Michigan State and Michigan play this week in college football, so that means vandalism is temporarily legal on campus.

At least it seems that way.

On Thursday, Michigan fans, ostensibly, defaced MSU's statue of Earvin "Magic" Johnson in front of the Breslin Center with paint. Early Friday morning, vandals attempted a similar vandalism of the iconic Spartan statue--that try mostly failed thanks to the vigilance of the MSU Spartan Marching Band's "Sparty Watch." (However, some of the band members' personal belongings were ruined during the drive-by painting.)

This is nothing new. Hell, this happens even when the two schools aren't even playing each other. And yes, it has happened on Michigan's campus in Ann Arbor, too--although far less often.

But this time it seems like more people are actually upset, because Magic's sculpture was involved instead of Sparty, the (literally) traditional target.

My question is why not be this upset any and every time this happens? And when did vandalism become the stuff of lighthearted, whimsical news briefs?

I blame three people, or groups of people, specifically (in no particular order):

  • Michigan fans: Obviously. The people actually committing the crime are responsible.
  • The media: Each and every time this happens, the news (TV, radio, paper, online, etc.) publishes the same story they have for years. They run photos of the vandalism, which is exactly what the perpetrators want. They quote the same authorities who issue the same hollow omen against the vandals.  And worst of all, they handle the story with the same flippant, frivolous tenor they employ for a fluff piece on a Halloween costume contest for pets at the local Humane Society. (I should know: I'm guilty of doing this back when I was a reporter.)
  • Michigan State university officials: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. MSU is a multibillion-dollar global institution. It has built world-class facilities across its campus. It constantly upgrades its infrastructure. It even conducts nuclear physics regularly. So why then, after years of their campus icons being vandalized, have university officials not implemented some sort of surveillance system near MSU's most precious landmarks? We know they have the means and know-how. At this point there's no excuse.

Vandalism is serious. When it pertains to landmarks like the affected statues at MSU, the penalty for it in the state of Michigan is a felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $15,000 or three times the amount of the damage, whichever is greater.

And don't tell me that it's "part of the rivalry," or that it's "no big deal." I'm pretty sure it'd be a big deal to you if you woke up to find the front of your house spray-painted.

It's taken seriously elsewhere. Remember when this guy vandalized monuments at the state Capitol a few years ago? There were no lighthearted stories in the media then. And the state certainly didn't brush it off--they went after the guy.

So why is it any different when it happens five miles down the road?