Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stuff Maize and Blue People Like

Don’t borrow, steal: a football offseason requires desperate measures, and in a pinch we’ll be happy to do the pinching. In conjunction with Every Day Should Be Saturday, we present our entry in the running series: Stuff _____ People Like, based on the painfully accurate Stuff White People Like. You can find the take from Orson et al here.

Not Losing
Illinois in '99. Purdue in 2000. Minnesota in '05. Everyone remembers the epic, agonizing defeats and rivalry games, but Maize and Blue people can't even let go of the mundane ones. We hate losing. At every point in a Michigan blowout victory, there's a point where we say a quiet prayer of thanks that the team probably won't spectacularly blow this one. We expect to win everything, and it just seems embarrassing when that doesn't come to pass.

Dead Silence
Since the late '80's, the only thing I've heard my dad say inside the Big House was when he grumbled something about "catch the goddamn ball, for chrissakes" during this year's Ohio State game. Sometimes older fans manage to clap, but this is rare. Maize and Blue people over the age of 35 prefer to sit in total silence, gritting their teeth as they prepare for the team to let them down again, because the team has something against them, personally. Maize and Blue people have a shockingly high incidence of early strokes.

Jingling Our Keys
Michigan fans are now instructed by the scoreboard to pull out their keys and wave them around on third down when the team is on defense so as to create noise on this key play. Nothing says "intimidation" quite like the sound 23,357 rustling keys drifting over the football field like far-away sleigh bells.

It wouldn't be Ann Arbor if someone wasn't complaining about something. The LGBTers are complaining about Quickie Burger's busty sign, SOLE is organizing another endless teach-in about sweatshop labor, BAMN is trying to roll back the ban on affirmative action, and somebody else is yelling about Palestine, the Iraq war, Afghanistan, the Afghan Whigs, Afghans, Afghans, and Afghanistanis with AIDS. In the last decade, the University fought two major affirmative action cases (Gratz and Grutter) all the way to the Supreme Court, winning a victory for the Law School's admissions policy and quietly sweeping the points system employed by the College of Literature, Science & the Arts under the table. The 5.6% of enrollees in the 2007 freshmen class who are African American blend with the suburban white kids from Chicago, the suburban white kids from New York, and the Asian kids from all over in the rich tapestry of student life.

If there's one thing Maize and Blue people prize above all else, it's Tradition. The varsity football team played its first game in 1879, Fielding Yost came to town in 1901, and Michigan Stadium hosted its first game in 1927. Maize and Blue people will ramble on about their "13 national championships", even though only one of them came after 1948 and it was a split title. Traditions include: Winged helmets, no in-stadium advertising, touching the GO BLUE banner, anything Bo Schembechler ever said, "The Victors", calling "The Victors" "Hail to the Victors", winning the Big Ten, losing the Rose Bowl, Ron Kramer, having an offense that's a decade past its expiration date, and pretending that beating Minnesota is worth a trophy. Losing to Ohio State at the end of the season is a relatively recent innovation and is not yet a tradition. However, if you told Maize and Blue people that the Wolverines and the Michigan State Normal School had fought over a chamber pot in their 1896 game, Maize and Blue people would immediately adopt their series with Eastern Michigan as a traditional rivalry (All-time record: Michigan 8, Eastern 0).

Jimmy John's
If you find yourself in Ann Arbor on Central Campus, you can walk to the Jimmy John's on South University, the one on State St, the one at Packard and Hill, the one on Anne, or take the bus to the one up on Plymouth Rd near North Campus, because God forbid you should be more than 7 minutes away from Free Smells! and Subs So Fast You'll Freak. Jimmy John's has managed to join Borders as the rare chain embraced by Ann Arbor, which both have done by pretending to be anything but the corporate entity they are. Maize and Blue people can tell you exactly which sandwich is their favorite by number and will then have absolutely no idea what is on said sandwich when asked.

The East Coast
The first thing a Michigan graduate does upon receiving his/her diploma is flee the state. The prospect of a pillowy soft job in the auto industry used to be enough to persuade some Maize and Blue people to cancel their plans of moving to/back to the East Coast, but its collapse has freed everyone to follow their dreams of sharing a closet-sized Williamsburg apartment with seven hipster douchebags. Getting shot "back East" in DC is much more glamorous than getting shot in Detroit.

Being Better Than You
Maize and Blue people like to tell everyone that they went to Michigan. Except for the ones who didn't go to Michigan, and there are a lot of them. But the Maize and Blue people who did will find ways to remind you constantly that they went to Michigan, and that it was hard. Really hard. It was hard to get into, and it was hard work while they were there, and the reward for that is telling anyone and everyone who will listen (and even those who won't) how much better a human being they are because they went to Michigan. They will use this to look down on and/or mock your school, its alumni, its fanbase, and its athletes. If you bring up anything unpleasant, such as facts, they will switch to the "Everyone does it" defense and change the subject to what awful thugs those Buckeyes are.

Tom Brady After He Won the Super Bowl
Maize and Blue people swell with pride when it comes to talking about the most successful NFL skill position player ever to come out of Michigan, New England Patriots quarterback/dreamboat/celebrity baby daddy Tom Brady. They will fondly recall, often with a small tear, the '99 team that would've won a championship if not for Evil Drew Henson, Brady's four TDs in the 2000 Orange Bowl, and their disappointment when he fell to the sixth round of the NFL Draft. What they will fail to mention is that a majority of fans were openly rooting for Henson to be named the starter during both the 1998 and 1999 seasons, and that the Orange Bowl victory only came on a blown extra point by Alabama in overtime, and that they were surprised when he was even selected in the Draft. But those are just pesky details that get in the way of a fine story. And Maize and Blue people hate when that happens.

John Cooper
Maize and Blue people are a little ashamed to admit this, but they probably like John Cooper a little more than the like Lloyd Carr. The reasoning is simple: Lloyd was like your dad; you saw him every day, he was a good hard-working guy, and while he'd slip up occasionally, you still were proud that he was your dad. But John Cooper was like your uncle by marriage who you only saw at Thanksgiving, and every year when he came over he brought you a new toy. Not just like a new board game, no, he'd buy you the brand new Sega Genesis, or one year, a Wii when nobody else could find one. Sure, you love your dad, but your uncle is bribing you with gifts your dad would never give you (even if you knew your dad was probably chipping in to help your uncle buy it). Then, a few years ago, your aunt left him for a heartless bastard who came to Thanksgiving and kicked you in the groin when you answered the door and spent the rest of Thanksgiving hectoring your dad until you went to your room and cried yourself to sleep. So, you really can't blame Maize and Blue people for loving John Cooper. He was a gravy train that was derailed too soon.

As a school with a high population of overachievers, Maize and Blue people take their fun seriously. We come prepared with a set of talking points on all the subjects we think are going to come up. If there is a set of questions, we will answer them in numerical order while consulting the notes we took on the subject. If there's video, someone will break it down and twelve people will write about it.

The Color "Maize"
It's Maize and Blue. Maize. Yes, like corn. We're going to have to insist on this one. Yes, the alma mater is "The Yellow & Blue". No, we don't know how that one happened. Besides, nobody knows any of the words to that one but the "HAIL!" in the middle. One more time: Maize. Maize.

As Maize and Blue people move from the disappointment that is inevitable in the Big Ten football season, they have a choice on how to get through the long, depressing winters in Michigan. They can spend their days in the morgue known as Crisler Arena, watching the basketball team flail its way through another season, reminded of what once was, but is mostly erased from the record books, or they can make their way over to Yost Ice Arena (Yes, the hockey and basketball teams both play in arenas named for football coaches) and watch Michigan's hockey team, where they can spend their winter watching the team look amazing at times, then look disinterested against a lesser opponent, take a mind-boggling loss, and inevitably blow it in the post-season. So Maize and Blue people choose hockey. To most of them, it feels like home. Except for some reason, the people in the stands are surly, profane, and loud. And sometimes there's Frankenberry.

Michigan State
Winston Smith may have ended up loving Big Brother, but Maize and Blue people love Little Brother. No other fanbase has such an inferiority complex when it comes to Michigan, and it's always so easy to push their buttons. They try to get us to care about how good they are at basketball, but it's hard to pay attention when we've beaten them six times in a row in the sport we care about. Sometimes it's a savage beating, sometimes a last-second kick in the groin, but it always leaves them wallowing in petulant agony. It's unpleasant for a whole year when they actually do win (usually by cheating), but mostly it's John L. Smith slapping himself and Bobby Williams not knowing whether he's lost his team. And when they call us "scUM" on their message boards, it's just too adorable.

Wine & Cheese
It's a stereotype for a reason. The closer you get to the stadium, the more likely you are to see a luxury SUV with the tailgate up, shading a dainty little cheese platter sitting on the table next to a moderately-priced pinot noir and a 64-year-old man snoozing in a folding chair. His kids (who went to Calvin and Adrian) are cleaning out the microbrews in the cooler before moving on to the Labatt they bought at the Blue Front as a backup.

House Parties
With the stadium under a mile from the student ghetto south of Central Campus, students at Michigan don't tailgate. Tailgates are for old people who drove in from somewhere like Grand Rapids or Troy. But every house on Division or State or Hill is having a party with a beer pong table on the front lawn. All of them will play "99 Problems", and the frat with the beach volleyball court will play "Block Rockin' Beats" at 10:30 like clockwork, because it's still 1997.

Big Ten Burrito
SEC Burrito may be quicker, but Maize and Blue people love Big Ten Burrito. The Big Ten Conference sued its tortilla-based namesake and forced a name change in 2007. As such, the franchise is now officially known as the redundant "BTB Burrito". "Committee on Institutional Cooperation Burrito" didn't have the same ring to it, and may have provoked another lawsuit.

The venerable local deli pioneered the $14 artisan sandwich in the '80's. There is no actual Zingerman; founders Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig just wanted a name more Jewish than "Saginaw" and less so than "Weinzweig"*. Students don't actually eat there unless their parents are in town, but once they become alumni, Maize and Blue people wax nostalgic about $8.97 for soup.

*--(I swear I saw this in a Daily article that I can't find at the moment)

Living in a house in Ann Arbor gives you two options: Pay a reasonable monthly rent and live in absolute squalor, or pay roughly the equivalent of a down payment on a new house to live somewhere suitable. There is a third variable -- distance -- which factors in with this simple formula:

Do you pay less than $500 a month for your room?
Do you live within a 10-minute walk from campus?
You're lying
The ceiling of your kitchen is rotting through and it's going to start raining bathroom floor tiles soon.

Leases are signed ten months before you move in, and few students know enough about their legal rights to pursue shady landlords. On the other hand, some students treat their houses in such a way that not getting their security deposit back is considered a good deal.

Free Beer At Parties
A vastly underrated aspect of Maize & Blue people's night life comes with this open-arms attitude: You will never be asked to pony up that $5 for a cup. Instead, you are expected to pay it forward, and continue the tradition when you live in a house. If you do charge for cups, you are a pretentious jerk, and next time you can expect people to click "not attending" on Facebook. There is no cynical drawback or punch line to this one. This unspoken rule really is that great.

Ignoring Traffic Laws
Maize and Blue people's sense of entitlement extends to the roads they walk across. That crosswalk signal? That's for grandparents and blind people. (Seriously. The signals make a little pinging noise.) To show your true Maize & Blue pride, simply step out in front of that Subaru Outback knowing that nobody will hit a pedestrian. Intersections are below them. The shortest distance between two points is the straight line they're walking, no matter what obstacles are in the way. Or might be in the way at their current 30mph trajectory. Despite this, drivers who fail to reciprocate with impossibly quick reflexes, patience, or tolerance aren't above a honk or crude finger from time to time. But come on. You're driving in front of two dorms between classes. What the hell did you think would happen?

Talking About Things That Aren't Appalachian State


Ameed said...


Nick said...

Wow, I thought Penn State was the only school where there wasn't a charge at parties. I learned something today. Thanks

Thick & Chunky said...

I absolutely love it!

Unknown said...

Do you pay less than $500 a month for your room?
Do you live within a 10-minute walk from campus?
You're lying
The ceiling of your kitchen is rotting through and it's going to start raining bathroom floor tiles soon.


The correct answer is actually "you live on North Campus."

nichole said...

excellent! thoroughly enjoyed.

marcsumus said...


So much better then the EDSBS one!

Not paying for beer at parties is a great tradition that will never change. However, it did almost get me beat up at a Michigan State party because I was appalled that they wanted me to pay!

jeffsl said...

I totally relate to everything under the "not losing" section. Starting with '89 (my freshman year), I think of most seasons in terms of what games were lost. I remember the losses far more than the wins, with my attendance at Colorado 1994 being the most dastardly. (Took me about 7 years to stop having bad dreams about that one).

One more thing with the "quiet prayer of thanks" -- it falls under my belief that there are only usually two emotions as a Michigan fan. Relief when we win (no matter how big the margin is), and agony when we lose.