I think it would be difficult to hype up the football game this weekend any more than what has already been done. Michigan State is ranked #17 and Michigan is #18. We’re at home. Denard Robinson has been wowing fans week after week. Mark Dantonio, who is recovering from a heart attack and a blood clot, will be coaching from the press box. State beat us in overtime last year, and we’re looking for revenge. Not to mention the most obvious thing — it’s a huge rivalry game.

I love rivalries. I grew up in Georgia where it is UGA or die. I was able to witness the chaos of the Georgia vs. Georgia Tech games as well as what they call the “largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is the Florida vs. Georgia game. But let’s be real, you can’t beat Michigan vs. Ohio State or the in-state rivalry of Michigan vs. Michigan State. The atmosphere, the Michigan pride and the downright hatred the opposing schools have for each other is legendary. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun.

Athletes revel in rivalry games. Those are the games where you want to play perfectly. Those are the games where it’s not okay just to win, but to crush your opponent into oblivion.

But sometimes it goes too far.

Rivalries are analogous with emotions, which are what make them fun. But emotions can be a dangerous thing. For example, let’s say you’re out for lunch and there is someone at a table next to you with an Ohio State shirt on. Without even thinking, you will probably give them a dirty look. You don’t know them, they haven’t said anything to you, but based on emotion, you feel the need to express your disdain by staring at them with a look of complete disgust.

Or take for example a scenario that I witnessed just yesterday. It was a busy night on State Street, and a car drove by with a bunch of State fans in it. Naturally, they felt the need to scream “GO GREEN!” out of the car window, while many people on the street immediately responded in an array of expletives. Without a doubt, there will be even more of this type of behavior on Saturday between Michigan and Michigan State fans.

Fans at games often turn from funny to mean. Personally, I love crazy fans. I’ve been called every name in the book: Sasquatch, Mr. Ed, T-Rex, Scarecrow and for some reason Yao Ming in high school by fans of the opposing team. I think it’s hilarious when fans come up with creative and witty cheers to get the other team distracted. But there’s a fine line between witty and rude.

Just last week the volleyball team traveled to Ohio State and the usual creative cheers took a turn down the inappropriate and hurtful route — one Ohio State student actually wrote our coach a letter of apology.

Emotions in rivalry games are just as — if not more — dangerous for athletes. As I mentioned above, there is a different mindset when approaching rivalry games: the need to play perfectly and the need to win big. This is when athletes get in trouble.

There is a certain flow, rhythm or as many people call it, “the zone,” when athletes have their best games. There aren’t many thoughts going through their minds, they make all the right choices and they do what their team needs. But when athletes try to do too much or try to play too perfectly, it never works. At big rivalry games, there’s too much excitement, too much brain chatter, too many distractions and too much concern about the outcome. That’s when you see mistakes.

We have to remember that at the end of the season, the team’s record is simply wins and losses. There is no extra win given for beating Ohio State or Michigan State. Those wins may be more exciting, but they are not more important. So with any rivalry game at the University, let’s be witty but not disrespectful, have fun but not be petty and after we’ve won we can relish in the celebration.

Courtney Fletcher can be reached at fletchco@umich.edu.

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