In the week leading up to the Michigan-Michigan State football game each year, football writers from the Daily and the student newspaper at Michigan State exchange columns. As the teams prepare to clash in East Lansing, here’s this year’s installment:
The Michigan Daily’s Everett Cook:
One of my earliest interactions with Michigan State started with a female Spartan screaming at me to suck a part of her body that she categorically cannot possess.
This was during my sophomore year two years ago during the “touch” football game that The Michigan Daily and The State News play every Friday before the real football players battle on Saturday. I grew up in California not knowing a thing about Michigan State or why there is such animosity (for Michigan State fans reading this, that means “bad blood” ) between these two schools.
I’m not like a lot of my classmates, the ones that grew up with or knowing Spartan fans, or the ones who applied to both schools, just in case they don’t get into Michigan. Everything I know about Michigan State comes from personal experience — there were no preconceived ideas or stereotypes that come with growing up in this area.
So, my relationship with Michigan State started on that field with that foul-mouthed Spartan, who I later found out was the editor-in-chief of that esteemed publication.
Two years later, not much has changed. The State News scored only one touchdown in last year’s game for its eighth (yes, eighth) loss in a row, there were several verbal grenades thrown toward our sideline that would have made even the crudest Spartan cringe and I still don’t know a ton about Michigan State.
For out-of-state students that don’t have family members or anyone from the bottom half of their high school head to East Lansing, this intra-state tension feels a lot different.
Still, over the course of an undergraduate career, Wolverines meet Spartans, usually through mutual friends. It happens. Truly, they are not all bad people.
But when the topic of school comes up — what’s your major, etc. — if a Spartan got into Michigan, they will let you know.
It’s never, “Yeah, I’m studying to be a veterinarian and I really like the program.” It’s always, “Yeah, I got into Michigan but decided to go to State because the program was a better fit for me.”
It doesn’t matter that Michigan State has a very respectable veterinarian program — if that Spartan got into Michigan, you’ll know very soon.
For an out-of-state student, this inferiority complex doesn’t make any sense. Michigan State is a fine school with decent athletic teams. Its football team has won four of the last five meetings between the two schools — obviously impressive. The all-time record of 68-32-5 in Michigan’s favor changes that perception a bit, but hey, four of the last five!
Even if you had never heard of this “little brother complex” before — which a good chunk of out-of-state students haven’t — it became painfully evident during the touch football game. The best part about the editor-in-chief screaming that anatomically incorrect barb? It was after she had picked up a first down.
Instead of being happy after a nice play, the insult was hurled out of pure anger. Anyone who thinks that inferiority complex doesn’t exist is delusional.
The game on Saturday — which will likely decide the division winner — is going to be close. It may not be pretty, because Michigan State has a dominant defense while Michigan has an exciting offense that has a tendency to turn the ball over. Also, the finest intramural quarterbacks in East Lansing probably could have equaled whatever Connor Cook and Andrew Maxwell are doing this season, but that’s beside the point.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has historically struggled on the road during his tenure in Ann Arbor, while Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has traditionally done very well against Michigan. It’s going to be a dogfight.
And yet, the real game on Friday, where the Daily goes for nine in a row, will be even better.
But I can guarantee that nobody wearing maize will be telling anybody to suck anything — just not how we operate. Maybe that’s an entitled thing to say, but I would rather be entitled than ignorant.
That’s not coming from someone who has been told that his whole life — that’s coming from someone who has had the pleasure to witness it himself, up close and personal, over the last four years.
Little brother, and the screaming editor-in-chief, brought it upon themselves.
Cook can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @everettcook
The State News’ Stephen Brooks:
Let’s begin with a stroll down memory lane.
That’s not too much to ask for a university and fanbase obsessed with the past, right? In fact, many of you never left.
I understand most of you have simply gone along with the elitist, holier-than-thou rhetoric you’ve heard from Michigan fans and supporters all your life. The sense of superiority and arrogance has been passed along for generations. For those of you that picked it up from a real alumni instead of in the Wal-Mart clearance section, good for you! That’s a rare feat.
Slide those blue and yellow tinted glasses off and take a look at the real world, where quarterbacks don’t wear No. 98 and people don’t act like they reinvented the wheel for playing night games. Like the females in Ann Arbor, the past isn’t as glamorous when you take a longer look.
The almighty Wolverines claim 11 national titles in their 100-plus year history. The NCAA recognizes nine of them – and only four are claimed solely by U-M.
The early championships date all the way back to the fiercely competitive days of the early 1900s when only a fraction of schools competed and the Ford Model T still was years away from hitting the market.
From 1901-04, the Wolverines ripped off four consecutive national titles before the forward pass was even legal. It’s too bad none of us were around for some of those classic games against Physicians & Surgeons, American Medical or Drake back in 1904. I bet those were great.
Since the Associated Press began crowning national champions in 1936, the Wolverines are credited with just one outright (1948) and one split national championship (1997). That doesn’t scream “leaders and best” to me, but hey I’m just an uneducated Sparty, right?
That’s the root of this rivalry hatred: perception.
MSU supporters take issue with the disconnect between perception and reality with U-M people. We grow tired of Wolverines living in the past and the superiority complex that comes with it.
Call us little brother, it’s true. I don’t have to do the math for you studious folks to tell you U-M is older than MSU. Michael Jordan, Barack Obama, Peyton Manning – they’re all little brothers. They turned out OK.
For a school that loves bragging about education, will somebody tell Brady Hoke the Buckeyes hail from Ohio State? The Ohio Bobcats aren’t on the schedule — probably for the best considering how tough MAC foe Akron was.
U-M is afraid to admit it’s threatened by MSU. It always has been, going back to when it attempted to block MSU from joining the Big Ten. Now, the Spartans are on the rise with a clear foundation and knack for winning the Paul Bunyan Trophy.
I can see how it’s so easy to cling to the past when the present offers such little hope.
You embarrassingly chased away a top-notch coach like a new kid on the elementary playground because he was different and didn’t conform to “the Michigan way.” Then you tried to praise the hiring of a third-string candidate who’s still using Rodriguez’s players and only recently stopped using his playbook. U-M continues to get pummeled by Ohio State annually and shows no signs of beating MSU on a consistent basis.
The faux aura around the U-M football program is as big a sham as a newspaper staffed by kids that don’t even major in journalism.
Like it or not, these programs see eye-to-eye now. Big brother has grown old and decrepit, a has-been that’s all but faded into the shadows of a once-glorious past. Little brother is youthful and energetic, his best years yet to come.
Four wins in five years, favored to be five of six by the end of the weekend. The pressure on U-M is evident, from the faculty-endorsed skywriting to Fitz Toussaint’s false sense of bravado. It desperately yearns to return to an era none of us were alive to see.
For the Spartans, where’s the threat?
Stephen Brooks is a State News football reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.