Michigan Football: When Being a Fan is More Work Than Play

If anyone was at the game this past Saturday, they can personally attest how empty the stadium was. They could also mention how, from among the 103,000 some fans, there were very clear ripples of red and white supporting the opposing team, Utah. Like the weather, the game started out fair enough, but, soon after halftime, Michigan fell behind by 16 points and as it started to rain, maize clad fans left the stadium in a mass exodus. In the fourth quarter, my friend and I were able to move from row 66 to row 30 with several empty rows in front of us still. Finally, under the threat of severe weather, the game was postponed and the rest of the stadium, which was more empty than full at that point, left.

One could argue that most people left because of the rain, not just because of Michigan’s meager performance. However last year, there were games where the student section stood in freezing rain, wind, even some hail for the entirety of the game. What difference did a little rain make this time?

The LS&A theme this semester is Sports and the University, appropriate considering the less than stellar performance of Michigan’s infamous football team over this past season.  As Giamatti surmised in his book “Take Time for Paradise” spectators invest themselves within players, and watch them play out in an area detached from reality to an extent. Michigan fans invest themselves within the team and also have one of the grandest arenas for play in the country, the Big House.

In a setting such as this, with a strong team, it’s easy to see why hundreds of thousands of fans flock to the stadium, to tailgates, to bars, or to friend’s living rooms to be mesmerized for about three hours by several grown men fighting over a ball that’s really not actually ball shaped. There’s comradery there’s pride, and there’s tension – it is almost as if, by being invested in the players, we are playing the game ourselves. We cheer in unison, collectively boo, and wear uniforms of our own, namely as much maize and blue as possible.

However, at the game this past Saturday, that feeling of being invested in the game and the excitement of playing the game ceased to exist for many. We didn’t collectively scream “Hail to the Victors,” like a broken record, we reserved our voices. We didn’t refuse to leave when the weather got worse. We didn’t even try to start the wave (mostly because we were still down by 16 points). Why was this? Perhaps it’s because the disappointing performance of our team throughout the season has made us unable to fully invest ourselves in our players.

In some kind of Inception-like plot twist, perhaps watching Michigan football was a game for many. However, now it has lost its appeal. It is no longer leisure or play for the fans, it is now work – work for them to stand in the rain and support Michigan, to make time in their schedule to trek to the stadium, to go through the motions of all the stadium songs, to even pay attention to the current action on the field. We’re becoming disengaged from the sport.

Simply put, Michigan football is no longer a game to its fans.


Giamatti, A. Bartlett. Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games. New York: Summit, 1989. Print.


One thought on “Michigan Football: When Being a Fan is More Work Than Play

  1. This is a solid blog. I think your feelings are definitely shared by thousands of UofM students. And it’s too bad that all this mess is happening while we are students.

    I am not sure though that we are at the point where going to the games can be considered as work, instead of play. I still think that it’s play for the fans, especially the students. It’s still a break from the stress of school. It’s our only day of the week when we can just forget about our commitments and just relax and have fun with our friends.

    Even though it stinks to see us lose, I am pretty sure that many students still love the game day experience. Currently, I work for ResStaff as a CA. I am in a first-year-student only residence hall. And it has been so cool just to see the excitement on all their faces on game days. It’s their first year at Michigan, and they’re not letting a few losses get in the way of their desire to have fun and “play” on game days.

    With regards to people leaving early, I don’t think it’s because they are not enjoying themselves. I think that’s a separate matter. In your case, it was the weather. But I think that students just want to see our team win. If we aren’t winning, then perhaps, the students don’t feel the need to stay, because at that point, they are not enjoying themselves. But to say that they feel like they are at “work” may be a bit too extreme, in my opinion. Or else, they never would have come to the game in the first place.

    Still, your blog was great. Let’s hope things turn around!


Comments are closed.