Detroit As I See It

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The grit, the blight, the benign and the beautiful. The concrete rises up in Detroit. Riding a bicycle within minutes of our home, you see it all.

Something about the Detroit River, the pull of a five mile an hour current, the coast guard racing from time to time, flashing lights signaling some fortuitous retrieval.

What Michigan Needs Now

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A New Office of Fan Management

After yesterday’s admittedly crushing defeat, Michigan fans need a healthy dose of humility and perspective. The Number 1 thing Michigan most needs now and forever forward:

Better Fan Management! Maybe we need an office of Fan Management at Michigan. This would immediately fix a few glaring problems in the Michigan program, and set a few things straight. I was talking today with my cousin Drew Zelenak, and my sons Will and Dan, and high school senior Leah Smith. They all helped me recognize the following Top 10 Things about being a Good Fan and a Good Sport (Drew in fact will be honored this Saturday at Ford Field as a student scholar).

1. Regarding yesterday’s game against Michigan State: Blake O’Neill is a star player. He gave us a great game, with great field position all day, including an 80 yarder. Hating him is a cheap shot unless and until you can honestly say you could have faced 11 MSU defensive giants smashing down on you and done it any better yourself. This is absolutely the poorest excuse of poor sportsmanship at its worst and cheapest.

2. We need above and beyond all else to be good sports. Let the loss sting and move on. Give it to Sparty! They won fair and square. Don’t take anything away from that. Being a Michigan fan should mean being gracious in victory and EVEN MORE gracious in defeat. Don’t whine, cry, or complain. Find a Sparty fan and shake their hand and congratulate them. Period. Move on.

3. Remember this is true of all rivals but especially true with two towering Michigan rivals. Many of us Michigan fans are related to Spartys. We need to keep this top of mind and show our best colors. There is a looming possibility the person you are heckling could be your sibling, child, friend, boss or spouse. Be mindful.

4. This is what we teach 10 years old on the soccer field. Shake everyone’s hand on the other team after the game, say something nice and pass out juice boxes, and bring enough for everyone. Not more difficult than this.

5. We need more gracious behavior in the stands. Stop flinging things at people proud enough of their team to drive the distance here to cheer them on. Be spirited with them, funny, gracious and not mean, hateful or embarrassing to others. Don’t start, escalate or engage in meanness with strangers. Show them we are better than that. Elevate our behavior on and off the field, and make sure every gesture in and out of the stadium is above reproach. Return bad behavior with the other cheek. I was reminded of this when a 350 pound fan was pushing his weight around in our row yesterday and yelling at others to move over. Are you kidding me???! Anyone who has been to the Big House once knows that even if you have a 30 inch waist it’s going to be a tight squeeze. Move over to accomodate others, adjust, and get comfortable and friendly with those next to you. If that just doesn’t work for you, go get up and find some more kettle corn at the concession stands. Buy the large size and share it with everyone around you when you come back to the stands.

6. Model the best behavior. Best fans I’ve seen ever over the years in an opposing stadium: Notre Dame! They are always gracious to visiting guests. They remember it’s a game and they make it fun for guests. They never give up cheering their team when things are down, they actually encourage them. Worst fans of course: Ohio State. It’s physically difficult to wear your colors inside the horseshoe without expecting bodily harm. Equally true driving in Columbus with Michigan state license plates. Do we really want to model the Buckeyes????! We are Michigan. We can be better than this. There are notable Buckeye exceptions, and they will readily acknowledge this bitter truth. Poor sportsmanship always makes us look poor, small and petty. It’s just bad form.

7. Enough with the “You suck” chants, the “Who cares” heckling and the booing as the opposing band takes the field! Imagine being the proud parent of a player, cheerleader or band member of one of those spirited talented kids. Do you really want your kids booed for being good enough to compete at this level for attention and winning? How embarrassing! Do unto others. Let them enjoy their moment and perform on our field whether playing music, cheering or as players. Let the games begin. Give everyone a fair shot at their best performance. The end result will be more meaningful for everyone.

8. In the past decade of mediocre Michigan play I’ve learned one dark truth about being a die hard Michigan fan since 1978. Other rivals hate us– not for being better and having a hallowed past, and a rich winning tradition. We are hated for being poor sports and arrogant victors at times. We need to acknowledge and fix this aspect of our game. Eliminate stakes in the ground, little gestures that belittle us. This week our players performed great and in the days leading up to a great game they displayed respect and restraint, stopped the smack talk and put us back into contention as a team to be reckoned with. We need to continue to take up our game and put our best foot forward as fans as we take our program to the next level.

9. Kids everywhere are watching. We want athlete scholars. We want Michigan to produce men and women who develop mind, spirit and body. We want athletes for whom the best behavior is on display even when no one is watching. We want great competitiveness, and great integrity. We will get what we model, and felonious or foolish behavior doesn’t fit this model.

10. We cannot be fair weather fans. It really is about three things– The Team, The Team, The Team. It’s about being in the company of over 100,000+ people on a fall Saturday and sharing something in common and being part of something bigger than ourselves. Bo taught us that, and is a legend to this day. Yet he never took us to a national championship. Why is this true? Because sorry to say for those who still haven’t recognized it. This is not only about winning. It’s about striving. It’s about being upbeat and encouraging when others are down. It’s about taking advantage of every teachable moment. It’s about sports fanmanship as an extension of excellence on and off the field. It’s about recognizing that excellence is the business of constant pursuit. Hit a milestone, raise the bar. Look at the World War II legends being showcased each week during the game. These people embody Michigan excellence in many ways not just playing football, but outside their chosen sport. Don’t we all want to be remembered as they are? We want to be able to stand with the giants among us.

Ultimately, being a Michigan man or woman means being big in bad moments. Being humble in good moments. Being a good example every moment. Giving others a right to their moment.

Everyone deserves a shot at the limelight of victory. That’s what Victors Valiant means.

–from the new Office of Fan Management.

The views expressed here are not only my own. These are the shared views and values reflected by Real Michigan fans who feel similarly. Share this broadly. Let’s make this viral for Michigan.

Make this a Michigan Moment. This is how we Go Blue!

9 Months: What to Expect When Expecting

9 Months: What to expect when expecting when expecting

The end.

A friend of a friend in NYC is taking a course in Zen meditation called “You have 9 months to Live: What now?”

So I thought this would be a great way to reflect on the next year of my life. Not because I have any health issues, or because it’s morose, but rather because this kind of rigorous focus is required if we want to live our best life. And I want to make sure I’m still tracking toward that. I want others to know what I expect and what’s expected during this time. I am sending this to several others to get their feedback, maybe some additional ideas and a better sense of their list, so I can help them with theirs. So here’s what I would do over the course of the last year of my life off the top of my head:

First, I would spend more time with Will in Grand Rapids. Our Sunday together a few weeks ago was a recipe for the perfect day– hanging out, watching Veep, having an interesting conversation and laughing a lot about nothing in particular. It was still pretty funny. I would replicate that but would have bought some junk food too for the day to eat before we left each other. A final treat.

I would get Will, Dan, Kay and me together for more family time. Just the four of us. I would watch them dance and play duets on the piano.

I would plan a whole day with each of them and no phone.

Dan and I would have an adventure in Detroit, probably on bikes. I would buy each of the boys a fixer-upper in the city of their choice and plan the rehab together. Not all the work ourselves, we would get Joey Troisi or someone hassle free and reliable. I would also get them each their first sailboat.

Each day would be different. I would do the same thing, planning an entire day with Wendy, Mark and Gil and Howard. Bill and Caroline, Fred and Lisa. William and John. Then all my nieces and nephews. Ro, Roby and Susan. And my aunt Helen and uncle Steve.

Next, I would hide my phone in the presence of others. I don’t want people saying “he was always on Facebook.” I would still post but late at night when no one was around, or the first thing in the morning. I would use Facebook to keep a running tab on my progress.

I would print out my entire stream of Facebook posts since I joined in 2007, along with the photos, and spend a day looking through it for memorable moments to replicate.

I would write more cards and send even more flowers. I actually send a fair amount now but would triple that. I would have cards made out of all my best photos, and write out a dozen a day.

I would visit my aunt Lucy and Uncle Vic in Lexington and take them to the St. Clair Inn. I would take Ms. B and Nadine out for a long lunch more than once. They would pick the restaurant.

I would host at least 2 dinner parties a week. The Burfords, Beckers and Trapps would not go a week without seeing me. Howard and Charlee would visit for a week. I would order a Gatsby style linen suit personally tailored to wear at the party. And a silk smoking jacket.

I would fly to St Simons and spend time with David and Audie in Savannah. Then I would fly to Baltimore to spend time with the Amiths and Smiths. Adina and I would stay up for a full night laughing and capture highlights on our iPhones.

I would spend time in Austria and England with the Herovitschs.

I would write everyday and get better at photography. I would create dozens of photo books on mixbook.com to leave behind with all my passions– family, friends, sailing, Michigan, the DYC, education and food.

I would fine a way to give a sermon in a church in Detroit. I would have all my friends invited and ask them to promote it so the church would be standing room only. We would pass the plate and raise the biggest Sunday take even if I had to make up the difference between the record amount collected and what we brought in that day.

I would find a way to give a public speech on education in Detroit, maybe at Chene Park that was attended by thousands. Howard would introduce me. Then I would have an after party on the roof of the Garden Court. And collect and redistribute donations.

I would help Kay and the boys plan a surprise party for me at the DYC with music and dancing. Then On the day of the party, Kay Will and Dan would find out the party was for them.

I would take a vacation with us and the Beckers to Mexico in the Yucatan with father Bill. Then we would all spend a week in St Simons Island together. We would hike on Jekyll Island for a day.

I would set up a University of Michigan fund for a Detroit kid who wouldn’t otherwise attend college. I would put a plan in place for them for 4 years. If I had enough money I would do it for several others. I would become a big brother to one of them for the remaining year.

I would write and publish an article on the endpapers of the Sunday Times Magazine. It would be reflective and funny enough that I would be swarmed with feedback. They would ask me to write a sequel piece.

I would get an article published in Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Harpers, GQ, or Esquire, expecting the same response.

I would host a pep rally in Michigan stadium for every parent and person that spent money on someone going to the University of Michigan. I would have the university pay for the event by doing some kind of flashy sports event to draw a crowd. Instead of the band “taking the field,” all the parents would.

I would try to get on one episode of Britain’s Great Bakes. I would make my mom’s chocolate mayo cake and have Paul review it. I would ask Mary to check out the layers.

I would get a massage ideally 2-3x per week but at least 1x on a table in our great room with Enya in the background on my Sonos. Kay would also be around and it would be set up like the spa treatment at the Ritz in Vienna.

I would host a dinner party with Nadine, Susan, the Beckers, Burfords and their parents, and all our kids. I would have everyone submit their favorite food item for the menu and we would make it together. Kay would assist with menu and logistics planning only. I would do the cleanup solo. This would be the meal everyone remembers me for. The boys would plan a piano tribute for Kay afterward.

We would plan a period party from the Gatsby era. Hire costumed staff and music. Great food and dance awards.

I would spend more time in Hamtramck. I would eat more in Hamtramck.

I would line up a chef’s table dinner at Joe Muirs, West End Grille, Ottava Via, Selden Standard and Gold Cash Gold. I would eat and drink moderately but well with a small party of friends and family.

I would learn to recite a love poem in French and Italian.

I would go to Italy, France, Poland and Spain. I would see another Elton John concert and go backstage one more time. I would bring my picture of the last time with my friend Molly and me.

I would sail whenever possible,and line up cruises on all my friends boats at the DYC. I would have them buy food that I would then prepare and serve while underway.

I would spend time in Suttons Bay, Charlevoix. I would rent out Camp Michigania for a weekend in the offseason and fill it with my friend’s list.

I would host another Rose Bowl party with Wendy’s Queso dip and Ditka’s pot roast nachos.

I would spend a day with a Santa sack full of small treats in a nursing home hanging out with old people. I would capture them in pictures. Compile a picture book and then have it published and sold as a gift book and serve the royalties to a Detroit charity. They would each get their own copy.

I would end each day tired and the last one spent, spent smiling and laughing. Since I’m serious about working on this, I gotta go. Do you have any other suggestions for me. This is only first draft don’t hold it against me if I left something big off.

What about you?

Ron