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Michigan State Week Roundtable: The origins of our hatred and more with guest Scott Bell

It’s still personal to a lot of us.

Dustin Johnston / Maize n Brew

This week at Maize n Brew, our staff members were asked about their personal feelings on the rivalry with Michigan State and thoughts on the game this Saturday. This time around, we are adding a special guest to our prompts each week depending on who the opponent is.

We are happy to bring in Scott Bell of Twitter and newsletter fame to this week’s roundtable discussion, where he gives background on his hatred for MSU and sheds some light on his new project and teaming up with a Spartan for a good cause.

Here we go!

When did you come online to the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry? (Basically, when did it first reveal itself to you)

Stephen Osentoski: “2004. A wee little 12 year old Stephen was super jealous of my older brother, who was invited by a friend to go to the Michigan / MSU game, which ended up being the 3OT Braylon Edwards show. One of the more electric games I had seen on TV at that point.”

Andrew Bailey: “2007 during the infamous Mike Hart press conference when he referred to them as ‘little brother.’’

Jared Stormer: “The Mike Hart “little brother” game in 2007.”

Chris Castellani: “When I came out of my mom’s womb. I grew up in Lansing. This rivalry is a part of you from day one.”

Dan Plocher: “I have been attuned to this rivalry since I was born. I have a split family when it comes to this rivalry. My mom’s side all roots for the Spartans and my dad’s are all die-hard Michigan fans. My parents actually decided who was going to pay for their first date based on the Michigan-Michigan State Football game (and my mom likes to gloat that the Spartans won that season). I grew up my whole life seeing the in-state rivalry at a deeply personal level, and I was conditioned by my father to fend off any and all criticism that may come from the Michigan State side of my family from the day I was born.”

Von Lozon: “At a very young age. I was raised to hate three teams — Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State. It’s been a lifelong deal for me.”

Anthony Broome: “I may have told this story here before, but I went to Catholic school for the first 10 years of my education, meaning we had to wear uniforms and such. But on certain Fridays, we could bring $1 to school towards a cause that would give us “jean days.” Generally speaking, these would have themes to them and every year there was a Michigan/Michigan State day. So for me, it was always fun to see which of your classmates were on which side of the rivalry. This hammered home the point early on in my life that this truly was a backyard brawl with neighbors and people that lived in the same community. Because of this, it has always been somewhat endearing to me. As endearing as a bar fight at the neighborhood pub is, anyways.”

Scott Bell: “I was born into it. And not onto the good side. I grew up in a small, rural town in West Michigan (Fremont, MI represent!) where everyone either works at the Gerber Baby Food factory or has their own farm. The latter group here is about 95% Michigan State fans and the rest of the town splits as a Michigan small town normally would, which means my hometown was a decent-sized lean to the Spartans growing up. My parents were among that group. Neither attended Michigan State (I think that makes them Save-A-Lot Spartans?), but I was definitely born into a pro-MSU household.

My parents really don’t understand how or why, but I always just cheered for Michigan at a young age. By the time the Fab Five stuff was happening, I was 7 or 8 and already a diehard Michigan guy. And the love for Michigan just continued to grow, as did my...ahem, vocal nature of Michigan fandom and disdain for all things MSU. And the rest is history I guess.”

How would you best describe your feelings toward Michigan State?

Stephen Osentoski: “A little bit sad for them, now. Sure, they had a really solid 5-year stretch where they were clearly punching above their weight. They had great timing with PSU in the middle of a scandal and UM with a couple unsuccessful HC hires. Now that their best coach in program history has left them with a bit of a bare cupboard, it’s a gap that is only widening.

So, the early 2010s spoiled a lot of MSU fans, who still have very high expectations for a team that’s likely to be 6-6 or worse for the foreseeable future.”

The “little brother” concept really rings true as a Michigan State mindset and couldn’t describe them better.”

Andrew Bailey: “Nothing will ever eclipse my negative feelings towards the Buckeyes, but Michigan State tried REALLY hard the last few years. Hate is a strong word, so yeah, hate describes it.”

Jared Stormer: “For the longest time I could not have cared less about them or their fans, then they had a little run of success and began thinking they were Alabama and that all changed.”

Chris Castellani: “I’ve had some great interactions with that fan base. I have no ill will against them. With that said, I hope U-M wins by 60.”

Dan Plocher: “Honestly, this game has become the biggest of the calendar year for me and I think my family plays a role in that. Family members on my mom’s side will constantly berate me year-round if the Spartans wind up winning the annual bout. But another aspect of it is how competitive this game has become. Michigan vs. Michigan State has become the game of the year in my life over the Ohio State Game. I understand and know the history and significance of The Game, and the legitimate hate that the two programs have for each other. But, I’ve only seen and remember Michigan winning against the Buckeyes twice in my lifetime (2003 and 2011, born in ‘97). For quite some time now the Big Ten has run through Columbus and it pains me to my core that I have become numb to what should be the most important game on Michigan’s schedule because a loss is expected every year. I believe and know the program still looks at Ohio State as the single most important game on their schedule, but for me, it has become Michigan State because they actually have a chance.”

Von Lozon: “MSU is the most annoying football program of all time. Their fans think their team is just as good, if not better, than Michigan. At one point in the not-so-distant past, they were the better program. But all things must come to an end. The fact MSU fans were posting about Trouble With The Snap not long ago on Twitter for the fifth anniversary, I think it’s safe to say MSU is back to thinking about their past successes instead of focusing on what’s ahead for them (which isn’t anything good).”

Anthony Broome: “I picked up most of my sports interests from my dad, but he was always a “state of Michigan man” that would root for MSU unless they were playing Michigan. Somewhere along the line, I chose my path (obviously, I’m here). Because of the earlier story I shared, I never truly “hated” them until Mark Dantonio came to down and started to twist the knife. Being on the other side of that for a decade wasn’t fun. I would say my feelings toward them are now a little more in line with the rest of you guys.”

Scott Bell: “Three As come to mind: amused, annoyed, amazed.

  • I’m amused by their lack of self-awareness. I truly don’t think there’s another program in America that has a greater disconnect of where its fans think it sits in terms of national relevance, and where it actually sits.
  • I’m annoyed by some of the tactics their fans take. At first it was flattering to have a fake Scott Bell account pop up on Twitter. When accounts No. 3-50 popped up, though, then I began wondering just how much free time these people have on their hands, and how much real estate a single person can take up in a collective group of people’s heads.
  • And I’m amazed that so many people don’t understand that Little Brother isn’t a title that’s given to the loser of an annual football game. It’s a mentality, and it’s one that Michigan State earns on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis.”

Has your view of the rivalry and its importance to you changed with Mark Dantonio gone? Explain.

Stephen Osentoski: “I think the combination of Dantonio gone and OSU dominating definitely shifts the focus back over to OSU for me. Sure, they’re still a rival and always will be, but Michigan’s back to the point of “should be beating MSU every year” and playing catch-up with OSU.

Dantonio had the everlasting chip on that shoulder and his teams played hard for him. I don’t think that chip will be as prominent for other coaches for the Spartans moving forward.”

Andrew Bailey: “It has lessened because Dantonio was a perfect coach to root against and effortlessly vilify. He never did anything to help himself with his press conferences and he also won a lot of games at Michigan State. The rivalry won’t be the same without him for at least a few years.”

Jared Stormer: “I will never not care about beating State again. Props to Dantonio for re-igniting the rivalry. Even greater props for decimating MSU on his way out the door.”

Chris Castellani: “It’s no less important. Dantonio’s teams always scared me. And maybe one day Tucker’s will too.”

Dan Plocher: “No. It’s still Michigan State. Even with the embarrassing loss to Rutgers last week, it is still Michigan State. However many times the Spartans flail in a season they always play at their peak against the Michigan Wolverines. It makes no difference to me who is at the helm, they are still Michigan State.”

Von Lozon: “It has not changed. MSU will always be MSU no matter who the coach is. The disdain for the program will not go away for me, and I sure hope it doesn’t for anybody.”

Anthony Broome: “Does it lose juice with Dantonio gone? Absolutely. Does the importance change? Not really. I like how Jim Harbaugh describes it as a “state championship” and he’s right. Typically speaking, a victory in this game gives the team that wins a shot for their game against Ohio State to mean something. This is for state supremacy and bragging rights over your neighbor across the street who flies a Gruff Sparty flag in his front yard. That will always mean something.”

Scott Bell: “It doesn’t change too much. I’m a little annoyed that the competitiveness of the rivalry will dip down for the foreseeable future. I obviously like that Michigan is going to dominate the head-to-head, but it’s not good for the health and the prestige of the rivalry that it will be ranked team vs. unranked team with no major (mutual) conference title/rankings implications for the next handful of years. Luckily, this rivalry is unique in that it’s centered around what happens on the field/court much less than many others, and the rivalry as a whole and what its largely centered around will still be a constant: Michigan State’s Little Brother syndrome. Now, that could die down, too. We don’t know how much or how little Mel Tucker will emphasize things. It’s almost guaranteed to be less than Dantonio did, because Dantonio’s focus on all-things-Michigan was nearly unprecedented. But Tucker would be smart to take as much from Dantonio’s playbook as he can given the level of success Dantonio had both in this rivalry and overall.”

What are your most and least favorite moments in this football rivalry?

Stephen Osentoski: “Favorite: The Braylon Edwards show (2004), Mike Hart’s “Little Brother” comments (2007), Peppers returning a 2 point conversion that was called for...reasons? (2016), Bush vs. the logo and the long DPJ TD with the Bunyan pose (2018)

Least Favorite: Gardner getting sacked to oblivion (2013), Planting the stake in the field before the game...just why?? (2014), The uhhh...event at the end of a certain game (2015). I would put 2017, but that was just a monsoon.”

Andrew Bailey: “Favorite: Devin Bush tearing up the field in Lansing in 2018. Light me on fire, Mr. Bush!

Least favorite: Trouble with the snap.”

Jared Stormer: “Greatest moments for me are the Manningham game winner in 2007, and DPJ shifting the rivalry back to where it should be and striking the Paul Bunyan pose in 2018.”

Chris Castellani: “2004, the comeback. Down 17 in the 4th, winning it in triple overtime. Least favorite? I’ll give you one 2 guesses in case you fumble the first one.”

Dan Plocher: “My No. 1 favorite moment is probably the Braylon Edwards comeback. That may be the first game I actually remember watching in this rivalry and it is one of the best in the history of the rivalry. Another was in 2007 when the Wolverines came back again late and Mike Hart had the “little brother” comment. It only solidified Hart as my favorite player at the program (even with what came after). The 2018 win with Devin Bush scratching up the logo and then helping the defense hold the Spartans to just 94 yards was also a game that will live in legend.

I’ll just breeze over the ugly: trouble with the snap, -48 rushing yards in 2013, the four-year losing streak beginning in the Rich Rod era.”

Von Lozon: “Favorite moment: Braylon Edwards single-handily bringing U-M back to beat MSU in triple OT in 2004.

Least favorite: I think we all know what the answer is here.”

Anthony Broome: I’m going off the board here and saying the 2012 game was my favorite. It was a mostly-boring 12-10 victory at the Big House, but it was my first Michigan-Michigan State game as a fan of the program.

The least favorite is the 2015 game, and not simply because of how it ended. But because it was my first year in the press box and in a much earlier time in this site’s development when I was on my own for coverage. The lesson that was learned is to always write your quick game recap down the middle with the ability to fill in the blanks!”

Scott Bell: “I have a lot of favorite moments. The first that comes to mind is being the reporter directly in front of Mike Hart after his famous “Little Brother” speech in the aftermath of Michigan’s comeback win in East Lansing in 2007. Hart was a reporter’s dream to get to cover, being a rare athlete who not only spoke unfiltered, but got the green light to do so at a time where so many athletes were muzzled. So getting to see him make those comments (which I should emphasize, came with a smile and a smirk on his face and weren’t rooted in legitimate hate or malice) was really cool in the moment. Being in the crowd as a student/fan in 2004 for the Braylon game was really special, too. My buddy insisted on leaving once Michigan State went up by three scores in the fourth quarter, but I talked him into staying and the rest was history. As a member of the Michigan Daily in college, I’d be remiss not to include the different Michigan-Michigan State traditions that happen between the Daily and Michigan State’s student newspaper, the State News, too. Each year the two papers square off in a touch football game the night before the actual big game. And I was a part of the team who started the current winning streak, which is now at 14 straight wins. There’s also a tradition where a sports writer from one school writes a column that appears in the other school’s paper and vice versa leading up to the game. I was chosen to do it two straight years at Michigan. So for two straight years, I got to write a column that appeared in Michigan State’s student paper before the game which essentially read as a pro wrestling promo about why their school sucks. It’s really fun, and until you’ve had a group of Michigan State fans show up at a tailgate before a game with your column in hand looking for Scott Bell so they can “beat his ass,” you’ve really never lived.

Least favorite is any time things turned personal or weird with Michigan State fans — typically stemming from the wonderful app that is Twitter. I’ve had my work called (multiple times), people send me pictures from outside my house, threats made, etc. There was one more I received multiple calls from a number of area car dealerships about my interest in a car because someone from East Lansing reached out and expressed interest on my behalf. (Ok, that one was actually creative — props to whatever weirdo did that). But yeah, people who can’t draw the line between fun rivalry banter and legitimate real-life stuff are pretty lame and take a lot of fun out of the rivalry, which is what it should be: fun.”

Say something nice about the Spartans during Hate Week

Stephen Osentoski: “You have a good vet program!”

Andrew Bailey: “Green and white is a nice color combination.

Jared Stormer: “Antjuan Simmons is a solid player and would potentially get some run on our second team defense.”

Chris Castellani: “In the limited experiences I’ve had with Michigan State athletes, they’ve all been very cordial.”

Dan Plocher: “I like the youth they have at the wide receiver position and Jaylen Reed could have a decent game on Saturday.”

Von Lozon: “I’m sure they’ll only turn the ball over six times this weekend. That is improvement!”

Anthony Broome: “Some of my closest friends and family went to MSU or are Spartan fans. You are all lovely, but don’t speak to me on Saturday.”

Scott Bell: “In all honesty, the vast majority of Spartans are good people. The vocal minority of their fanbase just happens to be more vocal, more crazy and more obnoxious than other rival fanbases. But most are good people and loyal fans and don’t get caught up too much in the ridiculousness of everything else.

Case in point: This week, I teamed up with Andy Isaac (@WorldOfIsaac on Twitter) to raise money for the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry in Detroit. A bunch of Michigan fans and Michigan State came together and raised more than a couple thousand dollars for a good cause. So they can’t be all bad, right?”

What do you expect from Saturday’s game?

Stephen Osentoski: “Pain? For MSU, obviously.

On a serious note, I expect MSU to do everything they can to avoid Michigan’s DL. They picked up only 1.3 yards per carry against RUTGERS of all teams, so I don’t think that bodes well for their run game against Michigan. Expect a lot of screens, as I think they do have some intriguing wide outs.

Michigan may struggle on the ground a bit, as MSUs DL is at least decent, and I like some of their LBs. Expect them to sell out against the run and force Michigan to beat them with Milton through the air. I’m guessing it works well.

41-13 Michigan”

Andrew Bailey: “It’s like a Civil War, except it’s 49 states against Delaware. 45-3”

Jared Stormer: “It’s going to be ugly. Not only is it a rivalry game, but I don’t remember the talent gap ever being this wide between the two teams. 45-10 Michigan.”

Chris Castellani: “There’s no reason why this thing shouldn’t be a complete beat down, which is why I’m gonna lose my mind when MSU is still hanging around in the second quarter. Ultimately I see this thing playing out like last year’s game, with Michigan completely manhandling MSU in the second half. 45-10”

Dan Plocher: “I expect the Spartans to come out and compete in the open minutes of the first quarter. Michigan has a history of starting slow in the big games and I think that maybe the case in this game. I don’t expect a seven turnover performance for Michigan State and I think they clean it up a little bit on all fronts. However, there is an overwhelming talent difference on the side of the Wolverines. The running game should dominate for the second-straight week especially with Milton’s ability to move the ball effectively on the ground. Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson should also be primed to have huge days against a Spartans offensive line that really struggled against Rutgers. All signs point to the Wolverines pulling away and winning big. I have Michigan stomping State, 49-10.”

Von Lozon: “I expect the ass-kicking of a lifetime. It may be best if MSU just stays in East Lansing this weekend. Seeing how Mel Tucker doesn’t even know the correct direction to Ann Arbor, they may not even make it, to be honest.”

Anthony Broome: “I am a believer of the up/down theory week-to-week in football, but perhaps it does not apply as much in the college game. MSU is not going to turn over the ball seven times again. But might they do it four or five times? I could see it happening. The wider the turnover margin is in this game, the better it is for Michigan. All things being equal, is Michigan 25 points better than MSU? I think so. But I also think the Spartans have better football in them than they played last week and another week of practice with the new staff might have them a little more ready to play. Perhaps there’s a scenario where Michigan fans are a bit concerned early on, but it should be a relatively stress-free day.

Michigan 41, MSU 13”

Scott Bell: “I expect Saturday to be a very, very enjoyable experience for fans wearing Maize and Blue. And I expect the green-clad fans to be busting out the “this season doesn’t matter anyway” excuses by the middle of the first quarter.

Michigan’s biggest question mark coming out of the Minnesota game (outside of its kicking game) was its run defense. If I was an opposing coach, I’d gameplan around that fact and try and attack that weakness. The problem? Michigan State averaged 1.3 yards per carry in its opener. Against Rutgers. It’s just not a good matchup for the Spartans. I expect Michigan’s offense to move the ball at will all 60 minutes, and since Michigan’s offense is so young and the need to get live reps for Joe Milton and his young receivers is so high, this could be a game where Michigan keeps throwing it up big in the second half. And I am so here for it.

I expect a Michigan win that tops last year’s margin of victory. And yes, Michigan won 44-10 last season. Do the math.

Wolverines 52, Spartans 10”

Open forum time: Air any grievances, concerns, or whatever you wish

Stephen Osentoski: “Welcome to the Big Ten, Mr. Tucker!”

Andrew Bailey: “Little brother is the single greatest insult in any rivalry game in college sports full stop.”

Jared Stormer: “Mel Tucker’s greatest strength is looking cool smoking a cigar.”

Chris Castellani: “Win. Win by a lot.”

Dan Plocher: “This Michigan offense appears ready to fit the ‘Speed in Space’ that has been preached since Gattis took over. The wide receivers fit exactly what Gattis wants to do and there are just so many overall weapons on this offense. If they can continue the momentum we saw after the Minnesota win, and Joe Milton continues to gain confidence, this could be the best offense we have seen in the Jim Harbaugh era.”

Von Lozon: “Wear a mask, social distance, be safe and Go Blue.”

Anthony Broome: “Uh this is going to be on FOX, meaning it is going to be a sluggish 4 hour broadcast with commercials every few minutes. Bummer.”

Scott Bell: “No grievances or concerns to air, just going to use this space to plug my newsletter. If you’ve already subscribed, I really appreciate it. It’s been really exciting and humbling to see the growth, and we’ve been having a lot of fun this season.

In-season, I’m now posting at least five pieces of content each week, including written content, podcasts, video breakdowns and more.

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Thanks to the staff for its time in filling this out this week and also to Scott Bell for jumping in for a guest appearance. Be sure to subscribe to his newsletter here, which is tremendous, and also help he and Andy Isaac’s GoFundMe set up for rivalry week. And oh yeah, follow him on Twitter @sbell021.