It is a bright Saturday morning. You walk down the stairs of your residence hall, decked out in your maize Michigan get-up. You step outside. The air is crisp with a temperature of 57 degrees; however, the light breeze flowing through the air makes it feel more like a brisk 49. As you see the Michigan busses pass, filled to the brim with what seems like a pool of maize Michigan mayhem, you throw your hands up in the air and shout, “IT’S GAMEDAY! LETS RALLY!”As we all know, almost every other Saturday, if not, every two Saturdays, Ann Arbor crowds with proud Wolverines and anxious visitors. Tailgates break out, people go nuts; the entire town takes on a new mentality focused on two things, tailgates, and, secondarily, the game . But Why??? Why do a hundred thousand plus people flood the streets and the backyards of fraternity houses to consume and watch a group of people in protective padding, run into each other and throw the pigskin down a field? One theory would be that we do what we do because it is tradition. However, I firmly believe that this tradition has turned into more of an institution of escape rather than a divine ritual.
The Michigan football team hasn’t been performing incredibly well this season. Students have been reselling and handing out more football tickets this year than Ford has sold F-150 trucks this quarter, which is surprising considering that the F-150 is and has been the #1 selling automobile in the United States for the past 37 years. Seriously, one sells every 42 seconds… Even this article from ThePostGame.com highlights how Michigan football tickets have gone from “sellouts to handouts” in only four years. This somewhat poor performance by the Wolverines has prompted a depression in the student body. The underwhelming performance of the football team combined with the rigorous academic demands of the university create a perfect breeding ground for a type of depression and the need for a break for the student body. And naturally, with depression and the need for escape comes the means, by which those ends are achieved or justified…
A. Bartlett Giamatti states in Take Time for Paradise that for spectators, “sports are like a drug to keep people docile or at least diverted from real problems.” And since as early as the Neolithic period Alcohol has been a means for achieving the same end. How convenient, these are two major contributing factors to game day, or ‘gate day’ as it has become more widely known.
But Giamatti also states, “Sports and leisure are our reiteration of the hunger for paradise – for freedom untrammeled.” This thought leads me to a new idea. What if during this season, we, the student body, have shifted our desire from being in Johan Huizinga’s ideal magic circle of the Big House to creating our own Magic Circle in the backyards of frat houses. The backyards of fraternity houses do have potential to meet the five standards outlined by Huizinga’s Homo Ludens for something to be considered a magic circle. Those standards being:
1) Play is free and has a sense of freedom
2) Play is not ‘real’ life.
3) Play is different from ‘ordinary’ or ‘daily’ life.
4) Play creates order and is order.
5) Play does not involve material interest.
But when we prioritize partying over tradition, we lose our path to victory and we gain extreme potential of being dishonest to our own anthem, ‘Hail to the Victors’.
With an arguably surprising win against Penn state this past weekend, the Michigan football team has pumped a little more proud blood through the hearts of Wolverines, not only in Ann Arbor but also around the world. Here is a video highlighting our win. But reversing this mentality of tailgating for escape is more difficult than just restoring a sense of pride to the university. The tickets have been sold; the seats have been given up. The ratio of Victors to visitors in the big house has already been offset. This season may very well be compromised. So I ask you, where is the student body of the University of Michigan headed? Are we going in the direction of waking up on Saturday morning to support our football team? Or are we going to wake up Saturday morning so we can forget that we have one?