The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
Because really, having football teams win or lose doesn't change our lives. But having a brother does. Being the parent of brothers does. And sometimes the metaphor teaches us a lot more about the subject than looking at the subject alone.
There used to be a site called "Bitter Rivals dot com" that was about the Mich/MSU rivalry.
I wrote a thing for them, which if it was still online I could show you, which was written a lot better than what follows, and which called Mich/MSU a sibling rivalry back when Hart was deep under recruiting radars at some upstate New York high school.
The analogy didn't come from me -- I heard it first from a fraternity brother, and when I asked where he first heard the analogy, it was an older brother in the house, and so on... It's older than Hart. It might be as old as the rivalry itself.
Every relationship is different. Rivalries are relationships. The sibling analogy helps explain this one, because the two players act the way that rivalric brothers act, each fulfilling stereotypical roles of elder and younger.
I have two little brothers, one of whom is barely a year younger, and went to State (barely didn't get in to M, which was his first choice). He is my best friend. He will be my Best Man when I get married (in A2) next year. When I have an extra Tigers ticket, he's my first call, and I have spent enough time in the front seat of his 2000 Ford Ranger that my ass has left a permanent imprint.
And many, many, many times in my life I have wanted to rip his fucking testicles off.
Brothers fight. Brothers compete. Brothers piss each other off. If you have a brother that is close in age and you never fought each other, then that is really really weird, because this is primal shit.
If you want to delve further into the analogy, then yes, it's a juvenile fraternal relationship we're talking about.
M/MSU isn't about brothers who are late 20s through 40s and make their kids play together while talking about if the wives will ever come around to Mom. It's about brothers who are 10, stuck in the same house, the younger measuring himself by the elder, who measures himself against the big bully kid up the street, when fall Saturdays mean hours spent outside doing things that end up with one boy or several on the ground, which as winter onsets, hurts more and more.
It's one thing when the big kid up the street calls you "scUM" or "Walmart Wolverine" -- he's trying to start a fight, and, lo, the fight will come to him when it is time (and that ground has grown hard enough that he won't be cushioned when you knock his ass on it).
But you can handle the bully -- what's really irritating is when Little Brother starts picking up on something the class bully says and repeats it again and again.
And you hear it, because Little Brother is always there -- going to the YMCA, camp, the bus to school, soccer practice, a friend's house -- you can't get away from Little Bro.
Whether you got your degree at Michigan or Michigan State really matters very little in my current world. The tangible, universal difference between The University of Michigan, and Michigan State University happens at 18: one group of in-state kids got to run around the house with their parents beaming, the other had to choke down the lump of rejection and embarrassment, and then learn to become comfortable with that.
And eventually, both will learn that this measuring stick didn't matter as much as they thought.
This rivalry takes place between those points. It's about one program that has ridiculous, permanent institutional advantages put in stone by Fielding Fucking Yost, and another that needed to take advantage of the middle 20th century South's dumb-ass-ness about skin color to ever be nationally relevant.
It's about one side that is introspective and intellectual, and another that acts like a meat-head when you know damn well that he isn't as dumb as he pretends. It's about one side that values intelligence as if it's the only judge of a person's worth, and how his brother knows damn well that he's not as smart as all of his pretensions.
Getting from childhood rivalry to grownup relationship with your brother is a trial. For those of us in the State of Michigan, we at least have this annual war-by-proxy to serve as a metaphor for it. Really, by whipping each other into a frenzy over this, we're acting like 10-year-olds. The thing is, that's an important thing to do -- by framing your feelings into juvenile arguments, you get to see exactly where you might be wrong, or in this case, pretension, or an inferiority complex.
It's not something that started with a tailback from Michigan, or a tailback from Michigan State. It started with Cain and Able. Or more precisely, when someone had the idea of putting two extraordinarily good universities in one state, and then one also happened to have the premier football team in all the land as soon as football meant something to the prestige of an extraordinarily good university.
If you have nothing but hatred for MSU, then I say go to your room and cool off, because so long as you live under this roof, you are going to live with him whether you like it or not.
Happy MSU week. Now let's put that little shit back in his place, eh?
Yes, the season is only 4 games old and things will change and get tougher. But before they do, let's review some of the unexpected good stuff. 5 weeks ago who would have thought:
-UM would be 4-0
-UM would be 8th in the country in rushing and 16th in scoring
-UM would be 1st in the Big Ten in rushing and scoring
-Forcier would be getting more good lovin' than Terrelle Pryor and Matt Barkley
-A Michigan team would be 1-3 having lost to the MAC and to ND...and it's not us
-Sweater vest would be getting more heat than Rich Rod
-Our leading rusher is a guy not named Minor
-Carlos Brown would have more yards rushing than Evan Royster
-Our quarterbacks would have more rushing TDs than games played
-We would go 4 games without fumbling a kick/punt
-Forcier would only have 2 pics - 1 arguably not his fault and would be leading the Big Ten in "points responsible for"
I think some of us would have predicted some of these things but hard to imagine all these things falling our way just a mere 5 weeks ago. So...for the moment...I'm just soaking it in and basking in the glow (and trying not to think about defense).
A slightly re-edited version of the altered Michigan State fight song we used to sing after the annual little brother beating.
An hour North of ol' Ann Arbor,
There's a team if I recall
Got a massive shoulder chip,
'Cause the Spartans can't play ball...
Blow right through ol' M-S-U
Watch the points keep growing
Spartan teams are going to lose
They're fighting Sylvia Rimm.*
See their defense transferring,
We're gonna win again,
FIGHT! FIGHT! RAW TEAM FIGHT!
Your older brother's proud of you!
* From Wikipedia: According to child psychologist Sylvia Rimm, sibling rivalry is particularly intense when children are very close in age and of the same gender, or where one child is intellectually gifted.
Fielding Yost: 11-0 overall, 119-0 W against MSU
Tad Wieman: 3-4-1 overall, 3-0 W against MSU
Harry Kipke: 8-0-1 overall, 0-0 Tie against MSU
Herbert Crisler: 6-2 overall, 26-13 W against MSU
Bennie Oosterbaan: 6-2-1 overall, 7-3 W against MSU
Bump Elliot: 5-4 overall, 24-17 L against MSU
Bo Schembechler: 9-1 overall, 34-20 W against MSU
Gary Moeller: 10-2 overall, 45-28 W against MSU
Lloyd Carr: 8-4 overall, 45-29 W against MSU
So after looking at the overall records then what happened against Sparty, for the most part we had good overall records and beat them, which like, duh, we are the winningest program ever. So like i said, 7-1-1 in Michigan coaches 2nd season. Obviously since this is a rivalry and not 1910, this is not going to make a difference, but just another thing to brag about to your State friends.
So i went back to look at stats between these 2 teams as far back as i could find to see what stood out as difference makers and one stat seems most relevant:
- Rushing yards
- So as you can see, only in 1995, 2004, and 2007 did the losing team gain more rushing yards than the winning team.
- In fact the opposite holds true, though not as consistent - the losing team usually ends up gaining the most receiving yards.