Well, we finally made it to Michigan. We caught an 11:45 flight out of Gotham, and got to Ann Arbor in time to join the procession of the faithful down State Street to the Big House, which, just for the record, really is big — it is the largest American-football stadium anywhere, and, according to this Wikipedia article, is the 29th-largest sports venue in the world (the larger ones are mostly racetracks). For today’s contest we were joined by 110,923 other spectators, and let me tell you, that’s a fair-sized crowd — numbering only slightly fewer than the population of Ann Arbor itself. And we were not disappointed; Michigan triumphed as expected, 20-6, even without the services of star wide receiver Mario Manningham, who is nursing a banged-up knee.
I’ve never been to Mecca, but the experience is probably not too different from going to a Wolverines game (the hadjis pass fewer two-story-tall beer funnels along the way, perhaps). Big Ten football is pretty much a religion in these parts, and the level of fanaticism here would easily rival anything you’d be likely to find in the madrassas of Waziristan. Sure, there are a few differences, if you want to split hairs — the local ayatollah, Coach Lloyd Carr, doesn’t sport a beard and turban (though the Michigan faithful hang on his every laconic utterance with no less devotion than their counterparts in Sadr City), and the women, rather than veiling themselves with the niqab, tend more toward maize-and-blue face paint and “Hail To The Victors” sweatshirts. But I’ll tell you what: I’ll give the Wolverines better odds at knocking off Ohio State on November 18th than anything the Mahdi Army could put on the field.
We’ll be back home, and back to reality, tomorrow.