Here is the most recent tweet in my Twitter feed:
“This is the one week Michigan upper-middle class fans can make fun of Michigan State for being dumber and lower-middle class and it’s okay.”
Does that tweet make anyone else’s skin crawl a little bit?
As the Michigan vs. Michigan State weekend approaches, everyone seems to be looking forward to different things. Some people are excited to have their State friends stay with them for a few nights; others are ready to drink heavily and (fingers crossed) watch the Wolverines kick Sparty’s ass. Whatever the case may be, the majority of Michigan students can likely agree on one thing they’re especially excited for: verbally assaulting Michigan State students.
Looks a little different in writing. That’s what we’re doing though, isn’t it? Michigan State students visit us on this big weekend and whether they happen to be our family, friends, boyfriends or perfect strangers, we never fail to capitalize on their presumed academic inferiority. Go Green Go White, Can’t Read Can’t Write.
As an out-of-state student, I’ve never been able to understand the rivalry as well as my Michigan-born friends. Of course, I appreciate the concept of a sports rivalry, but the contention seems to go deeper than that on both sides. What is it about the dynamic between these two schools that make friends and family members become bitter rivals and scream belittling and offensive things at each other? One minute, my friend Katie’s cousin is sitting in our family room drinking a beer with us before the Saturday morning debauchery and the next minute he and Katie are at pregame yelling insults at each other. Though these exchanges are seemingly in jest, how playful can they be when we’re questioning each other’s intelligence, caliber, and even social class?
I would be a hypocrite if I pretended that I, too, don’t participate in this banter. I am as guilty as anyone and find myself saying things like, “Even if we lost the game, as least Michigan State will know that we inevitably always win because we go to the superior school.” I’m not particularly proud to have said such things and it makes me question why my fellow students and I do this? Why must we quantify and reinforce our own intelligence and prowess by bringing our athletic opponents down? Are we that insecure in our own abilities or can we just not help but rub it in our rival’s faces?
I don’t know the answer myself, nor am I sure that there is an answer. Maybe instead of an obvious answer we can look to ourselves and reconsider the motivation behind our cruelty. As Michigan students, we never really know the circumstances of our State peers and thus cannot fairly judge their intellect or means of existence. Instead of belittling them, maybe we should try a more productive approach: Be the best students and fans we can be so that we can show Michigan State students how great we are, rather than just telling them.
By: Emily Coyle
(Photo by Paul K)