Small or closed minds grip tightly to easily pushed sayings. Take for instance the saying that somehow is taking over the nation; or rather, the state of Michigan. I guess it’s not so much a saying, as it’s a label, but the label is full bodied enough to impart more than a name; it implies generations of meaning. That label is “Walmart Wolverine.”
WALMART COMES TO TOWN
This is a new label saying. It’s new in the years since I have returned to Michigan after 2000. It certainly wasn’t a saying when I was growing up in the state. Granted, Walmart only came to the forefront in the last decade or two, but regardless, the label has made its way into the Michigan Mainstream and seems like it’s a staple in the ongoing battle between bickering siblings.
“Walmart Wolverine” seems to be the slappie-easy bashing baton for Spartan fans to throw at UM fans. After years of an inferiority complex and built up resentment, “Walmart Wolverine” is a media driven gift wrapped backslap from Sparty to Wolverine.
As most of us realize, this label is a reference to folks who shop the low brow chain store and buy up Michigan Wolverines gear in droves. The label makers, of course, forget that Walmart and others chain store heavens like Meijer’s or Target sell Spartan gear, too. They may sell more Michigan gear, since we are capitalist society and stores operate under the “theory” of supply and demand, but they do sell Spartan gear, as well.
But, we all also know that “Walmart Wolverine” has less to do with buying or selling gear at a store, and more to do with the idea that the Walmart Wolverine never attended the University of Michigan. The implication is that these are not true fans; and only those that attend a school can cheer for it. The reference draws the image of some bumbling low life who stumbles down the aisles of Walmart, half drunk, ripping Wolverine shirts from the shelves. Pretty creative imagery, ay?
DOLLAR STORE SPARTANS
But the interesting twist of truth with this notion is that I have just as many “Dollar Store Spartan” (let’s call them that) friends or family members as I have “Walmart Wolverines” in my life; many Spartan fans, who like the “Walmart Wolverine” did not attend their university of fandom. And make no mistake about it; many of them could probably fit that same drunk-shopping imagery that “Walmart Wolverine” obviously references.
Regardless of all of this truthful nonsense, there is more venom from Sparty to Wolverine, than vice versa, and the resentment has bubbled over into epic proportions. That bubbling over has taken life in the form of the “Walmart Wolverine.” The label has stuck. The saying has spread. It seems to be the retort that comes up when all else fails, and rational communication has long since left the state borders. Believe me when I say, irrational communication comes in all forms and from both sides, but the “Walmart Wolverine” is the topping of immature choice these days.
It’s really all fine, either way. I mean, someone can call another person a “Walmart Wolverine,” a “Dollar Store Spartan,” a “stupid Sparty,” or any other inane names that make them temporarily feel better or superior.
I equate this inane name calling to the Mike Hart “little brother” comment; immature nonsense that says more about the person spewing the words than the people that receive them. I shook my head years ago when I heard Mike Hart, and I shake my head to this day. In all reality, the comment has also returned to bite him in the nonsensical ass.
ARROGANCE IS PRETTY ROLLING WITH THE WINGED WHEEL
I often wonder if those same “Walmart Wolverine” slinging Spartan fans, many of which are probably also Red Wings fans, mind the endless Red Wings fans across the country. We see them in every arena our Red Wings visit. Many of them were not born in Detroit. Many of them don’t live in Detroit, and some have never been to our state or city. Most Red Wings fans are not only OK with these” Walmart Wings” fans, we actually brag about their existence. “Look at all the Red Wings fans,” we say to one another. During telecasts, the camera often pans to the sea of Red Wings jerseys in the crowd, and we hear them cheer when the Red Wings score yet another big goal.
“Yea, that is true, but Wolverine fans are arrogant,” I have heard as a response to this argument I’ve previously made. Yea, I can sort of buy that argument. Having the most winning program in college football could certainly do that to a University or to its fan base. It’s quite similar to how many NHL fans view Red Wings fans; as cocky, and spoiled.
The simple fact is the Red Wings are one of the best professional sports organizations in the country. They win. They have the attitude and approach that other organizations respect, admire, and aspire to. It’s the same as the University of Michigan and their football program. As much as non-Michigan fans may hate to admit it, that is a simple fact. Throughout much of the history of college football, the University of Michigan has been thee program; respected, admired, and one that others want to mirror. Certainly the Rich Rod years have tarnished the shine. But, with all things in life, there is an ebb and flow, and Michigan is certainly trying to come up from a downturn. And make no mistake, like the Red Wings, the Michigan football program hasn’t been perfect. Nothing in life ever is. But they both have been envied, and where there is envy, there is anger, there is emotion and there is often name calling.
And that is really what kicks at the Spartan heart with green envy, leaving the fans to cling to a hollow phrase like children to a lime Popsicle. Lick. Lick. Lick. Suck. Suck. Suck. Whatever makes you feel better…
GREAT SCHOOLS, GREAT FANS
So, I say this to Spartans and Michigan haters everywhere; grasp the silly label if you must. But what would be more appropriate and more respected, is to actually grab the reality of your improvements and achievements. On the football field, Michigan State has developed itself into a strong program. Spartan fans should be proud of that. On the basketball court, MSU has dominated for years, and I doubt they will lose grasp of their winning ways. Michigan State University is a great school, in a great town, with passionate fans. That is something to grasp with pride. And I hate to break it to anyone who might hate to hear it; the University of Michigan is a great school, in a great town, with passionate fans.
If you attended the University of Michigan, or if your Dad attended, or if your sibling attended, or a great uncle attended, or your neighbor attended, or a long lost friend from high school attended…cheer for The University of Michigan as you so desire. Don’t be deterred by silly little labels from silly little squabbles. 10 years from now, or 50 years from now (hopefully when Walmart is long gone), the squabbles will continue; that’s what siblings do. The “Walmart Wolverine” will no doubt be replaced by something else, and the bickering will find a new perch to squawk.
PICK WHATEVER SIDE YOU LIKE
Rivals are rivals. Fans are fans. If you dislike MSU because you are a Wolverine fan, do it with passion and pride, and by God, do it with some class. And the same is true the other way. If you are a Spartan, stand tall with pride and shout “Go Green, Go White” with all your might; just leave the silly kids’ stuff to the kids and approach things with the respect and class you want in return.
As always from this WOLVERINE fan, GO BLUE!