“I don’t know anything about a shuttle bus to the game”
I checked out the University Akron football website and it advertised free parking downtown with shuttles to the game. Driving into the city was a breeze and I was pleasantly surprised with both the city and the University. It was clean and bright. However, I could see no signage for the stadium or students. I found a free garage easy enough with a friendly attendant, but alas, he knew nothing of the shuttles. Having got a glimpse of the stadium driving in, I started off walking toward its general direction. A couple of kangaroo decorated shuttles passed by but neither said Stadium on its message board. I did manage to flag one down, but the driver also knew nothing about shuttles to the game. Eventually I got to campus and flagged down a student for directions. He was a freshman who had started a week earlier. He knew enough to confirm the location of the stadium but not anything about shuttles. So the great shuttle mystery remained.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to the University of Akron. I had not been in Akron proper for about 20 years when it wasn’t much more than a boil on Cleveland’s backside. My wife was a social worker in Summit County, which includes Akron, and as one might guess, her impressions of the denizens of Akron were generally less than sunny. Accordingly, my expectations were low.
Pretty soon I came across a parking lot with fairly tepid tailgating. It was Thursday night and maybe there were other lots where the tailgating took place. I hope so because this lot was about as entertaining as changing a tire. Speaking of tires, what happened to the Rubber Bowl? That seems a lot cooler and more iconic than InfoCision Stadium. The crowds started to pick up and I followed along, passing a $5 parking garage. It occurred to me then that at $5, why would anybody try to park downtown and catch the elusive shuttle. I followed a group of students wearing “Get Zip Faced” t-shirts – definitely one of the more creative shirts I have seen. Things were picking up.
This being Akron, I wasn’t worried about getting a ticket. I did see a scalper who offered me “a great seat” for $25. He was right. It was on the second tier at the 50. However, when I looked down the row, I saw a family of fans clearly where my seat was. These weren’t kids, but twenty-something’s and their parents. When I said they were in my seat, the burly dad growled “Not in this row.” Luckily, mom quickly intervened to surmise that their one son must have sold his ticket. There were empty seats all around and some right behind my seat, so I told the mom that I would just hop back there and we’d deal with the seat problem only if we had to. Dad, of course, couldn’t even grunt out a hint of an apology. The son did have to chip in a comment about my Steeler t-shirt, but hey I was near Cleveland so no offense taken there.
This game marked the start of the Terry Bowden era at Akron, and optimism was high, especially for a team with only two wins in the last two years. Unfortunately, UCF was too much for the Zips. The Akron kicker bouncing one off the goal post in first quarter would be the highlight for the Zips. As boring as it was watching the Knights march up and down the field, I was about to get my own little show right in front of me. Every time UCF scored, the angrier the fans in front of me got. Unfortunately, the lone UCF fan in our section bore the brunt of their abuse. The more he cheered, the more insults were hurled at him. Eventually, the f-bombs started raining down. The women of the family started yelling at the man. It was Akron’s version of the Jersey Shore. At 35 – 0 and still not half-time, the dad had bolted, the others had yelled themselves out, and the UCF fan had retreated to safer confines.
The halftime show highlighted songs of the 80’s. This included Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business”, which the Zips weren’t. They then played Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and finished with Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend.” I am afraid the playlist was about as relevant as the current version of the Zips. The rest of the game was uneventful and the remaining guys did apologize to some of the fans. In a way, I can almost excuse their behavior. They are likely lifelong Cleveland fans, and, judging by their age, have never had a championship of any kind in any sport. After the game I walked back through Akron to my car and right before the garage, I got a glimpse of a Zips shuttle. It said “Downtown”.
In general, the field is pretty nice but somehow you still feel like you’d rather be at the Rubber Bowl. I’d only recommend catching a Zips game if they improve or if they are playing their crosstown rivals Kent State.