Dear Spartan fans,
Thank you. It’s obvious that Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State football program have a lot to be proud of these days. Following MSU’s magical Rose Bowl victory, the media has been saturated with article upon article highlighting MSU’s success on the field and praising Coach Dantonio’s steady guidance of the Spartans through these improbable and awe-inspiring victories.
While this admiration for the players and coaches is rightfully deserved, I would like to take this time to thank another group of people who helped make MSU’s California dream become a reality: the fans at the game.
When I, and another 19 million television viewers tuned into the game on New Year’s Day, I was amazed to see a Rose Bowl Stadium that appeared to be nearly two-thirds of the way filled with green clad Spartan supporters.
As a member of the vastly outnumbered contingent of MSU fans at the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State, where close to 70 percent of the stadium was scarlet; I must say I did not see this Spartan invasion of Southern California coming. I mean, I knew our fans would represent, but I in no way predicted a Spartan Stadium like the atmosphere in Pasadena.
Following the team to the Rose Bowl is a lot more challenging than watching the Spartans play in Indianapolis or on the road in the Big Ten. Rose Bowl ticket prices were averaging nearly $600, and that was just to get into the game! The vast majority of our fans had to purchase outrageously overpriced airline tickets and hotel accommodations as well, while most Stanford fans had the luxury of driving to and from the stadium.
These obstacles certainly kept me from making the trip to Pasadena. Even though I knew seeing this game in person was potentially a once in a lifetime opportunity, I ultimately had to enjoy the festivities from my couch in Bay City, Mich., which wasn’t awful either. But before kickoff, I worried that many other Spartan fans would be hindered by the same difficulties that prevented me from attending the game, and yet again, MSU players would be met with a sea of red dominating a supposedly neutral stadium, like at the Big Ten Championship Game.
But one look at the crowd proved that my pregame fears could not have been any more unfounded. In spite of all the barriers, MSU fans dominated the Rose Bowl in an overwhelming fashion. There is a lesson here; do not doubt Spartan Nation. Lesson learned. Thank you fans.
A few days after the Rose Bowl, I read a transcript of the speech former MSU star quarterback Kirk Cousins gave before a crowd of more than 27,000 Spartan fans crammed into the heart of the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles at the official MSU pep rally the day before the game.
Football, he stressed, is first and foremost “a game of emotion.” Kirk then went on to say that the next day, when the Spartan players look up and realize “that 75 percent of the Rose Bowl is green and white, you don’t even understand the emotion that’s going to well up inside of them and the pride that they’re going to play with.”
Kirk, as usual, was spot on. The Spartans played inspired football, and despite going down early, looked entirely unwilling to accept anything but a victory. As I watched, it was clear that, just as Kirk had predicted, the team played with a purpose beyond simply winning for themselves, but instead played for the mass of people around them who sacrificed so much to be there.
Senior offensive linemen Fou Fonoti perhaps best captured the fans effect on the game’s outcome when he said in a postgame interview how he wished he personally could have shaken hands with every Spartan in attendance at the Rose Bowl. That is the kind of the emotion and pride Kirk spoke about the day before, and it may very well have been the difference between victory and defeat.
On the biggest stage and under the brightest lights, Spartan Nation delivered. They, as Coach Dantonio said during the postgame celebration, came to Pasadena “in force” and showed the world the spirit and passion that epitomizes MSU. For the rest of us who could not be at the game for one reason or another, all I can say is thank you, Spartan fans.
Alex Dardas is an international relations and journalism junior. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.