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Despite a heavy chill, the dampness and the dense traffic, the multitudes plodding toward the gigantic stadium in Ann Arbor are in high good humor, exchanging japes in their traffic-choked cars, flourishing fanciful signs—SAVE FUEL, BURN WOODY—and singing, singing, singing. They are dressed against the cold and drizzle as if for a masquerade ball. Four men in identical yellow plastic trousers wade through the mud of the golf course near the stadium. They are like Ingmar Bergman creations, ghostly clowns dancing in the mist.
This is clearly football weather, meaning bad. In Baton Rouge and Norman it had been unseasonably warm. Here there is the threat of snow or freezing rain. The stadium rises spectrally in the distance, so massive that not even time can reduce it to mortal proportions. It is nearly as large as when I first saw it 25 years before. Actually, then it had fewer seats. A record crowd of 105,223 will watch this game between two undefeated teams playing for the championship of the Big Ten and the privilege of defending the conference's honor in the Rose Bowl. From the field, the rim of the stadium is lost in the gray skies.
Time does not move swiftly in the Big Ten. Everything seems as it once was. The teams play foot-slogging antediluvian football with line plunges, stout defense and little or no passing. There is a certain majesty to this stubborn resistance to change.
The Michigan Marching Band, playing its Big Game, tootles with such dogged vigor that even the players feel compelled to call for silence as the game itself, a match between dinosaurs, begins. THE SONG is cut short in mid-chorus.
"Hail! to the vic...."
From the Michigan sidelines, Woody Hayes, the totalitarian Ohio State coach, appears in the mist as a glowering eminence grise, pacing restlessly before his bench, snarling at officials. Michigan's Bo Schembechler, a Hayes prot�g�, is nearly as adept as his master at referee-baiting. He is regarded coldly and without rancor by the objects of his relentless wrath.
The Michigan players on the bench watch dejectedly as Ohio State's Archie Griffin, a rapier of a runner, perforates their defense. When Griffin is finally brought to ground, the Wolverines attack him savagely. Safety Dave Brown chases him through most of the long afternoon, upsetting him when he can with body blocks, necktie tackles and desperate snatches at his clothing. Brown stands panting over the fallen Griffin, his expression betraying the certain fear that he will rise again. Griffin will accumulate 163 yards on 30 carries despite the best efforts of Brown and his fellow defenders.
The Michigan quarterback, Dennis Franklin, is the eye of the hurricane in this stormy game. His brown face is impassive, his mood detached. But with slightly more than two minutes left to play, he lies motionless in the Michigan backfield after completing a short rollout pass. He is helped off the field with the score tied. He clutches his right shoulder but his face is vacant of either suffering or disappointment. He has a broken collarbone, a bad break for him and his school, for though Michigan has tied the conference champion, the Big Ten athletic directors will later vote to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl rather than permit a team without a starting quarterback to play the Pacific Eight winners. They cannot risk a fifth consecutive loss to the West Coast.
The game ends inconclusively. There is no elation on either bench, although Michigan supporters seem confident that the Rose Bowl will be theirs. Had not Ohio State gone and lost the year before? Is it not someone else's turn?
The band is on the field before the players are off it. False hopes are betrayed with the playing of California, Here I Come. Then, as the rooters raise their umbrellas in triumph, the band swings passionately into THE SONG: