Empathizing with the Player

If Giammati argues that the spectator feels the same thing that the athlete that he is watching feels, then Michigan football players are feeling a whole lot of pain right now. “The spectator invests his surrogate out there with all his carefree hopes, his aspirations for freedoms, his yearning for transmutation of business into leisure, war into peace, effort into grace. To take the acts of physical toil, lifting, throwing, bending, jumping, pushing, grasping, stretching, running, hoisting, the constantly repeated acts that for millennia meant work, and to bound them in time or by rules or boundaries in a green enclosure surrounded by amphitheater or at least a gallery (thus combining garden in city, a place removed from care, but in this real world) is to replicate the arena of human kinds highest aspiration” (Giamatti, 22). Michigan has the amphitheater, in fact, the largest amphitheater in North America. Fans of the football program have the players, and they are willing to follow them to the end. What Michigan football doesn’t have is the success. All these fans are being disappointed time and time again, when they should be feeling the same feelings of success and accomplishment that Giamatti so intricately describes.

Shane Morris getting rocked

The attached GIF is that of Shane Morris getting rocked by a hit that should have ejected the Minnesota player from the game. After said hit, Shane Morris wobbled around, needing the support of a linebacker to stand up, and showed very obvious signs of a concussion. The entire stadium watched as Shane was then put back into the game, less than two minutes after coming off. Shane Morris is the player that Michigan fans are investing their surrogate into Shane Morris and the rest of the Maize and Blue, so that’s why it hurts so much watching Michigan football fail. Seeing Shane Morris nearly get killed in the sacred paradise that is sport is not only watching a kid getting hurt, but it is watching our kid getting hurt. It is watching the team that we identify with getting hurt. It is watching the program that we ourselves invest our surrogate for a religious experience getting hurt, and that is why Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon need to be fired.

Michigan football isn’t just a football program, it is our surrogate, it is a community that millions of fans can be a part of and invest something into. Bo said what a great thing it was to be part of the team, but right now, being part of the team hurts. Giamatti’s idea that the spectator puts himself into the player proves why Michigan is so upset about the football program. It isn’t the team that’s losing, it is us, and that doesn’t feel very good at all.

“Professional Sport”: Also a form of “play” defined by Huizinga?

So when I first read bthor22’s “The Transformation of ‘Play’”, I was planning to write a short comment about my different point of view about professional sports, but I ended up wrote a whole bunch of paragraphs so I finally decided to expand it and write it as an separate blog post.

In bthor22’s “The Transformation of ‘Play’”, the central thesis is basically that the modern professional sports is no longer defined by Huizinga’s definition of ‘Play’ because the primary motivation for the modern athletes is monetary needs. However, I was not fully convinced and I believe that this is an arguable idea.

Before going on to talk about the professional athletes, I firstly want to discuss how the casual form of sports, that people play after school or work, is defined by Huizinga’s definition of ‘Play’. In Huizinga’s “Homo Ludens”, he presented several basic features or traits of ‘Play’. If we put a type of sports, ex. soccer, into Huizinga’s context, we would apparently find that soccer (or any other casual sports) is defined as a form ‘Play’ by Huizinga: playing soccer is voluntary; it is ‘pretend’ (outside real-life); it is not about normal wants and needs; it is limited in time and space; it has a fixed ‘cultural form’ (repeated in some style once formed); it is rule-governed…and so on. Therefore, ‘soccer’ (or other sports), played by amateurs, is definitely defined as a ‘Play’ by Huizinga’s definition.

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North Korea: An attempt at Utopia?

What do you think of when you hear the word “Utopia”? Some might say it is another word for heaven. Others might say it is a non-existent, ideal place that our imperfect world strives to be like. The consensus of the definition of Utopia is that it is an imaginary place where all things are perfect.

“The Grasshopper: Games, LIfe and Utopia” by Bernard Suits (Cover Art).

On the contrary, in our Political Science 101 course reading of “Death of the Grasshopper” by Bernard Suits, Utopia is a place without science, morality, labor, art, sex, love and all things that make us human (Suits). To give some background about the story, there is a grasshopper that embodies leisure and play, and he argues the definition of Utopia with ants that represent hard-work ethic and dedication. Through a debate between the grasshopper and ants, Suits describes his stance on what the ideal world looks like. Even though the arguments that the grasshopper makes are persuasive and convincing, Suits’ conclusion that a Utopian society is barren and desolate seems paradoxical. For instance, to give a specific example, grasshopper convinces the ants that the arts do not exist in a perfect world. The reasoning behind this claim is because art is the expression of humanly features such as hopes, dreams, fears, victories, tragedies, imperfections, moral dilemmas, emotions, etc. (Suits). But assuming that all aspects of human needs and wants are satisfied in a Utopia, none of those listed features can exist. Through our lens of perception, Utopia sounds terrible because it will never exist unless we abandon our humanity. In that line of logic, Suits utilizes the grasshopper character to further this idea of a barren Utopia (if it were to exist in our world).

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Recruiting and The Purpose of College


Applying to my first internship was probably one of the most nerve-wracking experiences as a college student. Before I could press that apply button, I made sure to triple-check my resume and cover letter to make sure there was not one single error anywhere. A couple days after applying, I received an email from the recruiter saying I was going to have an interview the following week with the organization. I sat at my computer re-reading the email obviously happy. But then something came over me. I was not thinking about the interview anymore and how happy I was that I would be given a chance to show off my skills and strengths; I started to think about the article we read during the first week of our Political Science class. The article about the true purpose of college.

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Sports and their Place in College

I never pictured myself at Michigan. In high school I was I was advised to attend a small liberal arts school. I essentially only applied to small schools, but when it came time to actually visit them, I realized that the only outlier in the mix that I applied to was also the only place I could actually see myself: Michigan.

I wasn’t prepared for Michigan. I may have been prepared academically, however in no way was I prepared for the jock culture that I would come to be exposed to. Everywhere you turn there’s a store selling maize and blue apparel or various deals associated with the Wolverines. The athletes, in particular the football and basketball players, are treated like Gods. They stand out in a sea of somewhat nerdy and bookish students. It’s not hard to tell who is an athlete at Michigan. Just ask anyone at this school.

Most people I talk to outside of Michigan can’t separate the University entirely from its football program. They may know who the football players are and what position they play, but when prompted to list what some of Michigan’s best programs are they come up blank.

It makes sense, however, when athletics is such a crucial part of this school and the revenue it produces.

So in what way are the athletes profiting off of this revenue? They work just as hard in many ways as the adults who make decisions for them. They go by a complicated schedule that doesn’t make a lot of room for their studies or a life outside of their team. They give most of their time and energy to the sport, Michigan, and its fans. While fans may give them recognition (there are many athletes on this campus that receive VIP status), they also don’t get much compensation after they leave the school. Athletes face the risk of concussions and other serious injuries that could greatly hinder their quality of life, not just their abilities on the field. These are injuries that players in professional sports encounter. Yet, they don’t get paid like these pro-players.

We could make the argument that they should be playing for the learning experience and getting a discount on a great education is payment enough, but when adults are profiting off of them, how is that fair?

It’s not. They’re devoting the majority of their time to the sport, they face injuries, and they also take the heat when the team doesn’t do well. Michigan and its fans already treat them like they’re celebrities, so they should be getting the payment of a celebrity.

If athletes are paid, though does it take the fun out of the sport? Indeed, it does appear that it takes some of the play and leisure out of what is meant to be an enjoyable diversion from the everyday monotony of work. It is meant to entertain. Athletics that involve play does not fit in with the definition of play that is given in Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga. He believes that play should be meant to be a diversion from regular life and still maintain the fun.

This hardly fits in with what we witness in college sports today, specifically at Michigan.

Does M Club really support you?

So to conclude, what we have going on with athletics at Michigan is a system that profits off of 19 year olds who are getting their heads smashed in with little compensation. The fun is taken out of play for the sake of monetary gain. This debate will continue to be ongoing, but it is clear that athletics at Michigan need to change. The system isn’t working.

Fantasy Football: A Game of its Own

The League premiered on FX in October of 2009 and just aired its sixth season this past month.

America loves sports. We always have, and we always will. There are dozens of sports that millions of people play and watch year-round. However, one sport stands tall above the others: football. Football is as America’s sport. It is by far the most popular and has the biggest fan base. The Super Bowl is consistently the most-watched event in the world. The public’s interest in football is based around our innate interest in play. In his book Homo Ludens, Dutch historian Johan Huizinga outlines his definition of play. He defines play with four distinct characteristics: play is free, it is different from “ordinary” or “real” life, it creates order, and there must be no material interest involved in play. Nearly all sports fit this definition of play, and football is no exception. For many years, spectators were not considered to be a part of play, they merely watched and enjoyed the spectacle of play. However, a new type of game has recently gained popularity among sport fanatics: fantasy football.

Fantasy football is pretty intuitive. A group of friends can start a league by logging on to a number of hosting websites like ESPN or Yahoo Sports and create a league. Every member of the league has their own team, and the owners of the teams draft real NFL players individually to fill their roster. Every week the owners get points based on how well their players perform that week.

It’s no wonder that this idea took off so quickly. But it really took off. In the world of football fandom fantasy football has become a cultural phenomenon. People have become obsessed with player rankings and leagues. Sports websites have begun profiting from this fad by creating blogs and hiring writers specifically for fantasy football. Companies even use fantasy football to advertise their own products, like The Xbox One. This game became so popular that there is an entire television show dedicated to people playing fantasy football called The League.

But how has fantasy football become so popular? What is it about fantasy football that is so much more interesting than just watching? Perhaps our friend Huizinga can answer that. Fantasy football, although different from many traditional types of play, is in fact a game itself. It offers a way for football fans to compete with each other. What fantasy football creates is skill. It is a test of one’s knowledge of football. If you are a better fantasy football player then you know more about the players, and thus, your team will score more points. By creating a game for football fans fantasy football has made the fan experience far more interactive and engaging, which is the principle reason for its widespread popularity. Now we don’t have be 6’5 and weigh 250 pounds to compete, we just have to be football nerds.

Fantasy football not only creates an entirely new game out of football, but it extends the playing field to the spectators. When outlining his definition of play, Huizinga also mentions the idea of the “magic circle”. The magic circle is a concept that describes the space in which games are played. For NFL players, the magic circle is simply the playing field, but for the spectators, this space extends all the way to the internet. Fantasy football has greatly expanded the magic circle for its fans and has created an overlap between the magic circle of the actual players and the spectators. This expansion is another reason why fantasy football has such a positive impact on the spectator’s experience, and why it has become so popular.

Fantasy football has paved the way for a number of new games. Sports networks like ESPN have already begun creating dozens of games specifically geared for fans, and these games will only continue to grow in popularity. The cultural phenomenon that fantasy football has created can be attributed to the fact that it changed the spectator experience and changed they way we think of play.

Tradition? Who cares about tradition?

In one of my recent political science classes, we discussed tradition at universities. Tradition plays a huge part for universities. It is involved in the recruiting process for athletes and also for students. For not just athletes, but also the general student population, tradition influences the choice in school they make. For the University of Michigan, tradition plays a huge role for students, professors, and athletes. The tradition at Michigan is known all over the country. For example, the fight song for Michigan is very well-known especially in athletics. After each touchdown, point, run, or score that happens the Michigan fight is song is played and is sung by the fans. The Michigan fight song is the most well-known fight song for college sports. There are many traditions here that people respect. In class, we discussed how every freshman, during their orientation, walks through a fountain in the middle of campus for good luck. The football team at Michigan has many traditions they follow. Before every game they run through the tunnel and jump and hit the banner that says “Go Blue”.

Tradition, touching the banner.

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