My “little” brother is now several inches taller than me (and carries several more pounds of muscle) but when we were kids I owned him at nerf basketball, knee football, one-glove boxing, living room wiffle ball and any number of other outdoor sports that we adapted for indoor play during our scorching Arizona summers. The release of Nintendo games like 10 Yard Fight, Tecmo Bowl and Double Dribble gave us a new outlet for our never ending competitive battles, and here was another arena in which I was seldom defeated. Seldom. Mostly I experienced victory, but those of you who grew up with little brothers know how aggravating it was to be defeated by them. Losing to a little brother felt very different than losing to a peer, and on the rare occasions when I experienced back-to-back defeats it changed my amused, condescending attitude toward our “rivalry” into unquenchable competitive fire and I could not rest until I had regained my crown.
That’s way more of an introduction than this deserves, but replace me with Michigan and my brother with Michigan State and the story above is a pretty good description of how I feel right now about the Michigan/Michigan State football rivalry. Yes, we have more than twice the number of wins in the rivalry and there’s the national championships and the Heismans and all of that, but after two consecutive losses it’s not enough to have dominated them in the past.
Fast forward several decades and my brother is a strapping fire fighter and I am a pale and balding desk jockey. We rarely play video games anymore but when we do, the same competitive edge returns and suddenly we’re 9 and 12 year olds again. I bet it’s the same for many of you. I’ve couched (wait for it) this homage to brotherly competitive fire (yes, I see what I did there) in video game imagery as a memorial to the veterans of 8-bit battlefields and their modern-day counterparts.