EARLY IN the HBO documentary Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry, which premiered on Tuesday, Michigander John Bacon calls former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes the "one evil force" in his childhood. Later Bacon describes Buckeyes fans as "slightly redneckish." Viewers should expect more mature behavior from Bacon. He's an adult, after all—and a lecturer in American culture at Michigan.
Bacon is one of several respectable alumni—UM's Mike Wallace and OSU's Jack Nicklaus among them—who act like children when it comes to the 110-year-old Wolverines-Buckeyes rivalry. Their passion turns what could have been a bland, History Channel--like primer into an engaging, hourlong cultural study. Viewers will learn that those immature tendencies can be forgiven. Fans on both sides have had some poor role models, not the least of them being Hayes and former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler (right), who matched wits and tempers in a decadelong face-off that is likened to the cold war.
Still, during a touching interview with HBO filmed last year, Schembechler toasted the late Hayes. "Those 10 years with him on one side and me on the other—I wouldn't change that for anything," he says. Schembechler died a few days later, and Ohioans returned the respect. The Rivalry shows a shot of a Columbus theater marquee. The top line advertises a HATE MICHIGAN RALLY; below that, the marquee reads GOD BLESS BO.