For a few short weeks every year, the third largest city in the Nevada springs forth from the nothingness of the Black Rock Desert. This vast expanse of alkali-flats, situated in the northern part of the state, is the home of Burning Man. The festival of art, music and insanity brings all types of crazy things to life, and attendees are constantly bombarded by surprises that keep you in a childlike state of wonderment. Black Rock City is a strange and magical place. A place where anything can happen and the unexpected should be expected. You never quite know what’s next out there in the dust.
This was my first time back at “The Burn” in a couple years, and as always there were a million things that I wanted to do and explore. And as always, it was impossible to hit all of the marks I had set for myself over the week long festival of indulgence and adventure. But there was one thing that I refused to miss. College football. That’s right, I said college football. At Burning Man.
Back in 2013, one of my fellow Lab RaTz (a subsect of NuTz Camp) was thumbing through the list of events that the greeters give attendees upon entering the gates of Black Rock City and stumbled upon “College Football Gameday.” As a group of Michigan Wolverines fans, we figured this would be a nice break from the far out world of art and music that we had been living in, and a chance to indulge in a little good old fashioned Saturday morning American fun. We could get our college football fix, something that seemed very un-Burning Man (which really is the most Burning Man-y thing you can do if you think about it), and check the score of the Michigan Game. Good deal!
Some people might say, “what are you doing trying to watch football at Burning Man? Save that for the default world!” Some of my less football-enthused campmates gave me that same shit. You know what I said? “Fuck off, it’s my Burn and I’ll go check the Michigan score if I want to!” Burning Man is all about self expression and it just so happens that the Wolverines are a part of my “self.” And it was even more glorious than we had imagined. We unexpectedly walked into a tent filled with 20-30 maize and blue clad U of M fanatics and the chants of “Go Blue” were roaring! We were just thinking we would get to check the score and wound up amongst so many of our own! We stuck around for a couple of quarters and to watch our beloved Wolverines stomp the CMU Chippewas and relish the camaraderie of like-minded college football fans for a while.
When I made the decision to return home to Black Rock City this year, along with a few more Michigan fans who happened to be first-timers at the Burn, I knew we had to find my way back Harmonic Convergence Camp for the Michigan game. It took me all of five minutes on the internet to find out that the college football tailgate and viewing party was once again going down and I made sure to let the crew know we were most certainly going to be in attendance.
We peeled ourselves out of bed on that Saturday morning after what you can imagine was a wild Friday night. We made it for the start of the second quarter and were once again met by a tent full of Michigan fans sipping mimosas and watching the Wolverines get after the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii. Greeted by smiles, hugs, chips, dips and alcohol, we settled in for some dusty football. And man, was it a blast. There were Michiganders galore. Plus people from other places who came to pay respect to the winningest team in the history of the sport, and tons of general lovers of the game. Our feast of Doritos and english muffins was more than we could have asked for. After the mimosas, our gracious hosts broke out the red wine and our boys in blue broke the game wide open.
Every time Michigan scored (which was often), Puma, the master of ceremonies for this unlikeliest of football viewing parties, would lead the group in a spirited rendition of “Hail to the Victors,” the greatest fight song in all of sports. The atmosphere was electric. People were hanging with old friends and making new ones. All while cheering on the Wolverines. Burning Man is all about that feeling of community that you get between your friends and all those wonderful strangers. This was a prime example of that. We didn’t know most of the people watching the game but for those few hours we were brothers and sisters in arms.
Before I was lucky enough to stumble on these geniuses with satellite tv at fucking Burning Man, I never imagined I would get that big game, home team high that I know and love so much out in the desert. For that, my entire crew and I owe Harmonic Convergence Camp a debt of gratitude. Between the tasty Brunello and the brotherhood of being Michigan fans, it was the perfect way to kick off the day the Man burns.
In addition to the good fortune of knowing there was a Michigan football viewing party, which would be fun either way, the boys looked good. I mean, real good. After a poorly thrown ball that turned into an interception to start the game, QB Wilton Speight, settled in and looked pretty solid for the rest of the day. The running game racked up 306 yards and 4 touchdowns. The real star of the day, however, was the defense led by genetically engineered, football freak, Jabrill Peppers. They held the Rainbow Warriors to just 3 points and 232 total offensive yards.
When all was said and done, the Wolverines had a put up an impressive 63-3 victory and we were all riding high. Win or lose, it still would have been a great time. But the fact that we all got to bond over our Michigan roots in a place so far far away and see the Wolverines win big, makes the experience all the more magical. Typical Burning Man.
It’s kind of hard to describe Burning Man as a whole to someone who has never attended. I like to think of it as a series moments that mystify and sometimes confuse you, but ultimately enrich your life by causing you to question your perspective. There’s so many things that surprise you that by the time you finally think you’ve got it totally figure out, something crazy and unexpected happens to show you that you don’t know shit.
Some people use events like this as a way to completely escape their reality in the real world, but I think it’s all the more special if you can combine your default world with your Burning Man world. Watching the Michigan Wolverines with a bunch of fellow fans does just that. I love Burning Man and I’ve always loved the Wolverines. Doing both at the same time just makes too much sense. It was the best of both worlds. So for everyone who helped make this event possible, I’d like to say thank you and see you next year!