The Ann Arbor News
September 23, 2002
Common wisdom says that University of Michigan
football fans are spoiled and apathetic,
which is why they don't create the craziness
of other Big Ten hangouts such as Wisconsin
or Ohio State.
Here's a new explanation: They're out of shape
and are not preparing properly.
And all those tailgate parties that stretch
from the tip of Pioneer High School to the
first hole at the University of Michigan Golf
Course ? They're making you soft and weak,
That's my take after hearing suggestions from
experts at the U-M's Vocal Health Center ,
who last week outlined some healthy hollering
habits for football fans.
The first step toward producing a strong voice
(translation: cheering like crazy) at a game
is to be well-hydrated, says Dr. Norman Hogikyan,
a surgeon and U-M professor of otolaryngology.
This means drinking water, and not alcoholic
beverages or those with caffeine such as colas
or coffee, which are diuretics.
Why is this crucial? Because cheering also
removes moisture, say Hogikyan and Marc Haxer,
a senior speech and language pathologist who
also works at the center. Notice how a mirror
fogs up when you breathe on it? You can't replace
that moisture with a Bloody Mary at a tailgate,
There are other ways to prepare to cheer sans
beer, says Leslie Guinn, a professor emeritus
of music and a professional baritone who has
collaborated with doctors in the rehabilitation
of injured voices.
Before you get to the stadium, Guinn suggests
warming up with some lip or tongue trills.
Let your lips flutter as if you were blowing
bubbles under water or making a motorboat sound,
using a gentle voice. Once you get to your
seat, Guinn recommends doing some slow glides
up and down the scale with sounds such as mmmm,
ooooo, or aaaaa, an activity that might intrigue
those packed into the seats nearby.
During the game, Guinn recommends taking in
a breath and using lots of airflow. Let a slight
sensation of breath escape when you cheer.
Now that you've established some oral athleticism,
Guinn urges you to be aware of your own voice
and the effect of the surroundings. It's easy
to lose track of how loudly you are talking
amid background noise. Go by the feel of your
voice, not the sound. And give your voice a
break, he says. Save something for the fourth
After the game, Hogikyan and Haxer recommend
soothing lozenges, but not those with eucalyptus,
menthol, or peppermint, which can irritate
Think I'm kidding about all this? Ask Tom
Firestone, a pastor at St. Mary's Student Parish
in Ann Arbor who roots long and loud for U-M.
After a game, he's struggled to preach at Sunday
Mass, and sought assistance from Guinn. "It
has helped lots," says Firestone, who now does
exercises to strengthen his voice while driving.
He goes up and down the scale, adjusting the
inflection of his voice through breathing.
And he makes those cool motorboat sounds, too: "Brrrbbbbbmmm,
Despite such preparation, Firestone struggled
in the heat the first two games this season,
and says he should have started hydrating the
day before. "I had a little trouble, but I'm
back at it now," he says.
The rest of you rookies have to wait until
Oct. 12, when Penn State comes to town, to
get in shape. Ladies and gentlemen, start your