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Big House:Pump up the volume

BY MATT SINGER: SPITTING FIRE

Published September 6, 2005

Michigan students, why so quiet? Are you scared of a little sore throat? Do you think the cute sorority girl in the next row will be impressed by your stone-cold silence as the Wolverines’ defense takes the field?

I’m sick of the excuses and the rationalizations. There’s no reason that 110,000-plus fans — including tens of thousands of inebriated students — can’t suck it up, swallow their pride and make Michigan Stadium an intimidating place to play for EVERY visiting team.

I know the potential this student body has. I know girls who can list every player on the Michigan depth chart. I know guys who, without looking at the roster, can say who shares Steve Breaston’s No. 15 (linebacker Chip Cartwright). I know how unbelievably difficult it is to get college students out of bed at 8 a.m., and I’m constantly amazed at how many are able to do it each and every Football Saturday. You love this team, and you know your football. But for whatever reason, during most non-rivalry games, the Big House barely makes a blip on the decibel meter.

This is about more than pride — in football, more than any other sport, the crowd can impact a game. False start penalties, wasted timeouts and miscommunications at the line of scrimmage can all result from rabid fans making their voices heard. But Northern Illinois didn’t make a single crowd-induced mistake during Michigan’s home opener.

Being an active football fan isn’t just about cheering big plays and booing the opposition. It’s about strategically using crowd noise to give the home team an advantage. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or senior, a sorority girl or an engineering guy. Each and every one of us has a role to play in helping Michigan Stadium become not just the biggest, but the loudest stadium in college football. I’ve included a few helpful guidelines to help make this goal a reality:

n Don’t be afraid to be heard: I understand that it may feel a little weird screaming your lungs out when the rest of your section is watching in silence. But for any significant noise level to emerge, someone has to be a leader and start things off. From my own experience, if one or two people take charge, others will follow. This especially goes out to the freshmen in the higher rows — I distinctly remember how quiet it was in row 94, even during the Ohio State game in 2003.

- Timing is everything: Too often, the crowd begins to get warmed up just as the ball is snapped. This is too late to have any impact on the play. The noise should begin while the opposing offense is in their huddle, making it difficult for them to hear the play that’s called. Then, the screams should crescendo and reach their peak just as the quarterback reaches the line, because this is the moment where the crowd is most likely to cause problems for the opposition. And remember, when the Michigan offense takes the field, you get to rest your voice. So go all out when the defense takes the field.

- Students lead; Alumni follow: Yes, the rest of the stadium is quiet. Yes, this makes it more difficult to create a raucous atmosphere. But this does not mean students should sit back and let the alumni’s laid-back attitude take over. An all-out performance by the student section would easily make up for the relative silence emanating from the rest of the Big House.

- When the keys stop jingling, the noise must go on: Another common Big House phenomenon — the crowd actually gears up for a third down, but the visitors convert, and the fans fall into a stupor for the remainder of the drive. If there’s any time the defense needs your help, it’s after they’ve given up a key third-down conversion. Keep the noise coming, because one crowd-induced penalty or mistake could bring the opponents’ drive to a screeching halt.

- Defend our turf: Nothing is more frustrating than a quiet Big House when the opposition is backed up in the north endzone. Students, this is our turf. Visitors should have nightmares about getting pinned on our side of the field. Picture it: Notre Dame takes the field for a first-and-ten at their own four yardline, and Michigan Stadium is so loud that the players can’t hear the quarterback’s signals. Noise is important regardless of where the play is, but the students’ impact can be the greatest when the enemy is right in front of us.

- When players ask, they should receive. Players make it obvious when they need you the most, waving their arms up and down, begging for more noise. So follow their lead. During Saturday’s game, the kickoff team tried to pump up the crowd prior to every kick, only to be largely ignored. Waving your hat isn’t enough … so open your mouth and make some noise!

- Notre Dame or Eastern, the Big House should be rockin’: I’m not delusional. I know the Big House will be especially hyped for rivalry games, and that’s part of what makes those matchups special. But this doesn’t mean that the fans should take the other games off. Last year’s San Diego State game proved that any team can give Michigan a run for its money. Fans are quick to blame the Wolverines for looking past lowly opponents, and then do the same thing when Eastern Michigan or Illinois rolls into Ann Arbor.

Be proud, Michigan students. Consider the post-game sore throat a battle wound, and dull the pain with some alcohol afterwards. Worry about the opposite sex after the game. For three hours, on seven Saturdays a year, the team you love (and I know you love them) needs you. Show them you care.

— Matt Singer will happily buy throat lozenges for anyone who leaves the Big House with a sore throat on Saturday. He can be reached at mattsing@umich.edu.