It has been six years since former Michigan running back Mike Hart called Michigan State their “little brothers,” and a lot has changed since then.
During the 2007 battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, the Spartans led 24-14 nearly halfway through the fourth quarter before eventually losing 28-24.
Hart said after the game, “I thought it was funny. They got excited. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you’re playing basketball, and you let him get the lead, and then you come back and take it back.”
Head coach Mark Dantonio, in his first season at Michigan State, did not find it quite as humorous by saying, “I’m going to be a coach here a long time. It’s not over. It’ll never be over.”
Fast forward to the present, it appears Coach D predicted the future. Michigan State has won five of their last six matchups against the Wolverines, including a dominant 29-6 victory this season. The Spartans are 12-1 this season and are headed to their first Rose Bowl since 1988, after beating Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. Michigan is 7-5 and heading to the lowly Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
It would appear that ‘little brother’ has grown up, and hit the weights too. So why does the nickname still get brought up countless times every year?
It is certainly not due to a lack of on-field dominance. It is because of the fans. They continue to perpetuate the “little brother” nickname by bringing it up year in and year out.
Take this year for example. The football team annihilated Michigan, but had their sights set on bigger accomplishments.
Fans, however, couldn’t help but to bring up the rivals from Ann Arbor at every turn of the corner. It seemed like they could not get a win without also commenting on how poorly Michigan did that week, regardless of their outcome.
Spartan fans took to social media to troll Michigan fans so quickly after the Ohio State victory, couches were not even burning in Cedar Village yet.
So this is my plea to all my fellow Spartans: forget about Michigan.
No matter the success the football team finds over Michigan, it will never outgrow the “little brother” nickname as long as fans hold onto an inferiority complex. Dantonio has, the football team has, so why can’t fans?
Dan Tyler is the host of Spartan Red Zone for Impact Sports.
Photo: Michigan State Spartans