Saturday, September 13, 2003

My Town, Not Yours

Its game day here in my town. This is a big deal, really big. Insanely big, because this is not just any town, and this is not just any game. UMich and Notre Dame. I get out of work and go do a little shopping, wending my way through used books stores (hmmm.. a book on Yankee Epitaphs, just what I need) and trying not to think about my empty stomach (I am still not ready for real food, too early). All around me I see students, most younger than me by a very few years, moving in small groups. With the free student U of M T-shirt(yellow and blue, if you would believe. About as spontaneous as an orange orange), they promote their allegience, ignoring their unsupportive brethren skulking in the outdoor seating of the coffee shops, looking surly and defensive.

I skirt the shoals of game fish, but my eyes are drawn against my will to the women in these groups. Whether to attract their fellow students, or perhaps the tv cameras, they cut their free t-shirts to augment what they believe to be their greatest assets, be it their breasts or their bellies. Or both. As one particularly uncovered girl passed me, I coined a new personal phrase: game slut. Hunger makes me snarky.

To an extent, the U of M football game is part of the traditional way of life in my town. On Friday, after my mother picked me up from school, we used to go to a bakery and buy maize and blue frosted cupcakes to eat while watching the game. In fall I expected to see goldenrod, drying cornstalks, and the Goodyear Blimp when I went outside on the weekend. But beyond that, the wins, losses and general action of the game itself never held my attention. Even now as the game goes on behind me, I only know what's going on when my little brother comes over to demonstrate a particularly cool catch. He is my instant replay. Its the second quarter, if you're wondering, and we're all over them like a bad tan.

But there is more to my town than just the University and its great football team. When I read A Feast of Love by Charles Baxter, I found it especially poignant when towards the end of the book, characters rushing to the hospital are hopelessly caught in the game day traffic jam. Sometimes the whole thing seems like a violation of my personal space, like when I wore my Harvard softball shirt(my father's) and got heckled by students. "I don't go to your &#$%-ing School!" I wanted to shout. But its typical. I went to a Michigan, Golden Gophers game, all I remember aside from our team beating theirs unmercifully is the sideline comedy, which included the Michigan cheer squad sexually abusing the Gopher Mascot. Michigan students don't like other colleges, and they take it out on town folk and visitors alike.

But I am not afraid. You, the student body, may hide in your bright mass of yellow t-shirts, trembling at the thought of a losing season, but the town will survive. I will be here long after you have forgotten your football zeal, and I will celebrate, come Spring, when you leave. And then I will be able to wear my Harvard t-shirt in peace.


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