When news broke that Michigan’s athletic department was seeking approval from the Board of Regents to have a fireworks show after two football games this upcoming season, I immediately thought, "Man, this means Michigan isn’t going to have a very good football team."
I wasn’t livid at the athletic department or saw this as a desperate move to sell tickets.
Instead, I focused my attention on why the request, which was denied Thursday, was being made.
According to interim chief financial officer Douglas L. Strong, who submitted the request, the fireworks would "further enhance the fan experience for these important games."
These important games are against Miami on Sept. 13 (3:30 p.m. kickoff) and versus Penn State on Oct. 11 (7 p.m.).
The question is: Does Michigan really need fireworks to enhance the fan experience?
Michigan has done a terrific job in marketing its brand. The block ‘M’ is an iconic symbol that’s recognized around the globe.
Michigan football, however, is about tradition and what takes place on the field.
Before sports became my career, I attended games just like everybody else — I sat in the stands — and going to a Michigan game was unlike anything else. The pageantry was spectacular and simplistic.
The Michigan band forming the block ‘M’ and marching down the field playing "The Victors" still gives me chills.
The Michigan team running across the field touching the "GO BLUE" banner is one of college football’s signature images.
Michigan’s cheerleading squad playfully grabbing the opposing team’s mascot and pretending to smash a certain sensitive area between the goalposts — only to have everybody high-five afterward — brings a little levity to the intenseness of the game.
Look, I could keep on going about my fan experience, but you get the picture.
I understand that times change and people’s tastes evolve, but what sets Michigan apart is that the fan experience is unique and intimate in Ann Arbor. It’s, ahem, pure Michigan.
Generation after generation of students, alumni and fans have marched into Michigan Stadium and embraced the tradition. That’s all they need — plus good football.
Fans don’t want the Michigan fan experience to be similar to every other sporting event they attend.
Certainly, traditions come and go, even at Michigan. They no longer pass coeds up the stands (too dangerous). And if Michigan is trailing at halftime, the band no longer plays "With a Little Bit ‘O Luck" as they’re marching off the field (too old-fashioned).
However, the new traditions at Michigan seem to de-emphasize the band, the cheerleaders and sometimes the game itself.
A constant barrage of piped-in music, sales pitches and special ceremonies have turned the Michigan fan experience into the typical fan experience. It’s more cookie cutter, less Michigan.
I realize that AD Dave Brandon has a difficult job at Michigan. He’s generated a lot of revenue, and a man in his position will always be beloved and despised.
Yet, when it comes to Michigan football, I’m surprised that the successful businessman doesn’t adhere to the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle. That’s what the Michigan fan experience should be: simple, traditional and focused on football.
Today’s fan experience is turning into a whirlwind cacophony of blaring sound that takes the focus off the Michigan team on the field.
That’s why when I hear fireworks show, I can’t help but believe that the Michigan mantra is give the fans everything but winning football.