Commentary

Rock star shows U-M pride

Drummer for Red Hot Chili Peppers riles crowd at Ohio State concert

Updated: June 12, 2012, 2:24 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

It was spontaneous, born out of a conversation Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith was having with lead singer Anthony Kiedis before a concert in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this month.

[+] EnlargeChad Smith
Courtesy of Clara BalzaryDrummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sang part of the Michigan fight song at a concert on the Ohio State campus recently.
Both Michigan football fans, they were talking before the show about Ohio State. The conversation pushed the Buckeyes to the forefront of his mind. What resulted has gone viral.

At the end of the Chili Peppers' show June 4 in Ohio State's basketball arena, the Schottenstein Center, Smith threw his drum sticks into the crowd, picked up the microphone and sung the first line-and-a-half of the Michigan fight song, 'The Victors.'

"At the end of the concert, we play a lot of songs people know, which is great, they come to hear some of the old chestnuts, the 'Give it Away' and 'Under the Bridge' and 'Californication,' " Smith said Tuesday. "I thought it would it would be nice to leave them with another song they know well, just a tidbit. I didn't sing the whole thing.

"Like Happy Birthday, you just have to start it and people know how it goes, they know the song. That was it, man."

The reaction kind of surprised the lifelong Michigan fan. He woke up Monday morning to tweets and messages from Michigan fans expressing their love of what he did and Ohio State fans not being as appreciative.

It was a similar reaction to what he received that night.

"It was spontaneous. I had a Michigan hat; I didn't wear it the whole show but we come out, play three or four more songs and fly the flag a little bit," Smith said. "I have the U of M hat and some of them saw it. I shouldn't say I've never seen it but where they are flipping you off but still cheering like 'Yeeaahhhh,' but still have their middle fingers up at you. It's kind of an interesting dynamic.

"I got a Red Wings sticker on my bass drum. I'm Michigan, man, and I think they should appreciate my loyalty as I do theirs. It just so happens we both aren't on the same side, but that's OK."

Smith grew up watching the Wolverines under Bo Schembechler as a middle school and high school student in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. When he met Kiedis, he learned the two shared a love of Michigan sports, including the Wolverines.

Now, whenever the Chili Peppers go to play Columbus, he and Kiedis become a little extra excited because they know all about the rivalry.

Smith isn't the only Michigan person to irk the Buckeyes lately. Last month, Michigan recruit Logan Tuley-Tillman burned an Ohio State recruiting letter and posted it to Twitter. He received a ton of backlash.

Smith hadn't heard of the incident, but when told about it, he laughed.

"He burned it? That's a guy after my heart, that one," Smith said. "There's such, no pun intended, a heated rivalry between the two schools. Basketball, Ohio State has the upper hand, but my love and affinity and loyalty through the ups and downs of all the sports teams I love will stay true.

"At the end of the concert I got the microphone, and what are you going to do? They came to see us."

Smith insisted it was all in fun. He appreciates the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and the passion the Buckeyes fans have.

It wasn't planned, Smith said. It just happened at the end of the show.

"It was just an afterthought. I really didn't think I was going to really stick it to the Ohio State fans," Smith said. "It wasn't malicious or mean, it's all in fun, the spirit of competition. It's not like the game is next week or something, it's just the town. That's Columbus.

"I didn't really think anything of it but then I'm getting stuff from U of M alumni, like 'Oh, we love you.' I'm just like 'OK, great, thanks I guess.' It's just a goof. You have to have a sense of humor about this stuff. It's a rock concert. Come on."

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter