Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sparty Gameday

I arrived in East Lansing at about 11:30, after a late start Saturday morning, my tailgating partners significantly ahead of me. I heard that Munn was mostly full. I was still a good half hour from East Lansing, on any day, much less a day that the Spartans had been counting down since hiring the the successor to the Crazed One. I was worried that with traffic and parking I might not get to the tailgate before 1pm. I did find parking at the corner of Harrison and Michigan with no problem at all. And, for only $15. There are many reasons to dislike Michigan State, both in general, and on football Saturdays. The price to park your car gameday is not one of them.

I proceeded directly to meet my cronies, about one half Michigan faithful, and the other Sparties. Nice spread, lots of food. Great beer -- I recommend a growler stop at Michigan Brewing Company on your way past Webberville. Even Sparty fans can appreciate a good brew (not something which can be said for Penn State fans). Try the Imperial IPA, or the High Seas. Excellent choices.

Both Wolverines and Sparties were in good spirits before the game. Sparty not optomistic, but still believing in the Great Dream. The one moment that would make the year. Every Sparty we encountered during the tailgate, and on the way to the stadium was reasonably behaved -- keep in mind this was a 3:30 game with lots of partying going on before kickoff, not that it would have mattered since partying would have started at 7:30 for a 1pm kickoff.

It had been a few years since my last trip to spartan stadium. My last trip was Chris Perry's domination of the Spartan defense.

It's easy to forget how poorly that stadium is designed. For those who complain about the time to enter or exit Michigan Stadium, the time to get to the concession stand, or for that matter most anything at all about the game experience involving the stadium itself, make a visit to East Lansing.

Entering the stadium resulted in a herd of traffic in the bowels of the stadium that can best be described as pigs being blindly herded to the slaughterhouse. Literally, I could not extend my arm from my elbow in this mass of humanity. There were quite a few Michigan fans in this mass, though. While there were a few ASseD (Appy State) comments, we fired back with the "Let's Go Lakers" chant -- about half of Sparty got it -- really, only half. The remainder just had that dazed John L. look on their face. Maybe its the water.

One thing about every Sparty game I've been to -- you can always count on one or two middle aged angry Spartan fans to get all scary and stuff. Only one of these knuckleheads actually gave us a threatening look. He couldn't have shown his fists had he wanted to among this herd.

Upon entering Section 19, we went up. Farther up than I expected given our seats in row 45. We were in our seats about 10 minutes before kickoff. It was truly amazing how few people were in their seats at that point. Even after kickoff, there were empty seats throughout our section. Not until the end of the first quarter were all of the seats filled. This was really suprising. I can't remember a Michigan home game against a MSU, OSU, ND or even PSU where every seat near me wasn't occupied shortly after kickoff.

We led right away, and the guy in the seat next to me (who, incidentally brought the MBC beer and had quite a few) was feeling pretty confident. Sparty did not like this confidence. There were shouts from above. Something about ASseD again. My friend reminded Sparty about the Lakers which bred silence, and then rubbed it in a little more when he duly noted the bad call by the refs that prevented the Lakers from winning in regulation.

Michigan, somewhat predictably, got conservative and did nothing in the second quarter. Sadly, the game was uneventful until halftime. At halftime, Sparty trotted a dog onto the field. I assumed this dog was some marvel from the school of veterinary medicine -- something about Jake the party dog who could shotgun a beer whist standing on his tail. Our neighbors in the row above were kind enough to steer us in the right direction. It turns out that this animal is not a veterinary marvel, rather he is Jake Jr., or Jake III, or something like that. Anyway, Jake is supposed to catch frisbies. it looks like Jake is not under the tutelage of veterinary medicine students because he is not very good. Like Sparty, Jake should practice catching more often. [correction, thanks to comment board and hometown sparties, it's zeke III -- and he is the receivers coach for sparty]

After halftime, State scored. Then they scored again, and yet again. This is not good. Especially considering the way JayHooooo was running right over us. I was concerned.

That is until, we stopped overthrowing open bombs, and started hitting the 10 to 15 yard out pattern at will. Even before scoring that first touchdown, I knew we were going to come back. I actually told the Sparty in front of me, who had sniped comments here and there after taking the lead, that we were going to win the game. He didn't believe me, at first. But, there was no question in my mind. And, after we scored to make it 21 - 24, I tapped him on the shoulder to remind him that we were going to win -- he mumbled something about only wanting to win one game a year. At that point, I think everyone sitting around me, Sparty or Wolverine, believed Michigan would win the game. The Sparty d had no answer for the short to mid out patterns, and couldn't get to Henne. If you watched it on tv, you probably didn't see the cushion the Michigan receivers were given -- you could fit 10 each of Monte Clark and George Perles' (or a mere baker's dozen of Charlie) between Mario and the nearest defender.

Henne was great during these last 7 minutes. He made good reads, and threw on target. The pass to Mario was a thing of beauty. It was right in our corner, and it was a perfect pass. Keep in mind that Henne had not thrown a ball all week to his receivers. As Lloyd said: "If you want to define courage, one way to do it is mention Chad Henne,".

Going into the game, I thought 3o points would win it, and we were still 2 points short, so I was a little nervous with all that time on the clock. But, the D came through, and we sang the Victors with our Michigan brethren among the frustrated middle aged angry spartans. Ahhh, sweet victory. We watched the Michigan band until it played Temptation and the Hawaiian War Chant, because, as you know, you can't have one without the other, and then headed back to the tailgate.

Go Blue!