Back in the days when I was still blessed with my magnificent youth, I was a vigorous fan of football. I still am, in fact, although college life seems to interfere with my football-watching schedule more than I’d like. It is unfortunate too since, where I’m from, football is the most beloved aspect of life, second only to God Almighty.
You see, I am from Michigan and as anyone else from the Midwest can tell you, there is no football like Big Ten college football. Despite my hectic schedule, I still like to hear the recaps. And, every Sunday morning, I like to listen as my dad tells me over the phone how Michigan State managed to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory yet again under Head Coach John L. Smith, who is probably being burned in effigy in the streets of East Lansing.
My dad, of course, is one of the hundreds of thousands of Michiganders whose blood runs, not red, but green and white. He was also among the hundreds of thousands of fans dismayed by MSU’s loss against fourth-ranked and Most Vile Foe, University of Michigan.
I do not currently take a side in the MSU vs. UM feud. Admittedly, when I was younger, I’d cheer for the Amazing Blue because, well, I thought the Wolverine was a cool mascot. That and the university’s colors were about the same as my high school football team’s colors (the full irony of it being that my current institution of education’s colors are also blue and some shade of yellow – I believe it is Pantone 114).
But, in my old age, I have since rejoined the fence sitters. Since my family is half-MSU and half-UM, I decided I’m at that point where, if I cannot decide what team I want to root for, I root for the underdog.
Most of the time, that would be Michigan State. The Spartans of the Red Cedar have had a bad run this season, climaxing with their defeat by Illinois. This past weekend’s 31-13 loss to the Wolverines was the largest score gap in the annual match-up in years (does anyone else remember that triple-overtime two years ago?) and the road will only get harder. This coming Saturday MSU will face No. 1 ranked dreadnaught Ohio State, the only team whose rivalry with the Wolverines is arguably greater than MSU’s.
I urge my favorite underdog team to maybe, this time, do something different. Smith’s future is already on shaky ground and, well, let’s face it, short of actually defeating OSU this Saturday afternoon -which is worth more than winning a Bowl game at this point – he’s screwed.
But somewhere in this team I sense magnificent potential. They have the drive, the spunk and the grit. They do not, however, have a fourth-quarter strategy, and this is generally what makes them stumble in the final minutes to a crushing loss.
MSU is defintiely down, but it is far from out. There are still plenty of plays left perform. And though I am not the most die-hard fan of the Spartans, I still care. I know there are plenty of sports cynics out there – people who say its worthless to get worked up or care about people who are “just throwing a ball around.”
Most of those cynics, however, spend their days playing computer games and eating Hot Pockets (as Eric Cartman could undoubtedly show you). They are not people worth listening to. I realized how valuable sports are because, when you root for an underdog, you suddenly understand life. Why should you root for the underdog? Why care about them? Why not just switch and root for the top dog?
We care because we are the same as them. We struggle constantly in our day-to-day lives, feeling used and fatigued by “the Man.” Almost every one of us is an underdog, just like those Spartans, all of us just looking to get a moment in the sun. And if the Spartans can win, if they could go all the way to the Rose Bowl (or Orange Bowl or whatever the hell the most important Bowl is anymore) then we, too, can achieve our success.
Cheer hard for the Spartans this Saturday – by doing so, you are cheering for humanity.
Brenneman can be reached at email@example.com.