Michigan football for Southerners (not dummies)
December 7, 2021
It’s that magical time when the faithful gather to celebrate the glories of the season (Touchdowns!) and partake of the traditional repast (beer, red-hot chicken wings, and more beer). This year is extra-special for me because my team, the University of Michigan Wolverines, will take on the University of Georgia Bulldogs in a playoff semi-final, a titanic clash between my original and current home states.
Since these schools haven’t played each other since 1965, Georgians might be in the dark about MICHIGAN FOOTBALL, which I’ve been fervently following for almost half a century. I recall when Tony Joe White, a Louisiana native, began his song “ Poke Salad Annie” by saying, “Now some of y’all haven’t been down South too much. I’m gonna tell you a little bit about this so thatcha understand what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.” So for those of y’all Georgia and Southeast Conference fans who haven’t been Up North too much, here’s y’all’s Michigan Football 101!
What is a wolverine?
A few annotated notes from Wikipedia: The wolverine “is a muscular carnivore (Damn right!) and a solitary animal.” (Wrong! Ask any Midwestern sports bar bartender on game day. Besides, the stadium holds 107,601 of them.)
“The wolverine’s feeding style is voracious.” (Did Wiki hack my Kroger’s receipts?) “Successful males will form lifetime relationships with two or three females, which they will visit occasionally, while other males are left without a mate.” (This is why I could never get a date in college.)
“The wolverine has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times larger than itself.” (For obvious reasons, Michigan doesn’t keep these critters on the sidelines as mascots like Georgia does with sweet old Uga the bulldog. However, this explains why MICHIGAN is the ONLY team EVER to start the season UNRANKED and MAKE THE PLAYOFF! Got that?)
What conference do the Wolverines play in?
The Big Ten (B1G), which actually has 14 teams. This includes Rutgers and Maryland, which joined in a blatant grab for TV money, and as casual geographers might notice, are nowhere near the B1G’s historic Midwestern footprint. Before you get snarky, remember that future SEC schools Texas and Oklahoma aren’t exactly SouthEastern either. Shoot, it’s more than a thousand miles from Gainesville / Gatorsville, FL to Austin! ( Warning: if you order barbecue in Texas, you might end up with beef brisket. I’m sticking with pork ribs, Alabama style).
The Big 14 is very big on tradition. It’s where rivals play for “traveling trophies” like the Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana vs Purdue), the Little Brown Jug (Michigan vs Minnesota), and the Paul Bunyan trophy (Michigan vs Michigan State. Don’t get me started on this year’s game). For the uninitiated, Mr. Bunyan was a famous northern folk hero and lumberjack who went around with Babe the Blue Ox.
Naturally! When Michigan hosted and stomped Ohio State in late November, they got what observers called a “dusting” and Georgians would call “a five-alarm snowmageddon.”
A few years earlier this happened.
Not only did the teams play four quarters but 50,000 people SAT IN THE STANDS. Still think the South is home to the world’s most fanatical, diehard, flat insane football fans? Y’all got NOTHING on US!