Blog #1 Thanksgiving Special
On January 17th, 2012, as a junior in high school I realized I wanted to attend the University of Michigan. On that cold Tuesday night, Michigan basketball faced off with a highly ranked Michigan State team who also happened to be their in-state rival. The wolverines soared to victory that night in dramatic last minute fashion. However Trey Burke’s outstanding play was not all that caught my eye that night. I was immediately struck by the rowdiness in the Crisler Center. As a sixteen year old I was captivated by the “rah-rah” nature of the Michigan student section. I remember thinking to myself how difficult it must have been for the Michigan State players to keep focus in that environment. Unbeknownst to my sixteen-year old self, that night I had discovered what Machiavelli had discovered so many years before, “It is better to be feared than loved.”
When Machiavelli wrote the Prince, he did not intend for his quote to apply to a student fan base. Machiavelli wrote the Prince to show how one can establish and maintain their power. Although Machiavelli was referring to political power, his extraordinary quote can be applied to any type of power. In the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, the Michigan basketball team holds a certain type of power over its opponents. When teams come to the Crisler Center, they come into Michigan’s home court, a place in which everyone in the building wants to see Michigan win. Although Michigan holds the power advantage in this situation, in order to fully obtain control over the other team they must win the game. In Machiavellian terms the Michigan basketball team is attempting to rule the kingdom, that is their opponent. On that January evening, Michigan’s fan base used the power of a home field advantage to intimidate and strike fear into their Spartan opponents.
When I arrived this year as a freshman I wanted to help keep the student section alive in the Crisler Center. I soon found a club known as “Maize Rage.” Maize Rage consists of Michigan’s die-hard fans. They meet weekly to discuss themes, chants and just about anything else related to Michigan Basketball. In my mind Maize Rage’s responsibility to the basketball team is based off of the idea that it is better to be feared than loved. If you were to ask the President of the Maize Rage, what the club’s main objective is, he would most likely say something along the lines of, “establishing a great student section environment at the Crisler Center.” As a member of the club I can tell you informallythat we strive to rattle our opponents as much as possible. And support our fellow wolverines of course. But mostly distract the heck of our opponents. Heckling opposing players, though controversial, is very effective in shifting the balance of power towards the home team. This strategy is formally known as the home field advantage. Why does this strategy work? According to Patrick J. Kiger there are many reasons why teams play better at home. In reference to the heckling of opposing players, Kiger states “… scientific researchers also have attributed varying amounts of the home-field advantage to physiological and psychological effects upon both the players and the officials who supervise the contests.” Kiger’s quote goes to show how a student section as powerful and loud as the Maize Rage can help the basketball take control of the game. It may be kinder for the student section to simply cheer on their own players, but in order to truly be effective the Maize Rage has to be somewhat harsh on the opposing players.
Being that I am a freshman, I have yet to experience a basketball game inside the student section. I have yet to be apart of the “Maize Rage.” As basketball season gets closer and closer I have one main goal for the upcoming season. I hope that by the middle of the season, no team will want to play in the Crisler Center. This may come with being a hated fan base, but so be it. As Machiavelli would say “it’s better to be feared than loved.”