A few days after the Spartans trumped Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship, I received a call from my mother. To my surprise, she asked if I would be interested in going to Pasadena, Calif., to watch MSU’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 26 years.
A younger me would have accepted the offer without hesitation, but I had a heavy course load this fall, and in many ways, I had lost touch with the Spartan football community, so I told my mom I would think about it. In the following days, my mother, uncle and grandfather told me that this was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, and I would be foolish to miss out.
It still was hard to overcome my disillusionment with MSU football and what it meant to the university, especially after recent couch burnings and the Cedar Village extravaganza. I couldn’t help but think “Should I allow this football team’s success to define my college career?” and if so, “Are these traditions I will be proud of when speaking of my college years?”
After more encouragement from my family and friends, I decided I would be in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. A group of my friends from MSU was heading there in my buddy’s mini van, so I tagged along. We saw many breathtaking sights along the way, but none were thriving like the scene at Rose Bowl Stadium.
The surrounding area of the stadium was flooded with green, as there was an overwhelming majority of Spartan fans at the game. We traveled well. You could feel the solidarity among the Michigan State fans that had come from all over the country to see the game.
The warm weather and anticipation in the air made it feel like the first home game of the year at Spartan Stadium. As we wandered around the stadium, soaking in the sun and lively atmosphere, we struck up conversation with State students and alumni of all ages. Many of them spoke about the rich tradition of the Rose Bowl, and they were quick to tell us how lucky we were that we were students during Michigan State’s historic season.
We felt connected as we yelled “GO GREEN,” always receiving a cheerful “GO WHITE” in response. Cheers continued to roar throughout the Rose Bowl Stadium as we watched the game. The crowd exploded with euphoria as our defense stuffed Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-one at the end of the fourth quarter to clinch a Rose Bowl victory.
I couldn’t help but remove myself from the hype and question the meaning of this great event. I thought about my friends at home who were far more committed to MSU’s football program than I was. Friends who were far more devoted to the university than I was. I almost felt guilty because surely this moment would have been more significant for them. I felt pressured to make the most of the moment, which was a feeling I didn’t enjoy.
As we were exiting the stadium, I heard an older man yell, “It better not be another 26 years!” At that moment, I felt what he was saying. It would be a shame if MSU fans had to wait another 26 years to capture that type of energy and camaraderie.
On our journey home, we reflected on our feelings about the event, my friend Madison said that “it was an excuse, an excuse for all of us to travel to California and represent our university.”
We agreed we would remember this trip for the rest of our lives, and our friends who couldn’t make it to Pasadena shouldn’t be robbed of that experience in the future.
Thomas Kladis is a comparative cultures and politics junior. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.