Mike Lantry, 1972
Rivalry week is extra uncomfortable for me. As a lifelong Michigan fan and a Michigan State graduate, sometimes I feel like I don't belong on either side of the rivalry.
When I decided to attend Michigan State, remaining a Michigan fan was a no-brainer. The first football games I remember were Michigan contests. The Rose Bowls in the early 90s, the home games against Minnesota and Purdue that my family sat through no matter the score or weather. And of course, the Virginia game - hence the username.
Being a fan of your school's biggest rival has major challenges that most sports fans never consider and that's why I'm writing this diary.
In undergrad, I was open about my fanhood. There were other Michigan fans on campus, in my dorm and on the floor, but I was the only one who would go tailgate with my friends during rivalry week in a Charles Woodson jersey. Only a few people tried to fight me each game day.
It's not like being at Michigan was any better. In college, the first thing anyone asked is what your major was. When I said "journalism" everyone knew I wasn't a Michigan student. The next question of course was, "why aren't you a Michigan student?" The conversation always turned into some diatribe about how much better U-M was than MSU, as if I didn't know the University of Michigan pedigree. These academic conversations bothered me immensely because I didnt have the grades to go to U-M. As a huge Michigan supporter, this was crushing. But what can I say, I didn't have the foresight as a 13-year-old to understand how important my algebra and global studies courses were.
As I began to make something of myself, the conversations stopped bothering me. I'm proud of what I have accomplished and my MSU degree. I love the campus and my friends and family - just not the sports.
Some MSU fans can understand but some can't. Irrational fans, arguers, drunks and people who went to LCC love to lecture me on how I should be a Spartan fan. Meanwhile, my fiance's family - a long line of Spartan fans and athlete's don't mean to mind one bit. I even dated a girl in college whose grandpa coached football for MSU and her family was more understanding about the unique situation than 99 percent of the fans I knew.
Still there are situations where it is certainly not safe to admit to being a Michigan fan. My industry is dominated by Spartan graduates and I don't want to damage any relationships by pissing off the wrong crazy Spartan fan. Similarly, I wonder what other die-hard Michigan fans really think when I tell them I am a Wolverines fan. Do they even believe me?
As a former sports journalist, my work gave me a unique perspective on rivalries and sports in general. I covered MSU athletics without any bias, roomed with Spartan athletes and even had John L. Smith hit me with a rolled up newspaper in a joking fashion. He was truly one of the nicest people I ever had the pleasure interviewing.
Lloyd Carr on the other hand, not so much. I met him while job shadowing a U-M beat writer during OSU week. She told him I was a season ticket holder but an MSU student. He refused to shake my hand. I took this as the most direspectful thing anyone has done. He was kind of joking about the entire incident, but not entirely. He never shook my hand, which is like, 'what the hell dude, I buy tickets and support your team'! Seriously, I drove from East Lansing with another MSU student and U-M fan for every home game for the two years that I had access to a car.
Nine months later I sat in the stands during the Horror. I got so many text messages after the blocked field goal that my Blackberry crashed. I don't know if that is an indication of how poor the Blackberry devices were or how bad it is when all of your friends are Spartans.
Now that I'm older, the trash talk has slowed a bit. People are more mature, but there are still things that frustrate me. The Wal-Mart Wolverine cracks from the MSU fans and the MSU academia jokes from the Wolverines fans make me want to punch Taco Pants in the neck.
And we haven't even talked about the games yet. I can't tailgate at U-M because no one in my social circle does so. I can't tailgate at MSU because I will miss the U-M games. Sometimes schedule quirks allow for both, but generally I miss out. And since my fiance is an MSU fans, it usually turns into some awkward game day happenings. A few years ago I was forced to watch the U-M/UMass game a the East Lansing Bdubs. There are worse things that can happen in life, but most involve lizards eating your legs.
Even simple things like social media aren't fun when you root for your school's rival. Win or lose on gameday, my feeds will be filled with images of Mork Dantonio and whatever QB is playing this week. It is maddening. But I guess I signed up for this when I decided to remain a Wolverine.
Were there times when I considered changing my allegiance? Not really. The closest I came was after the Rodriguez debacle. I was team RichRod, and after his firing briefly considered making life easier and giving up football or casually cheering for MSU with my family and firends. Emphasis on briefly. I put up with the Horror, the basketball sanctions, Brian Ellerbee and Mike DeBord. That and the mere thought of giving up Michigan for MSU turned my stomach.
So here's to Michigan hopefully making my Saturday/Weekend/Week/Month better by getting a win on Saturday. If not I'm going to hear about from every direction.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to return to ignoring my Facebook feed which is full of YouTube videos about how I'm not allowed to root for Michigan and that I'm a Wal-Mart Wolverine. Fuck that. Go Blue.
Michigan OL for MSU game (per depth chart): Lewan LT, Bosch at LG, Glasgow C, Magnuson RG and Schofield RT— angelique (@chengelis) October 28, 2013
UPDATE: This is apparently subject to change:
Hoke anticipates same OL that finished w vs IU. He said that could change after Tuesday -- Kalis and Bryant ready to go— angelique (@chengelis) October 28, 2013
UPDATE #2: Drew Dileo may or may not play:
Hoke: Drew Dileo is a 'we'll see' vs. Michigan State -- will know more on Wednesday. — Michigan Football (@umichfootball) October 28, 2013
Despite its weak offensive output, MSU has only one loss this year, mainly due to its aggressive, physical defense. However, MSU's aggressive, physical defense has led them to becoming the 117th worse NCAA team (out of 125) for penalty yardage [70 yards/gm].
At ND, MSU's aggressiveness on defense led to numerous key defensive penalties which gave away the game to the Irish.
After the ND game, MSU AD Mark Hollis made an inquiry to Big Ten officials regarding the penalty calls against the Spartans. Mark Dantonio was quoted by the Detroit Free Press as questioning whether the penalty calls against his DB's reflected a change in standards for pass defenders. Many media members questioned the calls against MSU. In MSU's most recent home game vs. Purdue, MSU was only called for 2 penalties for 14 yards.
I think the key determinant in Michigan's upcoming game at Michigan State will be whether the refs fairly call MSU penalties, especially for pass interference/defensive holding and roughing the passer. If Big Ten officials continue to experience a "backlash" effect and exhibit reluctance to fairly call MSU penalties in East Lansing, it will doom Michigan's chances for a big road win. In addition, excessively rough play by MSU (as has occurred in past match-ups) could also result in injuries to Michigan's key players.
Not to put more MSU stuff on the board, but this is something that actually affects their on-field performance and Michigan, so I think it's worth it. It appears Michigan State's starting right tackle, Skyler Burkland, has taken a medical DQ. IMO, he really wasn't that good of a player, but MSU has very little depth at OT and this probably forces them to put the really slow footed Dan France back out at OT. It is unfortunate that any player from any team has to end his career due to injuries, so I feel bad in that regard.
In less "I feel bad", they now have about '08 Michigan levels of depth along the o-line, minus having a Schilling-level guy (though I guess their LT could be about equal to an out-of-position Schilling), which won't help their poor performance in both run blocking and pass protection from last year. Look for Maxwell (or whoever they put at QB) to be even more shaken and in a hurry, and look for a weaker interior line to get even less push. Their only upgrade over a unit that looked like it couldn't get any worse last year is their LT, the rest of the unit is still extremely weak.
Since Indiana just lost to OSU tonight, I was wondering what the Big Ten Tournament seedings could be. This is the schedule for the remaining Big Ten conference games and the winners of each game in my completely subjective opinion:
Michigan @ Purdue
Minnesota @ Nebraska
Wisconsin @ Michigan State
Penn State @ Northwestern
Minnesota @ Purdue
Nebraska @ Iowa
Indiana @ Michigan
Northwestern @ Michigan State
Illinois @ Ohio State
Wisconsin @ Penn State
This would result in a 4-way tie atop the conference between Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State. According to the tiebreaking procedures from last year's tournament, the seeding would work out as follows:
|1. Indiana||7. Iowa|
|2. OSU||8. Illinois|
|3. Michigan||9. Purdue|
|4. MSU||10. Northwestern|
|5. Wisconsin||11. Nebraska|
|6. Minnesota||12. Penn State|
Here is the 2013 Big Ten Tournament bracket. In the scenario I described, Michigan would be playing the winner of Minnesota vs Nebraska. If I made a mistake, please correct me.
EDIT: Fixed. I think UM would be the 3 seed by virtue of losing the comparison to OSU against Wisconsin.
Some more changes for Spartans 2013 offensive strategy.
And is Dantonio pursuing future endeavors elsewhere?