Thursday, October 23, 2008

On the MSU-UM Rivalry: an Admission, a Realization, and a Continuation.

I'll admit it - I grew up a Wolverine fan.

My dad's buddies all went to MSU. My father, feeling the need to play the role of spoiler in their get-togethers, started to cheer for UM. Like his love for all of Detroit's pro teams (and that's not a reference to Ed Martin, unless you want it to be. Which I do.), that love spread to me, and I saw soon cheering for Desmond Howard, Tim Biakabatuka, the Fab Five, and the like. I became less of a college football fan in high school, when every weekend brought a new cross country invitational to attend, and thus my love for the college game waned. However, my fandom of Michigan did not, and when my ACT score came in the mail the summer before my senior year, I knew the application process would be all but a formality. I filled out the application and sent it in, along with Michigan State's, because I wanted to cover all the bases in case the Ann Arbor one fell through (make all the safety school cracks here you want Wolverines, it may be your only chance).

My visit to Ann Arbor that November of my senior year was what I expected. The sky was gloomy, I viewed all the buildings, went inside a few, had lunch at Zingerman's with my Dad, and then headed home. A few weeks later, I received my acceptance letter for Michigan, and for some reason...I didn't turn it in immediately. I'm still not sure why to this day. I'm not implying this story is going to take a supernatural turn, I attribute my tardiness more to the laziness that creeps into a high school senior's life exponentially during the year.

In February, I received an invitation from MSU to attend the Alumni Distinguished Scholarship competition. I accepted, mainly for the fact that I wanted a day off from school (once again, laziness creeping up on me). My parents drove me down to East Lansing and dropped me off at the Kellogg center to check in while they gallivanted around the Capital area for a day and a night. The first course of action was a bus tour of campus, and I was immediately struck by its beauty. The dorms of North Circle had a gothic charm like nothing I'd ever seen, and there were trees everywhere. During the evening, all the invitees were free to talk amongst themselves, and I found the people were just as amazing as the campus - funny, laid-back, and all-around awesome. I woke up in the morning, took the strangest test I'd ever taken in my life (if you've ever taken a test that includes Calculus, Greek and Roman Architecture, Literature Intrepretation and Biology on a single test, let me know), and headed for home. The main thought running through my head was this: "I had a great time at MSU, it's just too bad I won't be going there."

Fast forward a month and a half later. I had done so well in the competition that I had a full tuition scholarship offer to MSU. I thought about the experiences I had with all the people, the beauty of the campus, and the opportunities there...and I decided to attend MSU. I realized that, yes, U of M had the greater academic reputation, but I felt I would be happiest at MSU, and since my future plans at that point in time were to enter medical school, I felt that where I attended school for my undergraduate studies had little credence compared to my academic results. I also wanted to go to a school where I could see my classmates as people who would help me in my studies, rather than attend a school with mostly overachievers, hellbent on going to the best graduate school or landing the best job at the expense of their classmates. That was my impression about some Michigan students at the time, and I know that's not true for all students there, I didn't want to be in that type of environment for four years.

I instantly became a Spartan fan. I became well-versed in comebacks (both made by and on the Spartans) in football. I was delirious at State's Elite Eight run in 2003, overjoyed at the 2005 Final Four Run, and despondent in early defeats in '04 and 06. The Wolverine fans were always there, laughing in our faces at our football defeats, ignoring their basketball team like a caged inbred child in the basement, chiding Tom Izzo for not winning a Big Ten title while going to a Final Four, and, above all, personifying arrogance at every turn, with most of them countering every loss this year with a reference to the teams of the past, or cautioning us about how good they'll be in the future, thanks to their coach.

Which brings us to this Saturday. The gap between Michigan State and Michigan's football teams in a season has never been so heavily tilted for the Green and White. Michigan is becoming intimate with all facets of the term "rebuilding year", while Michigan State is trying to shake off the reputation of collapses that has plagued them in the past. All the while, Michigan fans have pointed to the past six games of this rivalry, a distraction meant to take their minds off the skidmark of a record they have right now. During this lashing I, as an MSU fan, have been quiet, mainly because this rivalry has been one sided for the past six years. They're pointing to history as the reason why they'll win this game, mainly because all the other reasons (you know, the one that involve play on the field) lack merit. While they're pointing to all the past seasons as cases in point of collapse, I'm pointing to the Purdue and Penn State games of last year and cultivating that seed of hope.

As for the game itself: It seems like some blogs are pointing to the Cal and OSU games as cases where Ringer was stopped, and wins resulted. The reason why Ringer was stopped was because the game plan had to change, as MSU was trailing big in both of those games at one point. What's the possibility UM scores enough points to force that strategy? I'm guessing small. MSU wins the turnover battle, runs the same old gameplan, and wins in Ann Arbor.

Michigan State 27, Michigan 13.


Anonymous said...

Wow, my story is almost the exact same as yours. I was a Wolverine fans until last year when it came time to actually decide where I was going to go.

I was accepted into everywhere I applied (all schools were in state fwiw) so for me it was really an issue of cost and how good the school was. I also realized that MSU is a far nice looking campus, that the people seemed more personable and that the whole time I was on campus I felt like the staff working there hoped I would come there and succeed.

I also attended ADS, and won one of the, I guess you could call them runner-up scholarships for that test. (How the hell is a high schooler supposed to know what Fabian Socialism is anyway?) While it seemed like I was getting notified of some new scholarship or stipend every month at State, Michigan's attempt to woo me included... an offer to be in the Honors College of the School of LSA. Great, more work without more money.

With the choice between State and Michigan, I definitely discovered a new appreciation of the green and white. After all, since I hope to go to law school some day, what sense was there in accruing unneeded debt? The differences between Michigan and MSU pre-law are nowhere near close enough to justify the money U of M wanted, but don't tell them that down in Ann Arbor, they're pricing themselves out of talented students every year, and MSU is happy to take them.

I'm green to the center now. Go State!

G0EL Pete said...

Ditto here. I know U of M's offer of $1500 was generous, but I passed it up.

Anonymous said...

Wow, and that's what they offered me? It's sad how that hasn't changed in about five years.

kj (spartans weblog) said...

"I woke up in the morning, took the strangest test I'd ever taken in my life (if you've ever taken a test that includes Calculus, Greek and Roman Architecture, Literature Intrepretation and Biology on a single test, let me know), and headed for home."

I'd completely forgotten about that test until I read this post. I remember just putting down entirely random guesses for the architecture portion.

The rest of my college application story's not as interesting: My blood ran green from birth. I didn't even bother applying to Michigan.

witless chum said...

Great story. (seriously, not a reference to "The Soup")

I was always an MSU fan. Both my parents were MSU DVMs and I was thus raised to love the green and white and recoil from all that was U of M (and ND. My mom can hold forth on the perfidity of Ara Parseghian at some length). This was probably reinforced by contact with dairy farmers, who generally appreciate MSU extension and by my U of M-loving aunts and uncle. Except for a brief period of 10-year-old rebellion and purchase of some blue and yellow Nikes at Payless Shoe Source, I was always on board.

I actually considered going to the other U of M, being from the U.P., East Lansing and Minneapolis/St. Paul are about equidistant, but I didn't have a firm idea of what I wanted to study, so in-state tuition at MSU seemed like the best choice.