Dave Bickler, Lead Singer of the band Survivor, once sang: “MTU Wants You to Make The Game” … so I did!
This past weekend, Michigan Technological University (aka MTU aka Michigan Tech aka ‘Tech’ … or more directly my Alma Mater) played University of Alaska – Anchorage (aka UAA) in two College Hockey Games at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. Not only was this an opportunity for me to watch the team I followed for the *cough* five & half years it took me to get a degree from Michigan Tech, but it was the first time I’ve seen them play live since the week before I graduated. In fact, the alumni gathering before the first game was the first Alumni event I’ve ever attended (except I think I went to something a couple weeks after I graduated – but I was drunk a lot that trip). The MTU Alumni base is not too bad in Anchorage, seemed there was about 20 – 30 of us there (though most were fresh out of college, and kept looking at me as if I was old). The whole of the weekend started with Pasties (a Cornish meat pie brought to and popular in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where MTU is) and beer (which needs no explanation) before heading off to the game on Friday night, followed by the Saturday night second game. In the end, Tech didn’t do so well against a mediocre UAA; losing on Friday and squeaking out a tie on Saturday. But the experience seemed to transcend the score.
During those years at Tech, I spent all of it a part of the Pep Band. MTU is an engineering school, meaning no one goes to college on a music degree – so you get 100 people with little talent but a lot of brains and a good amount of free time, you get some interesting results. Because being in the band meant we could get back into Hockey Games for free, we tended to be the most loyal, and therefore loudest, fans. Our school was pretty isolated, being 100 miles from the next sizable city, so it was rare we went to away games — but when we did we did en masse and en voice.
What I really learned in those trips was the fine art of trash talking taking the high road; including among other things you focus on the opponent’s team not the opponent’s fans no matter how much they they want to focus on you. It’s really fun to get into that environment, because as you start to cheer things and see it start to irritate the other team or the other fans, you just sit back and keep doing things the right way which irritates them even more (people can complain to the usher all they want, but if you aren’t swearing, aren’t drunk, and aren’t picking a fight … they can’t throw you out). It was easy to swallow when you finished up a weekend and hit the road back home, since of course you don’t live down the street from the other guy.
This time … not as much.
The stadium was quite empty for both games, which made Tech fans the loud element there; but UAA fans (at least near me or weren’t high schoolers) were pretty smart fans. They were pretty supportive of their team and knew a fair bit of where the flow was going. I stayed pretty quiet (being the old guy of course) but these UAA fans still got pretty ticked off with some of what we were saying bugged them. Okay, after getting UAA failed to score on the power play, us saying ‘You suck on the P P’ crossed the line a little … but calling their goalie a ‘sieve’ was really getting to some of them, and that is hockey’s equivalent to calling a Norwegian dumb, it’s being funny by stating the obvious.
Yet I couldn’t stop thinking that I am surrounded by my neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, even curling friends. Made it a lot harder to be my old college self, or for that matter listen to the responses to what was my old college self. Sure my team was the “away” team, but I was home. This is home. Strangely enough, it was the first time I didn’t feel at home since moving to Alaska.
But that’s what happens when you relive the past a bit I guess. At least until next year.