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September 24, 2014 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-09-24

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014/ The Stateent3B

Personal Statement: Life after skating
By Stephanie Shenouda

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Six hours before Michigan is
set to kickoff against Miami
University (Ohio), Roland
Jersevic sets up his tent where the
i"ffoad tracks intersect Hoover
Street.
His truck is backed in, the tail-
gate is down and a 60-inch TV is
set up in the back. His TV stands
out, with a satellite and a pair of
speakers that face out to the street.
The table is there, near the grill,
with chairs that form a semicircle
around the truck. A former timer
for the track teams, Jersevic sits
alone now, adorning a blue vest
over a yellow sweater on an abnor-
mally chilly September Saturday.
Jersevic has done the same
thing for decades. He's been com-
ing since he was a freshman in
1970.
His friends will join him later,
as they always do, and he'll head to
his section in the stadium because
"a Michigan Man sticks by his
team," he says. Fans will walk by,
watch his TV and maybe strike up
a conversation.
And Jersevic wears a smile on
his face as if it's new to him every
Even as ticket prices rise, com-
mercials spread, schedules dis-
appoint and records fluctuate,
Jersevic - a Saginaw, Michigan
native - returns to his spot at
Hoover and the railroad tracks.
He'a £one of many, who despite

changes to the Football Saturday
experience, renew their season
tickets every year and show up,
ready to tailgate.
"This is a way of life," Jersevic
said. "We came here to Michigan
because it's a great school and this
is what makes it part of it."
There are people from all
around who have a similar view
as Jersevic, who are motivated to
return to a struggling program
because it's as engrained in them.
The program, after all, revels in
tradition.
Yet to many fans, the game day
experience at Michigan Stadium
has become more like a business
and less like an experience. But
does it need to be?
The parking lot at Ann Arbor
Pioneer high school fills up slow-
ly before Miami (Ohio) comes to
town. The RedHawks haven't won
in their last 18 games.
There are people like Lisa
Neitzer who tolerate the repeated
losses. She's been coming to games
with her family since she was a
young child. She parks her RV at
Ann Arbor Pioneer's parking lot.
It's decorated with block 'M's' and
the Big House and Wolverines and
the yellow striped helmets.
"This is something, instead of
going on a vacation with the fam-
ily, wherever Michigan goes, we
go," she says. "This is fun."

EVOLUTION OF

She sets up with her family out-
side the RV - paying the $225 to
park it kitty-corner from Michi-
gan Stadium. Neitzer will travel
to Piscataway, New Jersey in a few
short weeks to watch the Wolver-
ines game against Rutgers. And
later, she'll go to Evanston, Illinois
to see them play Northwestern.
Neitzer remembers watching
Bo Schembechler, Lloyd Carr, Rich
Rodriguez and now Brady Hoke
carry on the Michigan coaching
legacy. She went with her father to
the games when she was young, a
tradition which "brainwashed in
her," she described.
100 feet away from Neitzer,
Jackson resident Tyler Sebastian
throws a football back and forth
with his brother.
"There's just nothing else I
would rather do on a Saturday,"
Sebastian says. "I'll watch them
even if they do play smaller teams
or have rough weeks."
He shows up early because
these opportunities don't come
around often. He shows up early
because that's what he's done
since he was 13.
"The biggest thing that
brings fans to the Big House is
the need to be together, to have

BY GREG GARNO,

shared values, to have that bar-
riers that are all too present too
often - race, religion, nationality,
age," said John U. Bacon, Univer-
sity lecturer and New York Times
best-selling author, in an inter-
view with The Michigan Daily.
"All of these things, whether
you're pursing poetry, engineer-
ing or Law - it's the one time of
the year when none of that mat-
ters where the second you walk
past the turnstile, all of it breaks
down."
Across Ann Arbor-Saline Road,
the Ann Arbor Country Club golf
course also fills up with fans who
begrudgingly pay the high price to
park heir car.
Eric Rife of Temperance, Mich-
igan;still shows up hours before
kickoff, setting up a grill with
venison wrapped in bacon. Since
the beginning of this season, he's
been coming to the games and gets
"chills" every time he walks into
the stadium.
For all the fans that return to
Ann Arbor for the game day expe-

rience, every year brings a whole
new set of Michigan fans to the
nation's biggest stadium - Rife
included.
"New fans are experiencing
Michigan Stadium that have never
experienced it before and we are
confident once they attend a game,
they will want to come back in the
future," said Hunter Lochmann,
Chief Marketing Officer within
the Athletic Department.
This season, Michigan's seven-
game home slate includes one
team with more than seven wins
- Minnesota, who fell to Michi-
gan last year, 42-13. The better
games are on the road, and ticket
prices, despite not rising, are still
more than a $1,000 investment for
regular season-ticket holders.
According to ticket data from
Craig Barker, a long-time fan and
blogger at the Hoover Street Rag,
ticket prices have increased by
$30 per game since 2000, averag-
ing to $65 per contest in the 2014
season. The Athletic Department
hasn't raised prices since 2012,
but the price per ticket is still at its

I don't remember the moment I fell in
love with figure skating, but I'm positive
it wasn't the moment I first stepped on the
ice.
My mom and one of her friends decided
to sign all of the kids up for group lessons
at the local community rink because it
was cheap, fun and, maybe, a good skill to
have for potential dates later in life. Armed
with a ladybug helmet, I took my first steps
toward what I was certain would be Olym-
pic fame. In my five-year-old mind, I knew
that I wouldn't be Michelle Kwan on my
very first day, but I expected at least basic
proficiency. I was royally pissed when I face-
planted after my first step on the ice. I decid-
ed right then and there that I was done with
this stupid sport, if only I could get back up.
Fortunately, one of the instructors scooped
me up and hand-delivered me to my class
before I could make my escape. It was some-
where around then that my love affair with
ice skating began.
Flash forward a few years later,iand things
have gotten serious between skating and me.
Group classes have been replaced with pri-
vate lessons from several different coaches,
all attempting to teach me the different
disciplines of skating: freestyle, ice dance,
field moves and synchro. Synchro - short
for synchronized skating - meant more ice.
time, more coaches and more pretty dress-
es, as well as the opportunity to eventually
travel the world with the U.S. flag embroi-
dered on my jacket. What had started out as

a fun hobby had taken over my life - and I my teammates and I would play "booty
couldn't have been any happier. jams" to get pumped up, and once we were
Skating was no longer cheap and my mom dressed in our costumes it was time to
would regularly ask me if I was sure, abso- visualize our performance and get serious
lutely sure, that this was what I wanted to do. again.
Skating also wasn't making me into a well- Once I took the ice, everything melted
rounded person, but rather a one-dimen- away and it was just me and the music. No
sional one because I had completely thrown matter the competition, whether I was with
myself into it. And just to throw the roman- my team or flying solo, time always used to
tic notions out the window, I hadn't been feel like it was speeding by at twice or three
ice skating on a date. Skating shouldn't have times the speed it was. My heart would
been any fun at all. What was fun about get- pound and my body would be on autopilot,
ting up ungodly early to hang out in the one knowing exactly what to do after hours of
place that was colder than it was outside? rigorous training. In those moments, I felt
There was nothing amusing about falling like I could fly, like anything was possible.
and slamming into the boards so hard that Even when our music took on a serious
you still have scar tissue to this very day, tone, I always had a big smile plastered on
or having to respond "Sorry, I can't, I have my face because I was doing exactly what
skating," to every invitation that was ever I loved to do.
extended to you. Was it enjoyable to spend The program would come to an end and
six hours a day learning choreography so I would gasp for air - beaming at the real-
difficult it made your head spin, only to ization of another successful skate. You're
have your coach yell and threaten to replace supposed to be professional and stand still
you when you didn't do it right? until someone gives the count to release
In a word: yes. you, but I would always smile knowingly
While the grueling practices and chal at my family in the crowd, even as a col-
lenging moments themselves weren't fun, legiate athlete.
it was all part of the bigger picture. Skat- Years have gone by, and I'll never forget
ing allowed me the chance to perform. I've my first Synchronized Skating Champion-
got a big personality, and I loved being the ship - hitting the final pose in our long
center of attention. I was always a nervous program at the Spring Cup in Milan, Italy,
wreck leadingup to competitions, but there or the feeling of my first collegiate medal
was something about putting on the make- hanging from my neck as a member of the
up (copious amounts of glitter and red lip- University's team my freshman year. Each
stick) that relaxed me. In the locker room moment, though they all seemed monu-

mental at the time, was part of larger pic-
ture that will never fully fade away; my life
as a competitive skater. No matter what,
those memories will never leave, and if I try
hard enough, I can still recreate those pre-
competition jitters in my stomach and legs
like it was yesterday. Some of my happiest
moments come from those years when I was
missing school, surviving on four hours of
sleep a night and skating was truly my whole
life.
What skating really gave me, from that
very first day until the day I hung up my
skates, was my identity. When people asked
what I did, I said competitive figure skat-
ing. When they asked who I was, it was
the name of the team I was on. While I've
found ways to fill the gaps in my schedule,
there's noclub or meeting that will ever com-
pare to a packed stadium or getting a stand-
ing ovation from hundreds of people. People,
tell me that I'll find something else I'll love
just as much, but I'm not so sure. I died a
little bit inside the first time I told someone
that "I used to skate," but I'm accepting the
reality of my first grown-up decision.
In truth, my love affair with figure skat-
ing never really ended, and I don't think it
ever fully will. It taught me how to push
myself to the absolute limit. My story is
about a little girl who fell head over heels
in love with figure skating, which gave me
experiences that shaped who I am today,
and will help me become the woman I
hope to be 15 years from now.

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