When Manny Brown awakened early on a cold November day four years ago, the 32-year-old Warren resident noticed an odd tinge of blue reflecting off of his front lawn and through his bedroom window.
"I said, 'Why the heck is the water department getting this close to the house?'" Brown recalled, initially believing the paint marked water lines below the ground.
However, as he walked outside to inspect further, the picture narrowed into focus.
Michigan fan Sean Tryan of Warren, left, and Ohio State fan Emmanuel ‘‘Manny’’ Brown of Howland enjoy pranking each other while supporting their teams each year for what’s become known as ‘‘The Game.’’
A nighttime visitor had painted a large block "M" in Brown's front yard with maize and blue spray paint, with the phrase "Go Blue" scrawled underneath it.
Considering Brown, a big Ohio State fan, was leaving for the annual college football rivalry hours later, the message was clear. The plot thickened when he began trying to answer the question of who was responsible.
"I had no idea who it was," he laughed. "One of my other good friends is a Michigan fan and he's a painter for a living, so he was the first person I thought of."
But while driving to Columbus, the answer began revealing itself via cryptic text messages.
"First, I got a picture of a blue paint can," Brown said. "Then, the yellow can."
Finally, the mastermind decided to step forward.
Sean Tryan, a friend and lifelong Michigan supporter, was the culprit.
"I give him kudos because he painted it in the rain," Brown said. "And it wasn't until the spring when I could get it completely out.
''My wife Christy was in on it, too, because she's a Michigan fan. She tipped him off that we were going out that night."
According to Tryan, the idea came to him naturally.
"Knowing his wife (is a Michigan fan) and he's a big Buckeye fan, I just decided to do it," Tryan said.
For Brown, the late-night visit marked the beginning of something bigger.
"It was war after that," Brown declared.
The following year, the Ohio State fan knew he had to strike back.
A party for the game hosted at Brown's house featured a large portable message board, "Christy and Sean love Ohio State."
Over the years, the two have gone back and forth, covering each other's cars with decals, putting various signs around the city and even sending pizzas with pepperoni messages spelled out.
"I thought I got him last year by putting decals all over his car," Brown said. "Then, the doorbell rings and there's a pizza with a big 'M' on it.
"Well, at least he bought me dinner that night," he laughed.
Now, as the game approaches this Saturday, the friends are bracing themselves for more over-the-top pranks.
Already, Tryan has put a sign up and covered Brown's yard in tiny Michigan flags.
"I haven't been able to get him yet, because I plow snow and obviously I've been busy this week," Brown said.
Last week, Tryan won tickets to the big game in Ann Arbor through a giveaway by UPS.
"I was in a chat room talking about the game and a message popped up asking for my address, saying I had won tickets," Tryan said. "At first, I thought it was Manny trying to get me, but then I realized the Twitter message was from UPS and they had 50,000 followers."
The next day, the tickets arrived. He will travel north Friday afternoon for the noon Saturday kickoff.
Brown, who will be watching the game from the comfort of his living room, hopes to exact revenge before his buddy leaves town.
"He's had a little more time off than me recently, so he's gotten ahead of me," Brown said. "But it's coming."