Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The "Walmart Wolverine" Debate

College football is just around the corner and, like many, I am really itching for the season to start.  With that said, I have grown a little tired of writing about the Tigers and bagging on Ken Holland's debacle of an off season.  Therefore, I thought we should have a little Michigan-Michigan State fun.  How about it kids?  And what would be more fun than to punch holes in Sparty's go-to joke/argument when it comes to the heated rivalry?  You know, the one that was old back in the year 2002?  That's right.  The "you didn't go to UM and so you are a 'Walmart Wolverine' and shouldn't be a fan" battle cry Michigan fans have to listen to every time the rivalry comes up in conversation.  I liken the argument to the newest fad which is calling someone a "hater" when you are losing a debate and have no real rebuttal.  I digress.  Let's have some good ol' fashioned, in-state college football fun during the dog days of summer shall we?

First off, I would like to quote something I saw a friend of a friend say on Facebook as a rebuttal to the "Walmart Wolverine" moniker: 

"The punchline of this joke is that there are literally zero MSU fans that are not MSU graduates.  This implies that MSU needs to hire a new marketing firm."

Again, this is not mine.  I just thought it was hilarious.  Maybe a little extreme and silly, but then again isn't the "Walmart Wolverine" joke?  Though Sparty seems to be welcoming new fans onto their bandwagon with open arms lately...Sam's Club Spartans?  Gotta love double standards.

Second, if the argument is to be made that if you did not go to a school you should not be fan, then should any of the Detroit pro teams have any fans?  This may come as a shock but myself and about 99% of the fans who cheer for the Red Wings, Tigers, Lions, or Pistons were not born and raised within the city limits of Detroit nor do we live in the city of Detroit.  Shocker right?  So by this premise we should not be able to cheer for our beloved sports teams because we grew up in Clinton Twp., Sterling Heights, Troy, Rochester, etc.  And actually, only the great citizens of Auburn Hills should be able to purchase tickets and buy apparel for the Pistons since that is where they play their home games.  Seems a bit ridiculous doesn't it?  And to those who want to argue that it should be a different set of rules for pro and college football you're kidding yourself.  Both are businesses in the athletic market that bring in billions of dollars annually from their respective fan bases.  It's the same.  Stop it.  College football is just as much of a business.  You don't have to look any further than the 500 bowl games played every winter.  Sports teams are for the entertainment of the people who reside in their respective cities/institutions and the surrounding communities and actually anybody else who chooses to be a fan.  End of story.

Third, let's get something razor straight.  I think I speak for many fans when I say I cheer for the University of Michigan football team (as well as other varsity sports).  I do not cheer for the debate team, science club, etc.  I am sure they all work very hard and are wonderful individuals.  Really, I could care less how many players graduate, how many students become doctors, how many students become world leaders or anything else tied with academics.  I am a football fan.  I cheer for the team that takes the field on Saturdays.  Period.  It has been that way since I was 5 years old.  It is not going to change because I did not go to school there.  Sorry.  Try telling the die hard SEC football fans that may have never attended college they can't be a fan of Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, or LSU.  Good luck with that.  You grow up fans of a team, pro or college, and a true fan stays a fan.  Period.

The above point is a perfect segue into my final one which is where you pay/paid tuition, got drunk, flirted with Coeds, and joined a fraternity or sorority should not be the end-all-be-all as to who you choose to be a fan of.  School and athletics (as stated above) are two separate things.  If you grew up a UM fan and went to MSU and became a rabid Sparty fan great.  That's your choice.  I am happy for you.  If you grew up a Michigan fan and went to MSU and stayed a Wolverine fan that's wonderful too.  You go to a school because it presents the best opportunity to better your quality of life.  Not to become a fan.  I went to Western Michigan University.  Great business school, fun atmosphere, had some of the best times of my life there.  How many WMU games do I watch every year.  Maybe 1 or 2.  Not the team I grew up with.  Go ask a fellow Sparty who ended up at CMU or EMU if they switched their colors *crickets*  Same goes for where you live.  I moved to Chicago because it presented a better opportunity professionally.  Do I cheer for Chicago teams?  Um no and NEVER will.  It's all the same.  I grew up a Michigan fan as well as a Detroit fan and will continue to do so no matter where life takes me.  That's what fans do.  That's the idea behind it.

In conclusion, Spartan fans need to retire the "Walmart Wolverine" battle cry.  It's incredibly played out and really makes them look like ignorant sports fans.  Yes UM has a lot of fans that were not fortunate enough to go to school there, but so does MSU...and Alabama...and LSU...and Notre Dame...and Texas...and Oklahoma.  Sports and school are separate.  Most of us picked our favorite teams, college and pro, at a very young age.  The true fans stick to their guns through good times and bad.  Not when it is the cool and trendy thing to do.  I have always been, and always will be, a Michigan Wolverine fan.  If that makes me a "Walmart Wolverine" then so be it.  Whatever helps Sparty sleep better at night.  GO BLUE!! 


  1. Good article. My rebuttal last yr in East Lansing was that at my Walmart in Buford, GA, there is Michigan stuff and zero Michigan State stuff. I embraced the fact that you can purchase Wolverine clothing, etc., anywhere in America (national power) while Spartan pickings are pretty slim and their only recognized in the state of Michigan. Didn't get one smart comeback from any of the MSU fans.

  2. Thank you! Yes, they have a hard time grasping the fact that some college programs acually attract fans other than students or graduates. Up until this win streak they have going, it is all they have had to cling to. If UM takes down MSU this year you will hear/see the "Walmart Wolverine" venom flying like it was coming out of sprinklers.

  3. Ok, sigh and get it over with, here is a MSU alum response to your rant, I mean blog…. Sort of.

    I want to first say this topic took a turn when the questioning of which professional sports teams we are “allowed” to follow and support due to city limit restrictions. Yes, both college and professional sports are a business. Yet these are two topics that do not coincide with each other here. This is the “Walmart Wolverine” debate, not the ‘bandwagon, we live in a democracy I can choose my teams, my politicians, my religion and so forth’ debate.

    This may offend people but it is what it is. Don’t take it personally all of you alums or fans of that school in Ann Arbor; it’s nothing personal, its opinion that we have developed over the years that U of M was a powerhouse. So going forward I do respect you and your opinions. So do so in mine. I’ve dated alum, am obviously friends of die hards, both alum and not, and have great professional relationships with alums. In fact I even attended the football camp there in high school. I watch the games and follow the team. I’m just not on your side of the line in the sand on this one. My family bleeds green and white and we do not speak the name of the school in Ann Arbor in our household.

    So now that my disclaimer is done, let’s hit on Dibart’s blog:

    So this joke was old in 2002 and holds no basis. Well let’s take a step back a year or decade before that where we up in East Lansing have heard the SAME thing as “Walmart Wolverine”, which you all have in turn called us “Little Brother”. This was not mentioned in the blog, yet it is said by U of M fans as religiously as the Walmart pun.

    Being referred to as “little brother” has what led to the Walmart Wolverine rebuttal for years. U of M has been notorious for the arrogance of the school as a whole, and the fans of football. Alumni have felt a sense of entitlement, elitists, nose high and cocky who can’t wait to say “I went there”. Yes it is a good school. But so is MSU. Each school has it’s own advantages. MSU from an academic standpoint is vastly underrated. Our sports programs have also been vastly underrated. It’s this sense of self entitlement that seems to come with most Mich grads that pisses off many academic elite and especially our alumni. I want to scream at some people; “No, you’re not better than me or nor are you automatically more educated then I am, and nor will it determine any advantageous successes either of us will have in the future because you went to U of M!” Now this is where the fans come in. They took this same “little brother” inferiority mentality and applied it to their football program. Same arrogance, same cockiness, you guys just didn’t get the block M on your degrees.

    Yea MSU has been the underdog for a long time. Academically and sure as hell in sports. But now the tide has turned. Especially our always solid basketball program, our hockey team and now FOOTBALL. Yea you did well when you paid player on that “fab five” team but we did it legit. So to make my point, little brother has grown up, and we are bigger then you now. Our academics are superb, and well, you know the outcome of the past seasons on the field.

    So to all of you in your yellow and blue: drop the little brother and U of M elitist status and recognize we are in every way a force to be not only taken seriously, but to be undeniably respected and we’ll stop bashing your lemming fan based nation. It’s a new era, and our time has come.


  4. First off, really all a blog is is a glorified opinion or "rant." I have a strong opinion on this topic since I have many MSU friends and date a MSU alum whose family are rabid Spartys. I hear the joke from all angles. I feel it is silly and I explain why. I do indeed respect your opinion, yours more than most. This was not a personal attack just an attack on a stupid joke, that if broken down to it's meaning, looks like a baseless battle cry fueled by years of envy and frustration.

    Bringing the pro teams into the argument is indeed very valid. The point of the piece was that the moniker "Walmart Wolverine" is built off of the premise that since myself and other non-alums did not go there, we should not be fans. I have heard those exact words countless times and have to defend my reasons for being a fan which is ludacris in of itself. The pro example was meant to seem equally as ridiculous as the root of the "Walmart Wolverine" joke. The root is undeniably that only UM alums can be "true fans," no?

    As far as the "Little Brother" joke, I have always thought that was silly and played out after the 1st time I heard it. However, as stupid as it is, at the minimum it at least held some merit at the time it started. The stigma was created at a time when the MSU program was an absolute embarrassment as they were getting their tails kicked on the field not only by UM (every single year for a long time), but by any team that had a pulse while the head coach was making Sportcenter by smacking himself in the face during post-game pressers. During this same era, "Walmart Wolverine" was created because there was no other retort. Call it what you want but it is hard to argue it was not made out of program envy. It was either that or the famous "wait 'til basketball." Both of these "rebuttals" were born out of an inferiority complex, fair or unfair. There was nothing that could be said about the play within the the white lines. Now fast forward to present day, MSU does have something to say and they still use the "Walmart Wolverine" attack instead of just saying something meaningful like "scoreboard." It is things like that that make the stigma MSU carries hard to shake (underdog, "Little Brother," etc). If MSU continues to to have success they too will gain national prestige thus leading to more non-alum fans and I am sure they will be welcomed by the fan base with open arms. Heck we have friends who have zero ties to the school, one we nicknamed after a legend in country music and one who owns a lucrative lawn service, who yell "Go Green, Go White" and "Sparty On" every chance they get. They never get questioned as being "true fans." A glaring double standard. So that is the basis of the entire blog. It is attacking the basis of the joke and proving it to be a hollow argument. They chose to be MSU fans and they are entitled. As are people such as myself who did not go to UM.

    1. (cont) On to the passing up UM (at least in football). You may need to pump the breaks on that one. Yes you have a nice streak going. The opportunistic Spartans gainfully took advantage of a poorly mismanaged Rich-Rodrigez-ran program both on the field and in recruiting within the state. If you didn't notice, UM was not only losing to MSU, but to everyone else. But if Spartan fans think this means that it will become status quo think again. As I told someone else, I suggest MSU fans buy a DVD box set of the last 4 years and savor it. The days of lopsided streaks are over...for both schools. Once Rich Rod's fingerprints are completely whiped from the program in 2-3 years you may be very disappointed. The current 4 years does not hold a candle to the domination UM had over MSU for most of the 70s and 80s until 2007. Not saying we will dominate either but it isn't going to be what you have seen the last 4 years or in the previous 2+ decades. To fully surpass the UM program (in a national perspective which is all that really matters), MSU would need to make a bowl for 33 straight years, dominate the series for 2+ decades, have a plethora of All-Americans/College Football Hall of Fame players, get their first Heisman Trophy winner (UM has multiple), get to at a Rose Bowl (MSU has not since '87), win a national title or at least play for one, and put numerous players to the NFL to have Hall of Fame careers. This last year should tell you just that. MSU had the better team. I can't refute that. However, UM went to a BCS Bowl. I will admit, MSU probably deserved it more but the commitee chose UM. Why? They are still perceived as a stronger and more prestigeous program overall that will draw more viewers, hype, and money. And perception is reality in the minds of most. Outside of the automatic bids, that is how bowl teams are selected. If MSU has passed UM as a program, they would have been in New Orleans. It's the simple truth. The same goes for basketball except flipped. You have the track record. UM does not. UM is vastly improving and will contend but MSU still has a better overall program. In regards to hockey (as you had mentioned) UM still has you there. They are one of the top teams in the country annually and consistently make Frozen Fours, they have national titles, continue to have Hoby Baker finalists, and is a pipeline to the NHL as much as any school in the nation.

    2. (cont)As far as a "new era" you are right. It is (back to football again). It is now an era where the Spartans join the few teams that can be considered serious B1G contenders annually. Welcome to the club. It took you long enough :) But that is about as far as it goes. UM, Nebraska, O$U, Iowa, and Wisconsin are right there with you. You are now one of the group. Nothing more. Nothing less. Again, if you and your Spartan brethren think you will be beating UM and winning the B1G every single year I would temper your expectations just a tad. It is going to be a pretty even matchup each and every year. FINALLY. And that is a good thing for both sides. But before you go and crown the Spartans as the Florida State Seminoles of the '90s I would slow down a little with proclamations.

      Basically, the entire idea behind the blog aka "rant" was that you can choose to be a fan of whoever you want whether it be MSU, UM, ND, the Yankees, the Heat, so on and so forth. And I am incredibly tired of being told by many of Spartan fans I should not be a fan of the Wolverines bc I did not attend school there. That is the exact punchline of the joke and it is silly. It has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with athletics and the team you enjoy watching. The fact UM has so many non-alum fans is not an indictment on the fan base but an indication of the national prestige the program holds. This prestige was built on decades of winning. Not 4 good years. If there were no outside fans (of any school) we would not have nationally televised games, pro combat jerseys, expensive stadium renovations etc. bc nobody would care. That is the beauty of sports. Whether Spartan fans want to admit it, the national prestige UM has is something their program is striving for and is still has some work to do. And THAT is the root of why the "Walmart Wolverine" moniker was created..envy.