My mother went to Michigan State, as did her father before her. My stepmother also went to Michigan State. My in-laws met at Michigan State, and my wife and her two sisters all followed in their footsteps. I’ve lived my whole life within minutes of the Michigan State campus; most people from around here attended, worked, or works there, or cares about someone who did. For every kind of small business there is, there’s one in town called “Spartan [SMALL BUSINESS].”
So when I was like nine years old, and my babysitter’s older brother showed me some glossy pamphlets boasting about the greatness of the University of Michigan, I saw a golden opportunity to stick it to practically every adult in my life.
Rivalries are fun. They’re a low-stakes way to engage in the kind of senseless tribalism humans usually fight wars over: I wear this color, you wear that one, and when the people wearing my color beat the people wearing yours I get to drink your chocolate milk. Lording it over my parents, teachers, and friends because of our harmless elective affiliations was a hoot.
At least, they’re supposed to be harmless. An ugly 29-7 loss at Michigan Stadium turned much uglier when afterward, a bunch of Spartans attacked an unhelmeted Wolverine in the tunnel. The response online was uglier yet: State fans trying to rationalize the attack, and Michigan fans, well…just search Twitter for ‘Michigan State thugs.’
Part of me wishes I could feel anything but a detached kind of sadness about it.
Back in my teenhood, I began to appreciate how living near a major state university meant the college stitched together our area’s social fabric. I saw generational connections, decades-long traditions built around going to Michigan State games. I attended all kinds of events on the huge, beautiful campus. I talked with my grandfather about seeing the legendary 1966 10-10 tie against Notre Dame–the “Game of the Century”–in person. I saw how many Lansing-based U of M fans were either the exact kind of frontrunners I despised in all other contexts, or rich dickheads. Often both.
By the time I applied early-entrance to Michigan State, I was firmly back in Gang Green. Luckily for me, MSU was about to go on a run of success in both football and basketball right as Michigan was about to pay some long-overdue karmic dues. There were so many great moments, including having a prime seat for the Spartan Bob clock game–where my occasional party pal Jeff Smoker threw a game-winning touchdown he probably shouldn’t have had the chance to:
But I was also on campus for the start of the 1999 student riot–which in truth, started days beforehand when people from all over (who weren’t Michigan State students) made plans to descend on campus after our doomed Final Four game against Duke and egg on a not-exactly-riot-averse student population.
Football coach Mark Dantonio would soon arrive and return the program to a period of extended success not seen since my grandfather’s days. But for a guy who preached integrity and discipline, his program generated an awful lot of extremely terrible incidents and stomach-turning reports. MSU so deeply and repeatedly bungled its response to Dr. Larry Nassar’s serial sexual assaults that it’s effectively cost three straight school presidents their jobs.
All the while, the NCAA and conference administrators colluded with broadcast networks to maximize profits and minimize risk, ushering in an era of college football where strong programs like our two big in-state schools will play over a dozen games a year but expect most of them to be uncompetitive. In return, money-drunk schools are building eight-digit Football Disneylands while their professors starve. It’s all antithetical to everything I like about sports–and everything college athletics are supposed to be about.
College-sports fandom used to feel arbitrary to me, and then it organically grew into something deep and personal. Now it’s an aching distance, a love that left me as much as I left it. I spent the better part of two decades tailgating on campus before every home football game; these days I rarely even watch.
The young men in that tunnel were wearing the same colors as me–as my wife does, as our parents do, as my grandfather did. But I’m no longer sure what significance that has, if any at all.
Conservative and liberal politicians both want to reform Section 230–the bit of federal law that enables all websites and apps to let users post content without liability–albeit in opposite ways, for opposite reasons.
“But the more they say about 230,” Roberston writes, “the clearer it becomes that they actually hate the First Amendment and think Section 230 is just fine.”
All the tenets of free speech I was told about as kid (“We have to let Nazis speak, or we become like the Nazis!”) have utterly failed in the information age. We let Nazis speak, and now we have A-list influencers defending Hitler and promoting overt antisemitism.
“Bad faith at scale,” as Robertson writes, has confounded our legal system and broken our understanding of how to protect everyone’s right to free thought and expression without promoting toxic misinformation. She does a great job of exploring all the various facets of this issue–but as risibly incoherent as the current conservative free-speech position is, I’m not sure there’s a coherent philosophy opposing it.
I loved this story, not least because Valentine walked us through the process of reporting it. And, given this nut graf, why wouldn’t she?
In between a new USPS Forever stamp celebrating women’s soccer being announced and being released, its illustrator died of colon cancer at age 33. I didn’t know Noah McMillan, and I wasn’t directly familiar with his work before reading this article–which is exactly what an article like this one is supposed to do.
Kelly did a wonderful job of expressing what made McMillan’s life so special, and why his loss is especially tragic. WaPo is seen around the country as a national paper, but these are the kinds of articles (and people) we lose when we lose local journalism.
This offseason’s wild wide-receiver market got me thinking about how the college game’s pivot toward maximizing elite athletes has turned out year after year of bumper-crop receiver drafts–and as a result, the biggest advantage is gained not just from having A Big Fast Good Receiver, but a receiver best suited to your offense.
Sorry to be a homer, but my colleagues at FiveThirtyEight have built an incredible interactive letting you see exactly how each top receiver excels (or doesn’t), which makes understanding their fit with their systems and quarterbacks much easier.
It’s NaNo again, and I’m doing it! But after drafting, filing, and editing the Tom Brady Is Bad piece I swear I’d never write again, I found I hadn’t done nearly enough prep work to jump back into revisions on CODEX 17. I’m trying to get back into the groove right now, and I hope to catch up on my word count this weekend.