Tag Archives: Michigan

The follies of FL

Right now I imagine a lot of you are digging out of, shivering through, griping about, and generally trying to survive the big winter storm* that somebody christened “Hercules” but could also be called “Hyperbole.” Those who live in the frozen zone (frozone?) also are probably wishing they could decamp for someplace warm, especially Florida.

As a former Michigander, New Englander, and Washingtonian, I can definitely relate. I’m now a part-time resident of Inlet Beach, FL, where the picture above was taken and my wife and I visit every chance we get. However, Florida has some little eccentricities that you really don’t run across in Grand Rapids, St. Paul, Parma, Mahwah, Worcester, Westchester, and all those other places where the flakes are flying.

Let’s take a quiz: Which of these are actual Florida news headlines and which are made up?

Man Tries to Trade Alligator For Beer

Amorous Dolphin Tries to Boink TV Babe in Theme Park Pool

Kangaroo Leads Florida Deputies on 10-Hour Chase

Florida Beachgoer Discovers Human Foot in Shoe**

Man Loses Hand, Has Weed-Whacker Strapped Onto Stump

Florida Man Bitten by Shark, Punched by Monkey (Twice), Struck by Lightning, Bitten by Snake

Slimy, Giant Snails Invade South Florida

Police Ticket Man for Running Backwards

Killer Chops Off Victim’s Legs at Knees to Fit Body Into Suitcase

Woman Allegedly Calls 911 to Report Drunk People Inside Bar

Except for #2, 5, and 9, all of these things actually happened in 2013, according to our friends at Buzzfeed. The others describe events that took place in a few of the many great books by Carl Hiaasen, which any northern immigrant (and everyone everywhere) should read for some wild and hilarious tales (but at all costs avoid the movie version of “Strip Tease”).

*As the Almighty Editorial Poobah, Pontiff, and Kahuna, I hereby ban for now and forevermore the use of “The Big Chill” to describe actual weather events, as opposed to the movie.  Unfortunately, one of the best quotes from the film – “C’mon, Blue, you’re not supposed to fold until the fourth quarter!” – remains relevant.

**Presumably not his own foot and shoe.

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Blue in the night

The other day I spotted this headline on the website that brings us all the news from Ann Arbor, Michigan, my college town: “Police: U-M frat members arrested after breaking into the Big House.” One’s first reaction might be, “What are these clowns learning in that overpriced school? Haven’t they ever seen a prison movie? You’re supposed to break OUT OF the Big House!”

However, the House in question, for those who aren’t steeped in college football, is Michigan Stadium. And I can’t condemn the frat guys too much because I once did the very same thing. In fact, I did it on my third night at the University of Michigan.

In late June of 1972, barely a month out of high school, I borrowed my mother’s ’67 Dart and drove to Ann Arbor for freshman orientation. You spent about a week living in a dorm, touring the campus, maybe taking some tests related to your fall classes, and generally getting a feel for college life. I remember being crammed into a single room with another guy, maybe two, and the staff blasting the Beatles outside the door to wake us up in the morning. I also recall the thrill of walking around and knowing I’d soon be there full time, free of my high school self and all his struggles, starting over, being somebody different and better.

What I remember most is that one evening, after the frosh-to-be had finished the formal program for the day and some of us were hanging out in the lounge of the dorm, one of our sophomore and junior advisors suggested we go play Frisbee in the stadium. Of course, I said, “Sure!”

Now up to that point, I was not a Michigan fan. I had no idea the place was “The Big House.” I figured it was just another football field, a bigger cousin of the one where the Kalamazoo Loy Norrix Knights played.

Four of us walked down there: the older guy, two freshwomen, and me. Our “guide” knew right where to find a gate that wasn’t chained tightly and we could squeeze through.

It was midnight. The field was still and quiet, bathed in soft white light. We walked to the 50 yard line and tossed the ‘Bee around, then sat down on the artificial turf and just talked for a while. Because it was night, I didn’t really get a sense of how big the place was. But I was thinking that this college business was pretty cool and I’d probably do all right.

Of course, we were putting ourselves in some serious jeopardy. I can only imagine what would’ve happened to us if we’d been busted. I’m pretty sure the legendary coach Bo Schembechler would’ve been extremely PO’d if a bunch of hippies had been caught defiling his field.

A couple of months later, I got my first view of the place in daylight, as Michigan bested Northwestern in a real Big Ten barn-burner of a home opener, with a final score of 7-0. I spent a lot of fun Saturday afternoons there in the next four years, but don’t remember any of them half as well as that night.

Angry old man part 2 (and now he’s a diehard)

The ageists are at it again.  On CBS “Sunday Morning,” a reporter noted that Earth, Wind and Fire is still out there touring – and then, in a breathless, incredulous tone, she added “in their sixties.” STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!! Musicians who are over 30 can still perform!!!!!! According to what I understand, these blokes are in that category, and so is this cat, and this one.

But I digress. (Can I digress from something I haven’t mentioned yet? Don’t ask me, I fell asleep in freshman English.) What’s really got me going is reading this in the Hot/Not column of Sports Illustrated, a magazine I actually pay good money for: “Rivalries. Florida-Miami and Michigan-Notre Dame grudge matches go the way of the CD – i.e., only old men and diehards will miss them.”

Personal foul. I could use a lot of words to break down the tone and impact of that statement: cheap shot, snarky, gratuitous, mean-spirited, ugly, baseless, classless, snide, abrasive, caustic, and sarcastic (a thesaurus is a great thing, folks). But that wouldn’t be productive.

Instead, why don’t I point out that the recent Michigan-Notre Dame game, the second-to-last one these teams are scheduled to ever play and that no one of any importance will miss, just happened to SET THE ALL-TIME ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR A COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME.  That’s 115,109 butts in the seats, and I’m pretty sure not all of them were attached to the bodies of “old men” or “diehards.”

(Sports Illustrated reporter in the stands: “Excuse me, are you a diehard? You don’t look like an old man.” 19-year-old woman fan: “And they say there are no real journalists left.”)

Time out. As my longtime readers know – those old enough to remember when “twerk” wasn’t a word yet and Mitt Romney still had a binder full of women – I once took a poke at football traditions myself. Fair enough. But I never said all traditions should come with an expiration date or that all changes are good.

(By the way, I compounded my irrelevance and decrepitude by buying a few CDs the other day.  At a yard sale. For a dollar apiece. For the price of four songs online in this wonderful new world, I got about 60 of ’em, including two fine collections by the legendary R&B saxman King Curtis. So please excuse me while I throw some back copies of Sports Illustrated on the fire and heat up some “Memphis Soul Stew.”)