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!

One thought on “What Michigan Needs Now

  1. Ron, could not have said it better. I will have to admit…..The victory was a bit sweet to me….Its one of my son’s freshmen year up there in Lansing……..I’m sorry, I probably burst your bubble. In fact, his twin brother ( who attends Schoolcraft college closer to home ) went up for the weekend to hang out with his brother. They celebrated the victory together.

    P.S. This post of yours will be required reading for them of course …….. when ever I can get them to clam down after partying .

    Peace my friend, Eric Perry

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