If you were born in the state of Michigan, you likely entered this world with designated colors: green and white or maize and blue. Whether or not you grew into these colors and attended the corresponding university is where intrastate enmity arises. This is because the notoriety attached to your colors and logos extends beyond just being a fan — in-state collegiate allegiance produces predetermined archetypes that are rooted in things deeper than football banter. Specifically, these archetypes view arrogance as a formally earned trait for those with an acceptance letter, and school pride as a mindless obsession for those without.
With the University of Michigan Athletic Department announcing the return of a college football season with spectators, the in-state rivalry between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University is bound to reignite with a year’s worth of restrained animosity emerging beneath face masks and between six feet of distance. Regardless of your family’s membership in one of the largest living alumni bases in the world, adversaries located in East Lansing demand clarification of one’s connection to the University, validating your logo and overall tolerability in the stands. In their terms and perhaps even in ours, you are either an “academic Wolverine” allowed to exclaim “Go blue!” or a so-called “Walmart Wolverine” that is groundlessly affiliated.
The “academic Wolverine” is portrayed as an elitist, making many think the acronym A² stands for “arrogant asshole” in place of Ann Arbor. The University, in the eye of the “academic,” is a public Ivy with a beautiful campus situated in a bustling city, livened with the thrill of D-I athletics and Midwest tailgating. Such sentiment causes a possessive connection to Ann Arbor for the “academic,” making an acceptance letter an implied entry permit for those wishing to take pictures in front of campus buildings or cheer at sports games. Academic Wolverines scored above the national average on the ACT test and will both implicitly and explicitly tell you about it, legitimizing their place at the University and cementing themselves amongst the legacy of Victors.
Ann Arbor has once again been ranked the best college town in America and the University has maintained its place as the top public university in the United States for five straight years. Is that elitist for us to constantly bring up? The University is no exception to statistic and rank-heavy marketing strategies that create a sense of elitism within students, as demonstrated by the promotional brochures which declare us “Leaders and the Best,” not “Leaders and the Humble.”
With a 23% acceptance rate, the school pride that the “academic” feels is earned. However, our exclusive admission rate is the reason that there are not enough block M acceptance letters to go around, forcing many to purchase such school pride through season tickets or branded t-shirts. This desire for school acceptance goes beyond admission into the Ann Arbor classroom, for access to a prestigious education is not equally distributable and attainable in both financial and societal aspects.
Because of this, the “Walmart Wolverine” archetype was developed by Spartans and exacerbated by the “academic.” Often defined as a Michigan fan who has no formal affiliation to the University, the “Walmart Wolverine” generally lacks a college education, tends to have a low-paying job and therefore resorts to buying affordable Michigan gear from Walmart. The “Walmart Wolverine” is dedicated to the sports program and the Big House on a greater level than the “academic” and will recite historical successes of the football team in extensive detail and with heightened enthusiasm.
With no U-M diploma, the “Walmart Wolverine” is socialized to be looked at solely as a mindless fan by Spartans and contrasts clearly with the “academic,” and has not earned the right to brag of the University’s athletic successes and academic prestige. Implying that arrogance is confined and acceptable only to those who pay U-M tuition is in itself arrogant.
In the largest football stadium in the country, there is a delineation between those who purchase tickets as alumni or current students to fill the stands and those who purchase tickets out of personal interest, with no formal school attachment. Remember when fans were seen hoisting up a banner reading “Pardon our arrogance” in the stands throughout the early 2000s? Both teams reacted adversely. Filling seats and selling tickets has become stigmatized by those wearing both green and white as well as maize and blue, creating rivalry in the stands.
These archetypes should be dismantled, considering they stray from the intent of the University and the tenets upon which it was founded. In the words of former University President James B. Angell, Michigan was founded and shaped to be “an uncommon education for the common man” and woman. “‘Have an aristocracy of birth if you will,” he said, “or of riches, if you wish, but give our plain boys from the log cabins a chance to develop their minds with the best learning and we fear nothing from your aristocracy.’”
Being able to identify as a Victor should not be restricted to those who can pay for such a title in the form of tuition and standardized test scores, nor should it come with tolerability for arrogance. Simply put, pride is not to be mistaken as an illegitimate association or over-emphasized elitism.
The two extremes of the Wolverine archetypes reveal a sense of bitter resentment that is instilled by our in-state rivals to rid the University of inclusivity it has fiercely sought to foster. We cannot accept and foster this sentiment that diminishes our mission statement. Admission to the Ann Arbor campus is a privilege to all students in current and former attendance, yet such admission does not limit the block M to those with a diploma. The underpinnings of the University and its standard of excellence are symbolized by everyone who wears a maize and blue T-shirt, regardless of whether it came from the MDen or from Walmart.
When unified in the stands, there is no arrogance to pardon. But until there is unity, pardon our arrogance.
Julia Maloney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.