As many students have heard, The Detroit Free Press and even University alumni are castigating current students for their recent behavior in the Michigan Stadium. “More dignified” observers are calling out students for the disrespectful and vulgar actions that have taken place in the student section during recent games: the “Fuck-the-I-rish” chant, the notorious bottle-throwing incident during the Notre Dame game, the unified “bullshit” chant following questionable calls.
While throwing bottles is beyond the realm of tastefulness, people need to accept that the student section is inherently loud, rowdy and profane. Even otherwise-inappropriate epithets assume special, Saturday-afternoon meanings. “Fuck the Irish” isn’t intended as a hate message directed at all Irish, but just as a friendly taunt toward the Notre Dame Irish on that particular day.
So why are students inherently rowdy at football games? We’re young, often drunk and very passionate about winning. At football games, students are not just spectators. Rather, they are participants in the largest gathering of fans at any game, anywhere in America. They believe, and rightfully so, that they can indirectly influence the game. That belief is the reason why some students wear the same underwear each football Saturday, walk to the Big House the same exact way and jingle keys and make as much noise as possible on third downs. All the traditions, superstitions, rituals and actions in the Big House are all carried out in an effort to help the football team achieve victory on any given Saturday. Considering this level of dedication, it is not surprising that 20,000 tightly packed students get creative, and even a little family-unfriendly, when the Buckeyes come to town.
Yet, in light of recent complaints, are students going too far with their raucous behavior? No – they’re probably not going far enough. While students should never throw bottles or inflict harm upon anyone in the stadium, they must realize they control the momentum of all the fans in the stadium. If the northwest corner of the stadium isn’t unified, uproarious and intimidating, there is no hope for the rest.
Some may say that student behavior has become too extreme and disrespectful. But as students, it’s disrespectful to not be extreme. To sit down throughout the game or – even worse – to leave early is to send a clear message to the opposing team and fellow Wolverine fans that students don’t care. Do it for the kids: Show them what it means to be a Wolverine.
To those of you worried about the University getting a bad reputation for not respecting Big Ten football “before, during, and after the game,” relax! We have the rest of our lives to show our love for football by doling out hundreds of dollars each game to pump the occasional fist in the air as we safely watch from the alumni section. As students, it is our responsibility to represent the University as the slightly crazed, occasionally belligerent, football-loving fans that we are. As long as the Big House remains a safe environment, as long as fans do not degenerate into Ohio State hooligans and as long as there is never a need to use tear gas on rioting students, we will have all the dignity and respect we need or deserve.