chance of bowl: 13.6%
Today I write to you wanting to know your side of the story about the luxury boxes. I assure you I'm not a journalist or anything. I just want to hear what you thought about the renovations. From your latest blog entry, I can deduce that you support the luxury boxes. I'm interested to know why. I have been caught between the argument for a while. I'm a life-long Michigan fan; 2 hours after I was born, my dad bought me a teddy bear with a Michigan sweater and hat. It sits next to my bed to this day. Whenever he was able to purchase tickets, he would take me to the game. I want the Big House to be louder, and I want tickets to stop going up in price (this year it's $204!). But at the same time, I hate the idea of catering to the rich, blocking out the sun that would shine on the student section, and ending any possibility of being the Big House. I'm caught up with my feelings of nostalgia.
I hope that hearing your side will help influence my opinion, but it will not dictate it. I look forward to continuing reading your blog everyday. Possibly next November, you could do a piece on the Blood Battle between Ohio State and Michigan. I'm one of the four students in charge of it. We are always looking for any type of publicity. I really want to win both the game and the Blood Battle while I'm a student here.
Thank You for Your Time,
(Remind me about the blood battle.) An answer:
First off, it's completely reasonable to have reservations about the luxury boxes. It's completely reasonable to hate the idea of them. Not everyone who hates the idea is the Hero of Tiananmen Square. Their addition is a serious matter worthy of discussion. Where tHOTS goes wrong is by assuming that because a bunch of his NYC friends think it's just awful that luxury boxes might be installed that he speaks for the Michigan fanbase. I know that the sometime strident opinons expressed here may give off the impression that I look down upon those who disagree. Not so: I only look down upon those who would try to twist the reality of the situation to serve their own opinions.
What follows is a point-by-point debunking of what I think are the main points espoused by those who oppose the installation of luxury boxes. The finale is an argument in favor of their addition in the absence of (hopefully dismissed or at least mitigated) concerns.
Luxury boxes are going to cost the university money. This assumes that Bill Martin, the guy who brought Michigan kicking and screaming into the modern era of collegiate athletics, has no idea what he's doing when it comes to dollars and cents. No matter that he's a lifelong business entrepreneur. No matter that he spent years as the president of the USOC. No matter that every move he's made at the Michigan AD has been to wring money out of ticket-holders, donors, sponsors, and anyone who walks by.
I think 80 dollar Appalachian State tickets suck just as much as anyone else, but Michigan fading into obscurity is worse. Clearly having shiny athletic palaces is a way to help avert obscurity. It's complicated. I'm annoyed by Michigan's building spree as a ticketholder but pleased as a fan. I just think that anyone who's been paying attention should acknowledge that Martin has erred on the side of filling the athletic department's coffers. He's gone from a Goss-era deficit to a sixteen million dollar surplus. The idea that he's flipped out and decided to install luxury boxes just so he can have a place to host cocktail parties no matter the cost the university goes against everything on his track record.
Luxury boxes are going to break an egalitarian utopia. There were no protests when Martin instituted PSLs that socked people based on their seats' location. There have been no protests about the distinctively capitalist way season tickets get allotted: donate a ton of money and get good seats. Michigan Stadium has always been about getting people to pay an awful lot of money to sit in it. Despite the appearance of a unified proletariat all sitting on their benches, I can tell you that I have sat on the twenty, on the forty, in the student section, and in the endzone and that the character of each location is vastly different. I have sat next to men in hunting caps wearing pleather Red Wings jackets and looked down on them. I have sat in front of well-coiffed elderly women who have looked down on me. I have had elderly men yell at me for standing up because everyone in front of me has stood up. I have loathed and been loathed because the people in Michigan Stadium have differing ideas on what constitutes appropriate behavior. Always have. Always will. The installation of luxury boxes makes concrete (ha!) a distinction that has long existed.
And it's a small step towards giving everyone what they want. They provide a way for people with differing definitions of the word "better" to coexist. My definition of "better": I can see everything. I can hear Ron English bark out commands. I can hear the band. I can see Mike Hart sweat. Rich mofos' definition: I have a roof and pate? Sweet. Without boxes, the only status these people can have is sitting on the fifty, occupying seats that I could have without their fur-clad indolence. Providing these people really expensive status markers that don't impact where I can sit can only be a benefit.
I am touchy about this tradition stuff. If Martin announced that he'd be putting in the sort of advertising that's all over Ohio Stadium I would be livid. But that's something that directly affects me: I see the advertising, I feel that the tradition of Michigan Stadium is evaporating. The opposition of luxury boxes on tradition grounds is about objecting to someone else experiencing a game "better" than I am, but better to who? I don't want to sit there. While they're busy thinking of me as an insignificant plebe, I'm thinking "thanks, suckers." My experience is not degraded just because someone else is paying a lot of money to have a nice time.
Luxury boxes are going to hurt the stadium atmosphere. Though commenters brought the Daily article I linked which asserted that the local noise levels would double into considerable question, I don't think they conclusively dismissed it, if that was even their intent. One of the arguments put forth by luxury box opponents is that the removal of a certain number of fans from the lower bowl will reduce noise levels. This relies on doubtful assumptions:
- the sort of person who ends up in a luxury box made any noise whatsoever before being placed in the luxury box
- the luxury boxes don't contribute any acoustic benefits to the stadium
- neither do the luxury boxes contribute any general shock and awe to the stadium.
Though I hate to credit Ohio State with anything, I must admit that the stadium itself, even devoid of fans, is a more imposing edifice than Michigan's. Penn State, too. A large part of this increased bad-assery of their stadium consists of vertical walls of steel and glass. Michigan's proletarian bowl is nice but most neutral observers think it somewhat lacking. Michigan Stadium is basically a very large hole in the ground. From the outside it looks squat and mildly homely. The inside has the same sort of brute-force grandeur that the distance between stars or anything associated with some incredible number does, but is lacking in on-top-of-you intimidation. Compare Ohio Stadium...
Why add them?
The addition of luxury boxes will charge a certain subset of fans who treasure certain things I don't an exorbitant rate. These fans also happen to be the sort of fans who A) don't make any noise whatsoever and B) glare at you when you do. A relatively small number of rich as sin fans will get a place within which they can consume tartare and wine without having to tolerate the sort of people who go "AAAAAAAH" before every third down. In exchange, I get to benefit from their willingness to pay thousands of dollars to attend a football game without enduring their glares when I attempt to aid the team we're all watching by screaming real loud.* The money the boxes generate will help Michigan keep pace in the facilities arms race. The boxes themselves will increase the noise levels. From the outside they will look badass.
Ultimately, they will help Michigan win, and that's what I care about.
*(Or, rather, I get to benefit when my compatriots yell real loud. I am only nominally a boisterous fan, since I freak out when the stakes get too high and sit there, paralyzed into silence, wondering how my life is going to turn out based on the outcome of the next play. In the real world, the "best" fans in terms of pure noise are not the ones who are most invested in the outcome but the ones who really care who wins the game while simultaneously understand their ability to shrug off a disappointing outcome. I meet only the former qualification. Viva Downriver, never leave us.)
VT family members across the country have united to declare this Friday April 20th, an "Orange and Maroon Effect" day to honor those killed in the tragic events on campus Monday, and to show support for VT student, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and friends. "Orange and Maroon Effect" was born several years ago as an invitation to Tech Fans to wear orange and maroon to VT athletic events. We invite everyone from all over the country
to be a part of the VT family this Friday. To wear orange and maroon to support the families of those who were lost, and to support the school and community we all love so much.
Unfortunately some image and external aspects of MGoBlog just don't go "whoop" when you tell them to be maroon and orange, but we do what we can. More later.
There's a section on John Pollack. It has swearing because by God people like John Pollack are why swearing was invented.
I am not a journalist! That's the point of this enterprise. But of late I have been pondering doing some kind of journalism-esque things. So when news came down of the Paralyzed Veterans of America suing the University over the renovations proposed I gave one of the law-talking guys a call. Because of IANAJTTP, this will not be an impartial news article; there would be no point with Official Journalists covering it much better and much quicker than I could. Witness this AP article heavily quoting Richard Bernstein, who happens to be the law-talking guy I spoke to. My conversation with the guy ran along the same lines. Bernstein to Official Journalist:
"It's extremely disappointing that it had to come to this," said Richard Bernstein, the attorney representing the plaintiffs.
Bernstein to me (note that all quotes were hastily transcribed and may not be exact. I've tried to hew as closely to his words as I could):
"When you file a federal lawsuit it's always a last resort."
"Notre Dame has 17 wheelchair-accessible seating locations throughout the stadium," Bernstein said, who also is an adjunct political science professor at Michigan. "We have two."
"Notre Dame Stadium is a carbon copy of the Michigan stadium and is ADA compliant. They have 17 locations that are wheelchair compliant."
(He also mentioned he was a professor twice.)
Bernstein, who is blind and has taken the case pro bono, said the lawsuit is more far-reaching than simply providing better wheelchair access during Michigan football games and commencement exercises. He said a federal court ruling in favor of the university could have a "devastating impact on the ADA" because it would open the door for other developers looking to sidestep ADA provisions.
He said the court must draw a distinct line between "repair" and "alteration" projects, since the latter compels developers and property owners to comply with ADA guidelines. Left undefined, he said, disabled individuals will find it more difficult to use public venues, such as movie theaters, shopping malls and public transportation.
"Wheelchair users will lose access across the board, and will find it more difficult to be part of the community," Bernstein said.
"The reason we had to file was because what this entire case comes down to is the concept of alteration versus repair."
"This isn't a critical issue because it's Michigan football. If Michigan establishes this precedent about doing renovation over a series of years, you'll see shopping centers, airports, any public venue, will follow what Michigan is doing, scattering their renovations over a long period of time."
He said Michigan's ongoing construction project, dubbed a "renovation" on its Web site, is "offensive." ... "We're not asking for really good seats. We're asking for equal access. It's about inclusion. It's about civil rights."
"This is a major civil rights issue; this is infuriating to me."
I am fairly heartened that it seems the Official Journalist could do no better when it came to getting something that didn't seem relentlessly practiced out of Bernstein than I did; at first I thought I was a hopeless n00b. Turns out we're all n00bs in the face of a lawyer.
The Daily has some of the same quotes but did a better job getting hard numbers than either myself or the AP:
Stadium-wide compliance would include making 1 percent of all seating handicap accessible and offering a variety of seating locations and ticket prices for disabled visitors. For the officially 107,501-seat stadium, that means there must be at least 1,000 handicap accessible seats.
The MPVA wants the renovations to follow the example of those at the University of Notre Dame. After recent renovations, Notre Dame Stadium provides more than 400 wheelchair-accessible seats in 17 different locations.
"If you look at Notre Dame and the University of Michigan, their stadiums were built by the same architect in the same era. All we're asking is U of M do what Notre Dame did," Bernstein said.
Isn't this the most important thing? What compliance is, what the current situation is, what the hard numbers are on the comparable Bernstein uses? How can every other article ignore it? Good job, Daily! Do you still have people who think "This
Postmodern World" is a good title for a column? And can we deport them?
There are some things I managed to get in edgewise that didn't get reported in the papers:
- Our good and dear friend John Pollack's involvement was discussed. Bernstein managed to convince me that Pollack was not the motive force behind the lawsuit; it would be going on without his misguided attempts to "save" Michigan Stadium. However:
"When he read in the papers that we were moving forward on this, he called me. He's been helpful. He gave us some details on Notre Dame Stadium's accessibility."
Pollack jumped on board, seeing any avenue to shut down the renovations no matter how irrelevant to his cause.
This is where the opinion starts to come in, so full disclosure: I am in favor of these renovations and think John Pollack is a delusional idiot who believes he knows what's best for all Michigan fans. I'm striving to be fair to Bernstein and his paralyzed veterans and not misrepresent anything they've said or claimed, but I make no attempt to be "objective" in the traditional journalism sense. (IANAJTTP.) That sort of objectivity gets you articles that make no attempt to evaluate the claims laid out by the various sides, which is deeply annoying to me. Here we evaluate.
Anyway. This was my first experience talking to a lawyer trying to do PR and it was... interesting. Idiotically, I hadn't gotten the very relevant and very basic info on the university's renovation site about the ADA:
Q: Will the renovations address ADA accessibility?
Yes, the University will significantly increase the number and location of accessible seating for fans with impaired mobility. The new design adds an additional 72 accessible seats plus companion seats on the west side of the stadium. These seats will be covered and accessible through a new elevator. The east side of the stadium, the new design adds an additional 24 accessible outdoor club seats plus companion seats and 14 accessible inside club seats. In addition, there will be one accessible seat in every one of the suites. The total number of accessible seats will increase and the choice for location of accessible seating will now include both end zones and sideline seating.
Leaving out the accessible seats in the suites, the renovation calls for a total addition of 110 accessible seats to the already existing 100 in the endzones (though I'm not sure that all 100 of those seats can functionally be used by handicapped people; I think there's just a handicap-accessible area that holds a total o
f 100 people, including companions.) Note that each of the proposed 110 additional seats comes with a companion seat and that the distribution of the seats would be throughout the stadium. Also note that the total seating, even including the luxury box seats, is around 280, way below the mendoza line.
The veterans took an alternate proposal to the regents late last year; Bernstein made a big deal about regents Cathy White and Larry Deitch concurring with the vets and making a motion and a second to reject the renovations based upon it.
"There was a motion and a second, and they voted it down 6-2."
The implication was that because someone had heeded them and another regent agreed that the others were callous for not following a long. I don't get that, especially because what he failed to mention is that White and Deitch were two of the three regents who consistently voted against the renovations for any and all available reasons. How much of their concern was real and how much was pretext?
So how am I supposed to reconcile that information with this quote from Bernstein?
"The university has been totally unresponsive."
I dunno. I kind of think this is an exaggeration, but how am I to know? I don't think Bernstein was being entirely honest with me. Not that he was being dishonest. He was being lawyery. It was kind of creepy.
This was the most bothersome thing, the grand microcosm:
"What is it they're fighting for?"
That was Bernstein's big finish. I really dislike the implications there: plaintiffs Fight For Justice against "totally unresponsive" faceless athletic department. By the time we were done, I had gotten a couple questions in edgewise, heard a lot of things over and over again, and felt vaguely like I had just been witness to a particularly fast-pitched political speech. The University is fighting for... me. They want to do right by the handicapped guys but they also have constraints here. Assuming that they're screwing over handicapped guys just because there aren't any Indonesians around they can force to make licensed apparel is kind of dishonest. This is a really hard process and at the very least Michigan is vastly improving the situation.
The whole thing seems shoddy to me. I don't know if Robert Bernstein is related to Sam Bernstein, but I do know that he works for Sam Bernstein's firm... you know, 1-800-CALL-SAM. The guy who can get results for you after your car accident. And it shows. Not contend with rounding up some wheelchair-bound disability rights advocates, these guys go right for the paralyzed veterans. They're veterans, dammit! Why don't you let them in to your stadium? Do you hate America?
But... they kind of have a point. IA(obviously)NAL, but if Michigan is trying to claim that they don't need to be fully ADA compliant because what they plan to do to the stadium doesn't constitute an alteration, well, that's pretty weaselly. I'm not totally insensitive to this issue. I have a friend who teeters in and out of the stadium on crutches every week. My grandfather (who was an usher at Ferry Field(!) and is the primary reason that I am often suffered to sit at the 40 yard line, since our tickets have been in the family since the 50s) spent his final Michigan games watching from the crappy seats in the endzone. I don't know what's enough seating and don't have anywhere near enough information to pick a winner, but I can say that this is a real lawsuit and a real concern as opposed to that hippie crap going on at Cal and that some of the intemperate comments in the aftermath of the lawsuit's filing were out of line (even if I shared that opinion for a moment or an hour).
One final note: This is the point on Bullshit where Penn drops the jokes and very seriously addresses the camera: John Pollack is a cynical, manipulative asshole who will stop at nothing for his luxury box hissyfit to conclude successfully. I'm dead serious about this. This isn't "Stewart Mandel is retarded" or "CFN is retarded" or "Matt Hayes is a synonym for penis." Though I get angry when media professionals run around saying very stupid things, it's a shallow anger that I mostly mine for humor. If I ran into any of these people I wouldn't regard them with anything other than condescension. I'm not actually angry at them. This is different. John Pollack has no use for what the truth is. In his mind, the ends always justify the means:
"This is being driven by an obsession with luxury boxes," he said. "The University is effectively arguing that it is more important to provide seating for 1,500 people in luxury boxes than it is to provide seating for people with disabilities as required by law."
Ridiculous. Insulting. And a paranoid fantasy caused by his unsupported belief that "the University is trying to subsidize the loss in revenue that would be caused by luxury boxes by increasing regular bleacher seating and overlooking the interests of disabled people." Yes, of course. Bill Martin's putting in luxury boxes just like all those other pro and college teams that just love losing money. Paralyzed veterans are a way for Pollack to get what he wants, and the truth is only something for him to spin into something unrecognizable to stoke outrage. The only outrage in this complicated issue is Pollack and his behavior.
And you know the kicker? Motherfucker went to Stanford. Go screw up your alma mater, asshole. (Motherfucker also spent 30 years building a boat out of wine corks and he has the gall to criticize someone else for ill-advised construction?)
No, wait. This is the kicker. The kicker of kickers. This is what John Pollack thinks of himself and his quest to prevent luxury boxes at Michigan Stadium.
In 1989, the image of one man standing in front. Can one man, willing to take a stand, make a difference? Can one person stop the powers that be dead in their tracks?
Remember Tiananmen Square?
Profiles of that kind of courage seem hard to find these days but, if you are willing to look then you will indeed find, examples of that kind of heroism.
I swear to God I'm not making this up. There is an enormous profile/interview of this prick up at "DanaRoc.com" -- Dana Roc apparently "creates, develops and produces programs that empower people to be productive, powerful, successful and happy" -- about this "Save The Big House" campaign and it starts off by directly comparing John Pollack to the kid in front of the tank in Tianamen Square. Seriously:
An extraordinarily courageous young man captured the attention of the entire world in June of 1989, when he single handedly stopped the advance of a tank column by standing in its way...
JP reminds us all again of the power of one man willing to take a stand.
One person cheering doesn't make a whole lot of noise but, you get 100,000 people cheering and suddenly you've got a roar! -- John Pollack
This is the face of luxury box opposition. Even if he didn't write this enormously offensive blurb, by God, he's read it and didn't immediately demand its removal. I'm speechless. I mean, what can you say?
Could Alex Legion become the world's first commit/decommit/recommit/ decommit/re-recommit? If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said no way. Today, though? Maybe. I imagine that Mark Synder was increasingly giddy as his interview with Alex Legion's mom progressed. In place of bland, noncommittal quotes Synder was delivered a heaping helping of Adam West Batman-worthy exlamations. POW!
"I want to make it clear, Tim Green is not part of this process," Williams said Tuesday. "I'm tired of him trying to persuade my son against the University of Michigan and his family."
"I've been quiet for four years, but Tim Green does not speak for my son, and I'm tired of him trying to make decisions for my son," Williams said.
"Mr. Green wants my son to go to Connecticut or UCLA, but my son will go to neither institution."
Mrs. Williams forthrightness is amazing confirmation of all the dark rumblings going on about Legion's "handlers" that have been kicking around message boards for weeks, nay, months. I had written Legion off as soon as he asked out of his LOI, but since Williams has to sign any LOI her son wants to submit Michigan has a fighting chance.
"I really like what I'm hearing about Beilein," she said. "I really want to thank coach Keener, who has talked very positively about my son to coach Beilein. We just needed to get rid of Tim Green."
(ZAP!) Legion will visit Michigan and a few other places, including (yuck) Kentucky. The lists floating around yesterday -- UConn, Kansas, UCLA, UK -- appear to be sourced by Green and should not be given credence. This is beginning to rival the whole Houston Nutt thing.
Update 4/15: Added a legend. Some small changes: all of our little projection icons have names. Mr. Blue, previously reserved for Michigan commitments, is now deployed for players like Marcus Witherspoon (please note latest Rivals article from the PSU site: "Witherspoon has heart set on Big Ten school"; it's not PSU) and Fred Smith who are highly likely to end up Michigan commits and -- this has key -- have said as much publicly. Hopefully no Rojo types end up in this categorization, but no guarantees are provided. There's a new icon, Sad Josh, used for guys who have expressed an interest that Michigan does not seem to reciprocate. With the clarifications and such several players have been moved into new categories. Smith and Witherspoon get Mr. Blue. Deboskie gets a green now that there's a separate category for players who are expected to end up at Michigan. A bunch of players got shoved into Sad Josh. Er.
Added MI DT Mike Martin. Linked to stories on OH TE Kevin Koger, CA QB Dayne Crist (header for second is not good), IN OL Kurt Wermers, IL DE Darius Fleming, some video of OH OL Elliot Mealer. Removed FL LB Nigel Bradham (FSU), CA CB Robert Golden (we don't seem that interested, and neither does he).
Editorial Opinion: For the record, the new legend.
The genre of player with unrequited interest in Michigan. Unlikely to receive offers; most will eventually fade off the list and go to Duke or Michigan State or something.
Player is a longshot. Either they've declared someone else a leader publicly or popular opinion holds that they're likely to go to another school.
Either no opinion or Michigan is one of a fairly even group of chasing schools. Players in this category maintain no leader or change their leader frequently. The default category for players that we don't know much about yet.
Players who have Michigan in a small leading group or have Michigan as a tenuous favorite. Should be regarded as a good shot, not a slam dunk.
Player is either a verbal or is expected to be one sooner or later. Players with this designation are 65%+ to be Michigan commits.
The two uncommitted blues on the board are MI WR Fred Smith, who had that USAToday article (a reprint from Rivals) and NJ LB Marcus Witherspoon, who's been telling everyone who runs across him that he's gone Johansson over Michigan no matter their affiliation.
CA QB Dayne Crist lists us but hasn't visited and wants to make a decision in the next couple weeks. Not coming here. Probably USC.
MI DT Mike Martin is drawing comparisons to Terrance Taylor. As a squat, powerful defensive tackle who also happens to be a state champion wrestler, this is not unexpected. May have to wait for camp to get an offer.
Rivals is reporting that Alex Legion has asked out of his LOI...
"We have had several discussions with Alex and his family and they have expressed an interest in opening his recruitment," said Beilein. "We understand his situation and encouraged him to do so, giving Alex his unconditional release. We will continue to have dialogue with Alex and his family throughout this process.
... and that Reed Baker, Rainmaker, has left the team. Interesting note from the Rivals article:
"With the fact that Reed's financial aid package had expired, he has decided to look into other options for his playing career," said Beilein. "We have encouraged Reed to do so and will do whatever we can to help him with that process. We wish him nothing but the best in the future."
Apparently his ride was a one-year only deal? All scholarships are technically year-to-year, but the way Beilein phrased it made it sound like this was a prearranged one-year deal. Anyone who wants a Reed Baker, Rainmaker shirt for old-time's sake can get one in the MGoStore for another week or so. Just my luck that I fix those just in time for him to leave the team.
No word yet on whether or not Michigan will seek immediate help. There's not much out there if they choose to. WVU signee John Flowers reaffirmed his commitment a few days ago and almost everyone else is already locked up.