Initially, my intentions weren't to spark outrage but to encourage intelligent discussion about the Michigan football brand and the fans who love it. But by the time that my mini-social experiment on Twitter had wrapped up Wednesday afternoon, I found out that I had ended up doing a bit of both--and the results were overwhelming.
As is usually the case, I spent my early hours thinking about sports--college football, and the Wolverines, in particular. I had just finished reading yet another aggressive column courtesy of John U. Bacon, and it made me think about perception: 'How do Wolverines fans really feel?' I asked myself, quickly following with 'Does John U. represent the majority, or is he the spokesperson for a select minority?'
One by one, fans responded with their feelings. Then a few more participated. Moments later, John U. became the topic; and shortly after that, he unknowingly assumed the role of conversation MC. Given the fact that I didn't initiate contact--I believe others tagged him--I was pleasantly surprised to see such a well-respected writer take a few minutes--which ended up being several upon several minutes--of his time to not only clear the air on some fans' misinterpretation of his work, but to constructively discuss the state of the program.
The following tweets come from you, meaning that they represent fans from young to old, from well off to working class, and (mostly) everything and everyone in between. And who knows? Maybe you actually took part in the discussion. If so, thanks for your input.
Note: The following examples don't make up the entire conversation. To read the entire "transcript," visit my Twitter. I wanted to highlight some of the main points and attempt to give an accurate representation of the majority.
My initial question:
As part of a column in works, UM fans, do you feel alienated by the program/AD/coach(es)? John U.'s recent pieces say you've been wronged.— Adam Biggers (@AdamBiggers81) June 25, 2014
@AdamBiggers81 i dont feel alienated.. Do i think the new "system" is wrong and flawed? Yes.— Yambo (@MGoYambo) June 25, 2014
@AdamBiggers81 @MaizenBrew at the same time it is embarrassing seeing students not show up to games til the 2nd Q. I can see both sides— Yambo (@MGoYambo) June 25, 2014
Yambo is a 20-something Michigan alum who epitomizes the die-hard. He helped get the ball rolling and represents the working man who invests countless hours and hundreds of dollars into the Wolverines football machine. Each year, he drives from Ohio--he's from Michigan--to see his beloved team. Frustrated yet hooked, he
can't won't give up on the maize and blue under any circumstances.
@AdamBiggers81 junior from NJ, sports lover and the AD is a joke. Terrible seating for basketball and no idea how to handle football fans— Spencer Howard (@HowArd_YouDoing) June 25, 2014
@AdamBiggers81 I feel monetized. It seems like UM now wants me there to A) spend as much money as possible and B) look good on TV.— John Mozena (@johnmoz) June 25, 2014
The question of "alienation" definitely struck a chord. Answers varied, but for the most part, fans aren't thrilled with athletic director Dave Brandon. They--or at least the ones who were a part of this roundtable of sorts--feel that he's out of touch with the core fanbase. Sure, he's trying new marketing techniques in order to strengthen the brand, but at what cost? Not too long ago, John U. touched on the topic, writing that maize and blue faithful have been asked to "sell their soul." A true purist, John U. pulls no punches when critiquing Michigan football. He's seen just about everything and is as qualified as anyone to do so.
Some agree with him, some don't. Upon arrival to this point of the conversation, I feared the worst but hoped for the best. It could have gone either way--either very constructive, or, well, the opposite.
@AdamBiggers81 Argument can be made that AD has expanded access to Michigan football. Bacon postulates a monolithic fan that doesn't exist.— MGoShoe (@MGoShoe) June 25, 2014
.@AdamBiggers81 @MaizenBrew *I* don't feel wronged. But I & @Johnubacon see how stdnts w/o 40 yrs invested do, & that's start of big probs.— Lex Kuhne (@LexKuhne) June 25, 2014
@AdamBiggers81 being a season ticket holder, I totally agree with the column. It was a hard decision to re new my tickets this year, but we [did]— 〽️arcus (@goblue8277) June 25, 2014
Origins of the numbers?
@MGoShoe @AdamBiggers81 I don't want to credit him with convincing fewer folks to renew, do you? More expensive = less access, right?— Zone Left (@zoneleft1) June 25, 2014
@AdamBiggers81 I think he thinks vast majority of fans are as traditionalist as he. They're not. The fan unease will be solved by wins.— MGoShoe (@MGoShoe) June 25, 2014
@zoneleft1 @AdamBiggers81 Regardless, it's Bacon who has postulated WHY there are non-student non-renewals without any hard evidence.— MGoShoe (@MGoShoe) June 25, 2014
At this time, most fans are reinforcing John U.'s opinion--he's certainly not the only one who's dissatisfied with Brandon's program. However, as shown above, a couple of participants began to question the validity of John U.'s claims. And then things took a turn toward the more interesting...
John U. Enters
He stands by his figures:
@AdamBiggers81 @MGoShoe @zoneleft1 Those numbers surely exist, but until someone FOIAs the department, they're not likely to share them.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
@AdamBiggers81 @MGoShoe @zoneleft1 Since they're still selling tix for all games, however, we can conclude even PSU-UM is not sold out yet.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
@MGoShoe @AdamBiggers81 @zoneleft1 ?? "This fall Michigan is in danger of breaking its string of 251 consecutive games with 100,000-plus..."— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
For the record, I was caught in the crossfire between John U. and MGoShoe. I'm included in a series of exchanges, but John U.'s not responding to me, he's addressing MGoShoe and ZoneLeft1.
@MGoShoe @AdamBiggers81 @zoneleft1 I made no such conclusion. "Unsubstantiated criticism"? ;-)— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
@MGoShoe @AdamBiggers81 @zoneleft1 Clearly, the streak is in danger, when they're sending out emails to everyone to buy tickets in June.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
@MGoShoe @AdamBiggers81 @zoneleft1 Whether or not that happens, we obviously won't know until the season starts. No one claims otherwise.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
@MGoShoe @AdamBiggers81 @zoneleft1 Right! Quoting the piece is the only way to refute your claim that I concluded they wouldn't sell out.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
@AdamBiggers81 @MGoShoe @zoneleft1 Just google UM Students, 13,000-14,000. Those are figures from UM AD to http://t.co/AUHa2Cvvss— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
After running in place, John U. decides to end his interaction with MGoShoe and ZoneLeft1.
@MGoShoe @AdamBiggers81 @zoneleft1 *Sigh* Again, I never said that. Only that decades-long wait list is clearly gone. Okay, onward.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) June 25, 2014
This tweet says it well. Everything has its price, that's true.
@AdamBiggers81 but I will say if fans want the best facilities & things for their school then they have to realize it comes with a cost— A2I Wheels (@a2iwheels) June 25, 2014
More from Fans
(It's Day 2, and fans remain interested in this topic. Again, thanks to everyone who contributed). If you want to share your thoughts, "@" me on Twitter. I'll try to post the best tweets into this updates section.
What I love has been lost in a cloud of money, amidst the sound of piped-in-music and the sight of jumbotrons and theatrics. @AdamBiggers81— Joseph Anthony (@totustuusmaria) June 26, 2014
Follow Maize 'n Brew's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81