Is Michigan State Becoming Everything It Hates About Michigan?
Ask any Michigan State fan what they hate most about arch-rival Michigan and odds are good the response you get will reference arrogance. That's been perhaps Spartans' chief gripe with Wolverines since at least 1978, when then-head coach Darryl Rogers famously (or infamously) referred to Michigan as "arrogant asses."
Whether it's "Leaders and Best," Mike Hart's "little brother" remarks, U-M hiring a skywriter to etch "Go Blue" into the East Lansing skyscape during an MSU game or myriad other instances, Michigan State fans have a laundry list of examples of their in-state counterparts' alleged hubris.
But over the past decade, the tenor of the rivalry has changed. And in more ways than one.
The biggest change has been on the field, where the Spartans have beaten the Wolverines seven of the past eight years. But off the field among fans in the community, at work, on sports-talk radio, on social media and elsewhere, the rhetoric has also changed. Indeed, MSU has reason to puff its chest out in this rivalry for the first time in a generation.
And that brings us to Thursday, when Spartans recruiting coordinator Curtis Blackwell tweeted this out:
For the uninitiated, that's a very thinly veiled shot at late Michigan coach Bo Schembechler's slogan: "Those who stay will be champions."
Times have changed.
A decade ago, such a move by Michigan would have drawn the ire of those in green, doubtlessly eliciting claims of that aforementioned arrogance. And some of those very same Spartans took notice of this paradigm shift.
"When you have officially become everything you used to hate about the other team," one MSU alum I know wrote on Facebook Thursday in response to Blackwell's tweet. "I'm all for light trash talk, but this is petty and embarrassing. 'Pride comes before the fall' doesn't just apply to Michigan."
"Work hard, stay humble," another said. "Come on, Spartans. We're better than this."
"I saw this yesterday afternoon and thought a fan made it - I thought it was stupid then; now that I know it came from the football program, I'm honestly embarrassed," another Spartan wrote. "I am just angry at how juvenile and unnecessary it is.
"...This is the sort of thing that keeps the little brother tag relevant. MSU can't claim the moral high ground anymore - the thing with Mike Hart, the skywriting, the pregame spike, etc. If this is how the MSU football program is going to behave now, they need to stop pretending they are constantly being disrespected and embrace the role of obnoxious bully - if for no other reason than just being honest with themselves."
Success certainly changes people and things. But has Michigan State's ownership of this rivalry in recent years inverted the archetypes of the respective fanbases?
It's not fair to make such a broad statement based off of one coach's tweet -- a coach whose job is to market the program to potential future players, by the way.
But it's still worth discussing.