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October 2, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Right In The Baby Maker: U of M's Skywriting Stunt Sparks MSU Donation Spree

By Rachael Ellen More Blogs by This Author

I’m not  fluent in football gameday lingo, but  I can hold my own at the tailgates and in the stadium. If I ever get too lost, I look to the diehards around me and try to reflect their reactions: “That was an awful call! Come on ref, get your head outta your ass!”

In which I respond: “Yeah! You stink!”

Well, something like that.

It’s not completely my fault, I was raised with baseball junkies; my entire childhood revolved around softball, but I didn’t get the memo that football was a life skill requirement for social activity until high school.

In my ignorance, I did understand one concept: Michigan State University Spartans and University of Michigan Wolverines hate each other. (If you’re reading this and saying “well, DUH,” have a little faith, I get smarter as we go.) I grew up in West Michigan where fans would always fight after a game, blaming bad calls and referee favoritism as the cause of their defeats.

It’s a Plane?

Recently, these schools’ rivalry has taken to the sky. The University of Michigan dished out between $3,000 to $5,000 for a private pilot to write “Go Blue” above the Michigan State stadium during a game against Youngstown State.

Excessive? I would say so.

Competition is a beautiful thing-- it drives our economy, it creates opportunities--but dropping a couple thousand dollars on cloud letters? Yes, U of M, you are now reaffirming your self-perceived superiority in a size gagillion font. Very nice.

The real BS didn’t come in until the University of Michigan’s athletic department was approached about the skywriting. They claimed that they were responsible for the writing, but not the location above the stadium. In their response, they explained that the writing was supposed to show up around various locations in Michigan, with no specific destination enclosed.

What a load of bologna.

In my mind (and in the mind of the pilot who commented that they were given specific instructions on location) there is no way that a plane can just “happen” to fly over and write “GO BLUE” above fierce rival territory during a game that tens of thousands of people are attending.  

If I Could Teach the World to Sing...

Out of this “mine is bigger than your’s display,” Michigan State threw a curveball. Scott Westerman, head of the MSU Alumni Association, decided that U of M’s prank shouldn’t be answered with another stunt.

Instead, Westerman challenged the MSU alumni and fans to match the $3,000-$5,000 amount with donations to the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and with Westerman’s wife currently in remission after battling ovarian cancer twice, the call to action couldn’t have been more timely.

Westerman’s wife, Colleen, was treated at the University of Michigan for her ovarian cancer. On the last day of her chemotherapy, Westerman thanked the nursing and medical staff that treated his wife.

“You guys know that I’m a Spartan,” Westerman said “but I want to thank you from the bottom of my Spartan heart for saving my wife’s life.”

It was after that sentiment that the staff pointed to his wife’s chemo bottle. “It wasn’t us. It was that drug (carboplatin), which was invented at Michigan State University.”

Cue the waterworks and blubbering.

The emotional tie and collaboration that occurs every day between these two universities was the inspiration that motivated Westerman to call MSU and U of M to action.

His inspiring response to U of M’s prank resulted in a huge outpouring of support from MSU alumni. In just over one week, Spartans and alumni had raised more than $40,000 for ovarian cancer. During the height of donations, a Facebook post reported that U of M had raised a measly twenty dollars.

Kickin’ Cancer’s Butt: One “Friendly” Competition at a Time

When I first saw the picture of the skywriting, I wondered how MSU would take their revenge. But I must say that this show of competition was refreshing. MSU could have taken intense offense at U of M’s prank.

But, this gent Westerman decided to flip a negative to a positive. He played the system of competition for the good of an organization that needed serious funding. With the help of Spartan alumni, the donations raised surpassed the $37,000 amount budgeted by the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance for 2013.

Spartans: 1.

Ovarian cancer: 0.

Wolverines: Burn.

The humor of Spartans receiving the glory for a stunt meant to “Hail the Blue” makes me smile. However, we can’t forget to give U of M some recognition for their role in this production. In a twisted way, I guess ovarian cancer should thank them. Without the cloud letters, the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance never would have seen so much support.


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