Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My stance on Michigan

Often times, when talking about your team's rival, it's usually a situation where you either love 'em when you aren't playing them, or you love to hate them. However, when it comes to me and the bad guys up north, I honestly cannot come to a decisive side as to where I stand.

Maybe this is because of the large numbers of Michigan fans that I have gotten to know. Although I live in the Columbus area, you would be surprised at the number of Michigan fans that live here (or maybe the number just seems larger because the few Michigan fans stick out more). Some of my closest friends are also my biggest rivals. Of course, there are people in the community that cheer on Michigan purely for the sake of nonconformity, but you just learn over time which fans are for real and which ones aren't. Perhaps it is since I've been in these relationships since such a young age, I've learned to respect the university. Maybe I've just come to realize that there are better reasons to dislike someone than what football team is their favorite, and that has translated into how I view the school as a whole. I can actually talk about football to these people without throwing out excessive curse words. For the past few years, I've watched the game with a Michigan fan, and outside of the usual trash talk that happens during the game, we respect each other enough not to handle each other for those 3 and a half hours (except in 2003 when they take a Michigan flag and run down the street singing Hail to the Victors...yes Kevin, I'm talking about you).

However, my duties as a fan do have to step in somewhere. I can honestly say that I have never once wanted Michigan to win any game. Not this season when they played Notre Dame, not when 1 vs 2 became a real possibility, not in any bowl games, not ever. I cannot bring myself to cheer for a team that I have been taught, trained, and raised to hate. Most people will ask, "Don't you want Michigan to represent the conference well?" No, I don't. I've never been a guy to cheer for teams just because they play in the Big 10. Just like Michigan, I consider the rest of the conference a rival to Ohio State, just on a much smaller scale. Those same people will ask, "Well don't you want both teams to be undefeated coming into the game, so it will mean more?" Now this answer is a bit more complex. Yes, it is great to have a 1 vs 2 match-up for the first time in the school's history, believe me. With this on Saturday and my birthday tomorrow, this is the best full school week anybody could imagine. But in reality, how much more important does that make the game to me as an OSU fan? My dream as an Ohio State fan is to go into the game with a Big 10 title on the line. It's irrelevant to me just how good or bad Michigan is. True, a victory over a #2 Michigan team would be sweeter than a victory over a 7-4 Michigan team, but a victory over Michigan is a victory over Michigan, regardless of how you slice it. I love seeing Michigan lose, and I would love seeing them lose 5 times in a season more than one loss in a season, even if it means that the game isn't as "big" as this year's. After all, it's only "big" to the third party out there: the fans with no allegiance to either side. It's always big to fans like me, because I'm a heavy believer in the theory that, in rivalries such as this, either team can win at any time, regardless of who is coaching and what their records are.

And this is where I am divided as a fan. I've heard people say that you aren't a fan unless you totally despise your rival, and hope they lose every game. I've heard other Ohio State fans say that you aren't a fan unless you cheer for your rival so that way the game means more. I love seeing Michigan lose, but I have too much respect for the school and their true fans (key word being "true," I can't stand the people that call themselves fans just for the sake of being different from the rest of Columbus) to actually want that to happen. In my opinion, how you view your rival doesn't affect your status as a fan nearly as much as how you view your own team.

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