These People Are Not Walmart Wolverines
|February 9, 2012||Posted by Allen Francis under Al's Blog, B1G Ten Basketball, Michigan Basketball, Michigan State Basketball, Rivalries|
Certain things are difficult to describe. As a Michigan State alum, and resident Michigan hater, I have often been asked to describe “Walmart Wolverines” . If a Walmart Wolverine asks the question, I am usually forced to vigorously defend the term. Although I try, inevitably my description becomes bogged down with exceptions and conditions. Regarding pornography, a Supreme Court justice once said he could not describe it, “but I know when I see it.” Walmart Wolverines are no different.
Before my story, I will do my best to describe a Walmart Wolverine. A Walmart Wolverine is, by definition, a University of Michigan fan who has no affiliation with the University. However, it is critical to note, not all Michigan fans without a connection to the University are Walmart Wolverines. Rather, only those that are overzealous in their fandom, cut down other schools (which they did not go to) and are willing to fight for ” their team” qualify as Walmart Wolverines. Much like pornography, Walmart Wolverines are difficult to describe, but I know one when I see one.
I was reminded of the fact Walmart Wolverines reveal themselves, almost exclusively through their actions, when I attended the Michigan State v Michigan basketball game at the Breslin Center in East Lansing last weekend. I took my daughter (5), niece (8) and nephew (9) to their first game. (Please save your comments about taking kids to sporting events. That is a different topic. Plus, in my defense, when I do it, I respect those around me.) Myself, daughter and niece were dressed to the hilt in Spartan gear. My nephew was a lone wolf in his Michigan gear. During the course of the game several Spartan fans gave my nephew some good natured grief, even suggesting he will eventually wise up on his choice of teams.
Once the game started, I quickly learned we were unfortunate enough to be sitting near some Walmart Wolverines. I know they were Walmart Wolverines because, in addition to their varsity jackets and mullets, they were obnoxious the whole game, yelled obscenities and were critical of Michigan State’s facilities and school. Further, the seemed to have little to no working knowledge of sports which is a tell tale give. As with all Walmart Wolverines, these people sucked. This article is not necessarily about them, so I will hold off on further description. Nonetheless, in some respects, I was happy. I was hopeful my nephew would see these Wolverine fans and not want to be part of a group that only allows these idiotsÂ as members. It might take time, but the groundwork was laid to convert him to the Spartan nation. If I could limit his exposure only to Walmart Wolverines, not the reasonable Wolverine fans, there is a chance he will convert before Easter. Little did I know, my hopes were about to be crushed.
In order to avoid the crowds, we hung around the Breslin Center for awhile after the game . During that time, I was able to get the kids picture on the court and with the Magic Johnson statute outside. The whole time, my nephew had a sad look on his face, which primarily was a result of the drubbing his team received. I sensed he was already rethinking his choice when he asked to tour campus before we left. I was making progress.
As we headed toward the car we came across a group of 50-75 Michigan fans. Based on their age and dress, I assume they were current students or recent alums. (Note: After writing this, I learned they were members of the Maize Rage. Michigan’s student fan club.) As we approached, they asked my nephew, in a very fun manner, what he did wrong to end up with so many Spartans. My nephew got a kick out of that. At that point, I thought we needed to get out of there asap. These people seemed normal, they might negate my progress. Then they dropped the hammer. They wanted their picture with my nephew. That picture, with my nephew holding one of their Michigan flags, produced his biggest smile all day. If you look closely, the other Michigan fans are smiling too, even though Michigan State won the game.
It was a priceless moment. Cool Michigan fans, helping to make a great memory for my nephew in East Lansing. As much as Walmart Wolverine fans are defined by their actions, good Wolverine fans are too. These fans, were clearly not Walmart Wolverines, which I could sense from the start based on the absence of tears and lack of use of profanity near children. I can accept that I lost progress in my conversion mission, but only if my nephew grows up to be one of these “good” Wolverine fans.
If you were part of that group, thank you. You made a kid’s day. My nephew got a taste of what college sports and rivalries are all about. Passionate people who understand the big picture. Unlike Walmart Wolverines, good Wolverine fans (with or without University affiliation) are realistic and understand how to have fun with the rivalry. They do not take themselves to seriously. They can engage in debates without resorting to fights or threats. This stems from the understanding that their University is more than the athletic department. Life goes on, even after a loss. Games are games, people are people. Good fans know the difference. Bottom line. These fans are good people.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to be an alum to be a fan. Just don’t be a douche.