ED: I've been hellaciously busy as of late so I wrote this off-and-on over the past couple of days while going in-and-out of caffiene highs. Forgive any rambling or nonsensical conclusions and just take it for what it is. Alright?
To the fans of the University of Michigan Wolverines,
Hello, or how-ah-ya, or whatever it is you fine people say to one another. I hope this message finds you well, whether you're in The Mitten or the U.P., on this otherwise dull December afternoon. It has been a while since our last interaction - twenty years, in fact - and, if your memory does not serve you well in that regard, allow me to give you a refresher:
35 to 3....
We've gotten over that and done our damnedest to accept the reality that was the 1991 Gator Bowl - in general, a practice which we've gotten used to in the Magnolia State - and concede that, damn, that Michigan team was good and, really, should have been a national title contender. We Rebels were, frankly, a bit lucky and perhaps simultaneously unfortunate to be there.
Regardless, we hold nary a grudge against The Univeristy of Michigan, her Wolverines, or her fans and alumni. In fact, I posit that we Ole Miss Rebels and you Michigan Wolverines are indeed kindred spirits.
Consider the following: our universities are flagships - meaning that they're the oldest, most well endowed, widely recognized, most highly publicized, and most readily associated with the famous and influential sons and daughters within our respective states. Our universities are liberal arts oriented institutions nestled in unique, quirky, and revered college towns. We revere and contribute to the arts and humanities. A significant portion of our alumni associations are attorneys who hate their jobs. Et cetera.
Oh sure, the differences are there, and they're vast, but don't get too caught up in them. You've certainly got the liberal education necessary to pick up what I'm throwing down here, so don't nitpick and make like Denard and just run with this.
So, while sharing many similarities, I posit that nothing mentioned thus far demonstrate where our greatest commonalities lie. Au contraire, bonjour. While we might certainly have airs and attitudes which are similar enough to warrant a valid comparison, our greatest collective trait, the trait upon which the most significant portion of my argument is built, is the collective yin to our collective yang.
I write, of course, about MSU.
No, not that one. Ok, well, yes, that one in fact, and the other one too. They're the "State Universities" to our "Univeristy ofs." They're the blue collar, straight forward, salt-of-the-earth counterpart to our white collar, convoluted, elite. They drive tractors while we sue people. They're our little brothers; they're the schools beneath us. Their schools were founded after ours (in significantly less interesting locales); they're harder to notice and easier to forget; and they're almost always in our shadows.
And they hate us for that.
What makes all of this so unusual and, frankly, an interesting take in anthropology or sociology is that, despite these continued insistences towards our differences, they are us. If you grew up in Michigan as a Michigan fan, then you undoubtedly went to church, played little league, attended high school, or even made out with several Michigan State fans, just as the same applies for Ole Miss fans having grown up with Mississippi State fans. Yet, we're still not the same people cut from the exact same cloth.
And they hate us for that.
It is because of this that they have deluded themselves into thinking their identity and purpose is to serve as some sort of check or balance to what they perceive to be our unwavering evil. We're arrogant, hoity, malicious elitists and they, as grounded "real Americans" are here to remind everyone of that. Yet, despite their best efforts, we're still doing very, very well in our on rights - football performances aside.
And, oh yes, they hate us for that.
While the degree towards which this may be the case varies between the two schools, both Mississippi State and Michigan State have a bit of a vicarious identity. Without an in-state flagship to hate, what would they be? How would they define themselves? Towards whom would they devote their ire and annoyance? Against whom would they incessantly compare and contrast themselves? Even though there is no love lost for the Wolverines nor the Rebels, the Spartans and Bulldogs know, somewhere deep inside through a few subcutaneous layers of adipose tissue and cheese, that their very identities rely on our existence, survival, and success.
And that, my friends, is the greatest reason for their hatred towards us.
The rivalry we Rebels share with the Bulldogs, including its origins, attitudes, and cultural ramifications within our state, mirror that which you Wolverines have with the Spartans of Michigan State. However, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State University are not, per our perception, our arch-rivals, a distinction we have bestowed on the Tigers of LSU. Furthermore, the same regarding the dynamic between the Wolverines and the Buckeyes mirrors that between Ole Miss and LSU. Louisiana and Ohio are foreign, strange territories for Mississippians and Michiganders - territories filled with crass, uncouth, fat men and seductive, promiscuous women with kooky accents. And bitchin' parties with lots of beer (you can't act like Columbus isn't fun).
Like the Romans crossing the Rubicon, once one has made motions to vanquish an outside enemy, there's little other to commit oneself to. We cannot then focus our efforts back inward with the same ferocity and dedication as perhaps our in-state detractors would towards us. Furthering this analogy, Michael Lewis' description in The Blind Side of the Magnolia State rivalryfrom the Ole Miss perspective fits perfectly when he called Mississippi State an "insurrection" as opposed to a traditional rival. Dealing with Mississippi State for us or Michigan State for you is a matter of housekeeping, not personal pride or perception of any particular football program.
Their yapping and gloating, to us, doesn't ignite the flames of passionate hatred; they just annoy the shit out of us. We want them squashed, not so we can boast of our enemy's defeat, but so we just don't have to fucking listen to them anymore.
You're probably thinking I'm talking out of my ass right now which, in a way, is right (I always do; it's how I keep folks on their toes and trick them into thinking I'm interesting). But I do know Michigan. No, I'm nary a "Michigan Man," nor have I even been up thattaway aside from a layover in Detroit. But I am, somehow, dating an alumna of the University of Michigan. Knowing her and her friends has made me really like Michigan, especially when compared to Ohio State and Sparty. Hell, I've even taken her to Oxford, Mississippi (which she enjoyed) to watch the Ole Miss Rebels
lose play a football game (which she didn't) and hope that she maybe one day returns the favor. Knowing what I know and seeing what I have seen, I can with confidence say that, while a great swath of geography and significant cultural differences may stand between us, we really aren't as different as certain superficialities might lead us to believe.
It is with that spirit, in knowing who you are and for what you stand, that I offer, on behalf of all Ole Miss Rebels, our undying loyalty to the Michigan Wolverines football team for one (1) day - New Year's Day - as you take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, exactly twenty years removed from our last encounter.
I know it won't be easy with a defense that is, somehow, statistically worse than ours, but y'all've gotta do with Denard Robinson what you did with Desmond Howard 20 years ago: open up a fucking can of beatass. Just score. Over and over and over again. Run through them, around them, over them and, when they're least expecting it, bomb that shit over their secondary. Squash the insurrection. Beat them because we couldn't, and beat them because you couldn't beat your little brother either. We'll be pulling hard for you.
The Ole Miss Rebel Faithful
PS - And, even if you do lose, you'll have the same solace we do knowing that, regardless of the outcome of a football game, you're still better.