Michigan – Rival or Enemy for Notre Dame?

(UHND.com) – Dictionary.com defines the term rival as “a person who is competing for the same object or goal as another, or who tries to equal or outdo another; competitor,” while they define the term enemy as “a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another.”  If you polled most Notre Dame fans and asked which definition accurately described how they felt about Michigan, I believe a large majority would pick the latter.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to Michigan, there is really nothing about the boys from Ann Arbor that I like.  More so than any other opponent on the Notre Dame schedule, there is no other opponent who’s misery brings me more pleasure than Michigan’s.

The feeling from Michigan fans towards Notre Dame is generally the same – they can’t stand the Irish.  They can’t stand that Notre Dame is seen as “America’s Team” even though they literally, taught the Irish how to play the game or anything else about the Golden Domers.

So this brings me to my point here.  Are Notre Dame and Michigan rivals?  Or are the two storied programs enemies?  I say enemies.

Let’s look at the definition of enemy one more time piece by piece.  “A person who feels hatred for.”  Check.  Is there any other team on the Notre Dame schedule any year that fans dislike anymore than the Wolverines?  Miami and Florida State are close, but the hate that exists with Michigan is much more personal than that felt towards the Hurricanes or the Seminoles.

“Fosters harmful designs against.”  Check.  While I would never wish injury on anyone, Michigan is the one team I will generally root against no matter who they are playing – strength of scheduled be damned.  I enjoy seeing Michigan lose.  That 7-5 season by the Wolverines last year?  Truly enjoyable.  Just as those losing seasons under Davie and Willingham were eaten up by Michigan fans, Notre Dame fans love to see Michigan struggle.

“Or engages in antagonistic activities against another.”  Check.  Of all the opposing fans posting on Notre Dame message boards, are the fans from Michigan not much more prevalent than fans from other teams?  In turn, the same can be said of Notre Dame fans posting on Michigan boards.

I also don’t see how teams that have met just 33 times in 219 years can really be rivals.  Look at the Notre Dame schedule this year and you will see five teams that the Irish have played more – Army, Navy, USC, Purdue, and Michigan State.

Ever since the Wolverines traveled to South Bend in the fall of 1887 and schooled the Irish on the rules of the game, this series has been filled with hate on both sides of the ball.  Fielding Yost and Knute Rockne couldn’t stand each other and their feud was legendary.

Michigan’s Bo Schembechler’s distain for the Irish has also been well documented as recently as this past summer when he suggested Michigan remove Notre Dame from its schedule in favor of other out of conference games.

With what other school will Notre Dame fans argue over who has the better helmet?  Or the better fight song? Or the most storied past?  None.  Yet Notre Dame and Michigan fans can argue over such topics for hours.  Complicating matters here is the fact that a South Bend native wrote Hail to the Victors.  A fact that makes some Michigan fans cringe.

Contrast the feelings between Notre Dame and Michigan with the feeing between Notre Dame and USC and its quite a different scenario.  For the most part, there is a mutual respect between Notre Dame and USC as evidenced by Charlie Weis’s visit to the USC locker room after last year’s classic. Knute Rockne would roll over in his grave had Weis done that in a Michigan locker room.

This isn’t to say that the hate between these two schools and the fans of these two schools is a bad thing.  Part of what makes this series great is the distain that exists between these two college football juggernauts.  There’s been talk about ending this series recently and hopefully it is just that – talk.  This is a series that needs to continue because there is no team most Notre Dame fans enjoy beating more… or any team we hate losing to more.

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