Memories From the Press Box: John Borton

At the conclusion of the 2009 football season, the existing press box, which dates to the 1950s, will be torn down. Over the last several decades, countless memorable moments have been witnessed from the nerve center of the stadium.

In honor of this last season with the proud, old press box, an on-going feature called "Memories From the Press Box" will run on and in each U-M football game program. Written by the individuals who witnessed these moments from above, "Memories" will offer a different perspective of the events many of us remember after seeing them in person or watching them on TV. In some cases, it's describing pre-game rituals, in many cases, it's a specific game or play that took their breath away. Sportscasters, former coaches, athletic department staff, University President Mary Sue Coleman, they are but a few of the contributors who will be featured weekly. We hope you enjoy it!


John Borton, Editor of The Wolverine

Spending every home football Saturday for nearly 20 years in the old box high atop Michigan Stadium seems almost surreal. The familiar faces, sights and sounds (no cheering allowed) make it a very special place to work.

Work? Well sure, in a loose use of the term. Some wouldn't consider viewing Michigan football from on high as work, any more than they'd view a cruise ship captain as a day laborer.

Michigan's press box is still an office -- perhaps the best office on the planet.

As the old box comes crumbling down following the 2009 season, many sensations come to mind ...

• The palpable tension and electricity attending the hour prior to kickoff against Ohio State. The box is packed, reporters squeezing past each other and quietly trying to predict the biggest game on the planet.

• The panorama of Michigan-based media when Michigan State comes to town. Everyone knows everyone else, and all know this one will be bragged about/lamented over for the next 365 days.

• The memories that come flooding back when Notre Dame marches down the tunnel. From Desmond Howard's diving catch in '91 to the gritty, fourth-down defensive stand in '97, to all the big moments before and after, history comes alive.

• The most lasting memory involves a pre-game ritual providing a compelling reminder of so many special Saturdays. Escaping the glassed-in box moments before the game, and climbing a short flight of stairs, a handful of reporters make their way onto the open-air photo deck.

They jockey for position near the railing overlooking 110,000 anticipation-filled football fans. They watch the Michigan Marching Band race onto the field. They feel the building shake when winged-helmeted Wolverines race onto the field and leap to touch the M-Club banner.

Occasionally, the photo deck brigade finds itself so close to a military flyover that some might grip the railing a little more tightly, so as not to get sucked over the edge. Then it's back downstairs -- to "work."

But not before you take one last look, at an amazing spectacle -- a modern Coliseum, where gladiators gather and on-lookers crowd into every crevice. You think about the sign in Lloyd Carr's old office, the one that asked "Where Else Would You Rather Be?"

There's no ready answer, and no time to ponder. Kickoff is at hand.

Read more "Memories From the Press Box" in the Michigan football game program, available for purchase at home games and at the media relations office on Mondays following home contests. In this week's Michigan vs. Western Michigan program, read Harry Atkins' memories from the press box, spanning 29 years as a writer for the Associated Press.

»  Learn about ticket packs and individual game tickets for the 2017 Michigan football season.