Michigan Museday Kicks the Baby

Submitted by Seth on October 10th, 2011 at 10:17 PM


Close-up of the stuff on Cartman's helmet.

Every year Michigan and Michigan State play each other for a piece of schlock the governor bought at Forwards in West Branch, and every year I discover I know a lot of annoying people who went to Michigan State.* Also: a lot of fellow Michigan fans who don't get why this is a big deal. This is why it's a big deal.

If it wasn't for Matt Millen, none of this would have happened!

Out-of-staters are bewildered that so much attention is paid to a mid-season, in-state rivalry that stands at 67-31-5. Really it's not even a full-state rivalry, as the west is pretty much blue or Notre Dame. Those who grew up in Ann Arbor don't see what the big deal is either. It's mostly about Detroit, where Michigan fans are seldom more than 10 feet from a Spartan, where classes of 10-year-olds are 70% Michigan fans and only 10% of those will get in.

Columnists searching for an overarching reason to root for the Tigers and Lions last night invariably arrived at some version of "good for the City of Detroit." If the success of the Tigers and Lions and Red Wings bind the City of Detroit in brotherhood, Michigan-Michigan State is about putting those brothers in the back seat of an un-air conditioned Taurus wagon for a five-hour drive to Mackinac.

This week in 2000 my brother (the littler one at right) announced to a bar full of Michigan fans that Michigan State was now our biggest rival because MSU beat us in '99. This got him laughed out of the Brown Jug. LittlebroYesterday Pat Caputo made the same mind exploding-ly stupid assertion. He's probably repeating it on the radio right now but you wouldn't know because nobody with 10 contiguous, functional neurons can listen to Detroit sports radio this week.

Before the '09 game I covered the metaphor evoked by Michigan/Michigan State:

But you can handle the bully [Ohio State]-- 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.

Are you getting it yet? Michigan-Michigan State is a big rivalry because Michigan State fans desperately want it to be, and are willing to go to any lengths of annoyance (not universally) to make it so.

The Only Colors, which is the rational MSU fan site, just front-paged a diary-equivalent that defines the rivalry through moments of "Michigan was mean to me from 1850 to 1950." Things we must answer for:

  • In 1850 Michigan wanted to form an Ag school instead of a separate university.
  • Michigan proposed a system merger at the time of the Morrill Act land grant.
  • Yale said Michigan should be the site of a merged forestry program. (wait what?)
  • One of their professors suggested his botany program be rolled into Michigan's.
  • Michigan offered to house MSC's engineering department after a fire destroyed theirs.
  • Michigan didn't want MSC in the Big Ten.
  • Michigan regents opposed MSC's name change to MSU.

They in turn must answer for stupid billboards, letting themselves be Nike's ken doll on Saturday, thinking that "we have hot chicks" is about the only thing worth making fun of them for, using relevant Wikipedia articles to troll us, "The Situation," 394545398having a blog called "The Enlightened Spartan" which is actually their version of Damefan1, and the last three years of this:

That was Saturday: financial mathematicians screaming at Juggalos, and the Juggalos winning. The State meathead directly behind me literally said "bitch! fuck you!" whenever MSU tackled Denard Robinson for less than five yards. On Friday, Tim came back to his apartment to find a trail of blood leading to a passed-out State meathead who'd broken in. The same guys who clumsily spray-painted a bedsheet in 2008 to declare their glorious victory over the worst Michigan team in 50 years reprised their genius. As I walked home every glassy-eyed Stiffler that passed me upped the amplitude of my anger/depression cocktail. Jesus, they were everywhere. They came to Ann Arbor cocky and stupid and left cocky and stupid. Enduring it was brutal. In their eyes, that was probably the point.

Also for giving their Tressel acolyte, ski mask posse leading coach an extension for beating the three worst Michigan teams of my lifetime.doc4cb122983360a052941666

I find rating rivalries by level of hatred or categorizing them does a disservice to the rivalries. They're each specific to their respective fan bases and regions. Put two fandom-as-loyalty programs in the same state and you get the Iron Bowl; keep the ag school out of the conference and you get Cy-Hawk. This one is what you get when the model Morrill Act university shares a state with a (recovering) apex program. Outside of the state they're the reason non-sports fans often wonder why Michigan shirts are sometimes green.** But here in metro-Detroit we daily have to hear them say things like "I can't stand people who root for Michigan who never even went there," as if they've never heard of a  Midwest Ivy whose only fans are alumni. I wonder if they'll same the same for Nebraska.

After last year one of the pantheon of Spartan nitwits on Detroit's airwaves suggested Michigan had become Northwestern. I heard this in literally the only five minutes of sports talk radio I listened to for the rest of 2010. Thus is the watch word of the Spartan faith: all history beyond last season is irrelevant except the Battle of Thermopylae as imagined by Zack Snyder (2011 addendum: and in basketball).

Hoke et al. immediately and dramatically ended the recent Sparty in-state recruiting party, so much so that Michigan fans are back to ingenuously praising a pair of Spartan commits in Ohio. The only reminder of that brief run should an annoyingly good spate of tailbacks and defensive ends for the next three years. At this point Brady Hoke can probably weather a loss to Michigan State without losing all the goodwill he's earned here so far. Beating them, however, would go a long way toward making Detroit a better place to live.

This is sparta


* Not you Stunt.

** Waitaminute…is there like a second Notre Dame in Indiana by any chance? Notre Dame A&M or something? Which one's the one with gold helmets?



October 11th, 2011 at 6:18 PM ^

I was really speaking more to this year in particular. In years going forward, I do think that Nebraska will be right there. In fairness, I wonder if MSU will be there and I need to see them continue to put together 8-4 or 9-3 type seasons while UM is back to being UM.

I also wonder about Iowa. Don't get me wrong, Ferentz has been VERY good at Iowa and moreover seems to have MSU's number. However, the talent in Iowa/Nebraska is sparse and I wonder if Nebraska now being in-division might dig into their recruiting a bit? I also have wondered if Iowa fans might Glen Mason themselves right out of a Kirk Ferentz.

Anyway, that's mostly conjecture, I was really talking about this year. Glad to see we're the prime rivalry game for next year too though, particularly if we sneak out the win this weekend.


October 12th, 2011 at 9:58 AM ^

I agree about Iowa. They're historically not a major player, but they have a solid history of success now behind Fry and Ferentz which reinvigorated the program. Fry built that program because he knew Texas high schools even better than Texas did.

Ferentz doesn't have that connection. His classes are generally 20% Iowans but 60% from the Big Ten footprint (only in 2003, after the Big Ten championship year, did they get a majority of their recruits from outside the region). If you figure Nebraska is going to get more recruits from the Big Ten region going forward, it's easy to see a lot of those coming at the expense of Iowa.


October 11th, 2011 at 7:14 PM ^

I'm not sure about other folks, but Spartan fans to me do not exist until this week. I hear nothing from them if they beat ND or if they are 0-6.  But when Michigan comes to town, I get a million emails, FB posts, etc. If we beat them, it all magically disappears immediately after the game. Most even say something like, "oh, the football game? yeah, i knew we would lose so I didn't bother watching." But if they win, it's months of trash talk. 

Last year, thanks to Michigan basketball sweeping olde Sparty, I didn't have to endure the taunts through another season. I did hear a spartan fan say, "regular season doesn't matter, we'll still get farther in the tourney..." It just never ends. Let's end it once and for all Saturday and put Lil Brother back where he belongs - in his room, by himself, while we go outside and play football with the big boys.

Michigan Arrogance

October 11th, 2011 at 8:57 PM ^

My perspective of MSU is probably typical for those out of state. I didn't know MSU from any other "__________ State" school. They were in the B10 and it was like any other B10 game to me. ND was a bigger rivalry b/c all the Catholics I knew were ND fans b/c god said so or w/e and that was tiresome at best. I didn't think to apply to MSU for the same reason I didn't think to apply to Ok St, Alabama St, Penn State or Iowa State. So I get to A2 like 15 years ago and think it would be fun to go to the MSU game in EL with UM friends who grew up close to Lansing. One was my future wife who had applied to MSU b/c her Mom wanted her to and the application didn't require an essay (I never heard of schools not requiring essays besides community colleges). She said MSU sent her a recuriting letter after her 1st semester saying, "we'd still take you if you want to make a change..." I drive by campus and see the 'swine reseach and bovine research" "institutes." They have to qualify the Med school with the word "Human," as if when people say "med school" you're not sure what species they are referring to.

So we go to the game, get yelled at off and on by drunk Sparty Brahs, get the stink eye from older MSU fans, MSU wins and people are LIT-rilly (/Chris Traeger) hanging from the street lamps. It was an eye opener. There was palpable hatred of us and a clear projection of self worth from state fans because they had won for the 1st time in 5 years (I think) and we had UM shirts on.

I stopped going to State games b/c I don't enjoy having Sparty Brahs yelling in my face from point blank range. It's very dichotomous b/c I've met TONS of MSU grads who are awesome people. Most of them are teachers and all but one are female. The guys are (with the one exception) bro-tastic brahs who aren't making up for the oxygen they use.

Anyway, what I've noticed about MSU is that very few people aspire to go there. The admissions standards are not super high. Like any other school, there are several programs like Vet Sci, turfgrass Mgmt, school of Ed, that are top notch. But this part of Waters' post:

"...those of us chose Michigan State because, for whatever reason, it was the best situation for us.  Perhaps it was our famous horticultural/agricultural programs, education program, our business program, our top notch study abroad program, or our strong international student program.  Maybe it was our beautiful, expansive land grant campus.  Maybe it was to work with a certain professor or group of professors...."

kind of rings hollow for me. I talk to a lot of kids applying to colleges these days.As you might imagine, most kids are just trying to figure out what they want to do. They aren't looking to work for a specific professor or a specific business program. They just want to get into the best school they can get into and figure out what they want to become. They don't have specific goals and coast thru HS. They realize their GPA/ACT scores are below what UM typically accepts or know that going into HS and don't care to work harder. MSU is that school for them and that's OK. As had been stated countless times, they have a great opportunity to be successful in any profession coming from MSU.

But the ones who work really hard in HS and have specific goals for business or science or engineering are the ones who apply to very compeditive schools b/c they have the ACT score and GPA to be considered. People think it's their IQ or natural intelligence, but that's complete bullshit. These kids also applying to UM, Stanford, Yale, Chicago, etc WORK HARDER. They overprepare. They study, pay attention, etc. So many of these kids apply to both UM and MSU and we know which they are hoping to get into. They tell me this in no uncertain terms.Yes there are kids who want to go into Vet Sci and MSU has a top program. Sometimes it's journalism. However, in the overwhelming majority of cases, MSU is the safety school. That's just the way it is... for most State schools.

My advice for kids applying to schools is to have a good reason to apply there. If you don't want to go there, don't apply. If you're just looking to get into the "best" school you can get into that's not far from home (or is far, w/e), fine. But if MSU is the best you can get into (which is perfectly fine and not to be considered a put down b/c it isn't) and you're the type who will be butthurt for the rest of your life that UM exists as the flagship U and public ivy that it is, that's a "you" problem. Not a "me" problem.