By: Jeff Riger
I have irrational hate for MSU athletics! From football to basketball, I always root for the Green and White to lose.
Yes, I know it sounds a bit sad and maybe even pathetic but I can’t help it. You have to be yourself and that’s who I am. Like so many kids did, I too chose a college team to follow when I was young and it was Michigan. No, I never attended a single class in Ann Arbor nor do I care about their academics, it’s all about basketball and football with me and obviously I’m not the only one. If that makes me a Walmart Wolverine so be it. I’ll admit it, in fact I’ll own it.
It’s actually weird; the older I get the less emotional I get with sports. Maybe it’s what I do for a living or maybe I just have other things going on but I’m not as big of a fan as I used to be with the exception of Michigan football and more so basketball. I love sports and watch as much as I can but I rarely get heartbroken or angry like I used to.
I figured the older I got my hate for State would fade too but it hasn’t. I despise when MSU wins!
So when Michigan State beat Virginia on Sunday of course I was angry but I also was extremely jealous. It actually feels good to finally admit it. I always have been.
Being a Michigan basketball fan is torture. Every now and then they make the tournament, make a run and actually make you believe that they’re relevant again. But they’re not, at least not to the extent of MSU. Sure, it was great to see them make the tournament regularly for the last half decade and even beat the Spartans their fair share of times but it’s not comparable to the success that MSU has had since Tom Izzo has taken over the program. There have been many years when Wolverine hoops have been a complete embarrassment. It was so bad that fans didn’t even care or acknowledge that there was even a team. Michigan fans would gloat about how good their football team would be and since March also marks the start of spring football training they wouldn’t even care about the tournament.
How sad is that? But it’s true!
Most Michigan fans refused the fact that their school had a hoops squad while in the meantime MSU was going to Final Four after Final Four. They pretended like it didn’t bother them and eventually I think they convinced themselves that it didn’t. It used to drive me nuts. Izzo was dancing in the greatest sports spectacle in the world and Michigan fans didn’t even hate it, only I did.
So when Michigan got decent and then fantastic for a bit it was officially on.
There was finally a real rivalry in hoops. I know football always matters the most but it was nice to see Crisler Arena packed and the Wolverines dancing on a regular basis. It was, without sounding too sappy, like a dream.
But then I woke up.
Michigan failed to make the tournament this season and it didn’t seem like anybody cared. It was how it used to be. Some fans quoted injuries as the reason Michigan struggled this season but I’m almost certain they were healthy when they lost to NJIT and Eastern Michigan. Other fans blamed NBA caliber talent leaving the program, but that happens to every team in every conference. The bottom line was Michigan wasn’t anywhere good enough in 2014-15 and while head coach John Beilein has earned a down year it was still massively disappointing.
But I’m not sure the rest of the fan base felt the same way.
They have Jim Harbaugh now, you might have heard and that’s all that is important these days. Who cares if the basketball team stinks? Harbaugh is saving people on the highway. He’s bringing back the helmet decals. He legitimately was sent from God himself.
I’m happy that the football team finally seems like it has direction but why can’t people in Ann Arbor love both? Go nuts for football but when the season ends show that same enthusiasm for the hardwood. Michigan State seems to be able to do it.
It’s actually really entertaining to listen to people underestimate Izzo. He’s too old. The game has passed him by. He can’t relate to kids these days. He doesn’t cheat so he doesn’t get the talent that other programs do. Whatever you believe is cool, but I believe the guy is one of the greatest coaches ever to put on a suit.
Last season MSU suffered a rash of injuries themselves. Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson, Keith Appling and Gary Harris all missed games but MSU still made the tournament and came within one game of the Final Four. This season, fans ripped the talent and were certain the program would miss going dancing for the first time in almost 2 decades. Instead MSU found a way to get hot, make a run in the Big Ten Tournament and now once again finds themselves in the Sweet 16 after beating yet another high seed. Did I mention that MSU is now a favorite to go to the Final Four out of their region?
I could go on and on about Izzo but I’m starting to depress myself. The man knows how to coach and despite winning just one National Title he gives Spartan fans a reason to be hopeful every March.
I’m actually not sure what makes me angrier? Seeing MSU once again being in the second weekend of the tournament or the fact that Michigan fans aren’t outraged that their team isn’t?
I can admit it, I’m jealous and every other Wolverine fan should be too. But they’re not, they have a football season to prepare for.