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

mabrsu

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:23 PM ^

What is Bill Martin's email address? I would love to email him to thank him for our hoops coach and to push forward with the spring game.

PeterKlima

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:43 PM ^

Brian,

Please use the front page to post a form letter to Bill Martin regarding ROCK muzak and the like in the stadium. I think it's better that we are all on the same page with our requests.

I think only a strong letter-writing campaign can save us now.

Blake

March 23rd, 2009 at 5:47 PM ^

I find it funny that so many of the comments blame RichRod for these supposed changes. I'm pretty sure he worries more about the team than whether they play music or not.

The true venom should be spewed at Athletic Administration and the Marketing Department...they're the ones who think "atmosphere" comes in the form of free pizza.

ShockFX

March 23rd, 2009 at 6:35 PM ^

Can I get onboard the jump to conclusions train before it leaves the station? Oh, what's that? I don't have to think just jump on? Awesome. I hope my righteous anger turns out to be even remotely accurate or appropriate.

I mean, one (admittedly NOT perfect) quote:
"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."

and people are freaking the hell out. I vote that nobody can complain until they get the third down key shaking trash banned. Because if your idea of appropriate atmosphere involves shaking keys on command, you should be tossed overboard.

GustaveFerbert

March 23rd, 2009 at 7:42 PM ^

too long turns into 3-9...

Changing to say, I do not know, perhaps have night games...would that offend all you old f'ers too?

I suppose some of you still want to wear a coat and tie to the game and maybe even make it an all white team again.

chally

March 23rd, 2009 at 11:08 PM ^

Yes, night games would offend us old-timers.

Yes, I think a coat-and-tie would make the game day atmosphere much improved.

And no, that doesn't somehow make me a bigot to wish that you spoiled kids and your oversized t-shirts would stop clamoring for games that stretch into the middle of the night just so that you don't have to wake up before noon and attempt to shotgun a six-pack of Milwaukee's Best on the walk to the stadium.

wolverinewest

March 24th, 2009 at 11:31 AM ^

I know your tickets cost more, but don't forget it's the University's football team. If the student population were to petition successfully for a night game, I would say nuts to you old timer. Have another beer and try to stay up past halftime. If the fans from PSU, LSU, OSU, FLA (esp FLA) can handle a night game, there's no reason UM fans can't. Or is it some weird thing were people in Michigan have to work early on Sunday mornings?

GustaveFerbert

March 24th, 2009 at 8:18 PM ^

is that sometimes when you do not make changes and continue to live in the past, that you get passed by and no longer remain relevant. Michigan got passed by in many ways - player development, facilities, etc...And this, along with the changes last year, led to an "unforgettable year."

And, of course, the comment was not about night games or hype videos, but I did not think I needed to explain it.

cutter

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:21 PM ^

I live in Phoenix and have attended pro football, baseball, basketball and hockey games here. The one thing I absolutely hate about the experience is the music that blares out at full volume during every time-out, stoppage of play, player introduction, etc. It is way, way overdone and it adds nothing to the game experience.

I hope the Michigan football experience doesn't go down this route. I'm an alum and when I do come to games in Ann Arbor, I enjoy that fact that the only music I hear is from the band--our school's band. I also don't have to look at commercial ads or signage as I look around the stadium. Nor do I have to deal with the stadium announcer telling me that the first quarter is sponsored by Nextel or the game ball is brought to you by UPS (something I saw at a Northwestern game). Please--keep all this at arm's length, and then some. Having Adidas on the uniforms is as far as I'd like to go here.

And yes, I know that the Athletic Department is giving up on some revenue. I think we all remember when Bill Martin was looking at having the Michigan-Ohio State game sponsored (and got overruled by the university president) though.

If you want to get the fans loud or rowdy, then I have one suggestion--put an outstanding team on the field. That should take care of most of the problem right there.

The FannMan

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:42 PM ^

Ummm - the guy was talking about the spring game - i.e. practice. He was trying to hype it up and said that he was going to "play a little music." I see no need to freak out and start e-mailing the AD. I mean damn, folks! Let's just go back to leather helmets and forget the whole forward pass thing too!

My point is that its not like there has never been a change at Michigan Stadium. Anyone remember how the big score boards and video screens were going to ruin Michigan Satdium?

caup

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:49 PM ^

This shouldn't be hard to figure out!
Brian hit on the solution:

#1:Make the hype video AWESOME by using sound and video clips of M's incredible tradition and past coaches.

#2: At certain downtimes during the game play a "Best Of" collection of Michigan's most glorious moments on the field and locker room celebrations/speeches from past coaches and players.

Those 2 things will get MICHIGAN fans jacked a thousand times more than hearing some goddamn random song.

CarrIsMyHomeboy

March 23rd, 2009 at 8:58 PM ^

He's responded to me twice.

Once, I wrote him because--during the "Let's talk about it" stage of a putative Michigan Stadium Renovation--there were several mentions that the new press box would switch to the East side of the stadium. I wrote Bill Martin with one worry (among other worries) that we'd forever be inundated with in-game complaints from color commentators that "Oh my God the sun is in my eyes. I can't see the field. Why would you do this to us Michigan?! Kaaaaaaaaaaahn!!!"

He returned my email before the end of the week, and he provided me his office phone number inviting me to interact with him more personally. That was nice.

Anyway, I don't have his email address anymore (Bueller?), but I'd like to drop him another one. Michigan deserves a strong national image and an energetic and passionate fan base. True. However, Michigan Stadium likewise deserves endless respect. That is, even if that respect finds itself incongruent with some new Michigan/Black Eyed Peas excit-o-rama.

So, if someone could be so kind as to let me know whether it is bmartin-, wmartin-, or [email protected], then I'll gladly inform him of exactly this.

And, for what it is worth, I am 25 years old.

the_white_tiger

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:08 PM ^

I agree with Brian on this one. CFB is turniong into the NBA where the same electronically made chants are played in every 30-some arenas, let's keep the Big House away from that.

mth822

March 23rd, 2009 at 9:38 PM ^

at the Utah game, I was hoping for a few new wrinkles. And the worst was this pre choregraphed like,"We are Michigan Video." And in it I think was Morgan Trent.....we were down at that point..and I think Trent had given up a pass or maybe we went 3 and out. Those two things were somewhat common.

The worst was it followed up by Daugherty song...or however you spell it. And that song had middle of the bell curve written all over it.

The guy behind me goes,"did man boobs gittleson leave a mix tape behind or is this what RR has on his iPod?"

The change has to come from within the good parts of the University as well. Brash bold strokes aren't needed here.

jb

March 23rd, 2009 at 10:39 PM ^

As long as we start winning big fricken games again!!!!

You could play puff the magic dragon for all I care... JUST BEAT OHIO STATE! And quit fumbling punts and kickoffs.

JB

Durham Blue

March 23rd, 2009 at 11:10 PM ^

with RR. Michigan Stadium does need to become more "electric" in many ways. But I also trust the powers that be in the UM Ath Dept that they won't let things get out of hand.

StephenRKass

March 23rd, 2009 at 11:36 PM ^

I am 100% against tackiness and the worst excesses of video screens, dancing bananas, racing bratwursts, rawk musak. However . . . the better the MMB, the better off things are in the stadium. There needs to be more energy. It needs to be intimidating to visiting teams.

Yes, if there's a good and exciting team, it will pump up the volume. But what to do?

I'm trying to brainstorm here, and so these might be dumbass ideas. But I think the MMB can improve. It always seems like the Wisconsin band does a great job. In many ways, so does the MMB. But sometimes, they could have more soul, or funk, or something.

Also, could we have a small, live, miked jazz/rock band? Not quite like Leno and the Tonight show, but something like? This could increase volume, and real guitars and bass work for certain music. Even the right keyboards. The band playing some music will always be lame.

I hate the idea of canned music, ("We, will, we will RAWK YOU!!!" makes me sick and annoyed.) But a couple of horns, a lead guitar, a bass, some drums, someone on keys, maybe even a vocalist? . . . they could do some funky and fun stuff, the volume could be turned up, it would be live, instead of the same stuff we hear in every NBA game.

funkywolve

March 24th, 2009 at 12:55 AM ^

Heck, if they can get him to coach the flag football game maybe they could get him to help out with the online some.

I realize that is a pipe dream but dang it, that guy knew how to coach the oline.

wolverinewest

March 24th, 2009 at 11:25 AM ^

I've been going to Michigan games all my life, and I love certain aspects of the Big House (like no advertisements), but it tends to be pretty lifeless. Not just quiet, but sort of a dead calm, as if everyone is always waiting for the bottom to fall out or the earth to end. I have been to many other stadiums for ncaa games and nfl games, and the Big House is definitely more like a monastery than a rock concert. Now I understand you don't want actual rock music, but that should be the environment the stadium strives for: loud, raucous, excited and intimidating. It's kind of embarrassing to see 100,000 people so quiet and still sometimes, and nothing is worse than being told to "sit down" during a big play - No, you stand up!. Even Ryan Field (NW) is livelier than Michigan Stadium, and it only seats about 12 people + the band. I'm just saying we can do better, without getting tacky or classless about it.