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Posted on Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

A friendly rivalry? Maybe not, but Undercover Michigander surprised by lack of hostility before The Game

By Kyle Feldscher


Fans walk into the stadium in Columbus before the game between Michigan and Ohio State on Saturday.

Daniel J. Brenner |

COLUMBUS - The University of Michigan Marching Band blasted out “The Victors” and began the walk into Ohio Stadium just as I exited the relatively calm confines of a nearby parking garage.

And … nothing happened.

Surely, this moment would help propel the denizens of Columbus into a full-on, foaming-at-the-mouth rage. At any minute, I expected to see projectiles being hurled from all angles toward the poor members of the band, who would be left with nothing but their instruments to defend themselves.

But, nothing happened.

Maybe it’s a sign the rivalry has cooled off the field, maybe it was a sign that it was just too cold to take hands out of pockets long enough to throw something at a Wolverine. At any rate, it was something resembling friendly outside of Ohio Stadium Saturday morning before the The Game between the University of Michigan and Ohio State University.


Michigan alumna Anne Missavage walks with Ohio State fans before the game on Saturday.

Daniel J. Brenner |

Jeff Cohen, a former Wolverine football player who was down in Columbus with his son, said he had only heard one “(Expletive deleted) Michigan!” since he got to the city Friday. Not too shabby, judging from his past experiences.

Cohen said he used to come to Columbus for the games quite often until the mid-1990s, when it just got to the point that he was too old to be confronting Buckeye fans. He returned with his son and nephew in 2009 expecting the worst but was pleasantly surprised by how they were treated. After the Wolverines’ victory in 2011, he thought the atmosphere would be a bit more hostile.

“I think there’s been a concerted effort by the university and security to clean things up because it was really embarrassing,” he said. “It was really hostile.”

For the most part, Wolverine fans were greeted with indifference by their Ohio State hosts. Since I arrived in Columbus Friday evening, my spotting of Michigan fans in the city has been irregular at best. Maybe they were laying low before game time for fear of retribution, or they were just wearing neutral colors and trying not to stand out. Those I did see out and about got almost no hassle.

Sure, there were a few cries of “Go home!” or “Michigan sucks!” But, the amount of heckling was small compared to the number of maize and blue-clad fans walking with their scarlet-and-gray clad friends.

Somewhere, Bo and Woody were appalled at the congeniality.

Marcia Arnold and Patty Bodnar were part of the biggest group of Michigan fans I saw gathered in one place near the southwest corner of the Horseshoe. Arnold showed me some photos she had taken, including one in which she had the gall to find a statue of Brutus the Buckeye and put a maize and blue scarf around its neck.

“He looked cold,” she reasoned.

Arnold’s daughter is on the U-M Dance Team and Bodnar’s daughter is the piccolo section leader in the Michigan Marching Band. They had heard the stories about Wolverine fans coming down to Columbus but neither reported being nervous about going into the Horseshoe for the game.

Bodnar said her daughter and her marching band compatriots had been hit by some ice balls at a Michigan-Ohio State hockey game in Columbus last year. Even though she and her friends had been treated well so far, she came prepared for the worst.

“We’ve got ponchos for protection from spit,” she said with a laugh.

I would be surprised if they ended up needing them — while Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke have done their best to ratchet up intensity in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, it seems the fans are more and more willing to let the teams fight it out on the field instead of in the stands or in the parking lots. Even your humble correspondent has managed to avoid having his car wrecked by key-wielding Buckeyes thus far.

Of course, I’m writing this halfway through the first quarter and there’s a lot of game left to be played at this point. The Michigan fans in Ohio Stadium — tucked away in a section that appears to be closer to Ann Arbor than the field of play — might yet experience some poor treatment by the sea of red surrounding them.

But, based on my experiences so far, I have to ask: Maybe it’s not so bad in this town after all? Perhaps having two good programs on the field is all that it takes to calm fans down enough to the point that they don’t want to kill each other any more?

We’ll see, I suppose.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 11:14 p.m.

There is an explanation, but many here will not like it. You said it yourself, in the story. Michigan's dominance of the 90's, was too much to bear. Many top 5 Buckeye teams fell to the Wolverines on an annual basis. My son, and myself went to the 2000 game (thank God, John Cooper's last season). We are both Buckeye fans, but we were embarrassed by the treatment of Michigan fans. I also agree, with one of the post here. It was the rednecks, not students screaming at the wolverine fans. Since my little buddy, with the sweater vest turned the tide; I think OSU fans have simmered down.....I know it was hard on me, watching Cooper choke with better teams. LOL


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

I've never gone down to Columbus for any game (or purpose). No need to: I have a TV and live in Ann Arbor so I get to see every game in better detail, under better conditions than any stadium attendee. It should be fairly clear: if anything, the market for stadium attendance will likely diminish over time. Add in negative inducements like hostility toward you based on which team you favor - it's a no brainer. There's an old military dictum which goes: "Never get into a war you can't win." Potentially, fans visiting an opposing team's stadium are going to be out numbered to a point where they couldn't possibly win any kind of confrontation - so why risk it by putting yourself in that situation? Just showing up to show your support is likely interpreted as a defiant intrusion onto "sacred ground" (sacred to the other side). Yes, football is great (and very successful) entertainment - but that doesn't mean it requires our personal presence or involvement. I'm sure TV producers would agree: the only fans allowed to attend football games are those who exclusively intend to act as volunteer cheer leaders for "their" teams. Crowds are colorful and a necessary part of the football background - background it the true role of any rational fan.

John Frietas

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:53 p.m.

As a Notre Dame and Michigan alumnus, I attend at least 1 game each Saturday during the football season. I was in Columbus yesterday wearing my Michigan regalia and was treated civilly by all I encountered. Many times I heard "Thanks for coming". Contrast this to what I encounter every time I wear my ND regalia to U of M stadium where I have been spat upon, doused with beer, or had my game view obstructed by the person in front of me who stood for the entire game just to spite me. No visitor to South Bend is treated in this fashion. As a 45 year U of M season ticket holder and donor, I finally said enough is enough and did not renew my Michigan football season tickets. It's time for the Michigan faithful to "grow up" and stop such boorish behavior. Perhaps if the Michigan fans behave better, the Wolverines will play better. If the Buckeyes can do it, so can we.

Thinkin' it Over

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

My Sparty daughter and her friends were repeatedly harassed by "Michigan men" after the UM/MSU game this year. These "men" thought it was cool to lean into the girls' faces and call them vulgar, sexist names. Their parents would not be proud. My Michigan daughter has been embarrassed and disgusted by the treatment she has witnessed students from other schools receive from some Michigan students. OSU is not the only school with jerks who have a lot to learn about what it means to have class.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:42 p.m.

I, too, have been to every Big Ten venue multiple times with the exception of Nebraska. It appears that Mr. Feldscher has sufficiently insulated himself from the true experience by refusing to wear maize and blue in his random and apparently untargeted stroll through Columbus. I find it telling that the picture this article shows a UM fan walking down the street bundled in a red coat. On my last trip to Columbus I put a OSU sticker on my car for protection. The fact that I my was undamaged hardly serves as proof Buckeye fans are benign. Mr Feldscher's reporting rings as true as Dick Morris analyzing the electoral college. I notice your most recent tweet says that your car was damaged. Perhaps your Michigan plates was your only mistake in going completely incognito and gave you your only window into the real experience,


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

If you do not wear Maize and Blue what kind of fan are you in the first place? Wear the colors and you will find out that there is no shortage haters. Have not missed a game in ohio since the early 80's. The bs has not stopped or changed. I have been to all the B1G stadiums multiple times and even though ohio fans sling a lot of crap they are not as bad as the msu fans. My experience of going to away games over 40 years puts msu fans as worst with osu a close second. Michigan fans get darts thrown at them all the time regardless of location because we represent a winning and for the most part a dominant program even with the blips along the way.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

If you refuse to wear UM gear to experience what it's really like because of your MSU loyalties your report is worthless.

Kyle Feldscher

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Well guys, this is just one man's experience (with the added observations of a few others). It's not a stretch to imagine there are other people who had a poor experience before the game in Columbus. I did write another column on my experiences in Columbus this weekend that published yesterday. Thanks for reading.

Andy Frazier

Mon, Nov 26, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

I completely agree with Frank. This wasn't the story I was expecting at all. My wife and I went to a game in Columbus once and could sit and tell you stories for hours about the incidents that we endured. We weren't even allowed to enter a certain restaurant because of our Wolverines attire. Of course you didn't experience the same hostilities since you weren't dressed as a Wolverine. This could have been a truly enlightening story; instead, it's a huge let-down.


Sun, Nov 25, 2012 : 2:19 a.m.

Hmm...I think you didn't go to the areas where the harassment is so bad its pathetic -- but I think there are other things at play as well.. 1) The majority of Michigan folks who used to flock down to the game no longer go because of two things: tired of the hostility over the years, and lack of tickets -- about ten years ago, UM stopped allotting a full complement of tickets to OSU, and the next season OSU followed suit and stopped giving a full complement of tickets to UM. The couple hundred tickets they release to family and high donors aren't the target market of hostility. In my many years of attending every UM game at OSU, the fans inside the stadium have never been the problem. 2) The problems at OSU don't stem from the fans in general. I grew up in Ohio, and gamedays (especially against UM and PSU) are "farmers holidays" -- the majority of people that flock to tailgate in Columbus are not students, alumni, nor do they have tickets. Hundreds of thousands of rednecks flock to downtown Columbus to tailgate and party. For awhile, Columbus tried to stop this influx of non-ticket holders...but the city bar and restaurant owners have a strong lobby and this has increased over the years. This isn't new -- it's been going on since I was in college 30 years ago. Its just gotten worse, louder, more alcohol infused, and less civil. Woe be to the Michigan fan who parks in one of those outlying farmers holiday lots. 3) Two years from now, don't go to the nice, quiet organized events that you visited in cognito...Go wander Olentangy River Road and its offshoots...go to the area around the arena...go wander College and the area on 17th and 18th streets...and I guarantee you a VERY different point of view.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

No fans are worse than UM fans, in my experience.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

Kyle - I've been on this divide for 30 years. Raised a half hour from the stadium and chose to attend a Michigan college and stayed after I graduated. My perception is that, by far, the fan behavior on the Michigan side has been worse. Everyone has anaecdotes, stories to tell and legends to build - I get that but really, poor fan behavior, inclulding walking out on your own team if they are loosing, its far worse in the big house than in the shoe. The shoe is a happier place - it just is. The big house is way more commercial and a bit more up tight. Now that being said, I know that Michigan plates do get targeted on this weekend by law enforcement. I also know that we ignore the speedlimits here. So its kind of leaning into a punch when we drive 80 on US23 south.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 6:55 p.m.

Kyle, are you wearing U of M gear? I think that would make a huge difference in your experience. But, glad to hear things don't seem to be as bad as in the past.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

Go Spartan Kyle ! LoL.

Kyle Feldscher

Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

MMB95- I'm not. As a MSU grad, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I was following around some UM fans as I walked around campus, just kind of watching would happen to them, so that was my primary reference for the peaceful atmosphere. To paraphrase Meatloaf, I would do anything for journalism, but I won't do that.


Sat, Nov 24, 2012 : 6:45 p.m.

It's a football game. At some point people need to realize that this is entertainment, not life or death.