Us or Them? Somebody help a non-Michigan Man/Michigan fan.

Submitted by 74polSKA on July 27th, 2011 at 8:26 AM

The more I post, the more I find myself wanting to use "us" and "we" when talking about the football team.  I am not a U of M grad, although I steered my little brother to Michigan over ND and tOSU and he graduated in April.  

I have developed a strong aversion to people who have no connection to a school using inclusive terms like this.  I don't know if this is a result of constant bombardment from tOSU fans who act like they've toted the ball for the Buckeyes, called plays, etc. or if I'm being self conscious because I'm not a real Michigan Man.  Pro sports fans don't bother me because you don't have a realistic chance to be a part of the team or organization at that level.

Is there a name for this disorder?  Am I alone?




July 27th, 2011 at 9:38 AM ^

I use we/us all the time especially when talking about recruiting to my ND friend. Comments like "We're kicking your ass on the recruiting trail" or We're going to beat you 3 years in a row" I live in SW Indiana and have been a fan since 1991 when the Fab 5 came to A2. Going to the Big House for the first time September 24 and again October 29. Been to 4 Michigan games, 3 last year including the Gator Bowl. So I'm glad its cool with the alum to say we/us


July 27th, 2011 at 9:41 AM ^

I've thought about this too. I have a hard time saying us/we but to me it's worse to say it when referring to the Tigers or Red Wings - which I have no affiliation other than being a fan.  Mark Schlereth is part of a radio show here in Denver and says "you have a mouse in your pocket" when a caller uses us/we when referring to the Broncos, it's kind of funny. 

tOSU fans are douchy on so many levels, a minor infraction like "us" or "we" by a UM fan doesn't seem so bad.  


July 27th, 2011 at 9:46 AM ^

Fan is short for fanatic, if you are a fanatic about Michigan football/other sports, you are a fan. You can use the "us" or "we" for all I care. I am not a graduate of Michigan, although I did attend for a year.


July 27th, 2011 at 9:46 AM ^

Born in Livonia, Dad is a grad, moved to NY when I was 10, we STILL have the season tickets after 28 years, my college did not have football, I use "us" and "we" without hesitation. I am a DAMN PROUD WAL-MART WOLVERINE even though I get my gear at MDen b/c the walmarts here don't carry UM stuff!

Go Blue, WE will be champions!


July 27th, 2011 at 10:10 AM ^

Here's my thing:

Don't be the idiot that calls 97.1 and spouts ignorant comments, claiming to be a Michigan fan (if you're a contributing member here, then this certainly doesn't apply to you). 

Be a supporter of the University, not a fan of the football team

This is crucial for me and I think is often what makes a "Walmart Wolverine."   Be proud of our football tradition, but don't flaunt it.  Don't scoff or make snide comments when people want to talk about women's volleyball, softball, or men's soccer.  These are important part of Michigan Athletics.  Understand that integrity is more important than winning and understand that every student-athletes' welfare is more important than any single win or loss.

Yostbound and Down

July 27th, 2011 at 10:18 AM ^

I admit that I have caught myself saying "we" a few times. Not sure about the whole Michigan Man terminology though, I always considered that applying to lettermen and not the campus at large.

When my dad was at the business school in the early 90s, I developed quite an attachment to those teams under first Moeller then Carr. One of my first memories of life is Michigan pummeling Houston in 1992 sitting on Dad's shoulders. Although I'm studying at Hillsdale and not UM, I still watch the Michigan game every Saturday even when my own school is playing. Now if I could just get into Ross and replicate that experience for my own kid...

Thus I consider myself part of the big happy family


July 27th, 2011 at 10:22 AM ^

Editorially, I've noticed Brian uses 3rd person to describe the team. This is something I have to consciously remind myself to do because I will unconsciously use 1st person plural all the damn time for Michigan or the team or whatever.

It's just semantics, really. Brian doesn't even give us any editorial direction for what he wants -- I just figured since he's using 3rd person I oughtta as well -- for writing on the front page so what the hell does it matter if you use "we" in a diary or board or reply?

Start with this: the purpose of language is to communicate. The purpose of more accurate language is to communicate more accurately, etc. As long as nobody has to think twice to get your meaning, use whatever you like.

As for "Michigan Man," it's my opinion that the term was overused during the RR era as a bit of jingoism on the part of certain factions within the fanbase, and that use made it lose its lustre, a lot like how the U.S. flag was desecrated in the mid-2000's by folks painting it over their truck windows with "with us or against us" messages scripted across. "Michigan Man" is a symbol, a totem, and like any other symbol it can be abused and repatriated and have its meaning changed dramatically over time. Right now it's still transitional, so one guy may hear "Michigan Man" and think you mean it the way Bo said it: "a guy who sees Michigan as the pinnacle of any collegiate job," or the way it was said in the Carr era, where that includes holding to Michigan's values of high performance and high academics and playing it straight and clean with Emerson quotes thrown in, or the way it was said during the RR period where that now also includes being a touchstone to the program's past, and "toughness" and manball, and defenses that will charge you an ounce of blood for every yard you get, and if you even think about scoring a touchdown will hit you so hard your sister goes down. Or to some maybe it just meant "what Lloyd was and Rich isn't."

When a symbol's in transition, using it is dangerous, because you don't know how the person you're saying it to will take it.

If I could pick one meaning for "Michigan Man" it would be someone who, as Bo said, sees Michigan as the greatest collegiate athletic brand in the world, who would do anything to see Michigan succeed except violate the ethical codes that make Michigan different from other institutions with similar athletic achievement. But since language is about how the listener receives, not how the speaker intended, I wouldn't bother trying to foist that particular petard in a general conversation, lest it explode in my face.


July 27th, 2011 at 10:24 AM ^

I am a Canadian and did not attend college.  I am married to an American girl and Michigan Alum.  My brother in law is also a Michigan Alum.  I envy both of them for their accomplishments and the fact that they can without question include themselves in the "we" or "us" category.  Having said that.....  We have season tickets and attend every game (yes....part of me married her for those tickets!!!).  We frequently buy other tickets for our 4 kids, all girls, who are 9, 12, 14 and 19 years old.  They argue each game about who's the best fan as they paint their faces and throw their jersey's on.....even when sitting in front of the television for away games.  If we are travelling, we look on sites like MGoBlog and others and find a UofM Alum bar to go watch the game at.  Because I am not born and/or raised in Michigan, I cannot call myself a Michigan Man.  On the other hand, anybody who wants to question my or my families loyalty to all things Michigan can kiss my Royal Canadian Ass.  WE have the one of the finest programs and one of the finest schools in your great nation. 



restive neb

July 27th, 2011 at 10:35 AM ^

I am an alum, and still have the same strange feeling using "we" or "us."  I typically refer to the team in the third person.  Although I've been a fan my whole life, it just feels awkward to me using first person when speaking of the team since I was never on the team (intramurals don't count, right?).  So, being a student or alum does not make your question go away, it only removes one layer of rationalization in your feelings of disconnected fandom.


July 27th, 2011 at 10:51 AM ^

I feel the same way referring to anything I'm not directly involved in. It leads me to only using "us" or "we" in a really informal sense. If I'm going to take the time to write it out, it'll be "them" most of the time, whether it's football, schooling, politics, whatever.

Edit, to the OP: Coming from another non student/alum, remember that most of the people who are universally considered "Michigan (Wo)Men" are not alums. Yost, Bo, Moeller, Carr, RR, Hoke, Hutch and MSC all have at least one thing in common: not graduating from Michigan.


July 27th, 2011 at 11:01 AM ^

I can't remember not being a Michigan fan. Forged in the fire of growing up in Ohio. I got accepted to UoM, but enlisted instead. I bleed Maize and Blue. I stood by the team through its worst years...while being stationed deep in SEC territory. I AM a Michigan Man. Anyone who says otherwise is a douchebag.


July 27th, 2011 at 11:01 AM ^

This Michigan Grad considers any fan one of "us" and the collective "we". 

I don't want to hear about Walmart Wolverines and it ticks me off when "alleged" Michigan Alums call in to the jackoffs at 97.1 and try to separate themselves from the non-Alumni fan base by saying they are different than the non-Alumni.    

I know non-Alumni who are better fans than some alumni, and some non-Alumni fans who are over the top/morons...but let's not clreate a separation just becasue Sparty fans are almost all alumni of that school. 

On a related note I have never presonally heard a non-Michigan Alumni (e.g. a Central, Western or even UM Dearborn guy) say that Sparties are intellectually inferior to Michigan grads, but the fact that they say it doesn't make it any less true.


Great subject, I haven't read the responses but will now to see what others think.






July 27th, 2011 at 11:03 AM ^

I'm a Michigan Fan

And I use "Us,"  but also make it clear I didn't attend the university.  Being a season ticket holder, I don't often need to explain my fandom any other way.  Adding to what Jeepin Ben says above (taxes, purchase of game tickets, memoribilia), if you've even watched a game on TV you've boosted the ratings and help M enjoy the benefits of an elite athletic program. 

If anyone (almost always Sparties) questions my fandom, I ask "what do you care who I'm a fan of?"  It's no one's job to patrol the passions of others. 

KC Wolve

July 27th, 2011 at 11:28 AM ^

Grew up in KC and went to KSU. Michigan is the first team I remember rooting for and watching. Desmond was my hero. It just stuck. Love my alma mater, but have loved Michigan many years before I even thought about college. Have no affiliation whatsoever and my friends bust my balls, but I don't care. I make the trip to AA once a year, (twice this year ND and Neb!!!!) so my fandom is usually not questioned. I usually keep it on the DL in KC just so I don't have to explain when people ask me.
<br>See everyone September 10th.


July 27th, 2011 at 1:07 PM ^

as even being a bit better than most, given it's more unique.  I love hearing that as a fellow Michigan fan, and I would think most alums would feel the same (they'd be stupid not to). 

There are M fans all over the country, some are transplants from the state, and a lot of them are alums.  But it's fantastic to have fans outside the state who didn't attend the university.  The program's got big shoulders, can carry all of us.

KC Wolve

July 27th, 2011 at 5:11 PM ^

Funny story. I had my hat on one Saturday and was pretty hammered. I ended up at the grocery store for some reason and a guy says, "good game but tough loss today huh? Me being terribly confused (UM won) and drunk I just looked at him and went "sure". He kept talking and I am thinking oh my god, I drank so much I thought they won when they didn't. I thought about it all day and finally it clicked that he had a Missouri shirt on and the Block M and Missouri M are similar.
<br>Main reason I keep my fandom on the DL outside of my house in KC.


July 27th, 2011 at 11:18 AM ^

You're being entirely respectful, and that's great. But as a UM alum, who married an alum, who's the father of more alums, and a supporter of the school, I say, "Welcome."

If you relate to the athletic program, appreciate what the University stands for, and give it your support, it seems to me that you're "us."

As to the guys on the field being the ones doing the heavy lifting being the only "us": they are part of our UM community and representing it. Indeed, they are supported by the greater "we."

So I think it's OK to say, "We won" when the team wins. And I think it's cool for you to say it, too.


July 27th, 2011 at 11:26 AM ^

I'm a proud Alum, and rabid Michigan supporter in every way. (although to be fair, I did have to scream at the Endowment Team who has called my house for the 3000th time asking for money.  I suppose that wasn't very Michigan'y...)

But I digress. 

I always felt like "Michigan" as a fan-base was an all-inclusive one.  Not to get sentimental, but Michigan is something we all can be proud of - not just as a premier academic institution, but as a truly special place with which to be involved.  You don't have to be a student/alum to be affected, and now that I have three kids of my own, I'm proud to share with them all the reasons why we are so lucky to have a public institution (and football team) the caliber of Michigan less than an hour away.  As a group, "WE" are a proud bunch with high expectations for that which represents us.

My beef with ohioans (and I say this with all due respect) is the tosu is not exactly Harvard.  Truth is -- it's not exactly Harvard's younger ugly sister who got knocked up when she was 17.  You can get in to that place with a pulse and a few buck teeth.  So I have never understood why more folks down there didn't go to that god-forsaken hellhole of a school if they want to love it so much.


July 27th, 2011 at 11:48 AM ^

While I agree with a lot of the posts here, I do believe one thing is not addressed thoroughly. You are part of "we" if you have stuck around through the good and bad. You are part of we if you stopped watching in 2008 and will start again when we win a title. While we haven't had much 'low' historically, but in order to identify with a group, you have to have stuck through the thick and thin. Not just being a fan when we're winning (not accusing the OP, jus sayin').

On a more academic note, I have been doing some research into sports psychology for grad school and have come across a couple papers regarding the use of 'I' or 'we' by fanbases. If people are interested I could try to dig them up and provide a slightly more scientific explanation of group identification and the mechanisms and behind it.


July 27th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

I never stopped being a fan but as I read all these posts I think I came to a realization.  I think the aversion to becoming part of the collective "we" has been for self-preservation.  Maybe I thought that in order to not become a cooler pooper or couch burner that I have to hold my fandom at arm's length.  Or maybe my control issues won't allow me to become completely invested in something in which I am completely and utterly powerless.  Whatever it is, I'm glad to know that the majority of you accept me as part of "us".  I never expected this to be such a cathartic experience.


July 27th, 2011 at 11:59 AM ^


Brady Hoke grew up as a fan of Michigan, never attended the school, and was simply a good enough coach to end up coaching here in the 90's, and of course again now.


If he wasn't a good enough coach, he'd be in the same seat as anyone else who never attended Michigan.   So if it's OK for him to be one (and, technically, Bo, Gary and Lloyd) I don't see any reason why any fan can't be one.



July 27th, 2011 at 12:21 PM ^

I take a slightly different approach to the whole "Wal-mart Wolverine" debate. Whenever an opposing fan tells me I can't talk about/root for Michigan because I didn't go there, I simply ask where they played college football at. When they answer that they didn't play, I tell them they can't like the sport. They usually get quite confused.

I've posted this story before on here, but my O-line coach in college played for Bo at Miami and coached for him at Michigan. They were great friends. One day I was going into his office to watch film and he was on the phone with Bo. I waited outside the office, but coach motioned for me to come in and handed me the phone. Bo told me, "Son, if you can play for Paul you could've played for me, go blue! Now get to work." I don't worry about my status as a "true fan" after that conversation.


July 27th, 2011 at 12:32 PM ^

with you calling yourself a "Michigan" Man...its a state of Mind it doesnt require

a UM degree in my opinion...I wont list all the reasons and attributes of a Michigan Man there are plenty of other posts and people to do that..


If you swell up with pride when you hear Hail to the Victors , or find yourself watching Jordan Taylor pitch the USA to a gold Medal victory you ARE a Michigan Man


M Fanfare

July 27th, 2011 at 12:41 PM ^

My family are all rabid Michigan supporters. My mom is an alumna and I am and alumnus, but my brother is not. He is a deeply passionate Michigan fan, he buys the apparel, watches all the games, and is constantly watching older games on YouTube. The fact that he didn't go to UM doesn't make him any less of a fan than his alumni mother and brother.

Now, there's a small distinction that can be made, which is that my mom and I have a different connection to Michigan than he does (living in Ann Arbor, going to school, etc.), We're more connected to the university at large than he is, but our attachment to athletics runs just as deep. Come kickoff, all that matters is that each of us deeply supports Michigan athletics. To me, it doesn't matter if you are a student, an alum, or just a supporter as long as you are suporting Michigan athletics and Michigan fans of all backgrounds in a positive way.


July 27th, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

How can you tell someone they can't possibly love something as much as you because they didn't go to a particular school?  I work with a highly underserved urban population and will never, ever forget a patient who came in with an old school Michigan winter coat one time.  It had to have been at least 20 years old.  I took his coat from him to hang it up and discovered the inside was completely taped with silver duct tape, presumably to keep the stuffing inside.  I asked him if he's a Michigan fan and he replied, "All my life! I'm a Wolverine!"  You're telling me this man, who, not that it's important, has not earned a high school diploma or GED, loves Michigan less than any of us do?

I don't think people can really choose who and what they love--things that like that choose us.  I'm an alum, but I have this crazy, mostly obsessive love for Michigan because I don't know how not to be this way.  It isn't something I was able to choose.  I don't have some great story about how my grandpa went here and I was raised to be a Wolverine or anything like that.  Something hit me my sophomore year when I went to my first game and I fell in love.  That was it for me. 

I know people who went to Michigan and could not care less for the school or any of our sports teams (ie my brother).  Conversely, some of my closest friends who love Michigan as deeply as I do have no direct affiliation with the university. 

In my book, if you are one of us--and you know if you are-- you're family, and consequently can use "we", "us", etc. 


July 27th, 2011 at 2:44 PM ^

A lot of good comments in this thread. Personally I only use "we" for the schools I studied and/or worked at (e.g. not for the pro teams I follow), but I can see the argument for broadening the definition of "we".

UofM Die Hard …

July 27th, 2011 at 3:32 PM ^

I am in the same boat my friend.  My mom graduated from UofM my dad went to EMU and they met playing tennis at UofM and the rest you say is history.  Grew up going to hockey, basketball and football games and I go nuts over anything Wolverine. 

Moved to Washington state when I was 13 because of my dads job but everyone here knows our family is UoM die hards and we love it.

I go to the UoM alumni bars with my parents on game days and I tell people I didnt go to UofM  and they could care less, they love that I am a super fan.


PS...met my wife who was an athlete at Washington State University and come Saturday's she is wearing that maze and blue as well  :-)


July 27th, 2011 at 5:08 PM ^

I know everyone's said it, but to add my voice - "Michigan  fan" = "us"

I am an alumnus, but that doesn't make my obsessive devotion to Michigan athletics more valid than anyone else's. 


July 27th, 2011 at 6:14 PM ^

But now that you said something, let me see if my deductive powers are up to their usual strength.

I'm going to say, you graduated from LSA.  Sometime in the past 20, I'm going to say you graduated in '00.

I know, it's spooky how good I am.


July 27th, 2011 at 6:11 PM ^

The University still takes my donations even though I didnt go there..



































July 27th, 2011 at 6:46 PM ^

I've been a non-alumni fan since 2006. I think I started saying "we" sometime in 2008. Having to circle the wagons with your team strengthens the bond.


July 27th, 2011 at 7:47 PM ^

Say "us" with pride, 74polSKA. While, as an alumni, I'd be lying if I said I didn't appreciate the exclusivity of Michigan's academic circle, I also understand and appreciate how much not only does the team/program represent the state, but also a loyal national fanbase.

So in my book, if you care enough about Michigan football enough to not only read, but comment and post onto the MGoBlogosphere (and in the off-season no less!), you're certainly devoted enough to considered yourself an essential part of the Maize-and-Blue Clan. Hold your head high, since you probably can easily spout off more about (and hence demonstrate more devotion and therefore worthiness to the tradition of) Michigan football than many alumni.