You don't shave when you're headed to Ann Arbor, Mich. Some might argue you don't shower either, in order to better fit in with the local denizens. Either way, one thing remains: Ann Arbor is still the place where class goes to die.
The place has a Joseph Conrad-esque "Heart of Darkness" feel to it, an "Apocalypse Now" sensation of descent into madness, with the utter certainty that the locals are most definitely unfriendly and will not hesitate to make their opinions known.
You go there for two things: Get a win, and get the heck out of there. On the whole, taking in a Notre Dame-Michigan game is much like how I'd imagine fighting a real wolverine inside a Port-a-Potty would be: It's unpleasant, it smells bad and you try not to touch anything.
No man, woman or child sporting the wrong colors is safe in Ann Arbor.
That being said, the U of M isn't entirely without its charms. The blue and maize (always original, the Michigan student section has dubbed the yellow color scheme the "Maize Out") pompous morons pumping their fists (and the free yellow pom-poms stadium officials hand out) fail not to impress with their never-ending chants of that jarring headache, "Hail to the Victors."
To top it all off, they finished each rendition with a new signature catch chant at the end - "You suck!" As my friends and I sat there cringing and taking in the suffering, there wasn't a whole lot we could do to refute this claim, and so we sat and took our medicine quietly.
I have to say, the Ann Arbor experience of two years ago was much better. Then, there was the pleasure of watching the Michigan unfaithful booing their own team and tossing their pom-poms onto the field before escaping like scurvy rats from a pirate ship after a 17-10 Irish upset of third-ranked Michigan.
Heading to Ann Arbor is a masochistic experience; you have to be prepared for people yelling at you and potentially drenching you in carbonated beverages. Not to mention the possibility of a Wolverine victory.
On our way out, as we were humbled and tired, a Michigan man tossed out a final parting shot, adding insult to injury.
"Thanks for coming, you guys," he said, his mullet wreathing his shoulders underneath the Michigan ball cap tucked tightly on his head. In his hand he held a maize-colored pom-pom, a fluffy victory memento.
"No problem," I said, stalling for time. Tired, cold and nearly out of comebacks, I nonetheless managed to come up with at least a halfway decent parting shot.
"Real men don't wave pom-poms."