“Michigan State is Ohio State’s new rival.” This theme began around 11:30pm Tuesday night.
To be fair, rumblings of this new theme began long before the Spartans defeated the Buckeyes in overtime at the Breslin Center, but they began to emerge heavily after the scarlet and gray’s 72-68 defeat.
I reject this thought immediately. Michigan State is NOT our new rival. Ohio State has one rival, and only one rival.
Tradition dictates that the Michigan Wolverines are the lone rival to my alma mater, and their misfortunes of late do not knock them from the ranks of rivalry. (By “misfortunes of late”, I mean their football team being a steaming heap of dung throughout the entire 21st century. Boom, roasted.)
Michigan State is atop the Big Ten, and they earned it by knocking the Buckeyes from the ranks of the unbeaten twice in five weeks. I can accept that they are the champions in football and the current leaders in basketball. They’re a damn good team in both sports, and while I am not happy about it, there’s no denying it.
But I cannot and will not allow history and tradition to be rewritten over an excellent stretch of athletic competition.
To me, a rivalry requires more than wins and losses on a stat sheet. It takes decades of hatred, frustration, glory, and respect. Michigan State will never evoke those emotions the way Michigan does.
The Spartans are our chief competitors for the title. They are our most difficult opponents. They are our toughest struggle. But they are NOT our rival.
So what’s the difference between MSU and UM?
There are several teams that want to claim us as their rival. That’s fine with me – they do it because beating us would make their season. We’re the kings. But just because Penn State or Indiana wants to declare us their rival doesn’t mean we should reciprocate. Let it go. Take the games seriously, but there simply is no massive rivalry aside from the maize and blue. You’ll never compare to our greatest rival.
If that’s not enough to convince you, perhaps a history lesson is in order.
Towards the end of the John Cooper era at Ohio State, there were similar rumblings coming from Ann Arbor. Michigan had handled us so many times recently, and their fans were losing the flavor for The Game. They were declaring Michigan State to be their biggest rival. Perhaps they were doing it to get under our skin, because that’s what Ohio State and Michigan does to one another – constant contempt and mockery.
It worked. It got under our skin. Michigan began to take us for granted, and after they knocked us off 38-26 in 2000, we’d had enough. We went and hired Jim Tressel. Since that day, the Wolverines have paid the price for disrespecting The Rivalry. They’ve only tasted victory twice in the 13 years since.
Buckeye fans, I urge you – do not declare MSU to be our new rival. They simply aren’t.
Keep your eyes on the ball. Those bastards to the north are our rivals, and they always will be.