Sunday, November 27, 2005

Going to the UM-UVA Football Game. Mary visited for Thanksgiving. She has friends in Winston from UVA. We decided to go to the UM-UVA football game yesterday at the Orange Bowl, so she could (we hoped) Lord it over them when she got back. (That is not why she said she wanted to go, but the poor thing is related to me, and that's certainly why I would have wanted to go.)

It has been many, many years since we went to a UM game - we always enjoyed them with the kids, up there in the end-zone cheap seats with the family package. We adopted UM as our school back in the late 70s, mainly because Duke had a terrible football team and, otherwise, the cultural/value distance between Duke and us seemed to grow larger as the years went by. And being in Miami, where its population is alienated from that of the rest of the state for one reason or another, the 'Canes were a natural. And we hit the football team just as its curve of success went dramatically upward.

For this game, we bought the tickets over the internet, and we had no seating choice - the tickets were simply assigned and they were all the same price ($50). That was very different from the old days. Furthermore, we were on the north side of the Orange Bowl, where the visitors usually sat. As I looked out over the north side, which was about full, and then looked over to the south side, the "Miami side", it was plain that the north side had many more people in it. And those on the north side, like us, were all for the 'Canes. Then it struck me - TV - the cameras and the broadcast booths are on the south side, they look to the north. So the strategy is to fill up the north side so the place looks crowded and boisterous (and it was). We were not so much spectators as spectatees, not so much UM fans but extras on a gigantic set.

But that's ok.

We were there plenty early to look at the warm ups. At one point, the entire UM team was on the east half of the field, lined up in rows across the filed, a row on each 5 yard line division, doing calisthenics. As they did that, I saw Coach Coker go up and down each line, shaking each player's hand and speaking to him. He took his time with that task and often had a short conversation with a player. Is this the usual sort of thing for a coach to do? It seemed to fit the idea I have of Larry Cocker - a fine Christian gentleman.

Alcohol consumption has always been an issue. I remember at one point no beer was sold at UM games, and it was controversial when they began doing so. The policy was not to sell any after the first half. As we went into the stadium, I noticed booths where they were selling not beer, but wrist bands that would entitle you to a bottle (plastic bottles it turns out). You could buy and have affixed to your wrist, two wristbands - for two bottles. I don't know how they keep track of people who, after using their wrist bands, go back and buy two more at a different booth, but at least they are trying to dampen the problem. And it looked to me like they were pretty successful. I saw people whose boisterousness seemed to be assisted by the hop, but I didn't see anyone who was fall-down drunk or mean and obnoxious.

Speaking of food and beer sales, I saw no vendors going up and down the aisles selling anything, not beer, not food - nothing. I saw people go and bring back stuff (awful stuff) to eat and drink - but no "beer guys" or those sorts of people. Maybe they were there and I didn't see them.

The fans were half the show, and I had forgotten how much fun it was just to look at people. 'Canes football in Miami really brings the community together, in all its amazing homogenizing diversity.

The game itself was a lot of fun. UVA had a good team - quick and crafty, with a smart and talented quarterback, and I thought they played with more intensity at times than did UM. The 'Canes did well to win, and the final score did not do justice to the Cavalier effort. I would say that, finally, the 'Canes were the better team, but not all that much. And UVA could have beaten them.

We parked in some public parking lots, north across the Miami River from where the Orange Bowl is located. These are lots at the "Government Center" where reside the state courts and other state buildings. The lots are opened and managed for the 'Canes games, and there were some tail-gate parties under way as we rolled in. We drove through a group of tail-gaters who wore orange shirts, and I thought they were UM fans. There was a guy playing a trumpet and the tune I did not get at first. When we got out of our car, I recognized the tune: "I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech . . . ". These people were UVA fans! They were rubbing in that unfortunate loss to the Yellow Jackets.

Fortunately, no one but the Stokes family in Dade County has any idea what that tune meant, because Georgia Tech is as familiar as the Czech national ice hockey team. So I am sure those folks got out alive.

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