As a kid, I quickly learned to recognize Michigan’s distinctive helmet design. I grew up rooting for Michigan watching games with my dad. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1983–squarely in the Bo Schembechler era. In college, I attended every game (after spending four hours before the games selling football programs1) For most of my life since college, I have in Ann Arbor, including the past eighteen years living and working on South University, where I can hear the roars from the Big House.
… the whole “Oh, How I Hate Ohio State” mindset is, and always has been, misguided.
Hate is short-sighted
I enjoy the feel of the town on game days. The sea of Maize and Blue filling the streets is fun. Hearing the fight songs playing. The enthusiasm is incredible. But I have to say, the whole “Oh, How I Hate Ohio State” mindset is, and always has been, misguided.
I don’t hate OSU–I just want us to beat them. Every time. Not because they suck; rather because they don’t. Ohio State is a good team. In fact, they are a great team. And the better the opponent, the sweeter the win. And better Michigan looks.
At the same time, I don’t ever want Michigan to play weak teams. Playing a weak team has mostly downside potential. Remember Appalachia State in 2007? If we’d beaten them, you probably wouldn’t. There probably would not be a Wikipedia page dedicated to that specific game. Had we won, it would be just another expected victory by a #5 ranked Michigan crushing a nobody-special team. That’s why it’s always better to play highly ranked teams. There are greater upsides to winning, and lesser downsides to losing.
The Big 10
Michigan is part of the Big 10 Conference. As such, most of it’s opponents every year are Big 10 teams. As just noted, it’s better to play highly ranked teams. Thus it follows that it’s better for Michigan when Big 10 teams are highly ranked.
Michigan and Ohio State Rivalry
The Michigan and Ohio State rivalry ranks among the most famous rivalries in all of football. It’s great to be a part of such a rivalry. All schools have their own rivalries, but there are few that wouldn’t like to be part of a rivalry as nationally recognized as Michigan and Ohio State.
But this rivalry is special for two reasons:
- it’s old; and
- it’s highly competitive.
It’s competitive precisely because both teams are (on average, if not lately), great teams. As long as the rivalry remains competitive, it will keep getting older and growing in stature. Lose the competitiveness and the stature of the rivalry begins to degrade. And that is a loss for both participants. The Michigan and Ohio State games have already lost some luster in the past several years, with Michigan slipping far below it’s historic average performance levels. And, I suspect, those OSU fans that take the longer view are rooting for Michigan to regain some of it’s former stature.
Taking the long view
When Michigan and Ohio State face off next time (and the time after that, and the time after that…), I want the sweetest possible Michigan victory over Ohio State. What could be sweeter than knocking off a National Champion Ohio State?
That’s why, last night I was rooting for Ohio State. And that’s why, in general, I’ll continue to root for Big 10 schools when they play outside the conference. This is not altruism. This is seeing the big picture and being a Michigan fan.
- My buddies, who were on the Michigan baseball team, and I established a claim on Ferry Field, which was a prime program selling location. It was a popular tailgater parking location, where hundreds of avid out-of-town fans gathered for pre-game partying. Plus, the small gap between the brick walls behind Ferry Field and the UM sports practice facilities created a venturi that funneled not only the Michigan players on the way to the stadium, but also many thousands of fans. As program sellers, our biggest challenge was getting enough inventory; we always sold out. ↩