In the autumn of 1948, a sweet young lady in Royal Oak named Margaret Basey was preparing to go to Michigan Stadium for another Football Saturday with her father. Unfortunately, that week he could not take his eldest daughter to see the Maize and Blue. So Margaret went in search of a ride to Ann Arbor. Once she arrived at work, she asked a young World War II veteran named Ralph Jackson that handled her supply orders to join her, and he happily agreed.
Things went so well that they bought season tickets together in 1949, and they were married before the 1950 campaign. Thirty-one years later, their first grandson – Steven James Jackson – was born.
So when you think about it, I can thank the Michigan Football Saturday atmosphere for my very existence.
This weekend, the story came full circle. Fifty-four years after she asked my grandfather out for their first date, the rest of my family asked “Grandma Jack” to join us for Saturday’s Michigan-Michigan State game at the Big House.
In the Ann Arbor Pioneer High School parking lot before the game, the sweetest widow in the world retold tales of the fun times she and my grandfather had watching the Wolverines drive up and down the field till the band grew tired of playing “The Victors.” After the game, she said the 46-point blowout was eerily similar to some of the games on those first dates, but she would have preferred to see a closer game – as would the rest of my family.
Although Michigan Stadium may have helped start the Jackson family, it was still a Spartan crowd that accompanied me to Section 43 Saturday. My father graduated from Michigan State, and my younger brother is currently studying engineering in East Lansing.
There are all kinds of baby photos of me in MSU outfits; I rooted for the Spartans for most of my life, and I never attended a Michigan football game before college. But eventually I was converted, leaving my father with a sizable collection of new Michigan State clothes when I moved into South Quad freshman year.
I am the prodigal son – the first Jackson ever to attend Michigan and perhaps the last in line for the family inheritance.
But at least this year I’ll have bragging rights. I won’t have to read “26-24” at the end of every e-mail from my brother, yet I fear the Jan. 26 basketball score may replace it soon enough.
My basketball fears, however, pale in comparison to the pregame concerns of my Spartan brother. On Friday, when I was driving him to Ann Arbor, he said, “Honestly, I just hope we come out of this with some sort of dignity.”
Last year, he and I stood in the Michigan State student section during the debacle that took place on Nov. 3. While I’ll admit that I would rather sit through one torturous final drive than watch my team get destroyed like the Spartans did Saturday, Mr. Timekeeper certainly spoiled that family gathering for me.
After T.J. Duckett caught the floater from Jeff Smoker to win the game, the raucous Spartan Stadium crowd knocked me off my feet, and pushed my brother (more than 200 pounds of him) several rows down. When I finally located him, just three words escaped my lips: “Let’s go NOW!” Then I followed my All-Conference high school center to safety and a Jimmy John’s sub, before finally retreating to Washtenaw County.
Since he saved me from bodily harm and delivered me safely away from the mob, I’ll be nice and restrain myself from mentioning Saturday’s final score in this column. In fact, I’ll talk about the Spartans’ one big success instead.
On its first drive, Michigan State completed a long pass to wide receiver Charles Rogers, and scored three points as a result. This prompted my father (a.k.a. Nostradamus) to take a photo of the scoreboard while it stood at 3-0 MSU.
“It might not get much better than this,” he quipped.
Well put, Pops.
After last year’s big win, he proudly strolled into church the morning after the game with one of his several Michigan State ties. This time around, he chose his outfit differently.
“There was really no need for the Spartan tie today,” he said with a laugh. “Actually, I wore all black.”
Steve Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.