Why Do Michigan Football Fans Sing "Mr. Brightside" at Every Home Game?

Melissa Willets - Author

Jan. 2 2024, Published 10:20 a.m. ET

Michigan fans at Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2024
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • University of Michigan is known for being a Big 10 football school more than anything else.
  • At every football game since 2016, the song "Mr. Brightside" pumps up the crowd.
  • The tradition has curious roots that aren't even fully understood by the person who started it.
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Most people know at least some of the lyrics to the wildly popular 2003 song "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers. The tune has shown up all over the place since the early 2000s, from appearing in the movie The Holiday to being sung at University of Michigan football games.

What's the deal with the latter, which is part of a tradition dating back to a 2016 matchup with Wisconsin? Keep reading for all of the details on the Michigan football tradition.

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Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the College Football Playoff semifinals on Jan. 1, 2024
Source: Getty Images

So, why do Michigan football fans sing "Mr. Brightside" at games?

Football fans all over the country have some interesting traditions. Singing “Mr. Brightside” at the end of the third quarter at Michigan home games is one of them, per Sports Illustrated.

The song first inspired fans in 2016, when the Wolverines faced off against University of Wisconsin.

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Per M Live, Kurt Wisenbaugh was the director of game presentation at that time, and he is the person who picked the song to play for the packed stadium.

“The purpose wasn’t necessary to hype them up,” Kurt said about his reasoning behind selecting "Mr. Brightside."

“We obviously have moments, specifically on defense, when we want to get them hype and get them loud, but we also want to create moments of fun and unity," he added. He also said, "Most people enjoy sing-along songs so we wanted to try some different ones.”

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Interestingly, Kurt noted that early 2000s songs seem to really resonate with students. “I don’t know why to be honest," Kurt said.

However, since that game in 2016, "Mr. Brightside" has been played at every home game — except in 2000 when the COVID-19 pandemic led to empty stadium seats.

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The lyrics of "Mr. Brightside" make the song an especially head-scratching choice for Michigan fans.

OK, so none of the members of The Killers went to Michigan or even have ties to the state.

But perhaps even more curious is that the lyrics of the song are seemingly about a person worrying they are being cheated on.

"It started out with a kiss/How did it end up like this?" singer Brandon Flowers croons in the hit tune. "It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss/Now I'm falling asleep/And she's calling a cab/While he's having a smoke/And she's taking a drag."

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"Now they're going to bed/And my stomach is sick/And it's all in my head/But she's touching his chest now/He takes off her dress now/Let me go/And I just can't look, it's killing me/And taking control," Brandon goes on to sing.

Then comes the super-catchy chorus: "Jealousy, turning saints into the sea/Swimming through sick lullabies/Choking on your alibis/But it's just the price I pay/Destiny is calling me/Open up my eager eyes/'Cause I'm Mr. Brightside."

Not exactly conjuring up images of first downs and field goals right? But in any event, the song has stuck and is clearly a revered tradition among students and alumni.

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