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An Uneasy Peace With My Wolverine Brethren

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Michigan is a wretched hive of scum and villainy

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NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: Today’s hate piece was penned by Donald Kerabatsos, who is, regrettably, a friend of Michigan writer Brian Gillis. — LPW

I showed up a little bit late to this party.

As a guy who grew up in central Indiana, and who had a disposition leaning toward the sciences and possibly engineering, I realized at an early age that I would likely end up attending Purdue University. And as a rabid football and basketball fan who was starting to follow these things in the late 1970s, I quickly sized up our rivals. And if you are from Indiana and you are not Catholic (no offense intended), and you are probably planning on wearing the old gold and black, then the biggest offender at the top of the pyramid of detest (credit Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation – if you haven’t watched, do so. Now.) is the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. I got so annoyed of hearing from high school classmates who had mapped out how the Irish were going win the MNC (Mythical National Championship – does anyone use this anymore?), even adjusting their tortuous path to the top after every loss, I could barely stand to hear their name uttered. Joe Montana, Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian, four friggin’ horseman, Rocket Ismail – the hype and tired old clichés never ended. What made it more aggravating, was that Purdue played them every year and the results were predictably lopsided.

As the prophecy foretold, I did indeed matriculate at Purdue (credit Hank Stram – a beloved Purdue football player and coach), and while we had one of our brief, semi-successful football periods with Mark Herrmann and Jim Everett leading the way, we still ended up on the wrong end of the shillelagh most of the time. One shining moment of glory occurred in 1984 at the inaugural college football game at the recently completed Hoosier/RCA Dome in Indianapolis, the Boilermakers took down the hated Irish on their way to completing the rare sweep of the Big 3 — the other two being Ohio State and Michigan. Of course, of that Big 3, there was a team who also played Notre Dame every year -- Michigan. In an odd twist that would play itself out later, I was actually rooting for Michigan in those early years to beat the hated Irish, although I would have settled for a tie any time.

As my college years progressed, college football was awesome, but we were also smack in the middle of the Gene Keady era in basketball. The hoops team won a bunch of Big Ten titles, but it was anguishing to never get over the hump and make the final four. And this is where it starts to get interesting. In the last regular season game of the 1986-1987 season, Purdue had already locked up a share of the Big Ten title and was riding an impressive 8-game conference win streak, had only a game at Michigan between them and a possible #1 seed (#2 at worst) in the NCAA Tournament. How bad could it be? Well, it turned out to be maybe the worst loss in Keady’s storied, tragic career. Michigan, fighting for a berth into the tournament themselves put a disastrous, soul crushing 100-68 defeat on the good guys, dropping them to a #3 seed, and a matchup with hard charging Florida who ended one of the best hopes at a final four in Keady’s reign. Purdue never recovered from that loss, neither did I. Astonishment, bewilderment and rage coursed through me over that week — and a small sapling of hate began to grow.

Another major sports development occurred in Indiana in those years -- the Baltimore Colts, tired of not being able to build a new stadium to their liking, loaded up the Mayflower moving vans and took their talents to Naptown. I became a fan immediately and my family got season tickets. There was a lot of losing in those early years leading up to the mid-late nineties, but I never got off the bandwagon, and better times were ahead.

I left college, started a career in Houston — far from the day-to-day coverage of Big Ten sports. I watched with no real rooting interest as Michigan ruined Ohio State’s potential huge seasons. I heard the water cooler talk (does anybody really hang around a water cooler??) coming from the Michigan contingent about how they owned John Cooper and knew they would win the rivalry game every year. The Ohio State guys I knew were cocky, but not arrogant, so I started leaning red. One year, in a hot recruiting battle, I thought Purdue finally found its savior and we would re-stoke the cradle of quarterbacks — that was until a last-minute switch in commitments and Brian Griese, endowed with the skills and Purdue heritage we craved, went and signed up with Michigan. Buried on the depth chart for a few years, I figured I got my revenge by Griese not amounting to anything, and then as it always seems to happen, Michigan went all worst-case scenario on me. I remember sitting in front of the TV in ‘98 watching Griese and Woodson with Roses in their mouths. I threw up in mine. I still point out that the Wolverines (a disgusting, carrion-eating, dung-rolling, foul-tempered beast -- a lot like Jim Harbaugh actually) finished second to Nebraska that year. You have your poll, I have mine. Suck it. The sight of Griese celebrating on the Rose Bowl grass and his Dad — OUR DAMNED PURDUE HERO -- gushing over him on the telecast, heated the simmering rage into a full rolling boil of vehemence.

At the same time the Griese saga was coming to a head, I developed an acute interest in the top college quarterbacking talent that year as my poor Colts were in a nose-dive towards the standings and possibly ending up with the first pick in the ‘98 NFL draft. Not really having followed the SEC much being a Big Ten guy and stuck in Houston, I suddenly became aware of and enamored with one Peyton Manning from Tennessee. As the season went on, I fell in love with everything about him. When it came time to announce the Heisman Trophy, I knew Manning would win it and I hoped against hope that the Colts would continue their losing ways and secure his rights. Then AGAIN, it happened. Charles f****ing Woodson ran off with Manning’s Heisman Trophy. Although the Colts held up their end of the deal, I’ve hated Woodson ever since. In fact, I think Woodson should volunteer to be Manning’s presenter at Canton and present him his rightful Heisman. But I’ll get boned again since Woodson is likely going to be in the same damned HOF class and will steal more of Peyton’s glory. Lord, is there no justice?!

Just after that draft in ’98, I decided to make a career change and to go back to business school. As it happens, the best fit for me and my wife who generously supported me for two years was The Ohio State University in beautiful Columbus, Ohio. Initially it was hard to find room to suddenly adopt one of the old Big 3 beasts as a friend, but then again I never had the same baggage with them as I did with Michigan and Notre Dame. I was immediately indoctrinated with the stories of greatness in Ohio State’s history -- the football national championships under Woody Hayes, basketball icons like John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas and Granville Waiters. Just checking to see if you are reading this. Icons like Jesse Owens, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Utah. Clearly, I made the right choice.

This was never clearer than when I started to form my new circle of friends in biz school. I met Charlie and got to know him during our first year – and he told me quickly, maybe before his name – that he was a Michigan man. Michigan Man… Like what the hell does that mean? That you are anointed with a greatness unattainable by other mere mortals? He was so proud of his Michigan past, that he refused to attend the tOSU football games with us! Really?!? Despite that, I actually grew to really appreciate Charlie and still consider him a good friend, but it was always there – he would never be a Buckeye other than his degree. A real arrogant Michigan son of a bitch (I think he’d be proud of this assessment), but a friend nonetheless. Going to all the basketball and football games in my two years in C-bus is really where I cranked up the venom regarding that team up north. My favorite example of this kind of “dislike” is the local punk band that formed in the early ‘90s, The Dead Schembechlers. They had a damned good local following and belted out anthems to keep the Buckeye faithful going, classics such as “M means Moron”, “Michigan Stadium is a pile of shit” and my personal favorite “The Ann Arbor Chainsaw Massacre Christmas Song”. They kept it going until Bo actually DID die. Then, to their credit, they dedicated a show to their Namesake and donated all the profits to a charity of his family’s choice and temporarily changed their name to The Bastard Sons of Woody. Good times, Good times…

The Dead Schembechlers – an upstanding group of young men who truly appreciate the Ohio State/michigan rivalry
tron76 on photobucket

But I’m not done quite yet. Everybody knows the battles between the Colts and the Patriots from 2001-2010 while Peyton was playing. There were great games and Patriot blowouts. A couple of those dogs ended Colt seasons and still take me to dark places when I recall them. It would have been bad enough to have to go through those losses, but the fact that Brady was a Michigan QB just is gut wrenching. Can that son of a bitch be any more hateable? Michigan. Colt killer. Super Bowl MVP. Cheater. Model wife. GQ wuss. Maserati endorsements. All compliments of Bill Belicheat, the most successful, crooked football mind of our generation. After many traumatic events, I have convinced myself that Brady is actually a hack who has only succeeded due to Bill’s wiretapping and deflation shenanigans. Hey, a guy’s gotta have some hope to hang on to. But I digress. Brady is probably the single biggest reason I hate Michigan. Right now anyway. How does a guy who is buried on the depth chart behind Drew Henson end up doing that? I’ll tell you how. Go to hell, Brady! That’s how. He’s done it to personally spite me and crush my Super Bowl Dreams all but once – when the Colts won the greatest game in the history of football, the 2007 AFC Championship game. Finally, the Colts broke through and won the big one and Tommy and Billy ran off the RCA dome turf as the losers they deserve to be. But there are very few happy endings in life, and this nightmare just doesn’t seem to end…

Here’s looking at you, Michigan MEN!

There have been some positive recent developments though – but don’t FOR A MINUTE think that will soften my ire for the jaundiced and bruised. In between a tOSU BCS National Championship and a tOSU scandal or two (the Michigan Police bury all their scandals, just like the SEC) the Buckeyes finally got their man. The Kryptonite to the hordes from the Norseland, a superconducting magnet to keep the key recruits in Columbus: his name you ask? Urban Meyer. Since that glorious day since Mr. Meyer staked his claim as leader of the best football program in the country (Alabama doesn’t count – I don’t recognize them as a state), the road from Columbus through Toledo and on to Ann Arbor has become Michigan’s own Trail of Tears. It doesn’t matter, where, when or the weather – Meyer has had Michigan’s number. Even their latest desperation punch, the hiring of Jim Harbaugh hasn’t made a difference. You may or may not remember another link – Harbaugh was actually one of the few Colts bright spots between Bert Jones and Manning, but alas even he fell a missed Hail Mary from the Super Bowl, only to dash my hopes against the Pittsburgh turf and leave me bitter and scarred again. Typical Michigan. Even this last year, Michigan with 40 seniors, with a ton of fan support and momentum on their side, the result was once again a resplendent Buckeye victory.

Anyway, I think you get the point by now. It started mildly enough, but like a geopolitical riff or even a world war, my disdain for Michigan escalated quickly as Ron Burgundy would say. Like many things in life, having an enemy like this has its ups and downs – kind of like a case of the clap. On one side, it is pain, agony, you’re wondering how it happened and you’re hoping your girlfriend doesn’t show up while you’re all broken out – or up. On the other, well, let’s just say Appalachian State. Had to get that in somewhere. Despite all the rage and loathing, though, I think this whole saga maybe taught me a thing or two and maybe made me a better man. I’ve been able to forge some friendships with a few guys from Ann Arbor (who by the way, is a whore), but it’s always been a bit uneasy. From comments to Jaime about always picking some Michigan sloth in the fantasy football draft (Chris Perry!), to asking Super Dave – who is ALWAYS sporting some blue and bile colored clothing about last season’s loss to the Buckeyes to Brian, an author on this blog who bravely asked me to submit this debacle, I feel like it’s always just one snide comment away from a full-on war. Yeah, I think I’ve learned to tread carefully, to keep my acidic commentary to myself and coexist with my worthy adversaries from the land Woody couldn’t mention, and build a Rich Rodriguez culture and prosper with those whose only crime was that of a poor college choice. Screw that. Muck Fichigan! Go Bucks! Go Boilers! Word.

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