Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Column: My final home game at Spartan Stadium

December 5, 2020
MSU recieves the ball from an OSU kickoff in Spartan Stadium on Dec. 5, 2020.
MSU recieves the ball from an OSU kickoff in Spartan Stadium on Dec. 5, 2020. —

I remember the first time I walked into Spartan Stadium as a freshman in college.

It was shockingly massive, bigger than any sporting arena I'd been in.

I was just 18, a middle-class kid from West Michigan, who had just drunk a few beers. I was a student far from working in sports journalism as I do now for The State News.

It was a sellout crowd against Western Michigan. MSU won and it was an incredibly hot day.

Who cared? I didn't. I was just overcome by the euphoria of the student section and the camaraderie of my friends and fellow students. The friends, who have become lifelong ones now four years later.

As I write this and as I made that final walk of my college career to the stadium, I feel a real sadness reflecting on all the times I've made that walk.

Well, four years later, I'm a senior (yikes) and Spartan football still dominates my Saturdays. I've spent the majority of those in the press box since my sophomore year when I first attended as a member of the media on the day MSU took on Purdue in Rocky Lombardi's first start.

I haven't been up in the birds nest of a press box for two games since my 19th birthday. Last Saturday, I was in quarantine and had to sit out what I thought could be the final time I got to walk to the stadium like I do every Saturday in the fall.

No matter how hot, how cold, I always try to make the walk from Gunson Street to Spartan Stadium for the games. I crisscross through North Neighborhood and over the bridge onto the river trail at Farm Lane so I can see the rock's paint job for the day and catch a glimpse of the Red Cedar River.

It's beautiful. It always has been. The walk is a tradition for me every Saturday even when I don't see anybody anymore because of a pandemic.

I'm going to miss those walks, the laughs and the crazy things I've witnessed at Spartan Stadium.

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The memories I've made here are ones I will hold forever. The favorites, I hold close to my heart: Illinois' 28-point comeback to beat MSU on a final throw, Michigan State upsetting a top-10 Penn State team after a 3.5 hour rain delay that my friends and I sprinted back into an open stadium to witness in a downpour and, of course, witnessing the team I grew up watching, Ohio State, in person for the first time.

Yep, that was the one where Drue Chrisman's punting carried the Buckeyes to a win in 2018.

Trust me, I wish I could forget that.

But alas.

All of them, every single game I got to see here over my four years is something I will never forget.

The tailgates at the Haynor family spot by the student entrance, that I still attended before I went up to the press box, every single time, the perfect pregame meal.

The walks through thousands of people from my college house and the late nights at the stadium working as a student journalist.

Did I miss out? Sure. I missed out on every Saturday tailgate, the booze-fueled parties with friends on gamedays. But I wouldn't trade any of that for this. I know that confidently.

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When I left my house the morning of the Spartans' 52-12 loss to No. 4 Ohio State, my roommate told me to "soak it up." Others passed on words of encouragement when I posted my view on Snapchat. I appreciate that so many have gotten to be along for this ride and have supported me during it.

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I feel bad for my fellow seniors. I'm sad that I had to walk to the games on Saturdays this year and stare at empty seats.

I'm sad, and I wish I could've shared this final part of my ride in person with all of you.

Spartan Stadium, I thank you for the good and bad times, the deadlines I rushed to meet, the broadcasts across the student radio airwaves and the stories I got to write from the comfortable warmth of the press box.

It was always fun. It still is. I'm one of the few MSU students who got to see this season's home games in person.

I just hope I did a decent job of telling you all about them.

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