but we can still criticize the players the Athletic directors and coaches even if it doesn't matter
spoiler alert: i linked this
As we sit in the doldrums deep in the middle of the off-season, it is time to ask larger questions in regards to how our obsession with our team manifests itself.
To whit, my question:
What is the purpose, the meaning, of our fan obsession with trying to anticipate what the coaches [and AD/GM’s] are going to do in terms of recruiting, training, scheme, personal decisions and play calling; or after the fact, analyzing those same decisions to mete out praise or criticism?
To be blunt, I find much of this type of fan-based discussion is utterly meaningless, in that it has absolutely no impact on the program. Really, it does not matter what we think. Perhaps if criticism reaches a critical mass or we are a deep pocketed booster, it may affect changes in the program; but for the most part unless we are a player, coach, GM/athletic director, none of what we say has any impact on the program...zero. Let us say that your every opinion is correct in regards to every recruit [whether they will succeed or wash out], our recruiting needs, the recruiting process, in regards to every decision about coaching style, training, scheme and play calling were correct; other than your ability to perhaps make a descent living being an “analyst,” what difference does it make?
The answer is “none.” The vast preponderance of everything we say in regards to our team has absolutely zero impact on the outcome of how our team does. We effect no changes. We make no decisions that impact the future of the program. So even if we know better, even if we are smarter than every other fan out there, even if we are smarter than the coaches themselves, even if we can assert our opinions with flawless logic backed up with unimpeachable evidence and are consistently correct, what in the end is the point, the meaning, of those opinions if they make no difference to the actual program?
First of all, and perhaps the most important and noble reason, is that all of this analysis and opining about our beloved team has the effect of continually stoking our passion for the sport and the team we all love. In the end all of this talk is not really about the team, per se, it is about us and our love, our passion and our devotion for the team. In that sense it is a solipsist endeavor: it is us talking about ourselves and the things we are passionate about. The team is merely the vehicle for us to stoke our passions, it is incidental to the thing of real importance here: our passion(s).
Secondly, and this is the sad underside of this sort of passionate fan arena, is that outlets such as this are a way for us to bolster and puff our tender, fragile egos. He who can bluster the best and loudest, he who can put down the “idiots” and “n00bs” with the most style and panache, gains a “rep” and a following and by continually using bullying behaviors these blowhards can keep themselves at the top of this heap. They are often protected by the anonymity that the web provides and many, if not most, would never talk or behave in the way they do on these boards in real life. I do grant that for the most part the discussion boards on this web site do seem to bring a degree of civility not present on other boards, which should be commended. That said, there is a “hierarchy” even here and this blog readership has its petty tyrants.
In the end, whether you are here to stoke your passion for the team, or you are here to bolster your ego and build your “rep,” in the end all of this is really about us. The team is merely vehicle that we use feed our own needs, and this blog with its social network provides a convenient place for us “gather” and meet those needs.
but we can still criticize the players the Athletic directors and coaches even if it doesn't matter
At first I thought the subject line was really deep--"true are the opinions that don't matter." Tres Lao Tsu, n'est-ce pas?
But then I realized what you meant and I was sad.
Perhaps there is a group that can help you with your sadness...
I gather this is an admission that you are in the second category?
internet rep. i just think there's no point in stating the obvious* w/ 1200 words.
*that being, in this case: nothing we discuss here will affect the team in the fall.
And yet you felt the need to offer a put down...interesting...
Of course the 1200 comment was obvious...and itself utterly meaningless...that is the meta-subtext of a meta-commentary...the deeper irony of the post
I was bored and needed something to do other than work...
I think this is a very fair critique of what is going on with regard to the intranets, this blog, posters, fan talk, etc. Well done!
Thanks...It was just one of those days where you read one opion too many...
Since the dawn of human history, human beings have been tribal animals. By allowing for specialization according to skills, associating into tribes allows humans in groups to accomplish far more than any individual alone could hope to achieve. Tribal association is good for survival.
However, human beings are also inherently selfish. Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the desire of the individual, and when this happens in a tribal society, the individual's loyalty to the tribe must be stronger than his own desires, or else the entire tribe will suffer.
Thus, from an evolutionary perspective, a drive to be a part of a larger collective, a desire to identify with and be recognized as part of a group working toward a common goal, this personality trait is good for survival. In other words, because tribes have greater survival potential than individuals, natural selection favors a strong desire for association in human beings.
Now, set tribal association into a context with limited resources. If there is not enough for everyone, but the tribe has a better chance of survival than the individual, then what is the natural solution? Tribes must compete against other tribes. Thus do we not only define ourselves by whom we work with, but also by whom we struggle against.
Now, fast forward to the modern era. Our survival nowadays is supported by communities so large that they have no faces. I don't know the farmer who grew the rice that went into my lunchtime burrito, nor the buyer who bought his rice, nor the driver who delivered the rice to Chipotle. I don't know the man who founded Chipotle, nor the man who does its corporate finances and ensures they will be there tomorrow to make me another burrito. The benefit of such a huge community is that it makes getting lunch incomparably easier than in caveman days. But buying lunch doesn't fulfill my inborn need to belong to a tribe, or my need for my tribe to compete against others.
Sports, on the other hand, offer a perfect solution to the combined need for belonging and competition. A football team consists of 100 members, give or take -- a small enough number to keep track of. There is tremendous scarcity of resources (taking resources as wins, Big Ten Championships, etc), thus the many tribes must complete fiercely for what resources they can gain. Following a team makes us part of a tribe, if only by proxy. It makes us feel a part of a community, in a way that getting a burrito doesn't. And that's why sports raise in people a passion that lunch usually doesn't: our fanhood isn't born of casual intellectual pursuit, but of a more primal need to belong, and to compete. I love UFR's, but I'd still love Michigan Football without them. Whereas how many of you would read a UFR of a game between Fresno State and UTEP? The intellectual debate is great, especially on this site; it may even be what brings us here (as opposed to the Scout boards, or the Free Press, or what have you). But what makes us fans? Nothing short of evolution.
I don't know about evolution but as Rush says about his own football passion, is that you can pour your heart into it becuase it does not matter...in the end because of our love for our team no one is going to raise or taxes of send us off to war...it is a safe outlet for our passions. Aristotle called this "catharsis," the cleansing of our selves from harmful and destructive emotions. In a way, football...or sports in general...is a kind of religion, engendering the same emotions but without the same sense of life or death seriousness about it.
So to address, then, the question posed in the OP: why do we spend all offseason talking about it? Because that's how we reinforce our belonging to the Michigan Football community. It's doubtful that ancient tribal membership was only a 5-month-a-year affair. But how can we build our tribal allegiance, or strive for rank within the tribe, when there are no games to attend? Because we are ourselves not players, because we can't reinforce our tribal membership by practicing routes or lifting weights -- we must have some other way of maintaining our contact with the tribe. Thus, we fill the internet with our comments, questions, and concerns. Is the time we spend debating defensive schemes or recruiting rankings pointless? In a narrow sense, yes -- our opinions don't much affect the team we follow. But to say "it doesn't matter what we think" is to miss the point of why we comment in the first place. Even a few people who thought the OP was dumb nevertheless felt the need to write in and say so -- why? Their comments only reinforce the underlying goal of the whole process: to be part of, and respected in, a community.
Interesting point and a good addition to what I was saying, but one that does not negate the essential point, but rather it adds a bit more depth to the point that all of our commentating is really about us. Whether it is to stoke our passions, feed our ego, or to build a sense of shared tribal identity, the team itself is incidental to the larger needs that we are trying to meet in ourselves. If it was not UM Football it would be something else. In the end, whether it is for your reasons or mine, all of this that we de here and elsewhere is still all about us.
you mean to tell me that that wasn't all of it?
That you exceeded the limitless? Went where no man has gone before? Dreamed the impossible dream?
heck of a post...or two i guess
+1 (if I could actually vote already)
Well, the middle part--about the rice grower or the founder of Chipotle--that seems to clash with theories telling us that the world is actually growing smaller due to the intranets, high-speed travel, etc. Instant communication, cell phones, IM, and other such gadgetry, "they" tell us, is indeed rendering our planet smaller and easier to communicate/see/be in contact with people--many of them we never would have known before. I think, in other words, that there are MANY more choices of "tribes" to belong to or associate oneself with.
I actually believe that sports is (are?) fractious--they are polarizing in a lot of ways. Whether its coaches, wins and losses, individual players, recruiting/free agency, uniform colors and combinations, and many other areas that fans clash over--I don't really see sports as bringing a whole lot of commonality or community in the end, unless maybe they are perennial winners. But even there, you have The Media that sure sees fit to be a force of disruption much of the time.
From what I can gather from this diary, your first would be that people don't try to influence others with their opinion. OK. Next, that people shouldn't be talking about the intricacies of the football program so much. Allright. And then that they shouldn't be bad. Agree.
What is left of this board after we implement your suggestions: Brian's posts? Or does Brian express his opinion too much?
There is no recomendation at all. Just awareness that we are engaging in something utterly without meaning except as a benefit to ourselves. Throw yourself into it with all its pointlessness, be passionate...don't be a petty tyrant dickhead...and let all of this fuel your passion for the team we all love...
"...we are engaging in something utterly without meaning except as a benefit to ourselves. Throw yourself into it with all its pointlessness, be passionate..."
this is all an exercise in mental masturbation. Your above quote is no better description.
Crude...but essentially bang on...
Does that make MGBlog and other publications like it...well...like...porn?
As stated above, there is nothing that our commenting is really going to change. I guess that is real-world for most things.
But, and I do think this is important, we can learn and have a better understanding of what is transpiring (I made that general as this applies to all blogs for us).
Thus we can have a better appreciation of what is going on on the field and in recruiting. Hopefully, this blog will help us all (from the Nissan commercials from a few years back) better "enjoy the ride."
That is true...I do have a much better understanding and appreciation for the game...
I've learned a tremendous amount about football from reading this site that I didn't know before, and a lot of that knowledge has come from diary or MGoBoard posts. Sure, sometimes the offseason conversation gets irrelevant or trite, but even now there are still educational opportunities here.
Not only football, but I have learned a lot from OT posts, HTML stuff, acronyms, and current slang (some of which I probably should try to forget).
And I have also enjoyed a great many of the links people have posted, as well as the spin-off blogs (WLA, but also GSimmons blog down and out).
Edit: Whoops, GSimmons blog is "three and out" not "down and out"
Excatly...as long as you can keep that perspective in your fandom you should be fine...
Back in the early 70's, when I took Philosophy 101, the popular thing for many Philosophy profs to do was to give the question "why?" as a final exam.
"Why not" was an A, and anything else, no matter how finely crafted, or how many pages, was purportedly an F.
I got an A.
I cannot agree more. I think about this exact thing all the time.
Another factor that I think just adds to your point is that the majority of these chat board topics involve kids aging from 15 in some cases to young adults generally no older than 23. I think everyone, me included, can benefit from a little perspective from time to time.
As someone who is born on the 4th of July...and turns 42 tomorrow...you are welcome...
There are times that at "my age" I feel foolish for being such a passionate fan...then I shrug and think...whatever...its what I love...
I cannot imagine what it is like as a 15-17 year old to have your athletic ability, game smarts, and you physique critiqued by countless people. Many of the discriptions make these young men seem almost like they are a piece of horse flesh. Or worse, some of the descriptions are not unlike some of the images and discriptions one gets from a slave market. When you hear about things like "fast hips," a "good frame that will allow him to put on weight," and so forth, you begin to wonder...
We all gonna gather around and sing Kumbaya now?
We're just one big happy family?
And once in a while we all come together and have group hugs and experience a moment of clarity?
Maybe watch some chick flicks and eat chocolate?
I heard there would be free beer if I signed up for this blog thingy. Are you saying there is no beer?
its called criticizm retard
sports are a sort of escape from the problems of every day life. This is kind of funny to me, however, considering that sometimes sports can actually cause a problem (like when you lose). As to why we care so deeply, I think it extends off of that idea of an escape. We want to feel like we matter. That's why I think fans have their own superstitions. Humans have the desire to be important in everything they do, including sports, even if it's just watching them.
Some look at a thread and say why?
I look at a thread and say why not?
A good post, but I take issue with one aspect of it that is an undercurrent throughout, and I think is emphasized by this:
"The team is merely the vehicle..." (emphasis mine)
I'm not entirely sure what your attitude is with regard to your observations, but this statement seems to indicate that the status quo, as you've described it, does not fit your expectations or ideals. Perhaps you could offer up what you think football fandom/commentary/etc. ought to be? What meaning are you looking for?
Anyway, I have two contentions. They are not with your observations as a whole but with an apparent bias that you have in understanding them, for one. The other is your methodology, which I think is hindered by over-utilization of reductionism.
You posit, here, "In the end all of this talk is not really about the team, per se, it is about us and our love, our passion and our devotion for the team" and continue "The team is merely the vehicle for us to stoke our passions, it is incidental to the thing of real importance here: our passion." You're ascribing more weight to one side of this observation (the "human" side if you will, as opposed to the "team" side). Is the team really incidental? Would anything conjure our passions in such a way? I vouch to the contrary. The quality of our passion is indicative of more than characteristics of the individual fan; it has a lot to do with the qualities of that about which we are passionate. (+1 Yale grammar point)
How much should be ascribed to whichever side, I cannot say, but you seem to ignore the fact that all of this human passion exists, not in a vacuum, but in an environment. To posit the human as the ultimate origin is obvious, but only because humans are the object of interest in our examination. Our passions do not originate in isolation; they come from within the individual, yes, but what is within us is determined in large part by our environment (physical and social) and our understanding of the environment -- this counts double for things-within that are expressed (as there is an element of selection in this -- not everything is expressed, and our decisions about what to express are regulated by our environment and understanding of it).
This is an easy trap to fall into when using reductionism. It is a useful tool but can be deleterious to a thorough understanding if not used carefully. For example, the economy can be divided into each individual transaction and described as nothing more than the sum of those transactions; but the predictive value of this exercise is little, as a number of failed formulas to predict various aspects of the market demonstrate. Similarly, the whole of football fandom can be divided into each individual's experience, but this may not be indicative of the greater whole. Perhaps it may, but it's important to keep in mind the overall context of the situation.
And now for a little bit of my own bias: Combining an observation from Wolverbean's post (in which he beat me to the proverbial punch), that of humans' social needs for tribal/group identity, I don't think a sports team being a vehicle for this identity is at all worthy of being disparaged. If, through our love and allegiance to this team, we are able to become part of something greater than our individual selves, then indeed this team has become a vehicle for transcendence. Any movement along the transcendent dimension, however small or meaningless it may seem, is a more than worthwhile endeavor.
Your thoughts are interesting. The argument that there is something essential in University of Michigan Football, something in its essence that necessitates people's passions, something essential in University of Michigan Football that necessitates the binding together of the "tribe" does not look at the nature of the phenomenon properly. And to say that my argument is reductionistic is simply mistaken.
There is one class of "myths" that truly fit the bill of what you are talking about and that is the "myth" of the divine. An essential being upon which we are dependant for our existence demands a response from us, a response sufficient to create a group identity (we are worshipers of the divine being upon which we depend for our existence) and warrant the generation of our passions.
But anything which arises out of the same material and temporal universe in which we do is not "essential" a "thing-unto-itself" and is thus "dependant" for its existence, thus "incidental." The reason this distinction is important is to recognize the dynamics that are in play.
Is Michigan Football such that it is not dependant upon any of us for its existence, as would be the case with a divine being? The reality is Michigan Football is as much dependant as any of us. In fact, the truth be told, "Michigan Football" is entirely the creation of a silent conspiracy between fans, coaches and players, whereby together we write and invest energy in the supporting myths of this entity. We create Michigan Football through the process of our own myth making. Then we buy into the myths and give them weight. Jacques Ellul writes very persuasively about this very topic in his book “Propaganda.”
Perhaps the most frightening tale of this sort of activity taken to its most negative extreme is the way the myth of “the state” or the myth of “the nation,” “the people” was exploited by the Nazis to reach their horrific end.
Even if one chooses not to go so deep as to the apply the distinction between dependant things and essential or non-dependant things, it is not hard to see that Michigan Football is incidental to our passions in terms of priority. If there were no Michigan Football is there some necessity to say that it must be created, that it will inevitably come into existence? Of course not. If it were not Michigan Football, it would be something else. The fast that there are 60+ football teams in the major BCS college football programs all with rabid fan bases should speak to the incidental nature of Michigan Football.
In order of dependency, it should be fairly easy to see that Michigan Football is dependant upon our passions, dependant upon our myth making for its existence. Michigan Football exists to satisfy some need within ourselves, the need to band together and be passionate about something. If it were not Michigan Football it would be something else.
This is not to disparage the program or its achievements. Most of the myths about our beloved program are rooted in reality, but that said, the program exists to serve our passions and not the other way around. It is all about us. Why the hell do you think we get so pissed when we lose? For one, the program exists to give us that winning feeling at least 9 times a year and always in the last game of the season so that we can walk tall and proud in our Maize and Blue and puff out our chests and be secure in our importance. Again, Michigan football is all about us and our needs our passions, our need to bond together.
First, let me thank you for bringing in the obligatory Nazi reference.
Now, this: If it were not Michigan Football, it would be something else. This assertion is counterfactual and does not support your argument. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a lynchpin to it.
Your argument relies on the assumption that there is a distinction between things that are essential and things that are not. With this in mind, you are able to argue that Michigan Football is incidental. Yet I see no reason to believe that essence and divinity are not continuous throughout all of reality. I will argue that if these are continuous, then your point is false because the distinction between essential and incidental is a fallacy; on the other hand, if they are not continuous, then Michigan Football is essential.
With your blade of maya shakti (“reductionism” is the best English equivalent I know of) you have cut the fabric of existence into distinguishable parts. Yet in your final conclusion, you failed to set the blade upon your own human identity. In so doing, you have created an illusion of centrality which posits human passion as an ultimate cause.
What, exactly, is this human point of origin? Who are the progenitors of the silent conspiracy? By what authority does our passion determine the nature of Michigan Football?
Unless humans are –by your wording— essential, then we are dependent upon external forces to determine our nature. With this in mind, whatever our passion generates is also dependent on these external forces. Are we to speak of passion as a thing-unto-itself? If passion is dependent, then there are confounding variables generating Michigan Football. Given the nature of confounders, in particular those that influence the cause of an outcome of interest, it is difficult to posit that outcome as "incidental" to any one thing more than any other.
Of particular interest (and the most obvious one I can come up with) is our ascription of Michigan Football to ourselves as a source of identity. Our passion has its hand in generating Michigan Football, yes, but Michigan Football has its hand in generating our passion. This is my original argument, and you acknowledge its truth. Yet you insist that our passion is essential to Michigan Football—yet Michigan Football is not essential to our passion.
The triangle is a classic example of an essential thing, because its perfect form does not exist in the material world—only approximations; in its pure form, it is abstract. Thus, it seems to exist beyond the material world, and so fits into the category of essential by your stated criteria. And yet, did triangles exist, as a concept, before human minds created them? Perhaps… but there is no reason to believe so. But if human minds are essential, then this doesn’t matter, because the thing creating the triangle does not spring from the material world, and so the triangle also does not spring from the material world.
The same can be said of Michigan Football. There are, throughout time, physical approximations of it (various administrators, staff, players, events, etc.) but the “pure form” of Michigan Football transcends these temporally limited manifestations. Its myth springs forth entirely from the human mind, in your argument. And so, if human minds are essential then so is Michigan Football, as its “perfect form” is not rooted in the material realm.
Yet if human minds are dependent, then so is the perfect conceptualization of a triangle, as are the notions of divinity and essence themselves, as we have no reason to believe these existed before the human mind. If indeed the concepts of "divinity" and "essence" are created by dependent human minds, and therefore are rooted in the material realm, then divinity and essence are continuous throughout reality—inasmuch as the principle of individuation will fail to distinguish them from other dependents—along with the rest of us detritus. That being the case, your description of Michigan Football as “incidental” to our passion is dispelled and we return to the arbitrary ascription of greater weight to either the “human” side or the “team” side… and in this regard we simply have our preferences.
Ultimately, I agree with you in your conclusion but with slight modification—that our needs, passions, and bonding are of primary concern to the fan when it comes to Michigan Football. I disagree that this phenomenon is reflective of a greater metaphysical truth about Michigan Football itself. I vouch, your analysis posits human passion as the primary cause because you are a fan, and this is an artifact of your perceptual bias as such. Michigan Football means something different to everyone, and when you put it all together you have more than passion, needs, and bonding—you have a truly essential thing inasmuch as anything can be essential.