Through the Lenses of the Game

As a freshman, one of my main goals is to try new things while remaining open minded. Just three months in, I’ve already attended both men and women’s basketball, football, soccer, and volleyball games. Studying sports along with the politics behind it, I realized that the players and the sport itself don’t just make the game, but the fan base behind the team can change the whole atmosphere. The fan base, specifically the student section in college sports, can have have a huge affect on the team and there is possible debate to whether there is a social contract between the team and its supporters and the environment within the state of nature of a sporting event. 

The Zone

Sometimes a fan base can be more vital to a team than the coaching staff!

The thing about American sports is that they all have different traditions that make them unique. Whether its through chants, pre-game rituals, or the fans. As we know, Michigan’s Team #135 has had a rough season this year for what can be one of the most American sports, football. Our football team has not only had a rough time with the administration, but we have also had a rough time getting fans to come and stay for the whole game. It’s noticeable by players as I had a conversation with freshman, WR, Maurice Ways after the homecoming game as he said “I wish more people would stay at the the whole time, but we notice everyone who has been there the whole season. It means a lot knowing that there are people supporting us and holding us down even at our worse. That’s a true fan right there, the game was great though!”. The fan base, or lack there of, is not only affecting the team but the university as a whole. The atmosphere of the typical “Saturday GAME DAY in Ann Arbor” went for a landslide midseason as the football team wasn’t playing well and the Coach and A.D. were making their own mistakes. Students and fans stopped attending and the team continued to feel let down. This is just one example itself of how important support is to a team as it is noticed by the players on the field.

On another note, playing volleyball in high school, I’m accustomed to not having as many supporters as the other fall sports, but when I went to the Michigan vs. Duke game that was a different story. First off, I was excited to see that was some equality between the sports. The student section, The Zone, has their own shirts, their own band, and specific cheers for defensive and offensive plays just like the basketball and football teams. This connects to a major issue discussed in the readings. La-Vaque Manty, in “The Playing Fields of Eton” discusses how women rarely attract large crowds for sporting events. Yes, there weren’t as many people supporting as there would be in the Big House or Cliff Arena, but surprisingly there was still an outstanding turnout for a what we know to be a disability sport. Before the game even started, I could tell the atmosphere would be live. Sitting in the student section, I realized that the fan base really does “hold the team down” and ” have their back”. They literally stand behind them and cheer them on.The die-hard fans evolve the meaning of a game from friendly competition to an all-encompassing sense of sacredness. Being a die hard Michigan volleyball fan, I then questioned “Is there a social contract between me as a supporter and the team? Are they (the team) the governing power and we (the fans) the people?”.

Michigan's middle hitter, Abby Cole, up against Duke's Jeme Obeime (OH) and Alyse Whitaker (MH) at the game on September 5th where Michigan won in a close 5 sets!

Michigan’s middle hitter, Abby Cole, up against Duke’s Jeme Obeime (OH) and Alyse Whitaker (MH) at the game on September 5th where Michigan won in a close 5 sets!

We sometimes question what in society we want a contract between. Is a contract between a fan base and a team too much of a social contract? This type of social contract reminds me of Rousseau’s idea of a social contract as it tries to prevent you from acting upon your own selfish desire.  In order to be a true supporter, the spectator is responsible for ensuring that they have a huge impact of controlling the atmosphere of the game. When the team gets down and begins digging themselves into a hole, it is necessary for the fans to start uplifting them with cheers. Do they actually have an affect on the team? Yes, they do as it’s very noticeable when one side doesn’t uphold their side of the deal and do their job. Surprisingly, at the exhibition game tonight with the men’s basketball game against Wayne State, there was a similar environment. Thinking back to the volleyball game, for a slight second it had me wondering if we are moving toward equality between the gender of sports.

Although not in full action at today’s game, The Maize Rage is quite similar to the Zone. As we get into Big- 10 and ACC match ups, there are more people that come out and support the team in full action.

It’s as if there was a state of nature in both aspects that was free and just, similar to Rousseau’s state of nature within the student sections.  In a nutshell, Rousseau believes that people have escaped the state of nature by people coming together to create authority where people are mutually respecting each other. It’s almost as when you step into the game as a spectator everything is just like Huizinga’s Magic Circle. As a spectator, things are not as competitive, but done more so for the fun of it all.

If sports are similar to the ideas of Roussseau, do they have anything to do with whether or not Dunning’s article is still relevant? Eric Dunning’s Dynamics of Modern Sport depicts just how ferocious and extreme sports have become over recent years. Both women’s volleyball and men’s basketball, both early in the season when I attended the game, show how intense modern sports currently are. Being able to see and hear how a fan base affects a team makes me proud to be a victor as I cheer on the Maize and Blue!

The smile on my face while being a supporter of a UMich athletic team!



One thought on “Through the Lenses of the Game

  1. I agree that there is a type of social contract between fans and the players. That being said, I agree and feel like our university has broken that contract with our football team. Like you said, the atmosphere at UofM football games is nothing like it used to be and our players notice that. I wonder if this lack of the traditional atmosphere is further affecting our football team from being the champions we used to know them as. I am curious what could be done by the school to recreate a social contract that would encourage students to continue to support the team. I guess the athletic director resigning may be a start to this!


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