Toward a better Fan Management Program at the University of Michigan

After witnessing the fan experience at Penn State earlier this season, I vowed to be a better sport. Nittany Lions fans were so unbelievably gracious to a person. They welcomed us to Beaver Stadium, and then wished us well for the drive home after the game.  Several years back, we experienced the same class treatment at Notre Dame.  When I wrote to the Notre Dame Alumni Association about that experience, they invited me back to a late season game as a guest in their press box.  We can do a much better job at Michigan. We need a fan management protocol that honors the best traditions of what we sing about as “the leaders and best.” I took my 14 year old “little brother” Reynard to the Cincinnati game, and just cringed when I heard some of the unsportsmanlike chants.  Really??!!!
We don’t need to boo the band or opposing players as their names are announced or they come onto the field, we need better chants than “you suck,” and we certainly don’t need to boo our own quarterback! Important to remember it’s only a football game, even when it’s Michigan-Ohio State, and these 20+ year old student athletes will be defined by their Michigan experience well beyond their time on the football field.
With this in mind, I reached out to Michigan’s quarterback, John O’Korn after the Ohio State game on Saturday, and received a nice response.
On Sun, Nov 26, 2017 at 9:17 PM Stefanski, Ronald <> wrote:
By way of an introduction, I am a Michigan alum, class of 82’ and I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1978. I’m also friends with Gail Perry Mason and her son Dexter, with whom your interned last summer. Dexter speaks highly of you, and shared your email address.
After we returned home from the game, Dexter was sharing with us what a stand up guy you are— bright, talented, well spoken and ambitious. He’s says we will probably see you on a ballot somewhere in the future. You also happen to be a gifted football player and over 100K fans watched you play your heart out yesterday against Ohio State.
Two life lessons were validated during four quarters of football yesterday. The first is that the game’s outcome is never decided by one player. While you’re a stand up guy to say it was all on you (the mark of a true Michigan man), in fact you kept us in the hunt throughout much of that game. That’s something the final score doesn’t reflect. It takes a team to win, and it also takes a team when we come up short.
Secondly, the other life lesson perhaps even more significant is that most of us won’t be defined in life solely by our college experience. That’s because most of us don’t have a lick of the talent you brought to collegiate sports. It’s also because there is so much more to your college experience than sports. I’m not just saying this because I’ve never been an athlete— and can’t imagine life at the division 1 level of play.
I was an English major, and co-founded a newspaper during my years at UM, the Michigan Review. Nowadays, if I were to mention that I started a radical conservative newspaper on the campus of the University of Michigan it’s simply a source of good natured ribbing (if not mild embarrassment) so I’ve learned to downplay that! Not an entirely apt analogy, but you get my point. Most of us hope our biggest college moments don’t completely define us later on.
About 6 years ago I had the chance to meet a former Michigan quarterback, Bob Chappuis, who was featured on the cover of Time Magazine, for his role on the national championship team of 1947. His football career was not what he remembered most about his time at Michigan years later. He remembered the Ugolini family who harbored him from the Nazis when his bomber was shot down during World War II after his college career was interrupted. He remembered their bravery. His greatest pride was getting an education at Michigan under those circumstances, and later having a successful career and family.
The biggest takeaway from yesterday wasn’t the final score, but the heart and soul you put into the effort. That’s the kind of effort that defines the much heralded phrase “true Michigan man.”
The Wolverine faithful are not disappointed in you—rather we all stand cheering, waiting to hear about your next big win off the field, or where ever a bright future takes you. We have 100% faith it will be as spectacular as many of your previous best efforts.
Go blue!
Ron Stefanski
LSA class of 1982

From: John O’Korn <>
Date: November 27, 2017 at 10:33:31 PM EST
To: “Stefanski, Ronald” <>
Subject: Re: An earnest John O’Korn fan letter from a friend of Dexter Mason

Thank you for the kind words, Ron. Forever Go Blue!


I was happy to hear from so many friends that feel similarly.  It’s easy, as we all know, to get caught up in the hype of our most heated rivalries.  But not at the expense of allowing football to be its best, which is teaching our students the real value in being great athletes and great sports as well.  Thanks in part to our friend Jennifer Maisch who works with Amy Chappius, grandson of Bob, who shared my tribute with her dad and family.  The real value in being part of a community of 100,000+ fans is the opportunity to contemplate and experience connections with so many others.