Culture Shock: Yay, Boo

Submitted by Brian on March 23rd, 2009 at 2:30 PM

michigan-stadium

One of the great complaints about Michigan football as conceived under Lloyd Carr was its distinct funereal air. I was a Carr proponent in many things, but at times it seemed like he barely tolerated the fandom that paid his salary.

This on display most obviously when it came to the spring "game," which Carr canceled a couple times due to stadium construction and downplayed at all other times. Never in its history was it, like, an event, and that seemed like a missed opportunity to have some fun. You know… "fun"? Ah, hell, forget it.

Rodriguez likes fun:

In hopes of enhancing Michigan’s annual spring football game, the athletic department will offer additional activities this year, including a flag football game featuring former U-M players.

The hour-long event, scheduled to start at 10 a.m. April 11 at Michigan Stadium, will feature former U-M head coach Gary Moeller coaching the maize squad and longtime assistant Jerry Hanlon coaching the blue team.

Cool. Also:

On Friday, the athletic department announced that fans will be able to tour the Michigan locker room and take photos from 8-10 a.m.

The cheerleaders and the band will be involved last year, unlike previous ones.

Rodriguez wants to break the all-time attendance record for the spring game. This is going to take some doing. Some showmanship. And so forth and so on. Even attempting such a thing will transform the Spring Game from a sleepy thing attended mostly by diehards into something that fosters a connection with the program. I am enthused and grateful for this sort of thing.

HOWEVA, an email:

Brian,

I just happened to catch Rich Rodriguez at UMDM on the live video at www.umdm.org.  He mentioned this:  (allow me some room for error, I don't have a recording)

"We want to make the Big House the most electric atmosphere in the nation.  We're obviously gonna keep the band involved, and we're gonna try and play a little music, do a few new things with the scoreboard and stuff like that."

Feel free to interpret that as you will, but I'm worried about a little sparty creeping into the Big House...

Corey

Yikes. This is the flip side of that coin. It's not easy to protest this sort of thing without emitting a "get off my lawn, kids(!)" air, but: dude, seriously, get off the lawn you hippies.

An attempt: one of the most powerful things that forges a fan community is the shared culture that naturally arises when you can say things like "one second left against Penn State" and know that the person you're talking to is thinking and feeling the exact same thing you are. It sets the group apart. This apart-ness is fundamental to the passion sports fans experience: it's us and them, and the more us our us is and the more them their them is, the more important the thing beneath us seems.

Michigan has a lot of culture. That, fundamentally, is its main asset. From that culture flows the passion, and from that passion flows the money. Part of that culture is a public address announcer who embodies neutral gravitas. Part of it is the lack of advertising in the stadium. And part of that is the way the game is presented inside the stadium, with no "NoISe!!!" signs or plastic chariots or electromagic Spartys with frickin' eye lasers.

I like it like that. I like my church with incense and deceased Jesus, my Christmas carols by Bing Crosby, and my Michigan Stadium without frickin' eye lasers.

It's safe to say I'm torn about what's going on here. I'd like it if the spring game was a game. And if it was worth going to. But that's not worth making Michigan Stadium chintzy. Any stadium experience revamp should be made with Michigan's existing culture in mind.

For example: Michigan debuted a hype video for the first time ever this year. It was fine. I thought it was pretty good. But it could have been a hype video for just about any school that had so few offensive seniors it had to drag Mike Massey into things. It would have been much better if it had taken some Michigan themes and integrated them. One such change: instead of "I am Michigan," or whatever, have people say "the team." There: done. Bo invoked, Michigan-specific, hurray.

Go ahead and change things, but please have a delicate hand. Let's not rush to join the great sweaty mass of brahs all around us. Let's not toss away something unique.

Comments

KzooBlue

March 23rd, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

Everything looks okay to move forward on except the music in the stadium. I don't know if I could take that. I don't go to college games to get a fake, sponsored, NFL-type feel.

mad magician

March 23rd, 2009 at 2:56 PM ^

I think Lloyd's primary reason for hating the spring game was a justifiable fear of catastrophic injury to key player. But yeah, they did have a quasi-scrimmage on the last spring practice, and it was only open for friends and family, and was not usually held in the stadium, and that was something of a lost opportunity to play to the fan base.

Also, this idea of non-marching band music and scoreboard gimmicks has Murray Hewitt written all over it ("You could have a bit of hay, out of the corner of your mouth..."). Anyone who has travelled to a road game will tell you how stupid the scoreboard cartoons at State and Purdue and Wisconsin and even OSU are (remember Clarett? The Maurice the Beast animation?). I hope we don't go down that road.

This may make me sound like a pontificating purist, but I've always loved the Michigan Stadium experience as is. It's all about the game. I love the benches. I love being in this giant bowl where really there are no bad seats, and I never cared too much for socializing in the student section or anything like that-- for the four hours on that day, I was there to watch the game, and the game is all I care about. No AC/DC, no noise-a-meter, no kiss-cam, no advertisements. Thanks Brian for being an ombudsman in the cause of Michigan football saturdays.

STW P. Brabbs

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:02 PM ^

Donors freaked out about the Halo. Let's pray God they similarly freak out if Rich tries to play recorded music and bullshit videos in the Big House.

I have never said this until now: Rich, this ain't West Fuckin' Virginia.

exmtroj

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:17 PM ^

You're right, this ain't West Virginia. They win BCS bowls at WVU, there's the difference. I'll trade a little more rock for big wins, the Big House is as lame as they come a lot of the time. If it weren't for the student section, it'd be the biggest funeral home in the country.

exmtroj

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:40 PM ^

My point was Rich Rod did certain things there that obviously worked, whether those included piping music or pumping the fans up, I don't know, I've never been to a WVU game. But if the guy who won two BCS bowls wants to change some things, let him. Not everyone thinks that all of our traditions are sweet. It's not like he's talking about changing the winged helmets, just creating a non-lame atmosphere.

JeremyB

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:04 PM ^

Let's hope this is just RichRod not really knowing any better, like the incident with the #1 jersey last year, and he'll back down. That said, the athletic department has managed to turn the basketball and hockey pep bands into request-taking, YMCA-playing jukeboxes, so who knows.

matty blue

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:06 PM ^

my thoughts exactly. look, i love the breath of fresh air, and all that. we needed it badly. but some of this stuff...jesus, it just seems so tone-deaf, and the #1 jersey is a perfect, perfect example of it.

i'm definitely a lawn-protector, i know, but i hate this "let's break a record for a spring game" bullshit. it's minor league...and the "recruits it miight matter to" aren't the guys i want to root for. we can get the best athletes in the country without all this extraneous crapola.

jwfsouthpaw

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:45 PM ^

"I hate this 'let's break a record for a spring game' bullshit. It's minor league...and the 'recruits it might matter to' aren't the guys I want to root for."

How dare Rich Rodriguez try to excite the fan base for the spring game? Doesn't he know that Michigan fans exude utter indifference until the season starts? Doesn't he know that Lloyd Carr basically wrote off the spring game year after year? Curse him for trying to, you know, actually fill the stadium for the spring game! Totally unacceptable. That's totally "minor league." I mean, why bother filling the seats with actual people? Who cares about generating excitement for spring football? Not us Michigan fans! God forbid us from ever, ever, EVER filling the stadium. Sacrilege, I tell you!

And how dare recruits get excited at the prospect of 100,000+ people attending a spring game? They should prefer that the stands are empty! Old school all the way. I mean, 17-year old kids thrilled at the prospect of seeing 100,000 people at a game that doesn't matter--in a stadium they could play in--are NOT the type of kids I want playing for Michigan! No way. Give me someone who prefers the atmosphere at a church! That's a true "Michigan Man."

End sarcasm.

The FannMan

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:06 PM ^

Funny, and I agree, but a bit much, no? I mean, let the dude go to his corner already!

IMHO, we shouldn't get mad about Rich Rod talking about breaking the record for spring game attendance. We should get mad that we don't own that record. Then we should go and set the damn thing year, after year, after year.

The FannMan

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:06 PM ^

Funny, and I agree, but a bit much, no? I mean, let the dude go to his corner already!

IMHO, we shouldn't get mad about Rich Rod talking about breaking the record for spring game attendance. We should get mad that we don't own that record. Then we should go and set the damn thing year, after year, after year.

jwfsouthpaw

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:29 PM ^

Perhaps a bit much, but fun nevertheless.

And I agree -- Michigan Stadium IS the largest stadium in the country, so why doesn't Michigan hold the attendance record for a spring game?

Answer: apathetic previous regime, and apathetic (to a large extent) fan base. What's wrong with injecting some enthusiasm into the program?

jwfsouthpaw

March 23rd, 2009 at 11:12 PM ^

No, "dense" is your complete inability to grasp simple economics as they apply to the stadium renovations.

"Dense" is arguing that filling the stadium for the spring game (which is basically what RR is advocating) is "minor league."

"Dense" is stating that 100,000+ people at the spring game should not affect recruits' excitement about the program. Imagine that you are a recruit with offers from every major program in college football. You like Schools A and B equally. School A has a huge stadium but comparably few fans show up for the spring game, and they seem nonchalant. School B has a huge stadium, and fans fill nearly all of them. They are actively engaged in the game and cheer.

You're kidding yourself if you honestly believe this has no impact on your decision.

matty blue

March 24th, 2009 at 9:24 AM ^

do you think that most of our fans "seem nonchalant" on game day? i sure do. what makes you think that they'll seem any less so for an exhibition game?

if you're trying to wow recruits with a hyped-up, rabid stadium, that battle is already lost, real game or spring game. we both know that what's going to bring recruits is wins, bcs games, nfl draft picks, barwis eee...not a spring game attendance record.

matty blue

March 24th, 2009 at 9:11 AM ^

look, i have no problem with the spring game becoming something that people will actually want to watch. i've probably been to twenty of the things, and i walked away from just about every one of them wishing that there'd been more to it. i've said before - i enjoy the breath of fresh air that rodriguez has brought to the team, and i'm really looking forward to seeing more of a game this year. i'll drive my 3 hours each way to be there, like i do most years.

but you know what will "excite the fan base" and excite recruits? wins. bcs games. the atmosphere on game day...and i would humbly submit that the spring game will never reach that level, no matter how many people attend it.

i stand by my statement that the goal of breaking some non-existent attendance record for an exhibition game is minor league. it's just such a small, meaningless goal to reach for. say that you want to draw fans in to the stadium for a great experience. say that you want to give the fans a great show. say that you want to give recruits a taste of the game day experience. say that you want the players to experience as close to game conditions as possible...but say that you want to "break the spring game attendance record?" seriously. who gives a fuck?

cazzie33

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:12 PM ^

You're dead-on correct. Don't let this happen.

I was stunned last fall to hear crappy hard rock blaring during warmups, and I love crappy hard rock--everywhere but in Michigan Stadium. True, the band wasn't out yet, but guess what? I don't need crappy hard rock to get jacked for a game. Neither should Rich Rod or the team.

I go to Penn State games and hear crappy hard rock (and some decent R&B) filling the TV-timeout void and I weep for the state of college football, and for the incredible vanishing Blue Band, which isn't a bad outfit if you let them play.

This all started with the luxury corporate skyboxes (which no euphemism can disguise) that Mary Sue ("Ooh now it looks just like Iowa!") Coleman and Bill (Once a developer ...) Martin foisted on our formerly perfect stadium.

It will continue with piped-in noise and advertising and intelligence-insulting scoreboard graphics unless We the True Fans step in to educate our still-newbie coach. We are at the edge of a very slippery slope, the footing is crumbling, and at the bottom is a hideous commercial hell. Let's stay above it.

jmblue

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:22 PM ^

The crappy hard rock has actually blared during warmups for a few years now. It started under Lloyd.

As for the boxes, given that they affect absolutely nothing inside the bowl, what's the big deal? Do you really care that much about the architectural integrity of what was formerly just a bowl of metal siding? Hey, if people want to pay in the five figures to rent a box, I've got no problem. The alternative is a spike in ticket prices.

jmblue

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:45 PM ^

I can guarantee that ticket prices would go up one hell of a lot more in a luxury box-less future than they will now that we're building them. Our fans want us to field a lot of varsity sports teams (we've got 25) and to be competitive in all of them. That costs money.

And I'm sorry, but the idea that an asymmetrical bowl (remember the "notch" on the east sideline) with horrible acoustics, some obstructed seats (along the press box), and ringed with cheap aluminum siding constitutes architectural "perfection" is comical. I think it's cool that we've had the biggest stadium, but it's been far from perfect. Surveys showed that most fans backed the renovations. You do not hold a majority opinion.

cazzie33

March 24th, 2009 at 2:11 PM ^

... anti-luxury boxers don't hold the majority opinion. Just the correct one.

A new, larger press box would have been fine, fixing the blind spots and providing a few boxes. Martin's overreaction is a monstrosity.

But it's too late, and pointless to argue. It'll look fine from the outside, all brick and nostalgia, but wait until you see what it's like on the inside: a glassy Southfield office park incongruously attached to a classic (is that better than "perfect"?) stadium.

ShockFX

March 24th, 2009 at 11:22 PM ^

I don't understand how you can say someone's opinion isn't correct. The luxury boxes will fund the entire cost of stadium renovation. It's a great solution. Also, when you're inside the stadium, why do you care about anything except what it looks like on the field?

I'll take things not in my field of vision while I'm watching the football game bother me because I'm an old man with hemorrhoids for $500 Alex.

wile_e8

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:16 PM ^

There was a post about this a while ago while the whole renovation thing was getting approved, and the main idea was that the luxury boxes would pay for the whole renovation. And by renovation, I mean that the "formerly perfect stadium" was old and needed to have concrete replaced, aisles widened, bathrooms added, etc. And the choice was to either a) raise ticket prices a whole lot (even more than usual) for everyone, or b) add luxury boxes on to the renovations, and then charge the fat cats with big wallets enough to pay for the boxes and the renovations to the bowl. So the luxury boxes allow the bowl to be brought up to modern standards without raising ticket prices, in fact allowing them to be lowered.

octal9

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:29 PM ^

I know he mentions the band in the previous breath and then goes on to say that we're going to "play a little music," but this doesn't mean that it's going to get piped in.

Yes, one can infer that. At that point, it is still an inference.

turbo cool

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:39 PM ^

i hate hippies just as much as the next guy. however, i don't think this is as bad as made out to be. i like how when watching their spring practice video they had music going. that didn't seem so bad. i like how there is an alumni game and fans are able to tour the stadium. where is the harm in that?

quit overreacting. rich knows where he is and understands the tradition. i don't think this is the same as the whole #1 jersey situation that happened last year. this is purely for recruiting purposes and perhaps getting more fans interested during the off-season.

jamiemac

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:39 PM ^

some piped in music every now and then if it somehow eliminates any and all future usage of the Key Play, uh, "tradition."

Thats some stupid stuff right there, if you ask me. I'd trade the scoreboard flashing a "lets make some noise" icon over you goofs and your keys any day.

Oh, and since I have not been able to hear the band in my seats for going on three seasons now (never a problem, before. but now the band sounds mute up in my seats. I wonder whats at play there), I'll take a little rock and roll.

Don

March 23rd, 2009 at 3:50 PM ^

Howeva, for 38 years I've listened to the marching band sluggishly plod through one Broadway show tune and soft-rock ballad after another... the only mitigating factor is that it's not as loud as the crap you hear blaring out of most stadium sound systems. Poxes on all of it, which is why halftime is for taking a leak and getting a dog.

Bando Calrissian

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

No, no, no, no, no. Piped in music=BAD.

Look what's happened at Penn State, where piped-in music and an ill-conceived seating relocation has pretty much made their band irrelevant. Also see: Crisler Arena.

I'm not saying this as a band kid, because I'm a band kid and find a lot of band kids to be annoying. I'm saying this as a lifetime Michigan Stadium inhabitant. This is bull. I thought the hype video was cheesy enough... No. What's next, coming out of the tunnel to Thunderstruck a la FYS?

The sad part is that Athletics and Marketing don't give a crap and think that since everybody else does it, it's probably OK. Also watch to see if the Band administration bends over as usual and lets it go. If it were me, and I were the MMB, the second they pipe in music, I'm taking the kids up the tunnel and marching back to Revelli.

Big Boutros

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:11 PM ^

1. Rich Rod has spoken of a few things that ultimately did not come to fruition due to public outcry (Darryl Stonum's auto-bid for the #1 jersey comes to mind). Hott Muzak will only rear its head if Michigan fans/donors allow it to.

2. As Frosted Chex Dex pointed out, Michigan Stadium is no stranger to ass-flavored music; it is both pumped in over the speakers during warmups and the band has committed a couple of misfires as well (Sugar We're Going Down Swinging or whatever it's called by Chuck Pants and the Labia Boys).

mad magician

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:27 PM ^

Piped in music during pre-game is fine. After all, the band, and most fans, are not even in the stadium at this point. But I don't want "Thunderstruck" playing on the speakers during a 4th quarter timeout before a big third down. I'll take the marching band playing some shitty emo songs over that.

Bando Calrissian

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:17 PM ^

Remember, Rich Rod was directly responsible for the disaster that was "I NEED MORE COWBELL!" between the 3rd and 4th quarters. Thank God that died a quick and quiet death midway through the season. It was his idea, and a bad idea it was.

noahtahl

March 23rd, 2009 at 4:17 PM ^

news, sports and any other info in the form of a newspaper or magazine.

for cripes sake ur on the internet. I guess u can pick or choose what can be changed or just maybe improved on.

I say if the blue hairs dont want to make noise, pipe it in.