Men’s and Women’s Basketball

The Michigan men's basketball team plays in front of a packed arena.

The Michigan men’s basketball team plays in front of a packed arena.

I am an avid sports fan and during my first semester at the University of Michigan I attended several men’s basketball games including the Hillsdale game and the Syracuse game. I also attended a woman’s basketball game against Cornell. My experience at the men’s games versus the women’s game was very different. On a Tuesday night for the Syracuse game the arena was packed and the crowd was electric the entire game. The student section, known as the Maize Rage, cheered, jumped and chanted almost the entire game. Students had lined up hours in advance of the game in freezing cold temperatures to ensure that they got a seat on the bleachers of the student section. The entire crowd would roar almost deafeningly loud during big plays, especially toward the end of the game as Michigan sealed the victory over a very talented Syracuse team. After the game I could relate to Bartlett Giamatti’s description of a spectators experience from his book Take Time for Paradise. He explains how spectators are intrigued and excited by sports because they create a series of events that has never been put together before, which can lead to an exciting ending. I left the game feeling excited after cheering on the wolverines to victory. Continue reading

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Men’s Basketball v. Women’s Gymnastics

Last week, I was able to attend the men’s basketball game against the Syracuse Orange. Throughout the entire game, the two teams were basically neck in neck and it was anyone’s game. Vibrant electricity was pulsing through the crowd and the cheering for the Wolverines was making the ground quake; specifically, the noise from the student section stood out immensely. The student cheering section for men’s basketball games in the Chrisler Arena is commonly known as the “maize rage.” Through the encouragement of the maize rage, with less than a minute remaining, Michigan’s Spike Albrecht managed to break the tie by scoring a 3-pointer, thus putting the Wolverines back in the lead. The maize rage went crazy in wild cheers and song supporting their team. It was truly an incredible feeling to be apart of. Just as Giamatti writes in his Take Time for Paradise, I can attest that “The spectator, seeing something he had only imagined, or, more astonishingly, had not yet or would have never imagined possible, because the precise random moments had never before come together in this form to challenge the players, is privy to the realized act of imagination an assents, is mastered, and in that instant, bettered.” The ability to be apart of the maize rage was something that allowed for a bond to form not just among the spectators, but also between the spectators and the team. Through our cheering on the team, we formed a bond with them that motivated them to push themselves harder and eventually resulting in a Wolverine victory. Continue reading

A Spectator’s Take

Texas v Michigan

2014 Men’s Basketball Team

Since getting to school, I have attended numerous Michigan football games, a few men’s basketball games, and a women’s basketball game.

I really wanted to see how different the same arena would look when occupied by a women’s versus a men’s team, especially because I wrote my recent essay on the gender discrimination that we see in the sports world. Women athletes have faced discrimination all throughout the past and we definitely see the impacts of that today. The difference between the two basketball teams is a perfect example of the discussions we’ve had in class about the influence of gender roles on sports.

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Miracle and Taylor Branch

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USA winning the 1980 gold medal

On November 13, I went to the showing of the movie Miracle on North Quad. This movie documents the 1980 United States men’s hockey team, winners of the 1980 Winter Olympics. The coach at this time, Herb Brooks, is attributed to a lot of the success of this team by inspiring both physical and mental strength in his players. This movie is a great example of the intense lives of athletes. It demonstrates inspiration, hard work, teamwork, mental toughness and it will inspire all who watch it.

Coach Brooks in the movie Miracle giving a speech to the team

Coach Brooks in the movie Miracle giving a speech to the team. 

Viewers are inspired by the US team because they all came from different places and had been previous rivals with each other. They had to learn to put aside their differences in order to become teammates and play well together. In the movie, there is a well-known scene after a game in which the team lost. Coach Brooks punishes the players for not playing up to their potential by forcing them to skate hours into the night. The players could barely stand up and the coach’s assistants were telling him to stop but Coach Brooks did not let them give up. Brooks was pushing his team to their limits. He knew they needed to be pushed to see what it takes to be a champion. He kept asking the players who they played for, over and over. Finally, one player came forward “I play for the United States of America!” and Coach finally ended the drill. He wanted to get across to the team that they are all playing for a common goal and that there is a necessary mental toughness for this game. Coach Brooks stated from the beginning that he wasn’t there to be anyone’s friend but instead to coach a championship team.

I play for the women’s lacrosse team here at the University of Michigan and our coach constantly reminds us that we are playing for the Block M on our chest. We have to earn the right to wear it because it is such a privilege. When we first stepped onto campus we were given a plain white t-shirt and blue shorts with no Michigan or Block M anywhere on them. We had to earn the right to play for Michigan each day through our workouts. Every day we pushed each other to be better. The team becomes your second family. That is what Coach Brooks of the USA Hockey Team did as he made them to skate for hours. I can relate to this feeling because our conditioning sessions feel impossible but afterwards we know we accomplished so much. In order to become champions, you must push yourself to your limits with your team at your side, giving you great motivation, just like the USA Hockey team. If you do not push yourself to your limits, you won’t get better or see results.

Taylor Branch giving a talk about the NCAA

Taylor Branch giving a talk about the NCAA

On November 14, I was fortunate enough to go to Taylor Branch’s talk about athletes and how the NCAA affects them. Taylor Branch is a huge advocate for the rights of student athletes everywhere. He is an author and a speaker, and has spoken to many audiences and has written and co-written many books. He has written many pieces on sports, particularly the effect of the NCAA and the life of athletes. Right now, he best known for his pieceThe Shame of College Sports” published in the October 2011 issue of The Atlantic. This article talks about the NCAA and their strict rules and regulations it has on student athletes and universities. This article was interesting for me because he argues that all the scandals in the media surrounding college athletes cheating are not what we should be focused on. Instead, “the real scandal is the very structure of college sports, wherein student-athletes generate billions of dollars for universities and private companies while earning nothing for themselves”. He compares overworked employees in the workplace to overworked collegiate athletes, saying it is unjust for one to be paid and not the other. It is interesting how in the workplace it is exploitation for an employee to not be paid for the success and hard work they’ve done. However, for a student athlete it is exploitation if they are paid or compensated in any way for the long hours, tough workouts, revenue brought to the university, and success they have while at the university.

I agree with some of what Branch says during this talk and I question whether collegiate athletes would push themselves harder if they were getting paid. However, I also believe that the NCAA put these rules in place to make sure that young athletes first receive an education before they decide to perform their sports professionally. Branch talked about the scandal at UNC. The UNC Athletic department created classes for student athletes that didn’t even physically meet. These classes were considered ‘fake’ but the students were still awarded the credits needed to be eligible and to graduate. UNC purposely made these classes to allow student athletes to focus on their sport, however this obviously took away the educational experience. On this note, a big point of conflict that Branch highlighted during his talk was that if student athletes got money, the “student first” would be lost. The NCAA wants student athletes to put the student first and get the education needed for their life after college. Again, as a student athlete I know the pressure that is put on athletes to perform at their best. Practices and workouts are very demanding. It is hard to sit through class and not worry about the excruciating workout that you next. It is also challenging to keep focus in an 8:30am class after a 7am morning lift. Despite not being paid for playing lacrosse at Michigan, being a student athlete has helped me learn to prioritize my time, and I believe I push myself to the fullest everyday, with the help of my teammates and coaches.

Why Sports Love Upsets

When it comes down to it, people love to see David defeat Goliath. There is a certain aspect of excitement that comes with the underdog knocking off the unbeatable. People like to see things that aren’t supposed to be done happen. Especially when it comes to sporting events, people become thrilled when the favored team gets taken down. A specific example would include the NCAA college basketball tournament, one of the most popular sporting events in the country that feeds off of the excitement of potential upsets. In recent times, teams such as George Mason, VCU, and Butler have taken the country by storm and made headlines with their runs.

The 2010 Butler team shocked the country by making it to the final four

The 2010 Butler team shocked the country by making it to the final four

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A Contract For Hope

Devon Still and his four-year old daughter, Leah.

Contracts between professional athletes and their respective teams are some of the most lucrative agreements we see in the world today. Players are rewarded for their on-field achievement as well as the hope they provide for future success. These contracts are guaranteed for the duration of the agreement in three of the four major professional sports leagues in our country today, with the exception being the National Football League. In professional football, contracts are not guaranteed, leaving is up to the owner’s discretion whose contracts will be honored and whose will be terminated. This agreement between professional football players and team owners regarding contracts is a situation that closely follows the principles outlined by Thomas Hobbes and has been in the news recently with an inspirational story from the Cincinnati Bengals. Continue reading

Tradition Hinders Progress

Tradition. I can practically hear the song from “Fiddler on the Roof” playing as people squawk at how the University and its football program has lost its sense of the word in recent years with the Dave Brandon era and subsequent mediocre football program that occurred during his reign. Fans proclaim that the want the tradition of the old days when football was simply about football without all of the gimmicks and high prices the program has seen lately. Yet, I highly doubt that they would be saying that if Michigan was behind in the times compared to other football powerhouses like Alabama and Ohio State. The game is now at the point where if a program isn’t up to these standards then they are considered to be behind.

A Place of Tradition

The recent firing of Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke and the departure of athletic director Dave Brandon got me thinking about the concept of conservatism and how people like consistency but most of all, tradition. In recently reading the works of Irish conservative Edmund Burke, I was struck with his idea of how “a cobbler should stay at his task” i.e. stick with what you know and don’t change things. While I think that this idea is important to a degree, I also have to disagree with it. If we never change anything then we will be stuck in the past. Part of life is change.

People will always be disgruntled. People will always have something to complain about. That’s inevitable. When Rich Rodriguez was coaching people complained about him too. What I think is telling though of how the University will and must change is the statement made by Jim Hackett the other day. He said, “I want to get rid of the word Michigan Man.’” He was referencing what has become an iconic phrase harkening back to the days of Bo Schembechler, who used the term when describing how he wanted a candidate to be a coach at Michigan. However, people typically use it in reference to how someone has to be of the Michigan character and even have ties to Michigan. The problem with that, though is that we live in a world today where that just isn’t possible. The fans and the people who work for athletics need to adapt to the changing environment while also maintaining the integrity of the sport and the program that Michigan has always been so famous for.

Some Michigan Fans

I don’t think it is bad to assume that we should maintain an air of conservatism in the way our football program carries out business, but I also think it’s important to pay attention to the fact that the business game is always changing and sometimes we need to adapt to that. You can still maintain your core values while changing the way you do business.