It’s an odd pairing, East Lansing and I. If this were the Wild West and I strolled into town, it wouldn’t take long for a cowboy to walk up to me while chomping on a piece of straw and mutter something like “us folk don’t take too kindly to your type ‘round these parts.”
See, I’m from Ann Arbor. Yes, that Ann Arbor. I come from a three-generation, University of Michigan family, with my brother, sister, father and grandmother all graduating as Wolverines. I was raised to hate MSU to the point that when I was deciding where to go for my undergrad, I refused to apply to MSU and ended up at Grand Valley State University (guess who didn’t get in to Michigan) for four years.
I’ve addressed MSU as “little brother” on so many occasions that I’m uncomfortable putting the number into print, and I’ve sung “Hail to the Victors” at Michigan Stadium even more than that. It gets worse: our family van has a customized license plate with a block ‘M’ on the left, followed by the six-digit code “0NAHAN” to spell out our last name. That is not a joke.
This lifelong disdain for MSU is some sort of Pavlovian response instilled into my brain by a family and hometown that never presented any other way to think.
So, why am I here? Well I went through a bit of a transition throughout the past year. I refer to it as “maturing,” though others might call it “not being blindly devoted to an institution that has never actually done anything for you.” You can pick whichever you like.
After moving my childish allegiances to the back burner, I decided to come to MSU to get my master’s degree in the booming field of journalism. Just like that, after two decades of living in Ann Arbor — bam! — I am suddenly a Spartan.
I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel when I got here. But now that I’ve been on campus for almost a month, I’ve begun to realize how irrational and foolish it is to be so strongly against a university that’s in the state you grew up in just because its football team sometimes beats another football team.
I have every reason to like this place. The opportunities are limitless, yet I was reluctant to come here because of a predisposition created by a relatively meaningless intrastate rivalry.
By simply putting that aside, here I am as a grad student going to the best journalism program in the state, writing an opinion column for a student newspaper I was always envious of as an undergrad. So I guess my point is this: I’ve been acting like an idiot for years. And I know a lot of people who continue to act the exact same way. But while the rivalry between MSU and U-M will continue to spur countless arguments and a heck of an atmosphere a few times a year when the teams compete, there is no logical reason to truly despise the other school the way many of us do.
Now, I’m not saying that U-M and MSU fans need to join forces to start some sort of “Yay we love all Michigan schools equally!” fan club. First of all, that’s a stupid idea and is never going to happen. Also, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. But at the same time, it can be worthwhile to realize — at least on occasion — that East Lansing and Ann Arbor are both incredible places filled with brilliant people.
Some of the best people I’ve ever met went to MSU. Many of my friends still go here. East Lansing is beautiful, and my instructors couldn’t be more helpful. I’m surrounded by people every day who are a lot smarter than I am. There’s no reason not to love it.
I’m not ready to completely change allegiances because I would still like to be welcomed into my family’s home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But at the same time, I couldn’t be more excited to be a Spartan. And while I might not know every word of the fight song just yet, I do have a couple of words that I never would have fathomed I’d write a few years ago: Go Green.
Greg Monahan is a journalism graduate student. Reach him at email@example.com.
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