At the extremes, there seems to be two incarnations of the football fanatic. And during Rivalry Week, that fanatic wears Green and White and cheers for the Spartans. Yet, posts today by Geoff Woliner and Scott Westerman couldn’t have been more opposite in tone. Where do you stand in this continuum between Woliner and Westerman? Are you the trash talking type? Or the respectful combatant? For your reading pleasure… first the trash talker… then the respectful combatant…
Geoff Woliner of Arlington, Virginia posted this explanation of the Michigan State – Michigan rivalry on his facebook page on November 1, 2013:
Tomorrow, my Michigan State Spartans will square off against the hated Michigan Wolverines. Although this is a top-25 matchup, the “Big Ten sucks” narrative that permeats the national airwaves has reduced this game to the significance of a Youtube bumfight in El Paso. But make no mistake, this game is a big, big deal in the Midwest. And a HUGE deal in the state of Michigan.
They call us “little brother”. Well, that’s technically true. Their school pre-dates ours by a number of decades. But this guy was also a “little brother”: (Picture of Michael Corleone)
And much like Michigan, his big brother Fredo was a snivelling, insecure, incompetent schmuck who believed he should run the family business due to birthright. Well, it wasn’t the case in the Corleone family. And it sure as hell isn’t the case on the football field.
Unlike other intrastate blood fueds like Alabama – Auburn, South Carolina – Clemson and Vasser – NY School of Design, this one has a special off-the-field element. Michigan repeatedly sued to prevent MSU from first becoming a school, then becoming a university, then joining the Big Ten, then obtaining a law school. Big Brother was terrified that another sibling emerging would expose them for what they are – a hollow shell of their former selves that haven’t been a national power since Harry Truman was dropping a-bombs on Hiroshima.
Michigan is the 55 year old drunk at the small town bar who rambles on about his high school football glory to anyone and everyone who crosses his path. They’re the aging beauty queen who walks into a club and is stunned – absolutely stunned – that the men are chasing women half their age and don’t care that they were Ms. Kansas 1976. And they’re bitter about it. Very, very bitter. And no one feels their wrath more than that young buck who dares call them out on it. Enter Michigan State, stage left.
We scare the hell out of them. We’ve overtaken them in basketball over the past few decades, and see eye to eye with them in football. Their athletic department paid someone to skywrite “Go Blue” over East Lansing this year. They’re already complaining to the media about how we “bullied” them in the game two years ago. But we’re the obsessed ones, right?
So, the fear leads to them reverting to their tired fallbacks:
1) “We’re a better academic school!!”. Good for you and your reputation rankings. We’re #1 in education, have the #1 study abroad program, are #1 in nuclear physics and also have the top-rated programs nationally in packaging, supply chain management and turfgrass management. And our MBA program has a higher placement rating than yours. But hey, you have the ranking. Whatever keeps you warm at night.
2) “We have a better historical program”. Sure, if you want to include your games before color TV…or any TV for that matter. Most agree that the modern era of football began after 1950. We have 6 national titles in that timespan. You have 1. Well, half of one. Nebraska still spit-shines that 1997 crystal ball in Lincoln. And your last Big Ten title was in 2004. Ours was in 2010.
3) “We have winged helmets! Historic helmets!” Those helmets couldn’t save you from Appalachian State.
4) “We have a larger fanbase”. And thank God for that. Have you seen their fans?
5) “The only people who go to MSU are those who couldn’t get into Michigan!” You mean NYC natives like me who never applied to Michigan and had no interest in spending 4 years on a campus with the aesthetic charm of post-war Berlin?
We’ve taken 4 of the last 5 games against them. We’re favorites tomorrow. We don’t kiss the ring. We don’t pay homage to their national championships won before the advent of the forward pass, against a schedule that (no joke) included the likes of Grand Rapids High School, The Chicago Academy of Physicians and the Detroit YMCA. We don’t concede that Michigan being on top is the “natural order” of things. Hell, even their definition of being “on top” were the Bo Schembechler years where their seasons were humiliatingly ended at the hands of USC in the Rose Bowl. Only Michigan could find a way to make a trip from the Midwest to Southern California in January a thing of horror.
So, don’t buy the big blue hype. Don’t listen to the media outlets that prop them up for the sake of their large fanbase…most of whom couldn’t locate Ann Arbor on a map. We’re gonna kick their asses up and down the field tomorrow. It will be vindication for “little brothers” everywhere. A celebration of those who were handed nothing, had to work for everything, and take great pleasure in knocking smug, entitled clowns down a peg. It will be everything that’s great about America.
Scott Westerman, who identifies himself as the “Head Servant” of the Michigan State University Alumni Association, posted this on his website today:
This weekend, there will be some uncultured fans from the visiting team who will taunt you. Treat them with kindness, or in the worst case, ignore them. Negativity is a projection of one’s own insecurities. Goading you into a fight is a coward’s distorted definition of victory.
If you see a Spartan behaving badly, help them understand, by your own example, the true Spartan character. There are a few “Spartans in name only” who don’t understand what Spartan pride really means.
We do. Model that behavior.
Strong opponents make us stronger, so we always welcome them. Visiting fans enrich our local economy so we welcome them. MSU’s most important asset is our inclusiveness. Welcoming our visitors is the most powerful way to prove it.
Assume that, no matter what colors someone wears, they may have family members who are considering where they might go to school. Demonstrate, through your words and deeds, that they should aspire to come to Michigan State, to seek to carry the mantle of responsibility that comes with an MSU education, and to earn the privilege of becoming Spartans.
Whatever the scoreboard may say when the clock runs out, Spartans always show the world what true “victory for MSU” is all about.
So, where do you stand? Closer to the trash talker? Or closer to the respectful combatant? Or does it change depending on who is engaging you? Share your thoughts. Then check out the rest of isportsweb’s Rivalry Week coverage here, here, here and here.