Schmitt shares a couple anecdotes about early football season in Michigan.

As I write this article, it is mid-September. Mid-September in Michigan means several things. There is a tinge of fall in the air, and a few trees are beginning to turn color. Some days are rather cool, while others still are quite warm. The kids are back in school (it is a state law in Michigan that the school year cannot begin before Labor Day), and it is time for college football. Oh yes, you might want to be making your arrangements for the annual NGWA Expo, which will be held in late November and early December in Las Vegas. I just recently have made mine.

I know that many of my colleagues in the ground water industry are into hunting, fishing and playing golf. I did all these things as a younger man, and they are fine activities. In recent years, however, actually the last 40 or so, I have limited my “sins” to attending college football games. As a University of Michigan (U of M) graduate, I have been attending games in Ann Arbor, Mich., since 1946, which actually was several years before I entered the university. I never liked sneaking in, and as I had a job working with my father in our industry, I had money to burn, not having a house, car or girlfriend. I actually bought my first season ticket in 1948, and have attended most all of the home games at Ann Arbor in the years since. The last two games I have attended have been something really quite different, and perhaps weird or crazy would be the best terms to describe them.

Michigan opened the 2011 season hosting Western Michigan University (WMU), a good school located in Kalamazoo, Mich. This game was played the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Like many, many opening games, this one was a bakeathone. “Bakeathone” is a term I made up inspired by the old Pillsbury Bake-off. The weather at this game usually is hot, hotter or extremely hot. This year’s game on Sept. 3 was no exception. It started at 3:30 p.m., and we were told it was 137 degrees F on the field. It was not quite that hot in the stands, but it was close. Our seats are in the east stands, facing the sun, and there we were being baked, broiled and cooked. The Michigan team got off to a little slow start, but then started playing better and seemed to have the game well under control.

In the third period, however, clouds began to appear in the west, and sure enough, it began to rain really hard – as hard as I have ever seen it rain in southern Michigan. The game was stopped, and the announcer instructed everyone to leave the stadium. It took quite awhile for the teams, the marching band and others to exit the field. My wife, Shirley, and I had on some cheap ponchos, and we, along with many thousands of fans, chose not to leave. After only a few minutes, the announcer said that the game would resume, and after doing a few warm-up drills, the teams began playing again, with Michigan doing quite well. Unfortunately, another large black cloud appeared, and it began to rain hard again, this time with lightning flashes. The game was stopped a second time, and we all were told by the security people to get up and leave.

We waited under the protection of the stands for nearly an hour, and at that point, the game was called, with Michigan leading 34-10 with about a minute left in the third quarter. In all my years of attending games, I never have been to a three-quarter game. I understand U of M, WMU and the officials all had to agree to this stoppage. With a total cost to attend the game of more than $300, which included tickets, seat license, parking, programs and hugely overpriced soft drinks, I think we kind of got gypped, although it wasn’t much fun to sit in the driving rain.

Our trip home was just about as eventful, with debris-covered roads, police and fire vehicles blocking lanes where tree limbs were down, and power outages here and there. We stopped and got a pizza for dinner, figuring we would be out of power, but upon our return home, everything was fine. We were gone just about 10 hours for a game that took place 30 miles from where we live. When I took off my clothes, Shirley mentioned that I should check my wallet, and I found that even the folded money I was carrying was damp. I had to unload the entire wallet and let things dry overnight. At this point, I would have had to say this game was the craziest I ever had attended, but it turned out to be like nothing compared to the Michigan–Notre Dame game held a week later.

Michigan played the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 10 in the first true night game ever held at Michigan Stadium. Michigan and Notre Dame are ranked first and third in all-time college football victories. Michigan has won, I believe, 887 games all time, and Notre Dame is only a few behind. It is an intense rivalry between two great schools, and 2011 was no exception. This game started at 8 p.m. EDT; it still was rather warm in the stands, but nothing like the week before. Michigan averages more than 112,000 in attendance, but for this game, they managed to pack 114,804 into the stadium. The price of everything was up – tickets were $15 each more expensive than the week before; program prices were tripled to $15 a copy. The university had installed a new lighting system, thus the first true night game, although in previous seasons, we have had sort of a lighting system for 3:30 games late in the season, this lighting provided by an outfit out of Iowa with big trucks that has light towers that extend up and out, much like the mast of a drill rig, and the trucks tow big generators to run the lights.

The Notre Dame game got off to a bad start for Michigan. It looked like the Irish were going to run us into the local river – the Huron. Michigan began to play a little better as the game wore on, but a victory looked pretty doubtful until the last minute and 12 seconds. In that short time period, Michigan scored, to finally take the lead. Notre Dame came back to score to re-take the lead with 30 seconds left, and it looked like the game was over. However, in an amazing feat, Michigan drove 80 yards in 28 seconds to win the game with .02 seconds left on the clock – three touchdowns in 1 minute 12 seconds.

In all the hundreds of games that I have seen at Michigan Stadium, this had to be the craziest. In addition to the wild happenings on the field, the fans stood up for about 95 percent of the plays, the noise was almost deafening, and U of M gave out free pom-poms that fans were waving in such a manner that it was difficult to see even when standing. To my friend Jerry Sherman, we had Michigan-leaning officials; in fact, I would say the opposite was true, in that replay showed that Michigan got the wrong end of several calls.

My son-in-law, Scott Coleman, who coaches high-school football and baseball, flew in from Virginia to attend this game with me. We had a heck of a time getting back home, as the buses to take us back to our parking area were very late and so overcrowded that we had to stand all the way back – not fun when driving on a freeway, which we did. We also had to go to three places to find me a snack, since we had eaten “dinner” at 4:30 p.m., and I was hungry. We got to bed at 2:45 a.m.; I was one tired-out old guy. When I got up Sunday morning, Shirley and Scott were watching highlights of the game on TV. I have to admit, it was nice to see U of M be the star of some highlights for a change, as we have had three bad seasons prior to 2011.

I thought that my experiences might provide some comic relief for you readers, especially as Sunday, Sept. 11, was the 10th anniversary of a really, really bad day in and for the United States. Next month, I’ll get back to writing about water well and ground water topics. In the meantime, work hard, work safe, and take some time to do some nutty or crazy things just for the fun of it.