Achensports: Michigan vs. Ohio State cage tilt

I’ve been pondering my next big career move, trying to come up with something more ambitious than Move Into Larger Cubicle Nearer the Window, and I suddenly realize that I’m in fantastic shape to start my own sports network. The Achenbro is in Colorado, where he can follow the Broncos, the Rockies, and the Gators (the latter of which – whom? – are in  Florida, but the Achenbro subscribes to Gator Bait and I am expecting him to call any minute with a report on how we did on Signing Day). Meanwhile the eldest daughter attends a liberal arts college in Ohio (Go Yeomen!), where she occasionally blogs about liberal-arts sports (rock-climbing, coffee-house-loitering, recycling, etc.). But here’s the headline: My middle daughter, the rich one, the future CEO, is an art history major at Ann Arbor and thus is in prime position to cover big-time college sports if we can only get her out of the damn library and the art museum.

So the other night, even as my Gators (No. 2 in the nation) were mysteriously collapsing against Arkansas – this after the Gators had completely dismantled and, if I may carry the metaphor further, shipped by FedEx to far-flung locations on multiple continents every other SEC team they’d played! – way up in Ann Arbor, the mighty fightin’ growlin’ Wolverines of the University of Michigan (No. 3 in the nation) were preparing to meet the Buckeyes of Ohio State (No. 10).

Naturally, I assigned my girl to cover it. For Achensports! Here’s her report:

By Isabella Achenbach

I got in! It wasn’t easy, attending one of the most important basketball games of the season. Apparently I needed to have a thing called a “ticket,” and seeing as I don’t have enough money to buy myself ramen noodles I wasn’t about to shell out $50+ on a game that I was only attending to please my father. [Editor’s note: I’m not sure we need to get into how the sausage was made.]  So I worked the “Washington-Post-Guest-Blogger” angle, which the Michigan press people didn’t really buy, but nonetheless they gave me a press pass so that I would stop bugging them.

Shockingly, I ended up with a seat in the press box. Everyone in the box was really intense and wearing nice suits, and I felt kind of embarrassed in my sweater, jeggings and giant snow boots.  This was right next to the overflowing student section. I thought my ears might explode every time one of our players made a three-pointer.

“We are in a giant arena covered in yellow,” observed sophomore Alex Chessin, who has season tickets. It’s true: The Michigan players wear yellow jerseys, yellow shorts, yellow leg and arm braces, yellow socks, and yellow shoes.

“They straight up look like highlighters,” Alex said.

He explained to me that we love college basketball because it is real basketball. While the NBA only allows 24 seconds for an offensive play, the NCAA permits 35 seconds. “In college basketball you actually have time to run a play; there’s something to actually report on,” he said. [Editor's note: A boy trying to impress you with his questionable theory.]

Everything in Crisler Arena is huge and over-the-top: The number of people in attendance, the basketball players themselves, the amount of chicken tenders consumed, the number of free maize-colored T-shirts passed out at the door, the length of the line of students trying to participate in the “Maize Rage” (where you stand court-side and bounce up and down a lot, exuding Michigan pride). Fans covered in blue and yellow face-paint jump to life when they realize they’re featured on the Jumbotron.

As an art history student, I spend a large chunk of my life inside museums, or thinking about museums, or studying the stuff that goes in museums. The main art museum on campus is the creatively named University of Michigan Museum of Art, in which I have my Japanese Contemporary Art class twice a week. Everything in the museum is quiet and clean and beautiful. If anyone were to walk around wearing loud clicky-clacky shoes it would be a major disturbance. Everything in Crisler arena, on the other hand, is loud, aggressive, and fast-paced. Watching the game in extreme slow motion might be kind of similar to a visit to the UMMA.

Nothing compared to the sound of the crowd after Michigan tied the game 72-72 in the last few seconds. Imagine a dubstep rave [Editor’s note: Yeah, right, I was at one just last night.] It was deafening, and hilarious. The Wolverines and the Buckeyes kept stealing the lead from one another, but in the last few seconds of overtime Michigan’s Glen Robinson III swished in a free throw, securing Michigan’s 76-74 win. The crowd went wild.

I have concluded that Michigan basketball games are 500% more enjoyable than Michigan football games. First of all, at a football game, if you’re a part of the student section you’d better be standing and cheering and booing your ass off for the entire three hours, because otherwise you’re heckled for being lame and not having enough Michigan pride. [Sentence alleging extraordinary levels of football-game intoxication deleted by lawyer.] Basketball games, by contrast, are 2 hours long, tops, which is a more reasonable amount of time. And Crisler Arena is beautiful. Somehow the architects managed to make a 13,000-seat arena feel intimate. I could read “Go Blue” painted on the chests of students on the opposite site of the court. And finally, they have amazing half time shows, and lots of free giveaway prizes. Every sporting event should have an acrobat riding a 20-foot-tall unicycle while balancing bowls on one outstretched leg and then throwing the bowls onto her head so that they land in a giant stack.

[Editor’s note: So maybe next time we should have a bit more about the actual game, the one with the players, and the points, and whatnot. Still, this is a great start. ESPN, watch out!]

Spells Trouble
Spells Trouble
Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach | February 4, 2013