How Spartans react to a Wolverine Challenge

On September 16, 2013, in Spartanology, by Scott Westerman

1235147_10152691830767316_812316738_nI landed at DC Reagan/National Airport with enough time to check into my hotel before attending our DC Spartans bigger, better scholarship gala. As I was cabbing to the event, I checked my iPhone Facebook feed. Someone with Wolverine sympathies had paid a sky writer to smoke “Go Blue” in the blue skies over Spartan Stadium.

It struck me that this fan spent several thousand dollars to spray paint an ephemeral message in the sky that could be seen for less than ten minutes. It might generate some brief social media buzz, but it would soon be forgotten, as Shakespeare might say, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

What would Spartans do if we had money like that to burn? My bet was that we would invest it the way we invest our lives, “to tackle the world’s biggest problems”.

So I decided to find out. I wrote a note and attached it to the comment field of every iteration of the sky writer picture I could find. Here’s what it said:

To my Spartan friends and family:

A University of Michigan fan paid $3,000 to have a skywriter paint this over Spartan Stadium today. I’m all for school spirit, but the sheer cost of this momentary chest beating gives the unfortunate perception of malice. That’s not what Spartans are about and I don’t believe it’s what true UofM alumni are all about. Will you help me show Wolverines everywhere what we can do with $3,000? This is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. As many of you know, Colleen is a two time survivor, one of hundreds in our state who are fighting this silent killer. Will you consider making a $10-$50 contribution to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance (which is based in Ann Arbor) and say that it’s coming from a supporter of Michigan State University?

Whatever we raise over the next week, I will challenge my counterpart at the UofM alumni association to inspire is members to match.

Here is the link:

Let’s show the world what Leaders, Lifesavers and World Changers do. Help me make this one go viral.

The posts immediately started to generate buzz. 90% of it was positive. People loved the idea of making a statement about how Spartans Will step up. 10%, of course included a few Walmart variety fans who continued to shoot the usual athletic vitriol in my direction. That comes with the territory.

What happen next blew me away. The posts started to spread. Our Alumni Volunteers Facebook page amplified it. The Chicago Spartans challenged their members to make a donation. Soon, the volume of Spartan gifts to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance, brought their Pay-Pal account to a stand-still.

Within 48 hours we had raised nearly $2,000. What made this particularly wonderful was that most gifts were in the small increments I had suggested. More than 400 Spartans had participated.

As important as athletics is to the brand of our two institutions, it is but one dimension of who we are. It helps us recruit. It attracts financial investment for the important work we do. But when 400 Spartans instantly reach into their wallets to support a cause, it sends a message.

We have bigger problems to solve.

I would love nothing more than to eradicate the cancer monster and make it possible for all the survivors to buy season tickets.

Let’s start with that and see what happens.


40 Responses to “How Spartans react to a Wolverine Challenge”

  1. Kristi Lamb says:

    This is fantastic! I WILL be making a contribution!

  2. Celestina Gonzales says:

    Oh please, we have all seen how Spartan fans handle losses as well as victories. And I can tell you that nothing in those acts would signify honor, humbleness, or pride. Despite the fact that this Michigan fan paid however much to have “Go Blue” sky written, I think rhe real point is pride in your school, and doing so in a non violently and in a way so that everyone, Spartan and Michigan fans alike could see. Whether you’re a Spartan or a Wolverine, you cannot deny the fact that you’d do just about anything to show the pride you have in tour school. Some of us just choose to do it in the sky. Also, it may have only been seen foe a brief moment, but ir will be remembered for a long time to come.

  3. Scott Westerman says:

    Hi Celestina,
    Thanks for your comment. Both of our schools have Walmart variety fans, who sometimes forget that what we are all about is making the world a better place. It didn’t really bother me that this fan paid to paint the sky on Saturday. But I thought long and hard about what an authentic Spartan (or Wolverine) might have done to make the money go further. I’m proud to say that there are UofM alumni who have donated to the MCOA, too. When both of our schools work together, there is no problem we can’t solve.

  4. Sarah W says:

    Wonderful idea! Just donated. GO STATE!

  5. Kevin Pastor says:

    Would this have been different if the skywriting didn’t cost so much? What would the reaction have been then? I’m a fellow Spartan alumni and I see both sides of the argument, but I also like to play devil’s advocate…

  6. Sean says:

    As a Michigan fan, I’ll donate to that. The battle against cancer is great than any battle on the field. Thanks for not being petty about what one fan did, and instead turning it into something to help a great cause!

  7. David says:

    This is great. And to think, this is only 400 students out of 40,000.

  8. Sasha says:

    Hi Celestina,

    I don’t know whether you are a fan of either team or not. I am happily a Spartan, and I do love my school, but I have no particular malice for Michigan (as I grew up outside of the state). To the contrary, I have a great deal of respect for the institution, and believe it is a credit to the state, as well as to the Big Ten! Unfortunately, I do have some problems with Michigan fans, based on my experiences living in Michigan for the last couple of years. I am attending the school that is right for me; it has the best programs that I want, the experiences I desire, and the people I love; on several occasions, Wolverine fans have ignored all this and been quite rude about my school. One example stands out in my mind, because it was (ironically) in the Lansing Walmart, just a couple of years ago. I was wearing a Spartan football shirt, and looking for a green baseball cap. A woman wearing a Michigan shirt wandered over into the Spartan section of the store. She accosted me, and inquired about my major. When I told her that I was studying biochemistry and international relations (at the time), she snorted derisively and said, “You might as well use your diploma and wipe your ass with it, because that’s all a State degree is worth.” Needless to say, I was rather upset about this, and replied, “Actually, I am in the best IR program in the Midwest, and the Lyman Briggs Biochemistry program is responsible for producing scientists that make ground-breaking medicines, in conjunction with the MSU and UofM medical schools.” She replied, “Fuck Sparty, Michigan is better,” and wandered off.
    She is not typical of Michigan, and I am not trying to present her as such. However, I have had other, similar, experiences with Michigan’s fanbase, and so have many of my friends. My little brother (irony, again) is a Michigan fan, and he had a bad experience with a Spartan fan, one that I cannot (and did not) defend, and I agree that every fanbase has their assholes. The difference, to me, was that the Spartan sasser was respectful of Michigan’s achievements, but not their fans (the “WW” stereotype was mentioned more than once, quite unfairly). This is consistent in my experience with Spartan superfans.

    Anyways, I have a chemistry class to get to.

    Have a nice day!

  9. Lindsay says:

    I just donated $15.00. It was great to see you at the Green & White Gala Saturday!

  10. Kaitlyn P says:

    Amazing! I just donated!

    GO GREEN!!

  11. Marianne Breneman says:

    Thanks for such a fantastic idea to support an amazing organization! I just donated and I hope that many more Spartans and Wolverines alike will rise to the challenge.

  12. Stephanie says:

    You may want to research the “go blue” mishap a little more. As far as I know, and as far as all the articles that were posted about this, it was actually the companies fault this happened. They literally did this over the wrong stadium. It was a mistake. That was why it was so ironic and became the talk of social media networks across Michigan on Saturday. Lets be honest here, if any “student” were to pay for this, the 3,000 would be coming out of their parents pockets, not their own. Regardless of which school they attend. But the cancer funding idea is excellent, it’s too bad you thought of this AFTER a rivalry mishaps with your big brother.

  13. Cory says:

    It would be interesting to see how much the fine was for violating the No Fly Zone over Spartan stadium

  14. Scott Westerman says:

    Thanks for the comment, Stephanie. It would be a wonderful irony if the skywriting was, in fact a mistake. I’m very pleased at the response and hope that the contributions make a difference in the fight against Ovarian Cancer. Your big brother comment is unfortunate. I know both of our schools have Walmart fans, but diminishing either of our great institutions diminishes you, too. I’m guessing that you in fact are a UofM graduate and wish you well. Go Blue and Go Green!

  15. Scott Westerman says:

    Thank YOU, Sean. I’ve been moderating the inevitable negative posts from both sides of the fence. The fact that you’re willing to help save lives makes you a true Wolverine. Go Blue!

  16. Scott Westerman says:

    Hi Kevin! My $3K number was just an educated guess. There is so much unproductive negativity in sports rivalries, that I thought it would be a positive thing to focus for a moment on things that really matter. I’ve had people tell me it was a PR ploy, criticize my iPhone misspelling of the word “paid”, and make a list of all the reasons they hate MSU. I feel sorry for them. That’s not the attitude that makes for closer friendships, mutual understanding and a better world. I’m proud to see so many Spartans speaking out with their hearts and their checkbooks. Thanks for being a devil’s advocate and Go Green!

  17. Klaudia says:

    This is wonderful, Scott. I am a die-hard Spartan and will forever bleed green and white. Although, I must say my father has his chemo treatments at U of M, so I respect the university for its outstanding medical programs. This fund is absolutely brilliant and it puts things into perspective instead of putting focus on all the pettiness that comes with the rivalry. GO GREEN!

  18. Lindsay W says:

    What a great idea–Just donated! Thanks for giving us some perspective and spear-heading this movement Scott! GO GREEN!

  19. jessie says:

    Go blue all the way

  20. Spartan says:

    Mr. Westerman,

    What you did is commendable and I think truly reflects the values MSU embraces. However, I don’t think we can truly say we’re “taking the higher road” while using the term “walmart” as is commonly thrown around, and as you use it in this article, when referring to any person. It’s beside the point though – great job with the fund raising. Just to clarify, I am a Spartan of 8 years and am on my third degree from MSU.

    Go Green…
    Fellow Spartan

  21. Chris Savona says:


    Well written letter and challenge to Spartans everywhere. Just donated to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance. My wife is a 2X cancer survivor. And a Spartan. Coincidence? I think not.

    Chris Savona
    B.A. ’86
    M.S. ’94

  22. Kathryn says:

    I completely agree with this idea. My undergraduate school (not even in this part of the country) would have a fireworks show at homecoming every year. Every year we would lament about the fact that those fireworks cost the same as a year of in-state tuition and think about what we would do with that money. In this day and age, it does not matter so much if you like blue more than green, it matters that you can see past the rivalry and work together. I love the fact that U of M alumni have posted that they donated as well, that is the true meaning of higher education, working together for a common good. I’m glad we could all step up and actually do something with that $3,000. Go State and go Michigan!

  23. Michael Lovaas says:

    Via Sasha!

    I’m sorry you had this run in with this Michigan fan! Unfortunately all schools have these people! I have seen people like this from state too! I’m a Michigan fan myself but not all of Michigan fans act this way! It’s great to see all the support MSU has given to this cause but like I said all schools have these types of fans. Comparing all Michigan fans to this one woman isn’t right to do!

  24. Stefanie R says:

    Thank you, Scott! I just made my donation. This hits close to home for me as I am an ovarian cancer survivor as well. I was diagnosed as a junior at MSU. With the help of of my family and many Spartan supporters, I was able to go through treatment and graduate from MSU only a semester behind schedule. I was in East Lansing this past Saturday with family and friends (I live in DC now). We were using our tailgate to celebrate the recent engagement of my financé and me (both of us Spartans). Our group saw the ‘Go Blue’ thing in the sky, and though we were slightly annoyed, our joy of being Spartans and with friends and family on a beautiful fall in East Lansing greatly outweighed the minor annoyance caused by the emblem in the sky. I greatly appreciate your thoughtful response and completely agree — we have bigger problems to solve. GO GREEN!

  25. Scott Westerman says:

    I so agree, Sasha. The majority of the Wolverines I know are terrific. In my heart, I believe that she is, too.

  26. Scott Westerman says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Fellow Spartan. Point taken.

  27. Scott Westerman says:

    Right on, Jessie! Here’s hoping our Wolverine brothers and sisters jump on the bandwagon. Fighting cancer is something we can all agree on.

  28. Scott Westerman says:

    Klaudia, Colleen and my hearts go out to your father and your family. No one can truly know this monster until they have to face it head on. The UM Cancer Center is second to none. We received excellent treatment there. They even worked it out so Colleen could receive her chemo close to home in Lansing. We have some great cancer facilities in the area, and I can’t say whether they are better or worse. But when it comes to caring for the most important woman in my life, its Blue all the way. I’m betting that your dad is also receiving the chemo that Dr. Barney Rosenberg invented at MSU. So there is truly some Green flowing in his veins. Bless you and best of luck!

  29. Dana Cilla says:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful idea. I’m looking forward to seeing the final tally raised by MSU fans and the corresponding tally by U of M…all united for one cause. I just donated $50.00 to the cause, but didn’t see where I could earmark it as a donation on behalf of MSU. I don’t know if it’s possible under the circumstances to add this amount to MSU’s total tally in the challenge.

  30. Jeremy M says:

    I think what you are doing here is great. Nice work and a great cause. I am a UoM alum and I’ll definitely be contributing to our association as an answer to your challenge!
    Makes me remember the annual Red Cross rivalry blood drives.

  31. Al Metz and Julie Roesch says:

    Great idea, Great cause! Donation sent from 2 more Spartan Alums.

  32. Scott Westerman says:

    Thanks so much, Dana! I’m counting all money this week as MSU money 😉 Excited to hear from my UofM friends that they are gearing up to jump in.

  33. Scott Westerman says:

    Thanks, Jeremy, I love it when our two schools compete for the betterment of the world. As much as I love football, this feels more like what we were put here to do. And it’s one contest where I hope you outscore us!

  34. Jamie says:

    Great idea! Donation made, GO GREEN!!

  35. Jessica Kovan says:

    Scott, Excellent response! I doubled my donation – one for my daughter at MSU and one for my daughter at UofM – both getting fabulous educations.

  36. Lee Ann Flynn Hall says:

    Donation made. Go Green!

  37. Mike says:

    Another donation towards a great cause from a Spartan alum and father of current MSU student !!

  38. Kathy Delaney says:

    When I saw this above E. Lansing on Saturday I laughed and thought: what a waste of money and, someone needs a geography lesson!
    Very happy to contribute to this worthy cause and show “Spartans Will”.

  39. Abby says:

    Just donated $15! I think this is a great idea to use the Michigan/Michigan State rivalry for a great cause. One of my friends (who ironically goes to Michigan) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer her freshman year of college, luckly she is all clear now. Definitely a worthy cause and glad to donate.

  40. San Antonio Spartans says:

    Our alumni club will be collecting donations during the Notre Dame game on Saturday! Go Green!