That's right. My name is Amy, and I'm a Michigan fan.
I can't help it. I was raised on Michigan football like it was a religion. When the Michigan game was on at our house, you didn't talk. You didn't stand in front of the TV. My parents got one of those old head set radios so they could listen to the Michigan games on Saturdays while pretending to watch my brother and I play and cheerlead for little league football. Bo Schembechler (rest his soul) was revered in our family. My grandparents had season tickets to the Big House. Our New Year's Day celebrations of my childhood always involved watching Michigan's bowl game, hopefully the Rose Bowl. I spent 18 years as a die-hard Michigan fan.
Then I decided I wanted to go to college with my best girlfriends, and we went to Michigan State. I was there for three years. Went to the football games. Cheered for the Spartans. I became a Spartan fan, but not really and truly. See, when it really counted, when Sparty faced the Wolverines, there was always a little part of me that secretly hoped Michigan would win. Even when I was wearing green in the Big House for the in-state match-up my freshman year. I outwardly cheered for Sparty, but I could never fully put my heart into it.
18 years vs. 3 years. The years in East Lansing could not overcome my childhood love of the Maize and Blue. Now, in the years since graduating from MSU, I have continued to cheer for Sparty. I have come out and cheered openly for Michigan. And it's never really a problem most of the time. But once a year, when Sparty and Michigan meet, I usually remain very quiet. In the very early years after my graduation, I probably still outwardly cheered a little for Sparty. In later years I just sat quietly, secretly hoping Michigan would win. If anyone asked me who I was rooting for I probably would have said MSU. After all, I went there, so I should love Sparty more than any other. But I could just never make it happen.
As the years went on, I began to cheer for Michigan a bit more openly and I rationalized this by saying things like, "Well, Michigan has a lot more to lose in this game" (since Michigan was typically having a season in which they were a contender for a Big Ten title or National Championship) or "Well, I just want Coach Carr to have a good season." I always had a soft spot for Coach Carr. He was long-time friends with some of my uncles, and though I don't really know him personally, I think of him as a good person and always wanted him to succeed as the head coach. The last three years, I didn't have either of those excuses. Lloyd Carr hasn't been the head coach, and since he left Michigan has had the worst three seasons of football in my lifetime. They certainly weren't contending for any big titles, and had no more to lose than Michigan State in their match-ups (much less this year). And yet. And yet. I still cannot bring myself to cheer for any team above the Maize and Blue. Not even for Sparty. My husband called me out on it this last year, and I had to admit to my true love. When you still love a team when they really, really stink, you are a true fan. When Michigan loses, as they have done so frequently in the past three years, it pains me more than any other team. When they are winning, I jump and cheer more than for any other team. This year, we flew the block "M" in front of our house during football season (and a Hawkeye flag, but I had to concede that, being from a house divided). So there you have it. I am prepared for the disappointment from my fellow Spartans. I still love Sparty. Just, not as much as Blue.
Whew, I feel better getting that out in the open. And I'll leave you with a quote from one of the best football coaches of all time.
"When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing." - Bo Schembechler
Oh wait. While I'm confessing, I'll add this. During basketball season, we fly a Duke flag!! Go Blue Devils!!