Prior to this year, I didn't really pay much attention to Sparty games outside of one Saturday each fall. But something has changed.
And no, it's not just State's current four game winning streak. Part of that, I must sadly accept, is due to U-M's on-field decline that started during The Dark Period. Another part of it, I must grudgingly admit, is MSU coming into its own.
No, the biggest reason for my growing dislike -- nay, disdain -- for all things Sparty isn't just the "L's", it's due to the head Spartan, Mark Dantonio.
First off, his perma-scowl makes him look like he's getting a never ending prostate exam. Even when he wins he comes off as the dicky neighbor who used to threaten to keep your football if it touched his lawn when you were a kid.
Second, any coach that gets into a back and forth in the media as Dantonio did with Mike Hart after the infamous "Little Brother" comment, is a d-bag. You're the head football coach, are you really going to get into it with some 21 year old college student? Show some leadership.
Most importantly, there's the way he runs his program. And no, it's not just the "Gholston Thing (although does anybody -- even MSU fans -- think for a second that Dantonio would have sat Gholston if the B1G hadn't stepped in and suspended him for the Wisco game? Ha!). It's a defensive coordinator seeming to condone late hits and injuring opponents. It's players like MSU safety Isaiah Lewis saying they're going to "hurt" an opposing QB. Lemme guess -- it's all just a "bad choice of words" as Pat Narduzzi claimed, right? Nice try. That kind of cheap thuggery is a reflection of what trickles down from the top. What a coach lets his staff and players know is okay.
And don't forget last season, when Dantonio reinstated Chris Rucker on the team the day he got out of prison and just two days before the big Iowa game for Sparty. One gets the feeling that a "violation of team rules" in Dantonio World depends on a) the talent level of the player involved and b) who knows about the infraction outside of the Spartan family.
Again, while losing sucks, my growing disdain is not just because of the current four game slide to Sparty. During The Dark Period, Michigan lost two in a row to Illinois and squeaked out a 67-65 victory last season. Whatever. Back-to-back losses to Purdue -- a team coached by Danny Hope?! Sucks but what'cha gonna do? And after Michigan owned Penn State during the Carr Era, Penn State currently has a three-game winning streak over the Wolverines courtesy of the Rodriguez Experiment. Oh well.
But mix a losing streak with the Dantonio Difference and now we have something to really fan the flames: a villain.
Every story of good vs. evil needs a villain. Until this season, it was Jim Tressel. His holier-than-thou attitude was a phoney mask Michigan fans saw through and loved to hate. Of course with Tressel now working the replay booth somewhere, I just can't get that worked up staring across the field at some shitty Scarlet and Gray/Grey Nike Pro Combat-clad Buckeyes surrounding their head coach, Happy Gilmore (which won't matter next year, anyway).
Oh sure, I still despise OSU and want to beat them as bad as ever. They are still -- and will always be -- Michigan's main rival. It is, after all, The Game. But the "hate" has been dialed down a notch.* And for now, at least, it has been replaced. It's void filled by the Dantonio Difference, making MSU the new center of evil in U-M's universe.
|East Lansing after the latest campus riot|
* Don't worry. Just a notch.