Culbreath: Beating (while respecting) ‘Michigan’Written by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | email@example.com
There are times where rivalries mean something. The times where you put the logo flag on the car. Refuse to wear orange and brown. Take the long way just to avoid driving in a city.
The story that melted everyone’s hearts came last weekend when a 12-year-old kid from Columbus beat “Michigan,” the name he had given the tumor he was diagnosed with two years ago.
Clever kid. Quite frankly, I don’t know that I’d be man enough to name a sebaceous cyst “Bowling Green.”
Grant Reed is currently fighting off a bacterial infection, but all signs point to that he’s beaten Big Blue.
The name brought Reed more than a bit of attention. The Buckeyes’ head football coach Urban Meyer paid him a visit in the hospital. Well wishes have poured in from across the country. Even the University of Michigan tweeted support for Grant, saying “We’ll always be rivals with @OhioState, but just this once, we’re happy to hear ‘Michigan’ was defeated.”
The good news about rivalries is that, for the most part, it’s not about pure hatred. We all have our little barbs at fans of other teams, but it’s all good-natured. Every time someone drops an “Ohio” or a “That School Up North,” it’s not because we want to make the other guy angry, but you do want to tweak them a bit.
It’s a rare situation when we have a Harvey Updyke situation. Updyke, if you’ll recall, was the crazed Alabama fan who called a radio station to brag that he dumped herbicide around the oak trees that grew at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, Ala., a gathering place for Auburn University fans, in 2010. Indeed, he had killed the trees, and they were removed in April of this year. He was found guilty of killing a crop (Who knew that was a crime?) and sentenced to six months in prison. He was released in June, but began a five-year probation, during which he is banned from attending any collegiate athletic event. Shunned by Auburn and Alabama fans alike, he became the icon of sports fandom gone wrong.
And that’s the brutal thing about being a sports fan — sometimes it can get into your head. We all know that guy who’s angry the day after a loss, or who gets short if his baseball team is in a slump. It really shouldn’t matter that much, but ask Buckeye fans how they feel about John Cooper, and you’ll hear the word “hate” thrown around a lot. And that’s a guy that was on their side.
What makes sports rivalries worth it is that it gives us an easy villain to root against. In real life, things are shades of gray. People do good things for bad reasons, or they do bad things because the ends justify the means.
Political pundits tend to put black hats on their opponents, but the base ideology normally has a basis in moral or ethical truths. There can be reasons to dislike other sports teams, but in actuality, there’s not a whole lot of venom you’re going to work up over a guy. Hate on LeBron all you want for leaving Cleveland (and I do), but it’s hard to hate on him with all those trophies in his hand.
When ESPN made the promo of the couple in the throes of a tender kiss, one wearing a Michigan shirt, the other wearing scarlet and gray, it captioned it with “Without sports, this wouldn’t be disgusting.” They knew disgusting was a relative term. It’s that little tweak to fans of both teams (particularly those living in this area, who are married to fans of the other side). It feels wrong, but only in a comedic sense. Cats and dogs; Buckeyes and Wolverines!
It’s easy to get wrapped up in a rivalry, but we always know that a rivalry only stays in place because of respect for its opponent. Reed didn’t like his tumor, but he sure as hell respected it, and that’s why he beat Michigan.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director at 1370 WSPD. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.