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Football is a religion, they say, and its god, these days, is the Godzillatron, the Adzillatron, the Jumbotron… like the deity, this massive high definition video screen with massive advertisements screaming at you from the moment you enter the stadium to the moment you leave, goes by many names…

Ever since 2009, when the University of Texas got the first one in the country, dozens of other American universities have gotten their own monster video display. The one proposed for a new stadium at the University of Nevada Las Vegas will run the entire length of the field.

What’s strange about the massively expensive Adzillatron is that everyone hates it; and indeed many people point to it as contributing in an important way to the emptying out of the university stadium. Where’d everyone go? Why are many students – even at places like the University of Alabama - not going to the games, or going but leaving early? Tons of explanations have been offered, but UD thinks that the phenomenon of the Godzillatron, while only part of the answer, is an illuminating focal point for any discussion of the terrific fiasco for which contemporary American university football is headed. Of course one has to toss into the too-disgusted-to-attend mix all the scandals – criminal, hemorrhagic, sexual, academic – plus all the overpaid coaches and castrated presidents blahblah… But the heart of university football is the stadium experience, and if that experience had been able to retain a shred of authenticity, the fiasco might have been averted.

Here’s what happens at a [Mississippi State] football game these days: 3rd & 7, we’re on defense, tie game, offense calls timeout. [Colubus Ortho Harlem shake, Kiss cam]. Everyone’s attention is drawn to the jumbotron, away from focusing on the task at hand – getting our defense pumped to stop the other team!

I don’t need a bunch of distractions. I’m there to watch a football game.

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[University of] Michigan football fans don’t just love football. They love Michigan football — the history, the traditions, the rituals — the timeless elements that have grown organically over decades. They are attracted to the belief that Michigan football is based on ideals that go beyond the field, do not fade with time, and are passed down to the next generation — the very qualities that separate a game at the Big House from the Super Bowl.

After the 2013 Notre Dame game, [our Athletic Director] said, “You’re a 17-18 year old kid watching the largest crowd in the history of college football with airplanes flying over and Beyonce introducing your halftime show? That’s a pretty powerful message about what Michigan is all about, and that’s our job to send that message.”

Is that really what Michigan is all about? Fly-overs, blaring rock music and Beyonce? Beyonce is to Michigan football what Bo Schembechler is to — well, Beyonce. No, Michigan is all about lifelong fans who’ve been coming together for decades to leave a bit of the modern world behind — and the incessant marketing that comes with it — and share an authentic experience fueled by the passion of the team, the band and the students. That’s it.

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Coach says: Thou shalt have no other Godzillatrons before me. Narcotic simulacral standardized screen gigantism is the heart of the postmodern doctrine being preached… Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled… But keep thine eye upon the Godzillatron which I have given to you and thine lip upon the fruit of the vine which also I have given unto you, and rest in the arms of the Lord forever… And yet in their ornery unpredictable way Americans are beginning to break away from the faith. They seem to be experiencing it as inauthentic. Not the true faith.

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One Response to “Their Eyes Were Watching Godzillatron”

  1. JND Says:

    Here in the hinterlands at our DIII university, we don’t have ANY kind of screen. So — no replays of good plays, of hurt players, of fumbles, of touchdowns, of fans acting like idiots, and especially, NO ads.

    It’s kinda nice.

    I’d be happy to escort bigwigs from Mississippi State or Michigan to one of our games, just in case they want to know what they are missing.

    The most expensive tickets in the stadium are on the home team’s 50-yard line. They are $10 apiece, but I get mine free as a faculty member.

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