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Saturday morning at about 5 am, pilgrims from all over southeastern Michigan roll into Ann Arbor to welcome the first game of the college football season. What seems a bit odd is that the people traveling the longest and arriving the earliest are not in college and haven’t been for a decade or two. We muscle our SUVs up to the perimeter of the football stadium and park in rows on the neighboring golf course, not parking-lot style, but with each car a throne commanding a twenty foot kingdom of personal space. Then, from each flipped-open trunk comes everything you need to feel at home in nature (i.e. the golf course): a plastic canopy, an inflatable sofa set, a triple-barreled crock pot, and a sheet cake from Costco with “Go Blue!” printed enthusiastically on the top. Out comes the 47″ plasma TV, the satellite dish on a tripod, and the 500 watt sound system (“it sounds like you’re really there!”), with surround sound. Why the TV? Because we do not intend to actually go to the game. Not because of ticket prices—a parking plot is $50.00 after all, never mind what we shelled out for the sheet cake and portable buffet ensemble—but because the golf course is so much more comfortable, and spacious. And who isn’t at home on a nine foot inflatable sofa with surround sound? But then why not just stay on your permanently inflated sofa at home, where you have the benefit of absolute triumph over nature and an even broader swath of personal space? The man with whom I am sharing a sloppy joe agrees: because of the community. Not the community of the roaring, 100,000 seat stadium, but the kind of community to which one grows accustomed in the suburbs, one in which nothing really has to be held in common (there are two separate television screens within ten yards of me) and we each get to have our own experience, together.

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