Fight! Fight! Rah! Team, Fight! Victory for MSU!

Gennaro Filice

I’ve never really hated Michigan State. Although my distaste for Sparty is greater than my distaste for eight other Big Ten teams, it’s nowhere near my sheer hatred for the conference squad that hails from Columbus. The fact is, I have northern California roots. So, obviously, I didn’t grow up in Michigan. Therefore, never paid much attention to Michigan’s top in-state showdown, which from a national viewpoint, is a one-sided, second-tier rivalry (Michigan holds a 64-28-5 all-time advantage). Also, I don’t have any old high school buddies in East Lansing to exchange verbal jabs with on a regular basis.

So, again, I’ve never really developed the abhorrence for the colors green and white that many lifetime Michiganders boast. I guess I just haven’t been a close observer of the Wolverines for a long enough time.

But if State continues to transport me to cloud nine — like it surely did Saturday night — I don’t think any amount of time as a Michigan fan could ever make me truly despise the Spartans.

Michigan State’s 49-14 thrashing of the Badgers truly affected my being. First and foremost, Sparty’s ‘W’ gave Michigan the opportunity to control its own destiny in the Big Ten, and therefore, provided me with the ability to drop my third (and most time-consuming) class of the fall term: BCS 101. Like anybody else, I’d much rather kick off the new year in New Orleans, Tempe or Pasadena than in central Florida. And before Wisconsin lost, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how Michigan would earn a BCS at-large bid. Countless hours that I could have used to study for English 370 and English 417 went by the wayside thanks to the unbelievably outlandish intricacies of BCS 101. Now that the Big Ten’s automatic bid is Michigan’s for the taking, I don’t have to constantly worry about Jeff Sagarin’s computer and I sleep like a narcoleptic baby.

Although it’s nice to be able to ignore this BCS jargon that has engaged every brain cell in my head (at this point, they are a limited commodity) for the last month this wasn’t the most profound effect that State’s Badger bashing had on me.

In the days before Saturday’s final home contest, it became more and more apparent to me that the Northwestern game would be the final time I’d be able to roll out of bed and into the Big House. A senior with limited credits left at my disposal, I’m not going to be able to live my dream of returning for one final football season (and a fifth year of school, as well). Northwestern was my last hurrah as an undergrad. While I know I’ll be returning to Michigan Stadium in the future, there’s no guarantee that it will be in the near future. And this fact stared deeper into my eyes as last week progressed.

On gameday, the emotions really started flowing.

Walking down State Street, I began to reminisce on the first time I encountered this Maize and Blue zoo. When I hit Hoover Street, the Michigan Marching Band’s pregame “Step Show” captured my thinking.

Once I entered the gates on Saturday, I put on my game face and strolled to up the press box. During the game, my emotions stayed subdued due to my immediate interest with the play on the field.

But, in the fourth quarter, I was blindsided by an usher and went into a emotional tailspin.

With just under seven minutes left in the game, I left the press box and headed down to the field. But on my way out, an usher flashed her pearly whites with a smile and shot me a “See ya next year.”

My heart plummeted to my Sperry Topsiders. I wouldn’t be seeing the usher a year from now. This was it.

I spent the game’s final five minutes gawking at the Michigan student section from field level, wishing I was one of the many freshman I could easily point out.

After the game, my depression continued to mount as some of Michigan’s senior players shared their own sentimentality with me.

Walking through the Crisler Arena parking lot after my postgame interviews, I can honestly say that I was more dejected leaving Michigan Stadium than ever before (yes, I’m including the 2001 loss to Ohio State and the 2002 drubbing at the hands of Iowa). One of the great chapters in my life — four years of live Michigan football — was coming to a close.

My friends at home shared in my despair — one even said he teared up at the game’s conclusion.

So we sat there brokenhearted for a few minutes.

But then, out of nowhere, Sparty came to the rescue.

Watching the Michigan State blowout brought us hope and glee. And it completely changed my spin on this column.

I was planning on writing a dejected, I’ll-miss-you-Big-House, senior sendoff. And this piece probably would have been followed by a few days of moping and contemplating what future fall’s would be like without a steady dose of Michigan Stadium.

But Michigan State’s win — and my ensuing mood swing — made me realize that there’s no point in moping. This team has a chance to take a second straight trip to Pasadena, and that’s a hell of a way to go out. I must fully enjoy the limited time I have left in my final football season as an undergraduate student or I’ll be kicking myself down the line. I’ve got the rest of my life to yearn for the good old days, and so do you.

Seniors, I know many of you shared my melancholy demeanor on Saturday afternoon. I know this because, despite the game’s blowout status, the student section stayed full ’til the final second ticked off the clock.

I know that it’s difficult to imagine a year (or many years) without a single Saturday in the Big House.

But I also know that you must put off any glum feelings at least until after this football season is over. You have to enjoy the moment while you’re in it.

Although this wasn’t my outlook at 5 p.m. on Saturday, by 8 p.m. I was a changed man. And, had you dropped by my house on Saturday night, you’d have known this by my ear-to-ear grin and incessant recitals of a certain song:

On the banks of the Red Cedar …

 

Gennaro Filice has been wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt for 48 straight hours and he can be reached at gfilice@umich.edu.

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