Work Hard, Play Hard

What is a ritual? A ritual is preforming a series of actions in a prescribed order religiously. Closely aligned with tradition, rituals are done throughout campus each and every day by Michigan students. In 1932, a large piece of Canadian limestone became known as “The Rock”. In the mid 1950’s, some of those green people from the west painted a large, repulsive “S” across “The Rock”. Almost immediately, a group of Michigan students gathered to paint over the Spartan’s art with some school pride (School, 2014). This inspired the ritual of painting “The Rock”. The beauty of this ritual is that everyone has the power to express him or herself; you see Greek symbols for the frats, advertisements for athletic matches, works of graffiti and art, and even the occasional political opinion.

Many famous rituals at Michigan revolve around football games. Football Saturday in Ann Arbor is unlike anywhere in the country—and I believe that any student will vouch for that. On game day, Michigan fans are RARELY seen in colors other that maize & blue. The pregames and tailgates takeover campus on each and every home football game day, and it gives the university a sense of community unlike anything else can. At the game itself, the catchy cheers, chants, and the oh-so famous stadium wide wave are not only expected, but also expected to be preformed well. It seems as though every fan as these engrained in their mind. So much so, that we don’t even remember learning them—it’s just part of who we are! The one that sticks out to me more than anything is the Michigan fight song, The Victors. Written in 1898 by a Michigan music student, it remains one of the most well-knows school fight songs to this day (School, 2014). When fans rise to sing and pump their fists in the air, it becomes apparent how religious all of Michigan’s rituals really are.

So how are campus rituals at the University of Michigan related to political science? Johan Huizinga suggested that civilization did not necessarily come from play, but instead, play has been seen through it. Huizinga recognized a close connection between play and ritual. He explained that play often always includesritual, but ritual doesn’t necessarily have to include play (Playground, 2014). In his book, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, he stated, “Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have their origin: law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play,” (Huizinga, 1955). Huizinga further discusses how humans are playful, and that play is vital to each and every culture, and will continue to be. In fact, Huizinga states that play is older that culture itself, “Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them playing,” (Huizinga, 1955).

Wherever there is play, there are rituals. Clearly, students attending the University of Michigan work hard; but we also play hard.

Huizinga, J. (1955). Homo ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. Boston: Beacon Press. Pgs. 1, 5

Playground Professionals. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

(n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from

SCHOOL TRADITIONS – TourTheTen.Com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014.

3 thoughts on “Work Hard, Play Hard

  1. Rituals are apparent everyday but I completely agree that the rituals of football Saturdays at Michigan are unlike any other rituals. People are up before dawn preparing themselves for one of the most enjoyable days of the year. Where else would thousands of people be up at seven on a Saturday for a noon game? Probably not many places. These rituals are in a sense, play. The rituals are enjoyable so they are like play which is inherently enjoyed by all. This could possibly explain why so many individuals love the rituals.


  2. Rituals are vital to the atmosphere of every school, especially when it comes down to sports. Growing up in Ann Arbor, I have been aware of the University of Michigan rituals like painting the rock and other game day traditions since birth. But, I ended up going to a brand new high school in Ann Arbor (I was in the third graduating class) so we had to make traditions and rituals for our own. Similar to Michigan, during my senior year our school put a huge rock outside of our stadium so that extracurricular clubs, athletic programs, and rival schools could paint our rock. Rituals are vital to any school in hopes of creating an atmosphere that is inviting to the themes of play and sports.


  3. I like the connection about how our rituals here are play. It seems like play too, because I’m not sure about other people but I find these rituals insanely fun. Everyone performing all of these traditions bind us together and just enhances school pride. It’s an amazing feeling to be apart of this large community where everyone has an immense about of pride. I actually didn’t know how the whole “painting of the rock” got started so I think it’s great that you added in that historical bit because it just makes that ritual way more interesting and fun.


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