So I didn’t really think my first business trip, which included 75-degree sunshine, fist bumps and epic hot dogs, could be topped. The second one, to Ann Arbor, Michigan for Ohio State vs. Michigan, completely surpassed my expectations.
The setup. We arrived on Friday morning to a sunny, breezy and pretty damn cold day. We pulled up to our trucks parked right next to Michigan Stadium, which seats nearly 110,000 people. You have to see it in person to fully realize how gorgeous and impressive it is. The basketball venue, Crisler (pronounced Chrysler, like the car…I know, I don’t get it either) Arena, is right next door.
Setting up shop outside the Big House.
Saturday, after the morning show, we set up in our office, the football coaches’ locker room. At this point, I am smiling like an idiot at spontaneous moments, because I can’t believe where I’m sitting and working. I seriously need to work on controlling public displays of giddy.
The exploring. We had a little time Friday afternoon to walk around the arena, as the Wolverines and Buckeyes had their shoot around. There’s just something about standing on the floor and walking up the steps of an empty arena that gives me goosebumps.
The calm before the storm
Saturday evening, while getting ready for our night show, I poked my head around some corners. We were set up in the coaches locker room, and sure enough, the players locker room was right next door. They had brought out the jerseys of some recent UM greats for some recruits that had been on a visit in the morning.
Saturday night only got more awesome, and slightly terrifying. I’ll save that for last.
The game and aftermath. Once our pre-game broadcast finished, the crowd was jacked up–Michigan hadn’t beaten Ohio State the last six times they’ve played. At the end, Michigan came out on top, 56-51, led by freshman point guard extraordinaire Trey Burke.
We waited for the traffic to subside, and headed to downtown Ann Arbor. We met up with some friends of friends, who ended up being incredibly cool to hang out with. All you need to know: while we were waiting for cabs outside at 2:30am, one of them posed the following question…
“Can we just take 10 seconds and dance like cowboys?”
Needless to say, we all complied.
The lockout. During the day, the staff had been talking about walking onto the field of Michigan Stadium, right from the locker room. An associate producer and I headed through some double doors, and noticed the handle locked on the outside, so we used a door stop. We didn’t want to get locked out in Michigan Stadium at 10:15pm, with no cell reception to our crew inside the arena. That’d be terrible.
We walked through another set of doors, down a ramp and through a tunnel. There we were, standing on the 50-yard-line of one of college football’s greatest venues. No lights, no people, no noise. We tried to take pictures but they didn’t come out. It didn’t matter…just being there was enough. We headed back up the ramp to get inside.
The doors are locked. So are the ones across the way. We go back down the ramp, hop the barrier, climb the steps in the stands, and there’s gates up. Again, there’s barely any cell phone reception in the arena.
After walking around a bit longer, making calls and getting no answer from various crew members, we get the phone number of our researcher, and send out a text and an email (seriously, God bless smartphones). A few minutes later, he opens the door, and we hurry back inside to the great delight of our entire staff. Everyone starts to joke about what happened in the stadium while we were locked out.
“What happens in Michigan Stadium, stays in Michigan Stadium,” I told them.
When I stood there, alone, in the dark, in the middle of the M in one of the biggest, most historic places in sports, it was sublime. Earlier, I talked about toning down my giddy. I take that back. Enjoy every giddy moment you have, big or small. Giddy up.