One of the things that Michigan students from other states have to deal with at home is ignorance about their school. I can”t even count how many times people have asked me how I”m enjoying Michigan State University, or “They”re the Spartans, right?” At first, I gave it very little thought, but by the summer after freshman year, it really started to get on my nerves. The problem is that a lot people who aren”t from Michigan don”t really grasp the nature of the relationship between the University and Michigan State. As a result, a lot of out-of-state freshmen (myself circa 1998 included) don”t understand how intense a rivalry it is. As an out-of-state senior, I therefore feel it is my duty to help provide a short guide to the University-Michigan State rivalry.
The rivalry really begins in hometowns and high schools throughout the state. Michigan has one of the nation”s strongest state school programs, so a high percentage of students stay in-state for college. As I understand it, a high school usually sends much of the top 10-15 percent of its graduating class to the University, while the next 65 percent or so end up at Michigan State. Putting that into New Jersey terms, it would be like having both Rutgers and a Rutgers sub-B.
Because most in-state students know so many people attending Michigan State, the rivalry is extremely heated and personal. One unfortunate side effect, however, has been the perpetuation of a number of myths about Michigan State. In the interest of seeing the competition continue to be heated yet civil, I will now attempt to debunk some of these rumors, thereby helping fellow out-of-staters to get a good grasp on this amazing rivalry.
Rumor 1: Michigan State is academically inferior. This is perhaps the most pervasive rumor about Michigan State and is patently untrue. Ignore for a moment what U.S. News & World Report, Princeton Review, employers and everyone else says. As the school”s website says, “Accessibility, affordability, prestige, a land-grant mission and a world-class reputation are all hallmarks of one of the country”s finest institutions.” How the awful rumor about State being inferior got started is a mystery, but perhaps it has to do with the sort of education available. Michigan State has a great deal to offer it”s just that a lot of it is agricultural in nature. In other words, while Michigan prepares students to be productive in a more urban/suburban environment, Michigan State produces more productive country folk.
Rumor 2: Michigan State is athletically inferior. I think this one came about strictly as a result of bias on Michigan students” behalf. For one thing, Michigan State has been a veritable professional athlete factory over the past decade. NBA and NFL rosters are loaded with former Spartan stars such as Mateen “Career Backup” Cleaves, Plaxico “Head Case” Burress, Shawn “Where are They Now?” Respert and Dimitrius “No Comment Necessary” Underwood. For further proof, look no further than ice hockey, where Michigan State has consistently produced great teams. In fact, the Spartans have more than held their own against the University the last few years, though it could be argued that they haven”t been weighed down by National Championship trophies. As for other sports, Michigan State may not be able to claim superstar athletes like Tom Dolan and Alan Webb, but I”m sure they”re still good, or something.
Rumor 3: Michigan State girls are more attractive than Michigan girls. Personally, I doubt that this is true. After all, smart is sexy. As for those people who do support this statement, they usually give the same explanation. As the story goes, girls at State don”t have to spend time studying, which gives them more time to primp and preen, and work on looking pretty. I don”t know if it”s true or not, although I have heard that they”re easier there. The classes, I mean.
Rumor 4: 1999″s riot demonstrates that Michigan State students are dumb. OK, there”s no dodging the fact that Michigan State had a teeny little disturbance a few years ago. Who cares? That doesn”t prove anything. After a big loss, any rational college student would set his or her campus ablaze in an orgy of destruction and violence, right? Right? Besides, it”s not like Michigan State is the only campus to have had some civil disobedience issues. In the last few years, Colorado, Penn State and Ohio State have all had problems with riots. It just goes to show that mass drunken violence and pyromania are not specific to Michigan State. Or that God is a vindictive Michigan fan.
I know that I”ve probably upset some of you out there, and I can”t honestly say I blame you. Well, I can, but I won”t. I acknowledge that I”ve taken a lot of cheap shots, and I”m sorry. At the very least, though, I will say one positive thing about Michigan State: I”m glad I don”t go there.
All joking aside, I am aware of the fact that I may be causing some stress for in-state students. After all, it”s pretty much inevitable that you”ll run into Michigan State students at some point, and it”s possible some of them could have read and been offended by this column. Fortunately, I have a solution ready. If someone who goes to State says that they were offended, just look him or her in the eye and say “I”m sorry that you were insulted. It was all in good fun, and wasn”t meant to hurt anybody. And yes, I would like fries with that.”
Steven Kyritz can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.