This past weekend, just before the kickoff of Michigan State's 55-17 trouncing of Youngstown State, a small aircraft flew over East Lansing's Spartan Stadium and wrote out in bold letters against a cloudless, blue sky, "GO BLUE", in smoke trails. Apparently a rabid Michigan Wolverines' fan had paid the pilot $3,000 to antagonize his favorite school's "little brother" for no apparent reason.
This, folks, is nothing new. Fans will go to ridiculous lengths to embarrass and belittle their rival teams. It's gone on for decades and, frankly, it keeps the competition alive, fresh, and always interesting.
On Tuesday, something new did happen though. Executive director of the MSU Alumni Association Scott Westerman decided to fight back, but instead of encouraging Spartan fans to plunk down loads of cash on something so temporary and fruitless as a message in the sky over The Big House, he took a much more humanitarian look at the possibilities.
"I'm a private pilot and have a sense for how much it costs to do some skywriting," Westerman said. "I don't fault the Michigan fan who did it, but it felt like it would make sense to take our rivalry to a more productive level."
Westerman's family has been through a lot since his wife, Colleen, is a two-time survivor of ovarian cancer. Knowing first-hand just how much going through a treatment can cost a family financially and emotionally, and how crucial aid can be for those in need, Westerman decided to encourage Michigan State supporters to take their revenge a little differently. He posted this message on social media outlets and his website soon after:
To my Spartan friends and family:
A University of Michigan fan payed $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 his members to match.
Here is the link: http://www.mioca.org/donate
Let's show the world what Leaders, Lifesavers and World Changers do. Help me make this one go viral.
As of Tuesday night, MSU fans had raised more than $9,000 for the cause.
What's unique about Colleen Westernman's situation is that she had the efforts of both Big Ten universities invested in her recovery. She was cared for and physically-treated at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor and was prescribed carboplatin, the drug most-prescribed for ovarian cancer treatment and discovered at Michigan State University.
So far, Westerman has found the response of donations pouring in by both schools as simply stunning.
"I guess a better word than surprised is gratified," Westerman told MLive.com. "What most gratifies me is how the word has spread across our alumni network. The social media buzz has generated a massive amount of positive posts. My inbox has been flooded today with notes of support from our Spartan Nation and my Facebook alerts are off the charts."
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.