Former player sits in the stands, finds fans awful

Submitted by MikeCohodes on October 30th, 2013 at 8:58 AM

I came across a really interesting article this morning and thought it'd make a good read for everyone here. A recent former Oregon player (who is currently anonymous) decided to take in his first ever game from the stands, and wrote a piece about it and the awful fans he had sitting around him.

He raises some really good points about some bad behaviors many fans have when they are disparaging their team from the stands, and I have to say I completely understand his point of view. Maybe we can learn something from this and reflect on how we act when we take in a Michigan game.

TL;DR version - don't be an asshat in the stands, you never know who may be sitting nearby.


Section 1

October 30th, 2013 at 12:23 PM ^

Although it should be obvious, this message needs to be periodically repeated.

The "Walmart Wolverine" epithet is aimed at that sector of Michigan fans whose main connection with the University is purchasing Michigan-logo stuff, at a Walmart.  (Or wherever else they shop.)  That's the joke.  "Walmart Wolverines."  Nothing more, nothing less.  Don't let anyone tell you any different.  That's it, period.

The funny thing about that (and it isn't terribly hard to snap photos of freakshow people in a mall wearing college football attire, from just about any big school you can think of) is that there isn't much of a corollary for Michigan State.  For the reason that outside of the people who attended Michigan State, that school's brand really doesn't travel well.  There isn't any great national clamor for Spartywear.  Michigan Staee is not close to an equivalent of Michigan in the world of consumer marketing, no matter how hard they try.

So sure, the consumer market for Michigan-licensed apparel is vast and since we don't have a qualification process for citizens to buy that stuff, pretty much anybody can do it.  It's good for our cash flow, even if the camera photos aren't always good.


About the letter from that former Ducks' player; I think he got it all mostly right.  The absolute worst part about attending Michigan football games, which I adore, is listening to fans shout advice/complaints/expertise about what we are all watching on the field.  I like the way that the Ducks' player described it all.  I give him the highest marks for his writing.

But I disagreed with him on his "Spartacus" metaphor.  I don't think of college football players as gladiator/slaves.  I don't yell at them on the field for being stupid; I don't scream at coaches (although I do yell at bad calls!) or any other participants for not living up to some notion of my own.  I don't regard our student-athletes as slaves.  I pay what I think is a lot of money (it's more than what the market would dictate) for the pleasure of watching them play, and I take very seriously their role as students first.  I'd personally like it if college football were a lot LESS like the NFL.  But as for "slaves," I think that most students would be thrilled beyond measure to obtain the privileges of major college athletes.  Free tuition, room and board, books, magnificent facilities, tutoring and mentoring, high level alumni connections, joining an elite fraternity of success, etc.  Of course, there is immense work that goes along with those privileges.  No one denies that.  But work is not the same as slavery.

SC Wolverine

October 30th, 2013 at 1:16 PM ^

The issue is the "elite fraternity of success."  I hope and believe that Michigan players who honor themselves in our program find that it leads to opportunites after football and an honorable fraternity that rewards them for years to come.  But there are probably a lot of schools where no such thing exists at all.  Is Oregon one of them?  Don't know.  But after reading the SI articles on Oklahoma State, that sure seems to be a school where the Spartacus meme is more accurate.  Even there, of course, the gladiators sign up willingly, which wasn't how it worked in ancient Rome.


October 30th, 2013 at 9:29 AM ^

And whether you went to the school or not taunting isn't cool. But yes, if you're going to make friendly jabs back and forth, make sure you actually attended the school and didn't just like the helmets.  You can be as big a fan of the team, but it doesn't entitle you to take on the academic reputation of the University.


October 30th, 2013 at 9:55 AM ^

While I think that going to Michigan could definitely produce a stronger connection to the team than just being a fan, this is overblown.  I had the test scores and grades to get into Michigan, but wanted to play sports.  I was born in Ann Arbor, and raised as a diehard Michigan fan.  After going the JuCo route, I actually enrolled at OSU before accepting a position that erased the need for me to continue my education.  I'm currently sitting on a "some college" level of education, but have a career that will be very comfortable for myself and my family. 

I'm as entitled to debate Michigan sports as anyone who attended.  I've basked in the good times and suffered through the bad.  Had I gone to OSU, I would have continued to be a Michigan fan, no matter what. 

Academically, I understand the superiority complex in a way.  But to default to a Caste system of fandom is to disregard a lot of mitigating factors.  While in high school, I couldn't picture NOT going to Michigan, but it ended up that Michigan was not my best option.  Situations are unique to the individual.

I guess I'm kind of demonstrating the chip on my shoulder with this response, but I feel it is a little narrow minded to assume I shouldn't be able to extract the same amount of satisfaction from Michigan athletics as would an alumnus.


October 30th, 2013 at 10:06 AM ^

And discuss and defend the programs to your heart's content. 

But should you be saying HAHA, MSU sucks, it's a crappy school compared to Michigan" which while true doesn't make a lot of sense if you didn't go there. I mean, how weird would it be for you to slam OSU in the same way?? Going to the school doesn't mean you have to have a loyalty to their sports programs. But knocking a University because you root for the sports team of a University you didn't even go to doesn't make much sense either. 

You can be a Patriots fan because you loved Tom Brady or because they win a lot and live in Portland or something (how many Steeler fans or Cowboy fans or Laker fans are there in every city?) But if you're saying "HAHA, the Lions suck, and Detroit sucks because it isn't as good as Boston" having never actually lived in Boston yourself, that's kinda dumb. You can root for talk about the teams and say the Lakers have a better history than the Pistons, but don't tell me how LA rules and Detroit sucks if you've never been to either and live in Montana.

In pro football terms it seems silly, but when people become fans of a college team (which is fine) somehow the idea doesn't seem so silly to a lot of people.


October 30th, 2013 at 11:10 AM ^

What if you didn't go to michigan, but you went to a school as good or better (or at least better than MSU)? You used the Saginaw Valley example, but not every "Walmart Wolverine" went to a clearly inferior school. I have HS friends who went to K College, which is much closer to M than MSU in terms of academic rep. I have a very close friend out here who grew up in MI but moved to NV for high school, went to Nevada for undergrad and then graduated from Harvard Law. Can he talk trash about academics? Or what about the kid with the grades for M but his parents couldn't afford it so he went to a lesser school?

There really shouldn't be rules for trash talk.


October 30th, 2013 at 11:40 AM ^

Couple points:

1) Ya there shouldn't be rules for trash talk but it doesn't mean what you say isn't dumb.

2) In the case of going to an academically superior school, that's fine IMO but less so. I mean it's one thing to say "I believe the University of Michigan is a superior football team" and another thing to mock MSU as institution (for the record the brah did throw in a 'can't read can't write ' that made me eyeroll). Like I don't get why you need to bring up smack talking to the institutional level when you have no relationship other than rooting for the sports.

Ya you have a better rebuttal when you smack talk and then are asked where did you go and you can say Stanford but I still think it's odd to bring the institutional argument in when you have no relationship other than sports whether you went to Stanford or OCC.


October 30th, 2013 at 11:19 AM ^

Unless some school really is a joke for some reason, trashing it is lame anyway. I never thought "How do you get a State grad off your porch? Pay him for the pizza" was funny. It's just douchey. But I think it's ridiculous to act like the football team and kids in computer science are intimately connected anyway (sure some of them are fans and likely some players have been cs majors). Most players on the team wouldn't have even had a chance to get into Michigan, or maybe even State, without being good at football.

Besides, I'm sure some of the people on that site actually did go to Michigan. I prefer a non-alum who isn't an over-the-top obnoxious fan over an alum who is.


October 30th, 2013 at 10:09 AM ^

Walmart Wolverine! 

j/k Good for you and you are 100% correct.  Anyone who choses to root for Michigan is good in my book.  There are plenty of good reasons to like Michigan besides attending the school.  That is what pisses Spart off, b/c if you didn't attend State or live in the Lansing area, you don't have much to cheer for/like. 


October 30th, 2013 at 7:45 PM ^

Satisfaction is one thing but going around trying to dictate student ticket policy and calling the AD to demand Borges is fired, like some here get off on, if you never attended you really do not have any right to be heard on that. You're just one of millions of fans with no ties to the U, even if your "not my best option" is credible.


October 30th, 2013 at 10:09 AM ^

I grew up watching Michigan with my Dad and became a huge fan. I thought that's where I would be going. I had the grades and test scores. When it came time to apply, my Dad (who worked in higher education) said I could go to any school I wanted as long as it was small, private, and liberal arts. He was paying for it so I had to agree to his terms. I ended up going to a school that was every bit the equal if not better than Michigan academically. I still follow my D3 alma mater and I obviously still follow Michigan. Should I have turned in my University of Michigan fan card, which to me supports the entire University and what it stands for (which to me is better than someone who solely supports athletics alone), because I had to go to a different school?


October 30th, 2013 at 10:45 AM ^

Yes. Fan cards go over there

If you didn't go to Michigan, then your college experience wasn't tough, or worthwhile.

Also, if you were in LS and Play rather than Engineering, then it wasn't that hard for you

Also, If you were in Engineering, IOEs don't count

Also, big /sarcasm for those not catching on.

Root for who you like.  Good natured trash talking amongst friends makes the rivalry fun, however, don't be an ass (this applies to all aspects of your life). I have a lot of State friends who give me a hard time if we lose. i don't get to make much fun of them because that is the nature of the rivalry.  If anyone sees a Michigan fan being an ass, try to say something.  It's usually better coming from your own side. 



October 30th, 2013 at 3:51 PM ^

It was the only class I took where they actually gave us the answers to the exam before the exam.  And no, I'm not kidding.  I still can't figure out how everyone didn't get 100% on those tests.  I guess no one was studying for the tests BECAUSE IT WAS IOE!  :)


October 30th, 2013 at 10:51 AM ^

This whole discussion is dumb and it comes up 4 or 5 times a year.  You can be a Lions fan even if you didn't go to the University of Detroit Lions.  Fandom is fandom, you don't need a reason or justification. You can be dick or Mary Poppins.  If you support the team, you're part of the group Brandon/Hoke/Players are referring to when they say "our students, alumni, faculty, and fans."  You're the fan part, which at times can be more important to the sports teams (in cases where students/alumni/faculty don't give a shit about sports).

But if someone talks shit to Spartan fans because "your academics suck", and they went to a community college, that's pretty weak. 


October 30th, 2013 at 11:17 AM ^

And a good one at that.

I don't see it as more than a way to get state fans riled up. And they get really defensive about it. I was at a tailgate in college and an MSU student told me, "I promise I'll be your boss some day." I wanted to get all into that he didn't even know what I was studying let alone my career path but I left it alone. Still, dude was fired up.


October 30th, 2013 at 11:31 AM ^

Yes to this.  I have quite a few friends who are either OSU or MSU grads.  The only time I start ripping on them for their education is to fire them up, knowing full well the irony of the situation.  But that's just because I am a class act.  If someone doesn't live to irritate you, they aren't a true friend.


October 30th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

For explaining the hierarchy of Michigan fans.

There's you, then others that attended the university, then those that didn' that order.

I assumed you were above the others attending the university since you're seeing the fan guidelines.

Thing is, people have different circumstances in life that led them to other places than the university of Michigan. Even if they really wanted to attend or had no plans to. At the end of the day, we're all fans. Not former players or coaches. If a former alum goes to prison for murder, has no care about the team, does that person have more of a right to their fanhood? No.

But hey, everyone has an opinion. If the other guy has a problem with people talking shit to his girlfriend then he should either do something about it or get thicker skin.

NOLA Wolverine

October 30th, 2013 at 10:17 AM ^

This is the only correct interpretation of what the point of saying "Walmart Wolverine" means that I've seen around here. The point has never been that "UMich has fans that didn't go to the school!" That doesn't make any sense. The point is that a whole lot of the rivalry smack talk from this side centers around the "Michigan Difference" metallity, and that it's really quite ridiculous to have a directional Michigan school student suddenly talking shit to you about academics at Michigan. Hence the pointing out that they got their only association to Michigan from a Walmart.


October 30th, 2013 at 9:29 AM ^

So many societal issues can be solved with the rule "don't be an asshole".

That said, in this case, I think the player is being overly critical, or maybe was just naïve how these public sports things work.  Yes, there are assholes who get drunk and say stupid things.  There are also a lot of good fans.  Going to college to play football does not entitle one to have the complete unending adoration of the spectators.  If you want the life in front of the audience, you have to take the good with the bad.  Still doesn't excuse terrible fans behavior, but they are a reality in society as a whole.

As an aside, anytime a college athlete (and he isn't the first) compares themselves to slaves, (like literal slaves), or do something like call themselves 'starving', maybe it's just me, but I lose a bunch of respect for them.  That's just completely out of touch with reality, and is very disrespectful to those who actually went through/are currently slaves, or starving.





October 30th, 2013 at 9:22 AM ^

I fully agree with his perspective. And this is the kind of fandom that can make blogs intolerable as well. (re:  space coyote appreciation thread.) As long as no one objects (other fans, moderators, etc.) the behavior will continue and get worse. Thanks for the link.


October 30th, 2013 at 1:05 PM ^

I agree with you in this, but also think that the unnamed player sounds like a real jerk. 

"A few fans around where I sit were mean, now I NEVER want to talk to fans again and I will NEVER be back to this stadium and surround myself with these stupid people.  I only care about me, my family, and my teammates.  It was better when I was a slave!"

The generalization, ignorance, and entitlement seem to seep through his letter.  I think both sides sound awful.  Classless fans meet 5 year old temper tantrum.  This story is a double whammy in terms of making Oregon look bad.


October 30th, 2013 at 9:27 AM ^

While it's a sad statement that the only thing he tried to take out of a free degree was "live, eat, train" (slaves don't usually get educations worth hundreds of thousands of dollars), he basically says what fans don't get: Coaches, players, administrators....they really don't like you.  They'll take your money and put up with you, but they're not listening to you, because too many of you are loud, rude, and stupid.

And why it'll never get better - this is happening at Oregon. That may be the best team in the country, and wins every game by somewhere around 150 points. And they spend the whole game bitching there.  "Damn you QB we could be up 70-10 instead of SUCK!!!"

Fans are really awful.