With Michigan basketball finally good again, and Crisler routinely at near capacity, I think it’s time we talk about the game-day atmosphere at Crisler. Or, rather, I should phrase it, “Hey fans! Let’s talk about your game day experience!!1!1!!”
I’ve been a student season ticket holder for five years now, and have been going to Michigan basketball games since 1990. I was there for the Fab Five, the Ed Martin pay-a-player years, the Jamal Crawford headband craze, and all of the various incarnations of Amaker suck. I’ve seen a lot of stuff in Crisler come and go, good and bad, but this year's incarnation of the Athletic Department's attempt to make Crisler more exciting falls way, way, way short. While Crisler has long had the reputation of being slightly library-esque, that had more to do with the product on the court (and, let's be honest, a long history of the University being pretty apathetic and fair-weather about basketball). Now that we have what looks to be a great team on the floor, and an atmosphere that is loud by design but falls short of getting fans excited to go along with the artificial loudness. Basically, I think fans just don't get it, and by the last run-through of Zombie Nation on the PA, they're already sitting down.
Let’s run it down.
1. The PA announcer is TERRIBLE. This isn’t your day job at Comerica Park, quit acting like it is. “WHO WANTS A FREE PIZZZ-ZZAAAAAA???” “Hey fans!...” “3 for 3!” It’s awful. He’s been bad since he started, but it’s gotten even worse. If you want to hear an announcer who does a great job, the guy that does volleyball and (I think) women's basketball is tasteful and fun. And his voice isn't like an excitable cheese grater on your ears.
2. Stupid in-game promotions and gimmicks. Dance-cam? Seems like a lot of fun for the 4-to-9-year-old crowd, and no one else. Need I say more?
3. Music. I marched 4 years in the Michigan Marching Band, and played in all of the athletic bands as either a sub or permanent member. Part of my gripe has more to do with the administration of the band than it does the athletic department, but the blame definitely goes both ways. The Athletic Department needs to stop using/abusing the band. Don’t tell them to play stupid, cheesy crap like the “Hey, baby!” song. Don’t use them as a juke box for in-game promotions (which was also an issue at football games, too).
The use of canned music, which has become more prevalent as the season has progressed, pretty much makes them irrelevant. On the band’s end, the band administration needs to be more vocal in telling Athletics and Marketing to stick it with some of this pap. Sometimes you just have to play the Victors and hope the people with the finger on the button get the message. I don't care if some bimbo in a Marketing polo shirt is screaming into your headset and waving her arms around. Just play. I'm glad the band is bigger, and it looks like the move to the end zone could be a positive step, unlike the hockey band's relocation at Yost. That being said, what does it matter if they don't get to play 90% of the time?
4. Just because “everybody else does it” doesn’t make it right for Michigan. Cheesy intro videos with fancy-schmancy graphics, team intros with dimmed lights and cheesy spotlights and awful music, that stuff doesn’t get the crowd going. I’m sorry, it’s true. They’ve tried pulling that at Michigan Stadium (“I play for Michigan!”), and again, it falls short.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted with this team, and my criticisms have nothing to do with the product on the court. I’ve been waiting years to see a team this fundamentally strong with genuine excitement and joy to be out there on the court together. It’s a team for once. And I love seeing Crisler actually filled up and not have it just be for the big games. I just wish the games didn’t just reek of Sports Marketing and Athletics being un-inventive and lame. They could harness the energy of crowds that big by doing what Michigan has always done, not by blasting hip hop music and putting on a light show. After all, I remember Crisler exploding for Jalen Rose dunks and Lou Bullock three's, and that didn't need to be spurred by hip hop or Zombie Nation (which is, and should be, solely a Penn State thing) being played as soon as the opposing team took a time-out. I'm not saying Crisler should be a library, but why not accentuate what we already did right rather than attempt to mimic an NBA arena (or other schools) with pretty cheesy results?
On an aside that's somewhat related to the topic at hand...
5. Giving away free student tickets to all but the two biggest games is fine in theory, but doing it to overcompensate for nobody buying the overpriced student ticket package is not cool. I know they’ve fed us a couple times, we’re getting an extra shirt, there are incentives for going to every game, and that’s fine. But what advantage is it that I bought student tickets if the ushers aren’t even going to look at my ticket when I’m going into the Maize Rage bleachers?
The bleachers are becoming overcrowded with people who got in with the free tickets, leaving all of us poor saps that actually paid our way in to be squeezed into overcrowded rows that are getting more and more crowded as the season progresses. The only time they've looked at my ticket this season was not to make sure I had a ticket for the bleachers, but rather because the usher “wanted to see what the tickets looked like this year.” Are you kidding me? They're more concerned that people not stand in the aisles or in the top row than actually checking tickets to make sure people who are there should actually be there. I know people are going to stub their friends down anyway, and that there aren't enough paying students to actually fill the bleachers, but why not give away just enough bleacher tickets to almost fill the bleachers to the students who show up earlier (and actually police it) rather than just wave everybody through?
I feel like I got colossally ripped off for actually paying my way in for a fifth year when others can get essentially the same product as me without having to pay, aside from a few MDen gift cards and two $5 t-shirts with gigantic Adidas logos on the back. After all, the MDen gift cards are just revenue that goes back to Athletics, being that the Athletic Department has a large financial stake MDen. I can’t wait for the much-fabled embroidered sweatshirt we get if we go to everything to be another awful Adidas-logo-covered crapfest.
I know they’re trying to get student interest up, but why not do that by rewarding those who actually supported the team in previous years rather than devaluing their support by letting everybody else file in for free? Returning season ticket holders were promised free tickets by Coach Beilein this summer, and that didn’t come to pass. Instead, everybody else got free tickets while we just got a bunch of handouts that may or may not equal what we paid in. It's nice that they're doing something, but the last minute bait-and-switch "oh, well, you'll get all this free stuff!" business sucked royally.
So, what say ye, MGoBlog? Yay/nay?