Another Week, Another Fight in the Tunnel

Living in Michigan, I am no stranger to the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry. My rivalry started when I was four years old. I walked by a TV and saw Michigan State hosting Michigan and couldn’t understand how a state was playing itself. One of my aunts, a Michigan State grad, tried to explain it to me. She wasn’t successful, which was obvious when I asked if we could rout for both. My aunt was emphatic that I had to choose a side, so I chose the opposite side- I was always a cheeky little snot. My story is not unique. In Michigan, you have to choose a side, and to some degree, you have to be obnoxious, to lose your humanity, and to justify actions that aren’t normal-like a four year old mouthing off to adults.

Still, we hit an all time low on Saturday: a low that can’t be justified. Just one game after the PB&J incident between Michigan and Penn State, a Michigan player was attacked in the tunnel by a mob of Spartan players. Obviously, it is too early to know everything that transpired, and there are a ton of questions that have to be answered: why was this Michigan player by himself and was anything done to precipitate this assault to name a couple. Still, the event itself is shocking and disgusting.

To some degree, I am not surprised. The Michigan-MSU rivalry is very heated. The game started with a very early Unsportsman’s Like flag and saw multiple others for the Spartans. The announcers mentioned that a late pass interference call was a message that the Spartans weren’t fans of the deep pass at the end of the game. Shoot, the game ended with Michigan players taunting the State players after the game, and the two teams had to be separated in the handshake line. Tensions running high are completely to be expected; every player that cares about the game, regardless of what one it is, has come up to the line of acceptability or slightly crossed it at some point in their career. The tunnel incident, however, is not letting the moment get away from you or just a slight cross of the line.

Michigan turning this incident to the authorities is the right move. Mel Tucker has publicly stated that he will address it and act appropriately. Unfortunately, Coach Tucker can’t be allowed to do the discipline, nor can the MSU administration be the deciders-this is too big; plus, Tucker stopped short of a just decision when he suspended four players: Tank Brown, Angelo Grose, Zion Young, and Khary Crump. A close look at the video easily shows that Brown (19), Young (18), and Grose (15) are attacking Michigan Ja’Den McBurrows, but it appears Charles Brantley (0) is also involved in the altercation, though it is inconclusive. The key thing though is that four players were suspended, and three were involved in the McBurrows incident. The fourth individual, Crump, can be seen be held back by three Spartan players (huge kudos to those three players for doing the right thing), yet there were two players involved in the helmet incident (as shown in the video below). The second unidentifiable person wasn’t suspended because the video was too grainy to identify the number. Regardless, there was another potential perpetrator of a crime. There is a chance that the second person was trying to pull Gemon Green to safety, but it would seem that a kid doing the right thing would be lauded instead of hidden.

This issue brings up another germane question, what should happen if more information comes out in the police investigation and Brantley was involved? What if the second player in the Green incident was not helping? Charles Brantley has been a productive member of the secondary, a secondary that is losing a productive member in Grose. The second player in the Gemon Green incident appears to be the size of a lineman, which has already lost a productive member in Zion Young. Tank Brown and Khary Crump are players that had not seen much time, so the loss of these players would not have the same impact. We must find out the identity and role of the unknown player and the exact roll of Brantley.

The State players involved are young men, and young men are still learning and growing; still, a group of people beating up one or two people, with helmets as weapons, must be met with legal ramifications. I am not advocating for jail time, but I am advocating for community service, fines, suspensions, and other similar punishments. I am also advocating that every person involved is punished, not just the ones that are identifiable on video. Mel Tucker is the more interesting case. His quick suspension is either contrition (laudable) or an attempt to control the narrative and protect players that were involved. In the latter’s case, Mel Tucker should be fired immediately.

Our society has become too aggressive and too free to act in ways that my father would have paddled my behind for half of the behavior. People justify antics in sports that are disgusting. Coaches at all levels yell, swear, belittle, and mentally abuse kids everyday in sports, but we let it pass because it’s “a part” of sports. Fans spew profanity, slurs, and critiques on physical appearance at teenage players every day, often with high school administrators nodding their heads in approval. Parents post vile online comments about kids from opposing teams, or the same parents cheer when kids get hurt. The amount of Keyboard Warriors we have on social media that are protected by “Free Speech” fuel the anger and hatred in our society. Partisan news sources like CNN and Fox further exacerbate the amount of rage in our country.

The Michigan State players probably aren’t bad kids- shoot, they are probably normally really good kids that just happened to be in a bad situation, but they are part of a society that justifies all of these behaviors. Something needs to change, and someone needs to be the example. Actually, a lot of people need to start being an example. Our great nation should not be one where these actions are condoned, or we should just come to terms with more and more of these reports.

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One thought on “Another Week, Another Fight in the Tunnel

  1. It’s too bad that sports have come to this! Totally agree that something needs to be done for punishment! If there are never any consequences it will just simply continue! Good article Jeff!

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