From Where I See It: The Big House

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Today, it’s easier than ever to watch a sporting event on TV. But despite that, the allure of being at a stadium to watch the action unfold live still very much exists. What is it that keeps bringing us back? Is it the atmosphere? Is it the people? Is it the food? Maybe it’s all of these things, and a few more that can’t quite be put into words. The Players’ Tribune wanted to get a closer look at the people surrounding sporting events who nobody comes to watch, but serve a vital role in creating the game-day experience.

This is “From Where I See It,” and for this entry, we wandered in and outside of Michigan Stadium prior to their game against Ohio State to get stories from the people behind the scenes.

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Kori Reblin | Student Equipment Manager

“This team has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I’ll put it this way: There’s absolutely no green in my house. Always blue, forever.”

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Dean Cook | Event Team Suite Supervisor

“I’ve been working with the program for five years, but prior to that I was a season ticket holder for 28 years. I’ve been a fan my entire life, stretching back to when Bo came here in ’69. I worked at General Motors for 30 years before I retired. After that, I was looking for a hobby, and I always said if they ever built suites, I wanted to work in them. So when it happened five years ago, I gave up my seats to come indoors. You couldn’t ask for a better hobby. Everyone here’s bleeds blue, just like me. It never feels like work.”

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Rhonda Bates | Elevator Attendant

“I’ve been working here for 11 years, but I’ve been a fan of the program for several decades. My favorite memory of Michigan football was the Pigskin Classic in 1995, when we played Virginia here. My brother and I were sitting in the north end zone when Mercury Hayes made the catch with no time left to win the game. I’ll never forget how loud the Big House was after that play. The game was over, but you didn’t want to go home.”

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Rick | Tailgater

“The van itself is 40 years old. My wife, Paulette, owns it. I fixed it up and gave it to her as a birthday present. I’m from Washington, originally, and she’s from here, so for her birthday every year, I give her something from Michigan. I saw this van, and it was pretty ugly. I got the guy who owned it to agree to sell it to me, but before I pulled the trigger, I took it to a parking lot so that my wife could take a look. She told me that if I bought it I had rocks in my head. So, I bought it.”

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Dan Dierdorf | Color Analyst, Michigan Sports Network

“I’ve made a living out of talking about sports events, but when you were fortunate enough to have played here, it’s a little hard to describe the feeling of running out of that tunnel for this game and seeing 110,000 fans cheering you on. I was just 19 years old the first time I ran through that tunnel. The truth is that it’s kind of dark in there. You can’t see a lot. You’re packed in close with all your teammates. There’s this nervous energy and excitement as you wait for your cue. And then you come out into this explosion of color, sound and passion — it’s almost a sensory overload.”

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William | Parking Attendant

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. I love the people. Just look around, you couldn’t ask for anything better. I feel young when I’m out here.”

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Paul Neidermire | Director of Event Management

“I connect the dots between all the different people who put on a game here. I overlook the details that might be easy to overlook – tables and chairs, traffic, parking, press credentials, when the gates open and other things of that nature. I try to put everyone on the same page.”

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Terry and Kevin | Findlay, Ohio

Kevin: “I’ve been a Buckeye fan since I was three years old. I’ve been to the Big House three times, and we’ve been to the game in Columbus a couple of times, too.”

Terry: “When we pulled up this morning, he said, ‘Considering it’s Michigan, they really do have a nice stadium.’ One of his employees is a huge Michigan fan so he took a picture and sent it along.”

Kevin: “Go Bucks, though.”

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Collin McCarty | Director of Video Production

“I grew up 15 minutes north of Ann Arbor, and have always lived in the area. I married my high school sweetheart and we created a life here. When I was 21, I worked for an electronics company that built the first production studio at the university in 1998. I started working for the athletics program shortly after that, and have been here ever since.”

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Kerrie | K & R Almonds

“I’ve been in business for 25 years, and I’ve been at the stadium for six. We sell at most of the stadiums in Michigan — our treats are really popular in the state. People always buy more when the team is doing well. If they’re winning, I’m winning.

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Tiffany (Dexter, Michigan) and John (Youngstown, Ohio)

“We’ve been together for two months.”

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Bill | Longtime Fan

I’ve been coming to games since 1948. The one that still sticks out in my mind the most is ’69, when we upset the undefeated Buckeyes right here in the Big House to kick off The Ten Year War between Bo and Woody.”

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Jim Brandstatter | Play-by-Play, Michigan Sports Network

“I’m in the mid-30s in regards to how many of these I’ve called. Michigan-Ohio State just brings out a lot of emotion — especially if you’ve spent any time at the University, and I played here with Coach Schembechler against Woody Hayes. They’re all special, but this one is a little more so because of Jim Harbaugh and what he’s already done with this program. He’s rejuvenated us.”

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Michael Funkhouser | Cheerleader

“I started with the cheerleading team last year. I didn’t cheer in high school, but when I got to Michigan, one of the guys on the team told me I had the perfect attitude to be on the team. I hadn’t considered it before, but I figured that it wasn’t such a bad idea … and now I’m here.”

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Jon Jansen | Captain of the 1997 national championship team, current radio analyst

“One of the questions I get asked all the time is which game is bigger: Michigan State or Ohio State. Growing up in the state of Michigan, I always respected Michigan State as a great rival, but when you put a game like this at the end of the season and have it carry national championship implications almost every year, it creates something really special. It’s difficult to find a better game on anyone’s schedule.”

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Kurt Wisenbaugh | Director Event Presentation

“I spent eight years with the Jacksonville Jaguars before I was here. Both jobs are great, but completely different experiences. In Jacksonville, we were always trying to come up with new traditions because it’s still a relatively young franchise. But at Michigan, we’re not looking for ways to attract fans to the stadium necessarily. This place is steeped in tradtion. The people who come to games at The Big House already feel a deep connection to the team, and will be here every Saturday during the fall regardless of what we do. I just try to just add to their experience in whatever way I can.”

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Jack Googasian | Student

“I’m the 10th person in my family to attend Michigan. I have grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and siblings who all have made memories here. When it came to choosing a college, it wasn’t that I had no other choices … I just never really wanted to go anywhere else.”

Homecoming

On Saturday, No. 18 Michigan hosted No. 13 Northwestern in front of 110,452 delirious fans at The Big House for Homecoming Weekend in Ann Arbor. Jehu Chesson took the opening kickoff 96 yards to the house to open up a 7-0 lead, and the rout was on. When it was all over, the 38-0 blowout was enough to vault the Wolverines up to No. 12 in the latest AP poll. <i>The Players' Tribune</i> was there to document the fan prep and the action on the field as the Wolverines took the next step in proving something that's becoming hard to ignore: Michigan football is back.

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