Michigan is ranked very highly in the world of athletics and academics. We are guaranteed to offer an excellent education and, of course, great sports. While the football team may not have done that well this year, Michigan does have a tremendous reputation to preform at the top level in all sports. There is a history of excellence here that can not be beat by any university, especial those Buckeyes. The team and school spirit is infectious making the atmosphere of ever game incredible exciting.
While only being here a few months, I have been to several sporting events, including basketball and cross country. I love watching people represent Michigan and seeing people preform at the top level. Both the basketball team and the cross country team are ranking very highly and consistently put on a good show. Besides their reputation, Cross County and Basketball are (obviously) very different. The way they preform, play, train, celebrate, and even win are very different for each other. However I believe the biggest difference, as a fan of each sport, is the spectators.
It is truly amazing what spectators can do for athletes in a sport. They can change the tone and excitement of the game which has great effect on the athletes. When I attended the men’s basketball game against Syracuse, the emotions were high and everyone was excited. When Doyle through down a crazy dunk, I couldn’t even hear myself think. It was wild in there and you could tell Irving loved it. He was screaming, and chest bumping and stomping around like he owned the building. It was an incredible display, almost acted out for the crowd. But maybe that is all spectator sports are: Displays, performances. I think Eric Dunning might even agree and state, “We are no longer playing to play. We are playing for display.” Having a crowd cheer you on is a huge motivation and bonus. Your level of performance might even increase because of the crowd. While in attendance of the game, I got the feeling the athletes were playing for us, the people watching the game, rather than themselves. They pointed to the crowd and thanked us for every basket. It was like we were the reason the basketball team was winning. Basketball is all about the show they put on. They even made basketball a literal performance with the Harlem Globetrotters.
This is very different from the cross country team where there are no spectators. It is not a very glorious sport. There is no screaming fans or incredible excitement which really changes the dynamic. Because there really are no spectators, there is no display. It is not a “show” that you can go see, like a basketball game. People run for the love of the sport. They run to get better, stronger and faster. They don’t do it for the crowd or anyone else besides themselves (and the team). If you went to a race you would never see the athletes high five the crowd or each other in the middle of the competition. They are serious and determined. Their face hardly even changes shape or expression.
Runners and Basketball players compete for different things because of the spectators. While they still compete to win and, as Dunning would agree, play with incredible seriousness, these athletes have different motivations that change the nature of the game. I had a great time at each event but you could definitely tell how different the athletes play and perform when there is a crowd and when there is not.