College sports, fandom, and Michigan Exceptionalism
Hi. My name is Brian, and I am 28. For 20 of those years, I have been a Michigan fan, and until last week, I thought I had it pretty good. There was smugness in my fandom, superiority, feelings that often would cross over into (yes) Arrogance. I looked down at fans of other teams, in other sports, in other leagues.
Where does your team play? Citizen's Bank Park? That's nice. My team's stadium not only doesn't have a name, we also don't even have ads inside. At all. Oh, you're Jets fan? That's great, but why do you only play the Giants once every seven years? Why can't the NFL see how great a rivalry that could be? Sure, the Mets are cool, but they are 100 years younger than my Wolverines.
For twenty years, I thought we were special. We loved a college team, made up of our classmates, at a place we actually had a connection to. The kids that loved pro teams the most were just throwing their money at a corporation, an office building somewhere that didn’t really care as long as people still paid. Ours was a two-way street, where the team and the school remembered us, the past, and why these things mattered.
I could handle the increase in TV money, the championship games, the BCS. These were unwelcome, certainly, but those things couldn’t touch what it meant to be a Michigan fan. “All we want is to win a lot of games, beat OSU, and get to the Rose Bowl. Everything after that is gravy”.
Coach Shiano is right when he says we are about to lose our memories. However, it is even worse than that. We are about to lose our identities. The greatest day in sports (even the Old Firm matches in Glasgow are spread out over two different days) is going to be taken out back, shot, and fed to ABC, for the sum of less than a million dollars.
My first child will be born this fall, a few weeks before the game. It sounds petty, but I couldn’t wait to dress him or her up in a tiny block M shirt, and watch the game from the couch, knowing we would do this every year at the same time until I died. If we can’t count on the game, what can we count on?
Come on now, this is getting a little bit over the top. For months and months and months, almost everybody on this blog was discussing the possibility of expansion with excitement and anticipation. The addition of Nebraska was celebrated, as was the notion that there were likely to be other additions to come. Big Ten expansion is going to mean that things are going to change, mostly for the good, but there is going to be some collateral damage along the way.
Is it best case scenario that OSU remains the last game on the schedule? Sure. But a couple of years from now all the Buckeyes are going to be to Michigan is another ass to kick on the way to the BCS. Their ass is going to be no more or less kicked in October than at the end of November.
Lets wrap this up. Brandon and company know that the fan base is disappointed by this possible move. But this season is about to start and game week is two days away. Fuck Ohio State for now (and always) and fuck scheduling. Lets kick some Husky ass.
to that random, unnamed, one-half of the Big Ten Conference that is effectively demanding that OSU and Michign be divided up, whether the Wolverine and Buckeye fans like it, or not.
If OSU and Michigan remain in the same division, they can continue to play on the last week of the regular season in November. And in the years when they are the two best teams in the Big Ten conference, their game will just as likely determine "success" for the winner as anything else. As far as the OSU and Wolverine fan bases are concerned, they can have their winner go to the Big Ten Championship Game and play PSU, Nebraska, or whoever-else-ya-got. No problem.
So really, the problem is not in Ann Arbor or Columbus at all, as I see it. The problem is in Madison, Iowa City, East Lansing, Champaign and West Lafayette. They simply cannot stand to be in a division without OSU or Michigan. They want one or the other. They need one or the other.
We will wrap this up the day the Big Ten announces that the Game won't be destroyed. Why quit now, when there is some evidence that the people in charge are at least noticing our campaign?
If you're tired of reading about this, hey, don't click on one of these threads.
This is exactly the idea that I've been trying so hard to explain to my non-college-football friends. It's not just that it's a game against a rival; it's not even that it's tradition (though that's important). It's that this game, and what surrounds it, is a part of the very identity of our program -- what makes us Michigan. The Schembechler name is among the most revered in the lore of our program, but ask yourself -- who is Bo without Woody? It may have started out about Big 2 and little 8, and about winning the conference championship -- but it has transcended that now. It goes deeper. It's the game we point to at the end of the schedule, the final exam, the standard against which we measure each season. This game is a part of who we are as Michigan fans, and to change it is to try to make us something other than what we are. I can understand evolution and changing values (e.g. piped in music at the Big House), but what we're talking about here is losing our soul.
ijohnb, I disagree 100%. It isn't over the top, and it isn't time to move on. This is nothing short of an existential crisis for the identity of our program, and it should be treated as such. It's a bigger deal than who our coach is, or what offense we run, or what our away jerseys look like. It's about WHO WE ARE, as a fanbase and as a program. Thanks, UMQuadz05, for your post.
The question most seem to be asking is "how can we hold on to the past?" That is the wrong question. The question is how does M sustain (or maybe in light of recent years regain?) greatness in the future.
The Big Ten championships will no longer be finally determined under gray November skies, but rather under domes in early December. The goal is no longer to reach the Rose Bowl to face off against the Pac 10 winner, but rather to play in (and win) the national championship game. Assuming it gets moved up in the season, the faceoff against the biggest rival will, on average, be played in better weather.
The biggest games of the year will be played on "fast tracks" (or in the case of the game, faster tracks") -- how can/should M be structured to take advantage? It seems likely that speed will become increasingly important in the Big Ten. This, combined with the Big Ten championship game reducing the layoff, should improve the Big Ten competitiveness in bowls.
Assuming it gets moved up in the season,
Why do we need to assume this? The whole point of this email/media/blog/facebook campaign is to lobby them NOT to move it up in the season.
I didn't say that you had to assume this. I was just pointing out that it looks like this is headed that way.
I think you're exactly right. We all love the past, and personally, I get pissed when a person says that the traditions are not important. They are - and we ought to get upset when things change drastically. Little things ... I'm ok with, but things that have defined Michigan football must be fought for.
Yet, talking about the past does us little good, if we can't figure out how to sustain those essentials in the future, it's all for naught.
The biggest of the main things that we have to focus on is the tradition of winning. Who cares about the traditions if we can't win - and traditions don't make us a winning program; they have given heart to the winningest program in college football. Is the Game a main thing - Of Course! Is it a main thing that it's the end of the season? Of Course!
But, the biggest main thing is winning - and winning The Game. And the questions that move toward figuring out restoring our traditions - making the main thing the main thing, and sustaining those traditions for the future. Those are the things that I want to hear.
do we need two divisions in the big 10(12)? how about everyone plays eachother in the in the big 10(12)- 11 games- ties in a championship series- screw playing Notre Dame or get them in the Big Ten (13)
Currently, in order to have a conference championship game, the NCAA requires two things:
(1) A conference must have 12 (or more) teams, and
(2) The conference must be split into two divisions, such that the teams who meet in the conference championship game are the winners of their respective divisions.
So, in order to have a conference championship game (something I think most everyone wants), the Big Ten must split into two divisions. Whether having everyone in the conference play each other round robin would yield a better system is an interesting question, but one that's sort of irrelevant right now given the NCAA bylaws.