Crisler Arena fills up with raucous fans for title game
More than 700 miles south, the Michigan basketball team battled to a hard-fought loss to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game. And in Ann Arbor, maize-clad fans filled nearly every seat of Crisler Arena to watch the contest unfold.
Dejected - and exhausted from chaotically cheering for the entire game - the fans filed out, solemn-faced, after game.
But then something amazing happened.
"GO," one inspired fan screamed from the Crisler Center's escalator.
"BLUE," a smattering of people yelled back.
"GO," and the cheer was building steam.
"BLUE," hundreds answered. "GO … BLUE."
"GO … BLUE," and the concourse was filled with celebratory cheering.
The Wolverines lost the game, but that did not stop the thousands of Michigan fans who traveled to Crisler Arena for the game from appreciating this team's incredible run.
In 2005, I attended an Alamo Bowl viewing party at Crisler Arena and ended up watching the game in a nearly empty building. So I didn't know exactly what to expect from the event Monday night.
More than two hours before tipoff, the line to get into Crisler Arena snaked all the way through the parking lot, along the wall outside of Michigan Stadium, around the corner and all the way to Main Street.
By the time I walked in to the stadium, an hour before the game began, the entire place was nearly filled:
One Michigan athletic department employee I talked to was blown away by the outpouring of support for the team. Because of the thousands of students and fans who flocked to Atlanta for the game, no one was quite sure how many people would come to the impromptu viewing party.
"This is amazing!" the employee exclaimed.
By the time the game finally got underway, all but a few hundred seats in the very back rows of the upper bowl were filled with raucous fans.
The crowd including several Michigan football players, including redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner, who gladly posed for pictures with dozens of eager fans and joined in during a terrific rendition of the Blues Brothers dance:
The Wolverines have been gracious of the fan support they have received all season, but this - which they had no way of experiencing directly - was something truly special.