Michigan-MSU rivalry runs deep/Paul Peterson

It was something I had never given much thought to until an old high school friend brought it up a few months ago.

He said something to the effect that he literally despises University of Michigan sports fans. Only it was expressed in much stronger language.

While I freely admit to being a Michigan State fan, I don’t harbor that kind of animosity toward the Maize and Blue.

After all, a late uncle of mine lived in Ann Arbor – literally in the shadows of Michigan Stadium. Besides his regular job as a state road engineer, he and his wife also ran a boarding house for UM students, and two of his children attended the university.

One of the first things I did during a long-ago visit to his house was to take a tour of the Big House. It didn’t have all the glitz and glitter it does today, but it was a very impressive place, nonetheless.

In those bygone days, Ann Arbor was a sleepy college town with tree-lined streets. Much different than the dynamic, bustling city it is today.

But MSU was my favorite college team right from the start. Maybe it was because my high school sported the same nickname and colors.

Still, the Wolverines were a fairly close second when it came to supporting a team.

Somewhere during the Bo Schembechler era, UM lost some of that backing. Maybe it was because of the dull, plodding ground game that Bo advocated in a long and successful tenure. Or maybe it was all those losses to flashier opponents in the Rose Bowl.

Bo’s strategy was also close to the type of football used by Ohio State – a common enemy the large majority of Michigan residents can agree on.

In recent years, MSU had caught and passed the Wolverines on the gridiron for the most part. At least, until new coach Brady Hoke arrived to give the Wolverines back some of their former swagger.

Iron Mountain native Tom Izzo has also built a basketball program in East Lansing that ranks with the very best in the country.

My high school buddy feels that people in the Upper Peninsula don’t fully comprehend how bitter the UM-MSU rivalry is below the bridge.

“It’s totally different down here,” he said. “Michigan fans look down their noses at MSU in everything. They’re the intellectuals … and we’re the corn cobs.”

However true that may be, I can’t say. Caste sports systems have been around forever, and you only have to look at the Alabama-Auburn rivalry to know what extremes that can go to.

When the Wolverines and Spartans meet in early November, I’ll have my MSU colors on.

And just as sure, when the Maize and Blue clash with the hated Buckeyes in late November, the hat will change to one with a block “M” on it.

That’s one thing that is unlikely to change …