SAN FRANCISCO — When Michigan State fan and 1991 alumnus Howie Borin watches the Spartans, he gets to see two of his favorite things in the world.
His Spartans, and for the last two years, his son, microbiology sophomore Mitchell, performing on the MSU marching band's drum line, and after taking Mitchell to games at Spartan Stadium since he was 8 months old.
“It’s been a great experience,” Borin said. “Before he was in the band, he traveled with me to the Cotton Bowl (when MSU went to the College Football Playoff during the 2015 season) and the Rose Bowl (in the 2013 season) just to see them play. Now to have him out there is an incredible experience.
“You’re really combining two of my favorite things in the world, which is watching my kids do anything and watching Michigan State football.”
And that was no different Sunday afternoon, as Borin watched Mitchell and the rest of the MSU marching band participate in the Redbox Bowl pep rally at Justin Herman Plaza, along with Oregon’s marching band, with speeches from Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, MSU coach Mark Dantonio and players from both teams.
Which Josh Heinze, a 2017 MSU alumnus, said was “awesome,” to see Spartans come to the western U.S., to watch MSU (7-5, 5-4 in Big Ten) take on Oregon (8-4, 5-4 in Pac-12) at noon PST on New Year’s Eve at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s really cool having the marching band and all those guys here, because for us, we have to fly 2,000 miles back home to see them,” said Heinze, who’s a Plymouth-Canton native but is currently working in San Francisco. “To have them in our backyard, it’s just a really cool experience.”
Borin, who’s been to four of MSU’s last five bowl games including this year, said the turnout for the pep rally and other events so far in San Francisco “is much smaller than the others.”
“San Diego (for the 2017 Holiday Bowl) was taken over a bit more by alumni, LA for the Rose Bowl was unbelievably green — and even Dallas for the Cotton Bowl was unbelievable,” Borin said. “Here, it’s a much smaller group. But, it’s still nice to hear that, ‘Go Green, Go White’ chant at some other place.”
And San Francisco, Borin said, is “great as a host city,” despite not as many MSU fans making the trip compared to his past experiences.
“It’s sort of surprising less people come out to this bowl game,” Borin said. “I think people looked at it as not a destination bowl game because it wasn’t a big name. But, there’s really a lot to do down here. It’s a world-class city.”
But even with it being a smaller group compared to past bowl games, Carson Dilsworth, a native of Marina County in the San Jose area, said there was still a good amount of MSU fans who showed up.
“It really goes to show how big the fanbase is and how proud a lot of the alumni are of their school,” said Dilsworth, a 2018 MSU alumnus. “And it’s pretty cool just knowing that everywhere you travel, there’s always going to be some people from MSU going where you’re going.”
Now after the festivities and seeing the marching bands, coaches, players and the Redbox Bowl trophy at the pep rally, it’s time for MSU and Oregon to play football for the first time in over a month.
It's an opportunity for fans to watch their favorite team at Levi’s Stadium, which opened in July 2014, and is the third youngest NFL stadium behind the Minnesota Vikings’ US Bank Stadium (opened in 2016) and the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium (2017).
“Haven’t been out to the stadium yet, but drove by it and it looks like a great place to see a game — to see a game in a brand new NFL arena that’s going to host the college football national championship game next week,” Borin said. “So obviously, it’s highly thought of.”
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And a chance to watch MSU football to come out victorious for one last time in 2018.
“I went to school there when we went to the College Football Playoffs in 2015, so definitely not as good as that,” Dilsworth said. “But, I’m confident we’ll still be able to pull something off tomorrow." When asked his score prediction he said, "Going 28-24, State.”
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