Vittert: Politicians can learn from Wolverines, Spartans

On Balance with Leland Vittert

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 29: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines shakes hands with head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — I don’t cover a lot of sports on “On Balance,” but going back to the time of the Romans, literally 2,000 years ago, sports say a lot about culture. In many ways, sports is an extension of culture.

In a bizarre turn of events, the president of a university — an academic — is showing us a level of leadership sadly lacking among even our politicians these days.

University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh said he expects criminal charges against Michigan State players for a postgame beatdown of members of his winning team.

Video from the tunnel in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where players head to the locker rooms, shows two Michigan players getting caught and beaten by a Michigan State mob.

The rivalry between the two schools is storied and intense, with cheers and jeers and brutal mocking through the game. Dare I say it’s a rivalry like we see in politics.

I’ve spent every summer in Michigan since I was born. Michigan people mock Michigan State fans as hicks who couldn’t get into Michigan. Michigan State grads respond that Michigan is just a bunch of stuck-up jerks. As with most stereotypes, there is a reason they are stereotypes.

After the tunnel incident, Michigan State University President Samuel Stanley Jr. said, “There is no provocation that could justify the behavior we are seeing on the videos. Rivalries can be intense but should never be violent.”

That was it. No what-about-ism. No blaming the Michigan fans for gloating after a win. It was about personal responsibility.

Michigan State head football coach Mel Tucker suspended four of his players indefinitely and ordered everybody else to cooperate with law enforcement. That’s refreshing.

And Harbaugh didn’t go on the attack against Michigan State. Again, refreshing. He talked about the players that beat up his kids. He wanted them punished. He didn’t demand justice against Michigan State.

I’m not writing about this because of the reasonable behavior after this weekend’s game. We’re talking about it because of the complete craziness after the brutal attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, from both sides.

Many on the left, including MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and even White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, compared Paul Pelosi’s alleged attacker to Jan. 6 rioters.

And on the right, commentators like Fox News’ Jesse Waters brought up the cashless bail debate and said San Francisco prosecutors only jailed David DePape because he attacked Pelosi’s husband.

Some went on to suggest without even a shred of evidence that DePape was a male prostitute servicing Pelosi. It’s disgusting.

It’s rare when profiles in role model behavior come from college football coaches and university presidents. It’s actually kind of refreshing.

In an ideal world, we look to politicians for the good example, but these days you have to take examples where you can get them.

It’s even more fitting that a Michigan State Spartan fan pointed this out to me. She’s a die-hard graduate of the school, but she didn’t blame Michigan fans or even try to excuse the actions of those Spartan players.

Spartans were Greek, not Roman, of course. But it says something about our culture when we get better examples from those in sports than those in politics.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

© 1998 - 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. | All Rights Reserved.

Trending on NewsNation

Elections 2022

More Elections 2022