Fickle Comment Count

Brian November 26th, 2013 at 12:51 PM


It is a media tradition to hammer at flailing coaches with frowny-face serious questions about how hard everything is on the players and coaches and such because they have to put up with this howling pack of fans. And I try not to get exercised about anything that comes out of that, just like I try to roll my eyes and move on at every article about a triumph in the face of The Critics. Coaches arrive at press conferences at one goal: to get out without saying something notable. When they do say something notable, it is a mistake.

But I'm pissed off anyway. Hoke fielded a question about what is going to be a sea of red in Michigan Stadium:

"You know, people are fickle," Hoke said. "That's just the way it is. That's the world we live in."

This is of course horseshit. It's horseshit on the level of "we need to run a pro-style offense so we can stop Big Ten offense," i.e., the greatest and grandest horseshit in all the world. Hercules is required to shovel this. The big reveal from the last 20 years of media development is that fans are the only people left who aren't fickle. They can't stop watching, and what's more they can't stop watching live with all those lovely commercials interspersed. Fans submit themselves until they have commercials memorized. Until they are legendary.


In all other areas of television consumption I go out of my way to avoid commercials, going so far as to not watch recent seasons of shows I like until they arrive on Netflix. It will be four years before I see the Patton Oswalt filibuster in context. This is why every time a rights deal expires, networks treat the newly single package of games like it's the last cabbage patch doll on Black Friday.

Meanwhile, the people in charge have decided to test the edges of that fandom with an explosion in ticket prices. Paul Campos:

Here’s the price of a regular admission (not student) University of Michigan football ticket over time.

(All figures are in 2012 dollars, rounded to the nearest dollar. I couldn’t find 1970 and 1980 so I substituted the nearest available year).

1900: $27
1910: $48
1920: $29
1930: $41
1940: $45
1950: $34
1960: $35
1969: $38
1981: $30
1990: $35
2000: $47

This year a seat on the 15 yard line is 129 dollars with the PSL, almost three times as much as it was in 2000 and almost four times as much as it was in 1990, in constant 2012 dollars.



Ryan Field was half Michigan fans, for some reason [Bryan Fuller]

In Michigan's specific case, they have beaten Ohio State once in the last nine years and are two-touchdown home underdogs. They are getting gouged on ticket prices in an unprecedented fashion. The athletic department has made it absolutely clear that it has no loyalty to them with "dynamic pricing" that only goes one way. Up.

There is a breaking point for even the most zealous fan. I'm the guy with the blog that's his career and I'm at mine. The only reason I am going on Saturday is because I would feel shame at not going. Absent the weird moral imperatives of fandom, I would be doing anything else. Like bowling, which I hate.

Everybody in blue in that stadium—and it will still be a majority, probably—is paying for the privilege of having their heart punched. Unlike you, they are not getting three million dollars to watch Michigan shuffle around like a syphilitic pig who thinks everything's a truffle. Collectively they are in fact giving you those three million dollars. Collectively they built the stadium you play in and the opulent locker rooms you dress in.

So take your "fickle" and shove it. Angry, sure. Impatient, sure. Because we are locked into this thing we do every week that we pretty much hate. We do so out of a sense of loyalty that the program goddamn well doesn't reciprocate with its 500 dollar waiting lists and worst access level in the country—the team that is going to stuff you in a locker on Saturday has open practices in front of the entire student section—and scheduling goddamned Appalachian State because the athletic director thinks it's cute. Any reasonable person would look at the recent history of Michigan football and go do anything else. We're here because we're locked in.

You? You've got a buyout.

It is not the fans' fault that this program is awful to be a fan of. It's not Rich Rodriguez's fault. Anyone who sells their ticket for whatever they can get—currently 60 bucks and dropping from 80 yesterday—is only making a logical decision to not get punched in the soul dong on Saturday.

I'll hate them all the same, but half out of envy this time. They are no longer mindless wallets. They don't give a crap if Brady Hoke calls them fickle, and don't write articles on the internet about it. They are logical people.

The reason Michigan Stadium is going to be half-red on Saturday isn't because of "the world we live in" except insofar as it contains a Michigan football team that people at Abu Ghraib wouldn't show prisoners.



November 26th, 2013 at 4:21 PM ^

Point taken, but the lack of interest in attending a game, whenever and wherever the ticket was purchased, speaks directly to demand. His second statement implies that the consumer shouldn't negotiate the value of the ticket (i.e. selling tickets to mitigate cost), regardless of how the consumer feels about what he is purchasing. I say (and I think part of Brian's point is), even a hardcore fan needs to draw the line somewhere. 


November 26th, 2013 at 5:11 PM ^

Well, look, I agree with a lot of what you all say.  I'm just saying that the decision to bail on the game and sell a ticket for a loss represents a bit of an abandonment of the team while your costs are already sunk.  I don't think it "teaches" the AD anything or hurts it in any direct way.

I appreciate opportunity costs and avoiding the pain of going to the game.  I had my tickets on sale for while.  However, I took them off because I am not willing to give them up for as little as they are going for.  And I might go alone since my wife's knee may not hold up for all the walking (unless I can find someone I know without a ticket).  I moved from excitement, to despair, to duty.

I think bitching about Brandon is a poor excuse for not going to this game if you already have a ticket.  They are independent issues, even if selling tickets to OSU fans "sends a signal."  If we were undefeated and looked great, with good chance at winning, I still would object to Brandon's tactics.  As a former economics student, I understand markets and economic theory quite well.  I just don't think it should minimize something that we (as UM alums and true fans) should all value highly. 

Refusing to buy high and sell low . . .

kevin holt

November 26th, 2013 at 3:39 PM ^

Agreed re: ficklehood. The fans aren't fickle, sure. The real fans.

But that assumes everyone with tickets is a real fan. The ones who sell theirs to the biggest game, though, can be called fickle and "fair-weather."

Sure, avoid a dong punch, but maybe go a bit out of your way to sell or give it to a Michigan fan, right? There are many who would oblige. But don't give up before the game even starts.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

I... I think he's broken...

actually I think I am too.  maybe we all are.  I'm another one of those going to the game but expecting to regret it.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

Well said, Brian.  The current state of Michigan Football is backwards looking and stodgy on the field, and slick and modern off of it.  In other words, the worst of all possible combinations.  Go Team Nike if you want, OR have a throwback team/experience, but not this current crap. 


November 26th, 2013 at 1:19 PM ^

You don't want your ticket. Fine.

But don't blame someone else for it.

Take responsibility for your actions.

If you'll be back in those stands when you feel like Michigan has a better chance of winning then that is the definition of a fair weather fan. If you don't like that characterization then I don't know what to tell you. Words and actions have meaning even if you don't like them.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:35 PM ^

Did you even read the post? He's going to be there, but only out of duty to not be a fair weather fan, even though the team is not likely to put up a performance worth the hassle and cost of attending a game in person. But it would be nice if the games were worth the hassle and cost of attending. And it's annoying when the person most responsible for the poor product blames the customers for not wanting to pay for the crap he's putting out there. It's not Brian's fault this team is no fun to watch, no matter how much responsibility you want him to take. Take responsibility for what?


November 26th, 2013 at 2:05 PM ^

but a profit motive. His business is following Michigan sports, and for all his griping about the cost the loaded cost of attendance is a pre-tax expense. 

The same goes for his gripes about the quality of the product. Fan angst (or happiness) drives clicks and comments and increases his traffic and presumably his profits. 

I appreciate that Brian's fandom makes watching these games difficult and, unlike us, his business would suffer if he stopped watching. So I feel some sympathy for him in that regard, but he does make a living doing something he loves.



November 26th, 2013 at 2:10 PM ^

He said he'd be there. But he also advocated and defended not being there and passed the responsibility for that onto someone else.

If you don't want to be there then don't be there. But don't blame someone else for what that says about you.

If you only go to games when the team is good then you are fickle and you are a fair weather fan. It is not the end of the world. Every fanbase needs this type of fan. But at least own it. Don't be all "I'm a super Michigan Man if only Brandon and Borges weren't such buttholes!!"

You can't control how good the team is--that is Hoke's responsibility. You can only control your own actions--those are not Hoke's responsibility.


November 26th, 2013 at 2:39 PM ^

I don't get this sentiment. So you can't be a fan, cheer for the team and hope they do well unless you attend the actual sporting event rather than watching it at home or at a bar? Why do you get to decide that the "definition" of fair-weather fan is someone who stops attending actual games when they disagree with the direction of the program (but may not actually stop being loyal to the team)? Cite some kind of substantive reference or else you're just spouting a personal opinion just like everyone else.


November 26th, 2013 at 3:54 PM ^

Can we agree that watching on TV because you don't have a ticket and selling your ticket to an OSU fan because you're afraid your team might lose are not the same thing? Because, those things aren't the same to me.

I also didn't realize that I was making up some new definition of "fair weather fan." I was under the impression that term referred to someone who only follows the team when they think they are good.

I mean. I'm not going to waste my time citing "a substantive referrence" for what I'm pretty sure is both common sense and widely understood. Someone who is only a fan during the good times.

You may note that I predicted fans would come back "if they thought Michgian might win" not when they more "liked the direction of the program" whatever the hell that means.

However, anyone that stops watching Michigan games because of the monetization and lack of ameteurship, and stays away forever, that person has made a principled stand and since they won't be returning any time soon will not be a fan at all and therefore not a fair weather fan.

But if you persist in redefining every word to your liking then there is no point in having a conversation because words have no meaning.


November 26th, 2013 at 5:12 PM ^

See, I don't think most people are selling their ticket because they're scared Michigan will lose.  In fact, no matter how down I get on this team or any Michigan team in the past, I believe in my heart of hearts that we will win and I think most fans are the same way even if they bet or write something to the contrary. Even if we knew for a fact they were going to lose but that the coaches were preparing the players correctly and were competent, I believe most fans would not sell their ticket.

But I do think that many fans are selling their ticket (or not going to buy tickets in the future) because they are concerned about the direction of the program and it's the one way they can show their dissatisfation, which affects Dave Brandon directly (hoping that a modicum of less fan support will send a clear message to him). If you don't understand what that means, I'm not going to waste my time explaining it to you.  Again, just because they are selling their ticket does not mean they are not a fan or only following the team when it is good.  You can define that as fair-weather if you choose, but again, it's just your opinion of the definition.


November 26th, 2013 at 9:01 PM ^

Michigan fans aren't going to the game because they know we're going lose, and we're going to lose BIG. No one would have a problem with the direction of the program if we were winning. And people just don't want to sit through the beating we'll take after the beating we've endured all year.

I'd bet very few fans are making a conscious decision that -- well shucks, they'll sacrifice the game they really want to see because it's the right thing to do to send Brandon a message. The vast majority aren't going because the pain they presume isn't worth the cost. Plain and simple. And if you don't understand what that means, I'm not going to waste my time explaining it to you.

It exactly means they are not following the team when it is good. And it is certainly fair-weather fandom, cuz the skies over Michigan are cloudy, baby. But who cares? Why be offended if you actually are fair-weathered? Who would want to watch a team that more often than not disappoints, and especially at a premium? This idea I can agree with.


November 26th, 2013 at 3:39 PM ^

Yeah I would say who the heck made all of you the arbiters of what actually constitutes a "fairweather fan". I think the definition is different for everybody.

For example, I had the opportunity to buy tickets to the Nebraska game from a coworker and decided to forgoe that by watching the game in my apartment. Does this make me a "fairweather fan"? I would say I am still following the team (probably at unhealthy levels by consuming almost every bit of content on this blog) and am therefore not in fact a fairweather fan. I still follow the team.

Growing up I was a huge follower of The Tribe even in CT because my mom is from there and she kind of brainwashed me. I was going to be a Yankees fan because they were good but became an Indians fan. Now I don't follow them as closely as I did now particularly because I only have so much time and spend much of it on Michigan. I would say I am closer to a "fair weather fan" in this instance wince I don't follow them as closely as I did but they are still my team. I have not all of a sudden become a Detroit Tigers fan I just am not as big of a baseball fan.

To end this treatise I don't think it is your responsibility to call somebody a "fair weather fan" particularly those people who continue to follow a team faithfully even though said team could give two shits about the fans who watch in TV or attend the game. Attending doesn't make you a better fan.

Of course this is a free country so agree to disagree.


November 26th, 2013 at 9:05 PM ^

There is a level of responsibility we all have to take for our own choices to attend or not attend, support, follow, or begrudge. It sounds like whining to say I'm a super fan and it's all Hoke's fault I'm not going to the most important game of the year.

And I think I've come to the realization that, people's distinctions of me be screwed, I'm willing to be a fair-weather fan if I must. Because life is real. Mine isn't a successive string of fantasies. And although I check a Michigan blog site for updates every day of it, if the experience of the game doesn't bring some joy to the living part, why the heck am I doing it?

So I won't watch Saturday's game on TV. Not even here from Florida. Because I've got a house to paint, kids to play with, and too much that's real that gives my life joy to hang way more emotion that I should on a game in support of a team I can't keep myself from loving unrelentingly.

I can own that's the type of fan I am. And I also loved this piece by Brian.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

there are multiple other ways of following the team without buying a ticket (TV). choosing to not buy a ticket is the fans only way of approving or disapproving of the performance they see from the program that will raise concerns/alarm with the bean counters or "management". it does not make one a fair weather fan. iirc we haven't done so well in the past decade besides 11-2 hokes first year so can't really say anyone is a fair weather fan giving up their ticket now with the mediocrity put out there for 9 years and counting.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:55 PM ^

If you sell me a Ferrari, but it turns out it's actually a rusty Chevy with a broken heater and no radio, is it wrong of me to blame you for my not wanting the vehicle anymore? The point is that if you are no longer providing what I originally decided to exchange my money / time / emotions for, it's not "fickle" to want out.

But, but, the TEAM and LOYALTY and OTHER GOOD THINGS WE TELL OURSELVES TO FEEL PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER, you say. You've missed the point of Brian's article. The AD is taking advantage of all of those things, but providing no loyalty in return. We're being played for chumps because the AD knows our emotions will trump our reason and we'll gladly plop down even more money so they can further gild their toilet seats. To the AD, we are just ATMs, and there is no higher goal than to extract the absolute maximum amount of delicious cheddar that we'll force ourselves to cough up out of loyalty.

Brady Hoke makes more in a year than most of us will make in a lifetime, and will continue to do so for the next few years regardless of how well or poorly he does his job (buyout clause). And yet he dares call us "fickle" for considering whether it's worth putting down a week's salary to take a family to a game where we'll probably get beat to hell because he hasn't prepared the team to execute.

So maybe not going to the OSU game, or selling your ticket for half what you paid for it, makes you a fairweather fan. So what? Is loyalty to a generic corporate empire really a virtue worth preserving? The AD no longers treats fans as anything more than revenue streams - why should we reward that with loyalty? If you are being treated as a consumer, there is nothing wrong with acting like one and going elsewhere or staying home when you no longer benefit from the transaction.

Look, I'm exaggerating here somewhat. I still think choosing Michigan over OSU is more meaningful than choosing Coke over Pepsi. But the AD makes that harder and harder every year, and seems intent on reducing the "Michigan Difference" into dollar bills and manufactured "wow moments". Couple that with a deteriorating product, and it gets less and less fun. Again I ask, what is the virtue in loyalty to a brand? Faithfulness to a cheating lover? Honesty to a swindler? At some point a "loyal" customer goes from a virtuous partner to a chump, and Dave Brandon seems hell-bent on riding that line for all it's worth. And now Brady Hoke will call you out for allowing that that line even exists.


November 26th, 2013 at 2:08 PM ^

but when you buy a ferrari you are buying much more of a known quantity then when you buy tickets to a watch a college football team.

now, if you got to the game and there was no seat for you or there was a post in front of you or no teams showed up, sure you'd have a complaint.  but when you buy tickets to see a college football team, you are buying something very unknown.  the team might go 12-0 and they might go 0-12.  

you can still complain about the product, sure.  but it's your choice to buy the lottery ticket that is a ticket.


November 26th, 2013 at 2:34 PM ^

Good point.

In my mind, there are two separate issues here.

  • Fickle fans
  • Pricing of the games

Fickle simply means switching one's loyalty or affection.  I think that people deciding to not attend a game because it would be painful to watch their team play are being fickle.  It simply does not show a consistency - attending every game no matter what because you want to root on your team.  Michigan has a much better chance of winning on Saturday if there are a lot of loud Michigan fans in the stadium.  If you love your team, you show up to help them win, because you support them.  They are not a product you buy.

The pricing of the games is a whole other issue.  The costs of games is out of hand, and they may be nearing the tipping point in terms of the pricing structure.  And fans who want to sell their tickets because they are not worth the money should drop their season tickets.  Don't just show up because you only want to attend games where you team wins (again, fickle).  Wins and losses are out of your hands, and it is a gamble as njf52o points out.  You can't be mad at a casino if you don't win.

I think the pricing structure has become a rationalization for being fickle.  Blame it on the Athletic Department when I disadvantage my team by not being there to make a lot of noise in support of them.

So in the end, Hoke and Brian are both right.  Fans are fickle, and the pricing sucks.


November 26th, 2013 at 2:54 PM ^

Congratulations on successfully attackeing one of my analogies. But you miss the point. A better anology might be "charging me a Ferrari price for a Chevy, and accusing me of disloyalty if I'm dissappointed".

You see, I don't think "the team doing badly" is the real problem. It's the straw that breaks the camel's back. The real "rusty Chevy" is the game experience, particularly the scheduling. We're seeing less good home games, more cupcakes and annoying one-offs (Appy State). We're adding terrible, nontraditional teams to the conference just to buy TV sets, to the point where the oldest trophy game in football is being replaced by a game against the state university of... New Jersey?

The price keeps going up, and many are going to be priced out in the near future if not this season. When the cost of going is low, yeah, loyalty is going to trump that. But if you have to make real sacrifices to afford your seats, I think it's fair to ask what you're getting in return. So then the question is, "why pay my PSD for next year when next year will probably be lousy, and in a couple years I won't be able to afford the seats anyway?"

The other issue is, yeah, you bought the ticket ahead of time and have now decided not to go. But unlike a lottery ticket, there are a lot of other costs associated with going to a game. So really we're talking about a choice between the extra cost of going to the game and the beenefits of seeing it live vs. the amount you can make by selling your ticket and the experience you can get watching it at home. The sunk cost of having bought the ticket is irrelevant. So it's more like "Selling my ticket to a must-be-present-to-win raffle one state over because the prize went from a Ferrari to a rusty Chevy". How's that?


November 26th, 2013 at 3:29 PM ^

Knowing full well that it was probably going to be anywhere from a rusty chevy to a nice mid-sized sedan, with only a small chance of it being a sports car, isn't that really your fault?

Having said that, your comment on the EXEPERIENCE is completely valid.  And if someone doesn't like it all enough to not buy tickets next year (and it really is Special K and not losing that's driving you off) then that's fine. Not everyone can afford to go to games, and that shouldn't be held against them. But how bad next year's schedule is really doesn't have anything to do with going to Ohio State this weekend or not.

I suppose you haven't sunk the other costs of going to the game yet, but then you already knew you could afford it because you didn't really say "I'll buy the season tickets, then figure out how I can actually afford going to the games later." Your problem is you thought the prize was always going to be that Ferrari. And there's still a chance that you'll win the fancy car, because if they pull off the major upset Saturday, people will be sorry they weren't there. But like any lotto ticket that's not really a high percentage. 

But really, one doesn't work for the car dealership like they went to school here, one doesn't care about the dealership salespeople like they do kids playing a sport representing their school. If one wanst to treat all that strangers then one is not rebelling against college football becoming more professional; one is contributing to it.



November 26th, 2013 at 6:23 PM ^

I don't think supporting Michigan football is really like buying a car. Yeah, I think there should be more loyalty to the team of my alma mater than to a car dealer.

But that's sort of my point - if the AD acts like a car dealer, at what point am I a schmuck for behaving like they're anything else?

There's a reason I donate to the college of engineering but not to the AD.

Block M

November 26th, 2013 at 2:01 PM ^

If you were planning on going to the game when the team was performing closer to your expectations and are no longer planning on doing so because they are not, I believe that is the definition of fickle.

A lot of people were crying out for Hoke to give them something at his press conferences, and now they're complaining because some small part of what he did say is true and they don't like it?

Seems quite simple to me. If you like the University of Michigan football team then go to the game on Saturday if you were planning on doing so. If you don't want to go anymore solely because of how they're playing, that's your choice but don't cry about being called fickle. Yes, tickets are expensive but you already made arrangements to go. Are we only supposed to support the team when they are playing well?

steve sharik

November 26th, 2013 at 2:48 PM ^



1. likely to change, especially due to caprice, irresolution, or instability; casually changeable; e.g., fickle weather

2. Not constant or loyal in affections; e.g., a fickle lover

Obviously not the second kind of fickle, and I even think it's not the first kind b/c I don't think it's likely or casual.


November 26th, 2013 at 3:57 PM ^

Why "obviously"? See, #2 is more correct imo. People were all YAY HOKE when he led this team to a Sugar bowl. Brian praised Borges after the ND win, earlier in THIS very year. One subpar season of regression on offense later, they're ready to fire the guy and give him absolutely no credit for that BCS win. Seems pretty fickle to me. Writing a whole post on one word seems also pretty fickle. The only folks who take exception to that characterization are probably the ones being fickle. But that's just my read on the situation.



November 26th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

this is the point at which my greatest fear comes to life, that my single biggest distraction - mgoblog - might disappear.  there's a style to the content and writing on this site that makes me come.  it's absent on other M blogs, though frequently copied.  it's copied on blogs for other teams.  but this place was the beginning.  i hope i don't see it leave.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:20 PM ^

Except the Abu Graib reference. I know you were going for the big finish there, and no doubt thought about that last line, but IMO, just a bit over the top.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:21 PM ^

oh brother...

Just seething, searching, looking for anything to unload your anger, even a throwaway comment at a press conference that you admit means nothing.  He's pissed because he doesn't want his players in front of Ohio fans in their last game.  Hoke's comment has nothing to do with anything else.

You are to Brandon as the tea partiers are to Obama.  The world is different right now than you would like it to be, you have some valid points, you over-exagerrate those points, you don't realize everyone's got valid points, you see conspiracy and betrayal around every corner, and now you're considering whether you'd be happier if the whole thing just burned down.


November 26th, 2013 at 1:34 PM ^

Brian and much of the board bring up politics whenever it pleases them.  The Abu Ghraib comment is as political as mine.  I'm not commenting on Obama in any way, and to the extent that I scold tea partiers, I could just as easily be talking about left wingers.  The point is irrationality, and the comparison is sound.