Friday, April 12, 2024

Dueling columns: The MSU vs. U-M rivalry gets personal for schools' student papers

Each year, The State News and The Michigan Daily, the student newspaper at U-M, play touch football and exchange dueling columns on the rivalry ahead of the MSU vs. U-M football game. Read this year’s columns from State News spring sports editor Chase Michaelson and Michigan Daily managing sports editor Max Marcovitch.

Chase Michaelson, The State News spring sports editor


Dear Only News Source in Ann Arbor,

To be honest, I’m impressed. 

Finding time to go to class, prepare for a football game and bike to city hall meetings in the rain — all while balancing being one of four (four!) city government reporters — must be exhausting. The thought of carrying one whole fourth of really any beat while attending the prestigious University of Michigan — wow. They should write stories about people like you in The New York Times.

It’s not just your city government reporters I would want to single out, though. Unless you were, well, craving the attention of being singled out by being featured in the Times.

It’s also this quote — which I had to re-read twice — because I couldn’t believe it wasn’t said in jest, even by someone at your notoriously humble university.

“We’ve been given this mantle of holding the powerful accountable, five nights a week, with no department backing us up,” your managing editor said. 

When it comes to the rivalry between The Daily and The State News, you might want to pipe down about holding the powerful accountable. That’s kind of our thing. That’s why we win Pacemakers. And unlike the one in Schembechler Hall, our trophy case is full of awards from this century.

What department, by the way, do you speak of? Are you referring to the fact that your university, with its 200 years of history and presidential alumni, still doesn’t have a journalism school? Your university cured polio, so ask them to invest in its journalists!

We don’t have a department backing us up, either. The State News is wholly independent, both from our university and our journalism school. We “carry that mantle” also, and we do it without histrionic, self-important quotes.

I wonder how you get by with just a $4.5 million endowment and a staff of more than 250 students.

According to the Times article, you only elected your most recent editor-in-chief after she was able to successfully name the 11 members of city hall, along with their wards and party affiliations. I assume she was one of 17 or 18 people covering the city the year before, but maybe not. 

That is not a test to see if someone is fit to lead. That’s the kind of pointless memorization I had to do when I joined a fraternity. 

So, now we come to the football game. A touch football game played to prove, well, what exactly? I couldn’t tell you. 

That your staff of 250 has better athletes than our staff of 40? 

It’s like a school from the Football Bowl Subdivision losing to a team from the Football Championship Subdivision — there’s a difference in scholarship count. 

You guys are the favorites this year, looking for your 15th straight win in this very important, not at all farcical, game. 

But The State News could win. Crazier things have happened, like a Michigan team under Jim Harbaugh winning an important game on the road, or a Michigan alumnus going through one whole dinner party without mentioning their degree. It happens once in a blue moon.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

And, besides, no team representing the University of Michigan has ever lost a football game when they had a substantial advantage in the number of participating athletes.

So, with that, I will wish you good luck Friday night. I’ll wish good luck to the real team representing your university with actual athletes on Saturday afternoon, too. 

I’ll be there. So will your 14 football reporters. In all seriousness, in this day and age, where journalists from all schools are under attack, I think it’s important that we stick together. We’re all trying to do the same thing — keep the public informed.

Some of us just recognize that other people do it, too.

2018 dueling column: Football rivalry extends to student newspapers

2017 dueling columns: Student newspapers take the rivalry to heart

2016 dueling column from The State News: MSU may be down, but they are not out

2016 dueling column from The Michigan Daily: MSU is not a terrible place

Max Marcovitch, The Michigan Daily managing sports editor


Last week, our editor-in-chief, Maya Goldman, and I received an email from The State News asking if we could play our annual touch football game — which has never let a little weather change things before — inside this year. 

Forgetting for a second the fact that this is newspaper football and nobody has the time nor the means to rent a damn dome, that actually sums up the current state of this newspaper rivalry quite well: one side humming along, business as usual, the other desperately looking for any excuse to feel slighted.

Every year, their quips in this column take on a similar tone. This year, as with most, they will fall remarkably flat.

The State News will claim to not care about the annual touch football game, which I suppose is the correct stance for a group that had recently graduated diapers the last time their team won. They’ll show up to chant expletives at us anyway, take their 15th-straight loss and drive back to East Lansing assured that next year is the year.

They’ll lament our large staff, because offering opportunities to eager, young journalists is, of course, a bad thing. Awfully rich coming from the paper that, as of the publication of this column, hasn’t covered its school’s women’s soccer team in 27 days, its volleyball team in 14 days and its field hockey team team in 79 days. They’ve written two stories all year — one of which was a 398-word Big Ten title game story — about the women’s cross country team, which is the most successful team at the entire school.

You might want to grab any riffraff off the street to help you out there.

Maybe, in a fit of desperation, The State News will turn to the Michigan State football team’s on-field product, which seems, uh … off the table this year. It’s always been weird when your writers have gone that direction in the past, considering you’re supposed to be objective, but I suppose it’s particularly hard to do this year when the Spartans are a living, breathing embodiment of the “this is fine” GIF. 

They’ll hold up their J-School as if it somehow portends a better newspaper, which is easily dispelled by, I don’t know, a cursory scroll through

Sometimes they’ll stress their collection of awards, which seems like the wrong course of action in a year we won the award for the best college sports section in the country — not to mention best gamer, best columnist and best front page.

One year, they even drew a little Spartans/Persians metaphor that made for quite the read. One excerpt:

“Mark Dantonio is King Leonidas, and has been for his Spartans since his arrival to the throne of head coach in East Lansing. A great leader — the men he has recruited were not the best athletes, nor the greatest students, but dedication to his process of intense, hard-nosed training and conditioning has led him to glory no Spartan coach in the modern era of MSU football has achieved. ‘Those who have stayed are already champions.’ ”

Nailed it. Just a couple thoughts:

1) Be more of a homer. I dare you.

2) Help me brush up on some history — was King Leonidas also forced out of his role after blowing a 25-point lead at home to Lovie Smith?

In reality, I harbor no disdain for Michigan State. I’m not from Michigan. I did not apply to Michigan State. I’m sure it’s a fine school, and I’m sure you’re all totally, completely, entirely pleased you’re there and not here. I’m sure you’re all good people, and I’d love to grab a meal or beer after we make it 15 on Friday.

You can have your robotic J-School ledes, I’ll take our creativity. You can have your haphazard profiles, I’ll take our deeply-reported features. You can have your professors, I’ll take the best alumni base out there. You can have your smaller staff (weird flex), I’ll take the best college sports section in the goddamn country.

So, by all means, rehash the same flimsy insults this year; there’s not a single leg to stand on. We’ll just be over here beating you on the field, off the field, in the classroom, in the newsroom and just about everywhere in between.

Hopefully you can find some dignity in that defeat.


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