbor with a friend, or meeting my family in Evanston, every time is special. It’s the Big Ten, and it’s football season!
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