There are few things as poignant as the sight of thousands of people, both young and old and from near and far, convened in one place all for the same purpose. Walking into the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, I was lucky enough to be one of those able to make it to the Michigan-Louisville NCAA Championship Game this past Monday night. It was truly a thrill to be there among the deafeningly loud sea of red and yellow to root for my team, the Michigan Wolverines.
The game was unexpected to many Michigan fans like myself, as this was the first time in 20 years that the University of Michigan basketball team made it to the Final Four, let alone the Finals. All around campus, plans were suddenly cancelled, events were postponed, and carpools were arranged as students began to flock to Atlanta. Facebook statuses quickly changed from the mundane to the requisite “GO BLUE!” and those who couldn't make it down south began professing their jealousy of those who could.
Eleven hours and too much fast food later, I had arrived in Atlanta, but as soon as I stepped within feet of the stadium, any possible complaint I had quickly flew out of my mind. Walking towards the Dome was enough to get riled up for the game, as every few steps my friends and I took and our maize and blue outfits were spotted, we could hear chants of “Go Blue!” or “Boo! Go Cards!” Arriving at the stadium early was a must, as there was a record attendance for an NCAA championship game of 74,326. Before I knew it, my ticket was being scanned and I was guided toward the ramp to the lower level sections. Suddenly I was ushered into an overwhelming crowd of screaming and chanting fans, whose voices all meshed together into a resounding roar.
Grabbing each other’s hands so we didn’t get lost, my friends and I found ourselves at our extremely rowdy Michigan alumni section. The game started off in Michigan’s favor, with rookie Spike Albrecht hitting almost every three-pointer straight off the bench. The excitement of my section could not be contained, as every person in my section was on their feet jumping and screaming, sitting only for time-outs. Although I couldn’t take my eyes off the game, I did happen to casually spot in my section supermodel Kate Upton, Miami Heat players Norris Cole and Juwan Howard (also in the Fab Five), and Ray Jackson, another player from the Fab Five.
Although the game started off on Michigan’s side, it ended in a tough battle and Louisville proved to be the stronger fighter in the end. Walking out of the stadium with our heads down was definitely not the way we wanted to leave, but as we walked away from the Dome in a crowd of yellow, we were proud of our team’s accomplishments and we would always remember the amazing experience. When I think of how far my Michigan Wolverines made it in the NCAA tournament, I beam with gratitude for them and that I was able to be a part of it. After all, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it could be another 20 years before we find ourselves at the Final Four again. While we left the game dreading the long drive ahead of us back to Ann Arbor, wishing we were celebrating instead of sulking, I knew this was a weekend I would remember for the rest of my life and I could not have been more proud to be a Michigan Wolverine.