It is possible to be a person who exists on this earth and not be overly smitten with competitive spirit, but you might not know that if you live in Michigan. That person would be me. Ever since I moved to Michigan twenty-something years ago, I have watched the Michigan State (MSU) - University of Michigan (UM) war. Shortly before I moved here from Southern California, I found a sweatshirt that said “Michigan” on it in a local store. The sweatshirt was a nice bright green and the word “Michigan” was a sharp gold color. For those of you who don’t know, MSU’s colors are green and white, while UM’s colors are blue and gold - and they don't mix them. So here I come with my green and gold sweatshirt, and people questioned me about it because it was confusing for them. But I didn't even know it was confusing, because I didn't' know about the rivalry - and I ended up having some strange conversations about it - and I noticed you can’t buy shirts like that here in Michigan. Stupid California sweatshirt maker.
I have seen some pretty bitter battles and watched tempers rise as one side or the other taunted and bragged over a victory. I've watched a few games and tried to conjure some emotion and excitement, but it just doesn't work for me. I simply don’t care. Sarah, on the other hand, flies off her nut and becomes a madwoman with her intensely competitive spirit. She is a die-hard UM fan and I doubt that will ever change. I remember once, UM lost a football game. Now, I am sure through the years UM has lost many football games, but this one time I happened to see Sarah right after the loss. Boy, she looked angry. But I didn't realize she was really, really, mad. I didn't know she was all that invested in UM. I thought she was sort-of faking it because seriously, who cares if they lost? It’s not that big of a deal, right? Then I made a joke about it. Apparently, my joke wasn't funny, and I waaayyyy underestimated her emotional state.
Sometimes I marvel because I just can’t get into it. Sports’ teams wins or losses don’t affect my life, not even a little. Not even a smidgen - however small that is. My life just rolls along unaffected by the Super Bowl, March Madness, World Series, or Stanley Cup competitions and wins or losses. The sun rises and the sun sets. I won’t lose a wink of sleep over the loss of a game. And I find it hard to understand the depth of emotion involved in sports’ rivalry. I can’t understand it, but I like it.
I like it because the very idea of so passionately supporting a team brings people together with a sense and feeling of community, and I feel like our cyber-driven world is causing us to lose that camaraderie. Last weekend I was at the Livingston County Home and Garden Show. I met a lot of very interesting and wonderful people. One woman and I talked for several minutes. She asked how we were going to determine if the people who come to the food truck for a hot meal are really in need of that meal. It's a good question; I get asked a lot. I told her I figured if they came to the truck, they must have some type of need, and I would feed them and talk to them without worrying about seeing a paycheck stub.
She then unburdened her heart to me, as she explained how her husband had suffered a crippling injury which caused them to need a ramp built at their home. She had purchased all the supplies, but could not build the ramp herself. She began to search for help with that. After approaching all the local charitable organizations, she discovered she was just enough over the line of poverty to not qualify for any help building the ramp. She was unable to find anyone locally to help her out and ended up finally connecting with volunteers from a fire department that was miles away. She talked about how sad it seemed to her that people are so disconnected they think the only needs other human beings have are based on income and finances.
That spoke to my heart. It's at the very core of The Torch. And it speaks to the breakdown in community which is causing all of us to suffer. I would like the think we would all agree nobody should have to search and struggle and beg other people to care - but we often let that happen. We should rally around our fellow human beings and support and cheer them on with all of our energies just as strongly as we rally around our football and basketball and hockey and baseball and whatever-other-ball teams we care about. When we all connect, and we all work together, we all become a team of people who care and as a team, as a community that brings all its energies together - we can help those around us, who can then help those around them, and, eventually, what we are doing can send enough ripples out we impact the world. And I think most people I meet want to leave a mark on the world.
Our commonality as a team is our humanness, our suffering, our needs, our triumphs and our joys. Our rival is apathy, selfishness, judgmentalism, poverty, ignorance and loneliness. We should rally ourselves to fight against our rival and for this huge community of people we share the earth with - just as powerfully and energetically and emotionally as the Wolverine (UM) and Spartan (MSU) fans stand against each other and for their teams. I don’t think rivalry and competition in sports are going anywhere anytime soon, but that is okay, because they are able to withstand the attacks that are eroding our sense of community and connectedness. And I am all for that.
Go Green! Go Blue!
Go red, brown, yellow, black, and white!!!!!!!