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July 06, 2009 - Image 11

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2009-07-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Monday, July 6, 2009 -11
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com ,H .
Fans could learn a lot from NASCAR

It starts early on a Saturday
morning as the fans flock from
the furthest reaches of Ann
Arbor and congregate on State
Street to take part in the sacred-
union of pre-gaming. They march
from fraternity houses and dormi-
tories alike to the front steps of the
revered Michigan Stadium - an
arena with over 100 years of tradi-
tion and a follow-
ing that extends
across the entire
country.
And then,
as fans file into
the Big House,
the Wolverine 4
enthusiasts turn
on their "inside CHANTEL
voices" and the JENNINGS
oncerowdymass
of fans becomes
an inaudible sea
of maize, whose, shirts are louder
than their battle cries. It's astadium
known for its football tradition, the
block 'M' and the quietest 100,000
fans in America.
In 2007, Mike Hart pleaded with
fans as he looked off the field and
into the stands for the backing he
and his team needed during games.
"That's when you need the sta-
dium," Hart told The Wolverine in
the 2007 Football Preview Issue.
"That's the one thing we really need
to do this year as fans, as everyone
- make it extra hard for teams com-
ing in here. Show them it's not the
same Big House. It needs to be a lot
crazier."
But nothing has changed. We're
still quiet. We still show up late in
a drunken stupor and leave early,
stumbling home to nap before we
leave for late-night adventures with
the game out of sight and out of
mind.
Oh, how quickly we forget the
moments we will never forget and
instead, move onto escapades few
will be able to remember the next
day.
Something needs to change. And
we need to look to someone to show
us how.
During football season at Penn
State, "Paternoville" - a tent city
outside of Beaver Stadium in State

Fans tailgate by their homemade bike rarnp at Michigan International Speedway prior to the Lifelock 400 on June 14

We go to the "Harvard of the
West," but we can't figure out how
to layer clothing? We put on Ugg
Boots during welcome week but for-
get them when its freezing outside?
We can paint our chests and turn
men's shirts into dresses but it's a
useless show of school spirit if we
only stay for a quarter.
Didn't Bo say, "Those who stay
will be champions?" Sorry Bo: We,
as fans, have failed you. We, as fans,
have failed the team.
That's one thing diehard
NASCAR fans will never compro-
mise. Their cholesterol? Sure. Their
refinement? You bet. But their loy-
alty? Not a chance.
During one interview I asked a
man, "So, win or lose, Dale Earn-
hardt Jr. is your guy, right?"
He looked at me, petrified, and
questioned why I was asking about
gay rights. Decades of being a
NASCAR fan had deteriorated his
hearing to the point that "guy, right"
sounded like "gay rights."
But later, he agreed - win or lose,
he would support Earnhardt. And it
was pretty clear partial deafness
didn't phase his staunch fandom. If
anything, it made the sound of the
cars on the track more therapeutic.
You can't say as much for Michi-
gan. After a single losing season,
some fans have already begun to
doubt Rich Rodriguez and the Wol-
verines.
Last April, an article appeared in
USA Today that said "The Wolver-
ines must improve dramatically in
Rodriguez's second season, or one
of the nation's biggest fanbases will
become restless" (Michigan - Team
Notes, 04/28/2009).
Alosing recordshouldn't make us
restless. It should make us hungry.
The fervor of NASCAR fans
opened my eyes to what the Big
House couldbeifwe step away from
our acceptance of what we have
been and look to what we could be.
Sept. 5 is coming faster than you
think. Our offseason is slowly dwin-
dling into preseason, and what have
you done to prepare?
Do you really think Michigan
football fans bleed maize and blue?
I haven't seen so much as a paper
cut recently.

College, Pa. - governs the students'
lives starting every Thursday. Stu-
dents have to earn seats close to
the field based on dedication. They
take football so seriously that there
is a registered student group that
actually governs Paternoville. They
have a website with rules and regu-
lations, a Facebook and a Twitter.
The Izzone is whatgivestheSpar-
tans a true home court advantage at
the Breslin Center. You have to earn
your spot in the Izzone by missing
no more than two games - if you
make the cut, that is, by attending
the annual Izzone campout and are
a returning Izzone member. The
Spartans can get 3,000-plus fans to
show up wearing all white and are
one of the best student sections in
college basketball.
But I will uphold our validated
stubborn view and refuse to look at
any other Big Ten school as superior
to Michigan - at anything.
So I took it upon myself to step
away from the collegiate sports and
set out and find our own personal
"super fan" - a paradigm of fandom

in all its stupefying glory.
I just didn't think I would find my
muse on a cloudless Sunday at the
Michigan International Speedway.
I was pretty skeptical when I
showed up to MIS. I had never had
a desire to watch or learn or even be
around NASCAR.
After arriving at MIS, it didn't
take me long to meander out of the
grandstand area toward a throng
of Winnebagos heavily scented of
bratwursts and Bud Light. It's here
that I was quickly enveloped in a
society of fandom I had never expe-
rienced.
In the NASCAR world, unlike
Ann Arbor, fans don't limit their
tailgates to the day of the event.
Some came as early as Wednesday
afternoon to start the preparations
for Sunday afternoon's race. Some
students don't even know who
Michigan's opponent is until Fri-
day.
One couple I met had called in
sick to work on Wednesday, Thurs-
day and Friday so they could drive
to MIS from Traverse City. They

would do anything to set up asclose
to the Speedway as possible.
Still, the closest spot they could
find was 15 Winnebagos away.
They told me nothing could keep
them away from their long weekend
in Brooklyn, which has become a
yearly tradition for them.
Come rain or shine, Hell or high
water, they would annually camp
out for five days to watch cars race
around an elliptical track for no rea-
son except that they want to. Most
don't have an affiliation to the team
or driver, unlike us Wolverines that
are expected to be Michigan fans
because of our enrollment at the
University.
As I sat with them under their
awning, listening to their stories of
dedication from past campouts and
races, I could only think of last sea-
son's game against Northwestern on
Nov. 15 in less than favorable condi-
tions. In the Wolverines last home
game of the season, only 40,000
total fans made it to halftime -
with the student section only about
20 percent full.

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