You will have to forgive me for a Michigan-centric post, but go with me here.
This week I got the opportunity of the year, though at the time it didn’t quite feel that way. Today I am heading up to East Lansing for a regional conference, which I am pretty sure is a trap of some sort. Inviting a host of University of Michigan professionals into a large conference room on the Michigan State campus the day before the game? With most of the other attendees from other Michigan universities (and not much love for the flagship school), this sounds like the premise of a bad action movie. Regardless, I decided I would stay in East Lansing for at least that evening to hang out with some friends in town and lo and behold, another friend from Ann Arbor called me telling me that he had secured us a pair of tickets to the #11 Michigan vs. #23 Michigan State game on Saturday. And yet at first I felt apprehension more than anything else.
You see, there were two important factors at play. One was the clear joy of getting to see the Michigan Wolverines take their undefeated season into East Lansing to reassert their dominance over Little Brother. The opportunity to watch Michigan take down the Spartans would be delicious in so many ways, and the photos and memories would make for a hell of a story. However, there was another side to this. State fans are ugly. No, I don’t mean unattractive (I won’t pass judgment). Wearing Michigan gear before, during, and especially after the game is downright dangerous in East Lansing, and even in Ann Arbor if the State fans are particularly “fired up”. The sense of disrespect (some would say inferiority complex) and absolute hatred that State has for Michigan makes it more annoying than anything else, but pretty damn annoying (this is where the Little Brother meme is at its most accurate).
So I had to weigh the desire to watch a Michigan win with both the knowledge that I would be pushed, poured beer on, and goaded on by everyone around me regardless of the score. Whether Michigan won or lost I was going to be in for a horrible game day environment unless I stuck very close to a large group of Wolverines I found along the way. However, there is a part of me that would relish the schadenfreude and pride I would get from finally seeing Michigan get back where they belonged. In the end, this made the decision a no-brainer. Regardless of whether I would get pelted, harassed, or see my team lose (like I have seen them lose dozens of times from the communal misery of Michigan Stadium), I had to take the chance. If nothing else, it would remind me why I am not applying to Michigan State for grad school after all.
Unfortunately the tickets fell through, and my friend from Ann Arbor won’t be able to make it up to East Lansing this weekend after all. But it raised an interesting question- how bad would it have to be for you not to want to see your home team on the road? With Maryland not having a football rival with quite the same vitriol, what would be your equivalent? How does the actual enjoyment of the game stack up against the chance to see it in person?
I think I would have gone no matter what, and I probably would go to a game in Columbus if I thought that Michigan even had a chance to beat Ohio State. But I would be damn careful not to show any maize and blue until I am in my seat and even then, try not to piss off the crowd. At the end of the day, the chance to be there for greatness overweighs all else for me, even if that chance is slim given the recent history of Michigan’s football program. But instead I will be in East Lansing watching the game from the safety of a friend’s apartment, disappointed not to be in the largest crowd in town but glad that my crowd is made up of Wolverine fans.