Old man with bad back requests help rioting: Ann Arbor

At some point in 1991, I had the occasion to witness a basketball-related riot in Ann Arbor, as I stood wedged between an open 450-degree pizza oven and a large plate glass window facing the intersection of Church and State. I can’t recall, but I don’t think my friend Roger and I, who were busy making some of the City’s least expensive/tasty pizzas at the time, were even listening to the game that set the events in motion. We were just cranking out the “za”, as the rich New York girls liked to call it, as fast as we could for the drunken frat crowd, and watching the events unfold on the street in front of us. I’d love to see a time lapse video of it now, after over 20 years have passed. It felt at the time like a tornado, the way it kind of gathered from nothingness. There was a stillness, followed by a few people running by, and then, all of sudden, all hell just broke loose. I don’t know how long the riot lasted. I just remember standing in the window, watching the street signs swaying, and the people climbing up on top of whatever happened to be around. I think I may have heard things being smashed, but, for some reason, I don’t think it even crossed my mind that the large window that I was looking through could be a target. (Maybe they left us alone because we were open, and it was easier to smash the windows of stores that were dark inside, or maybe it was just that they liked pizza more that they liked violence, but, for whatever reason, no bricks were hurled in our direction.) And, then, at the height of it, a phalanx of faceless riot police, who I guess had learned a thing or to two during the ’89 riots, started marching slowly down South University, launching teargas canisters in front of them as they went. The crowd scattered. Those of us at work, however, had to keep right on going, with our eyes swollen closed, and snot running from our chins in torrents. Roger and I eventually decided to lock up and call it a night, but, as I recall, it took us a while to get everything shut off and cleaned up, given that we couldn’t really see, and spent half our time rubbing our eyes and screaming out in pain. And, it must have been somewhere in that half hour or so, that I came to the realization that life isn’t fair. (I’d already come to the realization that I hated frat boys, but this certainly reinforced that belief as well.) I tell you, there’s nothing like being teargassed for the crimes of spoiled, drunken rich kids who didn’t have to work their way through school to radicalize a man…

So, today, as I sat at work, it occurred to me that I’m owed a riot. Sadly, though, I don’t know that I’m now in any condition to enjoy it. While I could probably toss a brick a few feet (underhand), I don’t think that I’m in any condition to scale walls, or flip cars. I can, however, post things to Craigslist… which has me thinking that I should ask the spoiled rich kids of today to repay the debt of their predecessors, and give my fat ass a boost onto the awning of a local business when the time comes, and hold onto my things for me, while I help kick it to the ground…

All this nonsense aside, I don’t have a problem with riots per-se… God knows there are things that people should be in the streets about… I just have a problem with alcohol-fueled sports riots. They seem a huge waste of time and energy, but I suppose that’s their purpose. They keep people occupied, divert attention from the real problems at hand, and relieve societal pressure.

I’m tempted to go downtown tonight with a sign… “YOUR RIOTING ABOUT THE WRONG THING!”

One question: Will there be a riot tonight regardless of the game’s outcome? I’m not up to speed on American riot etiquette. And, if there is a riot, what form will it take? Will couches all over the City be pulled into the streets and set aflame, or will everyone come together in one place to tip news vans on their sides?

[note: This post has been edited to reflect the fact that, knowing very little about sports, and having a terrible memory for dates, I’d originally identified myself as being present at a different riot altogether. In the future, I will take better notes when surrounded by mayhem. I promise.]

This entry was posted in Ann Arbor, History, Mark's Life, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Bob
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Are you sure you aren’t just confusing that sort of crappy Spike Lee movie that everyone used to think was so good?

  2. Edward
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Louisville deserves the win. Those 4 three-point shots in a row from Hancock were incredible.

  3. Edward
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    And, to answer your question, no, there’s no riot tonight if they lose, unless they lose by a single point and due to a bad call.

  4. anonymous
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    U-M students should riot over tuition hikes.

  5. Elliott
    Posted April 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Maybe there’s a business in this… young people rioting on behalf of the old and risk adverse.

  6. Posted April 9, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    UM Students SHOULD riot of tuition hikes, but the problem is that not enough of them are paying out of pocket.

  7. Posted April 9, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    The Backroom didn’t open until September 1989.

  8. Anonymatt
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Um, this riot you are referencing seems to have taken place in April 1989, while you didn’t move to Ann Arbor until Fall of 1989. I think there was another incident in 1990 or 1991 where cops brought out the tear gas early to prevent another incident like 1989. I remember you telling me about the tear gas coming in to the Back Room, possibly by air conditioning or a fan.

  9. Arvid
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I love it when officials decide the game. They totally stole UM’s momentum with bad calls.

  10. josh
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I was at an expensive private college for nerds when the Red Sox won their first Series in a century. A lot of people standing on the street mostly waiting to see if anything was going to happen. Someone yelled “I want to riot but I don’t know how!” That was everyone’s cue to go back to the library.

  11. Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink


    You are correct. There were a series of sports riots at the time.

    I don’t understand why kids feel the need to destroy things when their team wins.

  12. site admin
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    The original post was edited early this morning to acknowledge the fact that Mark is a dumb-ass. Thank you to all of you who wrote it to tell him that he was, in fact, at a different riot.

  13. Tom Mast
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Backroom is on Church and S. University. Does Church even cross State?

  14. Anonymatt
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I was watching an episode of The Honeymooners once and Ralph said, “You’re a riot, Alice!” It was traumatic to witness.

  15. Eel
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The best thing about Michigan basketball:


  16. Meta
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    There were fires set last night, but I don’t know that it got to “riot” level.

    Soon after Louisville doused Michigan’s hope of a national basketball title on the court, the Ann Arbor Fire Department was putting out several fires in the city.

    As subdued crowds streamed out of bars and the Crisler Center, where U-M staged a watch party, firefighters were responding to calls of various items being lit on fire in neighborhood streets.

    It took just a few minutes after the Wolverines’ season ended for students to take to the streets in the area near Vaughn and Packard streets. On Vaughn, several people pulled a couch into the street and seemed ready to light it. However, they weren’t able to start a flame before an Ann Arbor police squad car pulled up with lights flashing. An officer pulled the couch to the curb and warned the crowd.

    Around midnight, a box spring, sticks and what appeared to be a desk burned in the middle of White Street near McKinley Avenue while about 200 people looked on. The crowd cheered as firefighters put it out. The street was closed just after midnight as debris still smoldered. Crews later dealt with what looked like a small mattress fire in the same area.

    Shortly after midnight, authorities put out a fire in the area of Hamilton Place north of East Jefferson Street. A couch and tree branches were reportedly burning.

    Crews also extinguished a fire in a parking lot on East Kinglsley Street and North Ingalls and in the street at East University and Michigan Avenue.

    At around 1 a.m., firefighters and police responded to the 1100 block of Church Street where a wooden pallet had been set ablaze. The fire was doused in a matter of minutes.

    Officials were searching a house around 1:30 a.m. in the 1100 block of White Street, where a bottle with a rag protruding from the top was next to the house. One man was taken from the house on a stretcher, but did not appear to have been injured.

    Another couch fire was reportedly quenched at 2:15 a.m. near South Main Street and Hoover Avenue.

    Flocken estimated the total number of fires reported in the city as of 2:30 a.m. at about eight. Another unconfirmed fire was reported after that.

    Read more:

  17. XXX
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I like the idea of a guy in a wheelchair with a sign saying, “Help me punch a cop.” Would someone please do that for me.

    Also, I don’t remember Do the Right Thing being so terrible, but, having just watched some of it on Youtube, it doesn’t hold up well.


  18. Knox
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I like how both groups adapt. After the ’89 riots, the cops got more sophisticated. They brought out the tear gas early in ’91. And, last night, the kids responded by breaking up into smaller cells and starting isolated fires. Evolution is beautiful.

  19. double anonymous
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I think Viagra might do the trick if you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel as though you’d like to riot. Wash it down with some Redbull, and you’ll be good to go.

  20. John Galt
    Posted April 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    I like UM kids when they ‘re shmacked.


  21. taco farts
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Listened to a podcast recently wherein the theory was floated that Halloween is the only night males 15-25 behave the way they actually feel all the time. I’d add these ‘sports’ riots to that category and I guess just be thankful society has as much control over them as it does.

  22. Captain Pike
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    My Craigslist ad.


  23. Robert
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Once again, Mark, you actually may have come up with a good business idea here. Maybe a section of Detroit could be rebuilt over and over with very cheep materials, but to look nice. Then hundreds, or thousands of people could pay to enter and riot whenever a playoff or championship game is won or lost.

    To those who don’t understand riots, I suggest you read Eric Fromm’s ‘Sane Society.’ He explains destructive impulses better than anyone else I know of.

    I would like it if there were covert preemptive counter-rioters who would booby-trap areas where rioters were about to riot. That would be cool to watch play out. More than once in my life I’ve seen a violent moron punch a glass pane and get his hand or arm guillotined. Though it is gruesome to see, I can appreciate the Darwinian beauty of it.

  24. double anonymous
    Posted April 10, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    We have Free Speech Zones, why not sanctioned Riot Zones?

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